Saturday's College Action
September 21, 2013
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TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (2-1) at FLORIDA GATORS (1-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Florida -15 & 48
Opening Line & Total: Gators -18.5 & 49
Both looking for a jumpstart to their seasons, No. 19 Florida and Tennessee will begin their SEC calendars Saturday in Gainesville.
Both of these teams are off to disappointing starts to the year. After starting out 2-0, Tennessee was thrashed by Oregon 59-14 and failed to cover a two-touchdown spread to move to 2-1 SU and 1-2 ATS on the season. Florida is 1-1 SU and 0-2 ATS, including a loss to Miami when it was three-point favorites. Their typically high-octane offense has yet to hit full gear, scoring just 40 points through two contests. The Gators have won eight consecutive games in this series, going 6-2 ATS in that span. Overall since 1992, the Gators are 16-5 SU and 13-6 ATS against the Volunteers, including 8-2 SU and 6-3 ATS in Gainesville. And after getting creamed by Oregon last week, Tennessee is now just 7-16 ATS since 2009 as an underdog. Florida, despite its slow start, is 23-21 ATS as a favorite in that span.
Senior RB Rajion Neal is the most dynamic weapon in the Tennessee offense, scoring four touchdowns already this season on 43 carries for 257 yards. He was limited against Oregon however, failing to find the end zone on 12 carries for 42 yards. He’s joined in the backfield by Marlin Lane (35 carries for 198 yards, 3 TD), who was actually slightly more effective against the Ducks. This duo is definitely the featured part of the Volunteer offense as QB Justin Worley is more of a game manager than a gunslinger. He has yet to throw for more than 150 yards in a game this year, totaling 372 passing yards, 5 TD and 1 INT. Though he has a solid 61% completion percentage, his upside is limited and he’ll have a tough time driving for scores consistently if the backfield is slowed again and the defense gets torn to shreds again after it gave up 471 passing yards and 216 rushing yards to the Ducks. The defense must also find a way to be more aggressive—after forcing nine turnovers in their first two games, they didn’t force one against Oregon.
For the Florida offense, the pressure is on junior QB Jeff Driskel, who is probable for the action with a sprained knee. While he has completed 71% of his passes through two games for 444 yards, he has thrown for just 2 TD and 2 INT while getting sacked four times. The nice part is that he has a plethora of options to choose from with WRs Solomon Patton (seven catches for 139 yards, 1 TD), Trey Burton (11 catches for 133 yards) and Quinton Dunbar (nine catches for 120 yards) all posing threats. On the ground, RB Mack Brown (35 rushes for 141 yards, 2 TD) is the lead option, though he must be far better than he showed against Miami when he was limited to 2.9 yards per carry on only 10 attempts. The good news is that the defense still looked pretty stingy against Miami, even holding the Hurricanes, led by star RB Duke Johnson, to a mere 50 yards on 28 carries (1.8 YPC). They have to take far better care of the ball, however, because if they turn it over five times again like in Miami, the Gators could be upset again.
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (3-0) at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (2-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Notre Dame -6 & 42.5
Opening Line & Total: Irish -7 & 42
No. 22 Notre Dame will face its third straight Big Ten opponent when they host unbeaten Michigan State on Saturday night.
While Michigan and Notre Dame may get more headlines, the Fighting Irish and Spartans have developed into a heated rivalry. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 46-28-1, but these two have played some very close games in the past decade. In the past 12 matchups, both teams have won six of the games. The road team has prevailed in eight of those 12 matchups as part of MSU's 7-1 ATS and 6-2 SU mark in its past eight trips to South Bend. Last season these two teams met in what turned out to be a one-sided affair as Notre Dame went to East Lansing and dominated the Spartans 20-3. However, that was with one of the best defenses in the country. Notre Dame has been very good on offense this season (29.7 PPG, 451 total YPG), but struggled on defense (23.7 PPG, 372 total YPG). Michigan State has been the complete opposite, dominating on defense (12.0 PPG, 177 total YPG), but struggling on offense in the two games versus FBS schools (23.5 PPG, 281 total YPG). Although these teams are a combined 1-5 ATS (Irish 0-3, Spartans 1-2), this should be a very exciting game in this rivalry on Saturday night.
