Top Matchups - Week 6
October 4, 2013
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OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (5-0) at NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (4-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ohio State -7.5 & 63.5
Opening Line & Total: Buckeyes -7 & 62
Only one of these two undefeated Big Ten schools will leave the field with their record unblemished Saturday night as No. 4 Ohio State is billed as a road favorite over No. 16 Northwestern.
With an undefeated 17-0 SU record under head coach Urban Meyer, the Buckeyes have been a tremendous bet lately, covering eight of their past nine decisions, including 3-1-1 ATS this season with a push last week against Wisconsin. The Wildcats are hot too though, winning seven in a row SU dating back to last season and covering in nine of their past 11 contests. Last season, the Wildcats went a remarkable 7-0 ATS at home en route to a 12-1 ATS record overall. This is their first game this season as an underdog, but since 2009, they are 16-12 ATS when receiving help from the lines. Ohio State has just been generally impressive since 2009, going 36-18 ATS. While these schools are technically conference rivals, they have not met since 2008 when the Buckeyes dismantled the Wildcats 45-10 in Evanston to easily cover a 12.5-point spread. Ohio State has covered and won SU their past four meetings against Northwestern with an average victory total of 40.3 points per game.
The good news for Ohio State is that QB Braxton Miller (knee) returned to action in last week’s victory and showed no signs of his injury, completing 17-of-25 passes for 198 yards and four touchdowns while not throwing a pick against Wisconsin. Overall, he’s completed 69.4% of his passes this year for 406 yards (8.3 YPA) while adding 165 yards on 4.1 YPC with his legs. RB Jordan Hall is part of a deep backfield, leading the unit with eight touchdowns already in 2013 on 69 carries for 427 yards. He has carried the ball only five times total in the last two games since Carlos Hyde (126 rush yds on 5.7 YPC) has returned following a suspension. Hall also has the potential to ground-and-pound all game with two games of more than 150 yards already this season. Overall, the team has 14 rushing TD, two of which are from Ezekiel Elliot (21 carries for 200 yards), who leads the crew with 9.5 YPC. However, more impressive than the Buckeyes' offense has been the defense that is stifling opponents’ rushing attacks with 2.8 YPC allowed.
Northwestern, however, also lives off the ground with three rushers of more than 200 yards. This unit is led by RB Treyvon Green, who is averaging 7.0 YPC with 58 touches for 404 yards and five touchdowns, but top RB Venric Mark (1,366 rush yds, 12 TD in 2012) is expected to return on Saturday after a three-game absence due to an ankle injury. The passing reps have gone to two people: Trevor Siemian (47-for-70, 4 TD, 2 INT) and Kain Colter, who has completed 27-of-35 passes this season for 264 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. The team’s No. 1 receiver has been WR Tony Jones, who has racked up 362 yards on 24 catches for three touchdowns. The Wildcats' rushing defense has been great this season, holding foes to 3.7 YPC, though the pass defense has to improve, giving up 308 passing yards per game so far.
WASHINGTON HUSKIES (4-0) at STANFORD CARDINAL (4-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Stanford -9 & 53
Opening Line & Total: Cardinal -7.5 & 53
No. 15 Washington looks to continue its fast start this season when it visits No. 5 Stanford, which will be looking for some revenge after falling 17-13 to the Huskies last year.
After a disappointing 2012 season, Washington QB Keith Price is back to his 2011 form. When Price is on top of his game, he is one of the most accurate quarterbacks in all of the country. With RB Bishop Sankey ranking fifth in the country with 607 rushing yards, the Huskies have one of the most balanced offenses in the country with the ability to score on anybody. With its 31-13 victory over Arizona last week, Washington is now 4-0 ATS this season. However, the Huskies will be put to the test against the Cardinal, who have one of the best defenses in the country. After allowing Washington State to hang around for the first half in last Saturday’s game, Stanford put on an incredible defensive display, including two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the third quarter. As good as the defense is, it is the play of their quarterback that has Cardinal fans dreaming of a potential national title berth. In his brief career, QB Kevin Hogan has shown the ability to be a big-time college quarterback. He has won all 10 career starts (7-3 ATS), while throwing 19 touchdowns to just six interceptions so far in his career. He is very athletic, but when he scrambles, he does it more to give his wide receivers more time to get open than trying to rush downfield. This game could be decided on which quarterback plays better, which makes for an interesting game. Washington is 18-8 ATS (69%) when the total is between 49.5 and 56 points under head coach Steve Sarkisian, but Stanford is 10-0 ATS after scoring 42+ points in a game under head coach David Shaw.
