Saturday's Top Action
November 15, 2013
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GEORGIA BULLDOGS (6-3) at AUBURN TIGERS (9-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Auburn -3.5 & 64.5
Opening Line & Total: Tigers -3 & 63
No. 7 Auburn, the surprise of the SEC, will look to improve to 6-1 in the conference on Saturday hosting No. 25 Georgia, which already has three losses after beginning the season ranked in the top 10.
Last year when these two teams played at Auburn, Georgia rolled to a 38-0 victory, part of a season in which the Tigers didn’t win a conference game. But this is a different season and Auburn is now on a six-game SU winning streak and seven-game ATS win streak ATS to improve to 9-1 SU and 7-2 ATS overall. Its only loss this season came on the road at LSU.
Georgia has won two in a row SU after dropping consecutive games to Missouri and Vanderbilt, but they have only one ATS win all year (1-7-1 ATS), losing five in a row ATS. Still, the Bulldogs have dominated this series since 2006, going 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS. They have also had success at Jordan-Hare Stadium with a 6-3 SU record (5-4 ATS) since 1996. And Georgia’s offense could help propel them to victory, as road underdogs averaging 450+ yards per game, after gaining at least 7.25 yards per play in their previous game, are 37-9 ATS (80%) over the past five seasons.
But Auburn's Gus Malzahn is 11-1 ATS after following a conference game and 9-0 ATS in the second half of the season in his coaching career.
Despite a slew of injuries to the Georgia offense, QB Aaron Murray has been outstanding this season, completing 63.3% of his passes for 2,477 yards (10.1 YPA), 20 TD and 7 INT. He was tremendous in last year’s meeting against the Tigers too, completing 18-of-24 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. He distributes the ball well among the Bulldogs receivers, as 10 different players have caught TD passes. Junior WR Chris Conley has been his main target, reeling in 30 catches for 418 yards and four touchdowns, but he has missed the past two games with an ankle injury and will be a game-time decision for Saturday.
RB Todd Gurley also had a big game against Auburn last year, taking the pigskin 11 times for 116 yards and one touchdown. Despite missing three games with an injury, he still has 625 yards this season on 101 carries (6.2 YPC), running for six scores. In the last SEC game versus Florida, Gurley ran for 100 yards and also caught three passes for 87 more yards, including a 73-yard touchdown.
The Bulldogs defense has held opposing rushers to 3.4 YPC, though through the air foes are averaging 7.3 yards per passing attempt, which is a big reason why the team has allowed 28.8 PPG (78th in FBS).
Auburn’s offense is difficult to stop with a rushing attack that averages 320.0 YPG, third most in the nation. That’s a big contrast from the last two seasons when they carried the ball 52 times for only 108 yards (2.1 YPC) and scored a total of seven points in two losses to Georgia. Tigers QB Nick Marshall is under center this season, and while he’s not a great passer with a 58.5% completion rate, 8 TD and 5 INT, he is a tremendous ball carrier. Marshall has rushed for 734 yards on 104 carries (7.1 YPC) with seven touchdowns, and he’s coming off a career game against Tennessee in which he took the ball 14 times for 214 yards (15.3 YPC) on the ground and two touchdowns.
Junior RB Tre Mason is the team’s leading rusher with 181 carries for 1,038 yards (5.7 YPC) and 16 TD. In the past five SEC games, Mason has rumbled for 672 yards (5.3 YPC) and 11 scores. Backing him up are junior RBs Cameron Artis-Payne and Corey Grant, who each have more than 500 yards on the ground, combining for 1,072 yards and 9 TD. Auburn is 6-0 SU (4-2 ATS) at home this season where it has outscored opponents 38 to 9 and outgained them by a 506 to 364 margin.
The Tigers defense is holding opposing quarterbacks to a 56.6% completion rate while opposing ball carriers are averaging 4.2 YPC. Auburn has forced at least one turnover in nine of 10 games, including five games with multiple takeaways.
OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS (8-1) at TEXAS LONGHORNS (7-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Oklahoma State -3 & 63.5
Opening Line & Total: Cowboys -3 & 64
Games in November play a big role in conference standings, such as the matchup between No. 12 Oklahoma State and No. 23 Texas in Austin on Saturday
Last season, the Cowboys lost a thrilling 41-36 game to the Longhorns in Stillwater. However, the teams are much different this season, as they both have different starting quarterbacks, and both have struggled throughout the season. After losing to West Virginia early in the year, Oklahoma State had many people wondering if it was truly a Big 12 contender or not. However, after five straight conference victories, the Cowboys are once again in contention for the conference title with just one loss and still having Big 12 unbeatens Baylor and Texas on the schedule. The Cowboys took care of business against Kansas last week with a 42-6 pummeling. The game was never in reach as Justin Gilbert took back the opening kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Oklahoma State has really turned it up on offense, averaging 50.7 points per game in the past three contests.
Last week, the Longhorns struggled to stop West Virginia in a 47-40 overtime win, but they had played great defense in the previous three weeks, allowing just 13.3 PPG. While they gave up a lot of points, the defense did a great job of stopping a solid West Virginia run game, allowing only 109 yards on 47 carries (2.3 YPC). Texas was dead in the water entering conference play, with many people wondering if head coach Mack Brown would make it to the end of the season. However, the Longhorns have rebounded to win six in a row (3-2-1 ATS), and now control their own destiny in the Big 12.
However, in the past three seasons Oklahoma State is 21-10 ATS (68%) when favored, and 13-4 ATS (77%) after 2+ straight SU wins. Texas, whose top RB Johnathan Gray suffered a season-ending torn Achilles last week, is 52-40 ATS (57%) after an ATS loss under Mack Brown.
The Cowboys' offense has been terrific all season long (40.7 PPG, 14th in FBS), and finally has developed a solid ground game with 170 rushing YPG. Junior RB Desmond Roland has had a mammoth workload in the past three games, rushing 73 times for 359 yards (4.9 YPC) and eight touchdowns, including a 219-yard effort against Iowa State. He is a big strong runner, with the ability to make people miss in the open field.
QB Clint Chelf has also been great in his past two games, totaling 581 yards and 7 TD (5 passing, 2 rushing). He has the ability to make plays with his feet, while allowing his receivers to get open when he scrambles. One of those pass catchers, WR Josh Stewart (40 rec., 510 yards, 2 TD), is one of the very best in all of the conference. He is electric when he has the ball in his hand, using his quickness to get by tacklers. But Stewart, who caught five passes for 81 yards and a touchdown versus Texas last year, suffered a leg injury in last week's win and is listed as questionable for this matchup.
Not only is Justin Gilbert terrific at special teams, he is also one of the elite cornerbacks in all of the country. Look for him to be matched up with both of the Longhorns top wideouts, Mike Davis and Jaxon Shipley.
While it was not easy in Morgantown, Texas was able to get the overtime victory in large part to the performance of QB Case McCoy, who threw for 283 yards, 3 TD and 1 INT. On the season, McCoy has done a great job of managing the offense, and has thrown for 1,471 yards (6.7 YPA), 8 TD and 6 INT. Texas has a terrific rushing attack with 197.3 yards per game, but suffered a major setback last week when Johnathan Gray hurt his foot. Luckily, junior RB Malcolm Brown, a former No. 1 recruit, has been playing some great football as of late. In his past four games, Brown has rushed for 379 yards and four touchdowns, and will be counted upon more now that Gray is out. Brown is the type of running back that gets stronger as the game goes on, becoming very difficult to tackle in the fourth quarter. The Longhorns will also lean more on junior RB Joe Bergeron (191 rush yards, 5.5 YPC, 3 TD), as his two fourth-quarter touchdowns were the difference in last year's win over OSU.
