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Top Matchups - Week 8
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FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (5-0) at CLEMSON TIGERS (6-0) Line & Total: Florida State -3(even) & 64.5
Opening & Total: Seminoles -3.5 & 64
In a showdown between the two ACC powerhouses, No. 3 Clemson will host No. 5 Florida State as a slight home underdog on Saturday night.
Florida State has looked absolutely dominant to start the year, going 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS while winning its games by an average margin of 41.6 points per game. Clemson, meanwhile, has gone 6-0 SU and 3-2-1 ATS and owns a marquee win, beating Georgia 38-35 in the first week of the season. Last season, Florida State won a 49-37 shootout between these two teams, but failed to cover the 14.5-point spread, giving the Tigers their fourth consecutive ATS victory against the Seminoles. In the last 10 meetings at Clemson, the two teams are 5-5 SU while the Tigers have covered in nine of those contests. Dabo Swinney is 25-12 ATS against ACC foes since taking over the reins at Clemson, while FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher is just 3-12 ATS after three consecutive SU wins since taking charge with the Seminoles.
Florida State ranks third nationally with 53.6 PPG and its defense also ranks third in FBS, giving up only 12.0 PPG. The 'Noles had off last weekend, and prior to that dominated Maryland 63-0. QB Jameis Winston is the star of the offense, completing 73.2% of his passes (90-of-123) for 1,441 yards while connecting for 17 touchdowns and only throwing two picks. He’s also a threat with his legs, running for two touchdowns and 135 yards on 36 carries. Devonta Freeman, though, leads the rushing attack with 54 carries for 385 yards (7.1 YPC) and three touchdowns. Karlos Williams (38 carries for 244 yards) is an important change-of-pace threat, adding six touchdowns on the ground. Winston has four receivers with at least three touchdown catches, led by Kenny Shaw (23 catches for 466 yards, 3 TD) and Rashad Greene (23 catches for 407 yards, 5 TD). The Seminoles defense is yielding a pithy 3.4 YPC and 5.8 yards per passing attempt, with opponents completing just 53.5% of their passes.
Clemson’s offense is led by one of the best quarterbacks in the nation in QB Tajh Boyd, who has completed 123-of-185 passes (66.5%) for 1,783 yards, 15 touchdowns and only two interceptions. He has also run for five more touchdowns on 66 carries for 187 yards (2.8 YPC). One of the most impressive parts about the Clemson offense is its versatility with personnel as 11 players have already caught touchdown passes and a number of them have been from long distances. The biggest name to watch out for is Sammy Watkins (36 catches for 582 yards, 4 TD), who already has a 91-yard touchdown catch this season and has the speed and athleticism to be a threat on Sundays in the NFL. The running back to watch out for is Roderick McDowell (78 carries for 385 yards), but he has yet to find the end zone this season. Clemson’s defense, coming off a 24-14 win against Boston College, is giving up only 3.9 YPC on the ground this season while opponents have completed 56.0% of passes for 6.7 yards per attempt in the air.
USC TROJANS (4-2) at NOTRE DAME FIGHTING IRISH (4-2) Line & Total: Notre Dame -3.5 & 51
Opening & Total: Irish -3 & 50.5
Both off to disappointing 4-2 starts, Notre Dame and USC will look to avoid another defeat as the two square off in South Bend on Saturday night.
The Fighting Irish are slight favorites in this one despite their recent struggles at home against USC, going 0-5 SU against the Trojans in South Bend since 2001. Last season when these two teams met, the Notre Dame defense dominated en route to a 22-13 road victory. This season, the Trojans are 2-4 ATS, but are 1-0 SU and ATS since interim head coach Ed Orgeron took over. That one game was a 38-31 win against Arizona last week as 5.5-point favorites. Notre Dame, meanwhile, is 1-4-1 ATS and coming off its lone ATS win of the season, a 37-34 victory against Arizona State as seven-point underdogs. A key player to watch for in this one is the health of USC star WR Marqise Lee, who missed the Arizona game and if healthy, is perhaps the most dynamic threat on either team in this contest.
While USC QB Max Wittek struggled against the Notre Dame defense last year, he’s no longer under center for the Trojans, as QB Cody Kessler now takes the snaps. Kessler has been far from dominant, but he has been serviceable while completing 60.4% of his passes (81-for-134) for 1,129 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He also has big-play capability with three touchdown passes of more than 60 yards, including a career-high 80-yarder to Lee, who leads the team with 30 catches for 385 yards. That was Lee’s lone touchdown of the year, however. On the ground, Tre Madden leads the way with 115 carries for 611 yards (5.3 YPC) and three touchdowns. He’s joined by Justin Davis (51 carries for 349 yards, 6 TD), who has more big-play capability. The Trojans rush defense has actually been quite good, giving up only 3.7 YPC, and the pass defense hasn’t been terrible either, giving up 6.3 yards per attempt with opponents completing just 56.8% of passes.
