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UCLA Can Make National Statement with a Win over Texas in Jerry World

Within the current climate of the sport, wins versus reputable competition can go a long way in determining potential positioning for the College Football Playoff.

The UCLA football team has an opportunity to enhance its playoff resume on Saturday night in a nonconference clash versus Charlie Strong and the Texas Longhorns at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Ranked as the No. 12 team in the country, UCLA came into this season with the aspirations of playing in the inaugural playoff.

Jim Mora's team hasn't looked great throughout the first two weeks. Struggling to beat two opponents (Virginia, Memphis) with a combined 5-19 record a season ago isn't ideal by any stretch. Style points will likely go a long way in helping the playoff selection committee determine the final quartet.

Fortunately for the Bruins, this upcoming game can aid in their cause.

This isn't your grandfather's Texas team. Strong inherited a group in need of a complete overhaul. He's delivered just that, dismissing or suspending 11 members of the team. Many of these players were starters or expected contributors.

Strong is truly attempting to put his stamp on the program, and it's commendable.

Against UCLA, Texas will be without its starting quarterback (David Ash), starting center (Dominic Espinosa), both starting offensive tackles (Kennedy Estelle, Desmond Harrison) and potentially its best receiver (Jaxon Shipley, per Orangebloods.com).

Texas is also coming off of a 41-7 loss at home to BYU. The Longhorns were only able to muster 258 yards of total offense in the defeat. Strong's defense also gave up 248 rushing yards. This development might have Brett Hundley licking his chops in anticipation of using his legs to pick up yardage.

One may look at this game and assume UCLA is a virtual lock. All signs point to UCLA having a productive day.

However, Texas is still Texas. Much like the state in general, there's an incredibly proud football tradition in Austin. The vast majority of the players on the roster were—at one time—elite recruits coming out of high school.

This fact is not lost on Mora. In a recent press conference, Mora spoke about Texas as a whole:

Texas as a team is just very talented. This is a team filled with the best players in Texas, which is known as one of the best football states. These were the guys that were the most coveted players out of that state. You can see the ability on film.

Another main factor against UCLA is the fact this game is being played in the state of Texas. Although it's technically being billed as a neutral-site contest, Austin is a whole lot closer to Arlington than Los Angeles. I'd expect to see a sea of burnt orange on Saturday night, with some blue sprinkled in.

Lastly, Texas has the angle of redemption on its collective mind.

Talented tailback Malcolm Brown spoke with Orangebloods.com about the BYU debacle. "We're embarrassed as well. That's something that shouldn't happen to us as a team," he said.

With numbers on the roster dwindling, it could be a case of the wounded animal rising up to the occasion, ready to viciously bite.

Although Texas is down from where it usually is, UCLA can make a national statement with this game. The Longhorns are still one of the biggest and most recognizable college football programs in the entire country.

The contest will also be televised nationally at 8:00 p.m. ET on Fox. This stage will allow Hundley to potentially ramp up his Heisman Trophy candidacy. In the process, UCLA will be promoted for most of the country to see. Coupled with the grandiose environment, this will truly make for great theater.

Winning this game would signal success over a very prominent program from a good conference. A victory here could also act as a galvanizing force going forward as the Bruins head into Pac-12 play.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Can Make National Statement with a Win over Texas in Jerry World

Within the current climate of the sport, wins versus reputable competition can go a long way in determining potential positioning for the College Football Playoff...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

College Football 2014 Week 3: Locks of the Week

Week 3 of the 2014 college football season is just around the corner, and Bleacher Report College Football Analyst Adam Kramer is here to discuss the locks of the week.

Which teams do you think will cover the spread in Week 3?

Check out the video and let us know.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

10 Biggest Questions Facing Top 25 Teams Heading into Week 3

Week 2 of the 2014 college football season is in the books. Pretty soon, if you can believe it, we'll be one-quarter of the way through the regular season. 

Time flies, y'all.

Looking ahead to Week 3, there's only one game between top-25 teams: Georgia's trip to South Carolina. Otherwise, it's a fairly low-key weekend—or is it? Last week, a largely unattractive slate of games turned in some exciting results, including Nebraska's narrow escape over McNeese State.

You never can tell what's going to happen in this game. 

Which 10 storylines among the top 25 teams should you keep an eye on? The answers are in the following slides. 

The only criterion here is that one of the teams involved has to rank in either The Associated Press or USA Today Amway Coaches Poll

Begin Slideshow

UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The last time UCLA ran into a team from the Big 12, things didn't go too well.

The unsuspecting Bruins got blitzed by the Baylor Bears in the Holiday Bowl two Decembers ago. In fact, UCLA is just 1-3 both straight up and against the spread in its last four games against the Big 12.

The Bruins hope to turn those trends around when they take on Texas on Saturday night in Arlington, and they are favored to do so.

