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GamingToday's college and pro football preview

Nov 7, 2008 9:31 PM

by GT Staff |

This weekend GamingToday debuts its weekend football forecast, which highlights key college and NFL games with detailed analysis and point-spread predictions. The weekend football preview will become part of GamingToday.com’s subscriber section, but this week the inaugural edition is available and open to anyone logging on to the website.

College football, Saturday, Nov. 8

 

Ohio State -11 at Northwestern

The Buckeyes have had an extra week to get over their tough loss to Penn State, a game they certainly could have won with a more experienced quarterback. This game could decide the Big 10’s Rose Bowl representative, assuming Penn State wins out and gets to the BCS title game. For now, Ohio State faces a Northwestern squad it has dominated over the years (32-2 since 1964 and 14-1 in Evanston), with the last three wins by an average margin of 54-8. In last year’s contest, Ohio State held the Wildcats to zero yards rushing and 120 yards passing en route to a 58-7 pasting. In won’t be that bad this year as Ohio State doesn’t have the firepower, especially with a true freshman quarterback still learning the position. But the Buckeye defense is a dominant unit, perhaps even better than last year’s group, and a depleted Northwestern offense (top quarterback and running back may be out due to injuries) will have difficulty moving the ball. OHIO STATE -11.

 

Georgia Tech at North Carolina -4

North Carolina has had an extra week of rest following their nice bounce-back win over Boston College following a tough field-goal loss to Virginia. Georgia Tech dodged a bullet last week when Florida State fumbled away the go-ahead touchdown at the goal line with only 40 seconds to play. The Yellow Jackets have "owned" this series, winning nine of the last 10 meetings, although last year they needed a field goal with 16 seconds left to win 27-25. The Tar Heels, in coach Butch Davis’ second year, are vastly improved since then, and continue to improve as the season progresses (they’ve averaged 37 points the last three home games, while holding opponents to 62 yards/rushing). Georgia Tech has become one-dimensional with its rushing attack (they threw only six passes vs. Florida State), which doesn’t bode well against a solid Tar Heel stop unit. NORTH CAROLINA -4.

 

Virginia at Wake Forest -3 ½

The Cavaliers hold a lopsided series edge (20-1) since 1984, but they won the last two games by a total of only 4 points. Virginia is coming off a brutal loss to Miami, which trailed the entire game before Virginia literally fumbled away the game, both in regulation and overtime. Wake Forest needed overtime to put away Duke, which has now lost 10 straight to the Deacons. Except for last week’s overtime win (33-30), Wake Forest has averaged only 9 points/game versus conference foes. That won’t get it done against a potent Virginia attack. VIRGINIA +3 ½

 

Oklahoma State at Texas Tech -3

For a team that just knocked off the top team in the country, Texas Tech isn’t getting much respect. In their win over Texas, the Red Raiders dominated the Longhorns in the first half, 22-6, with a yardage edge of 326-108, before relaxing and allowing Texas to make it close at the end. No question Oklahoma State is a good team; they had a chance to beat Texas, but blew it, and their win over Missouri isn’t looking so great now. Moreover, the home team has dominated in this series (six straight wins), and the Cowboys haven’t won in Lubbock since 1944. If Coach Mike Leach can get his kids re-focused, they should be able to handle a tough Oklahoma State squad. TEXAS TECH -3.

 

Arkansas at South Carolina -11 ½

The line opened at -10 and was quickly bet up; let’s hope it keeps climbing. South Carolina is only 3-3 in SEC play, and has struggled in all their contests, except for last week’s 27-6 drubbing of hapless Tennessee, which has announced coach Phil Fulmer’s resignation. Arkansas, under new coach Bobby Petrino, has had to recover from a brutal stretch (gauntlet?) of games with Texas, Alabama and Florida, and they appear to have done so. They squeaked out a win at Auburn, then had two close losses to Kentucky and Mississippi before beating previously undefeated Tulsa last week. Throw out Alabama and Florida, and Arkansas is allowing less than 22 points/game in SEC play. Note that the Gamecocks are only 1-7 ATS in games preceding Florida. ARKANSAS +11 ½.

 

Kansas at Nebraska -1

This game opened with Kansas a mild 1 ½ point favorite, but the early betting on Nebraska shifted the line to the other side. It’s a curious early move, considering the Cornhuskers’ lifeless effort at Oklahoma last week, and Kansas’ 76-39 dismantling of Nebraska last season. But that was last year, and Nebraska is vastly improved, and no doubt itching to avenge that horrendous loss. In their game against Oklahoma last week, the ‘Huskers turned the ball over in three of their first five offensive plays and they were down 28-0 in the first 5:23 of the first quarter! They were out of it from there, even though they moved the ball for 224 yards in the first half. Nebraska hasn’t loss to Kansas at home in 40 years (19-0) and they should get a hard-fought victory here. NEBRASKA -1.

