September 29, 2006

Gators about to "run the gauntlet"

Craig James beat me to it - the better broadcaster of the old Pony Express posted this story on ESPN today.

His agenda seems to be - Get Ready to see UF at the top of the rankings if they get through the next five weeks unscathed. For the uninitiated, check out the next four games for the 4-0 Gators:

09/30 Alabama
10/07 #9 LSU
10/14 at #2 Auburn
10/28 #10 Georgia in Jacksonville (don't call it a Cocktail Party)

And recall that they have already beaten Tennessee at Rocky Top 21-20.

This weekend is a rough start - Florida hasn't rolled the Tide since a 16-10 win in 1998. But the Gators are rolling at home, winning 11 straight at the Swamp. "Smart money" has Florida as a two TD favorite after last year's embarrassment at Bama.

If you reference my top 13 (emailers suggest i need to expand that to 25), I have the Gators outside looking in while the AP has the reptiles at 5. Remember, that difference is because I do not expect them to get through this list clean - the game that causes me the most pause is the matchup with the other team in the Yellowhammer State - Auburn, my pre-season #1 who may fall based on last night's squeaker past South Carolina.

Vs. Alabama
The Alabama defense is as good as usual, but they haven't seen the spread-misdirection-horizontal fiesta of an offense like Florida's this year. Chris Leak leads the nation with 12 TD passes, and no doubt is beggin for blitzes. The absence of a speedy playmaker on the Tide offense or special teams like Tyrone Prothro will hurt. Edge to Florida

LSU has crushed all comers easily, except...

at Auburn
The biggy for SEC supremacy - if Urban's boys can beat LSU, this will be fun at Jordan-Hare. You all know that Kenny Irons is one of the best RBs in the nation, but the Tiger defense is special. How they handle the Gamecocks tonight could change my thinking however.

Gators own the Bulldogs.Plain and simple. I expect the Gator defense to embarrass the Bulldogs offense, regardless of the other game results.

September 28, 2006

On the lines

Kids, gather round the air conditioner, lets play America's favorite game of Pick'Em...

  • Ohio State -7 at Iowa
  • Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech -9
  • Akron -3 at Kent State (hey, it is big in my hometown and for the MAC East)
  • Virginia at Duke
FANTASY SPECIAL (pick over or under the total)
  • Purdue at Notre Dame - Pinnacle showing 63.5 points
Put your picks in the comments! No need to register!

September 24, 2006

The OCF Top 13 Debut

Welcome to my highly subjective but open minded look at who will be the top teams in college football after the regular season.

Pay special attention to the wording in italics - while other polls are snapshots in real-time, I aim to absorb all that has happened and incorporate that into projecting to the end of the regular season. I expect the OCF poll to be quite volatile since "second order" events (results of previous and future opponents, margin of victory) should have a large impact on slotting teams from week to week.

See my preseason rankings and rationale here. I do some quantitative stuff in the background, but I freely admit that there is a lot of art and guts to this. Like get the f*** outta here, Seminoles and Hurricanes!
  1. Auburn 4-0
  2. Ohio State 4-0
  3. Southern Cal 3-0
  4. Texas 3-1
  5. Michigan 4-0
  6. Oregon 3-0
  7. Notre Dame 3-1
  8. Louisville 4-0
  9. West Virginia 4-0
  10. LSU 3-1
  11. Virginia Tech 4-0
  12. Oklahoma 3-1 (I have my response ready for their president...)
  13. TCU 3-0
Off radar - Penn State, Georgia, California, Boise State, Florida

Auburn had that scare versus LSU, but LSU is one of the top teams in the nation - neither allows more than a TD a game! And trust me, the Oregon-Oklahoma fiasco had nothing to do with me downgrading the Sooners - in fact, despite their underachieving defense they got upgraded based on Washington's upset win over UCLA and Colorado showing some signs of life. I do not expect the Gators (BS Journalism, 1994) to get thru that vicious schedule unscathed, hence their lack of inclusion despite nice early results - and it hurts to say that almost as much as it hurt to put a benjamin on their winning under 9.5 games.