 

Point Spread

The Bruins opened as six-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, and it was bet to 7.5 points by Wednesday. (Line updates and matchup report can be found here.)

 

Why the UCLA Bruins Can Cover the Spread

The Bruins are off to a 2-0 start but are 0-2 ATS because they've just been toying with their first two opponents. UCLA opened with a 28-20 victory at Virginia, leading early 21-3, never trailing but coming up short against an 18-point spread.

The Bruins then defeated Memphis 42-35, answering every Tigers foray with a score of their own. UCLA fell behind 7-6, then immediately scored on a 62-yard Brett Hundley TD pass. The Bruins fell behind again 14-13 but retook the lead within a minute.

And in the fourth quarter, just after Memphis tied the game at 35, UCLA regained the lead within three minutes. When they put it all together, and they will, the Bruins will be very tough, on both opponents and point spreads.

 

Why the Texas Longhorns Can Cover the Spread

The Longhorns are 1-1 both SU and ATS in their first two games under new head coach Charlie Strong, winning and covering against North Texas but losing at home to BYU.

So Texas, with 15 starters back from an 8-5 team of last season, might still be experiencing the learning curve with the new coaching regime. The 'Horns only trailed the Cougars last week 6-0 at the half before the wheels came off, helped along by four Texas turnovers.

But Coach Charlie Strong knows what he's doing. He was a winner at Louisville, and he'll mold this program into his own. It might take some time, but improvement could be seen as soon as this week.

 

Smart Pick

UCLA has survived its first two games without playing its best. And if the Bruins put on a good performance this Saturday they should win and cover.

Texas is going through some growing pains at the moment, and last week, with David Ash out, the Longhorns were forced to give a sophomore QB his first career start.

UCLA may have struggled against the Big 12 over recent seasons, but this might be the best Bruins team in many years. The pick here is with the favorite, minus the points.

 

Trends:

  • Texas 7-2 SU last nine games vs. Pac-12
  • Texas is 2-4 ATS in its last six games

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

UCLA Bruins vs. Texas Longhorns Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The last time UCLA ran into a team from the Big 12, things didn't go too well. The unsuspecting Bruins got blitzed by the Baylor Bears in the Holiday Bowl two Decembers ago...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Tennessee Volunteers vs. Oklahoma Sooners Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

The Oklahoma Sooners have not had much trouble beating their last six opponents, but they have struggled against teams from the SEC heading into Saturday’s home game against the Tennessee Volunteers.

The Sooners have gone just 1-7 against the spread in their last eight games against SEC opponents, and that includes a 45-31 win against Alabama back in January in the Sugar Bowl.

 

Point Spread

Sooners opened as 21-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report can be found here.)

 

Why the Tennessee Volunteers Can Cover the Spread

The Volunteers look to be a much-improved team this year, and the only thing keeping them from being 2-0 against the spread is a fourth-quarter touchdown run by Arkansas State last week in their 34-19 victory.

Tennessee led 31-12 at the end of the third quarter and also had a 24-0 lead heading into the fourth quarter the previous week in a 38-7 win over Utah State. Both games went under the total, and the Vols will need to play a similar low-scoring, defensive game against Oklahoma in order to improve to 2-1 ATS.

That may not be an issue, considering six of the last eight games for the Sooners against SEC teams have gone under the total.

 

Why the Oklahoma Sooners Can Cover the Spread

Oklahoma is on a mission to make it to the four-team playoff for a shot at the national championship. The best way to accomplish that is to win as many games as possible by as many points as possible against quality opponents.

Tennessee may not be the cream of the crop in the SEC, but the Volunteers represent a bigger test than the previous two opponents for the Sooners this season.

Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops seems like he is going all-out against the opposition this year, as his team out-gained Tulsa 580-328 in total yardage last week in a 52-7 home victory, easily covering the 24-point spread, which is bad news for Tennessee here.

 

Smart Pick

Offense has been the name of the game for the Sooners, who have scored more than 40 points in six of their last seven games. Oklahoma is 5-2 ATS during that stretch, and you can bet Stoops will do everything he can to make sure this meeting with the Vols is played at a similar pace.

The over is 10-3 in Tennessee’s last 13 games as a road underdog, which shows the team struggles more defensively in that situation.

The over is also 4-1 in the past five games as home favorites for the Sooners, who should be able to impose their will and get the cover.

 

Trends

  • Tennessee 1-4 ATS last five games as road underdog
  • Oklahoma 1-7 ATS last eight games vs. SEC
  • OVER 10-3 in Tennessee’s last 13 games as road underdog

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans vs. Boston College Eagles Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

USC is coming off a big conference road victory but now heads across the country, where it will be a big road favorite over Boston College up on Chestnut Hill on Saturday night.

The Trojans are just 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games as chalk on the road. Is this a spot for a letdown, and perhaps an upset?

