Saturday's Tip Sheet
August 28, 2014
By Brian Edwards
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**Clemson at Georgia**
-- As of late Thursday afternoon, most betting shops had Georgia listed as a 7.5-point favorite with a total of 55. Gamblers can back the Tigers on the money line for a +250 return (risk $100 to win $250). The number for the side opened at 8.5, while the 'over/under' started at 58 before steadily coming down.
-- Georgia's 2013 season was marred by injuries and ended with a disappointing 24-19 loss to Nebraska at the Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs finished 8-5 straight up and they were horrible for our purposes, finished with an abysmal 3-9-1 spread record. Four of UGA's losses were one-possession games, and three of its defeats were gut-wrenching heartbreakers.
-- The first back-breaking setback came at Clemson in the opener. The Tigers won a 38-35 decision and UGA failed to convert a short field goal in the fourth quarter when the holder couldn't handle a snap. When Mark Richt's team went to Nashville, it let a lead get away at crunch time in a 31-27 loss to Vanderbilt. On the Plains in November, a terrific second-half comeback was wasted when Auburn hit a bomb for a touchdown on a fourth-and-long play after a pair of UGA defenders deflected the pass directly into the hands of a streaking wide receiver.
-- Senior QB Hutson Mason finally gets his chance as the starter after backing up the departed Aaron Murray, who threw for a school-record 13,166 career passing yards. When Murray tore his ACL in a home win over Kentucky in late November, Mason got a pair of starting assignments. In his first on The Flats, UGA trailed Georgia Tech by 13 at intermission before Mason orchestrated a rally. He threw for 299 yards and a pair of TDs in a 41-34 double-overtime victory. In the loss to Nebraska, Mason threw for 320 yards but a third-quarter interception gave the Cornhuskers a short field and proved to be costly.
-- UGA returns six starters on offense and eight on defense. RB Todd Gurley is healthy after battling a nagging ankle injury that forced him to miss three full games and a good chunk of a win over LSU. Nevertheless, Gurley still ran for 989 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 6.0 yards per carry. The Dawgs have the country's best 1-2 combo of RBs now that Keith Marshall is also healthy. Marshall went down with a torn ACL in a win at Tennessee in early October. Marshall ran for 759 yards (6.5 YPC) as a true freshman in 2012.
-- UGA senior WR Malcolm Mitchell saw his 2013 campaign end in the opener at Clemson when he was injured in an end-zone celebration. Bad luck hit Mitchell again when he got hurt at the first practice in August. The knee injury has him listed as 'doubtful' on Saturday. Also, WR Justin Scott-Wesley is suspended.
-- Clemson returns five starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that went 11-2 SU and 7-6 ATS. The defection on offense are crucial, though. The Tigers must replace the school's all-time leader in passing yards (Tajh Boyd) and receiving yards (Sammy Watkins). Boyd blew up Charlie Whitehurst's career numbers early in his senior year in which he posted a 34/11 TD-INT ratio. The production of Watkins (101 catches, 1,464 yards and 12 TDs in 2013) will be impossible to replace.
-- Clemson's only losses last season came to top-five teams (vs. FSU and at South Carolina), but we should note that its only regular-season victory over a ranked foe came in the opener vs. UGA. With that said, the Tigers probably had their best performance in their last time out when they captured a 40-35 win over Ohio State as 2.5-point underdogs at the Orange Bowl.
-- Senior QB Cole Stoudt takes over as the starter under center. He has a stellar 8/1 TD-INT ratio but has never really seen meaningful playing time. In 2013, Stoudt completed 47-of-59 throws (79.7%) for 415 yards and five TDs without being intercepted. True freshman Deshaun Watson, the prize of Clemson's 2014 recruiting class, could see some playing time.
-- Dabo Swinney probably has the best combo of coordinators in the country with OC Chad Morris and DC Brent Venables. The latter has done a tremendous job in his two years since coming to Clemson after 13 seasons at Oklahoma, and his 'D' in 2014 should be the Tigers' best in at least a decade. This unit is led by DE Vic Beasley, who earned first-team All-American honors as a junior by registering 13 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and 12 QB hurries.
-- As a road underdog during Swinney's tenure, Clemson owns a 6-3 spread record.
-- Since 2004, UGA has struggled as a home favorite with a 24-32-2 ATS ledger.
--ESPN will have the broadcast at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.
**Florida State vs. Oklahoma State**
-- As of late Thursday afternoon, most spots had FSU listed as an 18-point favorite with a total of 63.5. Bettors can take the Cowboys to win outright for a +650 payout (risk $100 to win $650).
-- FSU is set to defend the school's third national title when it makes its first appearance at Jerry World in Arlington, TX. The Seminoles have won 16 in a row and haven't tasted defeat since Florida won by a 37-27 count in Tallahassee in late November of 2012.
-- Jameis Winston led FSU to a 14-0 SU record and an 11-2-1 ATS mark. He shredded defenses for 4,057 passing yards with a 40/10 TD-INT ratio. Winston also ran for four scores.
