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  #26  
Old 08-28-2017, 06:15 PM
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Cyclones hope to counter shaky defense with explosive attack
August 28, 2017


AMES, Iowa (AP) Iowa State's restructured defense will be considered a liability until it can prove otherwise.

The Cyclones will look to counter a defense in flux with what could be one of the best offenses in school history.

Iowa State might finally be built to hang in a league where even teams with strong defenses often find themselves in high-scoring shootouts. The Cyclones have arguably the deepest group of wide receivers in the Big 12, a pair of talented backs in David Montgomery and Mike Warren, and a quarterback, Jacob Park, who coming off his first full offseason in the program.

Iowa State (3-9 in 2016) opens its second season under coach Matt Campbell on Saturday against Northern Iowa.

''Pressure is only when you fail to lay a great foundation of what you are and what you're about,'' Campbell said Monday.

The Cyclones set new marks in 2016 for points (29.4) and yards (439.8) per conference game.

Iowa State has enough skill position players to potentially blow past those numbers this fall - starting with one of its most talented pass-catching groups in recent memory.

Senior Allen Lazard caught 69 passes for 1,018 yards in 2016. Lazard also broke the school record with six games of at least 100 yards receiving, and he averaged seven catches for 114 yards a game over his last five.

''When you watched him at his best, he's really special. He's got the ability to make all the catches. He's got the ability to be that guy on third down, to make the first down,'' Campbell said of Lazard.

In year's past, the rare Cyclones as dangerous as Lazard would typically face constant double teams. But this season, Iowa State has much more than just one option outside.

Deshaunte Jones caught 37 passes as a freshman last season, and his six TDs were fourth-best nationally among newcomers. Trever Ryen also caught 37 passes and nearly led the Big 12 in punt return average, and former Temple transfer Matt Eaton was among the nation's top junior college receivers in 2016.

Hakeem Butler caught a pair of touchdown passes as a true freshman in 2016, and freshman Chase Allen was considered among the nation's top tight end prospects before a car accident forced him to redshirt a year ago.

The hope for Iowa State is that those playmakers will open us its running game, and one of the more interesting things to watch on Saturday will be how the Cyclones use Montgomery and Warren.

Montgomery emerged as the No. 1 back late last season while Warren fought through a high ankle sprain, and Montgomery was listed as the starter on a depth chart released Monday.

But Warren will likely get more carries than a typical backup - especially with Kene Nwangwu out indefinitely with an Achilles injury. Iowa State is holding out hope that it won't have to use a medical redshirt for Nwangwu, who was second in the Big 12 in kickoff returns as a freshman.

Park's impressive play down the stretch in 2016 convinced former starter Joel Lanning to give linebacker a shot. But Lanning might not be done at quarterback, as Campbell alluded to on Monday.

''Everyone wants to know, are we going to play Joel Lanning on both sides of the ball? My answer is we'll see,'' Campbell said.

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No. 5 Clemson focused on winning games, not defending title
August 28, 2017


CLEMSON, S.C. (AP) Clemson coach Dabo Swinney and his staff have been working for months to drill the good feelings from a national title out of the fifth-ranked Tigers.

''We aren't defending anything,'' Swinney says flatly . ''If we were like an NFL team had (New England quarterback) Tom Brady back for his 15th year, that would be one thing. But in college football, it is a new team.''

And one that sounds hungry to make its own mark, though many of the returning players only played a supporting role during the national championship run.

''We've got a windshield mentality,'' said safety Tanner Muse, one of 11 new starters when the fifth-ranked Tigers take on Kent State on Saturday. ''All we look forward to is the next game.''

That could be tested early in the opener. Much of the crowd will be in full-blown celebration mode as the school has a pre-game program remembering last year's title run. Center Justin Falcinelli, another new starter, was asked what it will be like to run down the hill before the game.

''Oh, wow, I hadn't thought about that,'' he said, smiling.

Once the game begins, fans will see a vastly different group than the one that left Tampa, Florida after a 35-31 victory over top-ranked Alabama to win the crown last January. Gone are some of the best playmakers in the game last year, including first-round draft picks in quarterback Deshaun Watson and receiver Mike Williams.

Kelly Bryant, a reserve the last two seasons, steps into Watson's cleats against Kent State. Swinney has said that every spot on field is under regular scrutiny to make sure players earn time on the field and Bryant understands he'll have to keep the offense moving forward to remain ''QB1.''

''A lot of eyes are on us,'' Bryant said. ''We accept the challenge and are ready to get it going.''

Co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott said most of the new faces have done the right things as backups to get ready for bigger roles.

''We've seen these guys prepare. We think these guys are ready,'' Scott said. ''Now that doesn't mean they aren't going to go out there and make mistakes, that's part of it especially in these early games. But they've put in the work.''

The questions will largely come on offense, which will see seven new starters including at tailback, tight end and two of the three receiving spots where Deon Cain and Ray-Ray McCloud will take over for Williams and all-time receptions leader Artavis Scott.

The third starter is reliable Hunter Renfrow, a national championship her o whose 2-yard TD catch with a second left proved the winning points against the Crimson Tide.

Milan Richard will start at tight end for last year's senior Jordan Leggett. C.J. Fuller takes over for two-time 1,000-yard rusher Wayne Gallman and Falcinelli replaces senior leader Jay Guillermo at center.

The losses on defense are fewer, yet significant . The Tigers will be without defensive tackle Carlos Watkins, who led the team with 10.5 sacks, and linebacker Ben Boulware, the fiery, emotional leader of last year's defense.

Scott said with so many new starters, the Tigers did not get caught up in last year's glory.

''These guys have been waiting for their time,'' he said.

Defensive end Clelin Ferrell is happy to get back on the field after a long, exciting offseason. ''The fans, they love telling us how great last year was,'' he said laughing. ''We're focused on this year.''

That's just how Swinney wants it. His catchphrase, ''New team, same dream,'' has been on practice T-shirts and ingrained in the psyche of his players.

''We're a little anxious to get out there,'' said Bryant, the new starting quarterback. ''A lot of guys are trying to prove themselves.''
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:19 PM
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Washington suspends LB Victor for opener
August 28, 2017


No. 8 Washington has suspended standout linebacker Azeem Victor for Friday night's season opener at Rutgers because of a violation of team rules, coach Chris Petersen announced Monday.

Victor, who has been selected to various preseason All-American teams, earned first-team All-Pac-12 honors last season, despite missing the final four games because of a broken leg. He made 67 tackles in 10 games.

Victor, a senior, is rated as the 57th-best pro prospect for the 2018 draft by NFLDraftScout.com.

Victor and Keishawn Bierria are returning starters at linebacker for a Washington defensive front seven that has standouts Vita Vea and Greg Gaines on the line.

Petersen also announced that sophomore defensive back Austin Joyner has been suspended for two games due to a violation of team rules. Joyner has been competing in a new-look secondary -- three Washington defensive backs were selected in the second round of the 2017 draft.

----------------------------------

Eason, Chubb keys to Georgia's hopes for offensive revival
August 28, 2017


ATHENS, Ga. (AP) There was a glaring omission in Georgia's game-week notes package released to media on Monday - no depth chart for the No. 15 Bulldogs.

Second-year coach Kirby Smart wants to go through the final week of practice for Saturday's season-opening visit from Appalachian State before revealing his starters and backups.

Asked Monday about his starting offensive line, Smart said ''We haven't determined it yet.''

Placekicker?

''That has not been determined yet,'' he said. ''We think it will be decided here shortly, though.''

There were similar responses for the starting secondary and backup running backs.

No depth chart is necessary to know quarterback Jacob Eason and tailback Nick Chubb will be key starters for a Georgia offense that must improve to meet the team's preseason expectations. Georgia finished only 8-5 in Smart's first season but was picked by media to win the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division this year.

Georgia ranked only 11th in the league in scoring last season.

Eason, who started the last 12 games as a freshman last season, has acknowledged he struggled at times to make the transition from high school in Lake Stevens, Washington. Coaches and players say they have seen a more confident Eason this summer .

''He's definitely a lot more comfortable,'' tight end Jeb Blazevich said Monday. ''He really understands the offense a lot better.''

Blazevich said he was ''definitely impressed'' with Eason's play as a freshman ''but now he has more to build on that and take that knowledge to a new level.''

As Eason's production wavered, defenses focused on containing the running game led by Chubb and Sony Michel last season. Chubb still ran for 1,130 yards and eight touchdowns in his comeback from major knee surgery that ended his 2015 season.

Chubb is the second-leading rusher in Georgia history, behind Herschel Walker, and could be in position to show he is back to the form that produced 13 straight games with at least 100 yards rushing before the injury.

''He looks much quicker,'' Smart said recently. ''His cuts seem faster. He is running at a good pad level. He runs really hard. He seems to be healthy.''

There will be some newcomers at wide receiver.

Smart said last week transfer Ahkil Crumpton ''catches everything that's thrown to him.'' Mecole Hardman, a converted cornerback, also could play a big role.

Terry Godwin and Riley Ridley are among the Bulldogs' top returning receivers. Georgia lost Isaiah McKenzie and Reggie Davis to the NFL's Denver Broncos and Atlanta Falcons, respectively.

Smart said there is ''no set plan'' to create playing time for freshman backup quarterback Jake Fromm against Appalachian State.

''Jacob Eason is our quarterback,'' Smart said.

NOTES: Smart said the status of CB Malkom Parrish, recovering from surgery two weeks ago to repair a broken bone in his foot, is ''still not determined yet. ... We are trying to get him back for this game.'' ... Ridley and backup RB Elijah Holyfield are expected to be suspended for the opener as discipline for misdemeanor marijuana charges in separate incidents last spring. Smart would not confirm the suspensions, saying the discipline ''will be handled internally.'' ... Georgia could start two true freshmen: RT Andrew Thomas and S Richard LeCounte. ... Cameron Nizialek, a transfer from Columbia University, is expected to be the starting punter.

---------------------------------

Oklahoma changes up defense, seeks better results
August 28, 2017


NORMAN, Okla. (AP) Oklahoma is hoping a defensive shakeup produces better results.

The Sooners hit rock bottom last season when they surrendered 854 yards in a 66-59 win at Texas Tech. The Sooners held all six of their remaining opponents to 28 points or fewer, but that ugly victory still prompted some adjustments.

Oklahoma has shifted from a 3-4 defense to a 4-3 to try to get more pressure on quarterbacks, added Ruffin McNeill as a defensive line and assistant head coach and increased the amount of hitting in fall practice. The seventh-ranked Sooners will find out if the changes make a difference, starting Saturday in their season opener against Texas-El Paso.

''We know we have to improve from last year,'' said linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, a captain. ''We looked at how we did statistically and we weren't happy about it. We know what we have to do to be better. We went out there, and we're going to try and get it done.''

The defense has accepted much of the responsibility for the slow start that kept the Sooners out of the College Football Playoff last season. Oklahoma lost two of its first three before closing with 10 straight wins.

''We know that we have to start fast,'' Okoronkwo said. ''We don't feel like we started as fast as we should have the past few years and we have to do something about it. That's the approach we're taking.''

Okoronkwo said the hitting has been unlike any previous camp, with players battling as though they are facing an outside opponent. Coach Lincoln Riley said that was by design.

''You've just got to be able to look at each team differently and just ask the simple question, `What do we need to play at the highest level?''' Riley said. ''And when we looked at this team ... it just made sense for us as a staff to add a little bit of physicality to it.''

Okoronkwo will be a critical piece if the Sooners are to improve. The preseason All-Big 12 choice had 71 tackles, nine sacks and 12 tackles for loss last season. Cornerback Jordan Thomas, also a preseason All-Big 12 pick, led the conference with 17 pass breakups last season.

The defensive line features returnees Matt Romar, D.J. Ward and Neville Gallimore. Linebackers Caleb Kelly and Emmanuel Beal and safety Steven Parker add experience.

Freshman linebacker Kenneth Murray is expected to provide an immediate boost, possibly as a starter. Riley said Murray might be the most athletic linebacker the Sooners have had in his nearly three years with the program.

''The guy's physically so good, and he's just getting better so fast,'' Riley said. ''He's going to make a lot of plays right now, and it'll be a matter of time before he's making just about all of them. And so we feel really, really good about his development.