 

Point Spread

The USC Trojans opened as 20-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report can be found here.)

 

Why the Southern Cal Trojans Can Cover the Spread

The Trojans are 2-0 both SU and ATS, with wins and covers against Fresno State and, last week, at Stanford. Southern Cal blasted the Bulldogs 52-13, racking up 700 yards of total offense, beating the spread as 18-point favorites.

The Trojans then defeated the Cardinal up on the Farm 13-10, out-rushing Stanford 156-128, winning outright as three-point road dogs.

USC has 13 starters back from a team that went 10-4 last year, including RB Javorius Allen, who's rushed for 133 and 154 yards the first two games. Also, the Trojans beat BC last year 35-7 at the Coliseum, covering as 14-point favorites.

 

Why the Boston College Eagles Can Cover the Spread

The Eagles are 1-1 both SU and ATS, with a win and a cover at UMass, but a loss at home to Pitt. Boston College ran for 338 yards against the Minutemen but had to play catch-up against the Panthers.

Obviously, a key for the Eagles will be to run the ball to some degree behind an offensive line with three starters back from a unit that helped Andre Williams run for almost 2,200 yards last year.

On the other side of the ball, the BC secondary, with all four starters back, has allowed just 19 completions so far this season. If the Eagles can run the ball a little, control some clock and keep USC from making big plays, they'll have a chance to cover this spread.

 

Smart Pick

USC is clearly the better team in this matchup, but the letdown factor looms large in this spot. The Trojans just won a big game on the conference road, a victory that could come in handy when it comes to deciding the Pac-12 championship.

But USC must now compose itself, get on a plane and play a strange foe three time zones from home. UCLA just tried to cover a big number on the East Coast a couple of weeks ago, winning at Virginia but coming up short ATS.

So while Boston College didn't impress anybody last week, the pick here is with the home-dog Eagles against a USC team that has struggled in the role of road chalk.

 

Trends

  • USC 1-7 ATS last eight games as road favorite
  • Boston College 4-1 ATS last five games as home underdog
  • Boston College 0-5 ATS last five games vs. Pac. 12

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

USC Trojans vs. Boston College Eagles Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

USC is coming off a big conference road victory but now heads across the country, where it will be a big road favorite over Boston College up on Chestnut Hill on Saturday night...

Read the full article on Bleacher Report...

Insider Film Breakdown: Key Positions to Watch in Tennessee vs. Oklahoma Battle

The Tennessee Volunteers take on the Oklahoma Sooners this week in Norman, Oklahoma. Bleacher Report's College Football Analyst Michael Felder breaks down what areas will determine the outcome of this battle.

What do you think the final score will be in this matchup?

Watch the video and let us know!

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Rice Owls vs. Texas A&M Aggies Betting Odds: Analysis and Prediction

So Texas A&M was supposed to take a step back without Johnny Football, eh?

Not so fast. The Aggies are rolling already with new quarterback Kenny Hill, piling up 125 points while starting this season 2-0 both straight-up and against the spread.

A&M looks to continue the good times when it hosts a former Southwest Conference rival, the Rice Owls, on Saturday night in College Station.

 

Point spread 

The Aggies opened as 30-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark and the total was high at 71 (line updates and matchup report here).

 

Why the Owls can cover the spread

The Owls are 0-1 both SU and ATS after opening their season with a 48-17 loss at Notre Dame. Rice then had last week off, so it's had some time to make some adjustments. The Owls returned 12 starters this year from a team that went 10-4 last year, so the cupboard isn't totally bare.

And they only trailed the Irish 14-10 late into the second quarter before giving up two scores in short order to fall back. Rice has been underrated as a road entity recently, covering seven of its last nine spreads as dogs away from home.

That includes a 52-31 loss but cover as 28-point dogs against the Aggies at Kyle Field last season.

 

Why the Aggies can cover the spread

They're already asking “Johnny Who?” down in Aggie-land with the emergence of sophomore Hill, who has directed A&M to a win at South Carolina and a 73-3 romp over Lamar.

The Aggies won outright as 10-point dogs against the Gamecocks then covered as 46-point favorites against the Cardinals. So far Hill has hit on 61 of 86 throws for almost 800 yards and seven scores in a little over six quarters of field time.

The loss of Manziel was supposed to bring Texas A&M back to Earth, at least for a season or so. But suddenly, with Hill on one side and a defense that returned nine starters from last season on the other, the Aggies look like contenders in the SEC West.

 

Smart Pick

With the question mark at quarterback Texas A&M opened this season as a 10-point dog at South Carolina. After that performance the Aggies were chalked at 46 over Lamar.

Now they're almost five-touchdown favorites for this game. And that might not be enough. Rice can be a nice story, but it's got a lot of holes to fill this season, especially among the skills set.

