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'Horns, Bruins face road traps

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TEXAS LONGHORNS (2-2) at IOWA STATE CYCLONES (1-2)
 
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Texas -8 & 57
Opening Line & Total: Longhorns -8 & 57
 
Texas will attempt to go 2-0 in conference play and turn its season around Thursday night when it visits an Iowa State team trying to make its mark in the Big 12.
 
The Longhorns were a disappointment in 2012, as head coach Mack Brown led them to a 9-4 overall record with a 5-4 record during conference play. The team has not improved too much so far in 2013, going 2-2 in their first four games with losses coming from two non-conference teams (at BYU, Ole Miss at home). The Cyclones have been a team looking to find its identity over the past few years, attempting to have its first winning season since going 7-6 and finishing fourth in the Big 12 in 2009. ISU should have some momentum going into this game coming off a 38-21 win at Tulsa, its first victory of the season. Since 1992, these two teams have played each other a total of nine times with the Longhorns coming out on top in eight contests, including the past two meetings. Texas has not done as well covering the spread in these meetings with a 5-4 ATS mark. In Iowa, the Longhorns are undefeated with a 4-0 SU record (3-1 ATS). Texas starting QB David Ash is doubtful for this game after suffering his second head injury of the year against Kansas State before last week's bye. His dual-threat play will be missed if they are forced to turn to senior Case McCoy under center if Ash is declared out. Iowa State will counter them with a solid passing offense (50th nationally) led by Sam Richardson, who is probable despite a nagging ankle injury. Texas has gone 17-8 SU over their past 25 games and this is a must-win for the Longhorns if they hope to have the type of season expected of them and compete for the Big 12 championship. Iowa State is 1-4 both straight up and ATS in their last five games and will need a solid performance from all of their players to keep this game close.
 
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Texas was expected to come into the 2013 season and compete for the Big 12 championship, but recent performances have put both the team and Mack Brown on the hot seat. QB David Ash (760 passing yards, 7 TD) is doubtful for the Thursday night game against Iowa State after missing the second half of his last game with a head injury. He was replaced by senior QB Case McCoy who has been a decent fill-in for Ash over the season. McCoy has one start on the year, which came in a 44-23 loss at home against Ole Miss, when the senior completed 24-of-36 passes (67%) for 196 yards and a touchdown. McCoy has completed 64% of his passes with 14 touchdowns and seven interceptions overall in his four years at Texas. Complementing McCoy on offense will be RB Jonathan Gray, who on the year has rushed the ball 66 times for 350 yards (5.3 YPC) and three touchdowns. Gray is coming off a huge game against Kansas State where he carried the ball 28 times for 141 yards (5.0 YPC) and two touchdowns. On the defensive side of the ball, look for top DE prospect Jackson Jeffcoat and CB Carrington Byndom to try and improve the Longhorns' mediocre 28.0 PPG allowed, which ranks 78th overall in the nation. Texas will need to keep using both the run (36th in nation) and pass (37th in nation) to go 2-0 in the Big 12.
 
Iowa State has struggled for years in the tough Big 12 conference, but has a group of young players that look to turn around the fortune of the program. QB Sam Richardson is one of these young players and has put together a solid season so far. In three games, Richardson has completed 62.5% of his passes for 757 yards, seven touchdowns and three interceptions. He has been relied on heavily as a sophomore, averaging just over 37 pass attempts per game with multiple touchdowns in each contest. One of the top players receiving these passes has been WR Quenton Bundrage, another sophomore. He has 13 receptions for 186 yards and three touchdowns on the season. The Cyclones will look towards RB Aaron Wimberly to continue his great play from last week against Tulsa (137 rushing yards) and revive their 92nd-ranked rushing attack (135 YPG). Veteran leadership from LB Jeremiah George (27 tackles) will be needed to help Iowa State's 66th-ranked defense (25.3 PPG allowed) to slow down Texas.
 
 
UCLA BRUINS (3-2) at UTAH UTES (1-3)
 
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: UCLA -7 (-105) & 62.5
Opening Line & Total: Bruins -6 & 62.5
 
UCLA begin its quest towards a second straight Pac-12 Championship game appearance, but Utah will attempt to use its home field advantage to pull off an upset on Thursday night.
 
These two high-octane offenses will clash in what looks to be an intriguing Pac-12 matchup. The 2013 season has been good to the Bruins so far as they have gone undefeated over their first three non-conference games and are looking forward to starting conference play and a chance at a second straight visit to the Pac-12 Championship out of the South division. Utah, on the other hand, did not enjoy success in 2012, finishing in 5th place in the South division with a 3-6 record during conference play. A group of young players has moved up to the top of the Utes' depth chart and looks to change the combined feel of the team. Overall, these two teams have played each other four times, splitting the series with two wins each. Neither team has been able to win on the road in this matchup, as Utah is 2-0 at home and has beat UCLA by an average of 31.5 PPG in those matchups. This Pac-12 showdown will be very important for both teams, as UCLA attempts to show that its 2012 season was no fluke, and the Utes look to put their first conference loss, a 51-48 overtime defeat to Oregon State, behind them. The Bruins are only 6-13 over their past 19 games on the road. Since joining the Pac-12 in 2011, Utah has gone 7-12 in conference play and is 16-12 overall. This could be a real barnburner if both top-20 offenses are firing on all cylinders.
 
UCLA has dominated its opponents this year, winning each of its first three games by an average of 34.7 PPG. A 59-13 blowout in their last game against New Mexico State (0-5) does skew the numbers a bit, but a 20-point quality win at No. 23 Nebraska (3-1) and a 38-point victory against Nevada (3-2) were no easy tasks. Leading the Bruins in their three victories this year has been QB Brett Hundley. With 848 passing yards (66.3% completion rate), 8 TD and 3 INT, Hundley has the Bruins ranked 12th in the nation in passing. Hundley also can keep the ball himself as he has run for 157 yards (4.9 YPC) and two touchdowns. WR Shaquelle Evans has been Hundley’s main target so far in 2013 with 210 yards receiving (16.2 average) and three touchdowns. The Bruins will look to combine their high-octane passing attack with the nation’s 13th-ranked rushing attack, led by Jordan James, who has averaged nearly seven yards per carry (6.8) in 2013, and has totaled 424 yards and four touchdowns. UCLA will also feature 2012 All-Conference LB Anthony Barr (19 tackles, 1 sack) and the 29th-ranked defense (18.0 PPG allowed) to slow down Utah.
 
Solid recruiting by Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham has brought young talent to the team’s starting lineup, and with that has developed a top 20-offense. One recruit that can be thanked for this rejuvenation is sophomore QB Travis Wilson. In 2013, he has racked up 1,118 passing yards (280 YPG), 251 rushing yards (7.8 YPC) and 14 total touchdowns (9 passing). Another young player who looks to bolster the Utah rushing attack for the next few years is James Poole, who has helped the Utes to an average of 219 rushing YPG (31st in FBS). Poole has added 424 total yards (304 rushing) and one touchdown for this Utah offense. A third key offensive contributor this year has been Dres Anderson who has caught 18 passes for 404 yards and three touchdowns. These three players will need to be at the top of their games to keep up with UCLA's prestigious offense. Attempting to help tame that Bruins offense will be DE Trevor Reilly, who has tallied 25 tackles and two sacks on the year. Overall, the Utes rank 29th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing only 118 YPG on the ground. Over their past 25 games at home, Utah has compiled a solid 18-7 record, and they will look to continue to use their home field as an advantage and outscore UCLA for their first conference win of 2013.
 
 

  
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