After a very strong first two weeks I’m hoping to stay hot here in Week 3. Feel pretty good about what I’ve got lined up here…
Appalachian State (+3.5): Here’s one you don’t see everyday, a top 25 team only laying 3.5 against a Sun Belt team. Miami travels to App State to take on the Mountaineers, the same Mountaineers team that went into Tennessee and took the Vols to OT in Week 1. This is an App State that most people don’t know much about, but make no mistake about it, they are very solid. At QB Taylor Lamb is completing 65% of his passes and on the ground App State really gets after you. RB Marcus Cox leads the way at at 124 yards per game and 6 yards per carry, for a team that runs for over 200 yards per game. Defensively the Mountaineers are rock solid too. They held Tennessee to only 319 yards of total offense and then they clamped down on Old Dominion to the tune of only 7 points and 326 yards. Miami is off to a nice start beating up on Florida A&M and Florida Atlantic by a combined score of 108-13. The stats will obviously be impressive and gaudy after those games, but the level of competition there is nothing like they’ll see on Saturday. In a sense you can almost look at this like it’s the season opener for Miami and just consider those first two games preseason scrimmages. There is a ton of hype around this team right now with QB Brad Kayya probably a top 5 NFL pick and new head coach Mark Richt at the helm. I’m not saying this Miami team is bad, I’m just not doing backflips after they beat up on two horrid teams in week 1 and 2. Appalachian State is the real deal and they’ve proven they can play with the big dogs. Playing at home here I think they truly believe they can win this game, and expect to do just that.
UNLV (+13): Letdown spots don’t come much bigger then after going on the road and beating a top 25 team on a Hail Mary on the last play of the game. That’s exactly what Central Michigan did last week at Oklahoma State and now they return home to take on lowly UNLV in a game where they are nearly a two TD favorite. This play isn’t as much about the talent of the players or the quality of the teams, it’s mostly about the situational angle. Central Michigan is a good team, but at the end of the day these are 19-23 year old kids, not robots. They have been on cloud nine since that win on Saturday and I find it hard to believe they’ll be able to come out completely focused and prepared for this battle against an inferior UNLV team. I’m not quite ready to call a UNLV win or anything, but I do think they can catch CMU fat and happy and hang around long enough to stay within this number.
Northern Illinois (+10.5): Speaking of letdown spots, that’s exactly what SDSU finds themselves facing this week against Northern Illinois. On Saturday night SDSU won a 45-40 shootout with Cal, preserving the win on a last second INT as Cal was marching down for a potential game winning TD. This is a line that before the season I would have made about 4.5 or 5, but due to SDSU gaining some attention and NIU starting 0-2 we now see the Aztecs as a double digit favorite. Much like the UNLV play this one isn’t as much about on field talent as it is the situation itself. SDSU could be in hangover mode after that Cal win, and with an 0-2 start you know NIU is going to hungry and ready to go for a matchup with a team that all of the sudden is getting a little public attention. The task for the NIU defense will be simple, just try to slow down RB Donnell Pumphrey who has a realistic shot of running for 2000 yards this year. If they can just keep him under control I really love their chances to cover this game, and by under control I mean under 140 yards. Pumphrey is that good to where if NIU holds him to say 135 yards or so I’d consider that a win. Overall I expect SDSU to win a 24-21 or 27-21 type of game.
Nebraska (-3): Oregon beat up on UC Davis and then Virginia to start the season, but don’t let that fool you. Overall the level of talent is a low as it’s been at Oregon in maybe 10 years. I’ll go as far to say that it’s a coin flip as to if Oregon will even finish above .500 in the PAC-12 this season. I know on the surface seeing the Ducks as a 3 point dog to unranked Nebraska seems weird, but I honestly think the line should be closer to 5. It’s also worth noting that the Ducks will be starting 3 Freshman on the O-Line this week, which isn’t exactly ideal in a hostile road environment like they’ll see in Lincoln. Much like Oregon, Nebraska has beaten up on two inferior opponents to start the season by whipping up on Fresno State and Wyoming. Overall however I like what Mike Riley is starting to put together with this team. Senior QB Tommie Armstrong Jr. is poised for a nice season and he has some nice skill players around him at RB and WR, led by Senior WR’s Alonzo Moore and Jordan Westerkamp. Nothing out of the usual happened in the first 2 games for either squad here so to me this essentially a season opener for each. Coming into the season I flat out thought (and still do think) that Nebraska is a better and more talented team than Oregon. It’s really just that simple. I’ll happily take them at home laying the 3.
