College Football Betting News and Notes Saturday, August 31

College Football Betting News and Notes Saturday, August 31

NCAAF Week 1

Louisiana Tech had great year LY, going 9-3 then getting snubbed for bowl, but they lost 15 starters and HC Dykes from LY, so now Skip Holtz takes over program that covered six of last seven tries as home dog, nine of last 12 non-league games. Holtz’ teams are 20-9 vs spread in last 29 games as road dog at UCF/ECU. NC State is 9-4 as home favorite since ’10, but 3-7 in last ten non-ACC games; they’ve got new coach, new QB and six new starters on both sides of ball.

Iowa outgained Northern Illinois 268-201 in narrow 18-17 (-9) win LY, Hawkeyes’ 4th straight series win (other three by 10+); since ’06, Iowa is 16-20 as a home favorite- they’re 15-18 in last 33 non-league games, 3-6 in last nine. NIU has new coach and seven new starters on defense, but also senior QB (14 starts) and all five starters back on OL; they covered eight of last 11 tries as road dog, are 14-17 in last 31 non-MAC games. Iowa has new QB with three starters back on OL.

BYU has new QB, only 44 returning starts on OL; they lost seven starters on defense, but are 14-8 vs spread in last 22 road games, 15-13 in last 28 as a road favorite. Virginia has 16 starters back, including four (three seniors) on OL but a new QB; they’re 3-9 in last dozen games as home dog (2-6 with London), 1-7-1 in last nine non-league games. Teams haven’t met since 2000, when they split pair of close, high-scoring games, with road team winning both.

Extremely young Virginia Tech team; 27 of 71 players on travelling squad are playing first college game here, vs Alabama squad that covered seven of last eight games on neutral field and is 16-11 in last 27 non-SEC games. Tide lost three starters on OL (only 39 starts back) but have senior QB (27 starts) and seven starters back on defense. Tech has senior QB (also 27 starts); they covered only one of last four as a dog and since ’06 are 10-19-3 vs spread out of conference. Bama (-6.5) beat Tech 34-24 in opening game here four years ago.

Troy won three of last four games with UAB; Blazers lost last two visits here, 24-24/27-14. Three of last eight series games were decided by one point, with average total in last three, 60.7. UAB is 8-7 as road dog since ’10, 7-5 in last 12 non-league games; they’ve got four starters back on defense, a soph QB (8 starts) and a date at LSU next. Troy lost four starters off its OL but has senior QB (36 starts); Trojans covered only twice in last dozen tries as a home favorite.

Cincinnati has whole OL (83 starts) back from LY with three senior starters and two QBs who have started games; they’re 8-5 in last 13 games as home favorite, 8-4 in last 12 non-league games. Purdue has eight starters back on defense and three starters back on OL (52 career starts) but only two other offensive starters back- their QB has only six career starts. Since 2006, Boilers are 15-12 as road underdogs. Both teams here have new head coaches.

Former Louisville/Arkansas coach Petrino is new HC at Western Kentucky, which has four senior starters on OL but junior QB with only one career start; Hilltoppers were amazing 16-5 vs spread as underdog under Taggart (now at USF)- they beat Kentucky 32-31 LY, despite being outgained by 50 yards- they had three previous losses vs UK, all by 10+ points. Petrino is 14-10 vs spread in last 24 games as underdog. New coach for Kentucky, which covered four of last five as road favorite and is since ’07 is 15-10 vs spread out of SEC.

Since 2008, Mississippi State is 4-13 vs spread as a road underdog, covering once in last eight tries; they’re 8-13 in last 21 non-SEC games. Bulldogs have senior QB (17 starts and all five starters back on OL (108 career starts), which gives them edge here, over Oklahoma State team that is 9-4 vs spread in last 13 non-league games; they’ve got a senior QB with only five career starts and three starters back on OL (38 career starts). Teams haven’t met since ’99; figure Houston site helps OSU, which recruits Texas more than Miss State.

Syracuse has new coach, new QB, three soph starters on OL; since ’08, they’re 19-28-1 as road dogs, but 13-7-1 in last 21 non-league games. Syracuse lost 28-7/55-13 in last two games vs Penn State (‘08/’09) happier times for Lions. PSU also has new QB but has 8 starters back on offense, three on OL; they were 6-1 as favorite LY, are 11-3 as road favorites since 2008. You figure crowd in NJ would be split, but Orange played USC here LY and game drew poorly, so PSU should have crowd edge.

Clemson has senior QB (27 starts) and four starters back on OL (64 starts); they’re 24-4 SU at home under Swinney, but since ’08 are 0-3 as home underdogs. Tigers-Georgia are old rivals playing for first time in decade; Dawgs have nine starters back on offense, with whole OL back and senior QB (41 starts) but only three back on defense-- 10 of 22 kids on Georgia’s defensive 2-deep depth chart are playing first college game (8 true frosh), bad news vs Clemson offense. Since ’09, Georgia is 7-3 as a road favorite; they’re 9-10 in last 19 non-SEC games.

LSU/TCU both have senior QBs, though Pachall (17 starts) missed LY for Horned Frogs and Mettenberger now has NFL coach (Cameron) as tutor; TCU has nine starters back on defense- they’re 12-7-1 in last 20 games as underdog, but are just 3-11-1 in last 15 non-league games. LSU is 23-31 vs spread in last 54 games as a favorite, 9-14 in last 23 non-SEC games. 7-5-1 on neutral fields under Miles. LSU lost seven starters on defense and two on OL. Each team has only one senior starter on OL. Dallas site is very close to TCU, but LSU fans travel very well.

Boise State (-5) nipped Washington 28-26 in Vegas Bowl LY, even though Huskies outgained them by 40 yards on chilly day in desert. Broncos have senior QB (13 starts) and five senior starters on OL (only two returning starters, 52 starts); they’re 3-1 as road dog under Peterson, 18-7 vs spread out of conference. U-Dub is 7-5 as home favorite under Sarkisian, 8-7 out of conference; they’ve got four returning starters (all juniors) on OL and senior QB (26 starts). Hard to give Peterson points, given his (84-8 career mark as Boise coach).

Northwestern has 8 starters back on offense with senior QB (20 starts) but only two starters back on OL (40 starts); since ’08, Wildcats are 3-7-1 as road favorites, but they’re 9-5-1 in last 15 games out of conference. Cal has new coach, new QB, three new starters on OL; since ’04 they’re 2-8 vs spread as home underdogs, 14-17 in last 31 non-league games. Wildcats lost seven starters on defense- they won wild opener 42-41 at Syracuse LY. Dykes worked wonders at Louisiana Tech, but this is just his first game at Cal.

Other Games

I’m going to give you some notes on every games, except ones with point spreads of 30+ points-- those are a waste of time.

-- Maryland is 3-0 vs FIU, with average score 27-16; Panthers are 7-5 as road dog since ’10, 13-11 in last 24 non-league games. Terps are 2-5 as home favorite under Edsall.
– Miami OH lost last four visits to Marshall by average score of 38-27; Red Hawks are 4-7 as road dogs under Treadwell (8-13 since ’09). Marshall is 5-9 in last 15 games as a home favorite.
– Oklahoma chose younger QB over runner Bell; they’re 25-15-1 as home favorites (9-9 in last 18) but have Big X rival West Virginia up next. ULM has terrific senior QB (36 starts), four starters back on OL; they’re 5-3 in last eight games as a road underdog.
– Southern Miss is on third HC in three years after going 0-12 LY; since ’05, they’re 18-21 as home favorites. Texas State has four starters back on OL for former Bama coach Franchione, who is 3-4 as road dog at TSU

– Rice has senior QB (22 starts) and all five starters back on OL (86 starts); they were 4-0 as road dogs LY. Since ’09, Texas A&M is 13-9 as home favorite- Manziel is suspended for first half of this game. No iidea how Aggies will respond to the circus surrounding him.
– Toledo has senior QB (14 starts), four starters back on OL (78 starts); they’re 9-3 in last 12 games as road dogs. Florida plays Miami next; they’ve got junior QB (12 starts) and 104 returning starts on OLK- they’re 11-13 in last 24 games as a home favorite.
– Malzahn’s first Auburn team has highly-touted JC QB making debut here; they’re 17-22 as home favorite since ’05, 14-22 out of SEC and are very thin on defense. Washington State has junior QB, four starters back on OL in Leach’s second year there- Coogs are 16-12 vs spread in last 28 games as an underdog.
– Since 2005, North Texas is 4-11 as a favorite, but they’re 3-1 as a home favorite under McCarney. Idaho is 12-10 as a road dog, 13-8 in last 21 non-league games.

