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The wiseguys have their way with the early spreads, causing some midweek line moves in both the pro and college football ranks. We talked to Todd Fuhrman, a race and sportsbook analyst for Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, about the biggest midweek movers and shakers:
Florida State at Clemson – Open: Clemson +3, Move: Clemson -2
The early money was all on Clemson, taking the Tigers from home dogs to favorites as of Wednesday. Fuhrman says the sharps jumped on Clemson quick and the public followed, with the Tigers’ win over Auburn, and FSU’s loss to Oklahoma fresh in their minds.
“This line was wrong when it was posted and the market quickly corrected it,” he says. “Florida State had their national title hopes trashed while Clemson is on the upswing after that win over Auburn.”
Fuhrman also believes the unknown status of FSU QB E.J. Manuel has a lot to do with the action fading the Seminoles. It's rumored that Manuel separated his shoulder last week against Oklahoma.
San Diego State at Michigan – Open: Michigan -8, Move: Michigan -10.5
Brady Hoke knows an awful lot about SDSU, his former program, which is something bettors are counting on when the Aztecs come to the Big House Saturday. Fuhrman says 70 percent of the action is on the Wolverines but expects some buyback if the spread continues to climb.
Florida at Kentucky – Open: Kentucky +11, Move: Kentucky +19.5
Sharp money quickly jumped on the Gators when the lines came out at the Wynn Sunday, so most shops released a bigger spread on this SEC matchup. Fuhrman believes UK is completely outclassed and won’t be able to keep pace with the Gators.
“(Kentucky) just doesn’t have the playmakers,” he says. “Florida will be able to shutdown Kentucky and pretty much name the score.”
North Carolina State Wolfpack at Cincinnati Bearcats (-7.5, 60.5)
THE STORY: Depleted North Carolina State visits a Cincinnati team eager to avenge last year’s 30-19 loss in Raleigh, N.C., which sent the Bearcats plunging to 4-8 after consecutive Big East titles. Led by senior quarterback Zach Collaros, Cincinnati is averaging 51.3 points (4th nationally) and 433 total yards.
The Wolfpack will be without linebacker Terrell Manning, defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy and possibly defensive end Jeff Rieskamp. Earlier, corner Jarvis Byrd was lost for the season. Coach Tom O’Brien said his staff is like “the Dutch boy, putting fingers in the dike.”
LINE MOVES: This spread has bounced between 7.5 and 8 while the total opened at as low as 59.5 and has been since been bet up.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA STATE (2-1, 0-1 ACC): Redshirt junior Mike Glennon has done well taking over for Russell Wilson. In his last three halves, he’s completed nearly 70 percent of his throws and tossed seven TDs. Sophomore CB David Amerson leads the ACC with three interceptions and is tied for second nationally. But the defense has struggled in the red zone, allowing opponents to score on all eight trips (four TDs, four FGs).
ABOUT CINCINNATI (2-1, 0-0 Big East): RB Isaiah Pead has run for 257 yards and four TDs on just 27 carries. Collaros needs 141 yards to become the fifth Bearcat to pass for 5,000 career yards. His favorite target is D.J. Woods, who has 15 grabs for 232 yards and a score. The defense forced six turnovers in last week’s rout of Akron, returning two interceptions and a fumble for touchdowns.
WEATHER: There is a 28 percent chance of rain at Nippert Stadium for kickoff Thursday. The forecast is calling for more of the wet stuff as the game continues. Rain could have an impact in the fourth quarter, which sould catch the attention of second-half bettors.
1. Wolfpack senior WR/returner T.J. Graham averages 194 all-purpose yards, which ranks second in the ACC and sixth nationally.
2. Bearcats freshman K Tony Miliano has had two FG tries blocked this year, including a 43-yarder last week against Akron. He also nailed a 47-yarder.
3. The game will be O’Brien’s first in his hometown since 1973, when he played at Xavier.
- Wolfpack are 4-1 ATS in their last five non-conference games.
- Bearcats are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.
- Under is 4-0 in Wolfpack's last four non-conference games.
- Under is 9-1 in Bearcats' last 10 Thursday games.
Granted, the Buckeyes are 14-2 against the spread in their last 16 home games and 10-2 ATS over their past 12 non-conference games. Conversely, Colorado has been one of the most woeful road teams for bettors in recent memory, cashing just eight times in its last 29 tries.