-- Jimbo Fisher's team brings back seven starters on offense and six on defense. The defense lost five of its top six tacklers, while the offense lost leading rusher Devonta Freeman (14 rushing TDs) and WRs Kelvin Benjamin (15 TD catches) and Kenny Shaw (54 receptions, 933 yards & six TDs).
-- Despite the departures of Benjamin and Shaw, Winston has a pair of All-American candidates to target in WR Rashad Greene and TE Nick O'Leary. Green had a team-high 76 receptions for 1,128 yards and nine TDs last season, while O'Leary hauled in 33 catches for 557 yards and seven TDs.
-- FSU went 10-2-1 ATS as a double-digit favorite last season.
-- Oklahoma State has lost a lot of talent from a 2013 squad that finished 10-3 SU and 8-5 ATS. The Cowboys lost by nine at West Virginia, by nine against Oklahoma and by 10 against Missouri at the Cotton Bowl. However, all three of those games were much closer than the final score indicated and OSU was in position to win all three of those contests midway through the fourth quarter.
-- Mike Gundy's team returns just eight total starters (four on each side of the ball). Junior QB J.W. Walsh is the starting QB after Clint Chelf departed. Walsh has eight career starts and a 22/8 career TD-INT ratio. Chelf has last year's leading rusher Desmond Roland back in the mix. Roland ran for 811 yards and 13 TDs while averaging 4.6 YPC. Gundy will have a new weapon at his disposal in prize recruit Tyreek Hill, a world-class sprinter who will play both WR and RB and might even get touches out of a Wildcat-type formation. OSU fans can look for Hill to make a lot of explosive plays, and the Cowboys will need several Saturday night if they're thinking upset.
-- Oklahoma State lost eight of its top nine tacklers from one of its best defenses during Gundy's tenure. The unit allowed only 21.6 PPG but must replace a slew of key players.
-- This is the richest underdog spot for Oklahoma State since a 36-10 loss at Texas as an 18-point 'dog way back in 2006.
-- Kick-off is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ABC.
**Wisconsin vs. LSU**
-- This meeting of SEC and Big Ten powers will take place in Houston. Then in 2015, LSU will travel to Lambeau Field in Green Bay to face Wisconsin.
-- As of late Thursday afternoon, most books had LSU installed as a five-point favorite with a total of 50 for 'over/under' wagers. The Tigers are -200 on the money line, while the Badgers are +170 on the comeback (risk $100 to win $170).
-- Les Miles's team went 10-3 SU and 6-7 ATS in 2013. The Tigers dropped a pair of heartbreakers on the road at Georgia (44-41) and at Ole Miss (27-24). They closed the season with a 21-14 non-covering win over Iowa as 7.5-point 'chalk' at the Outback Bowl.
-- LSU returns five starters on offense and seven on defense. It lost its top four offensive players to the NFL Draft, including QB Zach Mettenberger, RB Jeremy Hill, WR Jarvis Landry and WR Odell Beckham Jr. Nevertheless, the Tigers have a solid offensive line and an outstanding trio of RBs. Despite backing up Hill, Terrence Magee rushed for 626 yards and eight TDs while averaging 7.3 YPC. Kenny Hilliard, who was the MVP of the 2011 SEC Championship Game as a freshman, had seven rushing scores last season and averaged 4.6 YPC. Miles also landed the nation's No. 1 RB in the 2014 class, Leonard Fournette. If Fournette is 'as advertised,' LSU fans can count on an eighth double-digit win season in the 10th year of Miles's tenure.
-- LSU is expected to play both of its QBs against Wisconsin. Anthony Jennings got one start last season against Iowa, but he didn't look sharp in the winning effort. To his credit, however, Jennings replaced an injured Mettenberger in a tie game and threw a game-winning TD pass to beat Arkansas in the regular-season finale. Brandon Harris was more impressive in the spring game, though, as Jennings threw a pair of pick-sixes.
-- Wisconsin brings back seven starters on offense and three on defense from a team that went 9-4 both SU and ATS. The Badgers lost three one-possession games last season and dropped a 34-24 decision to South Carolina at the Capital One Bowl. One of those defeats, a 32-30 setback at Arizona State, can be blamed on Gary Andersen, who made a knucklehead clock-management decision that prevented his team from being able to attempt a short field goal for the win. They basically lost their entire front seven, including All-American LB Chris Borland, so inexperience on defense is a concern.
-- Wisconsin's Joel Stave started all 13 games at QB last year and six as a redshirt freshman in 2012. But Andersen named Tanner McEvoy as the starter vs. LSU last week. McEvoy provides more of a scrambling dynamic, but he played safety for the Badgers last season. Andersen clearly wants a more mobile QB in the mold of his signal caller Chuckie Keeton at Utah St.
-- The catalyst for UW is junior RB Melvin Gordon, who is a legit Heisman candidate. Gordon rushed for 1,609 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 7.8 YPC in 2013. Those numbers earned the speedster third-team All-American honors. Gordon will run behind an offensive line that's ranked tops in the Big Ten by Phil Steele.
-- UW lost its top four pass catchers, including perennial All Big Ten selection Jared Abbrederis.
--ESPN will provide television coverage at 9:00 p.m. Eastern.
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