– Wyoming covered 15 of last 19 tries as road dogs, but Nebraska has four senior starters on OL and senior QB (38 starts). Huskers are 17-16 as home favorite under Pelini; they pounded Cowboys 38-14 (-21) LY.
– New Mexico was 3-0 as favorite under Davie LY; he has four starters (107 starts) back from OL but has young QB (4 starts). UTSA covered five of its six road games LY; they’ve got four junior starters on OL (83 career starts).
– New coach for Nevada, which has junior QB (20 starts); they’re 9-7 in last 16 games as road dogs. UCLA has soph QB (14 starts), four starters back on OL but no seniors—they’re 3-5 in last eight games as home favorite, but 19-11 in last 30 non-league games.

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CFB: Streaks, Tips, Notes
Sportspic.com 

Purdue at Cincinnati

Two new head coaches will be on the side lines when Bearcats and Boilermakers kick off the 2013 season. Tommy Tuberville takes over at Cinci replacing Butch Jones who departed for Tennessee after guiding Bearcats to a 10-3 (8-4-1 ATS) campaign including a bowl victory over Duke. At Purdue, Darrell Hazel replaces Danny Hope who was canned after a 6-7 overall showing, 3-5 within the Big Ten. Cinci opened a hefty 10.5 point favorite but it's a number Bearcats can handle against Darrell Hazel's troops without the top two quarterbacks, top rusher and top receiver from last year's squad that recorded just 28.7 PPG. Bearcats 10-0 (4-2 ATS) in season home opener's, Boilermakers 0-4 (2-2 ATS) in season road opener's expect Tommy Tuberville to get his era at Cinci off to a winning start while improving Bearcats 6-2 ATS stretch laying eight or more points.

Georgia at Clemson

Tigers off a solid 7-1 showing in the ACC and an 11-2 (9-4 ATS) mark overall will be gunning for it's 10th straight home opener when they host Georgia Bulldogs off a smart 12-2 (8-6 ATS) campaign including 7-1 in the SEC. The betting market figuring this one to be a tight, high-scoring affair with Tigers' Tajh Boyd (3896 yds, 36 TD) and Bulldogs' Aaron Murray (3893 Yds, 36 TD) airing it out have Tigers 2 point home dogs with the total set at a whopping 72 points. Bulldogs a profitable 7-1 ATS as road favorite of 4 or less, 12-4-1 ATS vs the ACC since '91 including two SU/ATS wins vs Tigers as worth a second look. As for the total, Bulldogs are on a smart 8-1 O/U streak in it's first month of action, Tigers have an 7-1 O/U mark in their last eight during the first month of play

TCU vs LSU

TCU notching a 7-6 (5-8 ATS) record in the first season as a member of the Big 12 scoring 28.3 PPG while allowing opponents 22.6 PPG try to get off to a good start Saturday against LSU in the Cowboys Classic at AT&T Stadium in Arlington. TCU sports betting backers have not been very happy wagering on Frogs in today's situation. That’s because the team has a 1-8-1 ATS slide going in non-conference tilts, 0-6 ATS skid in their last six neutral site games. LSU 10-3 (5-8 ATS) last year behind one of the nations top defenses (17.5 PPG) will be starting a very different 'D' line having lost a ton of defensive talent to the draft. Still, Les Miles' troops find themselves 4 to 4.5 point favorite a number Bayou Bengals' have covered in 8-of-9 away from Louisiana State University. Finally, a few more betting nuggets to consider. LSU Tigers are a perfect 2-0 SU/ATS the last two openers at a neutral site including a 40-27 thrashing of Ducks in this same venue back in 2011.

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College Football Gambling Preview: Boise State Broncos at Washington Huskies
By Ian Cameron
SportsMemo.com

Boise State at Washington
Saturday, 7 pm PT - FS1
CRIS Opener: Washington -5.5 O/U 52.5
CRIS Current: Washington -3.5 O/U 53
Rob Veno's Power Rating: Washington -0.5
Ian Cameron's Recommendation: Boise State

The Washington Huskies will play their first game in newly renovated Husky Stadium on Saturday night as they host the Boise State Broncos in a rematch of last year’s Las Vegas Bowl. Boise won that game 28-26 but failed to cover as 4.5-point favorites.

The Broncos will have quarterback Joe Southwick back for his second year as the starter. He started out slowly last year but gradually improved as the season progressed throwing for 2,730 yards on 66.8% completions and a 19-7 TD-INT ratio. He will have his top two receiving targets back in Matt Miller and Kirby Moore who combined for 102 receptions, more than 1,100 yards, and 6 TDs last season. They did lose their top running back D.J. Harper to graduation but Jay Ayaji should be able to fill in quite well as he rushed for 548 yards on a 6.7 yards per carry as a backup. The key for Boise State’s offense early in the season will be how quickly the new o-line comes together. The unit returns just two starters one of which is starting center Matt Paradis. They’ll be going with two inexperienced sophomore starters on the right side with guard Marcus Henry and tackle Rees Odhiambo. However, they’ve received terrific reviews in camp leading up the start of the season.

“The seniors refer to those guys as the Super Class in terms of their recruiting year together,” offensive line coach Chris Strausser said. “Those two guys (Henry and Odhiambo) are very athletic. They move their feet very well, but they’re also not a couple of old dogs who have had about every injury you could possibly have and I think that makes a difference, too, at this point in their life.”

Boise State’s defensive line is anchored by end Demarcus Lawrence who led the Broncos in tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles. The unit as a whole is formidable and that could be bad news for Washington as its offensive line failed to pass protect at an adequate level last season. The secondary should be rock solid as well with Jeremy Ioane and Darian Thompson.

Washington returns third-year starting quarterback Keith Price who has all the physical tools to have a big year for the Huskies. He must improve his decision making after throwing 13 interceptions last season. His ability to improve on that ratio (19-13 TD-INT) will be critical for Washington’s success. Running back Bishop Sankey should be able to deliver good production running the football but for this game there are some concerns for Washington’s receiving corps with All-American tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins doubtful with a finger injury. He was second on the team in receptions and receiving yards last season and led UW in touchdown receptions. The offensive line returns four starters which on the surface is a positive. However, the group didn’t hold up very well in pass protection for Price much of the season albeit some of that due to injuries.

Washington’s defense should be solid I’m a little concerned with only one senior starter projected for Saturday. The Huskies may be another year away from becoming a truly great stop unit due to the overall lack of upperclassmen. The linebacker corps is a strength but they are a bit thin at secondary. The Huskies lost safety Justin Glenn and all-conference cornerback Desmond Trufant in the offseason and depth in the secondary especially at cornerback is a concern facing a verteran quarterback like Southwick.

Washington has the revenge angle on their side and they will also be hosting at the newly renovated Husky Stadium which will likely invoke a strong effort. That being said, the Huskies have some questions that may not be answered successfully in Week 1. Can their offensive line which was woeful last season improve? Can they improve at stopping the run along the interior of a defensive line that has undergone many changes entering this season? Can they thrive in the secondary despite key personnel losses and a lack of experience? Note that Washington has struggled to turn in Week 1 games under Sarkisian going just 1-3 ATS. On the flip side, Boise State has put together a very solid track record of coming out of the gate strong in recent years under head coach Chris Petersen. The Broncos are 3-1 SU but more importantly 4-0 ATS in Week 1 contests dating back to 2009 with one of those wins coming against Georgia. This is not an easy game to call weighing all the factors but with Boise State catching points, especially more than a field goal, the underdog is the preferred play.

