Saturday's College Action
October 6, 2012
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LSU TIGERS (5-0) at FLORIDA GATORS (4-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: LSU -2.5 & 42.5
Opening Line & Total: Tigers -3 & 44.5
A pair of top-10 teams will try to stay unbeaten when No. 4 LSU visits No. 10 Florida on Saturday afternoon.
LSU has beaten Florida the past two times they played, including a 41-11 blowout last year when the Tigers gained more yards on the ground (238) than the Gators had in total yards (213). This season, LSU has turned the ball over five times (with 19 penalties) during a two-game ATS skid, while Florida has committed just one turnover during a three-game ATS win streak. The Tigers rank fourth in FBS total defense (218 YPG), but have played an easier schedule than the Gators, who have 95 points in three SEC wins. The Tigers are simply the better team in all facets -- offense, defense, and especially head coaching. While Les Miles is 8-2 ATS in his past 10 non-home games, Will Muschamp was 0-8 ATS in post-September games during the 2011 regular season. More trends favoring the Tigers include these two: Florida is 1-9 ATS versus good rushing defenses (120 rush YPG or less) in the past three seasons, and is also 1-7 ATS as an underdog in the past three years.
Zach Mettenberger is having a solid year as LSU's starting signal-caller, completing 66% of his passes for 1,016 yards, 6 TD and 2 INT. However, he was not very good in his lone road start, completing just 15-of-27 passes for 169 yards and two lost fumbles in a 12-10 win at Auburn. The Tigers are more likely to rely on their multi-player rushing attack in this game. Although Alfred Blue (knee) is out indefinitely, Kenny Hilliard (366 rush yds, 6 TD), Michael Ford (224 rush yds, 2 TD) and Spencer Ware (164 rush yds) are all capable backs. Ware ran for 109 yards and 2 TD against Florida last year. In the passing game, Odell Beckham, Jr. is coming off a huge performance against Towson, catching five passes for 128 yards and 2 TD. Although the Tigers are known more for their excellent run-stop unit (83 YPG allowed, 9th in nation), the passing defense has been even better this year, allowing 135 passing YPG, which ranks sixth among FBS schools. No Tigers opponent has reached 175 passing yards in a game this season. LSU is blessed with plenty of playmakers on the defensive side of the ball, forcing 12 turnovers so far in 2012.
Like LSU, Florida also knows how to run the football, averaging 225 rushing YPG (20th in FBS). Mike Gillislee leads the way with 402 rushing yards (2nd in SEC) and 5 TD, and he also had nice game at LSU last year with 56 yards on just nine carries. RB Trey Burton missed last week's 38-0 win over Kentucky with a back injury, but he is expected to return to the field on Saturday. Sophomore QB Jeff Driskel has made great decisions all year, completing 70 percent of his passes for 698 yards (8.8 YPA), 4 TD and 1 INT. He is also the team's second-leading rusher, scampering for 114 yards on 16 carries in the past two weeks. Driskel must be cognizant of LSU's talented front four, especially considering Florida's O-Line is allowing three sacks per game (104th in nation). The probable return of LB Jelani Jenkins (thumb) after a two-game absence will further enhance an excellent Florida defense. The Gators rank 10th in scoring defense (12.8 PPG) and 17th in total defense (305 YPG), but will need to pressure the quarterback with greater consistency moving forward. Florida has just 1.25 sacks per game (T-98th in nation) and 5.0 Tackles For Loss per game (T-84th in FBS).
WEST VIRGINIA MOUNTAINEERS (4-0) at TEXAS LONGHORNS (4-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Texas -6.5 & 74
Opening Line & Total: Longhorns -7 & 75
No. 8 West Virginia and No. 11 Texas meet for the first time in 56 years as both highly-ranked, Big 12 unbeatens take the field at Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium in Austin on Saturday night.