Western Michigan (-3): This Western Michigan team is one of the best under the radar squads out there right now. They won at Northwestern in Week 1, and I’m expecting them to score another road win over a BIG 10 team this weekend. The Broncos are led by QB Zach Terrell who after excellent Sophomore and Junior seasons is thriving yet again as a Senior. They also feature a trio of solid RB’s in Jamauri Bogan, LeVante Bellamy, and Jarvion Franklin. To add to the riches is WR Corey Davis who seems to be well on his way to his 3rd straight 1400 yard plus season. It seems weird to say about a team from the MAC but Western Michigan is loaded offensively. Their defense is also solid as they only allowed 319 to Northwestern in week 1. Seeing this high powered offense is bad news for an Illinois defense that allowed 462 yards last week to North Carolina. Now I’m not saying the WMU offense is on par with North Carolina, but I certainly think it’s good enough to have some success against this Illinois defense. I wasn’t big on this Illinois team to begin the season as they only brought back 4 starters on defense and sure enough in their first actual test of the year UNC torched them. I’m fully expecting WMU to do the same.
Kentucky (-19.5): On the surface taking Kentucky -19.5 against right now seems borderline insane, yet that’s exactly what I’m going to do here. Through 2 games the UK defense has been absolutely ripped to shreds by Southern Miss and then Florida. Mark Stoops is on the hot seat and the fanbase seems to flat out hate the guy. On the flip side New Mexico State is off an emotional 32-31 win over their rival New Mexico. Make no mistake about it though, this New Mexico State team is probably a bottom 10 team in the nation, they are flat out awful. Now we get to catch them in a letdown spot after that big (for them) win. Kentucky on the other hand should be in the ultimate take out your frustration spot. The players are mad, the coaches are mad, the fans are mad, and in comes an NMSU team that’s doing a victory lap off their win last week. The difference between quality of athletes in this game is off the charts, for as bad as Kentucky has played their athletes are worlds better than what NMSU is running out there. I expect Kentucky to get up big early and keep adding on as they take out the frustration of the first 2 weeks of the season. This one could get very ugly.
Oklahoma (+1): Not very often are you going to get a chance to play Oklahoma as a home dog, that’s the chance we get on Saturday though. Ohio State comes to town with the hype machine in full effect. JT Barrett is playing great, the team looks great, and national title talk is buzzing. That said, taking Oklahoma plus the points is just too good to pass up for me. Before the season I had this line at Oklahoma -5.5, so to now see Ohio State as a 1 point favorite means this game is 6.5 points off where I thought it would be 3 weeks ago. Yes Oklahoma had a poor showing against Houston, but now due to that I think we’re getting a very friendly line and plenty of over-reaction. I won’t fall into the trap of thinking less of OU because of that loss, I truly feel this is still one of the best teams in the country. Playing at home with a chip on their shoulder I expect the Sooners to rise up and pull off what to many will be considered an upset win. To me it’ll just be the better team winning a game on their home field.
California (+8): Again I think we’ve got some over-reaction going on in this line. Everyone is all over the Texas hype train right now after that big win over Notre Dame and all of the sudden they are laying 8 at Cal? Yes Texas is a good team, no question about that, this line seems out of hand though. Cal is off a tough 45-40 loss at SDSU, but what people need to notice is how well QB Davis Webb is playing. In 2 games this year Webb has Cal averaging 45.5 points per game and has thrown for 481.5 yards per game to go with 9 TD’s. Those are video game numbers from Webb. He’s a big strong guy with a big arm who is on NFL Scouts radar, he’s absolutely a pro prospect. He fits the system perfectly, and as absurd as it might sound, there really hasn’t been much of a drop off from Goff to Webb for the Bears. This is a line that before the season I had at Texas -3, and that was when I still had some questions about Webb. Now Webb has exceeded my expectations and the line is 8? I realize Texas is better than I or anyone else thought, but for this line to be at 8 is still too high. I’ll gladly take the home dog in this one.