So while it seems like a ton of points to give, the pick here is with the hot A&M team, winners of 17 of 21 games SU.

 

Trends:

  • The total has gone over in five of Rice's last six games
  • Texas A&M is 17-4 SU in its last 21 games

 

Note: All point spreads and line data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Ohio State Football: Can Noah Spence's Return Save Buckeyes Defense?

For the past two weeks, Ohio State has laid claim to the nation's best scout team defensive end.

That's not necessarily a good thing, as the Buckeyes would have preferred that Noah Spence had been wearing his familiar No. 8 scarlet jersey and taking the field with one of the nation's best defensive lines on Saturdays.

But as the Buckeyes walked off the field in the weeks leading up to matchups with Navy and Virginia Tech, Spence found himself wearing the black practice jersey reserved for helping simulate Ohio State's opponents. And on Saturdays, he was nowhere to be seen—at least inside the stadium.

It wasn't supposed to be this way, but Spence put himself in this position when a positive drug test at the Big Ten Championship Game resulted in a mandatory three-game suspension. In addition to missing the first two games of the 2014 season, the All-Big Ten selection missed last season's Orange Bowl and watched as the Buckeyes went an underwhelming 1-2 in his absence.

The son of two probation officers, Spence maintains that he was unknowingly slipped Ecstasy at a party last winter. But regardless of the actual reason why the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, native found himself suspended—and relegated to Ohio State's scout team—his punishment will come to an end this Saturday when the Buckeyes host Kent State.

For an Ohio State team coming off of last weekend's 35-21 defeat at the hands of Virginia Tech, his return can't come soon enough.

“He’s an exceptional player and I know myself and his family are very anxious to see him play,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer said on Tuesday. "He went down to the scout team and performed for the last two weeks. [He's] very selfless, and we’re anxious to get him going.”

On Ohio State's first depth chart since Spence returned from suspension, the former 5-star prospect found himself listed as a backup to senior Steve Miller. But it's hard to imagine Spence's status as a second-stringer being anything more than just a temporary title, as the junior is already being projected as a first-round pick in next May's NFL draft.

The hype surrounding Spence isn't without cause, either, after a sophomore season that saw him record 50 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss and 7.5 sacks. What's scarier for opposing offensive lines is that the 6'3", 252-pounder has only gotten better this past offseason, despite being in the midst of an ongoing suspension.

“He made a lot of improvement," said Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash. “We saw a lot of strides in the spring from him from the time we started until the time we ended in spring practice."

Those strides continued into fall camp, where Spence was permitted to take part in individual defensive linemen drills, even though he was lining up against the Buckeyes starters once scrimmage sessions started. He even managed to make a positive impression on new OSU defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who came close to securing a commitment from the Keystone State product when he was an assistant at Penn State.

“He wants to be a great player," Johnson said of Spence in the offseason. "Great players work hard and work through adversity and that’s what he’s doing.”

But while Spence was getting better off the field, his team was getting worse on it, enduring a four-game stretch that included three losses dating back to the Big Ten title game.

That's not to say that Ohio State's primary issue has been its defensive line—Michael Bennett, Joey Bosa and Adolphus Washington could help make up one of the best in the country on their own—but against the likes of the Hokies and Clemson, it's hard to argue that every bit of talent wouldn't have helped the Buckeyes' cause. Ash said that Ohio State's struggles were the result of execution and not personnel, but he also didn't downplay the impact that a player of Spence's stature could have on a game.

"It might have made a difference," Ash admitted on Monday. "Noah's a very talented player. He fits well in our scheme. He has a tremendous ability to get after the quarterback and I think it's going to help us a lot."

Those attributes will only aid the Buckeyes moving forward as they look to salvage their season after their early-season loss. And Ohio State obviously couldn't be happier to have its All-Big Ten defensive end back on the field—even if the Buckeyes scout team will suffer in the process.

 

Ben Axelrod is Bleacher Report's Ohio State Lead Writer. You can follow him on Twitter @BenAxelrod. Unless noted otherwise, all quotes were obtained firsthand. All recruiting information courtesy of 247Sports.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Purdue Boilermakers vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish Betting Odds, Prediction

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will go from one rivalry game to another on Saturday when they host the Purdue Boilermakers in a battle for bragging rights in the state of Indiana.

Bettors should know that Purdue has not had much to brag about lately overall or in the rivalry, as the Boilermakers have lost 11 of 12 overall along with the last six meetings in the series.

 

Point spread: The Fighting Irish opened as 29.5-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, with a total around 56 points (line updates and matchup report).

 

Why the Purdue Boilermakers can cover the spread

Even though Purdue has struggled against Notre Dame recently, the team has still managed to go 4-1 against the spread in the last five meetings, with only one of them being decided by more than 11 points.

