A 4-3 showing last week and another winning week in the books. I haven’t been able to land any huge weeks but for the most of the season I’ve just been grinding out profit little by little with 4-3, 3-2 type weeks. Volume will be small this week as there’s just not a ton out there I’m crazy about, here’s what I’m going with…
Iowa State (-3): This line was as high at 6 at some shops on Sunday and now has fallen all the way to 3. At 6 I wouldn’t be making a play, but with a drop of 3 points I’m happy to make a play laying only a FG. My power number on this game was 6.5 so to now get a chance at 3 is something I’m not going to pass on. The Red Raiders are now 5-2 and winners of 5 of their last 6 games. Kingsbury has things rolling along pretty nicely and Texas Tech fans are feeling good right about now. That said they are in for a much tougher test here than I think most people realize. Iowa State is only 3-3 at with just a quick glance they don’t seem to be a team you need to be worried about. A closer look however is going to show differently. Those 3 losses were by a total of 23 points and came at the hands of Iowa, Oklahoma and TCU, so not anything to ashamed of. Most impressively is what they’ve done the last two weeks with wins over Oklahoma State and West Virginia. The win against Ok State was on the road, then at home they easily handed West Virginia who at the time was a top 10 team. Now fresh off a bye they get to stay at home for this one. At QB Brock Purdy has taken the job for Cyclones and run with it. He was the guy at the helm in those big wins over OKST and WVU and the numbers speak for themselves. He’s completing 75% of his passes for about 12 yards per attempt… yes that’s 12 yards per attempt, not per completion. On top of that he’s also run for 63 yards per game in those last 2 outings. He’s a dual threat guy who is making great decisions with the ball, getting it where it needs to go, and overall just doing a great job of running this offense. At RB David Montgomery is still doing his thing averaging over 100 yards per game and about 130 per game in the last 3. He was a bit dinged up going into the bye week so the extra week of rest you’ve gotta figure let him recharge and he should be ready for a heavy workload in this one. For Texas Tech it seems the QB carousel has once again stopped on Bowman, he had a big showing last week against Kansas and looks to be the guy this week. He isn’t the weapon with his legs that Duffey is but it’s clear he’s the better passing option of the two. This Iowa State defense is no joke though. Look back as recently as their last game against WVU for what I’m talking about. WVU came into that game with video game type stats across the board and the ‘Clones limited them to just 152 total yards of offense. I rate Iowa State as the better team here and at home I think this line should’ve stayed right around the 5.5 to 6 point area it was hovering around at a few days ago. I’ll say the Cyclones win a 31-24 type of game.
North Carolina (+9): It’s easy to look at North Carolina’s 1-5 record and just assume this is a train wreck through and through. Yes that 1-5 record is ugly, but the last few weeks I’ve seen some reasons to be optimistic moving forward. In those last two weeks they have back to back 3 point losses, one to Virginia Tech and the other at Syracuse. In both of those games they had 4th quarter leads they allowed to slip away, but the point is they are now actually playing some solid and competitive football. It’s started at QB where Elliott is vastly improved from last year. His completion percentage is up roughly 10% and last week at Cuse may have been the best game of his career. He went 34-52 for 321 yards, 2 TD’s and 0 INT’s. In the last two weeks combined he’s 45-67 with 3 TD’s and 0 INT’s. He’s not a star by any stretch but he is turning himself into a solid and respectable QB. As far as Virginia I’ll give them credit for what they are doing and finding their way to 5-2, but for a lack of a better way to put it this just isn’t a team that scares me. They exploded for 45 against Ohio and 42 against Richmond but if you remove those two games from their schedule, they are only averaging 21.6 points per game. Perkins is a decent enough QB but at this point I don’t rate him all that higher than Elliott. I also think this line could be a bit inflated due to Virginia’s win a few weeks ago over Miami and then them backing it up with a 14 point win over Duke last week. It’s worth noting that while on the surface that win over Miami looks good, the fact is there were outgained by over 100 yards in that game, and for the most part were outplayed. They only managed 235 yards of total offense and while of course the UNC defense isn’t at Miami’s level, it backs my overall point that this UVA offense is just not very good. We also can’t ignore that there is bad weather on the forecast and we are looking at temperatures in the 40’s with wind and probably some rain. Virginia doesn’t have a ton of firepower to begin with and covering 9 points in such conditions doesn’t feel like an easy task. I see this as an ugly, sloppy kind of game and separation is likely going to be tough for either team to find. I’m not a big totals guy but under 51 is probably worth a look here in what feels like a 24-21 sort of game.
Mississippi State (-2.5): The Bulldogs had a clunker last week managing only 3 points in a 19-3 loss at LSU, I’m expecting a bounce back from them at home this week though. Starkville is one of the toughest places in the country to play and Texas A&M is more than going to have their hands full in a night game against Cowbell nation. The Aggies are 5-2 and the two losses came against what are probably the two best teams in the nation, Alabama and Clemson. The other side of that coin is that outside of a home win in OT over Kentucky there really isn’t much in the way of impressive wins either. Yes I rate Kentucky slightly above Mississippi State overall, but when you factor in the electric atmosphere we should have, and the fact it’s a night game, I’d consider this their biggest win of the year if they can get it. They beat down inferior opponents like Northwestern State and UL Monroe but their other 3 wins have all been tightly contested. A 7 point win over lowly Arkansas, I mentioned the OT win over Kentucky, and last week a 3 point win over South Carolina. Now winning is winning and I won’t knock them for that, the point I’m making is they haven’t exactly been dominant. With Mississippi State it all of course starts with Nick Fitzgerald. We all know he can run and he’s doing it again this year with what so far is career high 107 rush yards per game. He ran for 131 against LSU, 195 against Auburn, so there are clearly no issues there at all. The issue has been with his arm and he’s doing (or not doing) through the air. His completion percentage is 10% lower this year than it was in either of the last two seasons and honestly it’s hard to account for. This is a guy who the last two seasons combined had over 600 pass attempts and about 55% completions and did it with a 36/21 TD:INT ratio. He’s been a good passer before and I just find it hard to believe that all of the sudden this season he can’t pass anymore. I’m of the opinion that his pass production is much improved the rest of the season and that it starts in this one Saturday night. Now I’m not calling for a game where he throws the ball all over the yard or anything, but 50-55% completions and limiting turnovers I think is reasonable to expect. The total in this game is only 44 which speaks to the kind of battle it should be. I look for the Bulldogs to try and control the clock, let Fitzgerald pound them on the ground, and then trust him to make a few big plays in the 2nd half as they open up. If you like wide open football and lots of points this game probably won’t be for you. If you like hard nosed football, with a ton of crowd noise and hard hitting defense you’ve come to the right place. I think the Dogs take this one something along the lines of 24-17.
