Saturday's College Action
September 15, 2012
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FLORIDA GATORS (2-0) at TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (2-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Tennessee -3 (-115) & 48
Opening Line & Total: Vols -2.5 & 47
Two once-proud programs quickly getting their swagger back will play their annual meeting on Saturday night when No. 18 Florida visits No. 23 Tennessee, which is ranked for the first time in four seasons.
Both of these schools suffered losing seasons in the SEC last year, as the Gators were 3-5 and the Vols finished 1-7. Florida has won seven straight meetings in this series, including three in a row in Knoxville. The Gators led 30-7 in last year's meeting and held on for the 33-23 win. Tennessee QB Tyler Bray, who threw for 288 yards, 3 TD and 2 INT in the loss at Gainesville, has 643 passing yards (10.5 YPA), 6 TD and 0 INT in wins over NC State and Georgia State this season. Florida shut out Texas A&M in the second half of its 20-17 win on Saturday. QB Jeff Driskel was 13-of-16 for 162 yards in his first career start, while teammate Mike Gillislee rushed for 83 yards and had both touchdowns. This has been a one-sided series over the years, but the Vols look ready to make this a rivalry once again. The Gators are 0-7 ATS as an underdog in the past three years and don't have the explosive offense that has given Tennessee so much trouble in the past.
Driskel showed great composure in a hostile Texas A&M environment last week, but it won't get any easier in Knoxville. Gillislee actually hurt his groin in the win over the Aggies, but he is expected to start on Saturday. Gillislee did not have a carry in last year's win over Tennessee, but he did score two touchdowns against the Vols in 2010 despite getting just eight carries for 27 yards. The one major problem with this offense is pass protection, as Florida has already surrendered nine sacks in two games. The defense looked strong against A&M, allowing 334 total yards and 3.5 yards per carry. This unit held Tennessee to minus-9 rushing yards on 21 carries in last year's meeting.
Bray's numbers this season are even more impressive considering his top wideout, Da'Rick Rogers, was dismissed from the team shortly before the season opener. Bray has quickly found his new go-to receiver in Justin Hunter, who already has 17 catches for 219 yards and three touchdowns. Bray also has another reliable target in Mychal Rivera (83 rec. yds, 1 TD), who caught a touchdown pass in last year's meeting with Florida. Vols RB Marlin Lane Jr., who also scored on a TD reception against the Gators in 2011, has rushed for 106 yards on 17 carries (6.2 YPC) this year. However, junior Rajion Neal has gotten more than twice as many carries (35), despite gaining just 118 yards (3.4 YPC) with that extra work, scoring three times. Tennessee's defense has done a great job in forcing turnovers this season, causing four miscues versus NC State and two last week against Georgia State. Although the pass defense has been below average (237 passing YPG, T-73rd in nation), the run-stop unit has been aces, allowing an average of 106 yards per game on 2.9 YPC.
CALIFORNIA GOLDEN BEARS (1-1) at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (2-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ohio State -17 & 54
Opening Line & Total: Buckeyes -17.5 & 52.5
No. 12 Ohio State looks to improve its record to 3-0 when California visits The Horseshoe on Saturday afternoon.
These teams meet for the first time since 1972. Cal led 36½-point underdog Southern Utah by just three points after three quarters last week and allowed 31 points for the second straight game. Meanwhile, Ohio State has piled up 87 points in two games, thanks to 664 total yards and seven scores from QB Braxton Miller, but the Buckeyes defense has been burned through the air, allowing 281 passing YPG (96th in FBS).
Even with the non-cover in the 31-16 win over UCF last week, the Buckeyes are still 12-5 ATS in non-conference games since 2009. Their coach, Urban Meyer, is a whopping 21-4 ATS (84%) in non-conference home games in his coaching career. Meanwhile, the Bears have typically not traveled well in recent times, as they are 3-11 (SU and ATS) in their past 14 non-home games.
Cal senior QB Zach Maynard has been pretty efficient this season, completing 34-of-53 passes for 474 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. He threw just six incomplete passes (17-of-23) in the win over Southern Utah. The Bears offense though will need inconsistent senior RB Isi Sofele to have a huge game on Saturday. Sofele rushed for 104 yards on 19 carries against Southern Utah, but has reached 100 yards rushing just once in his past three road contests. Sofele eating up clock is also necessary to keep his subpar defense off the field. This unit allowed Southern Utah, an FCS school, to throw for 292 yards and 4 TD last week. The Bears have allowed 411 total YPG so far (76th in nation), and will definitely have their hands full trying to stop Miller.
Miller has rushed for 302 yards already, which ranks fourth in the nation among all players, not just quarterbacks. He's also been very accurate in his passing, completing 18-of-24 throws against UCF last week. Dating to last season, Miller has scored at least two touchdowns in eight straight contests. Junior RB Carlos Hyde is looking to bounce back from a rough game against the Knights, when he carried the ball just seven times for 27 yards. Defensively, the Buckeyes boast one of the better run defenses in the nation, giving up a mere 102 rushing yards over two games (7th-best in FBS). However, the defense needs to provide more pressure on the quarterback, tallying just three sacks and five Tackles For Loss (2nd-lowest in nation) so far this season.
NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (2-0) at MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (2-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Michigan State -6 & 44
Opening Line & Total: Spartans -3.5 & 43.5
Two of the top teams in the land square off in their annual meeting when No. 20 Notre Dame visits No. 10 Michigan State on Saturday night.
