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On 09/01/2011 08:37 AM in NCAA Football

College football Top 25 betting cheat sheet

Memphis Tigers at No. 20 Mississippi State Bulldogs (-29, 50)

Why Memphis will cover: Despite going just 1-11 in 2010, the Tigers were a respectable 5-7 ATS. Coach Larry Porter gets a second year to install his gameplan.

Why Mississippi State will cover: The Bulldogs return 15 starters, including all their skill-position starters. They will put up points. Meanwhile, Memphis is expected to be the worst team in Conference USA.

Points: MSU trounced Memphis 49-7 in last season’s opener, and there’s little to suggest the Bulldogs won’t score a pile again.

UNLV Runnin’ Rebels at No. 10 Wisconsin Badgers (-35, 56)

Why UNLV will cover: The Rebels are 0-4 against the Badgers in recent years, but 4-0 ATS.

Why Wisconsin will cover: UNLV was 0-7 straight up and ATS on the road in 2010. Wisconsin’s punishing ground game will eventually overwhelm its smaller opponent.

Points: How UNLV will slow UW is a mystery, but the Badgers have questions of their own on defense, especially against the pass.


No. 15 TCU Horned Frogs at Baylor Bears (+6.5, 56)

Why TCU will cover: The Horned Frogs will be confident after hammering the Bears 45-10 last season. Though TCU’s offense is starting over with nine new starters, Baylor’s new-look defense may take a week to get going.

Why Baylor will cover: TCU went 13-0 last season, but was only 6-6 ATS. The Bears will have one of the top offensive units in the Big 12.

Points: Both teams have the potential to put up big points; it will depend on how quickly both defenses respond.


Tulsa Golden Hurricane at No. 1 Oklahoma Sooners (-24.5, 64)

Why Tulsa will cover: Tulsa is no pushover, with 15 starters back from a squad that finished ranked No. 24. The Hurricane was 8-4 ATS last season.

Why Oklahoma will cover: The nation’s top-ranked team, at home, on national television to begin the season: not a good recipe for the Hurricane.

Points: Tulsa’s offense has ranked in the top 5 nationally in three of the last five seasons. Oklahoma can score on anyone.

Kent State Golden Flashes at No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (-38, 45.5)

Why Kent State will cover: The Flashes’ aggressive defense could give the Tide troubles early on, which could make the huge spread tough to reach.

Why Alabama will cover: 'Bama is loaded on both sides, with returning starters aplenty and a focus to win a national title. If the Tide hit the field in form, they could win by 50.

Points: Kent State will have problems reaching the end zone, but Alabama likely won’t.

No. 3 Oregon Ducks vs. No. 4 LSU Tigers (+1, 55) at Arlington, Tex.

Why Oregon will cover: The Ducks are poised to win a national title with another explosive offense and a bend-don’t-break defense. Plus, the absence LSU’s QB Jordan Jefferson (suspended) can only help Oregon’s cause.

Why LSU will cover: The Tigers have shut down some of the top offenses out there. Oregon may be susceptible against the run, which works into LSU’s strategy.

Points: The Ducks had the nation’s top scoring offense in 2010, scoring 37 or more points in 11 of 13 games. A Jefferson-less LSU is the x-factor.

No. 7 Boise State Broncos vs. No. 22 Georgia Bulldogs (+3.5, 50.5) at Atlanta

Why Boise State will cover: The Broncos beat Virginia Tech and Oregon in their last two season openers, so they know how to start a season right against a quality opponent. Fourteen starters return. Georgia was underdog in two games last year, and lost both.

Why Georgia will cover: The defense is expected to be tough this year. And playing close to its own backyard can’t hurt.

Points: Boise’s offense ranked No. 2 nationally in 2010. Georgia QB Aaron Murray is back after a stellar freshman year last season.

Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks at No. 5 Florida State Seminoles (-28.5, 54.5)

Why Louisiana-Monroe will cover: ULM knows how to cover; the team was 5-7 last year, but 6-5 ATS. Its defense can has given Sun Belt teams problems.

Why Florida State will cover: FSU is not a Sun Belt team. And this year’s Seminoles offense is expected to be as explosive as any that Tallahassee’s seen in a decade.

Points: ULM returns eight offensive starters, including its top four wideouts and its QB. FSU should also be loaded, setting up a potential shootout.

San Jose State Spartans at No. 6 Stanford Cardinal (-30, 53)

Why San Jose State will cover: With 11 returning starters on defense, the Spartans are expected to fare much better than last year’s one-win team. And despite the bad record, they were 5-6 ATS.

Why Stanford will cover: QB Andrew Luck is back, leading one of the nation’s top offenses. A defense that had three Pac-10 shutouts last year returns six starters.

Points: Stanford scored more than 35 points 11 times last year, but the new cast around Luck may take a quarter or two to adjust against an experienced Spartans D.

