Saturday's Top Action
October 25, 2013
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UCLA BRUINS (5-1) at OREGON DUCKS (7-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Oregon -23.5 & 72
Opening Line & Total: Ducks -21.5 & 71
Two of the best quarterbacks in all of college football take the field on Saturday night as Brett Hundley leads No. 12 UCLA into Eugene to take on Marcus Mariota and No. 2 Oregon.
These two teams did not match up last season since they are in different divisions in the Pac-12, but Oregon won two seasons ago 49-31 in the Pac-12 Championship game. UCLA is coming off a tough 24-10 loss to Stanford last week, but still has plenty of talent to bounce back, led by its dynamic quarterback. Hundley struggled against the Cardinal (192 pass yards, 1 TD, 2 INT), but remains a real threat to make plays with both his arm and feet. Stanford did a great job of pressuring Hundley all game, never allowing him to get into any kind of rhythm. However, he was not helped out by the rushing attack, as the Bruins ran the ball 27 times for only 74 yards. This ground game needs to improve greatly, not only to help Hundley, but to keep the Oregon offense off the field. Marcus Mariota has been incredible for the Ducks this season. Through seven games this year, he has accounted for 28 touchdowns, (19 passing, nine rushing) while only turning the ball over one time (lost fumble). Mariota has done this despite playing an entire game only one time this season, as the Ducks are winning by an average of 40.3 PPG. Both clubs suffered their first ATS losses of the season last week, but UCLA usually thrives in high-scoring affairs, going 8-1 ATS (89%) when the total is at least 63 points in the past two seasons. However, Oregon has been very profitable against great teams, going 11-2 ATS (85%) against teams with a winning percentage of at least 75% over the past three years.
Last week was a big disappointment for the Bruins, but not all is lost. They were on the road against a very talented Stanford team that was stinging from an upset loss to Utah the week before. For UCLA, there is still plenty of talent on the team. The Bruins rank 21st in the nation in scoring offense (39.8 PPG) and 18th in points allowed (19.2 PPG). QB Brett Hundley (1,661 pass yards, 8.4 YPA, 13 TD, 6 INT) has a big-time talent at the receiver position in Shaquelle Evans (24 rec., 319 yards, 5 TD). At 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, he is very difficult to guard, as he is fast enough to run by people, but is also able to go over the middle and make the big catch. He is Hundley's security blanket on third downs, and must have a big game. Junior RB Jordon James (463 rush yards, 6.3 YPC, 5 TD) has propelled a quality ground game this year (199 YPG, 38th in FBS), and his absence over the past two weeks due to an ankle injury has really hurt, as the Burins have rushed for a meager 152 yards on 61 carries (2.5 YPC) with their top rusher out. James is considered questionable to return for this game. Last week against Stanford, the offense was only 5-of-15 on third downs, and that has to increase to help out star LB Anthony Barr (35 tackles, 4 sacks) and the rest of the UCLA defense. Barr is a superb athlete that has incredible speed for a guy his size, but if his unit has to stay on the field too long, the Ducks will get rolling.
With Chip Kelly leaving for the NFL, some wondered if Oregon's incredible success the past few seasons would leave with him. However, just the opposite has happened. The Ducks are still playing at an elite level on offense (57.6 PPG, 2nd in FBS; 576 total YPG, 3rd in nation). As excellent as this team has been through the air with QB Marcus Mariota throwing for 2,051 yards (10.4 YPA), 19 TD and 0 INT, the ground game continues to baffle opponents with 332 YPG (2nd in nation). Mariota (493 rush yards, 10.1 YPC, 9 TD) and RBs Byron Marshall (746 rush yards, 6.7 YPA, 9 TD), Thomas Tyner (360 rush yards, 6.7 YPA, 7 TD) and De'Anthony Thomas (338 rush yards, 8.0 YPA, 6 TD) are all excellent ball carriers. The Oregon defense has also been impressive this season (17.3 PPG, 12th in nation), but allowed 38 points and 557 passing yards on 89 attempts in last week's 62-38 win over Washington State. Ducks CB Terrance Mitchell (4 INT) has emerged as a star, and has helped his team force a whopping 21 turnovers in seven contests. In last week's win, Mitchell took back an interception for a 51-yard touchdown. If the defense continues to play at such a high level, then this team will be nearly impossible to beat.
