Each week I will be posting my Against The Spread (ATS) report for my favorite college football match-ups. I'll also include reports for any day, such as Thursday, Friday, and the occasional Sunday and Monday, when a lined televised game will air.
Disclosure: This feature is for entertainment purposes only. In no way am I suggesting you gamble any real money based on any information contained herein.
Knowing you, you’ll screw it up, blame me, blame your kids, and your life and then you'll go be a jerk at work on Monday because you threw grocery money out the window only to somehow convince yourself over the remainder of the week that you just know you can get it right this weekend.
You’ll lose. You’ll start stealing items from the house to pawn. You’ll start selling crank but will get jacked on your first sale and will end up getting hooked yourself. Your wife and kids will leave you and you’ll start drinking—I know you already drink, I meant the hard stuff.
You’ll end up broke, drunk, on crank, and alone with an insatiable gambling habit that you just can’t afford because you still haven’t won yet. Get the picture? So again, entertainment purposes only.
That being said here are my picks:
S. Carolina @ NC State –4 O/U 46 7:00 ET 9/03
This has to be a do-or-die season in Steve Spurrier’s fifth season as HC for the Gamecocks. Spurrier has gone just 28-21 in the past four seasons with his best record being 8-5 with a bowl win over Houston in 2006.
It’s not all his fault, though. The players still have to execute and take care of the ball—something they did not do last year having thrown 27 INT’s with 38 TO’s in all, both good for worst in the nation.
The O-line was horrible last year giving up 39 sacks and making way for a mere 94 rush yards per game. This year the O-line loses RT Justin Sorensen (two year starter), LG Jamon Meredith, who was a three year starter and NFL draft selection, and there’s also a new O-line coach, Eric Wolford.
There’s still no proven answer at RB, but rather a rotation of three. SC finished dead last in the SEC in rushing last season.
QB Garcia played three games last year and threw eight int’s, so he’ll have to get much better and make smarter decisions, although he’s still going to make the mistakes in his first year as the starter.
The secondary loses three superb starters and a combined 100 career starts from the nation’s second best pass defense last year.
Neither of the two starting CB’s have ever started before. The strength of the team should once again be the DEF centered around one of the nation’s best LB in Eric Norwood, who had 75 tackles and nine sacks last season.
Overall, expectations cannot be too high considering the questions yet to be answered. The Gamecocks return just five on OFF, six on DEF and just seven senior starters total. The kicker is new with no college attempts to his name. The DEF could be on the field a lot if the OFF doesn’t come up with a way to score.
HC Tom O’Brien has steadily improved his Wolfpack team, taking them from 3-9 when he took over to 5-7 his first year and 6-7 and a bowl game last year. This year I think he’ll continue with the progression of his team.
The Wolfpack OFF returns seven and will benefit from a good stable of RB’s and QB Russell Wilson, who as a freshman, led the conference in total OFF at 213 yards/game and posted the best TD-INT ratio of anyone in the ACC with 17-1.
The O-line will have to do their job of helping keep Wilson healthy and off the ground as they gave up 29 sacks last year. The O-line will, however, be more experienced this year as four starters return, losing just two year starter, RG Meares Green.
The D-line will be solid as all four starters are seniors, including future NFL draft pick DE Willie Young. The secondary returns five who started last year and seven total with starting experience.
NC State went 4-1 over their last five, including wins against WF, NC, and Miami with their one loss being against Rutgers in their bowl game. SC dropped the last three, including at Clemson and in their bowl game to Iowa.
SC went 1-2 as an away dog, 1-3 vs. non-conference, and 5-6-1 ATS overall last year. NC State went 10-2 ATS last year with those two coming against non-conference opponents.
NC State averaged 23.5 points/game and gave up 26.3 points/game while SC averaged 20.8 points/game and gave up 21.1 points/game. The SC DEF gave up just 292 yards/game of total OFF with 159 of those being pass yards.
NC State gave up nearly 100 more yards in each last year. I expect similar results from SC offensively with the strength being the DEF. NC State definitely has the more proven pass attack and should test the SC secondary early and often.
Coach Spurrier still doesn’t have confidence in his OFF or QB Garcia and will look to be conservative by running the ball and trying to limit the mistakes by Garcia. Spurrier hopes to rely on his DEF to keep the game close to give his OFF the opportunity to score just enough to squeak out a win.
NC State will most likely attempt to spread the field and pick the secondary apart with lots of passing and some play action running to keep them honest. QB Russell Wilson can also scramble which gives them another threat to keep SC’s DEF on their heels.
This should be a pretty close game, but the advantage has to go to NC State at home possessing a much better passer and more overall starting and game experience as a team.
The line opened at NC State –3, but has now jumped to –5, which tells me that the majority of the betting public jumped all over NC State, so the books boosted the number in an attempt to get more action on SC. WhatIfSports has NC State winning 72.5 percent of the time by an average score of 20-12.
23-13 NC State
Take NC State –5 and Under 46
Oregon @ Boise State -3 O/U 64 10:20 ET
Over the last seven years, Boise St has made seven bowl games, captured six conference titles, and have won 80 games total—only the USC Trojans can say the same.
This year, despite being picked once again as preseason favorites to win the conference, the Broncos might not find it so easy going as they return just half their starters from a year ago.
The OFF gets six of those returning, including QB Kellen Moore, who was fantastic last year as a redshirt freshmen completing an absurd 69.4 percent of his passes for 3486 yards, 25 TD’s, and 10 INT’s.
Moore loses, however, his top OFF weapons of RB Ian Johnson and most of his WR corps. The O-line, which used 11 different combinations of players in 13 games last year, loses their best player, three year starter Andrew Woodruff.