If I had to tier the rankings, I would say that Auburn and the Buckeyes are the clear leaders, while USC, Texas and Michigan would be the next best group. Teams with the best chance of moving higher are Louisville, West Virginia and TCU (toughest games are next two weeks with BYU and Utah) if the Horned Frogs keep their undefeated seasons alive.

So looking way ahead, the biggest games to me this season will be in November;
  • Michigan at Ohio State on 18th,
  • Louisville at West Virginia on a Thursday 2nd and
  • USC's masochistic home schedule (Oregon, Cal, Notre Dame)
Talk to me - what did I miss? What do you like?

Emily Dickinson on college football

my random Larry King-like stream-of-consciousness thoughts on the weekends action...

Thaks, USA Todaythe Notre Dame comeback over Michigan State may be one of the best in football history - not better than the Bills comeback over the Oilers in the 1993 playoffs, or the FSU comeback to tie the Gators in 1994, but right up there...Michigan is making a case as the best team in the country - I expect them to run the table until the Nov. 18 matchup at Ohio State. Only hiccup could be the visit to Happy Valley in three weeks...Favorite announcer quote: "Joe Paterno's run to the bathroom was the longest play of the half"...How good is Ray Rice of Rutgers? I know it was Howard on the other side, but he now has five 100yd games in a row...Did you know that East Carolina leads the nation in turnovers with 14 , and Western Michigan leads the interception rankings with 9? Not your usual defensive powerhouses...So that is how good Cal is...Wake Forest is 4-0, and sure to go to 5-0 as they face Liberty. Last time 5-0? 1987. Six straight unlikely as Clemson...

Welcome back to some of the wide receivers that most pundits thought would be the best in the nation - Jeff Samardzija had two TDs and over 100 yards for the first time this year, and South Carolina's Sidney Rice hauled in five TDs against Florida Atlantic...Georgia is one lucky bunch of mofo's this morning - new freshman QB Joe Cox better enjoy the vapors while he can as the Dawgs face Tennessee after a tune-up at Ole Miss...Are you aware who the active career leader in Division I-A completions, passing yards and total offense is? Houston's Kevin Kolb, a four-year starter who has also eclipsed the career numbers of David Klingler. In the win over Oklahoma State, he threw touchdown passes of 42, 33, 27 and 7 yards - that puts him ten TDs behind active leader Chris Leak of Florida, 77-67....Is it possible that Arizona State coach Dirk Koetter made a mistake in his QB selection?
"I'm obviously not as good as I thought I was," ASU sophomore quarterback Rudy Carpenter concluded after throwing four interceptions.
as my buddy Tony pointed out with erudition, somewhere in Lincoln Sam Keller is enjoying a beer or two and smiling as the Sun Devils were crushed by Cal 49-21 (who looks a lot better than they did against Tennessee)...Remember Northwestern losing to New Hampshire two weeks ago? Two things I pull from that game. 1) UNH WR David Ball just tied Jerry Rice for the career TD mark of 50 in 1-AA. 2) Northwestern just doesn't have the talent on either side of the ball (except RB Tyrell Sutton) to compete weekly. I do not know how much more gas the Wildcats have in the tank after losing Head Coach Randy Walker.

September 22, 2006

Risk Capital, Week 4

Last Week, 3-2 Overall 8-7

Quick notes since I got a party to hit up on...

UCLA -3 at Washington, max bet 4 units
UCLA off a bye, but before that barely squeaked by Rice despite -3 turnovers. Washington has an unusual win over Fresno, so they are overvalued. UCLA has a big talent advantage.

Texas -25 over Iowa State, max bet 4 units
Cyclones arre a mirage, one of the worst defenses in the country. Texas is still one of the top three talented teams in the nation.

"Michigan Teaser", 2 or 3 units
Tease up 6.5 points on Notre Dame (-4 turnovers in Michigan loss), Western Michigan over Temple, and Michigan over Wisconsin. I liked the sides, didn't like the Vegas value.

September 21, 2006

An Open Letter to Michael Bush

Thanks, ScoutFocus on your rehab. Continue to support the team. Say all the right things about wanting to get your education.