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College Football Betting Preview: Northwestern Wildcats at California Golden Bears
By Teddy Covers
SportsMemo.com

Northwestern at California
Saturday, 7:30 pm PT - ESPN2
CRIS Opener: Northwestern -3 O/U 58.5
CRIS Current: Northwestern -5 O/U 57.5
Rob Veno's Power Rating: Northwestern -5
Teddy Covers' Recommendation: Northwestern

When Washington State went from good to mediocre to awful in the PAC-12, it happened rather predictably.  Mike Price had success in Pullman, albeit not every year, and he left the cupboard full for his successor, Bill Doba, when Price took the Alabama job.  Doba won ten games in his first year, and the Cougars enjoyed their third consecutive top 10 ranking at the close of the season following an upset win over Texas in the Holiday Bowl.

But Doba was not the right hire; unable to recruit (or coach) the way Price did.  Washington State quickly went from a top 10 program three years running to a squad that was struggling to reach .500 every year: 5-6, 4-7, 6-6 and 5-7 in Doba’s final four years on the job.  Wazzou didn’t enjoy a single winning season ATS as the program declined into mediocrity.

The Cougars gave up on Doba following those four declining seasons and brought Paul Wulff in to transition the team into a wide open spread offense.  The results were disastrous.  Repeated poor recruiting classes, coupled with an enormous number of injuries and transfers left the program bereft of talent, at the bottom of the BCS Conference world.  Wulff went 2-11, 1-11, 2-10 and 4-8 in his four years on the job.

As Wassou was crumbling from mediocre to bottom feeder, they went 8-15-1 ATS in Wulff’s first two years.  That extending their streak to SEVEN consecutive .500 or worse seasons ATS before a 7-5 ATS mark in 2010, when Wassou was catching three TD’s or more in 2/3 of their games.

What does all of this have to do with Cal’s opening night game at Northwestern?  Simple – Cal might be the next Washington State!  I don’t expect the drop-off to be quite as dramatic – there’s more talent on the Bears roster than there’s been on any Washington State roster in the last eight years.  It’s easier to recruit kids to Berkeley that includes a recently upgraded Memorial Stadium than it is to get them to leave home for Pullman.  But the trend lines are certainly comparable.

Jeff Tedford enjoyed great success with the Bears early in his tenure.  He was a hot prospect, coveted by NFL teams as well as true blueblood college programs.  But after peaking with a 10-win, ‘tied for the PAC-10 title’ season in 2006, slowly, but surely, the Cal program started to decline.  The Tedford era ended with 5-7, 7-6 and 3-9 campaigns; and last year’s 3-9 ATS debacle could be a harbinger of things to come.

Sonny Dykes had great success running the spread offense at Louisiana Tech.  The Bulldogs won nine games last year, averaging 51.5 points and 578 yards per game; leading the nation in both categories.  But Dykes first year at LaTech wasn’t nearly as pretty: 27 points per game on 390 yards of offense in a 5-7 SU, 5-7 ATS season.  It’s worth noting that against WAC competition, the Bulldogs won only as a favorite that year – beating the teams they were supposed to beat, but unable to step up in class.

Dykes is installing the same spread offense at Cal with new offensive coordinator Tony Franklin.  New defensive coordinator Andy Buh has switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 defense this year, forcing several linebackers to convert to defensive end in the offseason.  And there’s an entirely new staff of assistants, a complete coaching housecleaning.

Dykes is starting true frosh quarterback Jared Goff in the season opener against Northwestern.   This team lacks senior leadership, with only 12 seniors on the roster.  Dykes: “We’re a very young team that’s playing a very difficult schedule. If you’re on the outside of our program and you’re looking at Cal football, it doesn’t look very good.”  I agree with that quote 100%!

Northwestern went 10-3 SU, 11-1-1 ATS last year, an under-the-radar pointspread machine.  That included straight up road wins at Michigan State, Syracuse and Minnesota.  They won three road games in 2011 as well, including an impressive upset at Nebraska.  Two experienced quarterbacks – Kain Colter, a dangerous running threat and Trevor Siemian, an effective downfield passer – give the new Bears’ defense multiple looks to worry about.  The Wildcats defense held opponents to 22 points per game last year and their front seven is loaded once again.

Bottom line?  There’s a class difference between these two teams that isn’t fully reflected in this pointspread.  Even in a late night West Coast game like this one (situational advantage for Cal), don’t expect miracles from the Bears in their first game under Dykes against a Big Ten contender like the Wildcats.

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Re: College Football Betting News and Notes Saturday, August 31

College Football Gambling Preview: LSU Tigers vs. TCU Horned Frogs
By Marty Otto
SportsMemo.com

LSU vs. TCU
Marty Otto's Recommendation: LSU
Saturday, 6 pm PT - ESPN (at Cowboys Stadium)
CRIS Opener: LSU -3 O/U 50.5
CRIS Current: LSU -4 O/U 50

This is one of the marquee games of college football’s opening week and it’s being played on a monster stage. It’s Saturday night, on ESPN primetime, at massive Cowboys Stadium. The Tigers currently find themselves as 4-point favorites and I wouldn’t expect them to go off at anything less than that number barring a major suspension or injury.

Coaching

Les Miles enters his ninth season as head coach at LSU. His teams have managed to win at least 10 games in each of the last three years and in six of his previous eight seasons. John Chavis remains as the defensive coordinator. Cam Cameron is the new offensive coordinator after a long stint in the NFL.

TCU head coach Gary Patterson has been at the helm for 13 years in Fort Worth. Known as a giant killer while as a member of the Mountain West, Patterson has guided TCU through its rough transition to major conference competition as the Horned Frogs joined the Big XII last year.

LSU Offense vs. TCU Defense

Gary Patterson’s teams have long been lauded as defensive dominators. But those days could well be in the past now that they’ve stepped up in class to the Big XII. We saw a drop off last year as the Frogs allowed over 22 points per game after averaging just 14.7 ppg the previous six years. Though this unit returns almost all of their starters from a year ago they will be without defensive end DeVonte Fields due to suspension. He accounted for 10 sacks and another 8.5 tackles for loss last year so it is a significant absence.

LSU’s projected offensive line is beefy with some 320-350 pound guys pushing the pile. This is a team that had three running backs that averaged over 5.5 yards per carry (Jeremy Hill, Kenny Hilliard, and Alfred Blue) and all three return. Hill is the presumptive starter but some legal issues may keep him from playing in this game. I still wouldn’t worry about their production with Hilliard and Blue more than capable. Of course all eyes will be on quarterback Zach Mettenberger; immensely talented but inconsistent. I would expect with Cameron’s tutelage that Mettenberger could have a breakout season. His top two receivers are back and if he can play like he showed he could against Alabama last season the Tigers are going to be a very good offensive team.

LSU Defense vs. TCU Offense

There is a bit of gamesmanship going on in the TCU camp right now regarding who will start at quarterback. Casey Pachall was the starter at the beginning of last season and performed well. But a drunk driving charge and a trip to rehab ended his season after just four weeks. Trevone Boykin took over signal calling duties in his absence and the offense struggled. It’s widely expected that Pachall will return as the starter but Patterson will not confirm publicly who will get the nod. Pachall and Boykin are so different as players that LSU is in theory forced to game plan for both. In any event I don’t believe this will be a quick strike offense like they’ve had in previous years regardless of who starts. And I don’t think they’ll be having much success in the run game against this LSU defense.

Obviously LSU has to reload the stop unit after eight players were drafted but I don’t expect a noticeable drop off. Les Miles has recruited well and they have plenty of highly touted guys to fill the gaps. I think it’s more of the size and speed advantages they’ll undoubtedly have here that will make a difference against a rather pedestrian TCU offense.

Final Take

There was a time in the not so distant past that TCU vs. a power conference school would pique my interest. But they will no longer sneak up on the opposition and when it’s an elite SEC team… well, forget about it! TCU got run out of the building by Oklahoma last year and I suspect we’ll see LSU punch them in the mouth while showing dominance in the trenches. LSU is 43-3 SU the past 10 years in non-conference games and they’ve excelled in the role of road favorite going 65% ATS since 2002. I think the Tigers notch a comfortable victory in Dallas despite TCU having the local support.

