November 2, 2012
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Sportsbook.ag College Football Saturday
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (8-0) at LSU TIGERS (7-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Alabama -8.5 & 41
Opening Line & Total: Crimson Tide -9.5 & 42
In the most-highly-anticipated college football game of the 2012 season, No. 1 Alabama visits No. 5 LSU Saturday night in a rematch of last year's National Championship.
LSU won the 2011 regular-season meeting between these two teams in Tuscaloosa, 9-6, but the BCS Championship Game went to Alabama, 21-0. The Tide are 6-2 ATS (4-4 SU) in their past eight trips to Baton Rouge, and have won their three road games this year by a combined score of 138 to 23. The Tigers have played three straight close games, losing at Florida by 8, beating South Carolina by 2 and winning at Texas A&M by 5 before last week's bye. Both defenses have forced 11 turnovers in the past four weeks. Not many teams enter Baton Rouge, especially at night, and head home with a victory, but this Alabama squad is exceptional on defense and highly efficient on offense. The Tide are 8-0 ATS on the road following an SU win in the past two seasons, which is pretty impressive considering the large the spreads given to them in these non-home games. Also, Les Miles is just 1-10 ATS in home games against good rushing defenses (allowing 3.25 YPC or less) as the coach of LSU.
A.J. McCarron has done an outstanding job for Alabama this year, leading the nation in passing efficiency by completing 122-of-177 passes (69%) for 1,684 yards (9.5 YPA), 18 TD and 0 INT. Although he did not throw a touchdown pass in either meeting with LSU last year, he was still able to complete 39-of-62 passes (63%) for 433 yards in the two games. His favorite target, freshman Amari Cooper, will be facing the Tigers for the first time, but he had a career-best game in his last road trip, burning Tennessee for 162 receiving yards and 2 TD in Knoxville. The Crimson Tide were able to shut out LSU in January because of a strong ground game that chewed up 150 yards on 35 carries (4.3 YPC). Departed Trent Richardson had 96 of those yards, but Eddie Lacy was decent too, with 43 yards on 11 carries. He and freshman T.J. Yeldon each had 10 carries last week, but Yeldon was much more effective (84 yds, 1 TD) than Lacy (26 yds, 0 TD) and has earned the majority of rushing attempts on Saturday. Yeldon has rushed for 357 yards (8.3 YPC) and 5 TD in the past three games. Defensively, the Tide have been outstanding, allowing 14 points or less in every game. They lead the country in both total defense (203 YPG) and scoring defense (8.1 PPG), and place second in the nation in turnover margin (+2.1 TO per game) with 14 interceptions and nine forced fumbles.
LSU's offense was absolutely stymied in the 2012 BCS Championship Game, gaining a total of 92 yards, including 39 rushing yards on 27 carries (1.4 YPC). The ground game will try its luck against the Tide's top-ranked run-stop unit (57 rush YPG) again, with an offense that ran for 258 yards against South Carolina and 219 yards at Texas A&M in the past two games. Freshman Jeremy Hill has rumbled for 251 yards and 3 TD in this stretch. The passing offense has struggled in SEC play this year, as the team has scored just 16.3 PPG in the four conference games. QB Zach Mettenberger has thrown for a paltry 143 YPG (5.4 YPA) with 1 TD and 2 INT versus conference foes. Defensively, the Tigers continue to be fierce, ranking third in the country in total defense (243 YPG) and ninth in points allowed (14.6 PPG).
OREGON DUCKS (8-0) at USC TROJANS (6-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Oregon -8.5 & 70
Opening Line & Total: Ducks -7 & 70
The two preseason favorites in the Pac-12 meet up Saturday night when No. 4 Oregon visits No. 17 USC.
Since 2000, each team is 5-5 SU in this series. Last season, USC went into Eugene as a 15-point underdog and came away with a 38-35 victory that knocked Oregon out of national title contention. Matt Barkley threw for 323 yards and 4 TD in that day, but he tossed two picks in last week's 39-36 loss at Arizona. The unbeaten Ducks have beaten five Pac-12 foes by an average score of 53 to 16 this year. They also have back-to-back games of 400+ rushing yards, and ran for 311 yards in the last visit to L.A., a 53-32 win in 2010. The Trojans are desperate here and have played much better in Los Angeles this season where they have outscored opponents 126 to 25. USC is 6-2-1 ATS in its past nine home games, and also 27-13 ATS (68%) after having won 6 or 7 out of their last 8 games since 1992. The Ducks have not beaten a great team yet, and freshman QB Marcus Mariota will feel the pressure from a Trojans pass rush that ranks tied for sixth in the nation in sacks (3.4 per game).
