November 24, 2012
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NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (11-0) at USC TROJANS (7-4)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Notre Dame -5.5 & 46
Opening Line & Total: Fighting Irish -6.5 & 46
No. 1 Notre Dame tries to cap off an undefeated regular season when it visits a USC team missing its top quarterback on Saturday night.
The Trojans will be without starting QB Matt Barkley (shoulder) who will be replaced by freshman Max Wittek (8-for-9, 95 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT). USC has taken nine of the past 10 meetings (7-3 ATS) in this series, but Notre Dame won its last trip to Los Angeles, 20-16 in 2010. The unbeaten Irish are just 2-4 ATS in their past six games, but are 4-1 ATS on the road this year, winning these games by an average score of 32 to 7. Notre Dame leads the nation in scoring defense (10.1 PPG) and ranks sixth in total defense (288 total YPG). Everything has fallen into place for the Irish to play in the BCS National Championship game, as they have won all the close games. But more importantly, they have taken care of business on the road, and road favorites after allowing 14 points or less in 2 straight games against an opponent after allowing 37+ points in their last game are an eye-popping 28-5 ATS (85%) over the past five seasons. This Trojans team has little to play for after dropping three of four, and without Barkley, they will be unable to move the ball much on this top-notch defense.
Notre Dame QB Everett Golson is peaking at the right time, scoring three total touchdowns in each of his past three games, while completing 59-of-96 passes for 773 yards, 7 TD and 2 INT. He has thrown just one interception in his five non-home games this season, leading his team to 32.4 PPG outside of South Bend. The Irish have been strong running the football in the past five games too, with 224 rushing YPG. Cierre Wood needed only 11 carries to gain a season-high 150 yards in last week's 38-0 drubbing of Wake Forest. Wood had just five carries for five yards in last year's loss versus USC, but rushed for 89 yards on 15 carries in his lone visit to Los Angeles. The Irish defense has been fierce in all facets, allowing just 92 rushing YPG (5th in nation) and generating 2.8 sacks per game (13th in FBS). They have held four of their past five opponents to less than 70 rushing yards, limiting them to 2.6 yards per carry over this five-game stretch.
USC may not have its starting quarterback, but Wittek is still armed with the best wide receiver duo in the country in Marqise Lee (146 rec. YPG, 2nd in nation) and Robert Woods (721 rec. yds, 10 TD). Lee has piled up more than 100 receiving yards and at least one touchdown in each of his past five games, while Woods has dominated Notre Dame in the past two meetings, catching 21 passes for 206 yards and 2 TD. Although the Irish have one of the best rushing defenses in the nation, the Trojans could still find room to run, piling up 397 rushing yards (5.4 YPC) over the past two weeks. Senior Curtis McNeal has taken over the main ball-carrying duty with 324 rushing yards (6.2 YPC) and 2 TD over this stretch. In last year's meeting with the Irish, McNeal galloped for 118 yards on 24 carries (4.9 YPC). Defensively, the Trojans will look to pressure Golson early and often. They rank fourth in the country in sacks (3.8 per game) and fifth among all FBS teams in Tackles For Loss (8.0 per game). But in the past four games, USC has been consistently shredded, allowing 39.0 PPG and 494 total YPG over this stretch. The Trojans will need to force some turnovers to stay in this game, and they are certainly capable of doing that with 17 takeaways over the past six contests.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (8-3) at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (11-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ohio State -4 & 55
Opening Line & Total: Buckeyes -5 & 54.5
No. 4 Ohio State tries to close out its season unbeaten when it hosts rival No. 20 Michigan on Saturday.
