Tuesday, November 22, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Week XIII

Three straight 3-4 weeks have us on the brink. The previews will be a little short this week as I head home for the holidays. Enjoy. As always, home teams in BOLD.

Last Week: 3-4
Overall: 41-39-4

NC State +12 North Carolina
While North Carolina has had more success over the past few years than their in-state brethren, the Wolfpack have actually won six of the last nine in this rivalry. In fact, North Carolina has not won by enough to cover this large number since 2006. North Carolina is playing for a longshot at a second consecutive division title, but they need to win and have Virginia Tech lose (as a large favorite) to their in-state rival Virginia. Meanwhile, NC State is playing for a bowl bid and potentially for their coach's job. NC State has had a very odd season, nearly beating Clemson (on the road) and Florida State, but losing to East Carolina and Syracuse. I think good NC State will show up and keep this one close against their rival.

Michigan +6.5 Ohio State
Last year in Ann Arbor, this game was a pick 'em. However, if you looked at the numbers, you could see that Michigan's elite defense was showing some cracks late in the year. This season, the Wolverines are nearly a touchdown underdog, but the defense remains elite. There is some concern on the other side of the ball as Michigan could be without quarterback Will Speight. Even without Speight, I think Ohio State will find scoring very difficult on this defense. This line should be closer to a field goal, and despite the rooting interest at State College, Pennsylvania, and perhaps from the College Football Playoff Committee, I think Michigan could win their first game in Columbus since 2000.

Fresno State +3.5 San Jose State
Fresno State has won just a single game in 2016. Their poor performance got their head coach canned just three years after winning the conference title and just two years removed from playing for another. The Bulldogs have eschewed waiting until the season ended and landed Jeff Tedford as their next head coach. The Bulldogs hope the former Cal coach can revitalize an offense that ranks dead last in the Mountain West in yards per play. Despite their struggles on offense, the Bulldogs have played well at home, covering in the four games in which they were a betting underdog. San Jose State is suffering through their third straight losing season and is also pretty poor on offense, ranking eleventh (of twelve teams) in the Mountain West in yards per play. Their defense is also bad, ranking tenth in the conference in yards allowed per play. San Jose State is not a good team, and having them favored by more than a field goal provides some value for Fresno State.

UNLV -7.5 Nevada
UNLV has a chance to improve by two games in Tony Sanchez's second season. In fact, the Rebels will probably be kicking themselves in the offseason for losing to Idaho in late September. If not for that loss, UNLV would be playing for bowl eligibility against their in-state rivals. While Nevada has the same record as UNLV, a closer look at the statistics reveals their flaws. Nevada has won three of their games by a combined seven points and have lost seven consecutive road games dating back to last season with only two losses coming by fewer than a touchdown. Look for UNLV to roll here.

North Texas -3 UTEP
Last week, I was on UTEP as they traveled to take on in-state rival Rice. The Miners played horribly, and maybe this pick is just sour grapes. However, I can come up with a few reasons to like the Mean Green. For starters, North Texas is playing for bowl eligibility. By winning in El Paso, the Mean Green will get to six wins in the first season under Seth Littrell. The Mean Green are not particularly proficient on offense, but they do play solid defense, ranking sixth in Conference USA in yards allowed per play. UTEP has the second worst defense in Conference USA. They rank ahead of Rice, a team that beat them by 20 points last week. UTEP has failed to cover in three attempts as a home underdog this season. I think they will be four for four after Saturday.

Vanderbilt +7.5 Tennessee
One of the bigger upsets that came out of nowhere last week was Vanderbilt knocking off Ole Miss to put themselves in position to crash the postseason. The Commodores averaged over six yards per play against an FBS opponent for the first time since their victory against Old Dominion two years ago. It was the first time they averaged over six yards per play against an SEC opponent since their game against a deplorable South Carolina defense in 2014. The defense also held a potent Ole Miss offense to under five yards per play and put the Rebels bowl hopes in jeopardy (they need to win the Egg Bowl to become eligible). Can Vanderbilt pull two consecutive upsets and their fourth of the season as at least a touchdown underdog? Tennessee is ostensibly better than Vanderbilt, but what is their motivation here? The SEC East is lost after Florida upset LSU last week. Sure, this is a rivalry game, but I think Vanderbilt will have more motivation, not to mention the homefield advantage. Tennessee has not covered as a road favorite this year, while Vanderbilt is 7-3 Against the Spread (ATS) and 5-1 the last two seasons as a home underdog under Derek Mason. Vandy will keep this one close and potentially get themselves a bowl bid on Saturday night.