This doesn’t necessarily mean the Buckeyes are a good bet here. Ohio State barely survived against Toledo at home two weeks ago and was embarrassed by Miami last week. It has something of a quarterback quandary on its hands, and Joe Bauserman and Braxton Miller combined to complete just 4-of-18 passes for 35 yards.
Perhaps more concerning was the playcalling. When coach Luke Fickell finally got something going in the running game, he … promptly went away from it and let his offense bang its head against the wall known as Miami’s defense the rest of the game.
Even though Colorado should provide less resistance, the Buffs have looked better under first-year coach Jon Embree. They took Cal to overtime at home two weeks ago and dispatched rival Colorado State 28-14 for the cash last week.
Although Mikkelson concedes public perception plays a role in the spread, he isn’t ready to buy Colorado.
“I don’t think Colorado is all that good. I’m not a big fan,” he told Covers.com. “My feeling is that even at -14.5, we’ll be bet heavily on Ohio State. Colorado hasn’t been bet publicly for a while.”
Arkansas at Alabama (-11.5)
The powerful Crimson Tide opened as high as -13.5, but the spread was quickly brought down by bettors who spotted value in Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 10-1 ATS in their past 11 SEC games and, while a majority of those came in blowouts with Ryan Mallett at the helm, Arkansas also has shown a habit of sticking tight with tough opponents.
The Arkansas defense has been vulnerable, as it showed last week in giving up 28 points to Troy. Quarterback Tyler Wilson won’t make anyone forget Mallet, but he has passed for 822 yards and completed 69 percent of his throws.
Alabama has relied on running back Trent Richardson for the bulk of its offense while breaking in sophomore quarterback A.J. McCarron. The Tide defense has yielded just 18 points through three games, and Alabama is 5-2 ATS in its past seven as a favorite of 10 or more.
“The sharper play is to take the double digits,” Mikkelson said. “I think this one hangs around the number. I’d bet Alabama up to double digits, but for me to even think about Arkansas I need more than two touchdowns.”
It looks like we’re in for some fireworks in this one with the Bearcats averaging 433 yards and better than 50 points per game, while the Wolfpack check in at 35 points and 378 yards per contest.
But we don’t know much about Cincinnati just yet outside of what they showed in the loss to Tennessee. Isaiah Pead has already churned out 257 yards on the ground and four touchdowns for Cincinnati with a gaudy 9.5 yards per attempt average. However, there are still questions about the passing game that ranks 84th in the nation at 194 yards per game with Zach Collaros taking the snaps. He’s completing 62.3 percent of his passes, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt.
N.C. State looks to be ready to bust out on offense if the running game comes around. Mike Glennon has led the passing attack to the No. 39 spot in the country at 256 yards per game with eight touchdowns and just one interception. However, the Wolfpack averaged just 2.9 yards per carry in their latest win over Southern Alabama and is operating at just a 3.7 per carry clip on the year.
N.C. State is dealing with some major injuries on defense (linebacker Terrell Manning, defensive tackle J.R. Sweezy and possibly defensive end Jeff Rieskamp) and is allowing about 377 yards per game as it is. That said, the Wolfpack have held teams to 105 rushing yards per game and have already picked up 11 turnovers – seven on interceptions. Opponents have scored on all eight trips inside the red zone against the Wolfpack.
Turnovers will be key for the Bearcats as well. They have 13 takeaways already this season, even though they head into this contest allowing 385.7 yards per game. Cincinnati is giving up 127.3 yards per game on the ground (56th in the country) on 3.67 yards per attempt. The Bearcats did give up 17 points to the punchless Akron Zips, but they also scored three defensive touchdowns and forced five turnovers.
Both teams have question marks on defense, but we’ll look for a few big plays from the hometown Bearcats.
Cincinnati has had two kicks blocked already and is converting just 60 percent of its tries so far while N.C. State has hit all three of its attempts this season. T.J. Graham is also a major weapon for N.C. State in the return game and averages about 194 all-purpose yards per game.
The Bearcats have the edge in punting at 41.5 yards per boot over N.C. State’s 37.6, but look for Graham to break a couple for the Wolfpack.
Word on the street
“I know [the players] are excited to play Thursday night as are our coaches and our fans. I believe it’s going to be an electric atmosphere, it’s going to be a blackout. It’s great for our university and our entire community.” - Cincinnati coach Butch Jones.