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (5-2) at MISSOURI TIGERS (7-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Missouri -3 & 54
Opening Line & Total: Tigers -3 & 53
No. 5 Missouri will look to add another signature win to its undefeated record Saturday night as they take on a No. 20 South Carolina team coming off a disappointing loss to Tennessee.
The Tigers have been the surprise of this college football season, now coming off back-to-back wins against Florida and Georgia. Missouri is not only 7-0 SU, but also 6-1 ATS with an offense averaging 44.3 PPG (8th in nation). Last week's win was important, showing they could beat the Gators even without top QB James Franklin, who's out indefinitely with an injured shoulder. The Gamecocks, despite a lot of hype entering this season, are now 5-2 SU and just 2-5 ATS. Their loss to Georgia was understandable, but last week's 23-21 defeat at the hands of the Volunteers was a real setback. In that game, starting QB Connor Shaw left with a knee injury and is doubtful for Saturday's action. That's bad news for a Gamecocks team that is just 1-3 ATS on the road in 2013. When these two teams met last year, though, Steve Spurrier's squad had no problem dispatching the Tigers, winning 31-10 and easily covering a 10-point spread. Missouri has thrived against elite competition for the past three seasons, going 6-0 ATS versus teams with a win pct. between 60% and 75%, but South Carolina has also taken down some high-quality opponents under Spurrier, going 13-5 ATS (72%) versus excellent teams (17+ PPG margin) since becoming the school's head coach.
Losing QB Connor Shaw would be a big blow for South Carolina as he has put up solid numbers this season. He has 11 TD passes and only 1 INT while completing 92-of-145 passes (63.4%) for 1,307 yards. His replacement, Dylan Thompson, is just 29-for-51 (56.9%) on passes this year with 2 TD and 2 INT. Even with a weakened pass game though, the offense has hope in star RB Mike Davis, who has already found the end zone 10 times this season while gaining 879 yards on a hefty 6.7 YPC average. He also has 201 receiving yards on 17 catches. WRs Damiere Byrd (19 rec., 384 yards, 3 TD) and Bruce Ellington (21 rec., 332 yards, 3 TD) also have big-play ability. On defense, the unit has high upside with star DE Jadeveon Clowney, and has succeeded on the ground, yielding only 4.0 YPC. Through the air though, foes are completing more than 60% of their passes for 7.0 yards per attempt and a whopping 11.6 yards per completion.
Despite missing QB James Franklin last week, Missouri didn't miss a beat with redshirt freshman Maty Mauk stepping in and completing 18-of-36 passes for 295 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT. The Tigers piled up more than 500 yards in the win against a solid Gators defense. Though the offense has some health issues with RBs Russell Hansbrough (438 rush yards, 6.8 YPC, 3 TD) and Marcus Murphy (357 rush yards, 8.7 YPC, 5 TD) both questionable for action with toe and concussion ailments, respectively, they have a deep stable of backs that can contribute, such as RB Henry Josey (494 rush yards, 6.0 YPC, 8 TD). And in the air, Mauk can regularly count on guys like L'Damian Washington (32 rec., 539 yards, 7 TD) and Dorial Green-Beckham (30 rec., 451 yards, 4 TD) to make plays. Defensively, the Tigers are stingiest on the ground with 3.6 YPC allowed, and aren't terrible against the pass either, giving up 6.2 yards per attempt and 10.0 yards per completion.
TENNESSEE VOLUNTEERS (4-3) at ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (7-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Alabama -28 & 52.5
Opening Line & Total: Crimson Tide -28 & 52
Tennessee will look to pull off an upset for the second consecutive week as it heads to Tuscaloosa for a showdown with a heavily-favored No. 1 Alabama squad.
Despite its mediocre 4-3 SU record, Tennessee has looked quite good against SEC opponents lately with two consecutive ATS wins against ranked teams. First the Vols battled Georgia in an eventual OT loss and followed that up with an upset of South Carolina as 7.5-point underdogs. Alabama has now won 11 games in a row SU dating back to last year and is now 3-1 ATS against conference foes in 2013. Most of that is because the Crimson Tide have the nation's stingiest defense that allows a miniscule 9.7 PPG. Recently, Alabama has owned Tennessee, winning the past six games SU (5-1 ATS), with the past three wins all coming by exactly 31 points. But historically the Volunteers have actually had some success in Tuscaloosa, going 8-2 ATS against the Crimson Tide since 1992.