Okoronkwo is trying to help bring Murray along quickly.

''Since he's gotten here, he's been right next to me,'' he said. ''That's like my little brother. We were just watching film this morning. He's ready to go. I'm ready to see what he does.''
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:21 PM
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Virginia QB Benkert says 'there's a good edge' to Cavaliers
August 28, 2017


CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (AP) Bronco Mendenhall heads into his second season at Virginia with an experienced defense and hopes that his offense will have many more weapons than a year ago.

He also hopes the year he's spent working on the Cavaliers' mental approach will show dividends when they open against William & Mary on Saturday.

The difference is certain to be evident in one of his three captains: quarterback Kurt Benkert.

''I would say, last year there was a lot excitement - new coaching staff, new this, new that, new schemes,'' the senior QB said Monday. ''And we went in with a lot of confidence because we worked hard and that's all that our confidence was based off of. Now that we've been through it, we got hit in our mouths a few times last year, and really knowing what we're made of and seeing what we're able to push through, I wouldn't say it's a false confidence like it was last year.

''I think there's a good edge to us and I think we really believe that we can do this.''

This year, Benkert's ability to stay healthy will likely go a long way in determining their ability to improve on last year's 2-10 mark. While eight starters return on defense, Benkert's backup is freshman Lindell Stone, who was playing high school football not far from the Virginia campus at this time a year ago.

''He's one of the best football players on our team,'' Mendenhall said of Benkert, who transferred from East Carolina and won the starting job last year. Early in the season, he injured his non-throwing shoulder fighting for extra yardage and became increasingly skittish behind a mediocre-at-best offensive line.

Now, he's lost weight, gained speed and no longer feels the effects of knee surgery that slowed him last season. The line also is improved, he and his coach agree, bolstered by the additions of two graduate transfers: 6-foot-4, 325-pound John Montelus from Notre Dame and 6-5, 320-pound Brandon Pertile from Oklahoma State.

Still, his coach said, he'd rather have Benkert be smart about what he tries to do that get hurt trying to do too much.

''We don't want him taking extra shots,'' Mendenhall said. ''If it's a difference of a first down and getting an extra yard, get the first down. That's good enough. If it's a first down and there's a chance to get five more and get out of bounds, get out of bounds.''

For his part, Benkert said the Cavaliers will have a lot more offensive options this season. Andre Levrone and Joe Reed join Doni Dowling as deep threats in the passing game, and Mendenhall said offensive coaches spent the sprint looking for ways to expand the role of versatile hybrid Olamide Zaccheaus.

''I think you guys will see on Saturday. I think we're a completely different offense,'' Benkert said. ''We do a really good job right now of getting everyone the ball, playing to each of our players' strengths. I'm excited for everybody to see all the work coach Anae and the coaching staff has been doing for us.''

-------------------------------

Wolfpack RBs set to share the load in opener vs. Gamecocks
August 28, 2017


RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) North Carolina State's offense leaned heavily on a single running back last year. Things will look different for Saturday's opener against South Carolina in Charlotte.

The Wolfpack lost top rusher Matt Dayes from last year's team, and now has a depth chart indicating a committee approach with juniors Nyheim Hines and Reggie Gallaspy II, and fifth-year graduate Dakwa Nichols.

Throw in versatile all-purpose threat Jaylen Samuels, and Dave Doeren's team has no shortage of options.

''I think it's in our best interest - and I think most football teams will tell you that - to make sure those guys are all getting work,'' Doeren said Monday of N.C. State's three full-time running backs. ''And they will.''

The team released its depth chart Monday, listing an ''or'' between Hines, Gallaspy and Nichols instead of settling on one a starter. Samuels - named last week to The Associated Press preseason all-America team as a second-team all-purpose back - is listed as an H-back but has lined up at running back, receiver and tight end during his career.

The question is how the coaches will distribute the workload, both against the Gamecocks and beyond for a team considered to be a dark horse in the Atlantic Coast Conference's power-heavy Atlantic Division.

''Every offense - no-huddle spread, even pro-style teams - it's the hot hand,'' Hines said during preseason camp. ''If you're making plays, you're going to get the ball.''

Dayes had a workhorse role last year, running for 1,166 yards and 10 touchdowns. He also had six games with at least 25 offensive touches, including big performances against eventual national champion Clemson (133 offensive yards and a touchdown) and division power Florida State (131 yards).

No other running back managed even 50 carries. Don't expect a repeat in 2017.

''As the season gets longer and longer, you worry less and less about the number of hits they've taken,'' Doeren said, ''because if you prepare the right way on the front end where you're rotating those guys, you can get to the back end of the season and soak somebody (with carries) that's really playing well.

''But if we would give any of those guys 30 carries in the first game, they may love that but that would be difficult for 12 straight weeks for anyone.''

The 5-foot-11, 225-pound Gallaspy has the most reps with 115 career carries and provides the most backfield bulk.

Hines and Nichols have similar size (5-9 and about 195 pounds), though Hines boasts speed that earned him All-America track honors on a relay team that won an ACC championship. He had played mostly at receiver last season after carrying the ball 48 times his freshman year.

As for Samuels, the 5-foot-11 senior from Charlotte has scored a combined 29 rushing or receiving touchdowns over the past two seasons while creating matchup problems with his ability to line up just about anywhere.

''When Reggie is in there, I feel like he knows his job,'' Samuels said. ''When Nyheim is in there, he'll get his job done. I hope they trust me, that I'll get my job done when I get in there. So we just work off each other and go from there.''
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:24 PM
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Southern Miss trying to win 2 straight vs. Kentucky
August 28, 2017


HATTIESBURG, Miss. (AP) Southern Mississippi defensive back Picasso Nelson knows what it feels like to watch Kentucky's offense embarrass the Golden Eagles' secondary.

He also knows what it feels like to shut the Wildcats down and earn a huge road win over an opponent from the Southeastern Conference.

Southern Miss beat Kentucky 44-35 in Lexington last season , falling into a 35-10 hole during the second quarter before scoring the game's final 34 points in a stunning comeback. It was the first time Southern Miss had beaten an SEC opponent since 2000 and ended a 13-game losing streak against the league.

Now the Golden Eagles get a chance to make it two in a row against the Wildcats. This time, Southern Miss gets to host Kentucky on Saturday at Roberts Stadium.

If all goes well, Nelson hopes an improbable 25-point comeback won't be needed.

''You've got to go in just focusing on the small things,'' Nelson said. ''That's what we did last year in the second half. This year, Lord willing, we can put four quarters together.''

The game represents a rare chance for Southern Miss to host an SEC opponent on its home field. Kentucky is just the second team from the league to come to Hattiesburg since 1989 - the other was Mississippi State in 2015.

Kentucky has high hopes this season after recovering from last year's loss to Southern Miss to finish with a 7-6 overall record, including a 4-4 mark in the SEC East. Coach Mark Stoops said his program learned some valuable lessons from last year's loss to the Golden Eagles.

''One bad thing led to another,'' Stoops said. ''Guys trying to do too much.''

Southern Miss enters its second year under coach Jay Hopson with several experienced playmakers. There's running back Ito Smith, who ran for 1,459 yards and 17 touchdowns last season. There's also receiver Allenzae Staggers, who caught 63 passes for 1,165 yards and seven touchdowns.

The one big question mark is at quarterback. Junior Kwadra Griggs and sophomore Keon Howard have been locked in a quarterback competition all during preseason camp and Hopson said Monday that he expects both to play on Saturday.

Because of the uncertainty under center, the Golden Eagles likely need another big game from Smith, who ran for 173 yards and a touchdown against the Wildcats last season.

''I don't think there's any big secret that Ito Smith is a great football player for us and he's going to see the ball,'' Hopson said. ''Ito is one of those guys who when he does have the ball, he makes things happen. You've got to have balance, but Ito is a key piece of the puzzle for us.''

The Southern Miss defense is led by a veteran secondary that includes Nelson and Cornell Armstrong. He said the familiarity among the returners should help against Kentucky and allow the Golden Eagles to be successful from the first play.

''We know that our guys have a feel for the game and a better understanding for the game,'' Nelson said. ''Instead of just running around and moving fast for no reason, there's more poise and purpose.''

----------------------------------------

Harbaugh playing games as Michigan preps to play Florida
August 28, 2017


ANN ARBOR, Mich. (AP) Jim Harbaugh is playing games.

Entering his third season in charge of college football's winningest program, he's refusing to unveil his roster until three days before No. 11 Michigan kicks off the season against No. 17 Florida in Texas.

And he won't say whether returning starter Wilton Speight or seldom-used senior John O'Korn will take the first snap Saturday against the Gators at the home of the Dallas Cowboys.

''Have not heard Florida announce who their starting quarterback would be,'' Harbaugh said Monday. ''We'd love to have that information. No, we're not announcing our starting quarterback. People make a lot of a big deal about our roster or not announcing a starting quarterback.''

NJ Advance Media, attempting to identify New Jersey natives playing in the Big Ten, submitted a Freedom Of Information Act request to obtain the Wolverines' 2018 roster. The list of players was not published online or printed on paper when the team had spring practice or reported for training camp this summer. The school relented a little, releasing the student-athletes on athletic scholarship on Harbaugh's roster.

Michigan center Mason Cole and his teammates have gotten used to the off-the-field buzz Harbaugh has created since coming back to campus in 2015.

''We don't think anything of it,'' Cole said. ''We just go out and play. We don't really worry about the rosters.''

Michigan was more forthcoming about what it will wear against Florida. It showed off an alternate uniform featuring a maize jersey, a color it will wear above the belt for the first time since facing Navy in 1928.

Harbaugh is holding to his plan to ''determine and publicize'' the final roster on Wednesday.

The public will likely have to wait longer - probably until Saturday afternoon - to find out if Speight is starting as expected or if O'Korn has gone from barely playing last year to becoming the No. 1 QB against Florida.

''The philosophy is meritocracy,'' Harbaugh said. ''There's competition that's healthy, fair and productive. It's been very good. It's been a good camp for our quarterbacks. We feel confident in our guys. We believe in them.''

Harbaugh does not believe, though, in tipping his hand or sharing his plan with a team withholding similar information.

''I have not seen the starting quarterback come out of Florida,'' he said. ''Never any mention of that. Interesting. Yes, we'd like to have that information from them and I'm sure they'd like to have it from us. Right now, neither is giving that information.''

Florida has, indeed, kept its starting quarterback under wraps throughout preseason practice.

Gators coach Jim McElwain even hinted last week that three QBs could take a snap against Michigan. Fourth-year junior Luke Del Rio, redshirt freshman Feleipe Franks and Malik Zaire, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, are the candidates for the job.

Del Rio, a college journeyman and the son of Oakland Raiders head coach Jack Del Rio, started six games last season before sustaining a season-ending shoulder injury in November. The 6-foot-5, 227-pound Franks has been projected as the starter for months, maybe even a year. Franks, a four-star recruit with prototypical size and arm strength, sat out last year while learning the offense and bulking up. The Gators also added Zaire to the mix in June, a move that suggested McElwain wasn't completely satisfied with his quarterbacks.

McElwain dodged every question about his QBs on Monday and only dropped a tongue-in-cheek hint that receiver Kadarius Toney would take the first snap in the wildcat formation.

''The quarterback situation, we have a plan that's in place,'' he said. ''No, I'm not going to tell you what it is, so there's no reason to ask. But we're excited about that. We'll leave that for them to guess as well.''

----------------------------
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Old 08-28-2017, 06:26 PM
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Lights, camera, action: No. 1 Bama, No. 3 FSU ready to roll
August 28, 2017


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) Jalen Hurts is already accustomed to these kinds of games.

The marquee games. The biggest matchups on the largest stage.

This one pits top-ranked Alabama against No. 3 Florida State in the first-ever opening matchup of preseason Top-3 teams since the Associated Press started selecting them in 1950. The teams will square off in the fully loaded new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta under the bright lights of the national spotlight.

Hurts sounded downright unimpressed by all those trappings when the sophomore quarterback was asked Monday if he's used to these kinds of games.

''I played in the national championship,'' he said, ''so I guess so.''

Historic opening matchup or not, these teams are well acquainted with big games, thank you very much.

