Saturday’s college football plays, including the first 5* plays of the year (2 of them). All trends ATS unless otherwise noted. Season to date 31-23-3 (+17.3).
5* Penn St. (-8) over Illinois - Tough for Illini to score here as they are #88 in total offense (332) with 61% (202) via the rush, while passing game is pitiful at #113 (131) and #111 (103.3) efficiency. PSU “D” has faced good rush attacks (Bama, Temple, Iowa) but still #31 (118) vs. run after finishing in top 8 each of L5 years (90, 93, 94, 88, 93 YPG). PSU is also #1 in CFB in 3rd down conversion “D” (21.1%). Illinois notched 35 in their final Big 10 road game last year at Minnesota, but scored a grand total of 55 in the previous 5. They are 1-17 in Big 10 road games when scoring <21, 2-11 SU L13 away, 1-14 SU away in Oct., and 0-5 SU at Happy Valley with all losses by 11>. Their QB is a freshman starting first true road game in front of 108,000. They are also #114 (2.7) in punt return yardage. PSU returned 8 starters on offense from 11-2 team, but have suffered due to poor QB play and tough schedule. Still they moved the ball and rushed for 127 yards on 4.1 YPC at Bama, but turned it over twice in the red zone. In last home game beat Temple 22-13 but yardage was 439-202. This was 3-0 Temple team fired up for in-state rival and PSU looking ahead to Iowa but still dominated. Illinois lost 24-13 at home to Ohio St. last week, but OSU HC Tressel went conservative with play calling after QB Pryor got hurt. Illinois scored a 4th quarter TD to pull within 17-13, and Buckeyes promptly went on 6 play TD drive, all runs. The Illini have improved under new DC Kroenig, but still a weak front 7 that will be on the field all day .
5* California (-7.5) over UCLA - UCLA has lived off the rush, winning 3 straight despite being #118 (91) in passing and #120 (84.17) efficiency. Bruins use same Pistol attack Nevada used to embarrass Cal on national TV, but that was just a problem with reading system, not with Bears run “D”. Cal returns most of front 7 that finished #23 (112, 3.3) vs. run in ‘09 and has held their other 3 opponents this year to <100 , including Colorado and Arizona. Bears off a bye so 2 weeks to figure it out and LB Mike Mohamed, the reigning Pac 10 Defensive POY, will return after missing the last 2. UCLA is 0-5 SU & 1-4 ATS at Cal (L3 14>), 2-10 SU on Pac 10 road, 1-5 as Pac 10 RD, 0-6 as Pac 10 D of 8<, 0-8 SU away in Oct., and 1-5-1 off 3 SU wins. Cal brings balanced offense with Sr. QB Riley (219 YPG, #37 efficiency) and solid rushing attack (#34, 190, 5.1) led by Shane Vereen. This is their prime role as they are 6-1 SU & ATS in Pac 10 H opener (L5 wins 20.2 avg.) and 8-1 as Pac 10 HF of 11< (36.1-15.3 avg.)
3* S. Florida (-8) over Syracuse - The Orange are indeed improved but still have lost 25 of 26 Big East road games (21 by 10>), scoring 17< in 20 of 23. They have also lost 5 straight to USF, all by 14>. The Bulls are an explosive team returning 10 starters on offense including QB BJ Daniels, and both starting WRs return after missing the L3 w/injury. USF is big and fast and will no longer be the inconsistent bunch they were under Jim Leavitt. The Skip Holtz era opens in style.
3* S. Carolina (+7.5) over Alabama - The Tide has been living off turnovers and despite the score were held to 273 total yards vs. Florida. In their 32-2 SU run they have played just 10 true road games and just 1 vs. a team that finished with a winning SEC record. That makes this their toughest true road game during the entire stretch. The Gamecocks are a legit top 15 team with potent offense and stingy defense. SC is 8-2 as SEC HD of 4.5> and capable of outright win. SC 27, Bama 26.
3* Florida (-6.5) over LSU - Gators played Bama dead even at line of scrimmage and return home where they are 40-2 SU. They bounce back well (6-1 off L, 6-1 after allow 28>) and are 7-1-1 as SEC HF of 22<. LSU a very inexperienced team and play just 2nd road game. The offense is horrible (#91, 327) as is their QB play (#116 efficiency 97.9). Their defense has played well but has yet to see a premier offensive line, or the overall talent they will see here. Tigers are 3-11-1 vs. Florida and 0-5 SU & 4-1 ATS as SEC RD.
3* Miami, O/Cincinnati Over (53) - Schools are 18 miles apart and 7 of L8 meetings have totaled 50>. Cincy got offense going in 2nd half vs. Oklahoma and faces very weak secondary. 6’5” Miami QB Dysert, who threw for 2600 yards in ‘09, comes in hot after leading comeback win over Kent. He’s completed 76% with 5 TDs in his L5 quarters. The Redskins will be without LB Kennedy (leads team in tackles and TFL) and Bearcats without top CB Battle (true frosh backup).
3* Virginia Tech (-21.5) over C. Michigan - Normally a letdown spot after back-to-back road ACC wins, but you can bet James Madison was mentioned more than once this week. Prior to that game, Tech had won 23 straight non-BCS home games by avg. 42-7 w/8 shutouts (1-0 SU & ATS since). Hokies 8-1 L9, 4-1 HF of 13>, and have only H games with Wake and Duke on deck. This is a team that knows how to get on a roll (12-2 off 2W) and has allowed just 10.9 PPG in L13 Oct. H games. CMU playing 4th road game (1 in OT) in 5 weeks and reeling from 17 point H loss to Ball St. Chippewas 1-4 RD of 17> and lost L3 away vs. ACC by combined 156-45.
3* Arkansas (-5.5) over Texas A&M - Basically the same cast of characters (Hogs 17 starters back, A&M 15) that met on this same field in a 47-19 Arkansas romp last year. Hogs have big mismatch with their OL over Aggies DL, their DBs over A&M receivers, and in special teams as well. They’ve had a week off to stew over Bama loss, and should bounce back nicely here.
3* Tulsa (+6.5) - This number just wrong as Tulsa has better team and this is not a strong home field. I project them with more rushing yards (164-140), equal passing (271-270), big 3rd down edge (48.0-35.7), and the special teams edge is huge. SMU is 0-4 SU & ATS as HF and 0-7 as F of 8<.