Utah State +18.5 BYU
After an exciting beginning to the season where BYU played six Power Five teams and Boise State, the Cougars are cruising to the finish line against a slew of bad mid-majors and an FCS team. Since losing at Boise State 28-27, the Cougars have won their last three games against Cincinnati, Southern Utah, and Massachusetts by a combined 89 points. Now they take on a Utah State team enduring a rough 2016. The Aggies are 3-8 on the year and finished just 1-7 in the Mountain West. However, Utah State is not your average 1-7 also-ran. The Aggies lost four games by a touchdown or less and based on yards per play, actually rank in the top half of the Mountain West. Their defense in particular, was strong, ranking second in the conference in yards allowed per play. While this has been a lost season for Utah State, this a rivalry game so the Aggies should be motivated. Utah State is better than their record and is a good value catching three scores against BYU.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Week XII

We endured another losing week last week to put us just below the gambler's break even line. We'll try to climb back over it this week. As always, home teams in BOLD.

Last Week: 3-4
Overall: 38-35-4

Illinois +10 Iowa
Last week, I was on the Illini and I was dead wrong. So why not go back for more hair of the dog? Iowa is riding high after one of the more impressive wins of the Kirk Ferentz era. I know the Hawkeyes were undefeated in the regular season last year, but all of their wins pale in comparison to their upset over the Wolverines last week. Despite the win, Iowa still rates out as a below average Big 10 team. Based on yards per play, the Hawkeyes rank thirteenth in the fourteen team Big 10, with only Rutgers rating worse. This will be Iowa's fifth Big 10 road game of the year. In three of the other four games, the Hawkeyes managed 14 points. They did drop 49 on Purdue, but the Boilermakers have by far the worst defense in the Big 10 (allowing over seven yards per play to conference opponents). Illinois may not have the players to win this game, but this has all the makings of an ugly, low-scoring slog. The Noon kickoff and Michigan hangover should aid Illinois in covering this big number.

UTEP +1.5 Rice
I know Rice earned their first FBS win last week on the road against Charlotte, but they may still be the worst team in all of college football (FBS category). The Owls inched by the 49ers, but they still averaged under five yards per play and scored 22 points against the FBS neophyte. The Owls did post their best defensive showing, holding Charlotte to just over four yards per play, but are still dead last in Conference USA in yards allowed per play. UTEP is not a great offensive team, but they do one thing well - run the ball. Junior running back Aaron Jones is averaging over seven yards per carry and has eclipsed 200 yards on the ground three times this season. He should be licking his chops in preparing for the Rice 'defense'. Rice is typically tough at home under David Bailiff, but after going 31-14 in the friendly confines from 2008-2015, the Owls are just 1-4 this season, with zero FBS wins. UTEP is far from a sure thing, but I think they can pull of the outright upset here.

Virginia +11 Georgia Tech
Seeing as how I bet a significant sum in Vegas on Georgia Tech exceeding their preseason win total of 6.5, I watched a great deal of the Virginia Tech/Georgia Tech game last week. Coming into the game, the Yellow Jackets were nearly two touchdown underdogs, so my optimism was subdued. The Yellow Jackets ended up winning the game without quarterback Justin Thomas and running back Dedrick Mills who did not play due to injury and suspension respectively. Despite the win, it pays to look objectively at how the Yellow Jackets were able to get it done and see if that blueprint is repeatable. Georgia Tech forced a fumble on the opening kickoff, intercepted Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evans in the endzone, forced two additional turnovers, and blocked a field goal. After forcing just nine turnovers in their first nine games, Georgia Tech was probably due for some additional luck in forcing turnovers, but relying too heavily on turnovers is often not a recipe for success. If we look at season long numbers, Georgia Tech ranks dead last in the ACC in yards allowed per play. Four conference opponents have averaged north of six yards per play against Georgia Tech, and the struggling offense of Boston College came close. The Yellow Jackets have almost no pass rush, with the defense totaling just thirteen sacks on the year, with five coming against Virginia Tech. I don't think Georgia Tech solved all their defensive issues in Blacksburg. The Yellow Jackets played their best defensive game of the year and caught their fair share of breaks. Virginia is not a good team, but they are capable of moving the ball against a porous Georgia Tech defense. I expect a lot of points to be put on the board in Atlanta with Georgia Tech eking out a win to cash the 'over' ticket.

