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Colleges to kick!

Aug 10, 2004 6:28 AM

It may be sweltering outside, but ’tis the season for football! GT begins its extensive coverage with the first of two college football preview editions this week (the fun starts on page 14 of this expanded issue).

Included in our section, which continues next week, are an analysis of the top teams in the nation, future odds on teams that could win the national title, and a preview of the conference races.

World-class handicapper Jim Feist also reveals half of his top 40 teams (the top 20 will be listed next week), and Mark Mayer unveils his famous "Dirty Dozen" teams, which also turn out to be great "go against" teams week-in and week-out.

Among the hot questions to be asked this season are: can Oklahoma regain the form that put them atop the polls for most of last season, will LSU maintain the momentum it started last year, is Nebraska back in the title hunt, can Miami overcome more negative press on its wayward stars, is Southern Cal ready to accept "powerhouse" status and build a dynasty in the Pac 10?

The answers will make for another great college season, and GT has all the coverage. Most important to our readers are teams that may be on the verge of becoming sound betting favorites, or those that are potential "money burners."

Here are a few teams that should fly below the radar this season, making them potential teams to back at the windows.

Texas A&M had a dismal first season under coach Dennis Franchione, winning just four of 12 games going an abysmal 2-10 against the spread (ATS). An improved defense and better turnover margin (they were —11 last season) should bring the Aggies back to respectability.

Penn State has had a losing record three of the last four seasons and critics are screaming for Joe Paterno’s head. But many of the team’s losses were hard-fought and close. With more experience, the Lions turn it around and return to the post season.

Troy State begins its run in the Sun Belt Conference only three years after moving up to Division 1A football. In that time they’ve struggled but have become competitive. This year they will contend with North Texas for the league title and, in the process, compile a positive ATS record.

Arizona State and its strong-armed quarterback Andrew Walter suffered a "bounce" last year after a stellar 2002 campaign. But with 16 starters returning and a more experienced Walter at the helm, the Sun Devils should reverse its pathetic 2-9 spread mark from last year, the team’s worst in over a decade.

BYU suffered back-to-back losing seasons for the first time in over two decades. That will change as Coach Gary Crowton will return to a more potent aerial attack to jumpstart one of the Cougars’ worst offensive efforts in years (they averaged only 16 points/game). In addition, the BYU defense will ensure the team contends in the Mountain West Conference.