Heading into last week’s 55-17 victory over Youngstown State, the offense of the Spartans had only scored two touchdowns. During that exact same span, the defense had scored four times. One of the problems was the Spartans had not decided on who was going to be the starting quarterback. However, head coach Mark Dantonio has decided on his guy, and QB Connor Cook is now the man for Michigan State. Last week against Youngstown State, he threw for 202 yards and four touchdowns. The offense really struggled last season as well, and that played a huge role in why they went 7-6 last season. Of those six losses, only the loss to Notre Dame was by more than four points. Michigan State is only 1-2 ATS this year, but that was in large part because of the offense sputtering. If they can build off last week’s success, then the Spartans could become a very dangerous team as the defense is as good as there is in the country. They enter Saturday’s game ranking 12th in FBS scoring defense, giving up only 12.0 points per game. DE Shilique Calhoun has played like a man possessed, scoring three touchdowns in the Spartans first two games. Michigan State is loaded on all three levels on its defense, but will have their toughest date yet this season going up against an explosive Notre Dame offense.
Last season, it was the defense that carried the team (12.8 PPG, 2nd in FBS; 306 total YPG allowed, 7th in FBS), but Notre Dame’s offense has been very good this year. This is even more surprising after last year's starting QB Everett Golson was suspended for academics. QB Tommy Rees, who has thrown for 4,414 yards and 34 touchdowns in his career, has showed the ability to attack deep with wide receivers TJ Jones and DaVaris Daniels. Last week against Purdue, Daniels had 167 yards and two touchdo-wns in the 31-24 victory over the 17-point underdog Boilermakers. Notre Dame has allowed 23.7 points per game, which ranks 57th in the country. The biggest problem is that the Irish are very susceptible to the big play, as they have given up seven plays over 20 yards. Against Michigan State last season, the Spartans gained a pathetic 237 total yards, including just 50 yards on 25 carries. Notre Dame’s defense must step up because it will be very tough to score against Michigan State.
AUBURN TIGERS (3-0) at LSU TIGERS (3-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line: LSU -17 & 54
Opening Line & Total: LSU -18.5 & 54
One of Auburn or No. 6 LSU will be dealt its first loss of the season Saturday night as the two Tigers of the SEC come to battle in Baton Rouge.
After going a dreadful 0-8 SU and 2-6 ATS in the SEC last year, Auburn is looking to reverse its fortunes with new head coach Gus Malzahn, who has led them to a 3-0 SU start, though they have yet to hit the road or be an underdog yet. The blue and orange-clad Tigers are 1-2 ATS in those three games and are coming off an ATS loss to Mississippi State in which they failed to cover a 6.5-point spread in a 24-20 victory. The purple and gold Tigers are 3-0 SU to start the year as well but 2-1 ATS, failing to cover only in their last game, a 32-point win against Kent State in which the spread was 35.5 points. When these two teams met last year in Auburn, LSU won 12-10, but didn’t come close to covering the lofty 18-point spread. And Auburn should feel good about going in and covering against a Les Miles-led team as the veteran head coach is just 9-22 ATS at home against SEC opponents since taking over the reins at LSU. Auburn meanwhile is actually a respectable 18-15 ATS over the past four years against SEC opponents, especially remarkable given last year’s 2-6 figure.
Auburn’s offense has looked strong to start the year, putting up 459 yards against Mississippi State last week. QB Nick Marshall has looked better each game throughout the season and is now 43-for-70 for 585 yards and 4 TD and 2 INT through two games. He also has 102 rushing yards. Marshall has also proven he can score from anywhere on the field, hitting WR Sammie Coats (seven receptions for 167 yards) with a 68-yard touchdown and WR Quan Bray (six receptions for 108 yards) with a 76-yard touchdown already this year. On the ground, RB Corey Grant leads the team with 230 yards to go along with two touchdowns, though the two other backs have both received more carries than him. RB Tre Mason has also broken the 200-yard plateau with 39 carries for 206 yards and two touchdowns while Cameron Artis-Payne (35 carries for 166 yards, 1 TD) has also had his moments. This three-headed duo will be critical in helping Auburn manage the clock against a dynamic LSU offense that has scored at least 37 points in each of its three games this season.
LSU’s offensive juggernaut is led in the air by 6-foot-5 senior QB Zach Mettenberger, who has completed 45-of-69 passes for 797 yards and nine touchdowns already this season. More impressively perhaps, he has yet to throw an interception and has been sacked only twice. All nine of his touchdown passes have been to two people: WR Odell Beckham (15 receptions for 330 yards and 4 TD) and WR Jarvis Landry (17 receptions for 246 yards and 5 TD). This is not a one-dimensional offense, however. RB Terrence Magee is averaging 8.1 yards per carry with three touchdowns and 210 yards early on this season, having already ripped off a 52-yard run. RB Jeremy Hill has pulled off his own 58-yard touchdown run while he has picked up 17 carries for 167 yards and three scores. And that makes no mention of RB Alfred Blue, who leads the team in carries with 32, and has 153 yards, which at 4.8 yards per carry is still nothing to sneeze at.
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