Then go get your money in the 2007 NFL Draft.

You have had an injury plagued career, most lately that horrible broken leg in the season opener. You also sprained your foot last year and missed a couple games. Blame the artificial turf. Blame your super muscular 249-lb frame for adding stress to the joints and bone structure (see Boston, David).

I know you wanted to get into the draft last year after leading the nation in touchdowns, and you were dismayed by not being viewed as a first-round pick - I get that. But you still have a year of eligibility remaining and I know that you are getting pressure to return. You are probably getting pressure to go pro as well (like this probably).

But I encourage you to not get all misty-eyed like Matt Leinart and go back for the "college experience" - you see what that cost him? About $8 million and a new baby.

Think of it this way too. You are a Sports Administration major. Even if you get only an $800,000 signing bonus it would take you twenty years to earn that as a PE teacher or as a middle management guy. You can always go back to school if you are unable to play.

Talk to Curtis Martin of the Jets - he had two knee injuries and built an amazing career. Call up Willis Magahee and ask him what it took to go from a blown out knee to a first-round pick. I guarantee you they will be more than happy to talk to you as a kindred spirit. Your SID can make sure you do not run afoul of agents and the like in order to contact them.

Finally, Michael, you have a once-in-a-lifetime oportunity to get healthy, get down to 230-235, add some speed, have a great combine (either in Indy or your own private workout), and earn a seven-figure signing bonus. Do not hurry back to play for Louisville, it will only raise the probability of you getting hurt again. You gotta take care of yourself and your family.

Be well,

Vince Mullins

September 20, 2006

On the lines

Let us open up the format - I will pick what I think are the three BIG GAMES of the Week (against the spread), one UGLY GAME of the Week (straight up), and a FANTASY SPECIAL (you pick the over or the under).

Simply post your picks in the comments (analysis and humor are encouraged, but not necessary). If you want to add a couple games of your own, feel free!

Winner gets a free post on this blog (like I got cash to throw around)!

Penn State at Ohio State -14.5
Arizona State @ California -7
Hawaii @ Boise State -13 (total is 62.5!)

UGLY GAME (straight up)
Arkansas State at SMU (tip: two pretty good RBs in this one)

Minnesota at Purdue - total is at 66.5!


Musberger broke a Trojan vow

USC sent a formal complaint to ESPN after Brent Musberger told his audience that QB John David Booty's "hang loose" signal meant that his receivers should expect man-to-man coverage.

An excerpt from

USC sports information director Tim Tessalone sent a formal complaint to ESPN/ABC game producer Bill Bonnell on Monday and sent a copy to the Pacific-10 conference office.

"We're supposed to be partners in this, but this is certainly going to make us think twice about trying to help them have as good a broadcast as possible," Tessalone said. "What he did was unconscionable...In my 28 years, I've never seen such an egregious breach of trust. Brent is not a rookie at this, and he should know better."

I've got a signal for USC - the middle finger! The SID is way off base - man-to-man coverage isn't hard to discern, plus there are any of 126 other hand gestures that can be used. You don't really think that "hang loose" was going to be the signal the whole year, do you? Of course not, those signals are changed weekly. Plus, Nebraska didn't have access to Musberger commentary in game.

Musberger prepared very well for broadcast, and this is what he gets from one of the most storied programs? Poor form, Mr. Tessalone.

September 19, 2006

Bobcats visit WTC site after Rutgers game

Just caught this article on about a pretty special field trip. After Ohio University was decimated by Rutgers, the team learned the true meaning of the word.

My favorite part of the story is the insightful quotes of the players - I get so used to the pre-packaged flatline platitudes uttered by many players about football it is refreshing to see some youngsters talk openly about the impact of this national tragedy on their rather blessed lives.
"It puts things in perspective," senior quarterback Austen Everson (right) said. "The big picture is that we're playing football for fun. There are people out there who are firemen, policemen and rescue squads that were risking their lives that day and do so much for us so that we can have fun and freedom."
With the stories of Oklahoma fans sending death threats to Pac Ten officials after the instant-replay fiasco versus Oregon, I thought it would be nice to show how some schools have the right perspective on life and went outside the classroom to offer their players an education.

