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07/09/2013 02:07 PM
NCAAF Games of the Year: LSU could be FG faves at Ole Miss

NCAA Week 8: LSU Tigers at Ole Miss Rebels (+1.5)

Past history: LSU has won SU on five of its last six trips to Oxford, including a 52-3 annihilation on their last visit in 2011. But the Tigers never even sniffed a pointspread cover as 19-point home chalk against the Rebels last year, needing a wild fourth-quarter rally, sparked by a punt return touchdown, to escape with a six-point victory.

Early look at LSU: The Tigers have gone 34-4 over the course of the last three regular seasons, but they are lined at only 9.5 wins in 2013. After losing four NFL draft choices from their defensive line and two more in their secondary, early bettors are expecting a significant defensive dropoff from a mediocre offensive team.

Early look at Mississippi: The Rebels have finished above .500 in the regular season only twice in the last nine years, but the first posted lines have Ole Miss projected as an 8.5-win team in 2013. Second-year head coach Hugh Freeze has a strong group of starters -particularly on offense - but a lack of quality depth is a major concern.

Where this line will move: Ole Miss has road games against Alabama and Auburn as well as a home game against Texas A&M in the three weeks prior to this SEC West showdown - a trio of tough tests. While LSU will be in a potential letdown situation following a home test against Florida the previous week, the Tigers should have the better record and the betting market support heading into this matchup. Don’t be surprised if LSU is -3 or higher by game day.
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07/10/2013 10:05 AM
How SI's best and worst NCAAF coaches stack up for bettors

A recent article by Stewart Mandel over at Sports Illustrated looks at the 10 best and five worst head coaches in NCAA football.

We decided to have a look at said coaches and tally up their ATS and O/U records to see how each of these guys stack up.

Western Kentucky's Bobby Petrino was not included since he has not coached a game with the Hilltoppers.

Of the remaining nine coaches in SI's ten best, only LSU's Les Miles has a sub .500 ATS record.

Of SI's five worst coaches, Iowa's Kirk Ferentz is the only one with an ATS record above .500.

SI's 10 best:

Nick Saban, Alabama - 68-13 SU, 45-35 ATS, 36-40-3 O/U
Urban Meyer, Ohio State - 12-0 SU, 7-5 ATS, 6-6 O/U
Chris Petersen, Boise State - 84-8 SU, 49-38-2 ATS, 43-45-1 O/U
Gary Patterson, TCU - 116-36 SU, 77-69-1 ATS, 65-63-2 O/U
Bill Snyder, Kansas State (second tenure) - 33-17 SU, 31-18-1 ATS, 28-21 O/U
Les Miles, LSU - 85-21 SU, 49-53-2 ATS, 53-48-1 O/U
Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M - 11-2 SU, 8-5 ATS, 4-7 O/U
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma - 149-37 SU, 97-83-4 ATS, 80-83-1 O/U
Bobby Petrino, Western Kentucky - N/A
Art Briles, Baylor - 33-30 SU, 36-25 ATS, 36-23-1 O/U

SI's five worst (alphabetically):

Tim Beckman, Illinois - 2-10 SU, 3-9 ATS, 6-5 O/U
Ron English, Eastern Michigan - 10-38 SU, 20-28 ATS, 26-21 O/U
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa - 100-74 SU, 93-75-2 ATS, 64-76-5 O/U
Lane Kiffin, USC - 25-13 SU, 17-21 ATS, 18-20 O/U
Charlie Weis, Kansas - 1-11 SU, 4-7-1 ATS, 4-7 O/U
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07/10/2013 10:05 AM
NCAAF Top 5: Worst home bets in college football

Friendly confines and hometown crowds haven’t helped these college football programs come though against the spread. They have constantly letdown bettors on their home turf over the past five seasons.

Record between 2008-12.

Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-19 SU, 8-18 ATS)

Sports Illustrated recently released a list of the worst coaches in college football and Eagles head coach Ron English was among the bottom five. Eastern Michigan bettors wouldn’t deny that claim, having suffered through a 7-15 ATS mark in his time in Ypsilanti.

New Mexico State Aggies (7-22 SU, 9-20 ATS)

Aggies backers – if there are any left – are holding out hope that a move from the WAC to an independent will alter the program’s ineptitude against the spread. New Mexico State, which went 2-4 ATS inside Aggie Memorial Stadium in 2012, has a tough sked with Texas, UCLA, and Minnesota headlining.

Akron Zips (7-22 SU, 10-19 ATS)

The Zips had mirror-image home/away ATS records last season, going a profitable 5-1 ATS on the road but just 1-5 ATS at home. Akron was an underdog in all but two of those home games, including an embarrassing loss to UMass as a 14.5-point favorite.

South Florida Bulls (17-15 SU, 11-20-1 ATS)

Skip Holtz is gone and with him his 9-11 SU and 5-14-1 ATS record at home. The Bulls bring in Willie Taggart, who boasted an 8-9 ATS during his three seasons at Western Kentucky. The new Frankenstein AAC adds Memphis and SMU to USF home sked in 2013.

Louisville Cardinals (18-14 SU, 12-20 ATS)

The Cardinals enter 2013 as a dark-horse contender for the national title. Louisville has a solid chance of going undefeated, with a very easy home slate. Last season, UL went 3-4 ATS at Papa John's Cardinal Stadium, and that was against much tougher competition. The expectations are high this year and the home pointspreads will reflect that.
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07/10/2013 10:06 AM
NCAAF Games of the Year: Florida could be worn down vs. FSU

NCAA Week 14: Florida State Seminoles at Florida Gators (-2.5)

Past history: These teams have met in their regular season finale every year since 1977. They’ve split the last four meetings with the Gators winning in Tallahassee last year thanks to 24 unanswered points to open the fourth quarter.

Early look at Florida State: Following last year’s 12-2 campaign, the Seminoles are a legitimate national title contender in 2013 despite the loss of first-round draft choice E.J. Manuel at quarterback and six NFL draft choices from their defense. With arguably the best offensive line in college football, young QBs Jameis Winston or Jacob Coker will have the protection they need to get this offense clicking.

Early look at Florida: The Gators went 11-1 in the regular season last year before losing badly to Louisville in their bowl game. Junior QB Jeff Driskel needs to step up as the full-time starter this year if the Gators are going to match or exceed last year’s results, thanks to a positively brutal slate of opponents.

Where this line will move: It’s not easy to project where a line will be in late November – injuries, attrition and luck go a long way towards determining which teams will draw betting support at that stage of the season. That being said, Florida’s schedule is brutal compared to Florida State’s, which means the Gators are much more likely to come into this one with a weaker record and less market support. Don’t be surprised if the Seminoles take the money before kickoff.
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07/11/2013 10:46 AM
NCAAF Games of the Year: Georgia at Clemson a likely pick'em

NCAA Week 1: Georgia Bulldogs at Clemson Tigers (-2)

Past history: Clemson hasn’t been able to beat Georgia in any of the last five meetings between these two teams. Their last win in the series came all the way back in 1990. But the Tigers and Bulldogs haven’t faced off since 2003, which is also the last time Clemson got shut out - a 30-0 defeat.

Early look at Georgia: Georgia’s near upset of Alabama in the SEC Championship Game and second-half domination in their bowl against Nebraska has Bulldog boosters sky high heading into to the new campaign. With Heisman contending senior QB Andy Murray playing behind an offensive line with all five starters returning, that optimism appears justified.