The Boilermakers hung tough in last season’s 31-24 loss to the Fighting Irish, taking a 17-10 lead into the fourth quarter before Notre Dame wide receiver DaVaris Daniels scored two touchdowns in a little more than three minutes to turn the game around.

Two years ago, Purdue was tied with the Irish before giving up the game-winning field goal with seven seconds left in a 20-17 road loss.

 

Why the Notre Dame Fighting Irish can cover the spread

Notre Dame looks like a team building confidence game by game, reminiscent of the unbeaten regular-season squad that lost to Alabama in the BCS Championship Game.

The common thread there is quarterback Everett Golson, who was suspended last season due to academics but has returned with a vengeance in leading the Fighting Irish to a 2-0 mark both straight up and against the spread.

Golson threw for 226 yards in a 31-0 win over Michigan last week, and he had 295 yards in the Irish's previous game against Rice, resulting in a 48-17 victory. Notre Dame has covered the last four regular-season games he has started.

 

Smart Pick

The Big Ten’s poor showing last week should not do anything but make bettors like the Fighting Irish in this game even more. Michigan is a much better team than Purdue and could not score a point despite holding an edge in yardage for the game.

The Boilermakers struggled to move the ball in a 38-17 home loss to Central Michigan last week. QB Danny Etling threw two interceptions, including one that was returned 57 yards for the first score of the game.

Etling did not play against Notre Dame last year and will be overwhelmed in his first trip to South Bend.

 

Trends

  • Purdue is 2-6-1 ATS in its last nine games as an underdog.
  • Everett Golson is 15-0 SU as a starter for the Irish.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

College Football Playoff Standings 2013: Week 3 Rankings & Bowl Game Projections

Week 2 of the 2014 college football season is in the books, but at Bleacher Report we're always looking ahead. That's why bowl projections are full steam ahead. 

Projections are based on an equal split between Week 2 results, what problems or questions those results answer and strength of schedule for the remaining season. 

Here's how the two major Top 25 polls looked after Week 2. The following slides contain bowl projections heading into Week 3. 

 

Associated Press Top 25

1. Florida State
2. Oregon
3. Alabama
4. Oklahoma
5. Auburn
6. Georgia
7. Texas A&M
8. Baylor
9. USC
10. LSU
11. Notre Dame
12. UCLA
13. Michigan State
14. Ole Miss
15. Stanford
16. Arizona State
17. Virginia Tech
18. Wisconsin
19. Kansas State
20. Missouri
21. Louisville
22. Ohio State
23. Clemson
24. South Carolina
25. BYU

 

USA Today Amway Coaches Poll 

1. Florida State
2. Alabama
3. Oklahoma
4. Oregon
5. Auburn
6. Georgia
7. Baylor
8. Texas A&M
9. LSU
10. USC
11. Notre Dame
12. UCLA
13. Michigan State
14. Arizona State
15. Ole Miss
16. Stanford
17. Wisconsin
18. Ohio State
19. Virginia Tech
20. Kansas State
21. Nebraska
22. Missouri
23. South Carolina
24. Clemson
25. North Carolina

 

Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes cited unless obtained firsthand. 

Begin Slideshow

Nebraska Cornhuskers vs. Fresno State Bulldogs Betting Odds Analysis, Prediction

The Nebraska Cornhuskers finally take to the road Saturday when they play their first game away from home this season, challenging the Fresno State Bulldogs.

Like many big programs, the Cornhuskers have made a habit of playing inferior schools, which has made them double-digit favorites twice already early this year. They will get an opportunity to beat another one in a similar scenario when they travel to Bulldog Stadium.

 

Point spread: Cornhuskers opened as 10-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Why the Nebraska Cornhuskers can cover the spread

There’s no doubt that the Cornhuskers are the better team, but that does not mean the underdog can’t have his day. They probably already let that happen last week, though, as McNeese State came very close to pulling off the upset in a 31-24 Nebraska win that did not cover the massive 35.5-point spread.

The Cornhuskers can look at that game as a wake-up call, realizing another performance like that on the road here could result in a loss if they’re not careful. Fresno State remains hungry for its first win of the season, and the line reflects that.

A strong start behind a high-powered offense that silences the crowd is all Nebraska likely needs to cover this number.

 

Why the Fresno State Bulldogs can cover the spread

The Bulldogs covered a 28-point spread in a 42-29 loss to the Cornhuskers three years ago in Lincoln, and the key in that game was also getting off to a good start.

Fresno held leads of 14-7 and 20-14 before surrendering the lead for good midway through the third quarter. The Bulldogs were also able to create turnovers in the last meeting, something they have been unable to do since recovering two fumbles in a 52-13 season-opening loss to USC.

Turnovers have been known to come in bunches, and that could very well be the difference in this game. Fresno is 4-0 against the spread in its last four games against Big Ten opponents as well.