La-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns at No. 8 Oklahoma State Cowboys (-37, 63.5)

Why Louisiana-Lafayette will cover: That’s a lot of points, and the Ragin’ Cajuns have scrapped the wide-open style that’s failed the last couple seasons for more of a possession offense. That’ll drain some clock. Last year’s 3-9 team was 7-5 ATS.

Why Oklahoma State will cover: OSU went 11-2 overall, 10-3 ATS, and played very close to the line in two of those misses. The Cowboys averaged 44.2 ppg last season and return seven starters.

Points: ULL will be hard-pressed to keep up its end of the scoring bargain, so it’ll be up to OSU to pile on the points. Which it can.

East Carolina Pirates vs. No. 12 South Carolina Gamecocks (-20.5, 62) at Charlotte, N.C.

Why East Carolina will cover: ECU can score; the Pirates averaged 36.8 ppg last season and bring back their QB and three starting wideouts.

Why South Carolina will cover: ECU couldn’t stop anyone last year, allowing 44.0 ppg, second-worst in the nation. The Gamecocks bring back seven offensive starters and their entire defensive backfield, which should keep ECU at bay.

Points: Combined, these teams start seven wide receivers and last season averaged 557 yards through the air per game. Expect fireworks.

South Florida Bulls at No. 18 Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-10, 47)

Why South Florida will cover: Athletic QB B.J. Daniels can give unsuspecting teams fits. The defense is expected to be strong, especially against the pass. Plus, teams that go to Notre Dame just get fired up.

Why Notre Dame will cover: With eight returning starters from a defense that ranked No. 23 nationally, points for Notre Dame foes will be tough to come by. Meanwhile, the offense also returns eight, and much bigger things are expected from the Irish.

Points: The over hit on USF games just four times in 2010; same with Notre Dame. The Irish aren’t likely to allow many scores on this day.

Akron Zips at No. 16 Ohio State Buckeyes (-34, 48)

Why Akron will cover: Maybe Ohio State will come out slow, after a messy off-season left a plethora of question marks.

Why Ohio State will cover: Talent-wise, it’s not even close. Ohio State, if its mind is on the game and the players know the playbook, should steamroll. The only thing that’s likely to stop the Buckeyes is the clock.

Points: Akron, out of the MAC, averaged just 15.6 ppg last year, but allowed 35.1 and won just once. OSU may have to score 48 to hit the over, which is possible.

Miami (Ohio) RedHawks at No. 21 Missouri Tigers (-20, 47.5)

Why Miami (Ohio) will cover: The RedHawks return eight of their top nine tacklers from last year. With seven returning starters on offense, the unit should be better than last year’s poor 21.6 ppg effort. Missouri (10-3 in ’10) was only 6-6 ATS.

Why Missouri will cover: The offense should be stellar; every player who caught a pass last year returns. Last year, Mizzou was a 19.5-point favorite over Miami, and won 51-13.

Points: A clash of experienced units (Missouri offense vs. Miami defense) will decide the pace of the game.

Florida Atlantic Owls at No. 23 Florida Gators (-35, 46)

Why Florida Atlantic will cover: Thirty-four points is a big spread for a Gators team that had several key holes to fill in the off-season. If the Owls control the pace, they could lose by less than that.

Why Florida will cover: For a team on the rebound, the hapless Owls provide the perfect opening foe. FAU returns just three starters on defense, which should water the mouths of Gators offensive skill players.

Points: Florida should run downhill most of the game, but can it score enough to cover the entire total?

Utah State Aggies at No. 19 Auburn Tigers (-21, 56.5)

Why Utah State will cover: The Aggies will try to chew up the clock on the ground, which could make it difficult for the rebuilding Tigers offense to cover a three-TD-plus spread.

Why Auburn will cover: Despite a practically new lineup on both sides of the ball, the talent is there. If the newcomers can pick up where last year’s team left off, the spread is low.

Points: The over hit only three times in Utah State game in 2010. Auburn is replacing a stunning 17 starters. Expect growing pains.

Rice Owls at Texas Longhorns (-24, 55)

Why Rice will cover: Last year, Rice faced Texas in the opener at 31.5-point dogs, and lost just 34-17. The Longhorns should be better, but the Owls, with 15 returning starters, should be too.

Why Texas will cover: After a shocking 5-7 record last year, five assistant coaches were canned and the senior class that led last year's downfall is gone. It was replaced with typical Texas-sized talent aimed at keeping the Longhorns relevant.

Points: The over hit on eight of Rice's games last season, and Texas has something to prove, especially on offense.


SMU Mustangs at No. 9 Texas A&M Aggies (-16.5, 57)

Why SMU will cover: Third-year starting QB Kyle Padron leads a squad that has 18 starters back and has aspirations of SMU winning its first Conference USA title since the pre-Death Penalty days.

Why Texas A&M will cover: It will be tough to throw against the Aggies this year, which returns its top two players at each defensive backfield position. The offense returns nine starters. That’s a lot for SMU to handle.

Points: June Jones still coaches SMU. SMU games hit the over in four of its first five games in 2010. A&M will also come out firing.