Early look at Clemson: The Tigers notched their second straight double-digit victory total last year, culminating with an impressive upset over LSU in their bowl. An offense that averaged 41 points per game in 2012 returns senior QB Tajh Boyd, junior WR Sammy Watkins and nine of their Top 10 on the offensive line.

Where this line will move: This Saturday night national TV showdown on the opening week of the season is likely to attract lots of betting attention. Early money has shown for the home team, but SEC money nearly always shows for non-conference TV matchups. Expect this line to close in the pick ‘em range.
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07/12/2013 11:43 AM
Best and worst home bets in each college football conference

College football season is rapidly approaching. We’ve already looked at the best and worst road NCAAF bets over the past five seasons. Now, we break it down by conference and give the best and worst home bets for each of college football’s 11 leagues:

Records from 2008-2012.

AAC

Best: Houston Cougars (24-9 SU, 21-12 ATS)
Worst: South Florida Bulls (17-15 SU, 11-20-1 ATS)

ACC

Best: North Carolina State Wolfpack (25-10 SU, 23-10-2 ATS)
Worst: Virginia Cavaliers (15-18 SU, 12-20-1 ATS)

Big 12

Best: Oklahoma State Cowboys (29-8 SU, 23-14 ATS)
Worst: West Virginia Mountaineers (26-9 SU, 13-21-1 ATS)

Big Ten

Best: Ohio State Buckeyes (33-5 SU, 22-16 ATS)
Worst: Illinois Fighting Illini (17-17 SU, 14-20 ATS)

C-USA

Best: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (19-10 SU, 18-10-1 ATS)
Worst: Tulane Green Wave (9-23 SU, 12-20 ATS)

Independents

Best: BYU Cougars (27-5 SU, 16-16 ATS)
Worst: New Mexico State Aggies (7-22 SU, 9-20 ATS)

MAC

Best: Northern Illinois Huskies (27-4 SU, 18-12-1 ATS)
Worst: Eastern Michigan Eagles (7-19 SU, 8-18 ATS)

MWC

Best: Utah State Aggies (20-10 SU, 18-12 ATS)
Worst: Wyoming Cowboys (11-19 SU, 11-19 ATS)

Pac-12

Best: Stanford Cardinal (31-3 SU, 23-11 ATS)
Worst: Washington State Cougars (8-22 SU, 14-16 ATS)

SEC

Best: Arkansas Razorbacks (24-9 SU, 22-11 ATS)
Worst: Tennessee Volunteers (23-15 SU, 14-23-1 ATS)

Sun Belt

Best: Texas State Bobcats (3-3 SU, 5-1 ATS)
Worst: South Alabama Jaguars (2-4 SU, 0-6 ATS)
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07/20/2013 01:58 AM
2013 MAC Preview

July 14, 2013

It's been said the MAC has enjoyed balanced divisions for the same amount of time the cast of Jersey Shore has been sober...about 2 months.

With Temple making like an In-and-Out burger, opting out of the MAC for the Big East/American Athletic Conference after being admitted in back in 2007, the conference remains in flux. (At least a $6 million buyout fee paid by the Owls softened the blow.)

Unfortunately, UMass' admission last year now leaves the loop an unbalanced, unlucky 13-team league. Thus, in the battlefield of conference shuffling and expansion gone wild, Temple is old news, and Massachusetts a breathe of fresh air, in the 2013 Mid American Conference.

Entering its 67th year of gridiron competition, the MAC this season at least feels better composed knowing that four teams from the West Division finished the 2012 season with a winning record. That after only five teams managed to accomplish the same the previous three years.

And while it can be said that only three players from the MAC were selected in this year's NFL draft, you've got bragging rights for at least a year when you lay claim to the No. 1 overall pick (Central Michigan's Eric Fisher) calling the Mid American Conference home.

As we reported last year in this conference review, this is definitely a league that is wide open and one that likes to mix things up. Ten different teams have appeared in the last eight MAC Championship games, while 19 different MAC schools (seven last season) have gone bowling the last ten years.

And speaking of bowls, keep this note handy once the bowl games roll around: after going 3-13 SU and 2-13-1 ATS in bowl games from since the 2008 calendar year, the MAC has rebounded going 6-6 SU and 5-7 ATS as bowlers the last two seasons.

Amazingly, when traveling as favorites on the non-conference road the lightweight MAC is a staunch 16-2 SU and 12-5-1 ATS laying points, including 8-0 SU and 7-0-1 ATS when coming off a conference game.

All of which bodes well for an ever-changing league that's simply looking to balance the books. Because once you go MAC, you never go back.

Note: Numbers following team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. Potential designated 'Play On' and 'Play Against' Best Bets follow each team's preview.

East Division

AKRON (7/7)
Team Theme: CHEMO THERAPY

When the Zips hired Terry Bowden as their new savior last season, they realized he was a program-builder and that in his previous three stops as a collegiate head coach his teams had posted records of 9-1, 11-0 and 11-2 in his first year on the job at Samford, Auburn and Northern Alabama, respectively. Thus, last season's 1-11 debut was as well-received as a preliminary diagnosis of pancreatic cancer. And to make matters worse, a quick glance at this year's schedule (10 winning opponents, first 7 games versus bowl teams, all 6 home games versus the same) is practically a death knell. The loss of QB Dalton Williams (started all 12 games last year, passing for 3,387 yards and 25 TDs) and his top WR, Marquelo Suel, cements it.

Stat You Will Like: Bowden is 1-11 SU and 2-10 ATS as a home dog.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Ball State (10/26)

BOWLING GREEN (*9/9)
Team Theme: HERE WE COME AGAIN

Thanks to yet another underclassmen-led infusion, for the second-straight year the Falcons return 18 starters to a squad picked by many as the team to beat in the MAC this season. This year's crew features 9 senior starters back - five on the offense and four on the defense - including no less than 7 all MAC performers. High profile QB Matt Schilz (35 starts, 7,832 passing yards and 50 TDs) leads the attack, along with all three of last year's starting wide receivers and his tight end. Most impressive, though, are the 9 starters back from a defense that improved 109 YPG in 2012. All this for a team that closed out the regular season last year with wins in seven of its final eight games.

Stat You Will Like: The last time the Falcons won a conference championship was 1992.

PLAY ON: at Kent State (9/7)

BUFFALO (*9/8)
Team Theme: COME ALL WITHOUT, COME ALL WITHIN

Year Four of the mighty Quinn project finds Buffalo taking positive baby steps under HC Jeff Quinn. The hope this season is the return of 17 starters, including a two-headed quarterback (Joe Licata and Alex Zordich) and its leading wide receiver and running back, will carry Buffalo on through to its first winning campaign since Turner Gill roamed the sidelines in 2008. The addition of former Illinois head coach Lou Tepper as defensive coordinator paid immediate dividends last season, especially the 2nd half of the season when the Bulls surrendered just 326 YPG. A tough schedule finds them taking on seven winning teams in 2013. That could prove difficult, as our stat below indicates.

Stat You Will Like: The Bulls are 2-17 SU versus .500 or greater foes under Jeff Quinn.