 

Smart Pick

Will this be the game that the Bulldogs finally break through and keep a game close after losing their first two games by a combined 71 points?

Oddsmakers seem to think so, otherwise they would have made the Cornhuskers even bigger favorites. Nebraska is just 1-4-1 against the spread in its last six games as a road favorite, and the betting public will probably still look to tail the popular school in this prime-time matchup.

While Fresno State is 3-6 ATS in its last nine games as a home underdog, the team is 3-1 vs. the line in its past four. Bet the Bulldogs to cover four of five in that situation and put another scare in the Cornhuskers.

 

Trends:

  • Nebraska is 5-9-1 ATS in its last 15 games on the road
  • Fresno State is 1-4 ATS in its last five games

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

Read more College Football news on BleacherReport.com

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin Cajuns vs. Mississippi Rebels Betting Odds, Prediction

The Ole Miss Rebels will try to start 3-0 for the second straight year on Saturday when they host the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.

The Rebels have also covered the spread in their first two games this season, holding the opposition to just 16 points with the under cashing each time.

 

Point spread 

The Rebels opened as 26-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark (line updates and match report here). 

 

Why the Ragin' Cajuns can cover the spread

The point spreads keep getting bigger and bigger in Ole Miss’ favor, which would seem to make it harder and harder for the Rebels to cover. Are the oddsmakers giving them too much respect this early in the season because they are an SEC team?

The Ragin' Cajuns got a wake-up call last week against Louisiana Tech, getting blown out 48-20 at home as 15.5-point favorites.

Oddsmakers must have thought Louisiana-Lafayette deserved to be favored by such a high number, and the team did come through as a 38-point favorite in a 45-6 season-opening win over Southern.

 

Why the Rebels can cover the spread

Ole Miss is 3-1 ATS in its last four games as a favorite of 20 points or more, with the lone loss against the line coming at home vs. Southeast Missouri State as 49.5-point chalk in a 31-13 victory.

The Rebels are playing with a ton of confidence and were also able to rest some of their starters last week in a 4-1 rout of Vanderbilt, as star quarterback Bo Wallace completed 23-of-30 passes for 320 yards with one touchdown in less than three quarters of action.

Wallace is a sleeper pick for the Heisman Trophy right now and could continue to build his case with another good performance here.

 

Smart Pick

Bettors probably knew Ole Miss would score a lot of points this year with Wallace under center, but the team's defense has also played well through the first two games of this season.

The Rebels have seen the under go 5-0 in their last five games dating back to last year, and the under is also 10-2 in their past 12 games as home favorites. The toughest thing for non-SEC teams to adjust to is the speed and depth of the defense, and Louisiana-Lafayette has also seen the under cash in in its last three games against teams from the conference.

In last year’s season opener, the Ragin' Cajuns lost 34-14 to Arkansas, and the Rebels are a better team defensively. Look for Ole Miss to hold them in check and post another easy victory at home.

 

Trends:

  • Louisiana-Lafayette is 10-3 SU in its last 13 games
  • Mississippi is 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games
  • OVER 10-2 in Ole Miss’ last 12 lined games as home favorite

 

Note: All point spreads and line data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury and line-move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Kentucky RB Jojo Kemp Foolish to Trash-Talk the Florida Gators

The last time Kentucky beat Florida was November 1986, a little more than halfway through the Reagan Administration. Its 27 consecutive losses in the interim represent the longest active team-to-team losing streak in the FBS.

But apparently, making history for all the wrong reasons has not humbled this current batch of Wildcats, headlined by sophomore running back Jojo Kemp, who all but guaranteed a UK victory after practice Tuesday afternoon.

"A couple of my (high school) teammates actually went to Florida, so I'm familiar with a lot of those guys," Kemp told Kyle Tucker of The Courier-Journal. "It's going to be fun walking out with a victory and rubbing it in their faces."

Head coach Mark Stoops has Kentucky moving in the right direction, so it's understandable for Kemp—and ostensibly a good deal of his teammates—to think this way before playing Florida. The Wildcats deserve to feel good about themselves after starting 2-0, especially after losing last year's season opener to Western Kentucky.

But there's a locker room beneath Commonwealth Stadium where those feelings of confidence should stay. That's the beauty of a locker room, after all: The other team can't hear what's said within it.

Because no matter how good the Wildcats have looked these first two weeks—and no matter how bad Florida looked in 2013—they do not have the athletes to beat an indignant, motivated, actively inspired Gators team on Saturday.

That's not how these losing streaks end.

These losing streaks end when the underdog catches the favorite napping—or at least starting to semi-doze off. Even last year, when the Gators were at their most vulnerable, they beat Kentucky by 17 points in Lexington. Why wake them up with no need?

