First off, let me apologize for the Eastern Michigan debacle. The Eagles were catching 38 points from the Gators and very nearly covered, losing by just 65. If you took my advice and the Eagles cost you your parlay card this week, I am truly sorry. However, I did manage another winning week (4-3) to move the yearly mark to 9-5. Let's see if we can keep the momentum going. As always, home teams in BOLD.
Last Week: 4-3
Kansas +15.5 Duke
What difference a half decade makes. The last time these two teams met, Kansas was coming off two consecutive bowl appearances, ranked 22nd in the AP Poll, and favored by more than three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Duke was in the midst of a bowl drought that extended to the first term of President Clinton. Since beating Duke on that September day in 2009, Kansas has won just twelve more times, with only eight coming against IA opponents. On the other hand, Duke is the defending Coastal Division champion in the ACC, and seeking their third consecutive bowl bid. About the only thing that hasn't changed for Kansas is the relative heft of their head coach. Yep, I made a fat joke. Take the low hanging fruit when you can. Kansas comes into this game fresh off a tight 34-28 win over IA Southeast Missouri State. While the final score is close, it is a little deceiving. Kansas actually led 34-7 in the fourth quarter before a late surge by the Redhawks made the game close (their final touchdown came with a minute and a half to go). The misleading final score is artificially inflating this line for a Duke team that had a tough time dispatching Troy last week. Kansas will not win this game, but they will do enough to keep the final margin within two touchdowns.
Iowa State +10 Iowa
With an 0-2 start, Iowa State is in real danger of posting their fifth consecutive losing season. Granted, two of those seasons included bowl appearances, but its all in how you phrase things. The Cyclones have had a rough early schedule, losing at home to IAA power (and IA killer) North Dakota State and blowing a fourth quarter lead to lose Farmageddon to Kansas State. The Cyclones now travel to Iowa City, hoping to avoid on 0-3 start. Not to be outdone, Iowa is having some issues of their own, narrowly edging both Northern Iowa of IAA and Ball State in the season's first two weeks. Neither win elicited feelings of great satisfaction from the Hawkeye faithful. The Cyclones and Hawkeyes have split the fourteen games played this century, so this game will prove to be the rubber match, assuming the world ends before next year's game. The last three in this series have been decided six points or less. Look for this one to be close throughout as well.
Western Kentucky +1.5 Middle Tennessee State
Both these Conference USA squads (and former Sun Belt members), nearly made life even more miserable for the Big 10 last week. Western Kentucky lost a back-and-forth affair at Illinois 42-34 while Middle Tennessee State fell behind 28-0, but staged a somewhat furious rally (in that in made Minnesota backer's furious as the Blue Raiders went right in the back door for a cover) in losing 35-24. As both teams were bowl eligible in 2013, their early returns suggest another solid campaign for each. This game will likely serve as an eliminator of sorts in the East division of Conference USA. Both programs are expected to finish behind Marshall, and the loser will have an arduous task ahead of them to rebound and take the division. This game should feature plenty of points as both teams enter averaging more than 40 per game. Western Kentucky has been a little more impressive in the early going, as one of their games includes a shelling of Bowling Green, while Middle Tennessee State has padded their stats with a dismantling of IAA Savannah State. A two-game sample is not much, but Western Kentucky has posted better numbers against superior competition and should be favored here.
UNLV +10 Northern Illinois
Last week, Northern Illinois beat a Big 10 team on the road for the third time in a little over one season (their two victims last year were Iowa and Purdue). The win did not provide much cache for them however, as they did not receive a single vote in this week's AP Poll. Now the Huskies are in the dreaded sandwich spot, traveling to Sin City to take on UNLV immediately before a road trip to Arkansas. A victory over the Hogs, would perhaps give the Huskies more legitimacy, as they play in the rugged SEC West (though not very well I might add). Could the Huskies potentially sleepwalk through this game with the Rebels, a team that struggled to put away IAA Northern Colorado last week? I think so. UNLV has been a bonefide whiz as a home underdog under head coach Bobby Hauck. Since taking over in 2010, the Rebels are 12-5-1 ATS in the roll, with five outright upsets. I think the Rebels keep this one close, especially with no Jordan Lynch to contend with.
Texas State +10 Navy
After finishing bowl eligible last season, Texas State is looking earn their first bowl invite as a IA team. We didn't learn much from Dennis Franchione's team in their first game, as they bludgeoned IAA Arkansas Pine-Bluff 65-0. However, the schedule makers did them a huge favor by granting them a bye week between that game and their showdown with the Naval Academy. Navy is 1-1 after hanging with Ohio State for three quarters and holding off a pesky Temple team. Navy is one of college football's best stories year in and year out (a service academy with ten bowl appearances in the last eleven seasons). However, they have not been a good bet when they are favored. particularly away from Annapolis. When favored in either road or neutral games since 2009, the Midshipmen are just 5-10 ATS. Texas State is a quality opponent, has had an extra week to prepare for Navy's unique offense, and is catching double-digits at home. Take them cover here.
UCLA -7.5 Vs Texas (@ Arlington)
After poor performances (relative to expectations) last week, these two teams square off for the third time in the past five seasons. In their previous meetings in 2010 and 2011, the road team won handily each time. While both teams performed worse than expected last week, UCLA at least manged to stay unbeaten. The Bruins struggled with Memphis in a 42-35 win, but Texas was annihilated by BYU 41-7. The Texas offense has continued its drunken staggering since Colt McCoy departed, managing just 5.6 yards per pass attempt (excluding sacks) in the early going. The defense has remained (somewhat) stalwart, and is the only hope the Longhorns have of winning this game. The Longhorns have ten sacks in just two games and the UCLA offensive line has done a poor job protecting Brett Hundley, allowing eight combined sacks to Virginia and Memphis. UCLA was miscast as a national championship contender in the preseason, but they are good enough to beat a depleted Texas team by more than a touchdown at a neutral site.
Nebraska -10 Fresno State
Abdullah the Butcher prevented Nebraska from facing a potential sphincter-tightening overtime against McNeese State last week. His phenomenal catch and run broke a fourth quarter tie and provided the winning margin for the Huskers as well as visual evidence as to why you should 'bring your arms' when trying to tackle (I'm looking at you #21). While the game was close, Nebraska actually outgained the Cowboys by 99 yards and averaged almost two more yards per play. The big reason McNeese State was in the game was a long interception return when the Huskers were deep in McNeese State territory in the second quarter. Now the Huskers head west to take on a Fresno State team that is adjusting (poorly) to life without Derek Carr and Davante Adams. After winning 20 games in Tim DeRuyter's first two seasons in Fresno, the Bulldogs have lost their first two games by 39 and 32 points respectively. Southern Cal and Utah have moved the ball with ease against the Bulldogs, and there is no reason to believe Nebraska will not do the same. This spread is low thanks to Nebraska's close shave last week, but the Huskers should roll here.