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Re: College Football Betting News and Notes Saturday, August 31

Georgia at Clemson
By Brian Edwards
VegasInsider.com

Matchup: Georgia Bulldogs at Clemson Tigers
Venue: Clemson Memorial Stadium, Clemson, South Carolina (grass)
Date: Saturday, August 31, 2013
Time/TV: 8:00 p.m. ET - ABC
Line: Georgia -1.5, Over/Under 71
Last Meeting: 2003, Georgia 30 at Clemson 0

Georgia and Clemson are set to renew their rivalry in a crucial Week 1 contest Saturday night at Death Valley. With both schools entertaining national-title hopes, the stakes couldn’t be much higher for a season opener.

As of Thursday morning, most betting shops had UGA installed as a 1.5-point favorite with a total of 71. The Bulldogs are -125 on the money line, while gamblers can back the Tigers for a +105 return (risk $100 to win $105).

Georgia returns nine starters on offense but only three on defense from last season’s team that went 12-2 straight up and 8-6 against the spread. The Bulldogs bounced back from their crushing SEC Championship Game loss to Alabama by beating Nebraska 45-31 as an 8.5-point favorite at the Capital One Bowl.

Nevertheless, the UGA faithful can’t help but wonder about what could’ve been. Trailing the Crimson Tide by four in the final minute, Aaron Murray had his team on the move but had no timeouts remaining.

When he completed a pass to the nine yard line with 15 seconds remaining, the clock stopped for the officials to move the chains. At this point, it was a no-brainer for Murray to spike the ball to give his team three shots at the end zone.

Instead, he looked to the sidelines and was given incomprehensible instructions to run a play. The outcome was predictable. Murray’s pass was deflected at the line of scrimmage and caught by UGA’s Chris Conley at the five. The clock ran out and a golden opportunity to get to the BCS Championship Game was lost.

Murray enjoyed a stellar junior campaign, throwing for 3,893 yards with a 36/10 touchdown-to-interception ratio. He had great support from a pair of freshmen running backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.

Gurley rushed for 1,385 yards and 17 TDs while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. Many publications have him listed as a preseason All-American. Marshall is no slouch, either. He produced 759 rushing yards and eight TDs while averaging 6.5 YPC.

Murray lost his leading receiver in Tavarres King, but Michael Bennett is back after tearing his ACL in early October of last season. Bennett had made 24 receptions for 345 yards and four TDs before going down in the fifth game.

Arthur Lynch might be the SEC’s best tight end. He had 24 catches for 431 yards and three TDs in 2012. Malcolm Mitchell also returns after hauling in 40 receptions for 572 yards and four TDs.

While the UGA offense, a unit that averaged 37.8 PPG last year, is absolutely loaded, the defense lost a ton of talent. The top four tacklers, including first-round picks Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, are gone. Plus, starting safety Josh Harvey-Clemons is suspended against Clemson.

Clemson finished 2012 with an 11-2 SU record and a 9-4 ATS mark. The Tigers capped the season with a 25-24 comeback victory over LSU at the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in Atlanta.

Trailing 24-13 in the fourth quarter, Chandler Catanzaro buried a 26-yard field goal to make it a one-possession game with 9:26 remaining. With 2:47 remaining, DeAndre Hopkins scored a on a 12-yard TD pass from Tajh Boyd, but the two-point conversion failed.

At this point, Clemson’s main enemy was the clock but it had all three timeouts remaining. Therefore, LSU’s Les Miles went into his clock-management handbook and pulled out this plan – throw the ball three consecutive times to stop the clock following each incompletion and, therefore, allow Clemson to keep all of its timeouts.

After forcing the three and out, Clemson marched down the field to set up Catanzaro for his walk-off FG from 37 yards out. Dabo Swinney’s squad won outright as a six-point underdog.

Clemson has won nine games or more in three of Swinney’s four (full) seasons. The Tigers have posted double-digit win totals in back-to-back campaigns. They won the ACC two years ago and are now hoping to bag an even bigger championship, which would be their first since former head coach Danny Ford pulled the trick in 1981.

Clemson returns six starters on both offense and defense. Most important, the Tigers bring back their senior QB. Boyd is the school’s second all-time leading passer and is poised to surpass Charlie Whitehurst in October. In 2012, Boyd completed 67.2 percent of his throws for 3,896 yards with a 36/13 TD-INT ratio. He also had 514 rushing yards and 10 TDs.

As a true freshman in 2011, Sammy Watkins was probably the nation’s best playmaker. However, a suspension and a nagging ankle injury created all sorts of problems for Watkins in 2012. He had 57 catches for 708 yards and three TDs, but those were miniscule numbers compared to the talent level of this player. Watkins is healthy now and poised for a bounce-back year.

Clemson’s defense made strides last season in coordinator Brent Venables’ first year at the school. The Tigers went from allowing 29.3 PPG in 2011 to surrendering just 24.8 PPG. One would think this unit would continue to improve under the direction of Venables, who previously spent 12 years on Bob Stoops’s staff at Oklahoma.

During Swinney’s tenure, the Tigers own a 34-26 spread record. They have been home underdogs just three times, going 0-3 ATS.

The Bulldogs are 7-3 ATS in 10 road ‘chalk’ situations since 2009.

ABC will provide television coverage from Death Valley at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets

Since 1998, Va. Tech has only been a double-digit underdog five times. The Hokies, who are catching 20 points vs. Alabama on Saturday, are 4-1 ATS in those five spots.

ULM head coach Todd Berry dismissed starting WR Colby Harper from the team this past weekend. Before sustaining a season-ending injury in Week 4 last year, Harper had 29 catches for 303 yards and two TDs. The Warhawks are 22-point underdogs Saturday at Oklahoma.

Speaking of the Sooners, they will be without two defensive starters due to suspensions. Junior DE Chuka Ndulue and junior CB Cortez Johnson will both sit out vs. ULM. Ndulue had 45 tackles, five sacks and four QB hurries in 2012.

BYU starting CB Jordan Johnson is out for the season with a season-ending knee injury. Johnson had 48 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, 15 passes broken up and one interception in 2012. The Cougars, who open Saturday at Virginia, had been favored by three of 3.5 points at most books for the last several weeks. However, the line moved to just one on Monday. When BYU last ventured into ACC country last season, it spanked Ga. Tech by a 41-17 count on The Flats.

Florida will be without four starters for its season opener vs. Toledo. The Gators won’t have OG Jon Halapio, OT Chaz Green, RB Matt Jones and LB Antonio Morrison. Halapio probably won’t be back until late September. Green is out for the season with a torn labrum, while Jones will likely return in Week 2 at Miami. Morrison will also be back for the Hurricanes after his two-game suspension was reduced Monday by Will Muschamp.

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College Football Betting Preview: Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys
By Rob Veno
Sportsmemo.com

Mississippi State vs. Oklahoma State
Saturday, 12:30 pm PT - Houston
CRIS Opener: Oklahoma State -11 O/U 59
CRIS Current: Oklahoma State -12.5O/U 61
Rob Veno's Power Rating: Oklahoma State -8
Rob Veno's Recommendation: Over

Game Overview

While “Jerry World” has made all the headlines this spring and summer for hosting the high profile LSU-TCU game this weekend, Reliant Stadium in Houston gets a chance to put its best foot forward as they host the inaugural Texas Kickoff Classic. They’ll have the opportunity to put their “other sporting events” surface into action for this matchup as the NFL Texans personal grass field is removed and the new all-purpose artificial turf is installed. Mississippi State may have preferred watered down and muddy grass here but they’ll have to contend with OSU’s up-tempo spread offense on this fast track. There is however, good news for Starkville fans as their traditional, trademark cowbells will be allowed in the stadium.