September 17, 2006

College mascots at Playboy

Yes, Separation Saturday lived up to its billing, with big upset wins by Western Michigan and reaffirming victories from Penn State and Texas. While tallying the fantasy scores, my mind wandered and lo and behold I find a college sports angle on the Hef's site...

Mascots Talk Back on

Particularly interesting are the Q and A's with Knightro from UCF and Benny Beaver from Oregon State.

I particularly enjoyed the musings of my favorite mascot in the nation...

The UC - Santa Cruz Banana Slugs

PB: Do you prefer to appear at men's or women's games?
BS: The Slug has no preference. I go either way.

PB: Do your two sets of genitalia give you extra sex appeal?
BS: If I were to walk into the Playboy Mansion, everyone would fall in love with me.

PB: But banana slugs can be kind of violent. Sometimes they bite off the male genitalia during copulation.
BS: I cannot confirm or deny that.

PB: Do you think that's part of how you turn people on?
BS: Well, you know, some people are into that. So whatever floats your boat.

September 15, 2006

Risk Capital, Week 3

Last week, 3-2. Overall 5-5

As you might expect, the big games are the "liquid" or "mature" markets, so little information advantage there. I hope to give you some strong insight into the lower tier games where you can grab some coin. I have a strong lean this week to teams rebounding after poor games protecting the football.

Texas -32 over Rice, max bet 4 units
Rice is not as good as the scores would suggest last week - they were plus 3 in turnovers and still lost to UCLA. And trust me that Texas is value here - past matchups in this intrastate rivalry had 45+ point spreads. Colt McCoy should shine as he tries to rebuild his new reputation after the beatdown in Austin. Get down, Longhorns!

Oklahoma State -30 hosting Florida Atlantic, max bet 4 units
FAU is horrible, and the Cowboys are nothing if not a physical team. The Cowboy defense may be one of the sleeper units in the country, which give emerging QB Bobby Reid the breathing room to operate the run based spread offense. Mike Hamilton could put up 150 and 2 TDs. This one could get ugly quickly, but Reid will get lots of reps as the staff wants to use games like this as live practice. Very unusual for me to play two big faves like this, but there is good line valuation here.

Missouri -14 over New Mexico, 3 units
Lobos had a costly win last week as they lost their starting QB on the first play of the game. Trouble here is their narrow win over Air Mumme and New Mexico State was the by-product of plus 5 turnovers - that makes the final quite misleading. Missouri may have the best QB you haven't heard of in Chase Daniel, and the Missouri D has been solid. This is Daniel's first start on the road after taking over for all-world Brad Smith, but Missouri is shaping up like a real sleeper to follow in the Big 12. The air will be thin, but filled with Missouri TDs.

Central Michigan +1 hosting Akron, 2 units
If you can pare this up with the UCF pick as a teaser (see below), you can feel a lot better about the home dogs. CMU has been impressive in a narrow loss to BC and a bigger loss to Michigan, and Zips are flying high off the NC State win. Chippewas were minus three turnovers to the Wolverines last week, setting this one up for a big value on the home team. Akron's third straight n the raod concerns me as well.

UCF +1 hosting South Florida, 2 units or less
Knights got their ass kicked in Gainesville last week, despite +4 TO still lost 42-0. South Florida looks to be hitting stride with new QB Grothe. Phil Steele is in direct opposition to my selection, in fact has USF as a 4* if they are dogs. Like I said, I will combine UCF and CMU on a two team tease with 6 points to sleep more comfortably.

Other quick shots - Louisville over Miami, USC over Nebraska, Iowa over Iowas State, and Florida over Tennessee.

Crazy Under the Radar special - Florida Int'l in an upset of Bowling Green (true risk capital only, take points and the moneyline if you can get it.) FIU covered easily in their last four with former Miami Dolphin and Head Coach Don Strock in charge.

PH as in Phat says tease Oklahoma and Michigan, and he loves Auburn over LSU. He shares with me little detail, but I trust him like a sage.

Whatcha got?

Kansas at Toledo - Hide the appetizers

Toledo is an exciting team, a program that continually puts out quality football and is led by a true offensive genius in Head Coach Tom Amstutz.