PLAY ON: vs. Ohio U (11/5)

KENT STATE (6/6)
Team Theme: HAZELL NUTS

Darrell Hazell's two-year stint with Kent went by in a flash (pun intended). After a pair of 5-7 seasons, Hazell was recruited from the Ohio State staff and, after another 5-7 season in his first year as a FBS head coach, he led the Golden gang to its first-ever MAC title game and a winning season for the first time 2001, coming this-close to landing a rarified BCS bowl bid. The result was a six-win improvement, tied with Middle Tennessee and Ohio State as the most improved teams in the nation in 2012. As expected, Hazell was lured to a prime-time job (Purdue), leaving KSU after just its 2nd winning season since 1987. Former Arkansas DC Paul Haynes enters looking to pick up the pieces. Good luck.

Stat You Will Like: The Flashes were the first MAC East team to go 8-0 since Ben Roethlisberger's Miami Ohio team in 2003.

PLAY AGAINST: at Ball State (10/12) - *KEY if off win

MIAMI OHIO (8/6)
Team Theme: TREADING WATER

Consistency seems to be the operative word in Oxford these days where the RedHawks have parsed together a pair of 4-8 efforts under 3rd-year head coach Don Treadwell. The promising news is the offense has improved each season under his tenure. Unfortunately, the defense has not, going backward both seasons - including a whopping 104 YPG decline in 2012. The biggest loss of 2013, though, is the departure of star QB Zac Dysert who broke Ben Roethlisberger's record for passing yards, completions and TDs. In his stead is QB Austin Boucher who led Miami to four straight wins, including the MAC title game and a GoDaddy.com bowl victory in 2010. Sophomore RB Jamire Westbrook, the team's leading rusher as a freshman last year, keeps them afloat.

Stat You Will Like: The RedHawks are 1-10 SU versus .500 or greater opponents under Treadwell.

PLAY AGAINST: at Ohio U (10/26)

OHIO UNIVERSITY (*7/5)
Team Theme: WAR OF ATTRITION

Talk about being on a roll. Frank Solich's squad was sitting pretty - off to a 7-0 start with wins in thirteen of its last fourteen games - when the injury bug laid a deadly bite on the Bobcats. So severe, in fact, it claimed 15 players from the two-deep roster, resulting in a disappointing 2-4 finish to what had 'best-season-ever' written all over it. They healed up enough to lay a whipping on La-Monroe in the Independence Bowl, picking up their spirits in the offseason. As a result, the coaching staff held out 29 players from the spring game either because of injuries or simply to avoid an injury, including record-setting QB Tyler Tettleton (2,844 yards and 18 TDs). If the bug bypasses them at all this year, they become the team to beat in the MAC.

Stat You Will Like: Solich is 5-0 ATS at home off a SU underdog win in his college football head-coaching career.

PASS

UMASS (*4/7)
Team Theme: WAIT A MINUTE

"I don't look at UMass as being Massachusetts' football team," head coach Charley Molnar said at his introductory news conference in December 2011. "I look at UMass as being New England's football team. There's no reason why we can't be the No. 1 team in New England." Excuse us, Charlie… enthusiasm over a new job is one thing - veracity is another. The Minutemen were 1-11 in Molnar's UMass debut last year, while being outyarded 183 YPG against a sea of relative lightweights, so there is obviously room for growth. Rest assured, this 1st-year FBS program, with only one loss by single-digits and a 0-4 mark in non-conference games by a combined 194-26, is a long way from being top gun in the state of Massachusetts - let alone New England.

Stat You Will Like: UMass is 1-22 SU against FBS teams since 1988 with seven of the losses versus MAC teams last season.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Akron (11/16) - *KEY if favored

West Division

BALL STATE (*7/6)
Team Theme: ANYTHING, ANYTIME, ANYWHERE

The slogan above appears atop the 2013 Ball State spring prospectus and it represents the infectious style of play the Cardinals have assumed under head coach Pete Lembo. The nine wins they recorded last season tied for the third-most in single season school history. Most importantly, Lembo loves the progress in senior QB Keith Wenning, who has added durability in the weight room while improving his quickness and core strength considerably the last two years. Wenning is only the second quarterback to throw for more than 7,000 yards in school history, and his team was sixth in the nation in first downs (27.9 per game) in 2012. The Cardinals' four losses last year came at the hands of teams that finished the season 43-9.

Stat You Will Like: Lembo has suffered only one losing season (5-6) in his 12 years as a collegiate head coach.

PLAY ON: at Northern Illinois (11/13)

CENTRAL MICHIGAN (8/7)
Team Theme: CHIPPIN' AWAY

Once again the Chippewas proved that teams that play youngsters two years in a row are on the way up. After 19 players in 2010 and 24 more in 2011 made their starting debuts, CMU's seven wins last year more than doubled head coach Dan Enos' total victories from his first two years combined. While that attack loses QB Ryan Radcliffe and Eric Fisher (the first pick in this year's draft), RB Zurlon Tipton (1,531 yards and 19 TDs) and a strong receiver corps, led by WR Titus Davis, return. "Titus Davis is a very special football player… he will have an opportunity to play on Sundays. He is as good as they come," said wide receivers coach Mose Rison.

Stat You Will Like: The Chippewas are 0-6 ATS as conference dogs of less than 7 points under Dan Enos.

PASS

EASTERN MICHIGAN (*7/5)
Team Theme: IN PLAIN ENGLISH

With just 10 wins in his four seasons in Ypsilanti, Ron English fully realizes his Eagles need to take flight soon in order to save his job. Granted, a two-victory effort last year came against a salty schedule as nine foes went on to bowl games. Nine more winning foes dot this year's roster as well, providing English with a greater sense of urgency. As a result, he will assume defensive coordinator duties in 2013, joining seven other FBS head coaches that will share coordinator roles this season, including two of whom - Rocky Long, San Diego State and Bronco Mendenhall, BYU - that will be barking out defensive plays. New OC Stan Parrish takes over the offense. Here's hoping seven road games, including five winning foes, do signal the end of this English class.

Stat You Will Like: 16 of EMU's 48 games under English have been decided by 7 or less points (Eagles 6-10 in those games).

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Western Michigan (11/9)

NORTHERN ILLINOIS (*8/5)
Team Theme: TOP DOGS AT THE WIRE

Meet the winningest program in Illinois and in the MAC over the last decade. As a result, the Huskies became the first-ever MAC team to secure a bid in a BCS bowl game last season. In fact, 34 wins over the last three seasons is only two shy of Oregon's best of 36. Because of all the success, head coach Dave Doeren was lured away to NC State. Assuming the reins as head Husky is Rod Carey, last year's offensive coordinator. He welcomes back Heisman-candidate QB Jordan Lynch and his entire cast of offensive linemen. And if excitement is your thing, you have to love the fact that NIU won the last two MAC championships on the last play of the game. Whew!

Stat You Will Like: The Huskies own the nation's longest conference win streak (17 games) entering the 2013 season.

PLAY ON: as a dog at Iowa (8/31)

TOLEDO (*9/3)
Team Theme: PREPARING FOR LIFTOFF

When the senior class took the field three years ago, they did so on the heels of three straight losing seasons at Toledo. They enter the 2013 campaign 26-13, including 20-4 in the MAC, with three straight bowl seasons. But they're not finished according to head coach Matt Campbell. "We want to win the MAC West Division, win the MAC Championship Game, and go to a bowl game," insists Campbell. And behind an offense loaded with FIVE all-MAC performers, including the nation's leading rusher David Fluellen (1,498 yards and 12 TDs) and senior QB Terrance Owens (17 career starts with 2,707 yards last season), who split duties the last three years with Austin Dantin, it appears all systems are go this year.