 

Penn State -7 ½ at Iowa

The price seems a little short here, considering the visitor is 12-4 in the series, and Penn State has such a dominant defense. The Nittany Lions are allowing only 12 points/game to Big 10 foes, though Iowa hasn’t been shabby at 18 points/game in conference play. The major difference, however, is on the offensive side of the ball, where Penn State has a decided edge with their speed and ability to score (47 touchdowns in nine games). While Iowa may make a game out of this at the start, Penn State should pull away at the end. PENN STATE -7½.

 

Oregon State -8 at UCLA

The Beavers narrowly escaped against Arizona State, 27-25, as the Sun Devils missed a 2-point conversion that would have forced overtime. And with Cal, Arizona and Oregon on deck, this becomes a critical game for Oregon State in their quest for a decent bowl bid. UCLA has been trying to overcome a raft of key injuries, though it’s been a losing battle. Nonetheless, the Bruins’ defense has kept them in many ball games, including a 7-point loss at Oregon, a win over Stanford and a strange loss to Cal in which odd play calls and mistakes let the game slip away. With an extra week to prepare and get a few players healthy, they should be competitive in this spot with a shot at the outright upset. UCLA +8.

 

Cincinnati at West Virginia -7

West Virginia has had it way with the Bearcats over the years, 14-1-1 all time, and four of the last five. Cincinnati last won in 2003. However, last year’s contest was a nail-biter, with the Mountaineers pulling it out late, 28-23. This season, West Virginia isn’t as prolific as previous teams. Against Division 1A foes they’re averaging only 22 points/game, compared to nearly 40 points last season. For its part, Cincinnati, under second-year coach Brian Kelly has become a viable contender in the Big East with wins over Rutgers and South Florida, with their only conference loss coming to Connecticut after its starting quarterback was knocked out of the game. He’s back and so is a solid offense with weapons on both sides of the ball, plus a defense that should pressure Mountie QB Pat White for 60 minutes. The points are generous for a team, with a few breaks and favorable bounces, could get the outright win. CINCINNATI +7.

 

NEW MEXICO -3 ½ at UNLV

UNLV has suffered five straight losses since opening the season 3-1. Three of those came in the last minute of games in which they were leading (Colorado State, Air Force, BYU). Running Rebels’ woes have been on defense, which has allowed more than 40 points five times, including four of last five contests. UNLV was able to compete because of a solid offense, which is now without their leader, standout quarterback Omar Clayton. Offensive production will undoubtedly fall off. New Mexico has struggled to score lately; they were held to 10 points by Air Force and Utah after running up 70 on San Diego State. They should get well against UNLV’s soft defense and win this one going away. NEW MEXICO -3 ½.

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NORTH TEXAS +22½ at Florida Atlantic (67):

The visiting Mean Green picked up their first victory of the season in grand style last week, upsetting Western Kentucky 51-40 as an 18-point road underdog. Now they’re getting 21 against an Owls bunch that won by just 4 at Western Kentucky. It’s just hard to figure a 3-5 team giving 21 points, especially in the rather weak Sun Belt Conference.

Florida Atlantic is on a two-game win streak, but its greatest margin of victory is 15 points. So we’re banking on North Texas carrying some of that mojo over to this week. NORTH TEXAS +22 1/2.

 

Clemson +5½ at Florida State (43½):

The Bowden Bowl is no more. Now it the Dabo Swinney show at Clemson and so far it has had the Tigers playing inspired football. Two weeks ago, Clemson nearly knocked off Georgia Tech and last week pulled off the upset at Boston College. In that game C. J. Spiller set a Clemson record for receiving yards by a running back with 105 on six catches.

The host Seminoles come off a bitter loss to Georgia Tech, a team that had not beaten FSU is some 30 years. The Seminoles may not have the same zest without the Bowdens sideshow and could be in for a fight. CLEMSON +5 1/2.

 

Stanford +13½ at Oregon (55):

Scheduling makes Stanford a live dog here. The visiting Cardinal come off an easy 58-0 shellacking of Washington State and are 5-4 ATS in Jim Harbaugh’s first season as coach. The linesmakers have tended to undervalue Stanford going all the way back to the season opener where favored Oregon State lost in Palo Alto.

The Ducks are 6-3 overall, but just 4-5 ATS including a bitter loss at Cal last week that pretty much ended any hope of a Rose Bowl invitation. That fact, along with being a double-digit home favorite, may result in a closer game that one would think on paper. STANFORD +13 1/2.

 

Kansas +1½ at Nebraska (64):

There should be no shortage of scoring in Lincoln. Nebraska has been eyeing this matchup for a year since absorbing a 76-39 bombing as KU quarterback Todd Reesing threw six touchdown passes. Reesing is back and ready to issue some more punishment. The Jayhawks are not quite the powerhouse of a year ago, but at 6-3 overall and 5-3 ATS are still potent.

Nebraska was never in last week’s game with Oklahoma, giving up 28 points in just nine minutes of the first quarter. Still Nebraska gave Texas Tech all it wanted in a 37-31 OT loss and should be able to score something close to last year. The 64 seems very attainable. OVER 64.

 

Georgia -10½ at Kentucky (44½):

Just how much will the Bulldogs have in Lexington after being embarrassed by Florida last week? There has been two-way action in this one with Georgia being as high as 11½. Although Georgia is 7-2 on the season, the ATS mark is just 3-3-1. And, QB Matthew Stafford was beaten up pretty good by the Florida defensive front.