"I've been around long enough that to know that Thursday night used to be the game in college football that all your peers watched. Even with the glut of games on TV, it's still something special because it basically kicks off the weekend." – N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien
North Carolina Tar Heels at Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (-6.5, 57.5)
Why North Carolina will cover: UNC is ranked 16th nationally against the run, which is GT’s bread and butter. The Tar Heels are already 2-1 ATS.
Why Georgia Tech will cover: This will be the first real test for the Heels, and the Jackets can wear down a team. GT is an emphatic 3-0 ATS, winning games by 42, 38 and 42 points (spreads of 33.5, 13 and 14.5).
Points: The over is 3-0 in Tech games, but the under has struck in two of UNC’s three games and is 10-4 in the Heels’ last 14. This is the first true test for either team, which typically means less offense than usual, at least early on.
Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan State Spartans (-24, 49.5)
Why Central Michigan will cover: Michigan State looked surprisingly poor at Notre Dame last week, so CMU may have found enough in film to hang in there early. CMU is 5-0 ATS in its last five games vs. the Big Ten.
Why Michigan State will cover: MSU has much to prove after last week’s loss at Notre Dame. The Chippewas have been underwhelming, even with their lowered expectations, 0-3 ATS. CMU is averaging just 16 ppg against poor competition. It will be hard-pressed to put up any more in East Lansing.
Points: MSU’s defense ranks in fourth in yards allowed and 16th in points allowed, and the under is 4-1 in the Spartans’ last five. It may not allow CMU to score enough to push the over, though the over is 5-1-1 in CMU’s last seven vs. the Big Ten.
San Diego State Aztecs at Michigan Wolverines (-10, 59.5)
Why San Diego State will cover: Michigan’s offense is still suspect. Stop QB Denard Robinson, and you stop the Wolverines. The Aztecs can grind it out, which can really help an underdog on the road.
Why Michigan will cover: The Wolverines are 2-1 ATS, with the miss by a half-point vs. Eastern Michigan (-28.5). Robinson, when on his game, is a defensive nightmare. And SDSU ranks 99th against the run. The Wolverines are 8-2 ATS in the last 10 non-conference games.
Points: Both defenses have bent but not broken. These two rushing offenses aren’t the types to shatter that.
Arkansas Razorbacks at Alabama Crimson Tide (-11.5, 50.5)
Why Arkansas will cover: The Razorbacks’ eighth-ranked pass offense keeps the team in games. The defense is much improved from recent seasons. Plus, the team is an impressive 10-1 ATS in its last 11 SEC games.
Why Alabama will cover: The Tide already rolled at Penn State. This will be the first true test and first road game for the Razorbacks. Alabama ranks in the top 10 in every defensive category.
Points: The over is 5-1 in Arkansas’ last six SEC games, while the under is 4-1 in Alabama’s last five.
Oklahoma State Cowboys at Texas A&M Aggies (-3.5, 69)
Why Oklahoma State will cover: OSU has steamrolled the competition, going 2-1 ATS with wins of 37 (-38), 23 (-14) and 26 (-13.5). The offense ranks No. 2 in yards and No. 3 in points. OSU is 6-0 in its last six road games.
Why Texas A&M will cover: OSU’s defense has been suspect in all facets, and the Aggies have clicked so far. That’s a favorable point spread for a College Station home game. A&M is 6-0 ATS in its last six Big 12 games.
Points: The under is 10-1 in OSU’s last 11 games as a road underdog. That’s a big total, but both teams are capable of going over it by the end of the third quarter.
Florida State Seminoles at Clemson Tigers (+1.5, 50.5)
Why Florida State will cover: The Seminoles competed with No. 1 Oklahoma before running out of gas in the fourth quarter. A stellar pass game (325 ypg) and a defense that ranks fifth in yards allowed is a tough combo for Clemson to handle, even at home.
Why Clemson will cover: Clemson proved it belonged after beating Auburn by 14. The offense has had no problem scoring. Meanwhile, FSU is banged up, with several key players listed as questionable, including QB E.J. Manuel (though he’ll likely play).
Points: The over is 4-0 in Clemson’s last four games. Both offenses are ranked high, and both defenses are suspect.