Stat You Will Like: The Rockets' defense features six players with 30 or more tackles last season.

PLAY ON: at Ball State (9/28)

WESTERN MICHIGAN (*5/7)
Team Theme: GOLD FLECKS ON THE SURFACE

New 32-year old Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck is the youngest FBS head coach in the nation and another of the MAC's youth-tree of coaches, joining five others in this loop that are 44 years old or younger. Fleck, a former wide receiver at Northern Illinois and an assistant with the Tampa Bay Bucs last year, was recently named "Best New Hire of 2013" by Sports Illustrated. He has coached under Jim Tressel, Jerry Kill and Greg Schiano and brings in OC Kirk Ciarroca and DC Ed Pinkham (friends and former coordinators at Rutgers) to smooth out the transition. They will rely heavily on QB Tyler Van Tubbergen, who started the last six games of 2012 and threw for 5 TD's twice. In addition, diminutive RB Dareyon Chance returns after rushing for 947 yards last season.

Stat You Will Like: QB Van Tubbergen completed 19 of 21 passes for 252 yards and 6 TDs in his first start against Akron in 2011.

PLAY AGAINST: at UMass (10/27)
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07/20/2013 02:00 AM
2013 Independents Preview

July 7, 2013

With conference expansion maddeningly filling the college football airways these days, you might be surprised to learn the one loop that has grown the most the past three years is none other than the Independents.

When BYU declared its independence and joined Army, Navy and Notre Dame to form the FBS Independent ‘fighting four’ in 2011, the contingent is now up to a ‘skirmishing six’ with the additions of Idaho and New Mexico State this season.

By our math, that’s a 50% increase of members in two years.

And like last year when a member of the ‘fighting four’ had a say in college football’s title picture (the Irish fell to Alabama in the championship game), expect more of the same this year when these six Indy’s take a total of 40 opponents that landed bowl bids last season, with Notre Dame leading the charge against a whopping 11 bowlers.

Keep this thought in mind when handicapping the chances of these six INDEPENDENTS this season: Collectively, under their current head coaches, this contingent shines in games when taking points, going 56-44-1 ATS combined, including 19-8 ATS against foes off a SU and ATS loss, and 9-3 ATS as underdogs against an opponent with a losing record (8 wins straight up).

Then again, on the opposite side of the ladder, this sextet combined to go just 4-14 ATS as home chalk last season.

Regardless of how you approach handicapping this contingent this season, don’t be influenced by stories and promises from other parties. Stand your ground and remain Independent, if you know what I mean…

Note: Numbers following team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. Potential designated ‘Play On’ and ‘Play Against’ Best Bets follow each team’s preview.

ARMY (7/8)
Team Theme: HIGH ON A FEELING

Loaded with 60 returning lettermen from a team that improved its offensive numbers nearly 40 YPG last season, head coach Rich Ellerson is high on his Black Knights. After assessing his team in spring camp, Ellerson gushed, “I’m really pleased with the progress we made. It was very combative… We made some tremendous gains physically.” The top rushing team in the land the last two years, Army returns leading RB Raymond Maples, the 3rd running back in school history to run for 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons last year, and FB Larry Dixon who pounded the ground for 839 yards in 2012. Now if they can just improve on a 2-18 SU mark against fellow service academies since 2003, morale will be sky-high at West Point.

Stat You Will Like: Army has won 6 Commander-In-Chief trophies, the last in 1996.

PLAY ON: vs. Navy (12/14)

BYU (8/6)
Team Theme: BRONCO RESTORATION

Hired on after the Cougars suffered through three consecutive losing seasons back in 2005, Bronco Mendenhall not only put the program back on a winning track but has also elevated it to all-time high levels (see ‘Stat You Will Like’ below). As a result of winning an average 9.25 games per season, Mendenhall fields one of only four teams in the land to win four bowl games the last four years. Not satisfied, he brings in five new offensive coaches this season, including former OC Robert Anae. Should the offensive unit improve like the defense did last season (No. 3 in the nation), the 20 seniors on this squad figure to go out winners again as the restoration process at the ‘Y’ continues.

Stat You Will Like: Bronco Mendenhall owns the highest win percentage (.718) of any football coach in BYU history.

PLAY ON: vs. Utah (9/21)

IDAHO (7/4)
Team Theme: COMING HOME

When Idaho hired Paul Petrino, it appeared to be an odd fit. Why would a high-profile coach who’s been the master architect (offensive coordinator) of major powerhouses at Arkansas, Illinois and Louisville move to Moscow to make his head-coaching debut? It turns out that Petrino was an assistant with Idaho from 1992-94 and loves the area. Born and raised in Butte, Montana, he’s at home in Vandal country. Unfortunately, he inherits the nation’s worst offense, a team that averaged just 15.8 PPG in 2012. That doesn’t dampen his enthusiasm, however. “We want to score a whole bunch of points, be explosive on offense and hit that quarterback on defense. We want to win a whole bunch of games and go to bowls.” However, with little talent on hand, Petrino will likely have to ‘want on’ in his first season.

Stat You Will Like: The Vandals are 3-13 ATS as home favorites, including 1-11 ATS off a loss.

PLAY AGAINST: at New Mexico State (11/30)

NAVY (*6/7)
Team Theme: IN THE NAVY, NOW

Long the laughingstock of the military academies, the Middies have made a u-turn of dramatic proportions since going 3-30 from 2000-02. That’s confirmed by an 83-45 mark the last 10 years – and their 19-2 record in games against other military schools over the same period has turned the laughs into wows. Last year, QB Keenan Reynolds became the first freshman to start behind center for the Middies since 1991. With Reynolds at the controls, the Swabbies’ 5 losses in 2012 came at the hands of foes that were 44-19 on the season. For a team that was ranked No. 2 last year and No. 1 in 2011 in fewest penalties per game, Navy has suddenly become a now-team.

Stat You Will Like: Navy’s 19 wins versus BCS schools since 2003 is the most in the nation by a non-BCS team.

PLAY ON: at Duke (10/12)

NEW MEXICO STATE (7/7)
Team Theme: MY FAVORITE MARTIN

Thank goodness for Georgia State. Were it not for the Panthers making their FBS debut this season, the Aggies would be, hands-down, the dregs of college football. And with the announcement that redshirt junior QB Andrew Manley has been granted a release to transfer, they still might be. While he may not own up to it, Manley started all 12 games last season, throwing for 2,764 yards and 18 TDs. The good news is the entire starting cast of OL returns. The bad news is that the entire starting cast of OL returns. New head coach Doug Martin, a former 7-year head coach at Kent State, was the OC at Boston College last year and OC here with New Mexico State in 2011. Note: those two teams finished 47th and 26th in passing offense under his lead.

Stat You Will Like: The Aggies are 0-9-1 ATS as home favorites of less than 9 points.