QB Tommy Rees (105-of-203) has had an up-and-down year for the Fighting Irish, completing only 51.7% of his passes for 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He has now gone three consecutive games with completing fewer than 50% of his passes, with 6 TD and 4 INT in that span. The Notre Dame rushing attack is fine, but has just four scores all season, led by George Atkinson III (56 carries for 323 yards, 5.8 YPC) who has two touchdowns, including an 80-yarder. Rees’ main weapon in the air is TJ Jones (33 catches for 481 yards, 4 TD), while DaVaris Daniels and Troy Niklas also both have four touchdowns on the year, including receptions of more than 65 yards. Like USC, the Notre Dame defense has been surprisingly respectable, giving up 3.8 YPC and 6.4 yards per passing attempt on a 60% completion rate.
UCLA BRUINS (5-0) at STANFORD CARDINAL (5-1) Line & Total: Stanford -5 & 54
Opening & Total: Cardinal -4.5 & 55
Brett Hundley and No. 9 UCLA look for payback after falling to the Cardinal twice last season, as it heads to Palo Alto to take on a No. 13 Stanford team reeling after a shocking loss at Utah.
These rival schools squared off in the 2012 regular-season finale and the Pac-12 championship, with Stanford winning both of those games by a combined score of 62-41. The Cardinal used a dominating rushing attack, averaging 195.5 YPG in the two matchups. However, much of that was on the legs of Stepfan Taylor, who is now playing for the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan averaged only 157.5 yards in the team’s two matchups, and will be counted upon to try and match points with an explosive UCLA offense. But the offense was not the problem in the upset loss to Utah last week, as the usually outstanding Stanford defense gave up 410 yards to the Utes. That could be a bad sign for Saturday, as UCLA QB Brett Hundley is playing as well as any quarterback in the country. Hundley also guided the Bruins to 461 yards of offense in the Pac-12 title game last season against Stanford. Although the Cardinal are 19-8 ATS (71%) when playing on a Saturday under head coach David Shaw, UCLA benefits from the Cardinal being slow to bounce back from an upset loss, going 5-20 ATS (20%) off an upset loss as a favorite since 1992.
UCLA head coach Jim Mora has changed the personality and the mindset of his program, which has emerged as a legitimate Pac-12 contender. The Bruins rank in the top-20 in both scoring offense (45.8 PPG, 7th in FBS) and defense (18.2 PPG, 19th in nation). Through the first five games, star QB Brett Hundley has accounted for 1,469 yards and 12 touchdowns through the air, while also rushing for 260 yards and three scores. With Johnathan Franklin now with the Green Bay Packers, the Bruins have gone to more of a running back by committee, and so far, the results have been great. Jordan James leads the team with 463 yards, but Hundley and Paul Perkins are both over 200 yards and are averaging more than 4.3 yards per carry. While the offense has stars like Hundley and WR Shaquille Evans, (289 rec. yards, 4 TD) it is the defense that has the Bruins thinking about a BCS Bowl. After starting his career as a running back, it became obvious that Anthony Barr would not see the field at that position. It was then decided that he would move to linebacker, where he is now widely considered to be the No. 2 defensive prospect in the country. Barr played very well in the two matchups against the Cardinal last season, finishing with 17 combined tackles in the two games. Stanford QB Kevin Hogan likes to use his feet and get to the outside, so look for Barr to spend a lot of time playing as a quarterback spy.
Stanford is coming off its first loss of the season, an absolute shocker against 7.5-point underdog Utah. The Cardinal have not lost back-to-back games since October 10 and 17 of 2009 though. Star WR Ty Montgomery once again was big on offense, grabbing eight catches for 131 against Utah and scoring on a kick return for the second straight game. The team has relied too heavily on Montgomery this season, as they would not have gotten by Washington the previous week if it wasn’t for his 99-yard kick return for a touchdown against the Huskies. The rushing offense began the season with 220 rushing YPG in the first four contests, but that number has dropped to 161 rushing YPG in the past two weeks. Senior RB Tyler Gaffney did rush for 108 yards on 16 carries (6.8 YPC) versus Utah and also scored his eighth touchdown of the year. However, whether or not the Cardinal win this game will lie squarely on the shoulder of the defense. UCLA has scored at least 34 points in every single game this season, and if that continues, it may be too much for Stanford to overcome.
IOWA HAWKEYES (4-2) at OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (6-0) Line & Total: Ohio State -18.5 & 55.5
Opening & Total: Buckeyes -17 & 55.5
After surviving its toughest two-game stretch of the season, No. 4 Ohio State looks to win its 19th straight game when it hosts an Iowa team that is playing much better football as of late.
These two teams have not faced each other since 2010, when the Buckeyes were able to pull out a very tough 20-17 victory over the Hawkeyes. There were grumbles in Columbus the past two weeks that maybe there needs to be a change at the quarterback position, but head coach Urban Meyer quickly squashed those thoughts, saying Braxton Miller is his guy. Miller has all of the talent in the world, but he seems to be off his game. His fumble early in the first quarter helped Northwestern score early, and two other turnovers in the game had Ohio State down 10 points midway through the third quarter. However, the Buckeyes went to their workhorse, RB Carlos Hyde, in the fourth quarter. After being suspended for the first three games, Hyde finally showed his talent, rushing for 168 yards and three touchdowns while single-handedly willing his team to the 40-30 victory. However, he will be going up against a defense that ranks 12th in the country by giving up only 16.8 PPG. The problem for the Hawkeyes has been their offense, mainly a passing attack that ranks 85th in the country with 209.3 YPG. Sophomore Jake Rudock has had his positive moments for the Hawkeyes, but his six interceptions have really hurt the team at the worst of times. As good as Ohio State has been this season on offense, its defense has really struggled. The Buckeyes are susceptible to the big play, and Rudock just has to be patient and let his running back Mark Weisman wear down the OSU defense.