Junior LB Steve Edmond (59 tackles, 2 INT, 2 sacks) continued his All-Big 12 campaign with 12 tackles and an interception against the Mountaineers. He is relentless in his pursuit of the ball, and he will be counted upon to produce more big numbers against such a great offense like the Cowboys.
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS (8-1) at NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (7-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Michigan State -6 & 41.5
Opening Line & Total: Spartans -6.5 & 42.5
Nebraska has never lost to Michigan State in seven meetings, but enters Saturday’s contest as a home underdog with the No. 14 Spartans charging toward a potential berth in the Big Ten Championship Game.
Nebraska is 7-0 all-time against Michigan State, including 5-0 (SU and ATS) since 1995. For the first time in the series history, Michigan State was actually favored last season by a point, but the Cornhuskers pulled out a 28-24 victory in East Lansing with two late touchdowns. Unlike last year, however, Taylor Martinez (hip) won’t be under center, and redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong Jr. will start in his place. He has struggled though, and failed to command the offense in a way Martinez could.
The hallmark of this Michigan State team is its stingy defense that yields only 11.6 PPG, the third fewest in the nation. However, Nebraska is 10-0 ATS since 1992 against teams that give up 14 or fewer PPG. Michigan State, meanwhile, is 11-1 ATS after allowing 250 or fewer yards per game over their last three contests since 1992. The Spartans are riding a five-game SU win streak to put them at 8-1 SU and 5-3-1 ATS for the year, going 5-0 SU (4-1 ATS) against Big Ten opponents. The Cornhuskers are 5-4 ATS, including 1-0 ATS as an underdog after upsetting 6-point favorite Michigan last weekend on the road.
It’s been nearly impossible to rush against the Spartans defense this season as they give up a pithy 43 YPG on 1.6 YPC. Passing isn’t much easier, with the secondary holding opposing quarterbacks to 167 YPG with a 46.7% completion rate and 4.9 yards per attempt. The offense isn’t a juggernaut, but has been efficient with junior QB Connor Cook under center. He has completed 59.1% of his passes for 1,490 yards, throwing 13 TD and only 3 INT. His top targets have been WRs Bennie Fowler (26 catches, 353 yards, 5 TD) and Macgarrett Kings Jr. (28 catches, 317 yards, 3 TD).
On the ground, junior RB Jeremy Langford is averaging 4.6 YPC with 775 yards and 10 TD. He has only gotten better as the season has wore on, now amid a stretch of four consecutive 100-yard games.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. has struggled to generate an offensive flow, completing only 55.3% of his passes for 659 yards in five games, tossing 5 TD and 6 INT. In his past three contests, he is a dismal 32-for-66 (48.5%) for 355 yards (5.4 YPA), 2 TD and 6 INT. The key in the passing attack is finding senior WR Quincy Enunwa, a dangerous weapon at 6-foot-2 with eight touchdowns and 536 receiving yards this season. Armstrong can also use his legs, rushing for two touchdowns and 166 yards on 51 carries. The strength of the offense though, is with the rushing attack (247 YPG, 15th in nation), as RB Ameer Abdullah has been fantastic, rumbling for 1,213 yards on 6.6 YPC and seven touchdowns. In the red zone, Imani Cross has also been quite effective, with nine touchdowns on 70 carries for 357 yards (5.1 YPC).
The Cornhuskers average 35.9 PPG (30th in FBS), but will face their toughest test of the year against this Spartans defense. Nebraska’s defense has been solid, yielding only 22.8 PPG this season (35th in nation), but have allowed an uncharacteristic 426 total YPG in six home games. The Cornhuskers give up just 160 rushing YPG on 4.0 yards per carry, but completely stifled Michigan last week with allowing minus-21 rushing yards on 36 carries. The Nebraska pass defense has limited opposing QBs to a mere 55.8% completion rate and a pedestrian 7.2 yards per pass attempt.
