Editor's note: Click to win with Christian Alexander, who has THREE MONSTER SELECTIONS in his Thursday pick pack.
#23 South Florida (6-2, 2-2 Big East) at Rutgers (6-2, 1-2 Big East)
7:45 PM ESPN
Rutgers Stadium (FieldTurf)
Sports.com Line: Rutgers -2.5, O/U 44.5
After some preseason hype predicting that Rutgers might have a chance to contend for the Big East title, most people wrote this team off after they were smoked at home to open the season, losing to Cincinnati 47-15. Yet, while the Scarlet Knights are mathematically out of the Big East title race, they still sit a very respectable 6-2 and with one more win will be eligible for a bowl game, their fifth postseason appearance in a row. That’s a pretty incredible statement for Rutgers football considering when that streak began it had been 27 years since the Scarlet Knights had made a bowl game.
The question this Thursday night is will that win come against South Florida or will coach Greg Schiano have to wait for that chance when they face Syracuse and Louisville this year?
The Bulls and Scarlet Knights have played some great games in recent years but Rutgers owns the bragging rights as of now with three straight wins after losing their first meeting 45-31 in 2005.
The story this season Rutgers has been their turnover margin. The Scarlet Knights have an incredibly low seven turnovers in their eight games and coupled with the fact that this team has forced 25 turnovers, they now have the team the best turnover margin in the country.
That efficiency can’t be understated and you can certainly bet it has won Rutgers a couple games, especially since they have been breaking in a true freshman quarterback on offense. Tom Savage hasn’t been spectacular since taking over the starting gig for Schiano but obviously he hasn’t made too many mistakes either and has done a good job of getting the ball to his playmakers.
At the top of that list is senior WR Tim Brown who is averaging a stellar 21.9 yards per catch, and has five touchdowns on the year. Add a steady ground game featuring Joe Martinek, Jourdan Brooks, and the heir apparent to Ray Rice - freshman De'Antwan Williams and you basically have a pretty good idea of the Scarlet Knights on offense.
On defense, Rutgers has been susceptible to the pass but has been solid against the run, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry through eight games.
That ability to stop the run will be tested against a South Florida offense with a quarterback that looks an awful bit like a very talented running back at times. QB B.J. Daniels took over starting role after All-Big East QB Matt Grothe tore up his knee in the third game of the season against Charleston Southern. Most fans of the Bulls thought that was the end of the season for USF but here they are with a chance for their first 10-win season in school history. In just 12 years of having a program, South Florida has had three years with at least nine wins, but has never reached double digits.
Daniels has proved to be every bit the multi-dimensional threat that Grothe was. Just ask West Virginia who he torched for three touchdown passes while going over 100 yards rushing. Daniels and RB Moise Plancher will given Schiano’s defense plenty to think about this Thursday. The South Florida QB could be without WR Carlton Mitchell this week due to an ankle injury. The junior has 29 catches for 542 yards this season, including five receptions that covered at least 50 yards.
On defense, the Bulls are led by DE George Selvie who gets a ton of attention from the press as well as from opposing offensive coordinators. That attention has caused constant double teaming which has limited Selvie’s individual stats but allowed other playmakers on defense such as DE Jason Pierre-Paul to flourish. The junior college transfer has two sacks, five hurries and 9.5 tackles for loss and has returned an interception for a touchdown.
Both Rutgers and South Florida are an even 3-3 against the spread this season.
Ball State (1-8, 1-4 Mid American) at Northern Illinois (6-3, 4-1 Mid American)
6:00 PM ESPNU
Huskie Stadium (FieldTurf)
Sports.com Line: Northern Illinois -17, O/U 46.5
After getting their first win of the season on Oct. 24 against lowly Eastern Michigan, Ball State turned around and went right back to losing in heartbreaking fashion. The 20-17 loss to Ohio marked the sixth time in eight losses that the final margin of defeat was 10 points or less. The Cardinals only really has one woodshed beating and that was a 24 point thumping at Auburn – certainly understandable.
Woodshed number two could be on the way this Thursday when the Cards face Northern Illinois. The Huskies obliterated Eastern Michigan last week 50-6 and will undoubtedly be looking for another knockout this week. The key for the Huskies will be RB Chad Spann who for the second consecutive week was named the MAC West Division Offensive Player of the Week. Spann has rushed for at least 100 yards for three straight games and has 16 touchdowns on the season. If Ball State can’t slow him down, this one could get ugly quick.
Ball State is 4-4 against the spread while Northern Illinois is 5-3 ATS in 2009.
Bowling Green (4-5, 3-2 Mid American) at Miami (Ohio) (1-9, 1-5 Mid American)
6:00 PM ESPN
Yager Stadium (FieldTurf)
Sports.com Line: Bowling Green -3.5, O/U 57.5
This is shaping up to be quite a matchup of quarterbacks. Despite a lost season at 1-9, Miami (OH) has to be thrilled with the progress of QB Zac Dysert. The freshman passed for 426 yards last week in rallying the RedHawks from an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Temple. The Redhawks eventually lost on a last-second field goal but the team looks they have found the next Ben Roethlisberger.
Dysert has thrown for 1,118 yards in the past three games which explains why the Miami (OH) offense has scored 63 points in this last two games after averaging just 11.6 points over their first eight.
But let’s not forget about Bowling Green’s offense and QB Tyler Sheehan. The Falcons signal caller is averaging 332.2 yards per game while throwing 16 touchdowns. Lots of those scores were to WR Freddie Barnes who leads the nation with 107 catches for 1,176 yards and has 11 total touchdowns.
Lots of history between these intrastate rivals but lately it’s been all Miami (OH) as the RedHawks are 9-1 in the last 10 meetings, including three straight wins, against Bowling Green.
That said, clearly the Falcons have had a the better season and considering the fact that the team desperately needs this win to finish over .500 and become bowl eligible, I see Bowling Green getting the job done.
A high scoring affair ends with the visitor winning by a touchdown.
PREDICTION: Bowling Green 34 – Miami (OH) 27
Bowling Green is 4-5 against the spread this season while Miami (Ohio) is just one better at 5-5 ATS.