Oklahoma State

Expectations are running rampant for this season’s version of the Cowboys and those sentiments are probably justified, especially where the Big XII race is concerned. The points and total yards churning machine that is Mike Gundy’s offense returns eight starters and is especially loaded at the skill positions. They’ll use each of their returning quarterback in this game as senior Clint Chelf and sophomore J.W. Walsh will play. The upper-class receiving trio of Josh Stewart, Charlie Moore and Tracy Moore is arguably the best combination in the land and there’s not any expected drop-off at running back where senior Jeremy Smith (6.2 ypc for his career) finally gets his shot to start. The one fly in the ointment came earlier this week when the Cowboys lost starting left tackle Devin Davis. They do have the luxury of sliding last year’s starting left tackle Parker Graham (currently the starting right guard) back to his former spot if they choose too. This group is on their third offensive coordinator in the last three years but the explosive results figure to remain the same. The defense loses veteran coordinator Bill Young but Cowboys linebacker coach Glenn Spencer was groomed last year as the co-DC and is in his seventh year here. There are seven starters back and Gundy wants his defense to be more aggressive, challenge everything and play with what he calls “zing” and swagger.

Mississippi State   

The MSU fan base is growing impatient watching the rest of the SEC go more and more to exciting fast paced football potentially leaving the Bulldogs as a conference after thought. There are rumblings that Dan Mullen’s job is in jeopardy, so this can be viewed as a make or break season. This season’s team does have the makings of one that can be very dynamic and realistically average 33+ points per game. They feature a huge offensive line that returns all five starters, a strong armed returning senior quarterback in Tyler Russell, 2012 second team all-SEC running back LaDarius Perkins and an entire set of new starting wide receivers who in my opinion present a huge upgrade in over what they had last year with the exception of now NFL receiver Chad Bumphis. Mullen could again go into his comfortable shell and unleash a heavy dose of run oriented offense but he’s got what may be his best stable of aerial weapons and shouldn’t hesitate to use them. On the other side, Mississippi State should fit its reputation and resemble a quality SEC front seven but the secondary is green and a potential weak spot. Mullen plans on playing a lot of nickel and sophomore cornerback Taveze Calhoun has surprised by making it to the top of the depth chart.

Fundamental Keys To The Game   

There’s no doubt Oklahoma State is going to have MSU’s defense on a swivel with their two quarterback system. Chelf is an extremely accurate passer who is mobile and will have an extreme mismatch where his receivers vs. the Bulldogs secondary is concerned. Walsh is a very talented runner who can shred a defense with that asset and he’s an above average throwing quarterback as well. Have to believe that despite the injury hit to their offensive line, OSU’s top notch offensive balance and complete mastery of the passing game at all levels will overwhelm MSU. The pass rush will be slowed and then worn down, Smith will find gaps to run through and the linebackers and defensive backs can’t consistently handle the veteran Cowboys air assault. Things will not likely go as well for Oklahoma State on the defensive side since they will have to commit an extra man in the box in order to not be bulldozed by the powerful Bulldogs offensive line. Despite the desire to be more aggressive, OSU might get run on and play actioned consistently here. Mullen cannot play a total clock shrinking style because the Cowboys aren’t going to be deterred on the scoreboard. Expect him to utilize his experienced quarterback and talented receiving corps to put pressure on the Cowboys defense.         

Final Analysis

The conditions are right for an offense heavy contest here and Oklahoma State is obviously the more trustworthy of these squads in that department. Opening games can bring cohesive lapses in timing and rhythm which also favors OSU. I don’t feel comfortable laying -12.5/-13 though and would much rather play this one over the current number of 61. Each team has potential to notch 30 here and I see this one landing fairly easily in the 64+ point range.

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College Football Gambling Preview: Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Virginia Tech Hokies
By Brian Edwards
Sportsmemo.com

Alabama vs. Virginia Tech
Saturday, 2:30 pm PT - ESPN (Atlanta)
CRIS Opener: Alabama -17.5 O/U 45
CRIS Current: Alabama -20.5 O/U 45.5
Rob Veno's Power Rating: Alabama -22.5
Brian Edwards' Recommendation: Over

Alabama’s quest for a third consecutive national title and a fourth in five seasons begins Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta when it takes on Virginia Tech. As of Thursday afternoon, most betting shops had the Crimson Tide installed as a 20.5-point favorite with a total of 45.5. 
These programs met at this same venue for the 2009 season opener. On that night, Frank Beamer’s team led 24-23 going into the fourth quarter. Making his first career start, Greg McElroy led ‘Bama back into the lead and it eventually won by a 34-24 count as a 6.5-point chalk.

Alabama returns six starters on offense and seven on defense from a team that blasted Notre Dame 42-14 as a 10-point favorite in the BCS Championship Game. The Tide’s only loss last season came at home against Texas A&M. A.J. McCarron is back for his senior campaign and that’s great news for the faithful in Tuscaloosa. If his career ended today, McCarron would most likely be considered the greatest quarterback in the program’s storied history. And yes, that includes Joe ‘Willie’ Namath and Kenny ‘The Snake’ Stabler. In two seasons covering 27 games, McCarron owns a 25-2 career record and has bagged a pair of SEC and BCS titles. In the process, the Mobile product has thrown 46 touchdown passes compared to only eight interceptions. McCaron had a remarkable 30-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio in 2012.
 
Alabama probably has the nation’s best set of wide receivers. This group is led by sophomore Amari Cooper, who hauled in 59 receptions for 1,000 yards and 11 TDs as a true freshman. Kevin Norwood, Kenny Bell and Christian Jones combined for 1,260 receiving yards and 11 TDs last season. Also, redshirt freshman Chris Black is set to make his much-anticipated debut. Although Eddie Lacy has moved on to the NFL, the Tide remains loaded in the backfield. T.J. Yeldon rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 TDs while averaging 6.3 yards per carry as a freshman. Kenyan Drake is also back after averaging 6.7 YPC and running for five scores.
 
If there’s an area where ‘Bama won’t be as strong, it could be on the offensive line. There’s still plenty of talent with this group, but it lost several players to the pros including the QB of the o-line in Barrett Jones. The defense was the best in America in 2012, giving up only 10.9 ppg. This unit has three All-Americans in linebacker C.J. Mosley, strong safety Vinnie Sunseri, and free safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
 
After posting eight consecutive double-digit win totals, Virginia Tech fell on hard times last season and barely got to a bowl game. With that said, the Hokies salvaged the season somewhat by finishing on a three-game winning streak. They beat Rutgers 13-10 in overtime as 2-point favorites at the Russell Athletic Bowl. Beamer’s bunch finished 7-6 straight up, but it was a money burner with an abysmal 4-9 ATS record. In fact, Tech has been a great go-against team the last two seasons with a miserable 8-18-1 ATS ledger.
 
The key for VT this year will be the play of senior quarterback Logan Thomas, who threw for 2,976 yards and 18 TDs in 2012. However, Thomas completed only 51.3 percent of his throws and was intercepted 16 times. The Hokies are going to be without three key defensive players. Cornerback Antone Exum was a second-team All-ACC selection last season when he had five interceptions and 16 passes broken up, but he's out until October with a knee injury. Starting linebacker Ronny Vandyke is out for the season and defensive tackle Corey Marshall is also out. Marshall had 1.5 sacks and 12 QB hurries in 2012.

For those looking at the total, keep in mind that 11 of Alabama's 14 games last season had 47 combined points or more. The Tide averaged 38.7 ppg. Since 2008, Alabama owns an incredible 61-7 straight-up record to go with a 42-25 against-the-spread mark. Dating back to 1998, Virginia Tech has only been a double-digit underdog five times. The Hokies are 4-1 ATS in those spots. I'm counting on Alabama to score 38 points, probably more. And Logan Thomas and the Hokies are going to give us at least 14, probably 17-21. That puts me on the OVER.

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College Football Betting Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Syracuse Orange
By Erin Rynning
Sportsmemo.com

Penn State vs. Syracuse
Saturday, 12:30 pm PT - ESPN2 (Meadowlands)
CRIS Opener: Penn State -7 O/U 52
CRIS Current: Penn State -9 O/U 51
Rob Veno's Power Rating: Penn State -7
Erin Rynning's Recommendation: Under

On the surface it was just another ho-hum year for the Penn State football program as it churned out an 8-4 record.  However, most bettors know that it could hardly be considered mundane – in fact it was truly magical.  The Lions were virtually left for dead and written off by the best of pundits and this was before they started last year with a 0-2 record.  After losses to Ohio and Virginia and low on depth Penn State hit an extra gear and won 8 of its next 10 games with most coming in the rugged Big Ten.  The season culminated with a rousing overtime win against the Wisconsin Badgers in Happy Valley.  Now the question will linger how does this program respond in the second year of the Bill O’Brien era? 