PASS

NOTRE DAME (5/8)
Team Theme: 4-LEAF CLOBBER

Brian Kelly was in select company last season when he became the 5th coach in Irish history with a chance to win the national championship in his third-year at the school. Frank Leahy, Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Lou Holtz each accomplished the feat. Kelly did not. The luck of the Irish – half of the Dame’s 12 wins were by single-digit margins – ran out when they were battered from pillar-to-post in a 42-14 annihilation at the hands of Alabama in the BCS title game. A brutal schedule in 2013 finds them taking on 11 teams that went to bowl games last season. Complicating matters is the suspension of starting QB Everett Golson for academic reasons. Senior QB Tommy Rees with 18 career starts under his belt looks to fill Golson's shoes provided, of course, the school assigns him a designated driver.

Stat You Will Like: The last 10 teams to lose a BCS title game have not returned to win it since that loss.

PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite at Michigan (9/7)
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2013 CUSA Preview

July 1, 2013

Life without a scorecard around these parts would be like going to a wet tee-shirt contest with a blindfold. It just doesn’t make sense.

With six new teams joining the affiliation, comprising a pair of 7-team divisions, a scorecard in the Conference USA is a must these days.

According to our scorecard, CUSA loses Houston, Memphis, SMU and UCF to the American Athletic Conference (the former Big East). Meanwhile they import Charlotte, FAU, FIU, Louisiana Tech, North Texas, and Texas-San Antonio in 2013.

If expansion talk like this isn’t dizzying enough, the loop welcomes four new head coaches in 2013, including Ron Turner (FIU), Skip Holtz (Louisiana Tech), Todd Monken (Southern Miss) and Sean Kugler (UTEP), while breaking in six new starting quarterbacks as well.

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Stepping outside the conference, members will take on 18 games against foes from the Big10, the Big12 and the SEC. In head-to-head games against these three super conferences, the CUSA stands 45-206 straight up and 110-134-5 against the spread since the inception the conference, including a super-scary 2-117 SU and 39-83-2 ATS in games in which they fail to score 17 points. Against all other non-conference foes the loop stands 343-324 SU overall.

And despite its BCS non-AQ status, the CUSA has performed well of late with 10 different teams from the conference participating in 45 bowl games over the last eight years. They’ve really held their own in these post-season affairs, going 22-23 SU and 23-21-1 ATS.

Interestingly, in that span against .666 or greater bowl opponents the CUSA is 15-9 SU and 17-7 ATS, while just 7-14 SU and 6-14-1 ATS versus sub .666 foes. (Go figure)

So when it comes to partying take off the blindfold and, like the teams in this loop, just go for it and enjoy.

Note: Numbers following team name represent the amount of returning starters on offense and defense, with an asterisk (*) designating a returning quarterback. Potential designated ‘Play On’ and ‘Play Against’ Best Bets follow each team’s preview.

East Division

EAST CAROLINA (*8/8)
Team Theme: RUFFIN READY
After serving 10 years as an assistant under Mike Leach at Texas Tech, former ECU alum (and 4-year football letterman) Ruffin McNeil knew it was his time when the Pirates brought him aboard as the head coach in 2010. A 19-19 record does not have the fan base clamoring for him to walk the plank, but his breakout season looks to be at hand in 2013. After 51 players made their first-ever collegiate starts with the Pirates in his first two seasons, he featured only three senior starters on offense in 2012. As a result, ECU will field the second-highest number of returning starts of all FBS teams this year: 355, including 215 from last season. With 25 seniors and 24 juniors (50.5% upper classmen) putting on the pads, including record-setting QB Shane Carden, the Pirates are ready to push the envelope.

Stat You Will Like: 75% of the Pirates lettermen return in 2013.

PLAY ON: vs. North Carolina (9/28)

FLORIDA ATLANTIC (7/8)
Team Theme: MOVIN’ ON UP

Like the Jeffersons, FAU finds itself moving on up to Conference USA beginning this football season. It didn’t take new head coach Carl Pelini long to make his mark in Boca Raton, where his Owls dramatically improved their offensive numbers in his first year at the helm in 2012. A 101-yard improvement rewarded backers as well with a nifty 8-3 pointspread mark. With 15 starters back, they’re prepared to move up in class this campaign. The good news is they will face only two opponents that participated in a bowl game last season, and will close out the season against seven losing squads. The feeling here, though, is the combination of sophomore blues and a tougher neighborhood may find the Owls asleep on the ATS perch in 2013.

Stat You Will Like: FAU improved from No. 117 to No. 64 in penalty yards per game under Pelini last season.

PLAY AGAINST: at UAB (10/5)

FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (*3/3)
Team Theme: TURNING A NEW CORNER

Along with their neighborhood cousins Florida Atlantic, FIU moves in a new direction by joining Conference USA in 2013. In addition, they bring along new head coach Ron Turner, a former boss at Illinois and San Jose State. The former Big 10 Coach of the Year (Illinois 2001) will need all of his coaching skills as he finds the cupboard bare with only three starters back on both sides of the ball after the Panthers lost nearly 30 seniors to graduation. The good news is 22 true or redshirt freshmen made their debut last season, while 28 players who sat out because of redshirt, injury or transfer status will be suiting up in 2013. Keeping oft-injured QB Jake Medlock healthy is crucial.

Stat You Will Like: Turner is 6-23 ATS in games off a SUATS loss in his college career.

PLAY ON: vs. Marshall (11/23)

MARSHALL (*8/7)
Team Theme: GREEN COLORED GLASSES

When Doc Holliday arrived in town three years ago he promised to fire-up an offense that appeared to have run out of bullets. They’ve re-loaded since, with the buy-sign coming last year when the Doctor’s offense improved a whopping 201 YPG. Puzzling, though, was the fact that after going 7-1 in one-possession games (games decided by a touchdown or less) his first two seasons with a popgun attack, his troops plummeted to 2-4 in the same games last year. The blame can be placed on a defense that has been in decline since Holliday’s arrival. With plenty of offensive power on hand in the likes of QB Rakeem Cato (CUSA MVP) and WR Tommy Shuler (110 receptions in 2012), things will improve when and if the defense does.

Stat You Will Like: In addition to Cato and Shuler, the Thundering Herd offense returns its top three running backs, TE Gator Hoskins (10 TDs) and a whopping eight linemen with starting experience.

PLAY ON: vs. East Carolina (11/30)

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (*9/8)
Team Theme: NO STANDING STILL

The hire of Rick Stockstill at MTSU in 2006 has paid off in spades. He has demonstrated the ability to develop and coach big-time players throughout his career, having worked 24 years as an assistant with legendary coaches Lou Holtz, Steve Spurrier, Danny Ford, Tommy Bowden, Ken Hatfield and Tommy West. Coaching is in his blood and it was apparent last year when he led the Blue Raiders to the nation’s biggest win improvement of +6 games, including a school record 5 FBS road wins. Headed to the Conference USA, seventeen starters are back for more, led by senior QB Logan Kilgore who has enjoyed back-to-back 2,000-yard seasons. Going up against only two bowl teams in 2013, anything less than a bowl would be substandard.

Stat You Will Like: In his tenure at MTSU, Rick Stockstill’s teams have gone from an APR score of 892 to 983, the biggest increase of any program in the country.

