NCAA College Football
Friday, Nov. 21
Fresno State -2 ½ at San Jose State
Both schools set to close disappointing seasons. The usually high-flying Spartans’ offense is ranked 117th out of 119 Division 1A teams and Fresno’s defense is ranked 98th. The Bulldogs, however, had a good effort last week against New Mexico State and they should be able to keep San Jose’s quarterback Reed in check. Fresno has won 13 of the last 14 meetings and, although the home team is 5-1 ATS in the series, many of those covers for San Jose were as huge underdogs. The number is manageable here. Fresno St. -2 ½.
Saturday, Nov. 22
Eastern Michigan at Temple -10 ½
Temple finds itself in rare role as double digit favorite, but the number’s justified here as Eastern Michigan’s wallowing at the bottom of the MAC standings. The Owls have played well at times, notching wins over Army, Miami (Ohio) and Ohio, with heart-breaking losses to Kent, Navy, Western Michigan, Buffalo and Connecticut, four of which were by 4 points or less. Eastern Michigan has won only three of its last 21 road games, and was shellacked in its last two outings. Give the nod to Temple to win by a decent margin in this spot. Temple -10 ½.
Army at Rutgers -17 ½
Give credit to Rutgers and coach Greg Schiano for turning around a 1-5 start with four straight wins, including last week’s 49-16 destruction of South Florida. Rutgers has won the last contests with Army by an average score of 40-9 and, although the Knights are in a sandwich with Louisville up next, expect Rutgers to cruise to an easy win here. Rutgers -17 ½
Indiana at Purdue -13
Purdue has been miserable this season with a single victory so far in Big 10 play, but Indiana has actually been worse. It’s coach Joe Tiller’s final game of a 12-year run at Purdue and expect his players to be up for the challenge, especially since hated rival Indiana won last season, breaking a five-year winning streak. Don’t be scared off by the double digit points: Indiana is only 9-57-2 ATS when losing outright. Purdue -13.
Michigan at Ohio State -19
The last time Ohio State was favored by double digits in this storied rivalry was in 1998, when the Buckeyes covered the 10-point margin, 31-16. Although the spread looks inflated, it’s justified with Ohio State’s defense playing smothering football (note 45-7 and 45-10 wins over Michigan State and Northwestern, respectively). The Wolverines have been pathetic this season, evidenced by its first-ever 8-loss season. For coach Rich Rodriguez, it’s déjà vu all over again as he won only three games in his first year at West Virginia. He reached that "milestone" this season with a win over Minnesota, but that’s all he gets. Ohio State -19.
North Carolina State at North Carolina -11 ½
North Carolina may have stumbled out of the ACC Coastal Division race last week with its loss to Maryland. They’ll need help, but can’t waste time scoreboard watching on Saturday. They’re clearly the better team, but North Carolina State has shown improvement over the course of the season: following close losses to Florida State, Boston College and Maryland, the Wolf Pack broke through last week with a win over Wake Forest. They’ll be competitive here as quarterback Russell Wilson seems to have found his rhythm. North Carolina State +11 ½.
Texas Tech at Oklahoma -7
This is coach Mike Leach’s best team ever at Texas Tech, and they’ve achieved their lofty No. 2 ranking with defense – they held Oklahoma State to its lowest point total of the season and Texas to its second lowest. Keep in mind that’s what Oklahoma couldn’t do against Texas, that is, stop the Longhorns’ offense. However, the Red Raiders are up against some astounding numbers at Oklahoma: Bob Stoops is 58-2 playing in Norman, including 23 straight wins at home. This season he’s a perfect 4-0 in lined games, winning those by an average margin of nearly 25 points. If this game had been played immediately following Tech’s back-to-back wins over Texas and Oklahoma State, the choice would have been Oklahoma. But with an extra week to prepare, and recover from the euphoria of those huge wins, Tech should be ready to play. The Red Raider offense won’t be stopped and this game could go to the team that scores last. Red Raiders +7.
BYU at Utah -6
The Holy War resumes in Salt Lake City with Utah looking for redemption after two heart breaking losses the last two meetings with the Cougars. There’s much more on the line, of course, as Utah shoots for an undefeated season and a possible BCS bowl birth. It appears they have the tools to do it as they own big wins over TCU (which drubbed BYU earlier), Oregon State (which topped USC) and Michigan (well, two out of three ain’t bad). The favorite in the series is only 3-13 ATS, but the home team has covered the last four. With the better squad, the Utes get the win and the cash here. Utah -6.