Virginia Tech Hokies at Marshall Thundering Herd (+21, 46)
Why Virginia Tech will cover: Tech’s defense ranks No. 8 in points and yards allowed. Marshall’s offense ranks No. 107 and No. 105 in those two categories. How is Marshall going to score? VT is 7-1 ATS in its last eight vs. teams with a losing record.
Why Marshall will cover: Marshall has been respectable against the run, which is VT’s strength. This is a marquee home game for the Herd and they’ll come out with everything they’ve got.
Points: Points could be at a premium, at least until VT opens things up in the second half. The under is 6-1 in Marshall’s last seven as a home underdog.
Florida Gators at Kentucky Wildcats (+19, 43)
Why Florida will cover: UK’s offense is among the worst in the nation while UF’s defense ranks in the top 10 in most major categories. Meanwhile, Florida has had no problems putting up points.
Why Kentucky will cover: In recent years, the Wildcats have stepped it up in the big SEC rivalry games. It’s a big spread for a SEC road team.
Points: UK will struggle to put a lot of points up, but Florida’s average of 37.7 ppg is going to come down, too. The over is 4-0 in UF’s last four as a road favorite, and is 6-0 in UK’s last six at home against a team with a winning record.
UTEP Miners at South Florida Bulls (-29. 47.5)
Why UTEP will cover: UTEP is 2-0 ATS against FCS competition. The Miners have put up yards but haven’t score much this season. They should eventually break through and put up points.
Why South Florida will cover: South Florida is 3-0 ATS, and that includes a 53-point win on a minus-41. The Bulls know how to put away lesser competition, so this game should be over by halftime.
Points: South Florida hasn’t been stopped yet. If UTEP can hold up its end by scoring two TDs, USF should do the rest.
Vanderbilt Commodores at South Carolina Gamecocks (-16.5, 52.5)
Why Vanderbilt will cover: Vandy is 3-0 ATS, including a 30-7 drubbing of Ole Miss last week. USC is just 1-2 and is one point off from being 0-3. Its defense has been key, which could hold down the score enough to at least cover.
Why South Carolina will cover: The Gamecocks haven’t put it all together for a game, yet won at Georgia and held on vs. Navy. The offense still ranks No. 16 in points. A complete game buries Vandy.
Points: Vandy’s been big on the under, while USC typically hits the over. Vandy’s solid defense vs. USC’s powerful offense will determine how close the game gets.
Rice Owls at Baylor Bears (-20, 66.5)
Why Rice will cover: The Owls haven’t looked great, but they did beat Purdue last week by blocking a last-second field goal.
Why Baylor will cover: Baylor’s offense has run wild so far, averaging 50 ppg in two games. Rice ranks near the bottom in every statistical category on both sides of the ball.
Points: That’s a big spread, especially when one of the teams (Rice) will struggle to score. The over is 8-2 in Baylor’s last 10.
Nebraska Cornhuskers at Wyoming Cowboys (+23.5, 57)
Why Nebraska will cover: The Huskers have been less than stellar, yet still average 44.2 ppg. If this is the game that the defense finally catches up, look out.
Why Wyoming will cover: Nebraska has been erratic at best, hence an 0-3 ATS mark. The Cowboys will be fired up getting the Huskers at home. An offense that ranks 37th in points should get its points against a defense that ranks in the bottom half in all facets.
Points: The over is 2-1 in both teams’ games so far. This line doesn’t look to change that trend.
Tulsa Golden Hurricane at Boise State Broncos (-32.5, 62)
Why Tulsa will cover: Just another game in Tulsa’s amazing non-conference schedule. It played Oklahoma and Oklahoma State and lost by 33 and 26. Still, the offense has put up some points. That’s a big spread and Tulsa is 6-1 ATS in its last seven on the road.
Why Boise State will cover: The Broncos finally get a home game after going 2-0 ATS at Georgia and Toledo and is 9-1 ATS in its last 10 in September. It’s time to have some fun, which means lots of scoring on the Smurf Turf.
Points: The scoreboard will be lighting up all night in Boise. The question is will Tulsa join in the fun?
Missouri Tigers at Oklahoma Sooners (-21.5, 56.5)
Why Missouri will cover: Statistically, the Tigers match up with OU, ranking in the top 25 in points for and against, and 10th and 11th in rushing yards for and against, respectively. To stay within three touchdowns isn’t out of the question.