Florida did not need the extra motivation after last year's embarrassing 4-8 finish, but now the Gators have it anyway. Now, instead of coming out of the tunnel angry, they're going to come out extra angry. Instead of wanting to win the game just to win the game, they will also want Kentucky to lose.

Kemp will feel the brunt of this the first few times he runs up the middle Saturday, the first few times he's greeted by Dante Fowler, Darious Cummings, Michael Taylor and Antonio Morrison. He'll understand the lunacy of poking a tired bear with a stick.

Taylor, for one, has already taken time to fire back; and Stoops admitted he was furious when he learned what Kemp had said:

When you've been pummeled in the mouth 27 times in a row, you don't get up from the mat, punch-drunk, and wildly ask, "Is that all you got?" You don't beg for that 28th haymaker.

Especially when you're playing in The Swamp.

 

Kentucky at Florida kicks off Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network

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Georgia Bulldogs vs. South Carolina Gamecocks Betting Odds: Analysis, Prediction

The South Carolina Gamecocks, who have gotten off to a disappointing start this year with an 0-2 mark against the spread, welcome the Georgia Bulldogs to Williams-Brice Stadium for a key early-season SEC matchup on Saturday.

The Bulldogs are coming off a bye week and hope to build on their promising 45-21 rout of Clemson that has many believing they could challenge for the conference title.

 

Bulldogs vs. Gamecocks Point spread: The Bulldogs opened as three-point favorites and bet to 5.5 points by Wednesday, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark, which had the total around 60 points (line updates and matchup report).

 

Why the Georgia Bulldogs can cover the spread

Georgia looked great in their season-opening win over the Tigers, easily covering the 9.5-point line. Heisman Trophy candidate Todd Gurley ran wild over Clemson, rushing for 198 yards and three touchdowns to go along with a 100-yard kickoff return for another score.

Gurley also ran for 132 yards in last season’s 41-30 win over South Carolina at home, with the Bulldogs covering as 3.5-point home favorites. Despite that victory, Georgia had high expectations last year and ultimately fell short, but the Bulldogs seem intent on making up for it this season by making a run at the SEC championship.

The only way to do that is to keep winning league games like this one, and the Bulldogs have won five straight games after a bye.

 

Why the South Carolina Gamecocks can cover the spread

While Georgia has won five in a row following a bye, the Bulldogs are just 1-5-1 ATS in their past seven under that scenario and have gone 1-5-1 ATS in the last seven meetings with South Carolina.

That bodes well for the Gamecocks, who have underachieved thus far and have yet to play their best game this season. South Carolina has still won seven of its last eight games dating back to last year, including the Citrus Bowl win against Wisconsin.

The Gamecocks were also 6-0 ATS in their last six games before starting out this year 0-2 versus the line, so maybe playing a tough conference opponent like Georgia here will bring out the best in them.

 

Smart Pick

While Georgia’s big win over Clemson was impressive, bettors do not know enough about this team yet and should not feel comfortable backing a road favorite that needs to win by a touchdown or more.

South Carolina is 22-1 straight up in its last 23 home games and 4-1 ATS in the last five meetings with the Bulldogs. The key to this game for the Gamecocks is containing Gurley and making Bulldogs quarterback Hutson Mason beat them.

South Carolina has allowed only 13 points combined at home in the last two meetings with Georgia, and this is a spot where the defense needs to step up and play much better than the first two games.

Watch for the Gamecocks to make bettors forget about their first two games by covering and possibly pulling off the upset.

 

Trends

  • Georgia is 3-7-2 ATS in its last 12 games.
  • The total has gone UNDER in 13 of South Carolina's last 16 games when playing Georgia.
  • Georgia is 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven meetings with South Carolina.

 

All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark. All quotes gathered firsthand unless otherwise noted. Check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds-tracker app.

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Central Florida Knights vs. Missouri Tigers Betting Odds: Analysis, Prediction

The Missouri Tigers avoided an upset last week with a solid victory and surprisingly easy cover at Toledo.

Mizzou, now 13-2 straight up and 11-4 against the spread in its last 15 nonconference games, next heads home for an interesting matchup with the Central Florida Knights on Saturday afternoon in Columbia.

 

Point Spread

The Tigers opened as nine-point favorites, according to sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark. The total was 54.5 midweek. (Line updates and matchup report)

 

Why the Central Florida Knights Can Cover the Spread

The Knights opened this season with a very tough 26-24 loss to Penn State in Dublin, Ireland two weeks ago. UCF fought from behind all day, finally taking a one-point lead with just over a minute to go. But the Knights fell victim to a Lions field goal at the buzzer.

Central Florida got out-gained in that game 511-246 but allowed just 57 yards on the ground and never seemed out of it. Sophomore quarterback Justin Holman, in relief of starter Pete DiNovo, sparked the Knights, throwing for 204 yards and one score, running for two more touchdowns and making a couple of big plays during the scoring drive that temporarily gave UCF that late lead.