Oklahoma State (+3.5): This is another one of those games where at it’s open (1.5) I wouldn’t have gotten involved, but now that it’s reached and passed that critical number of 3 I’m perfectly fine making a play at 3.5. As we all know by now Texas is red hot. They had that embarrassing loss in their opener against Maryland and haven’t lost a game since. They now find themselves flirting with the top 5 in the polls and are even having thoughts about playing in College Football playoff. On the other side after starting 3-0, Oklahoma State has lost 3 of 4 and 2 straight. I don’t want to over simplify this game into a buy low, sell high, but I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t part of it. Right now Texas is sky high, Oklahoma State is struggling and the perception of those two teams is 180 degrees apart. Sure enough to this point the line movement has shown that and apparently people are out there betting this game like they already know the final score. I’ll be over here on what pretty clearly seems like will be the contrarian side. First let’s look at the positives with Oklahoma State. They average 39.4 points per game, to go with nearly 500 yards per game in total offense. They are balanced as they run for over 200 yards a game while passing for almost 300 a game to go with it. They have plenty of weapons and talent on the offensive side, and even against a defense like Texas I expect them to move the ball and put up points. I also love the coming off a bye angle. I love the fact that the last two weeks the Cowboys have had to sit the with the thought of losing 3 of 4 in the back of their minds. They’ve had to see all this success Texas is having, they’ve had to hear how great Texas is, etc, etc, etc. My guess would be Gundy has these guys mad, fired up, and that they’ll be playing with a chip on their shoulder. For Texas the offense has been good, but for the most part it’s been the defense carrying this team. After the Maryland debacle, outside of the shootout with Oklahoma they’ve been able to hold everyone else in check. The offense however doesn’t scare me much. They only managed 23 points against Baylor, 19 against Kansas State, and 28 at home against Tulsa. I’m not expecting this one to turn into a 45-42 wild, wild, west shootout or anything, but if it even approaches that I don’t know if Texas has the firepower to keep up. Now yes they did win exactly that kind of game against the Sooners but I would look at that more as the exception than the rule. They don’t want to play games in the mid 40’s or even the mid 30’s really. At the end of the day we’ve got a night game in a hostile environment for a team that’s in my opinion playing a bit over their heads. Against a team that’s got their back to the wall, been playing poorly, and desperate to show they still have some fight left in them. I think they win the game, but I’ll take the FG and hook to be on the safer side.
Fresno State (-24.5): It was fun while it lasted for Hawaii but this thing is starting to get out of control fast. They came out of the gates quickly with some nice wins as double digit dogs, but lately reality is setting in and it looks like they are about to drive this thing right into a ditch. After starting 4-1 the Rainbows somehow made their way to 6-1 by landing wins against San Jose State and Wyoming in games they realistically should have lost. Since then they’ve been heavily brought back down to earth. Their last two games against BYU and Nevada they lost by a combined score of 89-45 and I cashed against them in both. I’ll go back to the well this week looking to make it 3 in a row in a game I think they get taken to the woodshed. Most of you probably haven’t realized it because Fresno State plays in the Mountain West, but this is an excellent defensive team. In their last 3 games they’ve allowed a total of 13 points and on the season are only allowing 12.6 points per game. Hawaii as always is known for their high powered, throw it all over the field offense. That however I think will meet it’s match in Fresno. This team has only allowed their opponents to score over 14 points twice all season and one of those was a 49-27 win over Toledo where they allowed Toledo to get a few garbage time TD’s in the 4th quarter after the game was already 49-13. To put it simply this is an excellent defense and as this game becomes more lopsided I think their success will only grow. This figures to be a game where Fresno jumps out to an early lead and the sooner they can make Hawaii one dimensional the uglier this one figures to get. Now you might be thinking “David, all Hawaii wants to do is pass anyway. They are already one dimensional.” That isn’t entirely true. Now of course they are a pass first team but the splits might surprise you. As a team they’ve thrown 346 passes and had 285 rushing attempts. If they fall behind big and are forced to go almost exclusively pass, that’s when the floodgates probably open up. They have the talent to really give this offense trouble and I could see McDonald ending up with some very rough numbers. On the other side of the ball the Bulldogs are playing very well too. They average 38 points per game and at QB McMaryion is playing at a very high level. He’s currently completing 70% of his passes for 265 yards per game, 14 TD’s and just 2 INT’s. In other words he’s moving the ball extremely well and making hardly any mistakes in the process. I really think this one gets out hand and I’ll predict a 48-14 win for Fresno State.
Iowa State (-3)
North Carolina (+9)
Mississippi State (-2.5)
Oklahoma State (+3.5)
Fresno State (-24.5)