Virginia Tech +1 Notre Dame
I already touched on Virginia Tech's loss last week earlier in this post, so I won't rehash it here, but suffice it to say a lot of things went against the Hokies. Could the same thing happen this week? Sure, but I wouldn't bet on it. When we look back on this season, I get the feeling it will feel like a big missed opportunity for Virginia Tech. The Hokies outgained and averaged more yards per play than Tennessee, but fell thanks to five lost fumbles. In their other two losses, to Georgia Tech and Syracuse, the Hokies entered as large favorites. The Hokies don't really appear to be a legitimate playoff contender, but if a few different things had fallen their way, they could very well be in the top-ten at this moment. As it is, they are unranked and looking to avoid a fifth consecutive four-loss regular season. Notre Dame is a little overvalued here after dismantling Army last week, but they already have three home losses this season, with two coming to Duke and Michigan State. Look for Virginia Tech to rebound and leave South Bend with an outright win on Saturday.

Iowa State +3.5 Texas Tech
If you just glance at final scores and don't keep a close eye on college football, you might be inclined to believe that Texas Tech is who they have always been under Kliff Kingsbury - a team with a great offense and equally poor defense. You would be half right. Tech's defense is still deplorable, ranking tenth in the Big 12 in yards allowed per play. However, their offense is also below average, particularly by Big 12 standards. After ranking second in yards per play each of the past two seasons, the Red Raiders currently sit at seventh in that category this season. Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is still slinging the ball around the yard, but the Texas Tech run game has struggled. After averaging over five yards per carry (including sacks) the past two seasons, the running game is currently averaging just 3.3 yards per rush. The Red Raiders have struggled to find a consistent running threat as the leading rusher has just over 300 yards on the season. Texas Tech has not covered as a road favorite since 2013, and Iowa State is 3-0 Against the Spread (ATS) as a home underdog under first year coach Matt Campbell. Look for Iowa State to earn their second Big 12 win on Saturday and keep Texas Tech home for the holidays.

California +10.5 Stanford
Cal was another team that I backed last week, and like Illinois, they did not come close to covering. And like Illinois, I am on California once again. Here's why. Last week's opponent, Washington State, has a dynamic offense and throws the ball a lot. This week's opponent, Stanford, prefers a more methodical, run-based approach. That slow pace featuring a lot of runs, and poor quarterback play, means fewer possessions and more of an opportunity for a large underdog to cover. Cal is 3-1 ATS as a home underdog this season with three outright wins. I don't think they will be able to beat Stanford for the first time since 2009 (amazing!), but they should keep this one close.

Tulsa -1.5 Central Florida
Tulsa missed a great opportunity last week to put themselves in position to win the western division of the American Athletic Conference. The Golden Hurricane lost in a shootout at Navy giving the Midshipmen control of the division race. Despite the loss, Tulsa is still in position to post their most regular season wins since 2012. In their second season under Philip Montgomery, the offense has become one of the best in the mid-major universe on a per play basis. Couple that with a fast pace and Tulsa is able to put a lot of points on the board. In fact, outside of their poor showing at Ohio State, the Golden Hurricane have averaged over 46 points per game! Central Florida has a good defense, ranking second in the American in yards allowed per play. However, the only defense to slow down Tulsa is one of the top teams in the Big 10. Tulsa may struggle for a bit in this game against the Central Florida defense, but they will do enough to earn a conference road win.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Week XI

We slipped a little last week, but 3-4 is not a total disaster. We'll try to get back on track this week. As always, home teams in BOLD.