This game features the nation's two highest passing efficiency quarterbacks. WVU's Geno Smith (208.37 rating) also leads the nation with 457 total YPG, completing 83.4% of his passes for 1,728 yards, 20 TD and 0 INT. Texas QB David Ash (184.03 rating, 2nd in nation), has connected on 78.0% of his throws for 1,007 yards, 10 TD and 1 INT. The Mountaineers are on a three-game ATS skid despite 143 points (47.7 PPG), while the Longhorns are on a three-game ATS winning streak. Not only is Smith the best player in college football right now (10.2 yards per pass attempt), but the Texas defense hasn't tackled anybody for two weeks. After allowing a bad Ole Miss team to score 31 points with 399 yards, Oklahoma State scored 36 with 576 yards and should've won the game if not for a missed fumble on the 'Horns game-winning TD.
Smith has the top two receivers in the nation in terms of receptions with Tavon Austin (12.0 per game) and Stedman Bailey (10.3 per game). Baylor's Terrence Williams is the only FBS receiver with more yards (167 rec. YPG) than Bailey (159 rec. YPG) or Austin (140 rec. YPG). The pair comprised most of Smith's 656 passing yards and 8 TD last week, as the WR duo combined for 518 yards and 7 TD. RB Andrew Buie also rushed for two touchdowns, but was held to 82 yards on 25 carries (3.3 YPC). Although the Mountaineers defense was lit up by Baylor for 63 points and 700 yards last week, this D-line continues to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, ranking 12th in the nation in sacks (3.3 per game) and eighth in Tackles For Loss (8.5 per game).
Ash is coming off another great game against Oklahoma State last week, completing 30-of-37 passes for 304 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. All three of the touchdowns went to Jaxon Shipley, who leads the team with 17 receptions. With top RB Malcolm Brown getting injured last week, Texas managed a paltry 136 rushing yards on 42 carries (3.2 YPC). With Brown out for Saturday's game, Joe Bergeron will be the main ball carrier. He injured his shoulder a couple of weeks ago, but scored both rushing touchdowns against the Cowboys, gaining 48 yards on 15 carries. Texas is also concerned about its porous run defense allowing 180 rushing YPG (86th in nation). Last year, the 'Horns gave up just 96 rushing YPG, which ranked sixth in the country. They are also surrendering way too many big plays, allowing five touchdowns of 44+ yards this season. Texas continues to be opportunistic on defense though, forcing eight turnovers in the four victories.
GEORGIA BULLDOGS (5-0) at SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (5-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: South Carolina -1 & 53.5
Opening Line & Total: Gamecocks -2.5 & 56.5
Two of the nation's elite teams square off on Saturday night in Columbia, SC when No. 5 Georgia visits No. 6 South Carolina.
Georgia has dominated this series recently, going 7-3 SU, but South Carolina is 6-2-2 ATS in this span, including two straight SU victories. The Gamecocks scored on a fake punt, INT return and fumble return in a wild 45-42 win in Athens last year. Aaron Murray threw 4 TD passes in a losing effort, and he is currently No. 3 in FBS passing efficiency, completing 69% of his passes for 1,378 yards, 12 TD and 3 INT. South Carolina star RB Marcus Lattimore has started 2012 a little slowly as he regains strength in his surgically-repaired knee, but has 358 rushing yards in two career games versus Georgia. Although the Bulldogs' offense has scored more than 40 points in each of their five wins, they have committed 10 turnovers in the past four contests and the defense has given up some big plays. Georgia has also been a horrible bet as an underdog over the past three seasons, posting an 0-7 ATS mark while getting outscored by an average of 13.2 points per game. It's never easy to win an SEC road game at night, and the Gamecocks and their fans will be amped up for this game.
Georgia's offense is putting up 48.2 PPG (8th in nation) and 536 total YPG (11th in FBS), which includes scoring 48.3 PPG in three SEC games. The Bulldogs are coming off a wild 51-44 win over Tennessee, where the freshman RB duo of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall ran for 294 yards on 34 carries (8.6 YPC) with five touchdowns. For the season, Gurley leads the SEC with 536 rushing yards and 9 TD, gaining 7.9 yards per carry. Marshall has 428 rushing yards on 8.2 YPC and five scores. Although Murray is having a huge season, he will no longer have the services of leading receiver Michael Bennett (24 rec, 345 yds, 4 TD) who suffered a torn ACL in Tuesday's practice. However, plenty of weapons remain in the passing game, most notably senior WRs Tavarres King (307 rec yds, 3 TD) and Marlon Brown (272 rec yds, 3 TD). Georgia's defense obviously needs to improve in a big way from last week, when it allowed 281 passing yards and 197 rushing yards to the Vols despite the return of suspended stars LB Alec Ogletree and S Bacarri Rambo. Despite the big yardage allowed, the Bulldogs still forced four turnovers, giving them 10 over the past four weeks. Superstar LB Jarvis Jones also failed to record a sack against Tennessee for the first time all season, but he still has 4½ sacks and eight Tackles For Loss in 2012.