Entering last year, Ohio State had a seven-game winning streak (6-1 ATS) against Michigan, but the Wolverines outrushed the Buckeyes 277 to 137 in a 40-34 home victory. Denard Robinson piled up 337 total yards and 5 TD that day, but it's unclear whether he will start at running back in place of injured Fitzgerald Toussaint or at quarterback over Devin Gardner, who has 939 yards and 13 TD in the past three games. OSU QB Braxton Miller had a season-low 145 total yards in last week's 21-14 OT win at Wisconsin. Having a shot to finish No. 1 in the AP Poll makes this just as important as a bowl game for Ohio State, but without the usual six-week layoff in between games. Not only is Urban Meyer 10-0 ATS in his coaching career coming off an upset win as an underdog, but the Buckeyes are an outstanding 13-4 ATS (77%) when playing a team with a winning record over the last three seasons.
Robinson had no trouble adjusting to his running back position last week, rumbling for 98 yards on just 13 carries (7.5 YPC) in the 42-17 win at Iowa. But as good as he was against OSU last year (14-for-17, 167 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT), he certainly struggled at The Horseshoe in 2010, completing just 8-of-18 passes for 87 yards. He will probably not be in the quarterback role again because of nerve damage in his right below and also because Devin Gardner has played so well under center. In his three starts, Gardner has completed 46-of-70 passes (66%) for 834 yards, 7 TD and 3 INT. He will try to keep this offense rolling, something they haven't always done on the road this year, scoring just 21.6 PPG and 311 total YPG in five away tilts. Defensively, Michigan has the top-ranked passing defense in the entire country, allowing just 152 passing YPG. And this is despite a weak pass rush with a paltry 1.4 sacks per game (T-99th in FBS).
Miller threw for just 97 yards in last week's win in Madison, but was able to throw for 235 yards (2nd-most in his career) in last year's shootout in Ann Arbor. He also rushed for 100 yards and totaled three touchdowns. Junior RB Carlos Hyde has gotten just one carry in his first two meetings with Michigan but he will play a big role in this contest. In his past six games, Hyde has galloped for 666 yards (5.4 YPC) and 13 touchdowns. Defensively, the Buckeyes have to be concerned with Michigan's ground game that piled up 277 rushing yards against them last year. OSU also allowed 206 rushing yards to Wisconsin last week. The Buckeyes have done a poor job of forcing turnovers recently with a paltry four takeaways in the past five games.
AUBURN TIGERS (3-8) at ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (10-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Alabama -33.5 (no total yet)
Opening Line & Total: Crimson Tide -31
No. 2 Alabama tries to clinch the SEC West title when it faces rival Auburn in the annual Iron Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
The road team has won three straight in this series, including Alabama's 42-14 pasting last year when it outgained Auburn 397 to 140. The Tigers are 0-7 SU (2-5 ATS) in SEC play this season, getting outscored 31.9 PPG to 11.6 PPG by conference foes. Crimson Tide QB AJ McCarron finished 18-of-23 for 184 yards and 3 TD in last year's Iron Bowl and currently ranks third in FBS passing efficiency with 21 TD and 2 INT. Alabama is clearly the better team here in every way imaginable, but it is currently in the midst of a three-game ATS losing skid and is just 1-5 ATS at home this year. The Tigers are also gaining confidence by beating up on two non-SEC teams over the past three weeks, beating New Mexico State and Alabama A&M by a combined score of 93 to 14 and outrushing them 652 to 105. This bodes well for Auburn considering Gene Chizik is 8-1 ATS after outrushing an opponent by 200+ yards in the last game as the coach of the Tigers. And Alabama is a pathetic 3-18 ATS (14%) in home games versus poor passing defenses (allowing 58%+ completion pct.) since 1992.
The Tigers are trying to avoid their first winless season in the SEC since 1980, and will try to do just that by running the football with the duo of Tre Mason and Onterio McCalebb. Both Mason (181 yards) and McCalebb (104 yards) topped the century mark in rushing yards last week versus FCS school Alabama A&M, marking the second time this season the pair has each eclipsed 100 rushing yards. Mason has come up big in his past two SEC road games, rushing for 167 yards on just 28 carries (4.9 YPC) with three touchdowns. Freshman QB Jonathan Wallace will start under center, and has played pretty well in conference action, completing 22-of-32 passes for 314 yards, 2 TD and 1 INT over three games (one start, two outings off the bench). The defense in SEC play has been quite a different story, allowing 39.8 PPG in the past four games facing conference foes. The Tigers have forced just three turnovers in these four contests, with all three coming against Vanderbilt.