They've each won a national title in the last five years, and Alabama has collected four in a decade under coach Nick Saban. The Tide has made a habit of playing teams from other Power Five conferences in the first or second game each season since 2008, winning all of them by double digits, including three top-10 matchups.

Last year's 52-6 romp over then-No. 20 USC set the table for an undefeated run into the national title game against Clemson.

As much as anybody, the Seminoles have done their part to disprove the notion that the Southeastern Conference is college football's top league. Florida State is 9-1 against SEC teams under coach Jimbo Fisher, who will be facing Alabama and former boss Saban for the first time.

They're also the only programs to carry a streak of at least five straight BCS or New Year's Six games into the season.

Fisher believes some of the surplus of hype comes from the fact that there's been an entire offseason to think and talk about it.

''If you're here at Florida State playing in these games, you're going to be in hyped games,'' Fisher said. ''Every year we play Clemson, Miami, Florida, Louisville - whoever we play, what conference, what big bowl ... that's part of being at Florida State.''

He and Saban are the only two active head coaches with a winning record against teams ranked in the Top 25.

Something has to give: Neither head coach has lost an opener in their current job.

This really is nothing new to Alabama, which will have played No. 4 Washington, No. 2 Clemson and now No. 3 Florida State in college football's version of Murderer's Row.

This will be the 51st game of the last 117 that `Bama was ranked No. 1. The Tide is favored by a touchdown.

Such a challenging opener, Saban said, helps the players focus during the offseason. It also gives a clearer gauge of where the team stands than a blowout win over an obviously overmatched team.''

But both teams, win or lose, will face several more marquee matchups as the season progresses. Saban - and apparently Hurts - just choose not to buy into the hype.

''If your goal is going to be the best that you can be individually, personally, or as a team, or as a unit, then why is the guy you're playing against determine the level that you play?'' Saban said.

Then again, in this case, that would mean ratcheting up their play. It's only the fourth top-5 matchup in an opening game, after all.

Fisher could have just as well been describing his own team in praising Alabama.

''Outstanding players that play very hard, very physical, very well-coached,'' he said. ''Have big guys, dynamic guys and playmakers across the board. They can throw it, they can catch it, they can run with it, they can defend, they can cover.

''They do all the things that you have to do to be successful.''

NOTE: Alabama defensive end Raekwon Davis wasn't at practice during the media viewing period Monday. He was shot in the right leg outside a Tuscaloosa bar early Sunday morning. A Sheriff's department spokesman described the injury as minor. Saban described his status as ''day to day'' for the game.
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Utah defensive line continues to reload on annual basis
August 28, 2017


SALT LAKE CITY (AP) Utah defensive linemen believe there's a certain responsibility that recruits take on when they join the Utes.

The program seems to be loaded at the position every year and 2017 is set up for more of the same despite losing three starters to the NFL, including all-time sacks leader Hunter Dimick.

''It's pride and responsibility,'' senior defensive end Kylie Fitts said. ''This is D-Line U. Every year we're getting the top prospects and we get them in and we have a great (staff) that develops them. We just have a different mentality than others. We just want to go out and eat every day and get better.''

Utah lists eight former defensive linemen in the NFL and it has had at least one defensive lineman named first-team All-Pac-12 every year since joining the league in 2011. The last time the Utes didn't have at least one defensive lineman named first-team all-conference was in 2000.

The season kicks off Thursday with high expectations for the unit as Utah hosts North Dakota.

Coach Kyle Whittingham doesn't remember when the trend started and doesn't think it was particular goal over any other position. The 13-year coach, however, has always been a defensive mind and knows the best place to start building is in the trenches.

Utah's base 4-3 mimics many NFL systems so that also makes Salt Lake City an attractive destination for recruits.

''Defensive linemen want to come here and they see the success that the defensive line has here and the notoriety that they get,'' Whittingham said. ''It's something that has been going on for quite a few years now and it just seems to perpetuate itself.

''When our guys come through this program, they're ready for that next level from a fundamental standpoint, a technique standpoint and a scheme standpoint.''

The 2017 reload includes three senior starters in defensive tackles Lowell Lotulelei (6-foot-2, 320 pounds) and Filipo Mokofisi (6-4, 295) and end Fitts (6-4, 265). Sophomore Bradlee Anae (6-3, 265) is the other starter at end, but Caleb Repp, Leki Fotu and Pita Tonga are all expected to contribute.

The seniors are known commodities, but there is excitement around the program for the next wave, particularly Anae.

''I like a lot about Bradlee Anae,'' Whittingham said. ''He's a tremendous athlete. He's got the whole package. ... He's tenacious. He's got a great burst, great get-off. You put him out there with those three seniors, who I think are as good as we've had here, and that's a good group.''

Fitts had seven sacks as a sophomore, but missed all but two games in 2016 due to a foot injury. Lotulelei is the little brother of former Utes standout Star Lotulelei, who was the No. 14 overall pick in 2013 and starts for the Panthers. Lowell is considered one of the best tackle prospects in the country. Mokofisi was All-Pac-12 honorable mention last season and was third on the team with 5.0 sacks.

Both Lotulelei and Mokofisi were named captains of the defense.

''(The coaches) know what they want in the players they bring here and they're not just going to bring in anybody,'' Lotulelei said. ''Then when those guys get here, it's the older players that really set the standard. It's really a combination of those two.''

The line repeatedly talked about a responsibility to those who came before and Mokofisi said that family atmosphere is fostered by those former Utes returning to campus and staying in touch. That NFL knowledge is passed down from those in the league, as is a certain mindset.

''Just hard work and have that nasty mentality that we're going to get after whoever's across the line,'' Fitts said.

-------------------------------

'I Like Spike': Texas Tech will wear decals to honor Dykes
August 28, 2017


LUBBOCK, Texas (AP) Texas Tech will always like Spike Dykes.

The Red Raiders will honor their late coach with decals on their helmets for every game this season. The stickers will feature an image of Dykes getting doused with water after a victory and the phrase ''I Like Spike,'' a popular saying for Tech fans during his 13 seasons leading the program.

The folksy West Texas native was 79 when he died April 10.

Dykes announced his retirement shortly after Tech's win over Oklahoma to end the 1999 season. Kliff Kingsbury, now in his fifth season as the Red Raiders head coach, was then a redshirt freshman who made his first start as their quarterback in that game.
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Oregon QB worked to become a leader in the offseason
August 28, 2017


EUGENE, Ore. (AP) Oregon quarterback Justin Herbert had what was essentially a two-pronged approach to the offseason: Become stronger and become a leader.

Herbert put on muscle, prompting Ducks first-year coach Willie Taggard to joke that the sophomore signal-caller kept strutting around shirtless. Herbert worked on the leadership part, too, as a counselor at the Manning camp in Louisiana.

''I've seen Justin grow a lot. I mean, he's giving off a lot of confidence, especially to the other players, to show he's that guy,'' running back Royce Freeman said. ''We're definitely following behind him and we trust him fully.''

Thrust into a role as Oregon's starting quarterback as a freshman last season when graduate transfer Dakota Prukop struggled, Herbert would go on to play in nine games, throwing for 1,936 yards with 19 touchdowns.

Herbert goes into this season knowing he's the starter. The Ducks open at home on Saturday afternoon against Southern Utah.

It will be the Oregon debut for Taggart, who is looking to rebuild a team that went 4-8 overall for the Ducks' first losing season since 2004.

Taggart comes to Eugene after four years at South Florida, where he guided the Bulls from a 2-10 record his first year to a 10-2 mark last year and a spot in the Birmingham Bowl. Before that he spent three seasons at his alma mater, Western Kentucky, inheriting a winless program that he turned around with back-to-back winning seasons.

Known for being soft-spoken and shy, Herbert said he's talked with his new head coach about what it means to be a leader.

''I think just realizing that the quarterback has to step up. The team needs to be led,'' Herbert said. ''Coach Taggart and I have talked about how I need to step up and be more vocal for the betterment of the team. So I've put my shyness away and I've tried to come out a little more and talk.''

Herbert understands that his introverted approach last season may have hindered the Ducks.

''Last year I think I didn't do a good job of being vocal or talking very much. So I think it kind of hurt us from a strategy standpoint. I didn't have the comfortability to go to the offensive linemen or the running backs or the receivers,'' Herbert said. ''But I think just being more comfortable around them has been super helpful.''

Part of his transformation was the result of the time he spent this summer at the Manning Passing Academy. Among his fellow counselors were USC's Sam Darnold and Washington's Jake Browning.

Herbert also bulked up over the summer, putting on some 15 pounds, and his arms are noticeably bigger. His new 6-foot-6 body prompted a bit of good-natured chiding from the team.

''He's gained about 15 pounds since last year, and Justin's walking outside with his shirt off now. And if you all know Justin, that wasn't him before. But he's laughing. He's hanging out with his guys,'' Taggart said.

Freeman joked: ''We're trying to beg him, `Just please put your shirt on.'''

Herbert, who sheepishly said his physique has ''been exaggerated a little bit,'' is more focused on the process. The Ducks are expected to have a transition season as Taggart installs his system: Oregon was selected to finish fourth in the Pac-12 North.

Herbert believes the future is bright.

''We just have to listen to the guys who have been there. We've got multiple guys on our team who have been in a national championship and have played there. We've got coaches who've coached in big games and they know what it takes. And the players do, too,'' he said. ''I think just listening to them and following the game plan will get us there.''
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Tuesday’s six-pack

Six baseball contracts that surprised me:

— Jordan Zimmerman, Det: 3 years, $74M left after this year

— Jose Altuve, Hst: 4 years, $12.5M; club option for 2018. Think they’ll take it?

— David Wright, NYM: Mets are on hook for 3 more years, $47M

— Francisco Cervelli, Pitt: 2 years, $22M left after this year

— Albert Pujols, LAA: 4 years left, $114M left after this year. Oy.

— Mike Trout, LAA: 3 years left, $102M left after this year.

*******************************

Tuesday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but……..


13) Hurricane happenings:
— Astros-Rangers series this week moves to the Trop in St Petersburg.
— Texans-Cowboys exhibition game Thursday moves to Dallas.
— BYU-LSU football Saturday moves to the Superdome in New Orleans.

12) This storm in Texas might be the worst storm ever; another 15-25 inches of rain is expected between now and Thursday. We pray for everyone down there; stay safe!!!!

11) Only two New York Mets have been active for all their games this season; Jerry Blevins and Jacob deGrom.

10) Mets’ 1B prospect Dominic Smith is batting .161 in his first 59 major league AB’s; it is too early to worry about him (Rhys Hoskins started 0-12 and look how he’s doing) but I saw Smith play in Las Vegas in July and wasn’t all that impressed by him then. Time will tell.

9) June Jones is now the coach of the Hamilton TigerCats of the CFL after the TiCats got off to an awful start this season; he’s brought in former Baylor coach Art Briles as an assistant.

8) Rice University’s football team came back from its game in Australia and has relocated at TCU in Fort Worth, as they wait out the storm/flooding near their campus.

7) Indianapolis Colts traded long snapper Thomas Hennessy to Jets in exchange for safety Ronald Martin. Unusual trade.

6) Miami Marlins have new owners, a team that is rolling right now and the best outfield in all of baseball, but I keep seeing articles on how the the team might trade Giancarlo Stanton at the end of the season. Is that a good idea?

Stanton has a HUGE contract that has a long way to go on it; trading him is a bold move, since he is having a great season and is hugely popular in Miami. What could they get back for him? Tough early decision for the new ownership.

5) The profile of Ivy League basketball is getting bigger; Yale-St Bonaventure game on December 9 is going to be shown on ESPNU.

4) Jets named Josh McCown their starting QB, which if he is healthy, is the only possible choice they could’ve made. Bryce Petty played well Saturday but hurt his knee; the other options were not good at all.

3) Clayton Kershaw is going to be activated later this week and will start either Friday/Saturday against the Padres in San Diego. He threw five innings in a AAA rehab start Saturday.

2) If you want to replace those statues that have been taken down recently, how about a statue of a first responder carrying two little kids out of a flooded house? Those guys are heroes, for sure.

