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Thursday's college football action: What bettors need to know
Virginia Cavaliers at Miami Hurricanes (-13.5, 48.5)
THE STORY: Virginia and Miami share a common victory over previously undefeated Georgia Tech. Both schools, though, have completely different goals for the second half of the season. The Cavaliers followed up that first win over a top-15 program since 2005 with an offensive hangover in a 28-14 loss to North Carolina State. They play three of their final five games on the road and might need every one to end a three-year postseason drought. The Hurricanes, meanwhile, strung together their first consecutive wins of the season over North Carolina and Georgia Tech. Now that lengthy suspensions are over for players such as defensive end Olivier Vernon, Miami has a realistic shot at finishing third in the ACC.
LINE MOVES: Miami opened as high as -15 at some books but currently sits around -13.5.
WEATHER: Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers. Winds expected between 6-12 mph with a temperature of 78 degrees.
ABOUT VIRGINIA (4-3, 1-2 ACC): The Cavaliers’ two-quarterback system continues to puzzle fans and prevent an offensive rhythm. Michael Rocco and David Watford combined for just 11 completions against North Carolina State and failed to put together a drive of more than eight plays. In total, Virginia gained a season-low 249 yards against the ACC’s fourth-worst defense. The Cavs have just two second-half touchdown passes in conference play, choosing instead to rely on an improving defense and a power running game. The quarterbacks, though, may need to make more than a few crucial throws against Miami, which just limited Georgia Tech’s ground attack to half of its season average.
ABOUT MIAMI (4-3, 2-2 ACC): For as dumb as some Hurricanes acted off the field before the season, Al Golden’s crew is playing quite cerebral lately. Jacory Harris has thrown just one pick in his last 18 quarters and the team committed just one penalty in last week’s victory. Miami, though, still needs to play a full four quarters of offense. Harris completed just eight passes against the Yellow Jackets and hasn’t led the offense to a second-half touchdown the past two weeks.
1. Touchdowns could be a premium with Virginia and Miami ranked first and third in the ACC, respectively, in red zone defense.
2. The Cavaliers have committed seven turnovers in two road games.
3. Virginia had a span of six straight three-and-outs against North Carolina State. Miami, though, is second-to-last in the ACC in third-down defense, allowing teams to convert 45.9 percent.
- Virginia is 3-9 against the spread in its last 12 conference games.
- Miami is 2-6 against the spread in its last eight home games.
- The under is 5-0 in Virginia's last five overall.
Rice Owls at Houston Cougars (-27.5, 71)
THE STORY: No. 18 Houston enters this battle for the Bayou Bucket a perfect 7-0 and looking to equal the best start in program history. The Cougars’ spread passing attack is clicking once again, as they’ve scored at least 35 points in every game and 49 or more in the last four contests. The road team only has to travel 6.1 miles in this inner-city rivalry, but Rice’s last trip to Robertson Stadium in 2009 didn’t go so well. The Owls were pummeled 73-14, giving up the third-most points in school history and most since a 77-0 loss to LSU in 1977.
Houston leads the all-time series 26-11, dating back to 1971, including a 5-1 mark at Robertson Stadium.
LINE MOVES: Both the spread and the total are up a half point from their opening numbers, now sitting at Houston -27.5 with a 71-point total.
WEATHER: Cloudy with a 40 percent chance of showers and 12-17 mph winds. The game-time temperature should be around 60 degrees.
ABOUT RICE (2-5, 1-3 Conference USA): The Owls are in search of their first winning season since 2008, but they haven’t gotten off to a great start in conference play. In last weekend’s 38-20 home loss to Tulsa, Rice committed four turnovers and was outgained by 120 yards. The Owls, who had to face one of the nation’s toughest non-conference schedules, rank 115th nationally in total defense, giving up 472 yards per game, and their 96th-ranked pass defense isn’t a good matchup for Houston’s fast-paced attack.
ABOUT HOUSTON (7-0, 3-0 Conference USA): In the Cougars’ 63-28 pounding of Marshall last weekend, quarterback Case Keenum won his 19th straight home game. He’s tossed 66 touchdowns to only nine interceptions during that stretch. He spread the ball around beautifully against the Thundering Herd, throwing touchdowns to five different players. Houston enters this game with the nation’s top-ranked offense, averaging an astounding 606 yards. Keenum — recently named a Davey O’Brien Award semifinalist, given annually to college football’s best quarterback — is the national leader in total offense at 389 yards per game.
1. The home team has won the last four in this series, including Rice’s 34-31 upset victory last season.
2. Houston has more wins against Rice (26) than any other school in its 66-year history.
3. This is one of two FBS rivalries featuring teams located in the same city (USC-UCLA is the other), and this game will be played in the Texans’ Reliant Stadium in 2012 and 2013.
- Rice is 1-7 against the spread in its last eight road games.
- The over is 9-3 in Houston's last 12 home games.
- Houston is 4-0 against the spread in its last four home games.