FLORIDA GATORS (4-1) at LSU TIGERS (5-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: LSU -7 & 48.5
Opening Line & Total: Tigers -7 & 48.5
Both looking to avoid a critical second loss on the season, SEC powerhouses No. 10 LSU and No. 17 Florida will square off in Baton Rouge on Saturday afternoon.
Florida is 4-1 SU and 2-3 ATS this season, but it has been a new season since Tyler Murphy took over for an injured Jeff Driskel at QB, with the Gators winning SU and ATS in both games since the switch. LSU is 5-1 SU and 3-2-1 ATS, easily covering last week they scored 59 points while crushing Mississippi State by 33 points. The Tigers are averaging a whopping 45.5 PPG this season (9th in nation), though it may be difficult to replicate that against the Gators defense that ranks fourth in FBS with 12.2 PPG allowed. In an ugly slugfest last year, these two teams combined for only 437 yards of offense in a 14-6 Florida victory, with the Tigers entering the game as 1.5-point road favorites. The Gators have also historically had no trouble going to Baton Rouge, going 6-4 SU and 8-2 ATS in the past 10 meetings there. However, the last time LSU hosted in this series in 2011, The Tigers walked away with a 41-11 victory.
Junior QB Tyler Murphy has been a savior for this Florida team under center after Driskel’s early struggles. Murphy has completed 72.2% of his passes for 530 yards in 2 1/2 games, throwing for five touchdowns with just one interception. Driskel had thrown three interceptions and only two touchdowns before suffering his season-ending broken tibia. Murphy has three main receiving threats in WRs Solomon Patton (19 catches for 348 yards, 4 TD), Trey Burton (23 catches for 282 yards, 1 TD) and Quinton Dunbar (18 catches for 274 yards). And on the ground, Will Muschamp splits the carries evenly between RBs Matt Jones (75 carries for 322 yards, 4.3 YPC, 2 TD) and Mack Brown (76 carries for 284 yards, 3.7 YPC, 3 TD). It’s also been key that Murphy can use his legs, adding 24 carries for 135 yards (5.6 YPC) and two touchdowns to his passing total. Florida’s stingy defense is strong against both the run and pass, limiting opponents to 2.8 YPC and 4.6 yards per pass attempt, with opponents completing just 46.4% of their passes.
The high-octane LSU offense is led by the steady play of QB Zach Mettenberger, who is completing 68.2% of his passes for 1,738 yards and 11.1 YPA this season. He has 15 touchdowns to only two interceptions, effectively using his 6-foot-5 frame to control the flow of the offense. He relies mostly on two receivers with more than 600 yards, while nobody else has more than 79. WR Odell Beckham (35 catches for 686 yards, 6 TD) leads the team in yardage while WR Jarvis Landry (42 catches for 616 yards, 7 TD) paces the team in receptions and scores. The offense isn’t one-dimensional, however, with RB Jeremy Hill racking up 7.5 YPC on the ground on 79 touches for 593 yards and nine touchdowns. LSU’s passing defense is giving up 6.9 yards per attempt while the front seven is allowing just 4.3 YPC on the ground.
OREGON DUCKS (5-0) at WASHINGTON HUSKIES (4-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Oregon -14.5 & 77
Opening Line & Total: Ducks -14 &77
No. 2 Oregon will look to continue its hot start under first-year coach Mark Helfrich as it travels to Seattle to take on No. 16 Washington; a team that will be looking to bounce back from a heartbreaking 31-28 loss at No. 5 Stanford.
When these two teams met up in Eugene last year, things got ugly in a hurry as the Ducks gained 497 yards on offense as they cruised to a 52-21 victory. Last week, without top RB De’Anthony Thomas (ankle), the Oregon offense didn’t miss a beat, as it piled up 755 yards in a 57-16 win at Colorado. The Ducks have been very impressive on the road in the past three years, winning their past 13 games (12-1 ATS) outside of Eugene. However, this could be the most difficult of those road contests, as they face an angry Washington team. The Huskies lost by three points in Palo Alto, but outgained the Cardinal by more than 200 yards and had a fourth-down catch get overturned that wound up being the difference. Washington has looked outstanding this season, in large part to the play of QB Keith Price. He has done a great job of not turning the ball over and shredding defenses with his pinpoint accuracy. Something will have to give in this game, as the Huskies have covered the spread in each of their past eight home games, and could shake up the Pac-12 in a big way with a victory in this game. However, Oregon is 9-0 SU (8-0-1 ATS) in the past nine meetings with Washington.