1) DeShone Kizer will be the Cleveland Browns’ 27th different starting QB since 1999.
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Major League managers on replay challenges:

Joe Girardi, NYY 76-104, 73.1%
Ned Yost, KC 76-113, 67.3%
Pete Mackanin, Phil 52-79, 65.8%
Bruce Bochy, SF 81-126, 64.3%
Dave Roberts, LA 37-60, 61.7%

Paul Molitor, Minn 50-83, 60.2%
Mike Scioscia, LAA 70-117, 59.8%
Terry Collins, NYM 61-105, 58.1%
Buck Showalter, Balt 60-105, 57.1%
Clint Hurdle, Pitt 81-146, 55.5%

Joe Maddon, Cubs 85-157, 54.1%
Terry Francona, Clev 64-119, 53.8%
Mike Matheny, StL 70-132, 53.0%
Rich Renteria, CWS 37-70, 52.9%
Bob Melvin, A’s 54-105, 51.4%

Craig Counsell, Milw 45-88, 51.1%
Brian Price, Cinc 58-115, 50.4%
Tory Lovullo, Ariz 18-36, 50.0%
Don Mattingly, Mia 71-143, 49.7%
Andy Green, SD 37-76, 48.7%

Brian Snitker, All 32-67, 47.8%
AJ Hinch Hst, 51-107, 47.7%
Kevin Cash, TB 66-139, 47.5%
John Farrell, Bos 64-135, 47.4%
Brad Ausmus, Det 53-113, 46.9%

Jeff Banister, Tex 61-137, 44.5%
Bud Black, Colo 32-72, 44.4%
Scott Servais, Sea 33-81, 40.7%
Dusty Baker, Wash 26-65, 40.0%
John Gibbons, Tor 49-141, 34.8%

*********************************

Wednesday’s List of 13: Mid-week musings…….

13) Matthew Stafford is the highest paid player in NFL history? A 5-year contract extension worth $135M??? Wow.

If he is that valuable, how in the name of Wayne Fontes is their left tackle Greg Robinson? Stafford is going to get pummeled this season with Robinson playing LT.

This note from Paul Howard: Stafford is 4-43 in his career against teams that finished the season with a winning record- 1-21 on the road.

12) Rangers wanted the Astros to play their series in Arlington this week, but they didn’t want to flip-flop home series, giving Houston three home games later on this season, which is why the series is being played in Florida. I’m guessing there is now some tension between front offices, if there wasn’t before.

11) Dale Sveum is the Royals’ batting coach; Brian Buchanan is his assistant. Has to be a very long week for them, with Kansas City not scoring a run for 43 consecutive innings.

1992 Cubs are the last team to get blanked four games in a row; no team with a DH had ever been shut out in four straight games.

10) If you see Chad Whitson umping home plate, know that you have a hitter’s umpire that night. Every game they work may not go over, but they squeeze pitchers, for sure.

Jordan Baker is also a hitters’ umpire, but his strike zone usually widens some as the game goes on. Whitson squeezes pitchers for all nine innings.

9) Politics intruded into the CFL this week; the league stepped in and basically vetoed former Baylor coach Art Briles being hired as an assistant coach by the Hamilton Tiger-Cats.

Briles’ players at Baylor got into a lot of off-field trouble and it cost him his job. Briles himself did not commit a crime, but he is being treated as if he did.

8) TV evangelist Joel Osteen has a church in Houston that seats 16,000 people? Damn, thats a big church; must take forever to pass the collection baskets there.

7) A guy went to Hooters’ Casino in Las Vegas, bet $1.21M on Floyd Mayweather, and netted himself $242,000. Hooters is an unlikely sportsbook for such a large bet to be made.

6) Weird moment Sunday; Phillies pitcher Nick Pivetta tossed a pickoff throw to first base, but the runner (Anthony Rizzo) was still standing on first base. Never saw that before; he looked at Pivetta like, “What are you doing?”

5) Last four years, the four AFC South teams are a combined 15-28-1 vs spread as a home underdog in non-divisional games.

Last two years, the four AFC West teams are 13-3-1 vs spread when they’re road favorites in non-divisional games.

4) Denver’s backup QB Paxton Lynch has an injured throwing shoulder and will miss some games; will the Broncos sign Colin Kaepernick?

As of right now, Denver has starter Trevor Siemian, who is backed up by Kyle Sloter, who played WR, then QB at Southern Miss, then at Northern Colorado. They also have Chad Kelly as a developmental QB, but he is still hurt from his college days and won’t play this year. Denver has to sign another QB for their opener, you would think.

3) Tickets for the Texans-Cowboys exhibition game in Dallas Thursday are $25. Proceeds will go to the United Way’s relief fund. Excellent idea.

2) Scooter Gennett and Babe Ruth are only two major leaguers ever who hit their 20th homer of the season and also pitched on that same day.

1) RIP Jud Heathcote 90, the former Michigan State coach passed away Monday. Spartans have had only two basketball coaches the last 42 years, Heathcote and Tom Izzo.

Heathcote’s 1979 Michigan State team, led by Magic Johnson/Greg Kelser, won a national title, sparking the increased popularity of college basketball, thanks to Magic’s rivalry with Larry Bird.
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The Dozen: Season opens in style
August 29, 2017


The first full week of the college football season is upon us, but we already got a preview of what's in store for us in Week 0. That's what some referred to the first five games involving FBS schools, which included a no-show from BYU against FCS member Portland State and Stanford destroying Rice.

South Florida spotted San Jose State a 16-0 lead, then surged ahead to lead at halftime before failing to cover by a single point. Colorado State's annihilation of Oregon State to open its new on-campus stadium was the most impressive performance from the preview weekend.

Hawaii's last-minute win at UMass provided the best game and featured a great finish. Something tells me higher-profile schools will be involved in the week's most thrilling contest going forward, and we'll look to narrow down the field here every week by identifying the best matchups going in.

1. Florida State vs. Alabama (-7): Hopefully this lives up to the hype, set at Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium. While the Crimson Tide enter ranked No. 1, the Seminoles would ascend to the top with an upset. It's no surprise that 'Bama is favored since they have been every game since Oct. 2015, but the full touchdown has opened some eyes. Clemson won last season's national title game as a 6-point 'dog, while FSU beat Michigan outright in its bowl game while getting roughly this number. Expect the outcome to hinge on how much Nick Saban trusts QB Jalen Hurts to take advantage of a Seminoles defense that was often brutal last season but benefits from free safety Derwin James' healthy return. Even though Dalvin Cook is now the likely starting RB for the Vikings, FSU has plenty of talent around QB Deondre Francois that would allow them to take advantage if 'Bama is overly conservative.

2. Michigan (-3.5) vs. Florida: Jim Harbaugh lost his first game at the helm against Utah but is 20-4 since and looking to elevate his alma mater to greater heights this season. The Wolverines are breaking out new all-maize uniformns for this one and will attempt to match their style with substance since they're coming in losers of three of four. They fell just a play or two short in all those games, and we'll see immediately if year No. 3 of the Harbaugh era fosters further improvement and consistency as they square off with the Gators in Arlington. Top receiver Antonio Callaway is among seven players suspended for Florida, which joined Michigan in holding a highly scrutinized QB competition in the offseason. Gators coach Jim McElwain won't divulge who his starter will be, but freshman Feleipe Franks shouldplay a large role. Wilton Speight is the likely quarterback for the Wolverines, but Harbaugh keeps most info regarding his program in a vault that has no combination, so we'll all find out together what he's got planned.

3. West Virginia vs. Virginia Tech (-4.5): Year 2 of the Justin Fuente era in Blacksburg is being met with great optimism since the legendary Frank Beamer's successor comes off a bowl win over Arkansas. That followed a tight loss to eventual champ Clemson in the ACC championship game and a November win at Notre Dame too, so the Hokies are clearly in good hands and have been granted the nod as the favorite despite an inexperienced offense led by redshirt freshman QB Josh Jackson. The Mountaineers also have a new guy under center, but Florida transfer Will Grier will have plenty of game action to draw upon at FedEx Field in this Sunday showcase. Receivers Ka'Ran White and Gary Jennings join running back Jordan Crawford as weapons that are going to be hard for Virginia Tech to get a handle on right out of the gate.

4. Texas A&M at UCLA (-3.5): We'll get an indication of how seriously to take these teams' title aspirations in their loaded conferences as they join the Mountaineers and Hokies on national television in a parlay-friendly foursome. QB Josh Rosen and the Bruins benefit from friendly surroundings at the Rose Bowl in this return game after losing last year's opener in Texas in OT. The Aggies were able to get stops when they needed them in that game but must now find a way to pull that off without top DE Myles Garrett, who has put his talent on display all preseason after the Browns called his name first in April's NFL draft. The Aggies also lost their top two tacklers, so they'll be leaning on new leadership on both of sides of the ball in a game featuring a pair of head coaches (Kevin Sumlin, Jim Mora) whose seats will get scalding hot immediately if their teams fail to perform here.

5. Wyoming at Iowa (-11.5): The Cowboys are a double-digit underdog, but they've covered six straight games in that role, winning four of those outright. The Hawkweyes will present a great test for Wyoming due to their depth, but QB Josh Allen will be the higher-regarded passer here and will get to see his poise on display in the toughest road environment he'll see all season. The Hawkeyes have some issues in the secondary with two key starters having graduated and top returning corner Manny Rugamba suspended for this opener. Iowa is 14-2 in home openers and always a threat to surprise in the Big Ten under the tutelage of Kirk Ferentz, but if there's an eyebrow-raising upset to come in Week 1, this is certainly a top candidate.

6. South Carolina vs. N.C. State (-5): SC quarterback Jake Bentley got his experience in last season and returns as a 19-year-old sophomore who has seen championship-level defenses. Head coach Will Muschamp is back for year No. 2, so while he'll hope to ride his defense, the Gamecocks surrendered 102 points over their last two games and already lost projected starting safety Jaylin Dickerson for the season. The Wolfpack will look for their second straight SEC conquest after routing Vandy in the Independence Bowl and return a lot of talent on both sides of the ball. We'll find out immediately whether they're for real since they're expected to hold serve in Charlotte. Dave Doeren is 4-0 in openers at N.C. State, but this will be his toughest first opponent by a significant margin.

7. Tennessee (-3.5) vs. Georgia Tech: Next week's Monday night football will come courtesy of the college game for the only time until bowl season, but the matchup is no longer as appealing as it looked mid-month. The Yellow Jackets dismissed leading returning rusher Dedrick Mills, a speedy bowling ball of a running back who found the end zone 12 times last year. The Ramblin' Wreck has some talent back, but must face a defense that lost sack master and first-round draft pick Derek Barnett and little else from last year's unit. The Vols will have had the past few weeks to prepare for the triple option, so even though they're traveling to Atlanta, Butch Jones should be able to win another opener despite the loss of QB Joshua Dobbs. Tennessee's Quinton Dormady is expected to replace him under center, but head coach Butch Jones hasn't made that official yet.

8. Cal at North Carolina (-12): Esteemed defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox debuts as a head coach with a true road game in Chapel Hill, inheriting a Bears team lost their leading rusher and receiver in addition to QB Davis Webb, who threw for nearly 4,300 yards and 37 touchdowns in Sonny Dykes' system and ended up being drafted by the N.Y. Giants in the third round. Sophomore Ross Bowers has won the competition to replace him, but his next pass in college will be his first one. Tar Heels head coach Larry Fedora is still deciding between LSU graduate transfer Brandon Harris and redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt to determine a replacement for Mitch Trubisky, the top quarterback selected in April's draft. A host of receiving targets and RB Elijah Hood are gone too, so the offense will hinge on all the new pieces gelling quickly.

9. BYU at LSU:
Originally scheduled to be played in flood-ravaged Houston, this game has been relocated to New Orleans. The Cougs put very little on display in their opener but probably still expected an easier time from an FCS team coming off a losing season and starting a true freshman quarterback. The Tigers won't be looking ahead or hiding much of their playbook with Chattanooga on deck, so BYU will have to be much better than it showed against Portland State to avoid being blown out in what is likely to be even more of a Bayou Bengal-friendly environment. Purdue transfer Danny Etling has claimed the quarterback job for the Tigers again and will go in search of the school's first 10-win season since '13. Returning one of the country's top defensive teams in spite of losing the top five tacklers from last year's group, LSU hopes to open it up offensively under new coordinator Matt Canada.