Tennessee's offense is nothing to rave about, though RB Rajion Neal is amid a strong season in which he is averaging 5.3 YPC on 132 carries with eight touchdowns. Over his past three contests, he's averaging 131.3 rushing yards per game. The Vols also have a good change of pace back in Marlin Lane (335 rush yards, 5.9 YPC), who has added four touchdowns on the season. QB Justin Worley runs the show, but isn't very efficient, completing only 55.8% of his passes. He's thrown for 1,119 yards with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions. He didn't throw a pick in the games against Georgia and South Carolina though, one of the big reasons for the Volunteers' impressive performances in those games. Defensively this unit leaves a lot to be desired, giving up 4.8 YPC on the ground and 7.2 yards per pass attempt through the air. The good news about the Vols' pass defense is that opponents have completed only 52.0% of their passes against them.
Though Alabama's defense is what makes the program truly elite, that is no slight to their prolific offense. QB AJ McCarron has had a phenomenal senior season, completing 69.2% of his passes for 1,587 yards (8.7 YPA). Impressively, he has 14 TD tosses and only three picks this year, and he completely destroyed Tennessee last year by completing 17-of-22 passes for 306 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT. He is an expert at distributing the ball to his backs, receivers and tight ends, with eight players already having more than 100 receiving yards this season, and nine players having caught touchdown passes. Setting up the passing game are two rushers who both have seven scores already this season in RBs T.J. Yeldon (657 yards on 6.6 YPC) and Kenyan Drake (402 yards on 8.2 YPC). Yeldon tore up Tennessee for 129 yards on 15 carries (8.6 YPC) with 2 TD in last year's romp. Opposing QBs are completing just 50.0% of their passes against the Alabama defense while gaining a poor 3.3 YPC on the ground.
STANFORD CARDINAL (6-1) at OREGON STATE BEAVERS (6-1)
Sportsbook.ag Opening Line & Total: Cardinal -6 & 57
Things do not get any easier for No. 8 Stanford as it travels to Corvallis to take on the high-powered offensive attack of Oregon State on Saturday night.
Oregon State got off to a tough start this season after being upset FCS school Eastern Washington in the opener. However, behind the play of QB Sean Mannion, the Beavers have turned it around with six straight wins (4-2 ATS) and are a legitimate threat in the Pac-12. Last season, Oregon State almost pulled off the upset in Palo Alto, until Stanford came back from a nine-point deficit late in the third quarter to win 27-23. Running back Storm Woods had 94 rushing yards on 6.3 YPC in that game, and was able to consistently get to the second level of the defense. The Beavers will need that kind of balance again as they will be playing against a very difficult defense, who got back to form against UCLA last week. The Cardinal were all over Bruins star quarterback Brett Hundley from the very beginning of the day, never allowing him to get comfortable. They also shut down the Bruins rushing attack, allowing UCLA to gain just 74 yards on 27 carries (2.7 YPC). Stanford QB Kevin Hogan was big in the game last season, overcoming early interceptions to complete 22-of-29 passes for 254 yards and three touchdowns. While he is not going to throw for all the yards Mannion does, Hogan does a great job of running the offense the way that head coach David Shaw wants him to. Luckily for Hogan, he has plenty of talented players on offense to help him out. In the past three seasons, Stanford is 14-5 ATS (74%) after an ATS win and 7-0 ATS on the road in the second half of the year. However, Oregon State is 33-14 ATS (70%) in October games and 19-8 ATS (70%) off two straight Pac-12 wins under Mike Riley.
Stanford's Ty Montgomery is one of the most complete wide receivers in all of college football. At 6-foot-2 and nearly 220 pounds, Montgomery has great size to go along with his game-breaking speed. He is a very intelligent receiver (564 rec. yards, 5 TD), but also lethal in the return game with 633 yards on 18 kick returns (35.2 avg.) and 2 TD. One thing the Cardinal offense could use more of is big plays in the air attack, where they rank just 86th in the country with 209 passing YPG. Oregon State's defense has struggled against athletic quarterbacks, so look for QB Kevin Hogan (1,405 pass yards, 8.8 YPA, 13 TD, 5 INT) to take a couple of chances deep with Montgomery. However, if the Cardinal are going to win, it is going to be with their defense stopping Mannion. On defense, Jordan Richards will play a huge role in stopping Oregon State's offense. The junior safety intercepted UCLA QB Brett Hundley twice in last week's game, and was all over the field with 10 tackles. The Cardinal are loaded at all three levels on defense, and are led by senior LB Shayne Skov (58 tackles, 3.5 sacks). The defensive line must get pressure on Mannion though, because if he is able to sit back in the pocket and find his receivers, then Stanford is in trouble.