Alabama's ground game is a little nicked up with the top two rushers, Eddie Lacy (hand) and T.J. Yeldon (foot) both on the injury list. However, both are expected to play on Saturday. The Crimson Tide average 209 rushing YPG this season, but that number has dropped considerably in the past three conference games, as they have gained just 156 rushing YPG. But part of that is due to the surge from the passing offense. McCarron has thrown for an average of 224 YPG in the past five games, a huge jump from the first six contests (195 YPG). Alabama's defense has been vulnerable in the past two SEC games (at LSU, vs. Texas A&M), allowing 23.0 PPG on 427 total YPG. However, even with those two subpar performances, the Tide still lead the nation in scoring defense (10.1 PPG) and are second in the country in total defense (240 YPG).
STANFORD CARDINAL (9-2) at UCLA BRUINS (9-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Stanford -2.5 & 52.5
Opening Line & Total: Cardinal -1.5 & 53
No. 11 Stanford tries to clinch the Pac-12 North Division when it faces the team that has already clinched the Pac-12 South title, No. 15 UCLA, on Saturday.
Stanford has won three straight (SU and ATS) in this series, including a 35-0 shutout at UCLA in 2010. Last year was also a rout, as Stepfan Taylor's 112 rushing yards and 2 TD contributed to a 45-19 win. Both of these schools enter Saturday with five-game winning streaks. Stanford is prevailing with defense (11.4 PPG allowed during streak), while UCLA is scoring 42.8 PPG in the five wins. Bruins RB Johnathan Franklin is fifth in the nation with 131 rushing YPG, but the Cardinal rank second in FBS in run defense (71 YPG), allowing a mere 2.4 yards per carry. The Cardinal showed the world just how good they were by holding the high-flying Oregon Ducks to a mere 14 points in an overtime game last week. Stanford's defense has been unbelievable, especially on the road where it allows a mere 10.8 PPG and 269 total YPG. Also, the Cardinal are 10-2 ATS as a road favorite in the past three seasons and 15-3 ATS after an SU win since the start of last year.
Stanford remains unbeaten with freshman QB Kevin Hogan starting under center in place of Josh Nunes. Hogan has completed 65-of-88 passes for 649 yards (7.4 YPA), 6 TD and 3 INT during his three-game win streak. He has really leaned on senior TE Zach Ertz in these three games, as Ertz has 26 catches for 222 yards and 3 TD, scoring once in each game. But as good as Hogan has been, the Cardinal ground game has been even better, averaging a hefty 188 rushing YPG during the five-game win streak. Taylor has 565 of these yards and four touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, Stanford has put extreme pressure on the opposing quarterback, ranking second in the nation with 4.0 sacks per game and an FBS-leading 9.2 Tackles For Loss per game. The Cardinal have done a great job making plays on the road, forcing 10 turnovers in the past four away games.
UCLA also has a great freshman quarterback in Brett Hundley who has thrown for 2,973 yards (8.3 YPA), 25 TD and just 9 INT this year. He has totaled at least 240 yards during each of the Bruins five straight wins, tallying 12 TD and just two picks. Franklin has already faced Stanford three times in his career, combining for 227 yards on 37 carries (6.1 YPC) and one touchdown. He is also coming off his best Pac-12 performance since 2010, rushing for 171 yards and two scores against USC. The Bruins offense has done a great job of ball protection in conference home games this year, committing just two turnovers in four such games. The Bruins defense has been suspect during the five-game win streak, especially in defending the pass. They have allowed an average of 299 passing YPG, including 798 yards over the past two contests. But UCLA has helped itself by taking the football away, forcing three turnovers in each of its past three games.