10. Colorado State vs. Colorado (-5.5): This year's Rocky Mountain Showdown should be tremendous. Although standout playmaker Sefo Liufau is gone, the Buffs look to build on the first 10-win season in Boulder since 2001 by snapping a two-game losing streak. As strange as that sounds, Washington and Oklahoma State beat CU by a 79-18 margin over the final two games of 2016's dream season, but that still did little to squash excitement for a program that hand't even finished with a winning record since '05. Considering how impressive the Rams looked against Oklahoma State, the wrong team might be favored here since the Buffs have to replace a lot of talent on the defensive side of the ball too. The Rams have only beaten Mike MacIntyre once in four tries, but can lean on an impressive offense keyed by QB Nick Stevens' quick decisions and the skill and speed of electric receiver Michael Gallup. Chronologically, this is the first game on this list to kick, going off Friday in Denver.

11. Vanderbilt (-3.5) at Middle Tennessee: The Commodores turned the corner for the first time under Derek Mason last season, achieving bowl eligibility for the first time since James Franklin left for Penn State after '13. There's a significant amount of talent back, starting with top rusher Ralph Webb. A daunting schedule means they may have to get this one to ensure that they'll be working in December again, but that's won't be easy given how important this is for the Blue Raiders, who will have this circled and underlined and nearly beat Vandy last time it came through Murfreesboro two seasons ago. Barring injury, QB Brent Stockstill will become Middle's all-time passing leader by mid-month.

12. Louisville (-25) vs. Purdue: There's no mystery or quarterback controversy at the 'Ville, where Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson returns knowing his chances of repeating hinge on piling up more eye-popping numbers. First stop is Indianapolis' Lucas Oil Stadium, where former Cardinals standout Jeff Brohm will coach Purdue for the first time after a successful stint at Western Kentucky. The Boilermakers haven't won more than three times in a single season since 2012 but return eight starters on defense in addition to top rusher Markel Jones. QB David Hough is also back, but is questionable for this game due to a shoulder injury. If he's unable to play, sophomore Elijah Sindelar will start.

Others: Tulsa at Oklahoma State; Ohio State at Indiana; USC at Western Michigan; Maryland at Texas; Nevada at Northwestern; Washington at Rutgers; Temple at Notre Dame; Southern Miss at Kentucky; Troy at Boise State; UTEP at Oklahoma; FIU at UCF; Arkansas State at Nebraska.
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Friday's Tip Sheet
August 29, 2017


There are six lined games set for Friday of Week 1 in college football. Washington begins its quest to get back to the College Football Playoff by heading across the country into New Jersey. Wisconsin is at home looking to avoid an upset bid from Utah State that nearly resulted in a shocking loss at Camp Randall five years ago.

We’ll tackle those two games before touching on the others in Bonus Nuggets.

**Washington at Rutgers**

--
As of Tuesday, most betting shops had Washington installed as a 27.5-point road favorite with a total of 52 for ‘over/under’ wagers. The Huskies opened as 31-point ‘chalk’ at most books in late June, but the number was heavily adjusted Monday morning.

-- When these schools met last season in the opener at Husky Stadium, Washington raced out to a 48-3 third-quarter lead en route to a 48-13 spread-covering victory as a 25-point home ‘chalk.’ The 61 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 56-point total thanks to RU’s 10-yard TD run from Janarion Grant with 5:53 remaining. The Scarlet Knights committed three turnovers and allowed the Huskies to score a pair of touchdowns on special teams. UW’s Jake Browning completed 18-of-27 throws for 287 yards and three TDs with one interception. Dante Pettis had a 68-yard punt return for a score. Grant had nine catches for 56 yards in the losing effort. He combined for 160 all-purpose yards on 18 total touches.

-- Washington
went 12-2 straight up and 7-7 against the spread last season. The Huskies made the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history, losing 24-7 to Alabama in the semifinals as 14-point underdogs at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta. They beat four ranked teams, including a 41-10 win as 7.5-point ‘chalk’ over Colorado at the Pac-12 Championship Game. Chris Petersen’s only other defeat came at home to Southern Cal by a 26-13 count. UW had notable scalps vs. Stanford (44-6), at Utah (31-24) and at Washington State (45-17).

-- Washington returns seven starters on offense and six on defense. With the exception of leading receiver John Ross, Petersen’s squad brings back all of its skill players on offense. Browning, a junior who has already started 26 games and garnered fourth-team All-American honors in 2016, completed 62.1 percent of his passes last year for 3,430 yards with a 43/9 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Pettis also returns after hauling in 53 receptions for 822 yards and 15 TDs. Junior RB Myles Gaskin earned first-team All Pac-12 honors by rushing for 1,373 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Gaskin also had 19 catches for 137 yards and one TD. Senior RB Lavon Coleman provided excellent depth, rushing for 852 yards and seven TDs with a 7.5 YPC average.

-- Washington’s
defense gave up merely 17.7 points per game in 2016. This unit is led by two senior linebackers in Keishawn Bierria and Azeem Victor and a pair of junior defensive tackles, Greg Gaines and Vita Vea. There’s also a true sophomore safety in Taylor Rapp, who was a second-team Freshman All-American after recording 53 tackles and four interceptions. Bierria had 70 tackles, two sacks, three tackles for loss, and two passes broken up, while Victor produced 67 tackles and three TFL’s. Vea had 39 tackles, five sacks, 1.5 TFL’s, two PBU and two QB hurries, and Gaines tallied 35 tackles, 3.5 sacks and 4.5 TFL’s.

-- UW announced Monday a one-game suspension for Victor and a two-game suspension for reserve CB Austin Joyner, who had 10 tackles and one interception in 12 games as a freshman last year. Also, starting sophomore LB D.J. Beavers is out indefinitely with a foot injury. Beavers started four games in ’16, contributing 40 tackles, 0.5 TFL’s, one interception and one PBU.

-- Washington owns a 6-3 spread record in nine games as a road favorite during Petersen’s first three years at the school. The Huskies are just 2-3 versus the number in five games as double-digit road ‘chalk’ under Petersen. This is their biggest road favorite spot since Petersen took over.

-- Rutgers limped to a 2-10 SU record and a 4-8 ATS mark in its first season under head coach Chris Ash, who came to RU after two seasons of serving as co-DC at Ohio State under Urban Meyer. The Scarlet Knights got their only wins of ’16 at home over Howard (52-14) and New Mexico (37-28). They finished the year on a nine-game losing streak, dropping six of those nine (and seven total) by double-digit margins, including losses of 58-0 at Ohio State, 78-0 vs. Michigan, 49-0 at Michigan State and 39-0 vs. Penn State. RU was -2,010 net yards for the season with a minus-five turnover margin.

-- Rutgers brings back six starters on offense and eight on defense. The new starting QB is Kyle Bolin, a grad transfer from Louisville who was stuck on the bench behind last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Lamar Jackson. In three years at U of L that included six starts under center, Bolin completed 58 percent of his passes for 2,104 yards with a 13/10 TD-INT ratio.

-- Grant is RU’s best player who went down with a season-ending injury in the fourth game last year. He is a three-time All-Big Ten selection as a return specialist. Before getting injured in ’16, he had already produced 20 catches for 210 yards. Also, Grant had rushed for 138 yards and three TDs on just 16 attempts for an 8.6 YPC average. He also had two TDs on special teams.

--
When Bolin isn’t targeting Grant, his next-favorite target will be sophomore Jawuan Harris, who had a team-high 39 receptions for 481 yards and three TDs in ’16. RU also returns its leading rusher in senior Robert Martin, who had 625 yards for two TDs with a 5.2 YPC average.

-- After RU’s offense averaged an abysmal 15.7 PPG last season, Ash hired former Minnesota and No. Illinois head coach Jerry Kill as his new offensive coordinator. This is the eighth different OC at RU in eight years.

-- RU’s defense surrendered 37.5 PPG in ’16. This unit brings back its top two tacklers, junior LB Trevor Morris (102, 1 sack) and junior LB Deonte Roberts (95, 1 INT).

-- Fox Sports 1
will provide the telecast at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

**Utah State at Wisconsin**

--
As of Tuesday, most books had Wisconsin favored by 27.5 points with a total of 52. The Aggies were 35/1 on the money line at 5dimes.eu (risk $100 to win $3,500).

-- Wisconsin
finished ’16 with an 11-3 SU record and a stellar 10-3-1 ATS mark. The Badgers’ losses came against teams that were ranked second, fourth and eighth in the nation at the time. They covered the spread in losses at Michigan (14-7 as 10.5-point underdogs) and vs. Ohio State (30-23 in overtime as 10.5-point ‘dogs), and the other defeat came to Penn State (38-31) at the Big Ten Championship Game. Wisconsin had three victories over top-10 teams at the time they played, winning 30-6 at eighth-ranked Michigan State in Week 4. The Badgers also knocked off fifth-ranked LSU (16-14) in the season opener at Lambeau Field and beat seventh-ranked Nebraska 23-17 in overtime.

-- Wisconsin won a 24-16 decision over previously-undefeated and 12th-ranked Western Michigan at the Cotton Bowl, hooking up its backers as a 7.5-point favorite.

-- Paul Chryst’s team is 21-6 SU and 17-9-1 ATS since he took over for Gary Andersen in 2015. He was Wisconsin’s offensive coordinator from 2005-11 when the school set offensive records galore. Chryst was the head coach at Pitt from 2012-14, taking the Panthers to three bowl games while going 19-19.

-- Wisconsin owns a 5-4-1 spread record with one outright loss in nine games as a double-digit home favorite during Chryst’s tenure.

-- Wisconsin already lost All-American candidate Jack Cichy to a season-ending ACL tear a few weeks ago. In seven games before getting injured last season, Cichy had 60 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 5.5 TFL’s, two PBU and three QB hurries. Now sophomore LB Zack Baun (foot) is out for the season. Baun had 15 tackles and 3.5 TFL’s last year. Reserve RB Taiwan Deal is out indefinitely with an ankle injury. Deal rushed 32 times for 164 yards last year, averaging 5.1 YPC.

-- Wisconsin
returns eight starters on offense and six on defense. The defense gave up merely 15.6 PPG and had 34 sacks. This unit was led by rising junior LB T.J. Edwards, who produced 89 tackles, three sacks, 5.5 TFL’s, three interceptions, three QB hurries, two PBU and one forced fumble despite missing the first two games of the year. Senior safety D’Cota Dixon is another standout player, registering 60 tackles, four interceptions, four QB hurries, four PBU, one sack, 1.5 TFL’s, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery in ’16.

-- As a redshirt freshman last year, Alex Hornibrook started nine games at QB. The southpaw completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,262 yards with a 9/7 TD-INT ratio. The Badgers are hoping he can make a big jump in improvement in ’17. Hornibrook will have his two favorite targets back, senior WR Jazz Peavy and senior TE Troy Fumagalli, a second-team All Big-Ten pick last season. Peavy had 43 receptions for 635 yards and five TDs, while Fumagalli hauled in 47 catches for 580 yards and two TDs.

-- Utah State missed out on the postseason last season for the first time since 2010. The Aggies finished a second straight campaign with a losing record after winning 19 games in the first two years of Matt Wells’s tenure. They went 4-8 ATS in ’16, going 1-3 ATS in four outings as road underdogs. Utah State is 5-9 versus the number in 14 games as a road ‘dog on Wells’s watch.

-- Utah State brings back 10 of 22 starters, five on each side of the ball. The Aggies went winless in six road assignments last season, limping to an atrocious 1-5 spread record.

-- Utah State led 14-3 at intermission in its last trip to Camp Randall in 2012. However, when the Aggies missed a short field goal on the game’s final play, Wisconsin won a 16-14 decision despite never threatening to cover as a 14-point home favorite. During that banner campaign, Utah State finished 11-2 with its lone defeats coming at Wisconsin and at BYU by a 6-3 score.

-- Utah State senior QB Kent Myers has started 25 career games. He has a 31/14 TD-INT ratio in those three seasons, but he only had 10 TD passes and eight interceptions during 12 starts in 2016. Myers completed a career-low 58.0 percent of his passes for 2,389 yards. Myers rushed for 449 yards and six TDs last season. Myers has his favorite target back in the mix. Ron’quavion Tarver had 46 catches for 602 yards and three TDs. Tonny Lindsey also returns after rushing for a team-best 763 yards and six TDs with a 5.2 YPC average.

-- Kickoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

-- The Lane Kiffin Era in Boca Raton will get started Friday night when Florida Atlantic plays host to Navy at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPNU. As of Tuesday, most spots had the Midshipmen listed as a 10.5-point road ‘chalk’ with a total of 68.5 points. The Owls were +300 on the money line (risk $100 to win $300). Ken Niumatalolo’s squad went 9-5 both SU and ATS last year, ending the season on a three-game losing streak, including a 48-45 loss to La. Tech at the Armed Forces Bowl. The Middies took the cash, however, as seven-point underdogs against the Bulldogs. Navy brings back four starters on offense and eight on defense. FAU went 3-9 SU and 3-8-1 ATS in ’16. The Owls return nine starters on offense and eight on defense. WR Kalib Woods “is not on our football team,” according to recent remarks from Kiffin. Woods was arrested for his part in a fight during the summer and charged with two felony battery counts, though his lawyers have made a motion to have the charges dismissed. Woods led FAU with 68 catches for 934 yards and one TD in ’16.

-- Colorado and Colorado State will square off in Denver at 8:00 p.m. Eastern on the Pac-12 Network. According to recent reports, this rivalry will move back to being play on campus rather than in the Mile High City after this encounter. One reason for this is CSU’s new stadium that opened last Saturday with the Rams thumping Oregon State by a 58-27 count as 3.5-point home ‘chalk.’ The 85 combined points soared ‘over’ the 60-point total. Nick Stevens threw for 334 yards and three TDs compared to just one interception. Michael Gallup had 11 receptions for 134 yards, while Tre Thomas had a 44-yard pick-six as one of five turnovers forced by the CSU defense. CSU has lost back-to-back games to Colorado and three of the last four, including a 44-6 beatdown in ’16. Mike MacIntyre’s squad is coming off a breakout campaign, as it won the Pac-12 South and finished with a 10-4 record. The Buffaloes return nine starters on offense and three on defense. As of Tuesday, most spots had the Buffaloes favored by 5.5 points with a total of 66. The Rams were +180 on the money line (risk $100 to win $180).

-- Eastern Michigan is a 14-point home favorite vs. Charlotte for Friday’s 6:30 p.m. Eastern kick of a non-televised affair. The total is 57 points, while the 49ers are +450 to win outright.

-- As of Tuesday, Boston College was favored by three (with some extra -115 or -120 juice) or 3.5 for its opener at Northern Illinois. The total was in the 51-52 range. These schools met at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill in ’15, with BC capturing a 17-14 victory. However, the Huskies covered the number as five-point road underdogs. BC went 7-6 both SU and ATS last season and returns eight starters on offense and seven on defense. Keep an eye on the Eagles’ senior DE Harold Landry, a fourth-team All-American last year when he had 51 tackles, 16 sacks, 5.5 TFL’s, seven forced fumbles, seven QB hurries, four PBU and one interception. The Eagles are 3-4 ATS as road favorites during Steve Addazio’s tenure. NIU won at least 11 games in five consecutive seasons from 2010-14, but it has gone 8-6 and 5-7 over the last two campaigns. The Huskies, who are 0-2 ATS as home ‘dogs on Rod Carey’s watch, bring back five starters on offense and seven on defense. They lost four one-possession games in ’16. This game will kick at 9:30 p.m. Eastern on the CBS Sports College Network.

-- Baylor starting safeties Davion Hall and Henry Black have been injured since the start of training camp. Now sophomore CB Grayland Arnold is out for 6-8 weeks after undergoing surgery Sunday on his broken arm. In addition, senior DB Travon Blanchard has transferred to Texas A&M-Commerce and will play right away. In fact, he practiced with the FCS Lions this past Friday and will play this week vs. North Alabama. Blanchard was a second-team All Big-12 selection last year when he recorded 73 tackles, 7.5 TFL’s, 1.5 sacks, five PBU, one interception and one QB hurry. And finally, RB Terrence Williams is out indefinitely for undisclosed reasons. Williams rushed for 1,048 yards and 11 TDs in ’16, averaging 5.7 YPC. Fortunately for the Bears, they open with cupcake home games vs. Liberty and UTSA.
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Maryland ready for opener at No. 23 Texas
August 29, 2017


COLLEGE PARK, Md. (AP) There were several reasons why Tyrrell Pigrome won the starting quarterback job at Maryland, not the least of which are his experience, running ability and leadership skills.

Coach DJ Durkin took all that under consideration, then decided that the 5-foot-11 sophomore should be the one to guide the offense against No. 23 Texas in Saturday's season opener.

''We have to make decisions as a program,'' Durkin said Tuesday. ''That's who we feel gives us the best chance to win right now.''

Pigrome played in 11 games last year, including one start. He passed for 322 yards and two touchdowns, and ran for 254 yards and four scores.

In an intense competition that was finally decided this week, Pigrome prevailed over sophomore Max Bortenschlager, freshman Kasim Hill and redshirt junior transfer Caleb Henderson.

''He can run, he can pass,'' center Brendan Moore said of Pigrome. ''Honestly, I trust him behind me. I think we're going to get a lot of things done of offense this year.''

A year ago, Maryland launched Durkin's first season at home with a 52-13 rout of Howard. This season, the Terps open on the road against a storied opponent.

''It's a big test for us, a big challenge in Week 1,'' Durkin said. ''But I think the whole reason you come to a place like this is to play these types of games.''

Moore, a 6-1, 302-pound junior, grew up in Austin, Texas. He went to more Longhorns games than he can remember, and understands just how tough it is for a visiting team to win there.

''Obviously, it's going to be loud. It's going to be rowdy. It's their first game with a new head coach'' Tom Herman, Moore said. ''But we've played in a lot of big stadiums before. All we have to do is execute, do our thing and come out with a win.''

Maryland went 6-6 last year before losing to Boston College in the Quick Lane Bowl. Beating Texas in the would be the ideal way to enter the second phase of the Durkin Era.

But the Longhorns have won 17 straight home openers. In addition, they're going to be eager to put on a show for Herman, who comes to Texas after serving three years as Ohio State's offensive coordinator and two years at Houston, where he went 22-4.

''It's definitely an honor to be able to go to Austin and open against such a prestigious program,'' Maryland defensive back Darnell Savage said. ''When I was at the age when I started to fall in love with football, (quarterback) Vince Young was at Texas. It's kind of crazy how it turned out this way.''

It's going to be a tough scenario for a sophomore quarterback with one career start, but Pigrome faced Ohio State and several other Big Ten schools last year.

''Terrell did a great job throughout this camp, and that's how he earned the job,'' Durkin said. ''Experience is always something that helps. If you've been out there playing, you've been in the fire before.''
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Ohio State at Indiana
August 29, 2017


The Big Ten will be in the spotlight on the first Thursday night of the college football season with a rare conference game in August.

Ohio State visits Indiana to kick off the night in a nationally televised game with some intriguing storylines despite the large spread. Here is a preview of the first big game of the season for Thursday night college football.

Matchup: Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers
Venue: At Memorial Stadium in Bloomington, Indiana
Time/TV: Thursday, Aug. 31, 8:00 p.m. ET
Line: Ohio State -20, Over/Under 58
Last Meeting: 2016, at Ohio State (-28) 38, Indiana 17


In five seasons at Ohio State Urban Meyer has cemented his legacy as an all-time great in the college football coaching ranks with a 61-6 record. He led the team to a perfect season in 2012 while ineligible for the postseason and delivered a championship in 2014 in the inaugural College Football Playoff. Surprisingly Ohio State has only won the Big Ten championship once in that five-year run and this year’s team is the favorite to accomplish that feat this season while being considered a prime national title contender.

J.T. Barrett is fewer than 1,200 yards short of becoming the all-time passing leader at Ohio State and he is certainly considered a potential Heisman Trophy finalist after throwing for over 2,500 yards last season while also rushing for 845 yards, accounting for 33 touchdowns. The top rusher from last season Mike Weber is also back for his sophomore season and the Buckeyes have an experienced squad with plenty of motivation to redeem a narrow loss to Penn State as the lone blemish in the 2016 campaign and more notably an embarrassing 31-0 defeat in the national semifinal matchup with Clemson.

Ohio State has a relatively favorable schedule but next week’s home game with Oklahoma looms large in the national picture. While Ohio State hasn’t lost to Indiana since 1988, the recent meetings have featured competitive games with Indiana actually covering each of the last six seasons in this series, albeit as a hefty underdog each year with a +19 number in 2012 the lowest in that span.

A big storyline heading into this game is Kevin Wilson as the new Ohio State offensive coordinator. Wilson was Indiana’s head coach the past six seasons before a break-up late last season with Wilson taking the Hoosiers from 1-11 in 2011 to back-to-back bowl appearances the past two seasons. Wilson’s defensive coordinator Tom Allen moved up to the head coaching position for the Foster Farms Bowl last December and he leads the Hoosiers moving forward. Allen was previously the defensive coordinator at South Florida before moving to Indiana last season and he was also previously an assistant at Mississippi and Arkansas State.

Indiana hasn’t had a winning season in 2007 as they lost narrowly in bowl games the past two seasons after 6-6 regular season campaigns. Residing in a very competitive Big Ten East has made it tough for Indiana to make big strides but four conference wins last season was the most for the program since 2001. This year’s team has 15 starters back in action while pulling both Illinois and Purdue from the West draw for a relatively favorable path while all three non-conference games are winnable contests.

Richard Lagow had a productive season for the Hoosiers at quarterback in 2016 with the now senior throwing 438 times for over 3,300 yards. He had just 19 touchdowns against 17 interceptions while completing short of 58 percent of his passes as there is room for improvement. Indiana lost its top two rushers from last season but leading receiver Nick Westbrook returns while three of five offensive line starters are back with the team.

Allen led big improvement on the Indiana defense last season cutting the points allowed by the Hoosiers 10 points per game while slashing the yardage average from 509 yards per game allowed to just 380 yards per game allowed, including surrendering only 3.8 yards per rush. The Hoosiers have a reputation as an air-it-out offensive team but this year’s success could hinge on the defense playing well again with nine starters back.

Indiana should have nothing to lose taking a shot at big upset in a spotlight that certainly brings the most attention to an Indiana football opener in many years. Ohio State has a bigger game up next week but also knows it can’t slip up against a foe that has played them tough in recent years while Wilson will perhaps want to make a statement against his old team after a somewhat messy unexpected departure last fall.

Last Season: Indiana opened the Big Ten season with an upset win at home over then #17 Michigan State, at the time the defending Big Ten champions. The next week the Hoosiers had to go to Columbus to face an undefeated Buckeyes team that was ranked #2 in the country. As a four-touchdown underdog Indiana held its own, closing to within seven points with an early third quarter touchdown before Ohio State answered and then sealed the game in the fourth quarter after Indiana went for it on 4th down in its own territory. Ohio State had just a modest yardage edge at 383-281 but the ground edge was dramatic with the Buckeyes posting 290 rushing yards on 5.8 yards per carry while Indiana netted just 99 yards on 2.5 yards per carry. Both teams had a pair of turnovers as neither squad was at its best on offense.

Historical Trends:

-- Since 1980 Ohio State is 30-2-1 S/U and 18-13-2 ATS in this series but after a 8-0-1 ATS run from 1998 to 2010 Indiana has covered in the past six meetings, though at +28, +19, +33, +36, +21, and +28.

-- Two of those games did feature single-score final margins including the 2015 meeting in Bloomington.

-- Since 1980 Indiana is just 43-63-1 ATS as a home underdog, though they went 12-8-1 in that role the last six years under Wilson, including going 5-2 ATS when dogged by 14 or more points.

-- The last outright upset for Indiana as a home underdog of this magnitude came in 2006 with a 31-28 win over Iowa at +20.

-- Ohio State is 28-16-1 ATS as a road favorite going back to 2005 though they are just 11-9 ATS under Meyer since 2012 with the lone S/U loss last season’s loss at Penn State as a 17-point favorite.

-- Ohio State is just 5-11 ATS in the last 16 instances playing as a favorite of 20 or more points with that record only going back to November of 2014 as the Buckeyes are used to this type of favorite pricing.
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Johnson in no hurry to reveal G-Tech QB
August 29, 2017


ATLANTA (AP) With less than a week to go before season opener against No. 25 Tennessee, Georgia Tech still hasn't revealed who will start at quarterback.