After a 2011 season that saw him throw for 3,063 yards and 33 touchdowns, Washington QB Keith Price threw for only 19 TD last season, and was a big reason why the Huskies struggled. This year, he is leading an offense that ranks fifth in the country in total offense with 574 yards per game. He has tremendous arm strength, and is extremely accurate, as he is completing 72.3 percent of his passes this season. While Price didn't play very well against Stanford (19-of-37, 177 yards, 4.8 YPA, 1 TD, 1 INT; minus-14 rushing yards), RB Bishop Sankey picked up his slack in a big way. Sankey paced the Washington offense with 144 yards on 20 carries (7.2 YPC), including a 61-yard TD run on the final play of the third quarter. Washington has everything needed to become a powerhouse in the Pac-12, now it’s time for them to put it together and make it happen. The Huskies have not defeated a top-25 team on the road since 2010, when they upset USC 32-31. However, repeating that feat will be no easy task as they go up against a Stanford team that has the second longest winning streak in the country at 12 games.
When Jim Harbaugh left, it was thought that the Stanford success went with him. However, that has proven not to be the case at all, as David Shaw has taken the Cardinal program to the next level in his three years in charge. While people think of the great defense that Stanford has, the offense has an abundance of firepower as well. Junior WR Trent Montgomery is a big-time athlete that is as complete of a wide receiver as there is in the Pac-12. He is a great combination of size and speed, while also having the ability to block downfield in the running game. Speaking of the running game, senior RB Tyler Gaffney is having a huge season with 377 yards (5.2 YPC) and five touchdowns. He is looking to bounce back from a subpar showing in Pullman last week when he gained just 54 yards on 14 carries (3.9 YPC). He has helped Stanford outrush its two Pac-12 opponents this season by a wide 478 to 101 margin.
MARYLAND TERRAPINS (4-0) at FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (4-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Florida State -15 & 57.5
Opening Line & Total: Seminoles -16 & 57.5
No. 25 Maryland appears to be turning the corner under the watch of head coach Randy Edsall, and his team will get its first real test Saturday when they visit No. 8 Florida State and star QB Jameis Winston.
The Seminoles are coming off a tougher than expected 48-34 victory over 21.5-point underdog Boston College last Saturday, failing to cover the spread for the first time this season. However, Winston once again proved to the country that he is as good of a quarterback as there is, throwing for 330 yards and four touchdowns. Winston has talents that you can’t coach, and is a nightmare for opposing defenses to game plan for. The Terrapins right now are the surprise of the ACC. This is the first time they have been ranked in the AP Poll since the end of 2010. Their 37-0 win over West Virginia looks even more impressive after the Mountaineers defeated then No. 11 Oklahoma State last Saturday. Injuries decimated this team last season, but a healthy C.J. Brown has given Maryland a quarterback of their own that can make plays with both his arm as well as his feet. The Terrapins are a perfect 4-0 ATS this season, but this is the first time they are an underdog as they head to Tallahassee. Last season, FSU dominated this matchup, defeating Maryland 41-14 on the road, but the Terps were using linebacker Shawn Petty as their starting quarterback that day.
Brown has been quite impressive this season, throwing for 1,043 yards and seven touchdowns. He missed last season due to a knee injury, and has come back better than before. He has been helped by the emergence of sophomore WR Stefon Diggs, who has 400 receiving yards and 3 TD in just four games. He is not the biggest receiver (6-foot-0, 195 pounds), but he has the ability to get behind the secondary. If the Terrapins are going to pull off the upset, they will need Diggs to provide the team with a couple of big plays down the field. Last year he was held to three catches in the loss to FSU, but was still able to record a 25-yard reception and 23-yard run. While the Seminoles offense has been rolling this season, the Maryland defense has been very impressive as well. Through four games, the Terrapins have given up only 10.3 PPG, which ranks third in the country. Florida State has one of the best home fields in all of the country, so it is key for Maryland to get off to a fast start and not allow the crowd to get into the game.