Last Week: 3-4
Overall: 35-31-4

Louisiana-Lafayette +9 Georgia Southern
It appears as if the loss of head coach Willie Fritz neutered the offense in Statesboro. In their first two seasons in the Sun Belt, the Eagles of Georgia Southern ranked first and second respectively in the conference in yards per play. This season, they rank ninth in the eleven team league, and are averaging under five yards per play against Sun Belt foes! The running game has borne the blunt of the decline. After averaging nearly seven yards per play on the ground the past two seasons, the Eagles are averaging under four and half yards per carry. With three guaranteed games left (four if they qualify for a bowl), the Eagles are in danger of failing to have a 1000 yard rusher after producing three over the past two seasons. Not sure how else I can say it, but the offense is not that good. And the defense, head coach Tyson Summers area of expertise, has also declined, ranking a middling seventh in the Sun Belt in yards allowed per play after finishing second and third in the category the past two years. Of course, their opponent, Louisiana-Lafayette has also struggled in 2016. After winning more than three fourths of their conference games from 2011-2014, the Ragin' Cajuns have won just five of their last thirteen conference games and are in danger of missing out on a bowl for the second consecutive season. Louisiana-Lafayette needs this game more than Georgia Southern as they have Georgia on deck and two defeats will disqualify them from postseason play. Couple that with the fact that these teams appear to be pretty evenly matched and the Ragin' Cajuns are a solid play here.

SMU +7 East Carolina
Despite their embarrassing loss to Memphis last week, SMU still has an outside shot at getting to a bowl in their second year under Chad Morris. While Morris earned his acclaim as an offensive guru, the improvement for the Mustangs has been on the other side of the ball. In conference play last year, SMU ranked tenth (of twelve teams) in both yards per play and yards allowed per play. This season, the Mustangs still rank tenth in yards per play on offense (potentially thanks to losing quarterback Matt Davis early in the year), but have risen to fifth in yards allowed per play. That improvement has allowed the Mustangs to double their conference win total from last season. On the other sideline, East Carolina has struggled in their first season under Scottie Montgomery. The season began with promise as the Pirates opened 2-0 with an upset win over NC State in their second game. Since then, the Pirates have lost six of seven with just a single defeat coming by less than a touchdown. Unlike the Mustangs, the Pirates have cratered on defense, ranking last in the league in yards allowed per play. Outside of their showing against Connecticut, the Pirates have allowed at least 30 points in every conference game and while they run a lot of plays (ranking fourth in the nation in plays run), they are not very efficient. In league play, they rank just seventh in yards per play. This spread should be closer to a field goal and I wouldn't be surprised if SMU won the game outright.

West Virginia +2 Texas
This line has me a little perplexed. West Virginia stumbled on the road two weeks ago against Oklahoma State, but despite allowing 37 points, the defense played well. The Mountaineers held Oklahoma State to a little over five yards per play, but were done in by three turnovers. Despite the loss, West Virginia still controls their own destiny in regards to the Big 12 title, and with a little (actually a lot) of chaos in front of them could potentially get back into the playoff picture. For Texas, this game is big for another reason. A win would give Texas six wins, clinch bowl eligibility, and with Kansas up next, likely clinch a winning season for the seemingly perpetually embattled Charlie Strong. Texas has improved on defense since demoting defensive coordinator Vance Bedford. They had their best defensive showing of the season last week in beating Texas Tech in Lubbock. The Longhorns held the Red Raiders under five yards per play (which has happened three times in the last four games for the Red Raiders - just something to keep an eye on). Despite that showing, West Virginia still owns the best defense in the Big 12 and should be able to clamp down on a running attack that gained over 400 yards against the Red Raiders. This game should be close, but West Virginia is the better team and should be able to win on the road.