Marcus Mariota has attempted only 26 passes in the past two weeks, but he's completed 19 of those for 182 yards and 3 TD. Mariota has run for 157 yards and 2 TD during this stretch where Oregon is just pounding the football on the ground. Kenjon Barner has four straight 100-yard rushing games, scoring a total of nine touchdowns in this span, while De'Anthony Thomas (11 total TD this year) is coming off 97 rushing yards on just five carries in a 70-14 demolition of Colorado. Both players scored twice in last year's win over USC, with Barner rushing for 123 yards (8.2 YPC) and 2 TD and Thomas scoring on a TD reception and a 96-yard kickoff return. The Ducks' offense gets all the press, but their defense very strong this season too, allowing less than 20 points per game (19.4) and racking up 2.9 sacks and 7.4 Tackles For Loss per game.
Barkley is coming off a career-high 493 passing yards in the loss to Arizona, a game where he completed 31-of-49 passes, including three touchdowns. Although the level of competition hasn't been great at home (Hawaii, California and Colorado), Barkley has thrown 12 touchdowns and just two picks in his three games in Los Angeles. He continues to focus on his two main targets, WRs Marqise Lee and Robert Woods. Lee, who is coming off a ridiculous 16-catch, 345-yard, 2-TD performance last week, caught eight passes for 187 yards and a TD in last year's meeting with Oregon. Woods was also a busy man versus the Ducks with seven catches for 53 yards and two scores. USC ranks an underwhelming 75th in the nation in rushing offense (155 YPG), and leading rusher Silas Redd (80 rush YPG, 6th in Pac-12) has been given just 16 carries in the past two weeks, gaining 70 yards and a touchdown. USC's defense has 27 sacks this season, led by Morgan Breslin's seven sacks plus 5.5 sacks from Leonard Williams. Despite this fierce pass rush, opposing quarterbacks continue to throw all over the Trojans with an average of 243 passing YPG.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS (5-2) at KANSAS STATE WILDCATS (8-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line: Kansas State -8.5 & 66.5
Opening Line & Total: Wildcats -8 & 66
No. 2 Kansas State looks to stay unbeaten when No. 24 Oklahoma State flies in for a Saturday night visit.
Oklahoma State has won four of five meetings with Kansas State, but all of those games were decided by 10 points or less. KSU nearly pulled off a huge upset as a 21-point underdog in Stillwater last year, losing 52-45 after failing to score on three throws from OSU's 5-yard line. The Cowboys have crushed three straight Big 12 foes by a combined score of 87 to 38, but QB J.W. Walsh (knee) is out for the year, making freshman Wes Lunt the starter. The unbeaten Wildcats are 4-0-1 ATS in the Big 12, scoring 43.4 PPG. Kansas State is for real, excelling in every area on the field. The Wildcats can run the football with ease and take to the air when necessary. They are also very smart and disciplined with very few turnovers and a strong offensive line that rarely allows sacks. Defensively, they are proficient in stopping both the run and pass, and KSU's return game remains one of the best units in the country. Not only is Bill Snyder a ridiculous 22-7 ATS (76%) against Big 12 foes as the Wildcats coach, but all road underdogs of 3.5 to 10 points in a conference game involving two explosive offenses (34+ PPG) are just 8-30 ATS (21%) since 1992.
With Walsh done for the season (knee) freshman Wes Lunt or little-used junior Clint Chelf will be taking the snaps. Lunt has made some big throws so far this year, completing 69-of-108 passes for 912 yards, 5 TD and 4 INT. Last week, he helped beat TCU with 324 passing yards, 1 TD and 1 INT. The junior Chelf has attempted just eight passes this year, and is 38-of-57 for 571 yards, 6 TD and 2 INT in his collegiate career. In addition to Walsh being hurt, the WR corps is also depleted with multiple injuries, most notably Tracy Moore (team-high 4 rec. TD) who is questionable with an ankle injury. But OSU still has three other good options to throw to in WR Josh Stewart (574 rec. yds, 3 TD), TE Blake Jackson (449 rec. yds, 1 TD) and WR Charlie Moore (341 rec. yds, 3 TD). The best offensive player on the roster is clearly Big 12 rushing leader Joseph Randle, with 891 rushing yards and 9 TD this season. Randle had a strong day in last year's win over KSU with 104 total yards and 3 TD. The Cowboys are an average team in terms of total defense (363 YPG) and scoring defense (23.1 PPG), ranking fifth in the Big 12 in both categories. But they have forced just nine turnovers in seven games and have a pedestrian 2.0 sacks per game.
The Wildcats have outscored conference opponents 217 to 94 this year. Heisman front-runner, QB Collin Klein, has scored 11 touchdowns in the past two weeks and he had a huge game in Stillwater last year with 375 total yards (231 passing, 144 rushing) and four touchdowns. RB John Hubert had just 40 yards on 14 carries against OSU, but he has had a strong season with 722 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. He averages 16 carries per game, which has helped KSU's offensive line hold opposing defenses to just six sacks total for the year. The Wildcats also sport an impressive +15 TO margin, and have a defense holding teams to 101 rushing YPG (14th in FBS). KSU ranks second in the nation in punt return average (26.3) and Tyler Lockett ranks eighth in the nation in kickoff returns (29.7 average).