There is no denying that Winston is a special player. However, there are many other players that are capable of big plays for the No. 4-ranked scoring offense in the country (51.0 PPG). Senior WR Kenny Shaw is emerging as the go-to guy for Winston, as Winston hit him on a 55-yard bomb at the end of the first half against Boston College. While the passing game of the Seminoles gets most of the talk, Florida State is more than capable of major success on the ground. James Wilder Jr. (5.8 YPC, 2 TD) is one of the most underrated players in all of the country. He is a physical specimen that is able to run through defenders with no problem and he piled up 52 yards and a touchdown on just eight carries (6.5 YPC) versus Maryland last year. However, it is the play of the defense that will need to step up after allowing 34 points and 397 yards against an average Boston College offense. DT Timmy Jernigan has big-time talent and can be unblockable at times, however, he must learn to bring the intensity on every single play. He will be looked upon to get pressure on C.J. Brown, and not allow him to roll out and get on the perimeter.
TCU HORNED FROGS (2-2) at OKLAHOMA SOONERS (4-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Oklahoma -10 & 47.5
Opening Line & Total: Sooners -10.5 & 47.5
No. 11 Oklahoma looks to continue its impressive start to the season hosting a TCU team that was supposed to be one of the best teams in the Big 12.
After losing the starting job, Sooners QB Blake Bell has gained it back and taken complete control of the position with back-to-back terrific performances against Tulsa and Notre Dame. In those games, Bell has thrown for 683 yards and six touchdowns. Last season, he was given the nickname “The Belldozer,” for his role as the Wildcat quarterback. While he is still a dangerous running threat, it is his improvement in the passing game that has the Sooners entering the national title talk. Oklahoma is 3-1 ATS this season, as it was two points shy of covering in a 16-7 victory over West Virginia. Like its opponent, TCU has had a quarterback shuffle as well this season. Despite a great performance last season, QB Trevone Boykin was expected to resume his backup role as Casey Pachall was back from his suspension. However, Pachall got hurt (forearm) early this season, putting Boykin back under center for the Horned Frogs. Boykin gives TCU a big-time playmaker at the quarterback position. Despite being just 2-2, there is still a ton of talent on this team. One of their losses was to LSU, a game in which they were down by only three points late in the fourth quarter. The Horned Frogs have had a problem playing to their potential, as they are only 1-3 ATS this season. They have the talent on both sides of the ball to get the job done, they just have to go out and do that. Oklahoma defeated TCU 24-17 in Fort Worth last season, marking the fifth time in six meetings that the road team prevailed in this series.
Besides Boykin on offense, TCU has talent at both the running back and wide receiver positions. RBs Waymon James and B.J. Catalon are both averaging over five yards per carry this season, forcing defenses to load the box. This allows WR Josh Carter to have single coverage on the outside, where he has the speed to run away from the secondary. If the rushing duo is able to establish the line of scrimmage early, then there may be some openings for Boykin to attack downfield early in the game. Boykin had a decent game versus Oklahoma last year, completing 17-of-31 passes for 231 yards (7.5 YPA), 1 TD (80 yards to Carter) and 0 INT. While there are playmakers on the offense, the Horned Frogs defense (22.8 PPG allowed, 60th in FBS) needs to raise their level of play. Head coach Gary Patterson has had some great defenses during his time at TCU, and this unit has as much talent as any of those defenses. The status for sophomore DE Devonte Fields (foot) is unknown against the Sooners, but he is the type of guy that can change a game. The defending Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year has been hampered this season by injuries and suspensions. If he is unable to go Saturday, that will make things much tougher for TCU. The secondary is one of the very best in the Big 12 with CBs Jason Verrett and Kevin White. Both of them are able to be put on an island and blanket a wide receiver in man coverage for extended periods of times. However, they will be put to the test against an explosive Oklahoma wide receiver group.