Appalachian State +1 Troy
While this game will not receive a tenth of the hype of Alabama/LSU, make no mistake, this is the Game of the Century in the Sun Belt. My heart wants Troy to win this game as the Trojans are 29th in the latest AP Poll, and with a win could become the first Sun Belt team to ever enter the poll. Of course, Appalachian State could find their way into the polls too if they win out, but an 11-2 Appalachian State team was denied entry into the polls last season, so it is far from guaranteed. Both these teams performed admirably in non-conference play. Troy lost a one-score game at Clemson (and made us all wonder what was wrong with the Tigers) and won on the road at Southern Miss, while Appalachian State took Tennessee to overtime in Knoxville, beat a pair of potential bowl mid-majors in Old Dominion and Akron, and then played Miami at home. Maybe let's not talk about that game. Once conference play began, these two have dominated. Appalachian State is 5-0 with no win coming by fewer than 14 points while Troy is 4-0 with a touchdown win over South Alabama and three dominant victories. These teams rank first and second in the Sun Belt respectively in yards per play, but the difference is on the other side of the ball. While Troy has been solid on defense, ranking fifth in yards allowed per play in the Sun Belt, Appalachian State ranks first by a large margin, in allowing nearly a yard and a half fewer per play than the Trojans. You will have to watch this game on your phone, tablet, or laptop, but tune in to watch Appalachian State take control of the Sun Belt.

Illinois +26 Wisconsin
Let me preface this by saying that Wisconsin is good. Real good. The Badgers are 7-2 with their defeats coming to Michigan and Ohio State by a combined 14 points (with one loss coming in overtime). That being said, Wisconsin is not a team that tends to blow opponents out. The spread in this game is 26 points. The Badgers have scored more than 26 points twice this season. They dropped 54 on Akron and scored 30 against Michigan State. Illinois is not a good team, although they technically still have a shot at a bowl game in their first season under Lovie Smith. The Illini do have the excuse that four of their losses have come to teams currently ranked in the top-25. Of course, they also lost to Purdue. If Illinois can get to one touchdown, or even just a pair of field goals against a stout Wisconsin defense, that means the Badgers will have to score at least four touchdowns to cover. Illinois won't threaten to win this game, but they should cover easily.

Maryland +29.5 Ohio State
This a literal ton of points to lay for an Ohio State team that has had their fair share of offensive glitches this season. I know the Buckeyes dropped 62 on Nebraska last week, but they also averaged just over 28 points per game in their previous four. Maryland is not a Sun Belt school that will roll over for the Buckeyes. The Terrapins are not national title contenders, but with five wins, they will probably qualify for a bowl in D.J. Durkin's first season. This spread is about a touchdown too high thanks to the respective blowouts on both sides last week. Maryland went into Ann Arbor and lost 59-3 to an elite Michigan team. However, Maryland did a few good things in that game. The Terrapins averaged over five and half yards per play, which is the most Michigan has allowed this season at home. I will omit the fact that they allowed ten yards per play to the Wolverines, but returning to the friendly confines of College Park should help them a little. I'm not sure if he said it first, but I know Lou Holtz said you have 'a different team every week'. Ohio State won't play as well as they did last week (perhaps due to motivation) and Maryland won't play as bad. Like, Illinois above, the Terrapins won't threaten to win this game, but they will easily cover.

California +14.5 Washington State
Since opening the season 0-2, Washington State has been on a roll. The Cougars have won seven straight games for the first time since 2002. While the Cougars have won seven in a row, they have not been quite as dominant as that unblemished record would indicate as three of the wins have come by six points or less. The most recent game for both teams is inflating this line by about a field goal or so. Washington State dominated a bad Arizona team while Cal lost to the Pac-12's best shot at getting into the playoff. Washington State is rightly favored in this game, but the difference on a per play basis is not that great, especially once you adjust for strength of schedule. In Pac-12 play, both schools have three common opponents: Arizona State, Oregon, and Oregon State. In Washington State's other three conference games, they have played Arizona, Stanford, and UCLA. Arizona is bad, Stanford is alright, but not as strong as they were over the past few seasons, and UCLA was without quarterback Josh Rosen in their game with the Cougars. Meanwhile, Cal has played Southern Cal, Utah, and Washington. Southern Cal was embarrassed by Alabama to open the year, but is playing its best football in a long time. Utah is not quite as good as their sterling record would indicate, but is a quality team, and Washington is probably the best team in the league. Cal does not have the defense to beat Washington State in Pullman, but they should keep this one within two touchdowns.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

The Magnificent Seven: Week X

We got back to our winning ways last week. 4-3 won't set any records, but we'll take it. As always, home teams in BOLD.