Mississippi at LSU -5 ½
Coach Houston Nutt has done a marvelous job since taking the helm at Mississippi this season. He’s notched a 6-4 record overall, which includes three SEC wins – the team’s total for the previous three seasons. Moreover, he owns the only win over Florida this season, and took Alabama to the wire (in Tuscaloosa) before losing by four points. LSU, conversely, has underachieved with blowout losses to Florida and Georgia, and needed a frantic comeback to snatch a win away from Troy last week. The Rebels won’t be intimidated in Baton Rouge and they have the tools to pull an outright upset. Mississippi +5 ½
Sunday, Nov. 23
Bills -3 at Chiefs
QB Tyler Thigpen is developing and the Chiefs have been competitive in recent losses to teams as good as or better than the Bills. In fact, Chiefs foes are a combined 61-39, while Buffalo foes are just 40-50. KC has historically been one of the league’s best home teams and Buffalo is off a short work week. CHIEFS.
Jets +5 ½ at Titans (40)
Both are "play on" teams deep into the season. The Jets are off an emotionally draining and satisfying win over New England that gave them sole possession of first in the AFC East. Yet against an outstanding defense, Jets’ QB Brett Favre is more likely to make the big mistake rather than the big play. TITANS.
Patriots +1 at Dolphins (42)
A huge revenge game for the Patriots, who were blasted at home 38-13 by Miami. The Dolphins are clearly improved and tied with New England at 6-4 so a win give them tiebreaker edges over the Pats. QB Matt Cassel continues to improve and New England’s season may be on the line here. PATS.
49ers +11 at Cowboys (48½)
Dallas was sparked by the return of QB Tony Romo is Sunday night’s 14-10 win at Washington. San Francisco has played inspired football for new coach Mike Singletary, but the 49ers’ last three games have been against the NFC West. A huge step up in class here and Dallas is poised to explode. COWBOYS.
Bucs -8 at Lions (41)
There’s no doubt that Tampa is clearly the better team, but the Bucs have struggled on the road. All five games were decided by four points or less, including an OT win at lowly Kansas City. With three straight divisional games on deck, this could be a flat spot for the visitors. LIONS.
Bears -8½ at Rams
The Rams have had six losses of 17 points or more. The Bears are in the middle game of a three game road trip sandwiched between games against Green Bay and Minnesota. If Rams players have any pride, it will be on display against a Bears team that has struggled over the last month. RAMS.
Vikings +2 at Jaguars (39)
Both teams have struggled on offense, while above average defensively. Combined, these teams are allowing just 33 points per game. With both defenses clearly the best units on the field, it’s hard to see either offense having much success. UNDER.
Panthers +1 at Falcons (42½)
Carolina won the earlier meeting at home, 24-9. Atlanta QB Matt Ryan continues to impress as a rookie while Panthers QB Jake Delhomme has not played well the past two weeks. We should see a similarly low scoring contest in a game that is key to both teams’ playoff hopes. UNDER.
Redskins -3½ at Seahawks (41½)
QB Matt Hasselbeck’s timing should be better this week against a Redskins team sandwiched between Dallas and the Giants. It’s Washington’s first road game in nearly a month plus Seattle knocking Washington out of the playoffs twice in the last three years on this field. SEAHAWKS.
Giants -3 at Cardinals (48½)
At 7-3 Arizona is in position to clinch the NFC West title as early as this week. QB Kurt Warner is putting up MVP numbers, but will face a stiff challenge from the Giants’ outstanding defense. The Giants should give their usual steady, balanced effort against a team not quite as good as its lofty record. GIANTS.
Colts +3 at Chargers (50½)
This is a must game for each. Both offenses have failed to put up the big numbers expected of them as injuries have been a concern over the season’s first half. But both offenses are healthy now and the defenses have major weaknesses. This should be one of this week’s most entertaining games. OVER.
Monday, Nov. 24
Packers +3 at Saints (52½)
New Orleans has its first home game since Oct. 12. This is a big game for both teams and could be decided by equally potent offenses. Monday night games have been high scoring all season, going 9-1 to the over with one push. This game might be the highest scoring one yet. OVER.