While the prevailing theme coming out of Week 5 is that a number of elite teams had lackluster performances, we have to start with the West Virginia Mountaineers and their senior quarterback Geno Smith.
For Baylor’s trip into Morgantown, we saw the highest total of the college football season to date as it closed at 82 ½ at most books. Well, ‘over’ backers collected a never-a-doubt winner when Smith connected with Tavon Austin on a 52-yard scoring strike with 9:13 remaining in the third quarter. That score gave WVU a 49-35 lead and it went on to capture a 70-63 victory, but the Bears posted a backdoor cover as 11 ½-point underdogs.
Smith had a game for the ages, throwing more touchdown passes (eight) than incompletions (six). He completed 45-of-51 passes for 656 yards and also had 31 rushing yards on five carries.
West Va. had 807 yards of total offense. Stedman Bailey had 13 receptions for 303 yards and five TDs, while Austin finished with 14 catches for 215 yards and a pair of scores. J.D. Woods had 13 receptions for 114 yards and one TD.
For the season, Smith is completing 83.4 percent of his passes for 1,720 yards with an incredible 20/0 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Needless to say, Sportsbook.ag now has Smith as the even-money favorite to win the Heisman Trophy.
Alabama remains No. 1 in my Power Rankings but the Crimson Tide never threatened to cover the number in a 33-14 win over Ole Miss as a 31 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ Nick Saban’s team won the turnover battle 3-1 and got a special-teams touchdown, but it mustered only 307 yards of total offense against the Rebels, who gave up 66 points at home to Texas.
’Bama has an open date before back-to-back road games at Missouri and at Tennessee. In its Games of the Year section, Sportsbook has the Tide as a 19 ½-point favorite against the Tigers and an 18-point ‘chalk’ against the Volunteers.
Stanford was the only top-10 team to fall when it went down 17-13 at Washington last Thursday as a seven-point road favorite. With 4:53 left, the Huskies got a 35-yards scoring strike from QB Keith Price to Kasen Williams for what proved to be the game-winning score.
Tennessee went to Athens as a 14-point underdog with its SEC East hopes on the line. The Vols couldn’t pull the outright upset, but they hooked up their backers in a 51-44 loss.
Mark Richt’s team jumped out to a 27-10 lead in the second quarter and appeared poised to cruise into the winner’s circle. But Derek Dooley’s team responded with 20 unanswered points in the final five minutes of the first half.
After a 50-yard scoring drive cut the deficit to 27-17, UGA’s Aaron Murray coughed up a fumble that gave UT the ball at the enemy’s eight yard line.
Tyler Bray found Zach Rogers for a four-yard TD pass on third and goal to pull to within 27-23 with 2:55 remaining in the second quarter. Four plays later, the Vols recovered another fumble and needed go only 19 yards to take the lead on a Bray 10-yard TD pass to Rajion Neal.
UGA tied the game at halftime thanks to a 52-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. The Bulldogs went ahead 51-37 on a 72-yard touchdown run by Keith Marshall, who finished with 164 on just 10 carries.
But the Vols wouldn’t go away. They sliced the deficit to 51-44 on a nine-yard TD run by Neal, who tallied 104 rushing yards on 23 totes.
Dooley’s squad mounted a late drive that had many thinking the game could be headed to overtime. A 20-yard pass from Bray to Cordarrelle Patterson put UT on UGA’s 27 with 2:08 to play. After a five-yard penalty on the Vols, Bray was flushed from the pocket and lost a fumble recovered by John Jenkins.
Even though UT fell to 0-2 in the SEC, it gave a good account of itself. You just can’t overcome four turnovers by your QB and expect to win an SEC road game.
In a classic look-ahead situation, South Carolina predictably came out flat Saturday at Kentucky. Even with starting quarterback Max Smith on the sidelines after suffering a knee injury early in the first quarter, the Wildcats led 17-7 at halftime.
This set up an ideal scenario for gamblers, as the Gamecocks were installed as 13-point favorites for second-half wagers. Trailing by 10, this meant USC was adjusted to a three-point favorite.
Since South Carolina closed as a 20-point road favorite, bettors were getting 17 points of value compared to the original line. The Gamecocks outscored UK by a 31-0 score in the second half en route to a 38-17 victory, meaning they not only covered the spread for halftime bets but also hooked up their original backers that gave 20 points.
The 55 combined points jumped ‘over’ the 51 ½-point total for ‘over/under’ wagers.
Middle Tennessee lost its season opener at home to McNeese St. by a 27-21 count. However, the Blue Raiders have won three in a row both SU and ATS since then, including a stunning 49-28 upset at Ga. Tech as 24 ½-point underdogs.
The heat is on Ga. Tech defensive coordinator Al Groh after his unit let a 17-point fourth quarter lead get away the prior week in an overtime loss to Miami.
Since losing its opener to Ohio, Penn St. has taken the cash in four consecutive games. The Nittany Lions stroked Illinois 35-7 as 1 ½-point road underdogs for their third straight win.
Here’s a hat tip to PSU head coach Bill O’Brien, who should be 4-1 if not for the team’s unfathomable place-kicking woes, especially in a 17-16 loss at Virginia. O’Brien’s team put it on Tim Beckman, who had his entire coaching staff on PSU’s campus recruiting its players the day the NCAA sanctions were announced this past summer.
Arkansas took woodshed treatment yet again, as Texas A&M demolished the Razorbacks 58-10 as a 14-point home favorite. Johnny ‘Football’ Manziel enjoyed another stellar performance, throwing for 453 yards and three TDs while also rushing for 104 yards and one TD.
For the year, Manziel has 1,094 passing yards and 10 TD passes without an interception. He’s also rushed for 366 yards and six TDs, averaging 7.0 YPC.
**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**
--Sportsbook’s updated future odds have Alabama as the plus-175 ‘chalk’ to win the BCS Championship (risk $100 to win $175). The second-shortest odds belong to FSU (4/1), followed by LSU (5/1), Georgia (6/1), Oregon (7/1) and Southern Cal (10/1).
--There are four teams – Fresno St., Northwestern, San Jose St. and Western Kentucky – who are a perfect 5-0 ATS. Utah St. and Arizona St. are 4-0-1 ATS, while ULM and Texas Tech are 4-0 versus the number.
--Arkansas is the only team with a 0-5 spread record. Virginia is 0-4-1 ATS.
--The ‘over’ is perfect 5-0 for Tennessee, Georgia and Ball St.
--The ‘under’ is 4-0-1 for Michigan St., 3-0-1 for BYU.
Brian Edwards can be reached at email@example.com.
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