From a win-loss perspective the Lions will once again be extremely competitive and win their fair share of games.  However, from a pointspread perspective we’ll be looking to take a stand against Penn State.  They do return 14 starters from last year’s Cinderella squad, but the Lions will be one of the least experienced teams in college football.  They’ll feature just six senior starters after losing over half their yards gained and tackles from 2012.  The quarterback position will be the major question mark with Matt McGloin now gone.  It’s possible the Lions will start a true freshman Christian Hackenberg while JC transfer Tyler Ferguson is also in the mix. Neither quarterback has obviously thrown a pass at this level.  The defense figures to take a step back as well, with just six returning starters and the loss of team leader Michael Mauti.  They’ll also feature a new defensive coordinator in John Butler, while losing the valuable Ted Roof to Georgia Tech.  Butler has spent the last 13 years working with special teams. 

Meanwhile, the Syracuse program is very much in a state of flux after Doug Marrone left for Buffalo.  Marrone did an admiral job of rebuilding the Orange and led them to bowl wins in two of the last three years.  Note that he took the bulk of his offensive staff with him.  George McDonald will step as offensive coordinator despite little rehearsal running an offense.  In addition, the Syracuse offense was gutted as they return six starters and are embattled in their own quarterback controversy between sophomore Terrel Hunt and senior Drew Allen.  First-year head coach Scott Shafer moves over from the defensive coordinator job of the last four years.  This game sets up with both teams banking on their proficiency in the run game, and taking the pressure off their green quarterbacks.  Penn State will rely on the power running of Zach Zwinak, while the Orange, will do the same with Jerome Smith.  We’ll predict a low-scoring contest decided by a field goal either way.  Take the UNDER.

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Pac-12 Report - Week 1
By Joe Williams
VegasInsider.com

The Pac-12 is ready to kick off the season, and it appears to be a tale of two ends. There are good teams, and there are teams which are looking to make a comeback. Southern Cal is one of those teams looking to get back to the upper levels, and they look like they have work to do after sleepwalking through a 30-13 win in Hawaii. It appeared USC's defense is well ahead of the offense at this time. Oregon appears to be the class of the conference, but don't sleep on Stanford - ever. It seems like they're always at the top, regardless of losses in personnel.

Nicholls State at Oregon

The high-flying Ducks look to fire out of the gates against their FCS opponent from Louisiana. It is one thing if the Colonels were a top level team from the lower level, but they won just one of their 11 games last season. This game is going to be ugly with a capital 'U'. Look for QB Marcus Mariota, RB De'Anthony Thomas and friends to roll up video game-like offensive numbers in what will be a laugher by the end of the first quarter.

Nevada at UCLA

The Bruins have to replace all four starters in their secondary, so there will be some trial by fire for Jim Mora's bunch. Offense is not the issue for the blue and gold, as QB Brett Hundley is one of the nation's best. However, his counterpart, QB Cody Fajardo, should be able to roll up some impressive totals in his own right against that inexperienced secondary. The Bruins also need to replace their leading rusher, RB Johnathan Franklin, so this will be a game of experimentation. Covering a three-touchdown spread is a bit ambitious.

Boise State at Washington

The game of the week will be in Seattle, where Boise State hits the shores of Puget Sound looking for their first signature win of the season. The Broncos hope QB Joe Southwick can do a little better than last season when he struggled to fill the shoes of QB Kellen Moore. The defense is the key for the Broncos, and they will have their hands full trying to contain RB Bishop Sankey, who burst onto the scene after injuries created a role for him. The Broncos know him well, as they were trampled for 205 rushing yards and 74 receiving yards in their bowl game last season. This game should come down to the final moments.

Northwestern at California

The Wildcats hit the road for Berkeley as a Top 25 team. If they return home without a loss will be up to the offense mostly. RB Venric Mark is a tremendous unheralded talent who rattled off eight consecutive 100-yard rushing games last season. QB Kain Colter is under center again, and he is a threat not only with his arm, but with his feet, too. The Bears turn to Sonny Dykes to get the program on track after Jeff Tedford was let go after last season's 3-9 campaign. The Bears will use freshman QB Jared Goff to start the season, as he becomes the first freshman to ever start a season opener under center for Cal. Lastly, there isn't anything wrong with your TV set. Northwestern will be wearing white helmets for their opening game, shedding their purple lids for the first time since 1980.

Other Games

Eastern Washington at Oregon State (6:00 p.m. ET )
Washington State at Auburn (ESPNU, 7:00 p.m. ET)

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Big Ten Report - Week 1
By ASAWins.com

Illinois vs. Southern Illinois

Illinois is 3-0 vs. Southern Illinois all-time. They last met in 2010 and the Illini won 35-3. The Fighting Illini have won 15 straight home openers by an average of 26 points per game. They are 9-0 over the last 10 seasons against FCS opponents – winning by an average of 32 points per game.

Ohio State (-34.5) vs. Buffalo

This is the first meeting between the two schools. Ohio State has won 34 straight home openers by an average of 23 points per game. OSU is also 6-0 when playing its season opener the season after not playing in a bowl game (Buckeyes weren’t eligible for the postseason last season). Buffalo is 1-5 all-time vs. Big Ten schools (last win was in 1900). Buffalo has played on the road at BCS schools the last two years and covered against both. They traveled to Pittsburgh (+30, lost by 19) and Georgia (+38, lost by 18).

Purdue (+10) at Cincinnati
   
Purdue is just 1-6 in its last seven road openers, dropping five straight by 7 PPG. These two have only met once before in 2001. Purdue won 19-14 and that was the last time that Cincinnati has dropped a home opener. Since then the Bearcats’ only BCS home opener was a win over Pittsburgh last season. The Boilers will be issuing in a new head coach against a Cincinnati school that won 10 games last season. The Bearcats are also playing their first game under new head coach Tommy Tuberville.

Wisconsin (-44.5) vs. UMass

The Gary Anderson era begins in Wisconsin as the Badgers take on the Minutemen of Massachusetts for the first time ever. UW has won 17 straight home openers by an average of 19 points per game. The Badgers have also won 28 of 29 regular season non-conference games against FBS teams by an average of 20 points per game (only loss was last year against Oregon State). Last year was the first year in the FBS for UMass. UMass is 0-5 all-time vs. Big Ten teams, losing by an average of 35 PPG. They were outgained by two Big Ten foes last year (Indiana and Michigan) by 334 YPG.

Michigan (-31.5) vs. Central Michigan

Michigan is 20-3 in its last 23 home openers, which includes losses in 2007 and 2008. The Wolverines are 3-0 against Central Michigan with the last meeting coming in 2006 (W 41-17). They are 13-0 the last four years at home vs. non-conference foes. Central Michigan coach Dan Enos coached at Michigan State for four years prior to taking the CMU job. CMU is 4-2 ATS in the last five years against Big Ten schools, including two SU wins at Michigan State (’09) and at Iowa (’12).

Nebraska (-30.5) vs. Wyoming

Nebraska hasn’t lost a home opener since 1985. The 27 game winning streak is the longest such streak in the nation. They’ve won the last five home openers by 34 points per game. Nebraska traveled to Wyoming in 2011 and won 38-14. Wyoming runs a wide-open spread offense that gave Nebraska fits a season ago.

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Saturday's NCAAF Top 25 Betting Cheat Sheet
By Covers.com

UMass Minutemen at Wisconsin Badgers (-44.5, 53.5)

If Gary Andersen can repeat at Wisconsin what he accomplished in his last head coaching job, Saturday's season opening non-conference game against visiting Massachusetts will be only the beginning of great things in Madison. Andersen, 49, comes to Wisconsin from Utah State, where he orchestrated a remarkable turnaround that saw the school win 26 games in his four seasons after winning just six in the previous three years. He replaces Bret Bielema, who won 68 games in his seven years before departing to Arkansas.