Sooners WRs Sterling Shepard and Jalen Saunders have the ability to take it to the house on any given moment. Both of them are very solid route runners that know what to do with the ball after they catch it. The Horned Frogs had no answer for Saunders last year, as he caught seven passes for 108 yards and a touchdown. RBs Brennan Clay and Damien Williams have given the Sooners the rushing attack that QB Blake Bell and the passing game need in order to keep defenses from playing two-safety-deep defenses. Williams, who totaled 154 yards and 2 TD in last year's win at TCU, may be counted upon to carry more of the load, as Clay is currently doubtful for the game after experiencing a head injury in the third quarter of last week’s game. When head coach Bob Stoops was most successful, his Sooners defense was one of the top units in all of the country, and they appear to be back to an elite level on that side of the ball this year. Entering Week 6, the Sooners have given up just 12.0 points per game, ranking sixth in the country. While TCU’s secondary may have better players, Oklahoma CB Aaron Colvin is hands down the best secondary player on either team. He has great range, and is a factor in both stopping the run as well as the pass. While a lot of Big 12 games come down to which offense scores the most, look for this game to be more of a defensive struggle.
GEORGIA BULLDOGS (3-1) at TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (3-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Georgia -11.5 & 65.5
Opening Line & Total: Bulldogs -11.5 & 65.5
Coming off its second win of the season against a top-10 opponent, No. 6 Georgia hits the road as double-digit favorites against Tennessee.
At 3-1 on the season, the Bulldogs suffered their only loss of the season as 1.5-point favorites in their opening game of the year to currently No. 3 Clemson, their first of three games so far this season against top-10 foes. That was their only road game so far and they are now 1-2-1 ATS and 12-17 ATS on the road since 2008. The Volunteers, meanwhile, are 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS after snapping a two-game SU losing skid last week with a narrow 31-24 win over South Alabama. The Vols were 16-point favorites in that game, dropping to 1-2 ATS at home and 14-18 ATS at home since 2008. Last season when these two teams met, the Volunteers kept pace with the high-powered Georgia attack and covered the 14-point spread in a wild 51-44 loss in Athens. In the past five meetings between these two teams at Neyland Stadium, Tennessee is 3-2 SU and ATS. In those contests, the team that won the game SU also covered the spread. But the big question entering this game is the health of Bulldogs star RB Todd Gurley, who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle.
Todd Gurley was huge against the Volunteers last year, rushing for 130 yards on 24 carries with three touchdowns. Gurley has been spectacular again this year, with 450 yards on 71 carries even though he carried the ball only eight times before injuring himself in last week’s 44-41 win against LSU. The good news for Georgia is that QB Aaron Murray has the potential to put the team on his back, already throwing for 1,338 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions through four games, completing 68.1% of his passes. He completed 19-of-25 passes for 278 yards and 2 TD last year against the Volunteers. Murray is an expert at evenly distributing the ball as six Bulldogs already have more than 100 receiving yards and four receivers have two touchdown catches. If Gurley is unable to go, RB Keith Marshall (51 carries for 213 yards) will have to pick up the slack. On the other side of the ball, Georgia’s rushing defense has been its strength, limiting opponents to 3.5 YPC. But through the air, they Bulldogs have allowed opponents to gain 277 passing YPG.
The Tennessee offense is built on the ground where it averages 215 rushing yards per game. RB Rajion Neal (468 yards, 5.9 YPC, 5 TD) leads the attack while Marlin Lane (280 yards, 6.2 YPC, 4 TD) provides an effective change of pace. Both backs have broken runs of more than 50 yards already this season while Neal carried the ball 23 times for 104 yards in last season’s meeting between the two teams. Where the Tennessee offense has been inconsistent is through the air, as QB Justin Worley is completing just 56% of his passes. He has thrown for only 725 yards through five games for eight touchdowns while getting intercepted six times. No Volunteers receiver has more than 150 receiving yards with Alton Howard leading the corps at 148 with two touchdowns on 11 receptions. The defense, meanwhile, is giving up 26.8 PPG, and allowing 4.4 YPC on the ground. The Vols have allowed 250 passing YPG, but have already forced 15 turnovers in their five games.