STANFORD CARDINAL (8-1) at USC TROJANS (7-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Stanford -4.5 & 46.5
Opening Line & Total: Cardinal -3 & 46.5
After struggling early in conference play, USC has a chance to send a message to the rest of the conference when it hosts red-hot No. 5 Stanford on Saturday night.
Although the Cardinal have beaten the Trojans four straight times, the past three wins have been by only 2, 8 and 7 points. This includes a 56-48 triple overtime thriller the last time the Pac-12 foes met in L.A. in 2011. This season has the chance to be another close one, because USC has turned things around under interim coach Ed Orgeron, going 4-1 (SU, and ATS), with the lone loss coming to Notre Dame.
The resurgence has also been sparked by sophomore QB Cody Kessler who has 6 TD passes and just 2 INT since Orgeron took over for Lane Kiffin. But Kessler will face his most difficult test Saturday as he goes against a Stanford defense that shut out Oregon for the first three quarters of last week's game. The Cardinal defense has been terrific this season, allowing just 19.4 PPG, which ranks 18th in the country. Stanford allows the short passes over the middle, forcing teams to have to go the entire field to score.
The Cardinal, who are riding a three-game win streak (SU and ATS) are a tough team to stop once they get hot, going 21-7 ATS (75%) after an SU win over the past three seasons, and 16-5 ATS (76%) after 2+ straight wins in this same timeframe. But since 1992, USC is 17-4 ATS (81%) at home after 2+ consecutive ATS victories, and 10-2 ATS (83%) at home coming off a road blowout win of 28+ points.
While the defense gets a lot of the talk for Stanford, it was the offense, namely the rushing attack, that played a key role in not allowing the Oregon offense to get rolling in last week's 26-20 upset. RB Tyler Gaffney carried the ball 45 times in the game for 157 yards and one touchdown. While the 3.5 yards per carry was not extremely high, the Cardinal lined up in a strong power formation and just wore the Ducks down. With Gaffney running the ball so effectively, it makes the play-action fake very difficult to stop for the Cardinal.
Junior WR Ty Montgomery has the ability to get behind the defense with his blazing speed, and has developed a solid rapport with quarterback Kevin Hogan (1,596 pass yards, 8.4 YPA, 13 TD, 5 INT). Although Montgomery hasn't caught a TD pass in four straight games, Hogan does have the ability to get out on the perimeter and allow his receivers more time to get open, setting up the big plays.
If the offense is able to move the football against the Trojans, then Stanford will be in good shape, as the defense will look to make the sophomore quarterback’s night miserable. Junior safety Jordan Richards has three interceptions on the season, including a 30-yard touchdown against Washington State. Look for Richards to play a lot of deep coverage to prevent USC star WR Marqise Lee from getting deep. If Lee is able to get behind the defense, he's just too fast to catch up with.
QB Cody Kessler struggled to get into a rhythm passing the ball early in the season, but has gotten more comfortable with the offense the past couple of weeks, evidenced by his 81.6% completion rate. In the victory over California last weekend, he had a great game, completing 14-of-17 passes for 170 yards and two touchdowns. Junior WR Marqise Lee (38 catches, 521 yards, 2 TD) has not come close to duplicating his 1,721 yards and 14 TD catches as a sophomore, but he is still one of the most talented receivers in all of the country. He is able to go over the middle and make the tough catch, but also has the speed and elusiveness to take it the distance on every single play.
The emergence of sophomore RB Tre Madden has also helped the USC offense get rolling, as he has rushed for 671 yards (5.2 YPC) and three touchdowns this season. At 220 pounds, he is a powerful back that also has the ability to run by defenders. The Trojans did not have an offensive identity early in the year, but with Madden running the ball like he has, it has opened up the entire offense.
The defense, which was thought to be the weak point entering the season, has been terrific. The Trojans rank 19th in the country in scoring defense, allowing only 19.6 points per game. Junior safety Dion Bailey has been great all year, intercepting three passes to go along with 46 tackles. Like Richards of Stanford, he will be counted upon to not let the receiver behind him, as Montgomery has similar abilities to Lee.
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