When Chip Kelly left, many people wondered if the country’s most explosive offense had left with him. However, sophomore QB Marcus Mariota (14 pass TD, 0 INT, 7 rush TD) showed that not only would the Ducks have a great offense this season, it may be even better than it was last year. Through the first five games, the Ducks rank 2nd in the nation in scoring (59.2 PPG) and total offense (630.4 YPG), including 335.8 rushing YPG (3rd in FBS). They have done an outstanding job of getting up on their opponents early in the game, outscoring the opposition 111-24 in the first quarter. With the way the Ducks can put up huge points, these early leads have been demoralizing for their opponents. Byron Marshall filled in nicely for RB De’Anthony Thomas (338 rush yards, 8.0 YPC, 6 TD this year), rushing for 122 yards in the game, giving him 448 rushing yards on 6.3 YPC this year. Thomas, who rushed for 75 yards and touchdown in the win over the Huskies last year, is listed as questionable to return on Saturday. When Mariota (4 TD passes last year versus Washington) looks to throw, he mostly targets WRs Josh Huff (445 rec. yards, 4 TD) and Bralon Addison (345 rec. yards, 4 TD). As potent as the offense has been, it has been the play of the defense that has made the Ducks look like legitimate championship contenders this season. They currently rank 2nd in the country in scoring defense, giving up only 11.8 points per game. Put that into perspective, the Oregon offense has averaged 22.2 PPG in the first quarter, nearly double of what the defense allows per game. The Ducks defense has held opponents to just 4.1 yards per play, including 3.1 yards per carry this year. Junior DB Terrance Mitchell was huge for Oregon last week, as he had two interceptions in a dominating defensive performance. The Ducks now have 14 takeaways this season and an excellent +9 turnover margin. No disrespect to the Buffaloes, but the offense that the Ducks are going to be facing is much more potent than the one the Oregon defense saw last Saturday.
The Huskies offense was outstanding last week, putting up 489 total yards offense against Stanford, regarded as one of the best defenses in all of the country. However, the special teams really hurt the Huskies, allowing the Cardinal to take back the opening kickoff for a touchdown. QB Keith Price (1,394 pass yards, 8.7 YPA, 11 TD, 3 INT) was especially outstanding last week, throwing for 350 yards and two touchdowns. Now he needs to redeem himself after a dreadful performance in Eugene last year when he completed 19-of-31 passes for 145 yards (4.7 YPA), 0 TD and 2 INT. Star RB Bishop Sankey (732 rushing yards, 4th in nation; 8 total TD) helped complement the passing attack against Stanford with 125 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. His performance will be key to Washington controlling the clock and keeping Oregon’s offense off the field, and Sankey showed that he could gain yards on this Ducks defense with 104 rushing yards and 2 TD on 25 carries in last year’s meeting. The Washington defense has played well all season (14.8 PPG allowed, 14th in nation), especially last week when it held talented Stanford QB Kevin Hogan to just 100 yards passing, including an interception by DB Marcus Peters. The Huskies are holding opponents to just 287 total YPG and a meager 3.9 yards per play. While both of these defenses have been very good this season, expect both of these offenses to put a lot of points on the board in an exciting and very close game.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (4-1) at OLE MISS REBELS (3-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Texas A&M -6.5 & 76
Opening Line & Total Aggies -6.5 & 76
No. 9 Texas A&M prepares for a high-scoring affair when it heads to Oxford as the road favorite over Ole Miss in a key SEC game.
Both of these teams are 2-3 ATS to start the year with Texas A&M covering in two of its past three games. The Aggies’ dynamic offense averages 49.2 PPG, the fourth most in FBS, but the defense has be an issue, giving up 30.8 PPG (87th in nation). Ole Miss is coming off back-to-back SU and ATS defeats, as it was shut out by Alabama 25-0 and lost 30-22 as a two-point favorite to Auburn last week. The Rebels are giving up 25.2 PPG while scoring only 27.2 (85th in nation), but have played four of their first five games this year on the road. Last season, the Rebels were one of the few teams to actually figure out how to contain QB Johnny Manziel, holding A&M to a relatively meager 481 yards of offense and forcing six turnovers. Manziel needed two late TDs in that meeting to give the Aggies the win. In each of the four games in which Manziel has played completely this season, the Aggies have surpassed 40 points and 520 yards of total offense.
The Aggies rank sixth in FBS with 365 passing yards per game, and most of that credit goes to Manziel, who is completing 71.4% of his passes for 1,489 yards (10.6 YPA) this year. In 140 attempts he has only four interceptions while finding the end zone 14 times through the air. He has added three rushing touchdowns as the team’s leading ball carrier with 314 yards on 48 attempts (6.5 YPC). In last year’s win over Ole Miss, Manziel threw more picks (two) than touchdowns (one), but he still had 191 passing yards and 142 rushing yards. Joining him on the ground are RBs Ben Malena (57 carries for 303 yards, 7 TD) and Tra Carson (41 carries for 229 yards, 4 TD), who are effective weapons that give Manziel a much-needed break once in a while. Malena rumbled for 142 yards (7.9 YPC) and a touchdown last year versus the Rebels. Through the air, nine different Aggies have receiving touchdowns this season, but WR Mike Evans (28 catches for 691 yards, 5 TD) is by far Manziel’s favorite target. He also has been able to find WRs Derel Walker (19 catches for 264 yards) and Malcome Kennedy (23 catches for 242 yards, 4 TD) when needed. Where A&M needs to step up its game is on the other side of the ball, giving up a whopping 6.1 YPC, which is 0.6 YPC more than they accumulate themselves. It doesn’t get better against the pass where they surrender 7.1 yards per attempt.