Despite tallying just nine rushing yards against the Spartans, Weisman has been huge for the Hawkeyes this season. He currently has 624 rushing yards, and uses his 236-pound frame to physically and mentally wear down his opponents. While he is not likely to take the ball 70 yards, his ability to get five yards consistently sets the Hawkeyes up for a chance to win in the fourth quarter. Not only does he set up the run game, he allows Rudock to take some shots deep, namely to big-play WR Damond Powell. Despite having just six catches on the season, he is averaging 37.5 yards per catch with two touchdowns. His only reception on the road this year was a 74-yard touchdown, but he could be the sleeper player for both teams in this game. The Buckeyes have talent in that secondary, but are prone to staring at the quarterback. If that happens, Powell has the ability to get behind them and put six on the board. The main guy responsible for not letting that happen for the Buckeyes is CB Bradley Roby.
The junior cornerback has the ability to be a star, but inconsistency has really hurt him this season. He has two interceptions on the year, but must start making the simple play rather than going for the game-changer on every single pass. One thing he does do a very good job of is helping out against the run, as he has 27 tackles in five games this season. The Buckeyes have to limit the big play for the opposing team, but their offense is going to make a lot of big plays on their own. Through the first six games, Ohio State ranks sixth in the country in scoring with 46.8 PPG. While QB Kenny Guiton played outstanding in the absence of Miller, one thing is still very clear. If the Buckeyes are going to get where they want to be, Miller is going to be the guy that takes them there. Look for him to have a monster game in front of the Ohio State faithful.
LSU TIGERS (6-1) at OLE MISS REBELS (3-3) Line & Total: LSU -10 & 60
Opening & Total: Tigers -7.5 & 60
Ole Miss will look to snap its three-game losing streak, but the school has been tabbed as an underdog of more than a touchdown for Saturday's game hosting No. 6 LSU.
The Rebels retreated to 3-3 SU but improved to 3-3 ATS on Saturday, losing 41-38 to Texas A&M as seven-point underdogs. LSU’s one SU loss of the season came to Georgia, falling on the road 44-41 as three-point underdogs for the push. Since then, the Tigers have bounced back well with SU and ATS wins against Mississippi State and Florida, to move to 4-2-1 ATS this season. It’s worth noting, however, LSU head coach Les Miles is 5-14 ATS after covering in two consecutive games. Last year, Ole Miss easily covered a 19-point spread in a 41-35 loss to LSU in Baton Rouge, but could have won SU as well. The Rebels led in the fourth quarter, only to have the Tigers tie it on a punt return and then eventually take the lead with 15 seconds left. It was an ugly game for both quarterbacks with a combined five interceptions. In the past 10 meetings in Oxford, LSU is 6-4 SU while the teams have evenly split 5-5 ATS.
LSU QB Zach Mettenberger has been fantastic this season, completing 116-of-174 passes (67%) for 1,890 yards and 15 touchdowns with only two interceptions. Last week against Florida was his lowest passing output of the season, going just 9–of-17 for 152 yards and no touchdowns, but he also didn’t throw a pick, which was critical as the LSU defense shut the Gators down in a 17-6 victory. Last year against Ole Miss, Mettenberger completed 22-of-37 passes for 282 yards and didn’t find the end zone while throwing 2 INT. Mettenberger has two primary receiving threats in Odell Beckham (37 catches, 733 yards, 6 TD) and Jarvis Landry (46 catches, 674 yards, 7 TD). On the ground, Jeremy Hill leads the way with 98 carries for 715 yards (7.3 YPC) and 9 TD, including a season-high 68-yard touchdown scamper. The LSU defense is limiting opponents to 4.0 YPC and 6.6 yards per passing attempt, with opponents completing only 54.3% of their passes, but the ones that are completed go for an average of 12.2 yards per catch.
Ole Miss QB Bo Wallace had arguably his best game of the season last week against the Aggies, completing 22-of-36 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. Overall this season he’s completing just 59.4% of his passes for 1,444 yards with 9 TD and 3 INT while getting sacked 13 times. He struggled mightily last year against LSU’s defense, completing 15-of-35 passes while getting picked off three times. He distributes the ball to more targets than Mettenberger, with four players having 199 yards receiving or more, led by Donte Moncrief (24 catches, 358 yards and 4 TD). Jeff Scott (53 carries, 434 yards, 2 TD) paces the rushing attack and is key for the offense when it wants to control time of possession. On the defensive end, the Rebels give up 4.6 YPC and 6.9 yards per passing attempt while opponents have completed 69.6% of their passes against them.

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