Many people wrote off Oregon State after the season-opening 49-46 loss to Eastern Washington. However, head coach Mike Riley has done a terrific job of righting the ship, and now the Beavers are back in Rose Bowl contention. They rank No. 1 in the country in passing (442.1 yards per game) and ninth overall in scoring (44.1 points). While junior QB Sean Mannion is the biggest reason for this success with 2,992 passing yards on 69% completions, 9.0 YPA, 29 TD and just 3 INT, junior WR Brandin Cooks is also putting up insane numbers with 76 catches for 1,176 yards (15.5 avg.) and 12 touchdowns. Standing at just 5-foot-10, he is able to run away from defenders and allows Mannion to use his strong arm. The defense is a different story though, and that unit must improve if they want to be a true Pac-12 contender. Senior CB Rashaad Reynolds (24 tackles) will likely be matched up against Montgomery, and he has played terrific as of late. All four of his interceptions have come in the team's past three games.
PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (4-2) at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (7-0)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Ohio State -15 & 56.5
Opening Line & Total: Buckeyes -14.5 & 57
No. 4 Ohio State will look to avoid being the second consecutive upset victim for Penn State when the two teams kick off in Columbus on Saturday night.
Ohio State has yet to lose under head coach Urban Meyer, going 19-0 SU and 11-7-1 ATS dating back to last season. This year they are 4-2-1 ATS, though that also includes a lucky cover on a meaningless play at Northwestern. Penn State, meanwhile is only 4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS this season, but is coming off a dramatic quadruple overtime win against Michigan two weeks ago before its bye week. The Nittany Lions are now 3-1-1 ATS in their past five games as underdogs, but they have failed to demonstrate any level of consistency as favorites, including disappointing SU losses to teams such as Indiana and Central Florida. Last year, the Buckeyes easily covered a 1-point spread in a 35-23 win at Penn State. Overall, Ohio State has dominated this series when playing at Ohio Stadium, going 8-2 (SU and ATS) in the past 10 meetings.
The Nittany Lions have a pass-heavy offense, which has resulted in big numbers for QB Christian Hackenberg, even if he has not been the most efficient of passers. He has thrown for 1,672 yards and 11 TD, while completing 58.4% of his passes and throwing 6 INT. He has one top target in WR Allen Robinson (43 rec., 705 yards, 5 TD), who is a big threat on any down. On the ground, RBs Zach Zwinak (393 rush yards, 4.3 YPC, 8 TD) and Bill Belton (369 rush yards, 5.3 YPC, 3 TD) split the carries. Defensively, Penn State's rushing defense has been its strength, giving up a mere 3.1 YPC. At times their pass coverage has been good too, limiting foes to a 56.1% completion percentage. Still, opposing passers are averaging 6.7 yards per passing attempt and 11.9 yards per completion.
Ohio State ranks 11th in the nation with 279.6 rushing yards per game, though that comes without one dominant workhorse. Three rushers have more than 300 yards for the Buckeyes on 75 or fewer carries. Carlos Hyde (443 rush yards, 6.2 YPC, 5 TD) and Jordan Hall (438 rush yards, 6.2 YPC, 8 TD) have been the most effective ones, and QB Braxton Miller has called his own number 75 times for 335 yards. In the air, Miller has been very efficient, completing 70% of his passes for 831 yards, 8 TD and 2 INT. His two primary passing targets have been WRs Philly Brown (33 rec., 453 yards, 6 TD) and Devin Smith (30 rec., 434 yards, 6 TD). Defensively, Ohio State has given up 19.9 PPG (22nd in nation), a big differential with their 45.0 PPG on offense, which ranks seventh-most in FBS. The Buckeyes give up only 3.0 YPC on the ground while yielding 7.0 yards per passing attempt.
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