Michigan State is 10-5 (10-4-1 ATS) in this series since 1997, but Notre Dame won last year's meeting 31-13, holding the Spartans to 29 rushing yards. Irish top RB Cierre Wood, who scored two touchdowns in last year's game, returns from his two-game suspension. Notre Dame won a squeaker over Purdue last week, 20-17, in a game where Everett Golson threw for 289 yards and 1 TD, but Tommy Rees came off the bench to lead the team to the game-winning FG drive. Golson (thumb) expects to start against MSU's defense that has allowed just 20 points and 451 total yards in two games. Notre Dame is a more accomplished offensive team with an underrated defense. The Irish also have a head coach that thrives in non-home games, going 19-8 ATS (71%) in road games in the first half of the season as a college head coach. Also consider that road underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points in the first month of the season, coming off a winning record in the previous season but closing out that year with 2+ straight losses, are 31-6 ATS (84%) since 1992.
If Golson cannot produce on this big stage, the Irish are confident that Rees is capable of winning this game. He was the only quarterback in last year's blowout win over MSU, completing 18-of-26 passes for 161 yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. Wood will provide a huge boost to the Irish running game that gained a mere 52 yards on 36 carries in last week's narrow win over Purdue. Star TE Tyler Eifert had a big game though, with 98 receiving yards on his four catches. Defensively, Notre Dame already has seven sacks this year and is allowing just 315 total YPG. The Irish have lost six straight road games against ranked teams by an average of 16.7 PPG.
Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell is coming off a huge performance in the 41-7 win over Central Michigan, completing 20-of-31 passes for 275 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT. That was quite an improvement from his three-interception game (one returned for a TD) in the 17-13 season-opening win over Boise State. Le'Veon Bell is the engine to this Spartans offense with four touchdowns and 280 rushing yards (sixth-most in FBS). But Bell was stalled in last year's game, gaining just 27 yards on seven carries, a significant drop-off from his 114 rushing yards last time Notre Dame was in East Lansing in 2010. The Spartans defense has not allowed an offensive touchdown this year, but they have tallied just one sack this year. However, they believe they can pressure the Irish quarterback, considering Notre Dame has already allowed seven sacks in two games. Michigan State is seeking its fifth straight home win against a Top 25 opponent.
USC TROJANS (2-0) at STANFORD CARDINAL (2-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: USC -9 (-105) & 57
Opening Line & Total: Trojans -9 & 56
No. 2 USC looks to snap a rare series losing streak to No. 21 Stanford when the Pac-12 rivals meet Saturday night at Stanford Stadium.
The Cardinal are seeking their fourth straight win over USC, including a 56-48 triple overtime victory over the Trojans last year. USC QB Matt Barkley threw for 284 yards and 3 TD in that loss, which is nothing compared to his six touchdown passes in last week's 42-29 win over Syracuse, giving him 10 TD throws on the year, four each to WRs Robert Woods and Marqise Lee. Stanford responded from a weak 3-point win over San Jose State in Week 1 by thumping Duke 50-13 last week, as Josh Nunes threw for 275 yards and 3 TD. Stanford is not a team that has let down after a blowout victory, going 10-0 ATS in the past three seasons following a win by 28+ points. The Cardinal also can look to the fact that home underdogs of 3½ to 10 points, coming off a winning season, are 39-13 ATS (75%) in the past 10 years. USC will likely get that victory to end the losing skid in this series, but this should be another tight game that is decided by a touchdown or less.
In addition to his gaudy numbers against the Cardinal last year, Barkley had a monster game at Stanford in 2010, completing 28-of-45 passes for 390 yards, 3 TD and 0 INT. Woods has been the main beneficiary of Barkley's past two performances, catching 21 passes for 313 yards and four touchdowns in the two games. Lee currently ranks among the top-five players in the nation in both receptions (21) and receiving yards (263), and he caught seven passes for 94 yards and a touchdown in the triple-OT classic in 2011. The Trojans are no longer a one-dimensional offense as Penn State transfer Silas Redd has galloped for 163 yards on 24 carries (6.8 YPC) in his first two games in a USC uniform. On the defensive side of the ball, the Trojans are very capable of applying heavy pressure on Nunes, having already amassed seven sacks and 19 Tackles For Loss. The defense has allowed 265 passing YPG (84th in FBS), but to be fair, both Hawaii and Syracuse are pass-happy offenses that threw a combined 85 attempts in the two games.
Nunes has big shoes to fill with the departure No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Andrew Luck, but Nunes has been solid so far with 400 passing yards, 4 TD and 1 INT in two games. Four different receivers have at least 70 yards through the air, but none have surpassed 90 receiving yards, showing Nunes' ability to survey his options. His best option though, is handing the ball off to Stepfan Taylor, who has rushed for 203 yards (4.4 YPC) and three touchdowns in the past two meetings with USC. For the season, Taylor has 214 total yards and two scores. The defense must be having nightmares on how to slow down the Trojans' potent air attack. Stanford allowed 363 passing yards to Duke last week, although the Blue Devils did throw 63 times without scoring a receiving touchdown. The run defense (54 YPC, 10th in nation) should be OK though. During the three-game win streak over USC, the Cardinal have allowed the Trojans to gain a pedestrian 131 rushing yards per game on 5.1 YPC.
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