The Kansas Jayhawks are not as rich in tradition on the gridiron as they are on the hardwood, but Coach Mark Mangino owns a striking pedigree of strong offenses and a national championship while the OC at Oklahoma.

Given all that, I admit that my basal human reaction to this game is much less insightful - I would prefer to see these two in an eating contest with Kobayashi since each has tipped the scale recently at over 300 pounds.

Over under on health related jokes by the broadcast crew is mid-third quarter.

Here is a pic of a sweet internet babe just to cleanse your palate - kinda like a Patron chaser after slamming a Natty Light!

September 07, 2006

It's hard out Here for a Coach...

You know hip-hop is mainstream when 1) Goodie Mob gets an Oscar, and 2) Goodie Mob inspires white men to create homage raps/Flash animations for college football coaches.

Looks like Grey Blackwell of the Charlotte New-Observer is quite the grandmaster of Flash...

It's Hard out Here for a Coach

Chuck Amato all pimped out...a natural extension from those shades and those shoes.

Risk Capital, Week 2

Last week: 2-3

Starting off in the hole, so I will stop digging and play smarter. With the able insight of PH as in Phat (an infrequent commenter), I whittled down the games you should play from 20 to about four. Again, do not risk more than 10% of your capital (whether real cash or the type) on any one bet.

OKLAHOMA -16.5 over Washington, 4 unit max bet
Huskies struggled with the San Jose State pass offense last week, how do you think they will handle the Adrian Peterson show? Plus, Oklahoma should be value this week after a poor showing versus UAB (a win nontheless) with a -3 TO ratio. Nice battle of athletic college QBs (and probable NFL Europe WRs) Paul Thompson and Isaiah Stanback. Washington not good on grass, OU has to speed up the tempo with Oregon on deck.

CALIFORNIA -8.5 over Minnesota, 2 units
Another Home fave looking for revenge. Do not think that the Gophers have upset potential - if nt for two goal-line stands versus Kent St. and a bunch of turnovers, the game would have been much closer. Cal has to be angry, and Marshawn Lynch will do better finding paydirt than Eugene Jarvis did. The disparate results of Week One and the QB questions at Cal (pick Ayoob already!) have tilted this line out of balance to Minny, so you should strike the other side. The last point is that Minnesota is much less equipped to attack the Cal secondary minus CB Tim Mixon (ACL) than was Tennessee. Phil Steele 4* pick (get his newsletter at Northcoast Sports)

UNLV +14 at IOWA STATE, 2 units
Iowa State isn't that bad on defense, they only allowed 23 in regulation. Nonetheless, Cyclones remind me of Northwestern the past couple years how they need to outscore everyone. Their pass D is vulnerable, and the nation may get a healthy intro to Rebel QB Rocky Hinds who was a top USC recruit who wanted to play immediately after knee injuries. Not as big an upset as the Colorado loss last week, but this could be a straight-up upset.

FRESNO ST +3.5 over Oregon, 3 units
Fresno Coach Pat Hill dreams for games like this. He gets Oregon off an easy win over Stanford, may look ahead at Oklahoma, and they may be without Jon Stewart in the backfield. Fresno played well last week in the opener over Nevada (an ATS loss though), but Fresno is 20-3 ATS vs BCS schools with ten wins - POW!

Over/unders, 3 units
Under 39.5 Georgia at South Carolina (PH Pick)
Over 55 Louisville vs. Temple (Cardinals may do that themselves!)

Other games on the radar:
Arkansas big over Utah State, Akron +10.5 at NC State

and my obligatory picks for the HUGE GAMES for the weekend? Texas over Ohio State in a squeaker, and Notre Dame wins in another low scoring game.

PH also just said to tease with six points on Cal and OU, and go crazy with a parley of moneyline bets on OU, Arkansas, Cal, and L'Ville.

What games do you like?

Reporting live from Little Rock, AK

I will be joining the Pokes nation on the unusual road trip to War Memorial Stadium as the Oklahoma State Cowboys take on the Sun Belt defending champ Arkansas State Indians.