Why Oklahoma will cover: The Sooners at 2-0 ATS thanks to a defense that has shut down opponents until the game is well decided. The offense has been solid but not yet spectacular.
Points: It’s the same mark as the Oklahoma-Florida State game (which hit 36). OU should put up bigger numbers, but Missouri needs to keep pace. The under is 5-1 in OU’s last six.
LSU Tigers at West Virginia Mountaineers (+5.5, 50.5)
Why LSU will cover: The Tigers have faced formidable obstacles this season already, and vanquished them all. LSU’s defense ranks No. 19 against the pass and No. 3 against the run. WVU can’t run and a one-dimensional offense isn’t going to score on the Tigers, who are 2-0 ATS.
Why West Virginia will cover: West Virginia throws long and scores big, so it’s never out of a game. A big night game typically favors the home crowd, and Morgantown will be rocking.
Points: LSU scores enough to win, which usually isn’t a lot. WVU may find the going tough, especially early on.
Oregon Ducks at Arizona Wildcats (+15. 64.5)
Why Oregon will cover: The Ducks average 50.7 ppg and can throw and run. Arizona ranks 111th in yards and pass yards allowed, and is 1-6 ATS in its last seven against teams with a winning record.
Why Arizona will cover: The Wildcats can’t run the ball effectively or play defense, but they can sling it, averaging 364 yards through the air.
Points: The under is 2-0 in Arizona’s last two and Oregon’s last two, but this has the makings of a high-scoring affair. The over is 4-1 in these team’s last five games.
With Pittsburgh and Syracuse having been accepted for expansion into the ACC, the talk of a super conference finds coaches, players and administrators abuzz.
“It's all pros and I don't see how there is any cons there,” Miami coach Al Golden told reporters. “I can't even imagine households we just reached with New York State and Pittsburgh. It's a great time to be in the ACC. We've helped ourselves from the football standpoint bringing in two traditional schools in Pittsburgh and Syracuse."
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech RBs coach and recruiting coordinator Shane Beamer loves the recruiting impact of ACC expansion.
“It opens up different parts of the Northeast,” he said. “We’re up in the Northeast a little bit recruiting right now. We’ve had players in the past from Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York and this is another avenue.”
Long time homecoming
Thursday’s contest between North Carolina State and Cincinnati is head coach Tom O’Brien’s first game in his hometown since 1973.
“I played in the last Quantico Marine game at Xavier in Xavier’s last game,” he told the media. “That’s the only time I’ve had any football experience in Cincinnati since I left high school.”
O’Brien said he enjoys playing on Thursday, with reservation. When taking to the road on Thursdays, his teams are 0-5 ATS.
“I enjoy the opportunity to play it, I just don’t enjoy the short week,” he said. “It used to be the game in college football everybody watched, all your peers watched and it was a chance to showcase your university. It’s still something special because it basically kicks off the weekend.”
Something has to give
North Carolina has not surrendered a first-quarter point this season, outscoring opponents 21-0. Georgia Tech has scored TDs on its opening play in each of its three games.
“Something’s got to give,” Tar Heels S Matt Merletti told the press. “I fully expect our defense to not give up big plays.”
The Yellow Jackets lead the nation with 428 rushing yards per game, while the Tar Heels allow 77 rushing yards per game, which ranks 16th nationally. Coach Paul Johnson said UNC's front seven will be easily the best Georgia Tech has faced this season.
North Carolina’s offensive line, which features three starters at 6-foot-7 or taller, will be the best the Jackets have faced by far.
“They’ve only given up one sack in three games,” GT defensive coordinator Al Groh told reporters. “A lot of height, a lot of girth, but what is noteworthy with all that size is their excellent athletic ability. They can really kick-slide, set, change directions.”
Georgia Tech has won its last six home games against North Carolina and 11 of 13 overall, including 30-24 last year in Chapel Hill.
The Yellow Jackets are looking for their first 4-0 start since 1990, when it shared the national championship. The Tar Heels are 3-0 for just the second time in 14 years.
Shouldering the blame
Florida State QB EJ Manuel's availability for Saturday's ACC opener at Clemson remains uncertain. Manuel injured his left shoulder in last Saturday's game against Oklahoma.
"I think it will just be a matter of pain tolerance," coach Jimbo Fisher told the media. "And we'll just see how it goes."