If Holman can play like that all season, the Knights, who have nine starters back on defense, will again be tough.

 

Why the Missouri Tigers Can Cover the Spread

The Tigers only have eight starters back from last season, but they're off to a 2-0 start, including an impressive win over what should be a pretty good Toledo team.

Missouri jumped out to a 28-7 halftime lead last week, upped that to 35-7 early in the third quarter, then cruised from there, easily covering the spread as four-point road favorites.

The Tigers ran for 177 yards, held the ball for over 32 minutes and got five touchdown passes from sophomore QB Maty Mauk, who now owns a 19/4 career TD/INT ratio.

With its recent re-emergence, Mizzou is regularly chalked now, often by big numbers. But the Tigers have been a good bet with short spreads, covering four of their last five times out as single-digit chalk.

 

Smart Pick

Missouri is coming off a good win on the road but might be susceptible to a letdown in this spot. Meanwhile, Central Florida had last week off.

Also, the Knights are 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS the last four times they've been lined as underdogs, including that shocker over vaunted Baylor in the Fiesta Bowl last January. So the smart pick here is with Coach O'Leary's boys plus the points.

 

Trends

  • Central Florida is 9-1 SU in its last 10 games
  • Missouri is 13-3 ATS in its last 16 games

 

Note: All point spread and lines data courtesy of Odds Shark, all quotes gathered first-hand unless otherwise noted—check out Twitter for injury updates and line move updates and get the free odds tracker app.

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Michigan Football: Is It Time for Brady Hoke to Play Shane Morris?

In the wake of another crushing road defeat, Brady Hoke needs to prepare Shane Morris to replace starting quarterback Devin Gardner. After Gardner’s performance versus Notre Dame, it’s time for Hoke and Doug Nussmeier to evaluate which quarterback is most likely to help Michigan compete for the Big Ten title this season.

At first glance, the choice seems obvious. Gardner has racked up impressive statistics since replacing Denard Robinson as starting quarterback, while Morris has only started a single game.

But looking beyond the stats, Gardner’s meltdown in South Bend was typical of his past performance in big games.

Gardner’s strengths include toughness, athleticism and a flair for the big play. His weaknesses include overconfidence in his arm strength, an inability to recognize defenders in pass coverage and a lack of ball security when running the football.

He was expected to improve under Nussmeier’s tutelage combined with a streamlining of the offense, but when pressured by Notre Dame’s defense, he reverted to his past form.

Nussmeier defended Gardner’s performance during the team’s weekly press conference.

"Devin [Gardner] did some things neither of us really wanted, and that happens,” said Nussmeier. ”It's all about the process of learning, going through reads and progressions—what did you see, where do your eyes and feet need to be.”

He also noted that Gardner was playing in his third offensive system in his career.

But that’s not an excuse for Gardner’s shortcomings—it’s more of an acknowledgement that after a decent playing career he’s reached the peak of his development.

Gardner’s development plateau was also noted by NFL draft analyst Bucky Brooks, via NFL.com:

The Wolverines' senior quarterback teases NFL scouts with his size, athleticism and talent, but it's hard to endorse his pro prospects when he continues to be a turnover machine from the pocket. Gardner committed four turnovers against Notre Dame and couldn't find a way to guide the Wolverines to a score. Sure, Gardner didn't get a lot of help from his teammates, but NFL evaluators expect elite quarterback prospects to find a way to get things done when others are struggling.

Hoke said during his weekly press conference that he never considered playing Shane Morris, even when the game appeared to be out of reach.

Loyalty to Gardner is admirable; there’s a lot to like about him. But if insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, Brady Hoke is certifiable for Devin Gardner.

With two huge road games versus Michigan State and Ohio State looming on the schedule and pressure building to deliver a signature victory, he needs to make a decision whether to ride with Gardner—flaws and all—or get Morris ready.

Gardner is a known quantity, he’ll play tough and roll up points on lesser opponents. But folks in Ann Arbor are getting tired of wins over cupcakes.

Morris has already gained significant practice reps filling in for Gardner at the end of last season, and he’s had the same amount of time to learn Doug Nussmeier’s new offense.

He also impressed coaches and teammates with his progress during spring camp. By all accounts he's pressed Gardner at every turn, and as a true pro-style quarterback, Morris may be a better fit for Nussmeier's system. There's also the reality that time spent developing Morris can benefit Michigan for the future (Morris is a sophomore), while this is Gardner's final season.

During fall practice Hoke has repeatedly said that, “If you’re good enough, you’re old enough.”

It’s time to find out how good Shane Morris can be.

 

All season statistics from MGoBlue.com, the official University of Michigan athletic department web site.

Phil Callihan is a featured writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotations obtained firsthand.

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