So I will be trying out the moblogging feature here on the BlogSpot, maybe with a couple of snaps of coeds and/or game action.

So I will be posting my columns earlier than normal this week - you know, so all five readers can can my exclusive analysis on the hot games of the weekend.

Email me at

September 04, 2006

Holy Double Coverage!

Most lists of the top pass catchers in college football include Hill, Jarrett, Samardzija, Hicks and Rice. Add their Week One production all together, and Toledo TE Chris Hopkins snared as many yards through the air!

Here is my quick tally:
Jason Hill, Washington St. at Auburn - 4 rec, 18 yds, 1 TD
Sidney Rice, South Carolina at Miss. St. - 2 rec, 13 yds, 0TD
Jeff Samadzija, Notre Dame at Georgia Tech - 6 rec, 74 yds, 0 TD
Dwayne Jarrett, USC at Arkansas - 5 rec, 35 yds, 0 TD
Jarrett Hicks, Texas Tech host SMU, DNP
TOTAL - 17 receptions, 140 yards, one TD

Hopkins, Toledo at Iowa State - 13 receptions, 139 yards, 3 TD.

The main theme I see here are that all the games by the big name wideouts were on the road against some pretty good defenses. I do not expect that Robert Meachem of Tennessee, Ryan Wolfe of UNLV, and Chris Williams of New Mexico State will be at the top of the board in a month. Actually, Williams may be around the top since the coach Hall Mumme Air Raid offense may have found a true signal caller in Las Cruces by the name of Chase Holbrook.

Hicks and the university are aggressively appealing his academic ineligibilty, so maybe it isn't fair to include him in this discussion but his ineligibility only becam public knowledge on Thursday.

Speaking of Hopkins, we may have seen a real coming out party for him - new QB Clint Cochran and Hopkins shredded the Iowa State Cyclones in a 45-43 loss in OT on Thursday.

Who do you think will be the top 5 WRs at the end of the season?

September 02, 2006

Why coaches can't waiver on QB choice

"Without the head, the body will die"
I do not recall if that was uttered by Mohammed Ali or St. Paul, but I thought of applying it to a couple of college football teams today.

A team that is unsure of its leader has no leader, and the Arizona State and California programs showed how poorly an entire team can perform when unsure of which QB has the confidence of the coaching staff.

In Tempe, Head Coach Dirk Koetter and the Arizona State Sun Devils have endured much controversy over the last three weeks since soph Rudy Carpenter was named the starter. Remember, that announcement was less than 24 hours after senior Sam Keller was named the top guy, which was 72 hours after eller announced he would transfer to Nebraska for the 2007 season. Carpenter and all of the Sun Devils struggled with a late defensive effort to beat 1-AA Northern Arizona Thursday night.

Way out west, Cal coach Jeff Tedford would not commit to a starter until he was sure of the health of Nate Longshore (right)- that was Thursday! The Bears opened at #9 pre-season in the Coaches Poll, but Cal was embarrassed in their opener at Tennessee , 35-18. So bad was Longshore that last year's starter Joe Ayoob played for most of the second half.

Please do not think that I am furthering a cliche' that the QB is the most important position for every team - it specifically rings true for these two programs. Think of the alumni from each - Andrew Walter and Keller each have thrown for 4000 yards at Arizona, and Cal has put a couple QBs in the NFL - Kyle Boller and Aaron Rodgers.

These coaches have to appreciate the confidence the program derives from having certainty under center. Dare I say that even if they name the wrong guy in the beginning of the season, it allows the rest of the team to focus on their own assignments as they prepare for the season, plus gives the coach the option of changing during the year.

In the absence a a field general, the troops lack focus - and that is exactly what affected both teams this weekend. Not just the offense but the defenses as well.

Let that be a lesson to all the Quarterback U's out there.

