Editor’s Note: Christian Alexander started the college football season with a 6-1 record. Start winning tonight with his winning selection or get the rest of the season at a discounted price!
Arizona at Oklahoma State (-13.5)
Thursday, Sept. 8
8:00 pm ET
A good start to the Thursday night play of the week as Western Kentucky clamped down on Kentucky’s offense and had no problem staying within the 19 point spread. Of course, it would have been better if I could have watched that game but ESPN was showing the Wisconsin/UNLV game. As entertaining as that game turned out to be – hey, it was fun watching Wisconsin and their dangerous offense with QB Russell Wilson at the helm - I’m glad I steered clear of that game from a betting perspective. The Badgers looked in control all night long, and to be sure, they were never in jeopardy of losing the game. However, those who backed Wisconsin at the betting window were left feeling sick as UNLV snuck in the back door with a couple of late scores to end the game 51-17. That obviously meant those holding Wisconsin -34.5 took the loss.
Moving on to this week, we have what would appear to be a much more competitive matchup with Arizona paying a visit to Oklahoma State. In general, sports TV networks such as ESPN don’t like to show games involving teams which have recently played each other. That probably puts a little damper on this matchup from a programming perspective because the Wildcats just faced the Cowboys last bowl season in the Alamo Bowl.
In that game Oklahoma State came out firing on all cylinders and Arizona had no response. The final score was a remarkable 36-10 beating – especially notable considering the Wildcats were only four point underdogs. The 10 points on the scoreboard was a season low for Arizona in terms of output and a season low for the points allowed for the Oklahoma State defense.
That result of that game, in combination with the fact that Oklahoma State’s offense returns nine starters and will go against an Arizona defense with only five starters back, largely explains why this number is about 10 points higher than it was last December. (home field advantage has something to do with it as well)
The good news for Arizona is that, despite only returning five starters on offense, some very key pieces are back in Tucson. QB Nick Foles, RB Keola Antolin, and WR Juron Criner (see below) give Arizona coach Mike Stoops a great foundation to build his offense around. That group certainly started out 2011 on the right foot with Foles throwing for 412 yards and five touchdowns in the season opener against Northern Arizona. Those stats make Foles the number one QB in the nation heading into this game.
Not that anyone expects the Oklahoma State defense to be on par with Northern Arizona. However, it is worth remembering that the Cowboys were only 88th in total offense in 2010 and this current team just returns five starters on that side of the ball. They will have to bring their “A” game this Thursday night to contain a dangerous Arizona offense.
Defense is always of utmost importance to Mike Stoops, who came up through the ranks as a defensive coach. His Arizona defense will be severely tested this Thursday night against QB Brandon Weeden and an offense which averaged 44.2 points per game in 2011. Scary.
If the Cowboys can get off to a fast start it might simply be to much for Foles and Arizona to answer. However, if Stoops and his bunch can survive the first quarter and settle in, this game might come down to a couple key possessions in the 4th quarter.
Best of luck to all!
Injury Note: Arizona WR Juron Criner has been downgraded to 'out' Thursday vs. Oklahoma State.