Kentucky has had a solid season at 6-3 and is 4-4 ATS. The Wildcats won’t wow you with offense, but they can play some excellent defense. Unbeaten Alabama barely escaped the ‘Cats in Tuscaloosa 17-14 and Georgia could be in for a similar battle. KENTUCKY +10 1/2.

UTEP +9 at La-Lafayette (73):

The best way to approach this Sun Belt shootout is with the total. Both teams should be able to score at will, much like what happened last week. Texas-El Paso was in a 93-point shootout with Rice, while Louisiana-Lafayette scored 49 on Florida Atlantic. If you like a side, note that the host Ragin Cajuns are 7-1 ATS.

UTEP is just 2-6 ATS and allowed 77 to Tulsa two weeks ago. That said, the Miners have eclipsed 40 points in four of their last five games. OVER 73.

 

NFL, Sunday, Nov. 9 and Monday, Nov. 10

 

Rams +8 at Jets (44½)

The Rams won and covered two straight in the Jim Haslet era, but came back to earth in a 21-point loss at Arizona. The main problem has been on defense where opposing teams have outgained St. Louis by an average of 140 yards. Meanwhile the Jets recovered from that bitter overtime loss at Oakland with an upset win at Buffalo.

The Jets are winning despite Brett Favre, who aside from that 6-TD game against Arizona has been less than scintillating. The Jets do it in large part with defense, especially with an improved front seven against the run. RB Leon Washington is becoming an impact player for the Jets and he should again find success against the Rams. The Jets may be peaking. JETS -8.

 

Seahawks +8½ at Dolphins (43)

If this were the opening game, Seattle could have been the 8½-point favorite. How things have changed! The Seahawks are without QB Matt Hasselbeck and just 2-6 overall. Miami is 4-4 and right in the thick of the AFC East race. RB Ronnie Brown has been stellar operating out of the Wildcat formation that has been copied by a number of NFL offensive coordinators.

Still, the Dolphins may be greatly overvalued. This was a team that won just one game last year. Now they are nearly giving double-digits. We like Miami, but not in this role. SEAHAWKS +8 1/2.

 

Colts +3 at Steelers (NT)

The line seems cheap for the host Steelers, who have yet to decide whether to start Ben Roethlisberger or Byron Leftwich. It is a short week for Pittsburgh, which defeated Washington 26-7 last Monday. Leftwich was brilliant against the Redskins in a relief role to start the third quarter. Check the line right up until game time, but we hope it stays where it us.

Indianapolis is off an important win over New England, but neither team looked that good. In fact, Peyton Manning is having his worst season statistically since his rookie year. WR Marvin Harrison seems to be on the downside and the Colts have not been able to run the ball effectively. The Colts are viewed as soft, which will be put to the test against the very physical Steelers and their relentless pass rush. Peyton could be a sitting duck. STEELERS -3.

 

Jaguars -6½ at Lions (44)

Jack Del Rio may not have long to coach in Jacksonville if this ship is righted fast. Del Rio blasted the Jags after losing to Cincinnati and then this week sent a starting linebacker home from practice. Jacksonville is just 3-5 overall and 2-6 ATS. With that kind of record, spotting 6½ points on the road is very dicey. Of course, when the opponent is winless Detroit, you can understand the linesmakers’ thinking.

Still, Detroit can be considered a live dog. The Lions are 3-5 ATS, including a near win at Chicago last week. Detroit signed Daunte Culpepper to a two-year deal last week and he figures to start with Dan Orlovsky the latest QB to go down with an injury. The players should rally around Culpepper and the psychologically fragile Jaguars may be the perfect team to debut against. LIONS +6 1/2.

 

Saints +1 at Falcons (50)

Only the most optimistic Falcons fans could have thought their team would be 5-3 and already exceeding the Las Vegas Hilton’s 4½-win projected total. But they have done it thanks to cool rookie QB Matt Ryan and ex-San Diego RB Michael Turner. Roddy White has been Ryan’s favorite target and the two should hook up against a Saints defense that can give up points.

New Orleans has one of the NFL’s most potent offenses, led by QB Drew Brees and fleet RB/WR Reggie Bush. But for all the bells and whistles, New Orleans is a mediocre 4-4 and still vulnerable on the road. The best way to view this game is in the total. This doesn’t figure to be a 10-6 result. Look for both teams to score near or over 30. OVER 50.

 

Giants +3 at Eagles (43½)

If you thought the Eagles-Cowboys game in September was great, then don’t miss this one. The Giants have lost just one road game since early last season and carry an impressive 6-2 mark against the spread. However, Eli Manning has had some bad patches the past couple of weeks and another one here could prove lethal.

Philadelphia is also 6-2 ATS and can pull within a game of the Giants in the NFC East after a win. The Eagles are off a workmanlike 26-7 victory at Seattle and will have both Donovan McNabb and Brian Westbrook healthy. When those two are 100 percent, the Eagles are as good as anyone in football. Giving just 3 at home is a good investment. EAGLES -3.

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