Offensive lineman Zebrie Sanders says the unit is confident in backup QB Clint Trickett, who could start Saturday in place of injured EJ Manuel (shoulder).
"EJ (Manuel) is a good player and brings a lot to the table, including his experience, but it's nothing Clint can't do," Sanders said.
Florida State has struggled in Death Valley in recent years, losing four straight games at Clemson, where it is winless since 2001. Florida State holds a 17-7 edge in the series that dates to 1970.
Clemson ranks ninth in the nation in total offense through three weeks (522 yards per game), making dramatic strides from last season when the Tigers ranked 88th in total offense (334 yards per game).
Florida State Sophomore CB Xavier Rhodes says Saturday's 23-13 loss to No. 1 Oklahoma was the most physical game he has played in.
"Everyone was hitting," he told the media. "Some teams have WRs that are timid about hitting and getting hurt, but WRs, RBs, everyone was out there hitting."
From the database
• ACC Coaches: Duke’s David Cutcliffe is 6-11 ATS as a double-digit favorite… Maryland’s Randy Edsall is 22-7 ATS off a SU and ATS loss, including 13-2 ATS when facing a non-conference foe… Miami’s Al Golden is 13-4-1 ATS at home against opposition with a win percentage of more than .200… Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer is 27-16-1 ATS away versus non-conference opponents, but only 2-7 ATS against those with a losing record.
• ACC versus other conferences: 9-23 SU and ATS away versus Big East opponents off a SU and ATS win… 3-9 ATS off a win versus C-USA opponents off a win… 12-0 SU and 7-3 ATS off a SU and ATS loss versus MAC opposition.
• STAT OF THE WEEK: Florida State is 14-0 SU and 10-4 ATS in games following its first loss of the season
Central Florida Knights at BYU Cougars (-2.5, 42.5)
Central Florida takes on a limping BYU squad that has dropped its last two games, including an embarrassing 54-10 loss to rival Utah in the Holy War last weekend. The Knights are also coming off a loss, falling 17-10 to Florida International in Week 3 for their first defeat of the year.
Sportsbooks opened BYU as a 3.5-point home favorite, but that number has been bet down to 2.5 as of Thursday afternoon. The total was posted at 43 and has dropped just half a point since opening.
The Knights currently hold claim to one of the top defenses in the country, ranked first in pass defense (93.7 ypg) and third in points allowed (6.7). Their most impressive display was a 30-3 stomping of Boston College, in which they gave up just 141 total yards and snatched two interceptions.
Against FIU in Week 3, UCF outgained the Golden Panthers 300-238, but a second-quarter fumble made the difference. Florida International scooped up a loose ball for a 51-yard touchdown recovery. It was one of three fumbles from the Knights, two of which ended up in the hands of the Golden Panthers. Central Florida head coach George O’Leary stressed taking care of the football in practice this week.
"I think this is the best week for the show team giving us an example of what the other team does," O’Leary told the Orlando Sentinel. "And usually if that happens, you go out and play well. There's reasons you don't line up and play well because you don't get the right look during the week. But I thought everyone was into this practice plan and did what they had to do during the week."
The Cougars’ loss to the Utes was a hard pill to swallow, but something BYU has dealt with before. Last year, it fell 17-16 to Utah in the final week of the season then rolled UTEP, 52-24, in the New Mexico Bowl.
“Oh, I intend to bounce back, and hopefully I can provide that example for our team,” BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall told The Salt Lake Tribune. “If you are in coaching, one of the greatest challenges is to help a team bounce back from that. So that’s what our intention is.”
The Cougars are 5-2 ATS in their last seven games following a SU loss of more than 20 points.
Containing UCF quarterback Jeff Godfrey tops the Cougars’ do-to list Friday.
The sophomore passer leads all C-USA QBs in completion percentage (69.4) but has yet to throw for a touchdown or an interception, attempting just 62 throws through three games.
The one thing that has BYU sweating is Godfrey’s ability to zone read (read the defense out of the shotgun and make a decision to pass or run based on the defense's reaction). Godfrey is averaging 52 yards per game on the ground and has scampered for six touchdowns.
“(Godfrey) is a really explosive quarterback, a run-pass threat,” Mendenhall told reporters. “(UCF run ) a lot of zone-read type of plays. Some option type of plays. And he is still a capable thrower as well. Yeah, they are definitely capable of scoring a lot of points, wide open. And he is a quarterback that can create.”