UMass head coach Charley Molnar expects marked improvement in his team, which was outscored 482-152 in its first season in the FBS. Sophomore Mike Wegzyn, who threw more interceptions than touchdowns last season, will lead an offense that will be without tight end Rob Blanchflower (undisclosed) and running back Jordan Broadnax (knee) for this game due to injury. Ricardo Miller, a senior transfer from Michigan, will start at tight end and Stacey Bedell will start at running back.

Key betting stat: Badgers are 0-6 ATS in their last six non-conference games.

Buffalo Bulls at Ohio State Buckeyes (-34.5, 55.5)

Ohio State brings the nation’s longest winning streak into its season opener Saturday against visiting Buffalo. The No. 2 Buckeyes have won 12 consecutive games since their four-game losing streak to finish off the 2011 season. Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller begins his junior season as a strong candidate to win the Heisman Trophy. Another player to watch is freshman speedster Dontre Wilson, who is expected to return the opening kickoff and fill other key roles for the Buckeyes.

Buffalo is led by one of the top linebackers in the nation in senior Khalil Mack, who is projected as a first-round pick at next year's NFL draft. Mack, at 6-3, 248 pounds, has 56 tackles for a loss in his career at Buffalo, leaving him 19 shy of the NCAA record. The Bulls return six other starters on defense and nine on offense, led by quarterback Joe Licata, who started the final four games last season and led Buffalo to a 3-1 record.

Key betting stat: Buckeyes are 5-1 ATS in their last six vs. MAC.

Toledo Rockets at Florida Gators (-23.5, 56)

After a disappointing debut season, head coach Will Muschamp had the Florida Gators back in the top 10 in his second season, and that's where they begin Muschamp's third year in Gainesville. The 10th-ranked Gators begin a challenging non-conference slate by hosting Toledo on Saturday in the Swamp, where they are 129-18 since 1990 - the best home winning percentage in the nation over that span. The Gators look to erase the bitter taste of a loss to Louisville in last season's Sugar Bowl, while the Rockets are after a signature win to start the year.

The Gators are rebuilding a defense that carried them to a top-10 ranking in 2012, as they were fifth in the nation in both scoring defense (14.5 points per game) and total defense (287.5 yards per game). Toledo is coming off its third straight winning season after capturing nine games and going to a bowl game under first-year head coach Matt Campbell. The Rockets are 7-12 all-time against top-25 opponents, including a 1-1 mark last year with a win over then-No. 18 Cincinnati and a loss to then-No. 16 Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

Key betting stat: Gators are 2-6 ATS in their last eight vs. MAC.

Rice Owls at Texas A&M Aggies (-27, 66.5)

Johnny Football will not become Johnny Sidelined after all - at least not for long. Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel's murky eligibility status was resolved Wednesday, when the NCAA and No. 6 Texas A&M agreed to suspend the star quarterback for the first half of Saturday's season opener against visiting Rice. Manziel escaped severe punishment when the NCAA could not prove he accepted cash for signing autographs, the latest saga in his controversy-filled offseason.

With the eligibility issue behind him, Manziel now gets to build on a wondrous 2012 season that saw him become the first freshman to win the Heisman. Rice, a member of the retooled Conference USA, returns 18 starters and hopes to carry the momentum from last season, when it won its final five games and destroyed Air Force in the Armed Forces Bowl. The defense, among the nation's worst over the first half last year, made marked strides during the winning streak.

Key betting stat: Owls are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 non-conference games.

Central Michigan Chippewas at Michigan Wolverines (-31.5, 52)

Junior quarterback Devin Gardner has taken the reins of the Michigan offense and will lead the 17th-ranked Wolverines against visiting Central Michigan on Saturday. After the converted wide receiver replaced an injured Denard Robinson midway through last season, he threw for 1,480 yards and 13 touchdowns and was intercepted six times in five games. Now he’s back to try to lead the Wolverines to their first Big Ten title since 2004, when they shared the crown with Iowa.

Central Michigan will lean on senior running back Zurlon Tipton in attempting to defeat its in-state rival for the first time. Tipton rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns last season. Junior quarterback Cody Kater, who will make his first start for the Chippewas, has career passing totals of 2-for-4 for 12 yards.

Key betting stat: Wolverines are 11-5-1 ATS in their last 17 non-conference games.

Temple Owls at Notre Dame Fighting Irish (-29.5, 53)

Expectations are higher than they have been in decades for No. 11 Notre Dame coming off an appearance in the BCS Championship Game. The Fighting Irish have faced significant roster changes since that loss to Alabama, but they will show off their new look when they host Temple in their season opener on Saturday. Notre Dame will take the field without 2012 Heisman Trophy finalist Manti Te'o, along with starting quarterback Everett Golson.

Golson was suspended by the university for the first semester due to academic problems, but the Irish have an experienced backup ready to take his place in Tommy Rees. The Owls are under the guidance of new coach Matt Rhule, who spent last season in the NFL as an assistant with the New York Giants. Temple is one of 10 members of the new American Athletic Conference, which formed in the wake of the Big East's breakup.

Key betting stat: Under is 20-7 in Fighting Irish's last 27 home games.

Mississippi State Bulldogs at Oklahoma State Cowboys (-12, 62)

Oklahoma State has emerged as a major player on the college football scene behind a high-powered offense that annually ranks among the nation's best. The 14th-ranked Cowboys will receive a tough early test when they open the season against Mississippi State on Saturday at Houston's Reliant Stadium. Oklahoma State is favored to win the Big 12 Conference and has the pieces in place to be another offensive juggernaut, but the defense must show improvement to compete with the nation's elite.

Mississippi State is also a program on the rise, appearing in a bowl game in each of the last three seasons, but it has the misfortune to play in a conference (Southeastern) that has produced the last seven BCS national champions. The Bulldogs bolted to a 7-0 start a year ago before a string of games against conference heavyweights stalled their momentum en route to an 8-5 finish. Mississippi State has four four straight season openers and the Cowboys have been victorious in their last five.

Key betting stat: Bulldogs are 0-6 ATS in their last six games in August.

Nicholls State Colonels at Oregon Ducks (-59)

High-flying Oregon no longer has Chip Kelly in charge and familiar ringmaster Mark Helfrich makes his head-coaching debut when the No. 3 Ducks host overmatched Nicholls State on Saturday. Helfrich was promoted from offensive coordinator after helping Oregon go 46-7 in his four seasons in that role, including a 12-1 mark last season before Kelly left to become head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles. Nicholls State’s lone win a season ago was against NAIA school Evangel.

Sophomore quarterback Marcus Mariota is a leading Heisman Trophy candidate after throwing a school-record 32 touchdowns passes and setting another Oregon mark with a 68.5 completion percentage in 2012. The Ducks averaged 44.7 points and 501.1 yards in Helfrich’s four seasons of overseeing the offense, and the new offensive coordinator is former Nebraska quarterback Scott Frost. Nicholls State’s last visit to the state of Oregon didn’t go well – the FCS Colonels lost 77-3 to Oregon State to end their 2012 campaign.

Key betting stat: Over is 25-8-1 in Ducks' last 34 home games.

Alabama Crimson Tide at Virginia Tech Hokies (+20.5, 45.5)

No. 1 Alabama is bidding to win an unprecedented three straight National Championships and four in five years. That quest begins with a tough opener on Saturday, when the Crimson Tide play Virginia Tech in Atlanta. Alabama rolled over Notre Dame in last January’s BCS National Championship Game but waved goodbye to most of its starting offensive line and some key performers on a standout defense.

Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban has regularly sent defensive players into the first round of the NFL draft but has no problem rebuilding year after year. Alabama again brought in one of the top recruiting classes in the country and returns starting quarterback A.J. McCarron. The Hokies enter the season unranked after a disappointing 2012 campaign.

Key betting stat: Hokies are 2-7-1 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.