PLAY ON: vs. North Carolina (9/7)

SOUTHERN MISS (4/9)
Team Theme: HERO TO ZERO

On paper it looked like the right move. Ellis Johnson, a four-year defensive coordinator at South Carolina under Steve Spurrier, was in for the departed Larry Fedora. His job was to extend the Eagles' 18-year win skein, if not somehow improve on 2011's school-best 12-win effort. It turns out Johnson became the poster-boy for the Peter Principle when he led his team to ZERO wins. Like a candle in the wind, his flame burned out long before his legend ever did. Enter Todd Monken, former offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State. He is the third Golden Eagles head coach of the last four hired whose previous job was OC with the Cowboys. The good news for Monken: Zero-win lined teams have gone 248-439-4 the next season since 1991.

Stat You Will Like: David Duggan, Southern Miss defensive coordinator in 2011, returns as DC this season.

PLAY ON: vs. Texas State (8/31)

UAB (*8/8)
Team Theme: OINTMENT APPLIED

Former Arkansas offensive coordinator Garrick McGee was fully aware of what it was he was getting into when he assumed the reins at UAB last season. He inherited a team on a 7-year losing skid and a defense that was torched for more than 500 yards on seven occasions. The seven-year itch wouldn’t go away but a solid improvement on both sides of the ball provides the salve needed to soften the wounds. Led by returning QB Austin Brown’s school record 309 passing YPG, and joined by last year’s leading WR Jackie Williams and top RB Darrin Reaves, the Blazers take the field in 2013 with the look of a team ready to turn the corner.

Stat You Will Like: Four returning wide receivers caught 40 or more passes last season.

PLAY ON: vs. Troy (8/31)

West Division

LOUISIANA TECH (3/4)
Team Theme: BOW-WOW

You know the tale of Mother Hubbard going to the cupboard to get her poor dog a bone, only to find the cupboard bare. That same verse is running through new coach Skip Holtz’s head as he assumes the reins in Ruston with a total of 7 starters back from last years record-setting squad that tallied 51 PPG and 578 YPG en route to a 9-2 season. Unfortunately, the program turned down an Independence Bowl invite hoping for a more high-profile game, only to have their porous defense (allowed 526 YPG) fail to impress the bowl scouts elsewhere – thus, the Bulldogs remained home for the holidays. Skippy will need to rely on his playbook more than ever this season with QB Colby Cameron (4,147 pass yards) listed among the departed. Sophomore RB Kenneth Dixon (1,194 rushing yards) will be heavily counted upon to carry the load.

Stat You Will Like: Skip Holtz is 15-3 ATS as a dog versus a .500 or less opponent.

Pass

NORTH TEXAS (*8/8)
Team Theme: SMOOTH OPERATOR

Dan McCarney’s operation of weaning JUCO’s and concentrating instead on recruits showed promising signs - on the stat sheet at least - last season when the Mean Green improved its numbers on both sides of the ball despite slipping both SU & ATS. Longtime followers of this publication know what that equation means – expected improvement this season. For the first time in 60 years NTSU had three players rush for more than 500 yards in a single season and two of them are back in 2013. They join senior QB Derek Thompson to form a potent backfield. Coupled with a defense that allowed the fewest points in a season since 2006, the transition to the CUSA could be smoother than anticipated.

Stat You Will Like: North Texas’ offensive line allowed the fewest sacks in the nation last season (6).

PLAY ON: vs. Middle Tennessee State (10/12)

RICE (*9/10)
Team Theme: MANY HAPPY RETURNS

A 5-game season-ending win skein is not all that propels the Owls into the 2013 season. For the first time in head coach David Bailiff’s seven-year tenure, the entire coaching staff returns intact. In addition, 19 returning starters dot the roster led by QB Taylor McHargue. The clincher, though, is the fact that 14 freshmen debuted last season and they combine with an FBS-best 233 returning starts from last year’s team to bring experience aplenty. That makes the wide-eyed Owls a major player in the CUSA this campaign. Think not? Then chew on this: last year’s 3-3 SU and 4-2 ATS away mark put a halt to a 1-17 SU and 5-13 ATS road mark since 2009.

Stat You Will Like: The Owls led the nation in time of possession (33:59) last season.

PLAY ON: as a dog vs. Louisiana Tech (11/16) - *Key off win

TULANE (8/8)
Team Theme: I SAY A LITTLE PRAYER FOR C.J.

When C. J. Johnson brought his 25 years of coaching experience, along with some flashy hardware – namely: a Super Bowl trophy during his stint with the New Orleans Saints and a national championship ring as an assistant at Miami Florida – the hope was his glossy resume would be a good start toward recovery for a program that has wallowed 10 straight years on the south side of .500. Year Two of the rebuilding project finds hope with 16 starters back, including all-CUSA WR Ryan Grant (led the conference in receiving yards last year). The wish is that JUCO transfer QB Nick Montana will assume the reins and walk on by to the north side of the barrier. The wishin’ and hopin’ continues in the Big Easy.

Stat You Will Like: PK Cairo Santos was the winner of the 2012 Lou Groza award. Santos nailed 21 of 21 field goals last season.

PLAY AGAINST: as a favorite vs. North Texas (10/5)

TULSA (*7/3)
Team Theme: STARSHIP ENTERPRISE

Replacing 4-year starter G.J. Kinne proved to be no problem for Bill Blankenship’s Golden Hurricane last season when they tied a school record with 11 wins thanks to a same-season revenge win over Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl. QB Cody Green, along with his top three wide receivers and two running backs, are back for more, giddy as all get-out after winning Tulsa’s first conference title since 2005. In fact, no other senior class has managed to top the 29 wins recorded by this group in school history. After venturing where few other Tulsa teams have gone before, Blankenship’s star-studded no-huddle spread offense will hope a gutted defense, sans the entire D-line, doesn’t let their efforts go to waste.

Stat You Will Like: Blankenship is 15-2 SU and 12-5 ATS in conference games with the Hurricane, including 4-0 SUATS off a loss.

PLAY AGAINST: vs. Marshall (11/14)

UTEP (7/4)
Team Theme: GLORY DAYS

If kudos and coaching pedigree are a part of the equation when it comes to evaluating a new coach then the Miners struck gold this off-season when they inked Sean Kugler to replace Mike Price. “There’s absolutely no question that he’s the best football coach I’ve ever been around,” beamed Boise State head coach Chris Peterson. Kugler is a former UTEP offensive lineman who spent one year with the Broncos in between eleven years as an assistant with the Bills, Lions and Steelers in the NFL. To top it off he hired Scott Stoker as his defensive coordinator. Stoker, the 2011 FCS DC Coach Of The Year guided Sam Houston State to consecutive FCS National Title games. Ex-Texas A&M QB Jameill Showers, who played behind Ryan Tannehill in 2011 and Johnny Manziel in 2012, will usher in the Kugler era.

Stat You Will Like: New OC Patrick Higgins, former UTEP offensive coordinator (2000-03), served as interim OC and interim head coach at Purdue last season.

PASS

UTSA (10/8)
Team Theme: REBORN IN THE USA

After spending its first-year as an FBS member in the WAC, the Roadrunners are off to the Conference USA. This upstart program will become a full-fledged FBS program and bowl eligible in 2014. That’s good news for a program built from the ground up by former national championship head coach Larry Coker, who is 72-25 with a .742 career win percentage, as he has appeared in 18 bowl games in his collegiate career with his teams winning 14 of those contests. But first things first as the jump to a tougher neighborhood will likely dampen last year’s successful debut. 18 returning starters in 2013 – and 21 last year – make this a seasoned lot. Remember, though, only half of their 8 wins last season were against FBS squads, and those teams finished up 8-41.