Last Week: 4-3
Overall: 32-27-4

Buffalo +20 Ohio
In college football, as in life, sometimes you just never know. Last week, Buffalo hosted a decent Akron team and was nearly a three touchdown underdog. The Bulls had lost four straight games while scoring a combined 51 points. Then they went and dropped 41 points on the Zips in an easy three touchdown win. Senior running back Jordan Johnson, who came in with four career 100-yard rush games, rushed for nearly 300 yards against the Zips and the Bulls ended a six game conference losing streak. Ohio also won outright last week as a big underdog when they upset Toledo in the Glass Bowl. The win moved the Bobcats to 4-1 in the MAC East and gave them control of the division. Ohio has a great shot at getting back to the MAC Championship game for the first time since 2011, but alas, an irresistible force appears to be looming in the other division. The Bobcats are better than the Bulls, but Ohio is already 0-2 Against the Spread (ATS) as a double-digit home favorite this season and has not beaten any team (FBS or FCS) by more than 16 points in 2016.

Georgia Tech +10.5 North Carolina
After enduring a rough 3-9 campaign in 2015, Georgia Tech has improved enough to at least qualify for a bowl in 2016. The Yellow Jackets need just a single additional win to double last season's win total and clinch a postseason berth. Last week's game against Duke, which got the Jackets to five wins, was a nail biter and Georgia Tech should thank their lucky stars Justin Thomas is still quarterbacking the team. Thomas threw for 264 yards on just 14 attempts and added another 195 yards on the ground in the narrow win against the Blue Devils. The reason Georgia Tech didn't roll to victory was, as usual, the defense. Thanks to their run-oriented offense, Paul Johnson is able to hide his poor defense. The Yellow Jackets rank a respectable 40th in total defense, but are a less respectable 73rd in yards allowed per play. The main problem is a pass rush that has generated just eight sacks on the season (only six teams have fewer). North Carolina should be able to move the ball against Georgia Tech and pro prospect Mitch Trubisky should have plenty of time to throw in his fortress of solitude. However, I think Georgia Tech will be able to move the ball against the Tar Heels as well. Even though North Carolina is much improved defensively under coordinator Gene Chizik, they still allowed 31 points to this offense last season and were gouged by what has ended up being a mediocre (or worse) Georgia run game. With Georgia Tech's option, this game will have fewer possessions than a typical college football game so the margin of victory could be depressed. I don't know that Georgia Tech can get enough stops (barring a deluge of turnovers) to win this game, but they can certainly get enough to cover. And if you don't have anything better to watch in the early window on Saturday, tune in here. Justin Thomas has four guaranteed games remaining in his college career (hopefully five with a bowl bid). He has been a great and underappreciated college player. Watch him here.

Wake Forest -3 Virginia
Needing just a single win to clinch their first postseason appearance since 2011, Wake Forest lost at home to Army last week. While the loss was bad for Wake Forest fans like me, it could be good for your wallet this week. I never deal in absolutes, but Wake Forest is probably a better team than Army. Alas, upsets happen, and the loss to the Black Knights coupled with Virginia's narrow home loss to Louisville has this line probably about a field goal lower than it should be. Keep in mind that while Virginia led Louisville late in that game, they still averaged under five yards per play against the Cardinals and in conference play are currently second to last in that category. Of course, Wake Forest is third to last, so don't expect this game to be a shootout. Wake Forest is pretty good defensively, holding six of eight opponents to 21 points or less. Wake won't blow out the Cavaliers, but they should do enough to win by about a touchdown.