The DEF will overall be pretty good once again—although returning just five starters—with arguably the WAC’s best secondary led by preseason DEF POY, CB Kyle Wilson.
The LB unit may be a little less experienced as will the core of the D-line, however, first Team All-WAC DE Ryan Winterswyk returns to anchor the unit. Boise factored 37.6 points/game and gave up just 12.6 points/game to opponents.
After 14 seasons with the Ducks, HC Mike Belotti steps down and is now the school’s athletic director. Taking over is Chip Kelly who has been the Duck’s OC the past two seasons, so the transition shouldn’t be as difficult for the team.
The Oregon OFF boasted a pair of 1000+ yard RB’s last season, of which LeGarrette Blount, who also had a 7.3 yards/carry average and 17 scores, returns. Also returning to lead the OFF is QB Jeremiah Masoli who wasn’t spectacular as a passer last year, but was of the dual-threat variety as he rushed for 718 yards and 10 scores.
While the stars are certainly in line at the skill positions, the O-line, lacking depth and experience, remains a big question mark as they lose several starters including their top two to the NFL, and return just four with any starting experience.
The DEF returns five but has a couple of solid playmakers to lead, including SR DE Will Tukuafu, who tallied 7.5 sacks and 10 tackles for a loss, as well as the dynamic duo in the secondary of SR SS TJ Ward, who led the team with 101 tackles last year, and SR CB Walter Thurmond, who had 13 pass defends with five INT’s.
The Ducks factored 41.9 points/game and gave up 28.2 points/game last year. The Ducks DEF sacked opposing QB’s 39 times.
Both teams return just five starters on DEF and both teams have a high-powered OFF, which should make for a high-scoring game.
The Broncos have won 49 straight at home and also beat Oregon in Eugene 32-37 last year. The line opened at Boise St -6.5, but has now dropped to just -3, which tells me the majority of the betting public jumped all over Oregon with the points, so the books are attempting to get more money on the Boise side.
WhatIfSports has Boise St winning just 52 percent of the time by an average score of 27-25. I agree with WhatIfSports in that this game is too close to call as far as a winner. It could go either way. The most predictable of outcomes seems to be the score, which should be high.
38-35 Boise State
Take Boise/Oregon Over 64
Troy –7 @ Bowling Green O/U 56 7:00 ET
The Troy Trojans are this year’s preseason consensus favorite to win the SBC title, and for good reason as they won it outright last year and appear to have all the pieces in place to repeat.
The OFF returns seven and will be led by SR QB Levi Brown, who last year completed 61.7 percent of his passes for 2030 yards with 15 TD’s to just three INT’s. Hampton also added four scores on the ground with 236 rushing yards.
The OFF also welcomes back their 1000+ yard rusher, DuJuan Harris, who also scored 14 times last year, 11 of which on the ground. There’s some concern at the O-line as the starting LT and RT need to be replaced.
The DEF only returns five, but gets back their stars, including the “Killer Bees” at LB, SR Bear Woods and SR Boris Lee—also the teams two top tacklers—as well as SR DE Brandon Lang, who tied for best in the conference last year with 10.5 sacks.
In addition to Lang, the D-line will start two other SR’s, one JR, and overall should be pretty solid, although they may not match their conference-best 37 sacks posted last year.
The secondary takes a hit losing three starters, including first-Team All-SBC and second round NFL draft choice, FS Sherrod Martin. Troy has put together a respectable streak of three-straight eight-win seasons.
Last year, three of their five losses came on the road against Ohio State, OK State, and LSU (who they nearly beat if not for a miraculous fourth quarter comeback). The other two losses were to ULM by one and in their bowl game to Southern Miss, who they lost to in overtime 27-30.
Bowling Green had four losses by seven or less and had it not been for a few plays going the wrong way, they could have been 10-2 last year. That may be too generous.
There’s always hope, though, with a solid three-year starter at QB like the Falcons have in Tyler Sheehan, who’ll have the luxury of relying on veteran WR’s to throw to.
The OFF will further be helped by a good RB twosome in Willie Geter and Chris Bullock. The O-line is solid, with decent depth across the board, and there's enough overall experience to expect a strong year.
The problem is the DEF, returning just three starters, where the entire D-Line needs replaced and lacks any depth or experience. The starters will have a combined eight career starts.
One starting LB returns, but they do have another solid LB who started twice last year and was named MAC East DPW in one of his starts.
Senior Safeties Jahmal Brown and P.J. Mahone, who have combined for 441 tackles and 11 interceptions in their careers, will add experience and leadership to the DEF, but their secondary loses their first and second-team All MAC corners.
With just three starters returning to the BG defense, Troy has more than enough weapons on OFF to exploit the BG holes. Also, BG’s entire D-line being replaced should give Troy QB Levi Brown plenty of time and room to operate.
Both teams get seven back on OFF and possess an experienced starter at QB. BG gets the advantage at QB as Sheehan will start his third year, was more accurate at 66.8 percent completion rate (compared to Brown’s 61.7 percent), and is more mobile as he had 237 rush yards and seven scores to Brown’s 17 net yards and no scores.
BG gets home field advantage, although it will be a crowd of less than 30k and they were just 1-4 SU and ATS at home last year. Troy was 3-1 as an away fave, 2-3 against non-conference and 7-5 overall ATS last year.
BG was 3-1 vs. non-conference and 8-4 ATS overall last year. That one they didn’t cover came against MN when they were a five point favorite for some reason. This game is going to be much closer than expected and looks like it really could go either way.
Last year when GB beat Pitt to start the season, they were +3 in TO margin. The following week’s loss to MN as a five point home fave, they were –5 in TO margin and lost 17-42. This game may come down to TO’s as well.
WhatIfSports has Troy winning 67 percent of the time by an average score of 23-18.
No ATS advantage