That's not to say coach Paul Johnson is struggling with a decision.

Coy as always, Johnson indicated Tuesday that he knows who will get the nod when the Yellow Jackets take on the Volunteers in the second of two Chick-fil-A Kickoff games at Atlanta's new Mercedes-Benz Stadium .

But it looks as though he'll wait until the first offensive series Monday night to let everyone else in on the secret .

''We may play all four of `em in the first game,'' Johnson said with a smile.

Junior Matthew Jordan is the most experienced of four candidates who battled through spring practice and into the preseason for the chance to replace three-year starter Justin Thomas at the most important position in the triple-option offense.

But Johnson's reluctance to name a starter might be an indication that he's going in a different direction, at least for the first game. If that's the case, junior TaQuon Marshall would likely be the next man up. Then again, given Johnson's penchant for catching people totally off guard, don't rule out Lucas Johnson or Jay Jones, a pair of redshirt freshmen.

Jordan is by the most experienced of the candidates. He was Thomas' backup the last two years, and even stepped in to lead Georgia Tech to an upset victory at Virginia Tech in 2016. Marshall played nine games at running back as a freshman, then shifted to quarterback last season, appearing in two games as a third-stringer.

''Matthew is a little older. He probably has a better understanding of what we're trying to do than anybody else,'' Johnson said. ''But I think I could call a game for any of `em.''

Georgia Tech released an updated depth chart that shows all four players in bold lettering, indicating each still has a shot at starting. And, looking to ensure that no one discussed what they've been told behind closed doors, the school said none of the four would be available for interviews after practice Tuesday.

''Our guys know who's going to play, and I probably know who's going to play,'' Johnson said. ''I might send it out on Twitter here in a day or two. Who knows? We'll get through a couple of more practices and it'll be one of these four guys. I promise.''

The coach has settled on a starting B-back, a position that suddenly came open a couple of weeks ago when the top returning rusher, Dedrick Mills , was kicked off the team for violating athletic department rules.

Sophomore KirVonte Benson, who has never carried the ball in a college game, beat out Quaide Weimerskirch, Jerry Howard and Jordan Ponchez-Mason.

''He's probably the fastest guy we've had a B-back,'' Johnson said of the new starter. ''I think he's got a good skillset for it. Will he play fast and tough? We'll see. If not, one of those others guys will play.''

It will certainly be difficult to replace Mills, a dynamic player who was MVP of the TaxSlayer Bowl in what turned out to be his final college game. Georgia Tech also lost its second-leading rusher, Marcus Marshall, who decided to transfer at the end of last season when it looked as though he would be stuck behind Mills on the depth chart.

Johnson shrugged off the losses.

''Look, we played two guys a year ago. One had over 700 yards and one had almost 700 yards. The guy who plays this year will have much or more,'' the coach vowed. ''Certain guys played last year. They were good players, but it's not like, `Oh my god, let's cancel the season because we don't have them.' Remember, they were unknown when they played a year ago.''

Johnson has yet to name a starting kicker, either. Freshman Brenton King was recruited to take over for four-year starter Harrison Butker, but sophomore Shawn Davis is apparently still in the mix.

''I probably know who I'm going to use there, too,'' Johnson said. ''We'll kick right up until the time we play and if it changes, it changes.''

The punting job is settled. Freshman Pressley Harvin III earned the spot over redshirt freshman Shea Underwood.

Now, about that quarterback.

''I'm not in any big hurry,''' Johnson said, ''to tell everybody who it is.''
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Mystery man Stanley takes QB reins at Iowa
August 29, 2017


IOWA CITY, Iowa (AP) Iowa quarterback Nathan Stanley is such a mystery that few knew until Tuesday that he would rather be called Nate. Turns out that he associated the more formal ''Nathan'' with being on his mother's bad side.

Stanley's preferred first name was just the first of many questions he'll be asked to answer this season.

Stanley, a 6-foot-5, 235-pound sophomore, was officially named the Hawkeyes starter on Monday over Tyler Wiegers following a competition that lasted nearly the entire offseason. Stanley, who was 5 of 9 passing for 62 yards as Iowa's backup a year ago, will be under center when the Hawkeyes (8-5 in 2016) host Wyoming on Saturday.

''It was a close call. But we needed to make a decision and start moving forward,'' coach Kirk Ferentz said. ''The whole staff chipped in, and I think we all saw it was a close, competitive race.''

Stanley is largely unknown to even hardcore fans because his recruitment was low key and because he saw scant playing time as a freshman.

But Iowa's coaches have long believed that Stanley had a bright future.

Stanley, who turned 20 on Saturday, grew up in Menomonie, a town of about 16,000 people in northwest Wisconsin. Stanley did it all for Menomonie High, starting for four years in basketball and baseball, and excelling as a quarterback, defensive back and punter for the Mustangs.

It was clear after Stanley's sophomore season, when he threw for 1,276 yards and 14 TDs while leading his school to the playoffs, that he had a future as a Division I quarterback. But unlike many recruits in the age of social media, Stanley kept his plans so private that college recruiters had to ask Stanley's high school coach for permission to access his tape online.

Stanley attended camps at Iowa, Michigan State, Wisconsin and Pittsburgh before his junior year at Menomonie. Stanley instantly felt at home at Iowa, and he committed to the Hawkeyes that summer partly so they'd stop recruiting other quarterbacks in his class.

''Came to camp here, fell in love with the campus, Kinnick (Stadium) and the facilities,'' Stanley said. ''I figured why not make the decision first? This is really where I want to go.''

Stanley kept his commitment to Iowa even though that wasn't easy to do.

Paul Chryst, whom Stanley had built a solid relationship with at Pitt, took over at Wisconsin shortly after Stanley committed to Iowa. Chryst tried to persuade Stanley to become a Badger, but Stanley held firm.

''My parents always stressed to be true to your word,'' Stanley said.

The expectation for Stanley once he got to Iowa was that he would redshirt as a freshman, bulk up and prepare to compete for the backup job by 2017. But Stanley was so impressive in camp last fall that the coaching staff pushed him ahead of Wiegers.

Though Stanley threw just nine passes in 2016, he was the first true freshman quarterback that Ferentz had trusted enough to see action since 2003.

Wiegers pushed Stanley hard enough for the starting job in both the spring and fall that Iowa coaches extended their own preferred timeline for naming a starter. But Ferentz informed Stanley of his decision on Thursday.

A depth chart released Monday still referred to Stanley as Nathan - although this time it came with the news he'd been waiting for months to hear.
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Corso still going on "GameDay" - with help
August 29, 2017


BRISTOL, Conn. (AP) Lee Corso looks down at his notes and asks: ''How do you say this guy's name?''

''Stid-um,'' Kirk Herbstreit responds and then begins to spell Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham's last name for his longtime ESPN ''College GameDay'' partner. A few letters in, Herbstreit reaches over and says, ''Here, let me get that for you.''

Herbstreit writes the name on the sheet of paper, and then they ready themselves to record the next segment.

Now 82 and eight years removed from a stroke, Corso is back for a 30th season on ''College GameDay.'' He can still energize college kids on a Saturday morning like a free-beer tailgate, and for millions of viewers the games don't begin until he dons a mascot head and picks the day's marquee matchup. But getting Corso through a show also requires some help, both on the air and behind the scenes. At times his contributions are off topic. Names come out wrong. Words can escape him.

Herbstreit, Rece Davis, Desmond Howard, David Pollack and the rest of the ''GameDay'' crew have adjusted. Instead of Corso's limitations hindering the show, they make it more compelling. It feels real, not staged, and for live TV, that's usually a good thing

''To this day there's no question in my mind that all the great things that coach adds to the show outweigh those times when his tongue may get tied or he stumbles on his speech or he stumbles over a few words or has trouble getting something out,'' said Lee Fitting, who was ''GameDay'' producer for 12 years and now oversees all ESPN's college studio and remote programs. ''And the times when he does struggle to get some words out, the way in which Kirk and Rece and Desmond and David help coach along, pick up that slack, makes up for it.

''It's endearing to the viewer. It's the family members picking another member of the family up.''

Corso signed a new multiyear contract with ESPN earlier this year. Fitting said it was a no-brainer for the network to bring Corso back. Corso said it was the same for him.

''This job is like stealing. I travel first class in a nice plane. I have a driver waiting for me. I go in a room and have room service. I have a meeting. Then I go to the best game of the weekend and talk football - and they pay me. You gotta be kidding me,'' Corso said. ''Why the hell would I leave something like this?''

Corso played quarterback at Florida State in the 1950s, and roomed with teammate Burt Reynolds. He went on to a 27-year coaching career that included stints as head coach at Louisville, Indiana and Northern Illinois. His last coaching job was with the Orlando Renegades of the USFL in 1985. Two years later, he was hired by ESPN.

He was a natural on TV, quick-witted, spontaneous and unafraid. In 1996, Herbstreit, the former Ohio State quarterback, joined Corso and host Chris Fowler on ''GameDay.''

''Everything he did, I mimicked,'' Herbstreit said of Corso.

That relationship has grown from coach-quarterback to more father-son over two decades. Herbstreit said he would turn to Corso for advice on marriage and raising kids. As for making it in TV, Corso said Herbstreit needed only a little guidance.

''I kept harping on him, first thing: You're so good looking. Make sure you're not off camera,'' Corso said.

On May 16, 2009, at 8:30 a.m., Corso went to get the paper in front of his home in Florida. When he came back inside, his wife could tell something was very wrong. He was having a stroke.

''I vowed that I'd be back - and I couldn't talk,'' Corso said. He did make it back that season. He was slower, more deliberate.

''You have to realize you'll never be the same,'' Corso said. ''But you have to adjust your life.''

He adjusted and so did ''GameDay.'' Especially Herbstreit.

During the taping of the season preview show last week in Bristol, Corso touted Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph as his Heisman Trophy pick. Later in the segment, he referred to Rudolph as Randolph and Herbstreit turned it into a funny exchange involving Davis and Howard, too. In another segment about what conference will be the best this season, Corso responded with how Alabama would beat Florida State. Herbstreit, this time more subtly but with a smile, steered the conversation back on topic.

''The worst thing I can do is correct him a lot,'' Herbstreit said. ''So it's a very fine line between never embarrassing him, never correcting him too much, or letting him comfortably get his words out. Not jumping to the rescue too soon, but not letting him just hang out there alone.''

Fitting said Corso is usually involved in about half of the 3-hour show's 11 or 12 segments. The ''GameDay'' crew is keenly aware of making sure Corso is not alone on camera when he gets stuck.

''It quickly becomes much more conversational. Kirk can help Lee through it. He puts his arm on coach. It's much more comfortable and tolerable for the viewer than ... that isolated shot,'' Fitting said.

On Thursday night, a special edition of ''GameDay'' will air from Bloomington, Indiana, before the Hoosiers play No. 2 Ohio State. It will be the first time Corso has seen Indiana play in person since he was coach from 1973-82. Later this season, he will make his 300th head-gear pick. The first came at Ohio State when he convinced Herbstreit to help him get Brutus Buckeye's head.

Herbstreit said thinking about ''GameDay'' without Corso is ''terrifying.'' Corso said he will keep doing the show as long ESPN lets him.

''If they don't think I can contribute to the show then tell me, `OK, Lee, it's time for you to go.' I'll go,'' he said. ''That's it. I just want to go. I (don't) want no rocking chair.''
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Pac-12 Beat: From Week 0 & beyond, scheduling quirks abound
August 29, 2017

It's Week One for the college football season. So that means Utah must be playing a Thursday night game.

The Utes have opened the season on a Thursday night since 2009 - before the school joined the Pac-12 conference. This season they'll host North Dakota.

Those Thursday starts help showcase the Utes on television, in this season's case on the Pac-12 Network. It also gives Utah fans the chance to make other plans for the long Labor Day weekend.

Utah has requested a Thursday game each season with the understanding it may not always be granted.

The Utes also have two Friday night games this season. The Pac-12 is among the conferences that schedule games on Fridays, with nine games involving league teams set for this season - not including the conference championship.