Eastern Washington Eagles at Oregon State Beavers (-27)

Oregon State won’t be able to surprise foes this season and the No. 25 Beavers aim to sidestep the upset attempt of visiting Eastern Washington in Saturday’s season opener. Oregon State tripled its 2011 win total of three with a stunning rise last year, and the Beavers are seeking their eighth bowl bid in the last 11 seasons. The Eagles are ranked fourth in the FCS preseason poll and have put scares into Washington and Washington State over the past two seasons.

The Beavers conducted a spirited quarterback competition, and junior Sean Mannion edged senior Cody Vaz for the job. Mannion started eight games last season when he passed for 2,446 yards and 15 touchdowns in a campaign interrupted by October knee surgery, while Vaz started five times and threw for 1,480 yards and 11 scores. Eastern Washington lost 24-20 at Washington State last season and 30-27 at Washington in 2011.

Key betting stat: Over is 7-2 in Beavers last 9 non-conference games.

UL Monroe Warhawks at Oklahoma Sooners (-21, 61)

Blake Knight has a difficult act to follow, but he's off to a strong start as he leads the 16th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners into Saturday's season-opening tilt with Louisiana-Monroe. Knight beat out junior Blake Bell to take the Sooners' starting quarterback job vacated when Landry Jones bolted for the NFL. He leads the Sooners in search of their fourth consecutive season-opening victory against a Warhawks team that is no stranger to Week 1 upsets.

Oklahoma comes into the season looking to erase the memories of last year's embarrassing 41-13 Cotton Bowl defeat to the Texas A&M Aggies.  "We've got a challenging year ahead of us, and it really starts from the beginning," head coach Bob Stoops said. Louisiana-Monroe finished 8-5 last season - and kicked things off in style, defeating then-No. 8 Arkansas 34-31 in overtime in an opening-week stunner.

Key betting stat: Over is 6-0-1 in Warhawks' last seven non-conference games.

Wyoming Cowboys at Nebraska Cornhuskers (-30, 67)

Despite closing last season on a sour note, No. 18 Nebraska has its sights on extending the nation’s longest winning streak in season openers to 28 games Saturday against the visiting Wyoming Cowboys. Nebraska finished atop the Big Ten Legends division thanks to a six-game winning streak. However, the Huskers’ Rose Bowl hopes were dashed following a 70-31 rout by Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship before they suffered a 45-31 loss to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl.

Nebraska believes it has one of the best secondaries in the conference, but it – along with an unproven front seven – figures to get tested by a non-conference schedule full of spread offenses, starting with the Cowboys. Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith averaged 308 yards in total offense and threw 27 touchdown passes against six interceptions in 2012, besting the Huskers’ Taylor Martinez in every category. The Cowboys overcame a miserable start to win three of their final four games last season, but are 0-6 all-time against Nebraska.

Key betting stat: Cornhuskers are 6-1-1 ATS in their last eight home games.

Georgia Bulldogs at Clemson Tigers (+1.5, 71)

College football dives headfirst into the 2013 season Saturday night when No. 5 Georgia and No. 8 Clemson square off in a showdown featuring BCS dreams and elite quarterbacks. Aaron Murray came five yards shy of leading the Bulldogs to the BCS Championship Game as a junior last season before time ran out against eventual national champion Alabama. Tajh Boyd enjoyed a record-setting junior campaign for Clemson and joins Murray as a preseason candidate to take home the Heisman Trophy.

Murray, whose 95 touchdown passes are more than any active FBS player, was named the preseason SEC player of the year despite the presence of Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel, the reigning Heisman winner. Boyd, meanwhile, threw for 3,896 yards and 36 touchdowns in 2012 en route to winning ACC player of the year honors. In addition to the top-tier quarterbacks, the Bulldogs and Tigers possess electrifying complementary players such as Georgia running back Todd Gurley and Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins.

Key betting stat: Bulldogs are 9-3-1 ATS in their last 13 vs. ACC.

New Mexico State Aggies at Texas Longhorns (-42, 57.5)

No. 15 Texas hopes the offseason momentum it's been riding since a comeback win against Oregon State in December's Alamo Bowl will continue into the new season, which starts Saturday against visiting New Mexico State. Coach Mack Brown is eager to see how junior quarterback David Ash and the Longhorns execute the no-huddle offense Texas debuted in the bowl game. The Aggies are also shifting to an up-tempo attack under first-year head coach Doug Martin after New Mexico State lost its last 11 games of 2012 by an average of 25.4 points.

Martin, who returns to New Mexico State after serving as the Aggies' offensive coordinator in 2011 before taking the same position at Boston College last year, has a new quarterback and a thin running back corps in his new offense. Texas, meanwhile, has 19 starters returning, including 10 on offense. "(Ash) finished on such a positive the fourth quarter of the bowl game, that momentum and confidence has carried through the spring and the summer," Brown said during his weekly press conference Monday. "He's more comfortable and excited about the offense."

Key betting stat: Aggies are 0-5 ATS in their last five vs. Big 12.

LSU Tigers vs. TCU Horned Frogs (+4, 50)

Despite losing a school-record nine players to the NFL draft, No. 13 Louisiana State has national title aspirations as it opens the season with an intriguing non-conference clash against No. 20 Texas Christian on Saturday in Arlington, Texas. The game marks the fifth Cowboys Classic. LSU and TCU have each appeared once and come away victorious.

The Tigers, who lost a ton of defensive talent but return their key offensive pieces, get to measure themselves in preparation for a brutal schedule that features Georgia and Florida from the SEC East. Horned Frogs coach Gary Patterson has yet to announce a starting quarterback for the game. It will be either Trevone Boykin or Casey Pachall, who started the first four games last season before leaving the team as a result of a drunk driving arrest.

Key betting stat: Horned Frogs are 0-6 ATS in their last six neutral-site games.

Nevada Wolf Pack at UCLA Bruins (-21, 67.5)

Jim Mora turned UCLA's fate around in his first season at Westwood. The former NFL coach led the Bruins to victories in nine of their first 11 games to claim the Pac-12 South crown. Mora has even grander visions in 2013 as his No. 21 Bruins begin an unlikely quest at a national title when they host Nevada in the season opener for both teams on Saturday night.

Quarterback Brett Hundley, who set single-season records for total offense, yards passing and completions in his freshman season, guided the Bruins to a strong start before the team wilted down the stretch - losing its final three games. Nevada will be no easy task. The Mountain West foe has earned bowl berths in eight straight seasons.

Key betting stat: Bruins are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 vs. MWC.

Boise State Broncos at Washington Huskies (-4, 52)

A $261 million stadium renovation is complete and Washington returns to its lakeside home venue for the first time in 21-plus months when it hosts No. 19 Boise State in Saturday’s season-opening contest. The 93-year-old facility got an extensive facelift to modernize it and the Huskies are hoping to have a glitzy high-powered team to match. Boise State defeated Washington in last season’s Las Vegas Bowl and is vying for its eighth straight 10-win season.

Broncos coach Chris Petersen has an 84-8 record in seven seasons, including four campaigns of 12 or more victories. Boise State is opening away from home against a BCS opponent for the fourth straight season, beating Virginia Tech (2010) and Georgia (2011) before losing to Michigan State (2012). Washington junior tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (69 receptions, 850 yards) will miss the game due to a suspension for an offseason DUI offense but the Huskies still have a formidable pass-catching target in junior receiver Kasen Williams (77 receptions).

Key betting stat: Over is 8-2 in Broncos' last 10 road games.

Northwestern Wildcats at California Golden Bears (+5.5, 60)

The Sonny Dykes era kicks off at California on Saturday night as the Golden Bears host No. 22 Northwestern, a squad that hopes to build on a 10-3 finish in 2012 that included a 34-20 victory over Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. It's only the second all-time meeting between the two schools. The first one came in the 1949 Rose Bowl, with Northwestern posting a 20-14 victory.

Dykes takes over for Jeff Tedford, who was fired after finishing 3-9 in his 11th season. Dykes will incorporate the same type of pass-happy spread offensive attack that he used with great success at Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs led the nation in both total offense (577.9 yards) and scoring offense (51.5) last year en route to a 9-3 finish.

Key betting stat: Wildcats are 5-0 ATS in their last five non-conference games.

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