Stat You Will Like: NBC Sports personality Michelle Beadle is a Texas-San Antonio alum.

PASS
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07/20/2013 02:07 AM
2013 Outlook - Big 12

July 17, 2013

Skinny: 5Dimes has Oklahoma State as the +270 favorite to win the Big 12. The Cowboys had to stave off several SEC schools bidding to hire their ninth-year head coach Mike Gundy back in January. Gundy’s relationship with his AD obviously needs some work, but their issues weren’t enough to prompt Gundy to leave Stillwater.

Oklahoma St. finished 2012 with an 8-5 record both straight up and against the spread. Gundy’s squad had a disappointing regular season but finished strong by spanking Purdue 58-14 as a 17-point ‘chalk’ at the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

OSU returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. The offense averaged 45.7 points per game last year. Senior quarterback Clint Chelf completed 60.4 percent of his passes for 1,588 yards with a 15/6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Chelf better stay sharp and healthy because his back-up, sophomore JW Walsh, connected on 66.9 percent of his throws with a 13/3 TD-INT ratio as a freshman.

The offense loses its lead RB Joseph Randle, who rushed for 1,417 yards and 14 TDs in 2012. However, senior RB Jeremy Smith and junior Desmond Roland have plenty of experience. Smith and Roland combined to rush for 12 TDs last year and posted 5.3 and 6.5 yards-per-carry averages, respectively.

All three of OSU’s starting wide receivers return, including junior Josh Stewart, who had 101 receptions for 1,210 yards and seven TDs last season.

OSU’s ‘D’ gave up 28.2 PPG in 2012. This unit was abysmal in all five of the Cowboys’ defeats, surrendering 59 points at Arizona, 41 vs. Texas, 44 at Kansas St., 51 at Oklahoma and 41 at Baylor.

Oklahoma St. has a season win total of 9.5 (‘under’ 125, ‘over’ -105). The Cowboys have 45/1 odds to win the BCS Championship.

Texas has the second-shortest odds to win the Big 12 (+285, risk $100 to win $285). The Longhorns’ season win total is 9.5 (‘over’ 160, ‘under’ +130) and their future number to win it all is 34/1 at 5Dimes.

Mack Brown’s program is just 22-16 over the last three seasons. The ‘Horns finished the 2012 campaign with a 9-4 SU record and a 6-7 ATS mark. Since 2009, Texas has limped to a 21-30-1 spread record.

Texas returns 10 starters on offense and nine on defense. The Longhorns finished last season by capturing a 31-27 win over Oregon St. at the Alamo Bowl.

As a sophomore, David Ash established himself as the QB of the present and future. Ash connected on 67.3 percent of his passes for 2,699 yards with a 19/8 TD-INT ratio. He has all of his to skill position players coming back and will operate behind what is probably the Big 12’s top offensive line.

Manny Diaz’s defense gave up 29.2 PPG last season and this unit lost its two best players in Kenny Vaccaro (team-high 107 tackles) and Alex Okafor (12.5 sacks, 20 QB hurries). This group will benefit from the return of LB Jordan Hicks, who missed most of last season with an injury.

TCU (+345) has the Big 12’s third-shortest odds to win the league. The Horned Frogs have a season win total of 8.5 (‘under’ -155, ‘over’ +115). They return seven starters on offense and nine on defense.

Gary Patterson’s team made its Big 12 debut last season and finished 7-6 SU and 4-8-1 ATS. TCU won its first four games, going 2-2 versus the number, before QB Casey Pachall was suspended and sent to rehab. Without their star QB, the Horned Frogs lost six of their next nine games, including a 17-16 loss to Michigan St. at the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.

In four games, Pachall had completed 66.0 percent of his passes for 948 yards with a 10/1 TD-INT ratio. Trevone Boykin started the last nine games at QB as a true freshman. He threw for 2,054 yards with a 15/10 TD-INT ratio. Boykin also rushed for 417 yards and three TDs.

TCU should have a stout defense with 10 of its top 11 tacklers returning. This unit gave up only 22.6 PPG in 2012.

Oklahoma has the next-shortest odds to win the conference (+375). The Sooners, who have a season win total of nine (‘under’ -120, ‘over’ -110), went 10-3 SU and 6-7 ATS last year. They bring back seven starters on offense but only four on defense.

Bob Stoops’s squad must replace four-year starting QB Landry Jones, who is the school’s all-time leading passer with 16,646 yards. Fourth-year junior Blake Bell is the new signal caller. He specialized in short-yardage and goal-line situations last year, rushing for 11 TDs.

Bell will have one of the Big 12’s best RBs to lean on in Damien Williams, who rushed for 946 yards and 11 TDs as a junior. Williams averaged 5.4 YPC. RB Brennan Clay (555 yds., 6 TDs & 6.0 YPC average LY) will also get plenty of touches.

Although WRs Kenny Stills and Justin Brown are gone, plenty of talent remains at the position. Jalen Saunders is poised for a breakout campaign after hauling in 62 receptions for 829 yards and three TDs last year.

OU’s defense gave up 25.5 PPG in 2012. Those numbers are very un-Stoops like and four of the top five tacklers are gone. This unit will have to improve if the Sooners hope to bag another Big 12 title.

If Baylor can win at Kansas St. in Week 7, it has an excellent chance to start 7-0 going into a Thursday night home game vs. Oklahoma with an open date beforehand. Going into his sixth season at the school, Art Briles has this program thriving at an elite level for the first time in decades.

Baylor has won 18 games over the last two seasons, hooking up its backers at a 17-8 ATS clip. The Bears have won back-to-back games, including a 49-26 shellacking of UCLA at last year’s Holiday Bowl.

Briles proved his offense can put up points galore without Robert Griffin III in 2012. In fact, the offense under RG3 in 2011 produced 45.3 points per game compared to 44.5 PPG under Nick Florence last season.

This year with Bryce Petty under center, there isn’t expected to be much drop-off. The fourth-year junior doesn’t have much experience, but he looked dynamite in the spring game and has an arsenal of weapons around him.

Lache Seastrunk might be the Big 12’s best RB after rushing for 1,012 yards and seven TDs with a 7.7 YPC average last season. Glasco Martin is another playmaker in the backfield, rushing for 889 yards and 15 TDs in 2012. WR Tevin Reese is looking to build on last season’s 53 receptions for 957 yards and nine TDs, and Baylor is hoping to get instant results from true freshman WR Robbie Rhodes.

The defense gave up 37.2 PPG last year, but this unit returns seven starters and its top four tacklers. The Bears need more defensive efforts like they got in holding UCLA to only 26 points in San Diego.

Baylor has a season win total of eight (‘under’ -150, ‘over’ +120). The Bears have 250/1 odds to win the BCS Championship at 5Dimes, and their odds to win the Big 12 are 15/1.

Kansas St. won 21 games compared to only five losses in the two-year Collin Klein Era. The Wildcats, who went 11-1 in 2012 before losing to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl by a 35-17 count, bring back eight starters on offense but just two on defense.