The Cougars struggle against the run, giving up 157.3 rushing yards per game – 77th in the nation. They allowed Utah to march for 242 yards on the ground, avenging more than six yards per carry.
- Knights are 10-1-1 ATS in their last 12 games following an ATS loss.
- Cougars are 6-2 ATS in their last eight non-conference games.
- Under is 6-0 in Knights’ last six games overall.
- Under is 11-5 in Cougars’ last 16 games overall.
NCAAF: Central Florida is 13-3 against the spread in its last 16 road games.
MLB: Washington is 7-3 in Stephen Strasburg’s last 10 starts dating back to last season.
MLB: Philadelphia has won 11 of its last 14 meetings with the New York Mets.
CFL: Montreal is 17-5 against the spread in its last 22 games following a straight up loss.
NCAAF: BYU is 1-5 against the spread in its last six September games.
MLB: The New York Yankees are 3-10 in their last 13 meetings with Boston.
MLB: Cincinnati is 3-7 in its last 10 meetings with Pittsburgh.
CFL: Edmonton is 2-5 against the spread in its last seven overall.
23 – The Boston Red Sox had played 23 straight games without recording back-to-back victories.
Injury that shouldn’t be overlooked
Beanie Wells, Arizona Cardinals - Wells was limited in practice on Thursday with a hamstring injury. There was no immediate word on the severity of the injury, or if it will prevent the Cardinals' starting running back from playing in Sunday's game against the Seattle Seahawks. Arizona is set as a 3.5-point favorite on the road.
Game of the day
Central Florida at Brigham Young (-2, 44)
“I am more concerned about what we have to improve on than anything else. We are going to work to get that done. When you come in second in a game, I think some of your weaknesses are exposed a little bit, and that’s out now. It's your resume. It’s on film.” – UCF coach George O’Leary about rebounding from last week’s loss to Florida Atlantic as a 6.5-point favorite. The Knights are pegged as 2-point underdogs at BYU.
Notes and tips
Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller will make his first start for Ohio State in Saturday's game against Colorado. Coach Luke Fickell made the announcement Thursday after remaining quiet on the situation since the Buckeyes' 24-6 loss to Miami last weekend. Joe Bauserman has started Ohio State's first three games, passing for 365 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions. Bauserman struggled against Miami, completing 2 of 14 passes for 13 yards. Ohio State is set as a 16.5-point favorite at home.
Indiana Fever sparkplug Tamika Catchings was named the WNBA’s most valuable player ahead of the team’s 84-72 win over Indiana Thursday night. She responded with 12 points and 13 rebounds to help the Fever to a 1-0 series lead in the Eastern Conference final. The two teams play Game 2 Sunday afternoon in Atlanta.
Cincinnati Bengals running back Cedric Benson is appealing a three-game suspension handed down by the NFL, Yahoo! Sports reported on Thursday. Benson will be able to play in Sunday's game against the San Francisco 49ers. His appeal will be heard next Tuesday. Should the suspension be upheld, Benson will miss contests against the Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars and Indianapolis Colts. Benson was cited for assault of a former roommate during the lockout and served three full days in jail following a more recent charge. He was given considerable time off his 20-day sentence after volunteering for work duty. The 28-year-old Benson has rushed 41 times for 180 yards and one touchdown this season. The Bengals are set as 3-point favorites.
Louisiana State Tigers at West Virginia Mountaineers (+5.5, 48)
THE STORY: It’s another primetime game for No. 3 LSU, which has already knocked off two ranked opponents in Oregon and Mississippi State and is gaining more and more national attention with each impressive victory. The Tigers rank sixth nationally in total defense and third in rushing defense, which is even more eye-opening considering the quality of opponents they have played. In its first season under coach Dana Holgorsen, No. 16 West Virginia is also off to a 3-0 start but has yet to face a ranked opponent. This is the second meeting. Last year, LSU opened up a 17-0 second-quarter lead and held on to win 20-14 in Baton Rouge.
LINE MOVES: This game opened at -5.5 in favor of LSU and has moved to 6 at some shops. The total opened as high as 50.5 but has since dropped to 48.