Like Georgia, South Carolina has also been thriving on offense, scoring more than 30 points in each of the past four games, all ATS victories. Connor Shaw has been nearly perfect in the past two contests (wins over Missouri and Kentucky), completing 35-of-39 passes for 397 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT. He was a big reason his team was able to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit to the Wildcats and outscore them 31-0 in the second half. Lattimore has also been much better in these past two games, compiling 281 total yards and four touchdowns. He was a big reason the Gamecocks won in Athens last year, compiling 176 rushing yards and a touchdown. South Carolina's much-ballyhooed front four has not disappointed this season, as the Gamecocks rank second in the nation with 4.4 sacks per game. Jadeveon Clowney has 5½ sacks, while four others have at least two sacks this season.
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (4-1) at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (5-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ohio State -3.5 & 57
Opening Line & Total: Buckeyes -5 & 58
Two Big Ten heavyweights slug it out on Saturday night when No. 12 Ohio State hosts 21st-ranked Nebraska.
These schools met for the first time since 1956 last year when Ohio State blew a 21-point, third-quarter lead and lost 34-27 in Lincoln. QB Taylor Martinez had three second-half touchdowns and RB Rex Burkhead scored the game-winner, finishing with 178 total yards and 2 TD. This Huskers duo had 193 rushing yards and 3 TD in a 30-27 win over Wisconsin last week. The Buckeyes have held four of five opponents (all FBS) to 16 points or less, and QB Braxton Miller has 302 total YPG this season (2nd in Big Ten). This is the kind of statement game that the Buckeyes usually make on their home field. Head coach Urban Meyer is 9-0 ATS after an upset win as an underdog and this game situation fits nicely for OSU as well: All teams where the line is +3 to -3 - after failing to cover the spread in 3 out of their previous 4 games, top-level team (.800+ win pct.) are 55-23 ATS (71%) since 1992.
Martinez was certainly impressive against the Buckeyes last year, finishing 16-of-22 for 191 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT. He has been even better this year, with a 68% completion rate, 1,059 passing yards, 11 TD and just 1 INT. Kenny Bell has been his favorite target with a team-high 330 receiving yards and four touchdowns. With Burkhead missing time to injury earlier this year, sophomore RB Ameer Abdullah has given the team a speedier rushing option, gaining 486 yards and 5 TD on an impressive 6.2 YPC. Abdullah also leads the Big Ten in all-purpose yards (179 YPG). Although Nebraska's run defense hasn't been special (153 rush YPG allowed, 62nd in FBS), the front seven has gotten great penetration all season, recording 3.8 sacks per game (8th in FBS) and 8.6 Tackles For Loss per game (fifth in nation).
Miller injured his ankle in the third quarter of last year's meeting with Nebraska, and was unable to help his team avoid the 28-0 game-ending run for the Huskers. Miller had 186 total yards and a touchdown before he exited the game. RB Carlos Hyde had missed the previous two games with a knee sprain, but he ran hard in his return last week with 49 yards on 11 carries. He also had the best game of his career against Nebraska last season, rushing for 104 yards and two touchdowns. With both Jordan Hall (knee) and Warren Ball (foot) out indefinitely, Hyde will likely have a larger workload moving forward. Miller has thrown for 8 TD and 3 INT so far, relying mostly on WRs Devin Smith and Corey Brown, who have combined for 668 receiving yards and 5 TD. On the defensive side of the ball, OSU's pass defense has been burned by big plays all year. For the season, the Buckeyes rank 94th in the nation with 276 passing YPG allowed. The team has been pretty tough against the run though, allowing just 101 YPG (19th in nation).