Junior QB Jake Walters, who garnered National Junior College Offensive Player of the Year honors last season, will be the man to replace Klein, who became the first QB from a BCS conference to rush for at least 20 TDs and throw for 10 more in two different seasons.

K-St. has a season win total of eight (‘over’ -130, ‘under’ +100). The Wildcats have 16/1 odds to win the Big 12 and 300/1 odds to win the BCS Championship.

Texas Tech ushers in a new era with the hiring of former QB Kliff Kingsbury, who is the school’s second all-time leading passer. Kingsbury did a remarkable job as offensive coordinator at Texas A&M under Kevin Sumlin, resulting in him becoming the youngest head coach of a BCS school.

Many in the Texas Tech fan base never got over the loss of Mike Leach. Tommy Tuberville was an SEC guy and was never the long-term answer. Now Kingsbury unites the fan base and provides a link to the pass-happy, wins-galore tenure Leach brought to Lubbock.

Michael Brewer, a true sophomore, is the new QB who is expected to be a three-year starter. In limited action last year, Brewer completed 34-of-48 throws for 375 yards and four TDs without an interception. Brewer has one of the Big 12’s top WRs in Eric Ward, who had 82 catches for 1,053 yards and 12 TDs in 2012.

Texas Tech has eight starters returning on defense and five on offense. The Red Raiders have 25/1 odds and 750/1 odds to win the Big 12 and BCS Championship, respectively. They have a season win total of 7.5 (‘under’ -230, ‘over’ +170).

The Red Raiders finished 8-5 SU and 6-7 ATS last season. They beat Minnesota by a 34-31 count at the Car Care Bowl.

West Virginia raced out to a 5-0 record and No. 5 national ranking last year. But then the Mountaineers lost six of their last eight games, including an embarrassing 38-14 loss to Syracuse at the Pinstripe Bowl.

Geno Smith, the school’s all-time leading passer, along with WRs Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, the school’s top two all-time leading receivers, are gone. WVU returns just three starters on offense and five on defense. With that said, the offseason dealt Dana Holgorsen a pair of presents when immediately-eligible transfers landed in Morgantown.

From FSU, junior QB Clint Trickett arrives. Also, RB Charles Sims (11 TDs, 6.0 YPC) joins the program from Houston to split the carries with Andrew Buie.

WVU has a season win total of six (‘over’ -130, ‘under’ +100). The Mountaineers have longshot odds to win the Big 12 (25/1) and BCS (750/1).

Iowa St. went 6-7 SU and 5-7-1 ATS in 2012, dropping a 31-17 decision to Tulsa at the Liberty Bowl. The Cyclones return five starters on offense and four on defense.

Kansas won just one game in Charlie Weis’s first season in Lawrence. The Jayhawks, who have only nine starters returning (5 offense, 4 defense), are optimistic about the arrival of BYU transfer QB Jake Heaps, who was one of the nation’s best coming out of high school in 2011.

Fearless Predictions
(No Championship Game)

2013 Win-Loss Projections

School Record Win Total (5Dimes) Bowl Projection

Oklahoma State 10-2 10 ½ Fiesta vs. At-Large

Baylor 9-3 7 ½ Cotton vs. SEC #3 or #4

Texas 9-3 9 ½ Alamo vs. Pac-12 #2

Oklahoma 8-4 9 ½ Buffalo Wild Wings vs. Big 10 #4

Texas Tech 8-4 7 ½ Holiday vs. Pac-12 #3

Kansas State 7-5 8 ½ Texas vs. Big 10 #6

TCU 7-5 9 ½ Pinstripe vs. AAC #4

West Virginia 5-7 5 ½ -

Iowa State 3-9 5 ½ -

Kansas 3-9 3 ½ -


Games to Watch:

1-Oklahoma State at Texas: (Nov. 16) - 5Dimes has Texas installed as a 6.5-point home favorite. I have the Cowboys going into this game unbeaten and losing, yet still winning the Big 12 because the Longhorns will have three Big 12 losses to Oklahoma, at TCU and at Baylor. Therefore, the head-to-head advantage Texas will have over OSU won’t come into play.

2-Oklahoma at Notre Dame: (Sep. 28) – When the Irish went into Norman and pulled away for a 30-13 win over OU last season, it was quite the hit for the Sooners and the Big 12. Bob Stoops and Co. would love nothing more than to return the favor in South Bend. 5Dimes has Notre Dame favored by 2.5 points.

3-Oklahoma vs. Texas (Dallas): (Oct. 12) – This game would normally occupy the No. 1 slot, but these schools don’t enjoy a talent separation compared to their Big 12 competition like in many previous years. Nevertheless, the winner will be in excellent shape heading into the meat of the Big 12 slate.

4-Texas at BYU (Sep. 7) – This is a very dangerous spot for Texas. The Cougars went 8-5 last season, but four of their defeats came by 13 combined points, including an overtime loss at Notre Dame and a one-point loss at Boise St. due to a missed extra point. Altitude could be a factor. 5Dimes has the Longhorns favored by 6.5.

5-Baylor at Oklahoma St. (Nov. 23) – If Bryce Petty is the player I think he’s going to be, then the Bears are going to be in contention for the league title going into Stillwater. If Baylor can steal this game, it might win the conference. The Cowboys will be coming off a 60-minute battle at Texas the previous week. They will also be seeking revenge for a 41-34 loss in Waco in last year’s regular-season finale. 5Dimes has OSU installed as an 11-point ‘chalk.’

Best Week 1 Bet: Play ULM +24 at Oklahoma
ULM returns 17 starters, including QB Colton Browning (29/10 TD-INT, 7 rush TDs), from a team that went 8-5 last season. The Warhawks won at Arkansas, lost in overtime at Auburn and lost a 47-42 decision vs. Baylor. OU quarterback Blake Bell will be making his first career start. I think ULM can score on a Sooners’ defense that brings back only four starters and gave up 25.5 PPG. I like the double-digit underdog.

Players to Watch:

1-David Ash (Texas QB) – I don’t rank Ash at the top because I believe he’s the conference’s best player. I have Ash No. 1 because I think he’s the most important player. If he can duplicate his play of last season (67.3 completion %, 19-8 TD-INT) or improve it, then Texas will almost certainly win the league. However, I still have my doubts about Ash. All the pieces (experienced RBs, quality o-line & improved defense) are in place for the Longhorns to get back to their first BCS game since 2009, but I don’t think it will happen.

2-Josh Stewart (Oklahoma St. WR) – Mike Gundy does an outstanding job of getting the ball into the hands of his best playmakers. Stewart finished 2012 with 1,330 yards and eight TDs on 109 ‘touches.’

3-Bryce Petty (Baylor QB) – We’ve seen the production in this offense from RG3 and Nick Florence over the last several seasons. Can Petty duplicate it? There are plenty of reasons to think he can. He looked incredible in the spring and isn’t lacking for weapons.

4-Casey Pachall (TCU QB) – The Horned Frogs were undefeated before his suspension last season. Pachall has proven what he can do on the field (36/8 career TD-INT ratio). If he’s right off the field, he will have an outstanding senior campaign.

5-Damien Williams (Oklahoma RB) – With the passing attack due for a significant drop in production, OU’s ground attack will be expected to carry the offense. The Sooners need Williams to have a monster season.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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