September 01, 2006

Risk Capital - Week One

Welcome to the first 2006 installment of Risk Capital - the series where I share what I believe to be the best opportunities in the world of betting college football*.
*for entertainment purposes only

First, let me share with you my betting rules/strategy:
  • I prefer to play underdogs - if I see an upset possibility, I'll take the points so I can win in a close game or on the upset. If I feel really froggy, then I play the moneyline for the underdog to win straight up also (see Huss Hedge below).
  • I am a "Phil Steele Disciple" - not only is his pre-season mag the Rosetta Stone for true college football fans, his Power Sweep Weekly Newsletter is a great way to "outsource" your research and monitoring (I receive no compensation from NC Sports).
  • I will remind you that I also founded the top fantasy college football site, Fantasy College Blitz. Based on my feel for the scoring capabilities of most of the teams, there is opportunity to take advantage of over/unders that are not set appropriately.
  • Successful betting is like successful stock trading - you must discipline yourself to money management. When I discuss the selections, I give each a confidence call of one, two, or three units. A unit should equal 5% of your betting capital, so no bet should ever be more than 15% of your capital. E.g., you have $100 of betting money, 2 units is $10.
So, given those groundrules, here are my five plays for Week One:

1) Nevada +13 at Fresno State, 1 unit.
Big WAC matchup to start the season - this one means as much to these programs as the Noles-Canes game on Monday means to the national championship race. Nevada is led by some top-of-the-line offensive talent and a couple of NFL quality DB's like Joe Garcia. Fresno is breaking in a new QB, a RB Dwayne Wright that has missed the last couple years with a knee injury, and a coach who is as intense and talented as any in America in Pat Hill. I think the teams balance out to even, so getting almost two TDs looks like a steal if it weren't in Fresno - hence only one unit.

2) Houston -14 at Rice, 2 units
This is Phil Steele's 4-star play, and a couldn't agree with the rationale more. Not really a road game - the schools are 5 miles apart. Rice transitions from option to spread offense under new HC Todd Graham and new OC Major Applewhite, and those things always take time (see Kent St. and new Mexico State in 2005, maybe Baylor this year...) Houston has QB Kevin Kolb, a four-year starter, paired with a couple big play receivers and an athletic defense that should oovercome some onerous trends:
  • Cougars are 1-14 in road openers since 1991
  • Rice is 21-7-1 over the spread as a home dog since 1994
3) Georgia Tech +7 over Notre Dame, 3 units
Irish is 3-8 ATS in last 11 road openers, and have done little to address the weak pass defense - bad mix when a) ND goes to Bobby Dodd and usually performs contrary to expectations and b) ultimate weapon GT WR Calvin Johnson will be pushing the DBs all day long. I would love to get more points, but I find it amazing how many people forget the beating at the hands of OSU.

4) UL-Lafayette +30.5 at LSU, 2 units
OK, so the Rajin' Cajuns haven't scored on the Tigers since 1924!

This and the FAU/Clemson game are the only ones with 30 points on the line today, and this one got the nod due the solid ULL defense and the ball-control offense. All of ULL OL is 300+ lb. My hypothesis is that that ball control will keep the LSU offense off the field and the five-year tenured coaching staff, headed by Ricky Bustle, could have a trick up their sleeve.

and if you weren't shocked enough...

5) Arkansas +8.5 over Southern Cal, 3 units
5a) Arkansas +290 Straight Up or Moneyline, 2 uits
Steele's upset of the week pick, and he has loved Arkansas for the better part of last year as well. So many moving parts on the Trojan offense, with new QB JD Booty and a bevy of backs. Contrast that with 19 starters returning for the Hogs, and we have the makings of something special. The weak links - the health of star RB Darren McFadden (broken foot in a bar fight) for the Hogs, and the new offense installed in the off-season as Houston Nutt aggressively looks to save his job. I prefer to interpret this as does Steele, that the RB depth is strong and the Trojans have no idea what to expect.

I expect a close game, and initiated what I like to call the "Huss Hedge" . Named after my friend and colleague John Huss, You play the underdog line with your max bet then also play a smaller amount on the moneyline for them to win straight up. The only way you lose is if your underdog gets blown out - this strategy was used to great effect in bowl season on Tulsa and Texas (and a couple others I cannot recall).

None of the totals (over/unders) got my attention this week except the ones below and Toledo/Iowa State last night. You will see more as the season rolls on.

Enjoy opening weekend!