Oregon State +14.5 Stanford
While it may not show in the overall record, this version of Oregon State is far superior to the version the Beavers put on the field last season. After staying within one score of just a single Power Five opponent last season, the Beavers have three such close losses this season and even managed to win their first conference game in 22 months. Oregon State lost their starting quarterback, when Darell Garretson injured his ankle against Utah, but his replacement Marcus McMaryion has actually outplayed him. Garretson averaged just 4.2 yards per pass despite getting an opportunity to boost his numbers against an FCS team. While McMaryion lacks the elusiveness of Garretson, he has averaged over seven yards per pass and nearly led the team to an upset of Washington State last week. Can he lead them to an upset of a Stanford team that appears to be a shell of its former self? While the Cardinal did score 34 points last week, breaking the 30-point barrier for the first time all season,  they still averaged under five yards per play and quarterback Keller Chryst completed less than half his passes against a bad Arizona defense. Stanford is still living off their reputation from the previous six or seven years. This line is at least a field goal too high. Take Oregon State to cover for the sixth time this season as a double digit underdog.

Missouri +7 South Carolina
The narrative on South Carolina has changed dramatically eh? Two weeks ago they were 2-4 and burning the redshirt on a quarterback to try get to a lower tier bowl. Hell, five days ago, they were two touchdown underdogs to Tennessee. Now, the Gamecocks are favored to win by more points than they have beaten any opponent by in 2016! In fact, the Gamecocks have not won a game by more than six points since last October against Vanderbilt. I think the market has shifted too dramatically towards South Carolina. Keep in mind, while they did beat a Tennessee team that was ranked last week (and may be imploding), the Gamecocks still averaged under five yards per play against the Vols and scored just 24 points. Jake Bentley did not turn the ball over, but no one is going to confuse this offense with Baylor. Missouri is bad. They may go winless in the SEC one season after posting a 1-7 league mark, but this seems like a prime letdown spot for the Gamecocks. Missouri has scored just 21 points in their two SEC road games, but those came against LSU and Florida. South Carolina is not in that class. Missouri will keep this one close.

Tulane +17 Central Florida
Its November, and both these teams under first year head coaches still harbor bowl aspirations after combining for a 3-21 record last season. If Central Florida wins, they will need to find just a single win the rest of the way to become bowl eligible, while Tulane has to win three of four including this one to finish 6-6. Both schools have struggled offensively under their first year head coaches. Tulane has struggled in taking to the option run by head coach Willie Fritz. The Green Wave are 16th nationally in rushing offense, but they are ninth in rush attempts. In addition, unlike other option teams (see Georgia Tech and Navy) that boast an obscene average when they do throw the ball thanks to the surprise/misdirection factor, the Green Wave are averaging just a little north of five yards per throw which is ahead of only Rutgers. Meanwhile Central Florida has been competent passing the football, with freshman quarterback McKenzie Milton taking over for senior Justin Holman and averaging over seven yards per pass. The running game on the other hand has struggled, with their top-two backs both averaging under four yards per carry. The last time Tulane ventured to the Magic Kingdom, they faced a Central Florida team that would eventually tie for the American Athletic Conference championship and only lost by a touchdown. Central Florida is too limited offensively to be favored by three scores against a competent FBS team. Take the Green Wave to keep this one close.

Tulsa -7.5 East Carolina
Phillip Montgomery has the Golden Hurricane in contention for the American Athletic Conference title in just his second season. The Art Briles disciple has brought the fast pace back to Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane were one of the first team's to use pace as a weapon when Gus Malzahn became their offensive coordinator in 2007. Wonder whatever happened to that guy? Anyway, the reason Tulsa has gone from fringe bowl team to conference contender is on account of the defense. In conference play, Tulsa was second to last in yards allowed per play last season. Their defense is nearly a yard better per play this season and ranks sixth in the league. When your offense plays fast and efficiently, you only need a few stops to put your opponent away. This line is just a little over a touchdown and both these teams play very fast, so there will be more possessions than your typical college football game. Tulsa will have ample opportunity to get out in front of this number. Take Tulsa before Vegas gets on to them and inflates their spreads.