ABOUT LSU (3-0, 2-1 ATS): As it turned out, the suspension of quarterback Jordan Jefferson prior to the season opener hasn’t mattered as much as many experts speculated. First, backup Jarrett Lee has proved to be more than capable as an efficient game manager. And second, the defense has been so dominant, the Tigers haven’t needed many points. In last week’s 19-6 win at Mississippi State, LSU held the Bulldogs’ strong ground attack to 52 yards on 34 carries. Sophomores Spencer Ware (226 yards, three touchdowns) and Michael Ford (218, four) lead a powerful LSU rushing game.
ABOUT WEST VIRGINIA (3-0, 1-2 ATS): The Mountaineers have won 18 straight non-conference home games since losing to Virginia Tech in 2005, but will have their hands full against the Tigers, who haven’t lost a non-conference regular season game since 2002. West Virginia led by as many as 24 points last week against Maryland but gave up 21 unanswered points in the second half. The Mountaineers held on for a 37-31 victory, but not before allowing 477 total yards. West Virginia is averaging 434.7 yards per game, which ranks 23rd nationally.
- Tigers are 2-5 ATS in their last seven games as road favorites.
- Mountaineers are 4-0 ATS in their last four games as underdogs.
- Over is 4-1 in Tigers' last five non-conference games.
- Over is 11-4-1 in Mountaineers last 16 games as home underdogs.
1. LSU has a nation-best 35-game regular-season non-conference winning streak.
2. West Virginia ranks seventh in the nation with 356 passing yards per game.
3. "To say it's not going to be a challenge would be crazy." Holgorsen, on facing LSU.
NCAAF: The Over is 8-1 in Georgia’s last nine games.
NCAAF: San Diego State is 7-1 ATS in its last eight September games.
MLB: The Over is 7-3-1 in Pittsburgh pitcher Brad Lincoln’s last 11 starts.
CFL: The Under is 7-0 in the B.C. Lions’ last seven games.
NCAAF: Western Michigan is 2-10-1 in its last 13 games as a road dog.
NCAAF: Kansas State is 7-20 ATS in its last 27 non-conference games.
MLB: The Indians are 3-13 in Mitch Talbot’s last 16 home starts.
CFL: Toronto is 1-7 ATS in its last eight home games.
47 – That’s how many consecutive saves Detroit’s Jose Valverde had converted this season heading into Friday night’s action. His overall streak is 49, third-longest in history behind Eric Gagne (84) and Tom Gordon (54). In those 47 opportunities, Valverde has pitched 47 innings and allowed three runs (0.57 ERA).
Injury not to be overlooked
Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick, a second-team All-American in 2010, is questionable for Saturday’s game at Wyoming after getting “dinged” late in last week’s win over Washington. He has 14 tackles, including three for loss and a sack, in the Cornhuskers’ first three games. However, No. 9 Nebraska will welcome back corner Alfonzo Dennard, who missed the first three games with a quad injury. Dennard earned second-team All-Big 12 honors last year. Nebraska is laying 21 points to the Cowboys.
Game of the day
No. 6 Oklahoma State Cowboys at No. 8 Texas A&M Aggies (-4, 68)
"I am right on par with the team, and so I need to see how the quad feels." – Rams RB Steven Jackson on whether he’ll play Sunday at home against the Ravens, who are favored by 4. It will be a gametime decision. Without Jackson in Week 2, St. Louis lost 28-16 at the Giants.
Notes and tips
No. 11 Virginia Tech, favored by 20.5 points at Marshall on Saturday, won’t have career receptions leader Jarrett Boykin due to a hamstring injury. Boykin has 133 career catches and is second on the team this year with 10 receptions for 93 yards and a TD. Boykin also is 57 yards shy of becoming the school’s alltime leader in receiving yards.
The Detroit Lions are the nation’s darlings right now, but 0-2 Minnesota is a dangerous 3.5-point underdog. The Vikings get star defensive tackle Kevin Williams back from his two-game suspension in the StarCaps case. Williams said the time off helped his plantar fasciitis. Coach Leslie Frazier described Williams as an impact player and “potential Hall of Famer.” It also should be noted that the Lions haven’t won in Minnesota since 1997.
No. 12 Arkansas, an 11-point underdog at No. 2 Alabama on Saturday, will be without senior defensive end Jake Bequette (hamstring). He’s one of the Razorbacks’ most productive and experienced players. Bequette will be replaced by sophomore Chris Smith, who has 2.5 tackles for loss this year.