Ole Miss junior QB Bo Wallace is nowhere near the type of weapon Manziel is, completing only 59.0% of his passes for 1,143 yards (6.9 YPA), 6 TD and 2 INT. During his team’s two-game losing skid, Wallace has completed just 53.2% of his passes for 495 yards (6.3 YPA), 2 TD and 2 INT. He also didn’t have a rushing score in either of those games while adding three of those in the first three games. In last year’s loss to A&M, Wallace totaled 326 yards and two scores, but also threw two picks, including one returned for a touchdown just before halftime. RB Jeff Scott is the team’s most dangerous weapon, averaging 8.7 YPC on 49 carries for 424 yards 2 TD. He’ll have to carry the load against this weak Aggies defense and help control the clock by keeping the ball out of Manziel’s hands. He was able to that last year with 108 yards on 21 carries (5.1 YPC) and a touchdown when he faced the Aggies. Wallace’s top receiving options this year are WRs Donte Moncrief (23 catches for 355 yards, 4 TD) and Laquon Treadwell (24 catches for 250 yards). The Ole Miss defense has been better its its counterpart, but the numbers aren’t great, giving up 4.4 YPC and 6.4 YPA. Notably, through the air, opponents are completing a whopping 67% of their passes, which must make Manziel happy going into this game.
MICHIGAN WOLVERINES (5-0) at PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (3-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Michigan -3 & 51
Opening Line & Total: Wolverines -3 & 51
While it has not always been pretty for No. 18 Michigan this season, the team remains unbeaten as it travels to Happy Valley to take on Penn State Saturday afternoon.
The Wolverines are a team still searching to find a true identity as we near the halfway point of the college football season. Junior QB Devin Gardner as been arguably the most polarizing player in college football this season. Against Notre Dame, he had moments where he looked to be a darkhorse Heisman trophy candidate with 376 total yards and 5 TD. However, in games against UConn and Akron in which Michigan failed to cover the spread, he threw 5 INT and only 2 TD. However, the team took a step in the right direction last Saturday by taking down Minnesota, 42-13. Penn State has had problems of its own, coming off a 20-point thrashing at the hands of underdog Indiana last Saturday. Last season, nobody had many expectations for the Nittany Lions, and they surprised a lot of people en route to an eight-win season. Heading into Saturday’s game, they are the underdog, a situation in which they thrived in last season (3-1-1 ATS as an underdog). Penn State has won three straight meetings in this series, all by double-digits, but this will be the first game played between the two teams since 2010. The Nittany Lions are 10-2 ATS when playing with six or less days of rest over the past two seasons, but Wolverines head coach Brady Hoke is 14-4 ATS (78%) when facing a good team (60% to 75% win pct.).
While there is a lot of talent on the Wolverines football team, they are only going to be able to go as far as QB Devin Gardner takes them. He is a terrific athlete that can get out and make plays with his feet, but too many times he tries to squeeze the ball into a double-coverage, leading to his 8 TD and 8 INT this year. He needs to just stay within the offense, as RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (397 rush yards, 4.1 YPC, 7 TD) is capable of carrying the ball 25-to-30 times a game. While he isn’t blessed with elite speed, Toussaint is a very shift runner with the strength to run people over. When Gardner does drop back, he has talented receivers such as WRs Jeremy Gallon (367 rec. yards, 4 TD) and Devin Funchess (296 rec. yards, 2 TD) who tallied 151 receiving yards on seven catches last week. The Wolverines defense has been stellar this season, giving up just 19.4 points per game (27th in nation). DB Blake Countess showed big-play ability on the defensive side of the ball, taking an interception 72 yards for a touchdown in the win against the Golden Gophers. Look for the Wolverines defense (90 rush YPG, 3.1 YPC allowed) to really crank up the pressure (9 takeaways this year) and get after the Nittany Lions, as this is when Penn State has struggled the most on offense.
The win by Indiana last week marked its first-ever victory over Penn State in 17 matchups. The defense really struggled, giving up 486 yards, with 336 coming through the air. Freshman QB Christian Hackenberg (8 TD, 4 INT this year) had another good game for the Nittany Lions, throwing for 340 yards and three touchdowns, while not throwing a pick. WR Allen Robinson has been his favorite target all season with 621 yards and 5 TD, and he was stellar against Indiana, catching 12 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns. Robinson is a terrific receiver that has big-play ability, but is also fearless about going over the middle. This is always a heated matchup when these two teams play, and look for it to be the same again this season. The key will be which quarterback is able to withstand the pressure from the opposing defense. Penn State allows 20.4 PPG (31st in FBS) and like Michigan, is tough against the run (111 rushing YPG, 3.2 YPC). However, the Nittany Lions need to force more turnovers, having totaled just three takeaways in the past four weeks combined. This could be a huge step for the PSU program, as Michigan tries to compete for a Big Ten title, but the Nittany Lions are going to be extra motivated after last week’s embarrassing loss.