''We've got schedules that accommodate the short weeks, the long weeks, every possible conceivable time we can play, we've done that,'' coach Kyle Whittingham said, discussing how scheduling quirks impact the team.

There are a number of other calendar twists in the Pac-12 this season:

BYE BYE BYE: The fourth-ranked Trojans have no off week this season. None . So there's no chance for a team that many say has a good shot of making the playoffs to rest and recharge.

What does work in USC's favor is the start of the season: The Trojans have three straight at home, starting Saturday with Western Michigan. Then they'll host No. 14 Stanford and No. 23 Texas.

''We learned from last year how important it is to start fast. You can do all you want in October and November, and we've been really good, but if you don't start fast, it's hard to get where you want to be. It's going to be critical for us to open up those three ballgames and be hitting on all three cylinders,'' coach Clay Helton said.

WEEK ZERO: Oregon State's game against Colorado State last weekend was originally scheduled for Sept 23. But it was moved up to Week Zero to accommodate Colorado State, which wanted to open the season in the team's new stadium.

It was the earliest start in Oregon State history and it was not kind to the Beavers, who fell 58-27 to the Rams.

Coach Gary Andersen said he thinks the schedule overall works out in Oregon State's favor because the Beavers will get a bye before facing No. 8 Washington and USC in consecutive weeks.

''For this team, where the byes lie for us, I think it's a positive. It makes it a week longer season, but hopefully that week will help us,'' Andersen said.

Oregon State will face another team this weekend that got off to an early start, the Portland State Vikings, who are coming off a 20-6 loss at BYU.

THIS WEEK IN THE PAC-12 AGAINST COLORADO STATE:
It's Colorado's turn . The Buffs open the season with the Rocky Mountain Showdown against their in-state rivals at the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos. It's also one of those Friday night games.

''There's not a lot of games on that night. That makes it special for our players. Playing in Broncos stadium, the kids love playing in the pro stadium. It's a unique atmosphere. I think there were almost 70,000 last year (69,850). I think there should be over 70,000 this year. So it will be loud and exciting,'' Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre said.

MORE WEEK ZERO, FROM FAR, FAR AWAY:
Stanford started the season in a dramatic way, traveling all the way to Australia to play Rice and coming home with a 62-7 victory. Last season it was Cal that got the goodwill trip to Sydney, where they beat Hawaii.

It was Stanford's second game outside the United States: in 1986 the Cardinal beat Arizona in Tokyo.

Coach David Shaw said the players had a blast on the trip - despite the long plane ride.

''I think it would be great for this tradition to continue, whether it's just our conference or maybe other conferences, but hopefully more teams are open for it,'' Shaw said.

The Cardinal now get a week off before visiting USC on Sept. 9.

HOME GAMES GALORE:
The Washington State Cougars have five straight home games to open the season, then only two more the rest of the way.

The Cougars will face Montana State, Boise State, Oregon State, Nevada and USC in succession at Martin Stadium. The two other home games will be Oct. 21 against Colorado and Nov. 4 against Stanford.

''I think it's great for the folks out here, you know, to really get in the habit of getting to games, so we're excited about that,'' coach Mike Leach said when asked about the schedule. ''I'll know more about what I think about it at the end of the season.''

COLLEGE FOOTBALL SUNDAY? The UCLA Bruins will kick off their season Sunday at the Rose Bowl against Texas A&M.
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Pac-12 Beat: From Week 0 & beyond, scheduling quirks abound
August 29, 2017

It's Week One for the college football season. So that means Utah must be playing a Thursday night game.

The Utes have opened the season on a Thursday night since 2009 - before the school joined the Pac-12 conference. This season they'll host North Dakota.

Those Thursday starts help showcase the Utes on television, in this season's case on the Pac-12 Network. It also gives Utah fans the chance to make other plans for the long Labor Day weekend.

Utah has requested a Thursday game each season with the understanding it may not always be granted.

The Utes also have two Friday night games this season. The Pac-12 is among the conferences that schedule games on Fridays, with nine games involving league teams set for this season - not including the conference championship.

''We've got schedules that accommodate the short weeks, the long weeks, every possible conceivable time we can play, we've done that,'' coach Kyle Whittingham said, discussing how scheduling quirks impact the team.

There are a number of other calendar twists in the Pac-12 this season:

BYE BYE BYE: The fourth-ranked Trojans have no off week this season. None . So there's no chance for a team that many say has a good shot of making the playoffs to rest and recharge.

What does work in USC's favor is the start of the season: The Trojans have three straight at home, starting Saturday with Western Michigan. Then they'll host No. 14 Stanford and No. 23 Texas.

''We learned from last year how important it is to start fast. You can do all you want in October and November, and we've been really good, but if you don't start fast, it's hard to get where you want to be. It's going to be critical for us to open up those three ballgames and be hitting on all three cylinders,'' coach Clay Helton said.

WEEK ZERO: Oregon State's game against Colorado State last weekend was originally scheduled for Sept 23. But it was moved up to Week Zero to accommodate Colorado State, which wanted to open the season in the team's new stadium.

It was the earliest start in Oregon State history and it was not kind to the Beavers, who fell 58-27 to the Rams.

Coach Gary Andersen said he thinks the schedule overall works out in Oregon State's favor because the Beavers will get a bye before facing No. 8 Washington and USC in consecutive weeks.

''For this team, where the byes lie for us, I think it's a positive. It makes it a week longer season, but hopefully that week will help us,'' Andersen said.

Oregon State will face another team this weekend that got off to an early start, the Portland State Vikings, who are coming off a 20-6 loss at BYU.

THIS WEEK IN THE PAC-12 AGAINST COLORADO STATE:
It's Colorado's turn . The Buffs open the season with the Rocky Mountain Showdown against their in-state rivals at the home of the NFL's Denver Broncos. It's also one of those Friday night games.

''There's not a lot of games on that night. That makes it special for our players. Playing in Broncos stadium, the kids love playing in the pro stadium. It's a unique atmosphere. I think there were almost 70,000 last year (69,850). I think there should be over 70,000 this year. So it will be loud and exciting,'' Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre said.

MORE WEEK ZERO, FROM FAR, FAR AWAY:
Stanford started the season in a dramatic way, traveling all the way to Australia to play Rice and coming home with a 62-7 victory. Last season it was Cal that got the goodwill trip to Sydney, where they beat Hawaii.

It was Stanford's second game outside the United States: in 1986 the Cardinal beat Arizona in Tokyo.

Coach David Shaw said the players had a blast on the trip - despite the long plane ride.

''I think it would be great for this tradition to continue, whether it's just our conference or maybe other conferences, but hopefully more teams are open for it,'' Shaw said.

The Cardinal now get a week off before visiting USC on Sept. 9.

HOME GAMES GALORE:
The Washington State Cougars have five straight home games to open the season, then only two more the rest of the way.

The Cougars will face Montana State, Boise State, Oregon State, Nevada and USC in succession at Martin Stadium. The two other home games will be Oct. 21 against Colorado and Nov. 4 against Stanford.

''I think it's great for the folks out here, you know, to really get in the habit of getting to games, so we're excited about that,'' coach Mike Leach said when asked about the schedule. ''I'll know more about what I think about it at the end of the season.''

COLLEGE FOOTBALL SUNDAY? The UCLA Bruins will kick off their season Sunday at the Rose Bowl against Texas A&M.
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CFB notebook: Stetson DB Blakely dies after collapsing at practice
August 29, 2017


Stetson University sophomore defensive back Nicholas Blakely died after collapsing during practice on Monday evening, the school announced.

An official cause of death has not been released for the 19-year-old.

"(Blakely) was on the sidelines shortly after practice began ... when he complained of not feeling well and collapsed," Stetson president Wendy B. Libby said in a statement.

Blakely, who was an accounting major at the central Florida University, was taken to Florida Hospital DeLand outside of Orlando, where he died.

--Kansas running back Octavius Matthews will miss the season and is likely to be done with football for good after tests revealed a career-ending medical condition.

Jayhawks coach David Beaty said the team's top recruit and nation's No. 1-ranked JUCO running back would remain with the program. The nature of the medical issue was not disclosed.

Matthews was dubbed "one of the biggest victories we have in this class" by Beaty in February when KU learned the 6-foot-1 running back picked the Jayhawks over Tennessee and Purdue. Matthews initially committed to Auburn, a national power known for producing pro running back prospects.

--Saturday's contest between Houston and Texas-San Antonio has been postponed due to the effects of Harvey, the tropical storm ravaging Texas that began as a hurricane.

The game was slated to be held at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

"As families across Southeast and South Central Texas struggle with the catastrophic flooding and impact of the storm, our focus must be on how we all can help," UTSA president Taylor Eighmy said in a statement. "In lieu of this weekend's game, I urge Roadrunners, the San Antonio community and all Texans to support recovery efforts in Houston and across the region, including donating to disaster relief efforts."

Houston announced that none of its athletic teams will play in events this weekend, including women's volleyball, soccer and cross country.
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Thursday’s six-pack

— Johnny Manziel worked out for the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats, but he showed up out of shape; they don’t think he is ready to play ball, mentally or physically.

— Browns cut CB Joe Haden, a 7-year veteran; he then got three years, $27M from the Steelers.

— Atlanta 3B Brandon Phillips got his 2,000th career hit Wednesday.

— Florida Atlantic opened as a 14.5-point underdog vs Navy; they’ve been bet down to +9. Navy’s OC is ill, and people are jumping on the Lane Kiffin bandwagon.

— Mariners acquired P Mike Leake from the Cardinals; he has $55M left on his contract.

— Cowboys-Texans preseason game scheduled for tonite was cancelled, so the Houston players could go home and assess the damage to their homes.

************************

Thursday’s List of 13: Nobody asked me, but…….

13) All-time record for consecutive scoreless innings:
48— Chicago Cubs, 1968
45— Cincinnati Reds, 1931
45— Kansas City Royals, 2017

12) As of Tuesday night’s results, Joey Votto had 27 walks in his last 18 games; time for the Reds to at least consider batting him leadoff.

Votto’s on-base %age: .449
Billy Hamilton’s on-base %age: .298

11) In 2015, the state of California collected $258.1M in taxes from pro athletes.

10) The major league record for home runs in a season by someone who wasn’t in the majors before August 1? 13, by Ted Williams in 1953.

Phillies’ rookie Rhys Hoskins has 11 homers; his first big league game was August 10.

9) To win $100 at the Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas, all a bettor has to do is put up $100,000 on the Golden State Warriors making the NBA playoffs this coming season. A $100 bet on Golden State to miss the playoffs pays $10,100.

I could be wrong, but I would advise against putting up $100,000 to win $100.

8) Cedar Bayou, TX had 51.88 inches of rain from Hurricane Harvey, the most rainfall ever on the continental United States. Thats over four feet of rain!!!!

7) Dolphins’ DT Ndamukong Suh played youth soccer as a kid in Oregon— one of his teammates was Klay Thompson. Apparently Suh is now the Miami Dolphins’ backup kicker, should anything happen to starting kicker Andrew Franks, who went to D-III RPI, which is across the river from me in beautiful downtown Troy, NY.

RPI is better known for its Division I hockey program. And its engineering program.

6) How come no one bats the pitcher 8th this year? Because it was never a good idea, just something Tony Larussa/Joe Maddon did, so other teams blindly copied it.

5) Former LSU coach Les Miles, one of my favorites, will be a game analyst for FOX Sports this fall. Miles live-tweeted the Floyd Mayweather fight Saturday night- he could be television gold.

4) Major league record for most games started by a pitcher without ever appearing in relief:
682, Tom Glavine
379, Justin Verlander
372, Felix Hernandez
240, Juan Guzman

3) According to an article in the San Francisco Chronicle last week, the book Moneyball is required reading at most business schools across the country.

Wonder if they’ll study the part where the A’s trade their best pitcher (who has an affordable contract) for three players, two of whom are currently incapacitated, and a third guy who is in AA. (he is hitting .269 in the Texas League right now).

To paraphrase Rick Pitino, Brad Pitt isn’t walking thru that door anytime soon. Moneyball 2 ain’t gonna happen, not while the A’s flounder year after year.

2) First-round matchups for the Puerto Rico tip-off tournament this fall:
South Carolina-Illinois State, Boise State-UTEP, Iowa State-Appalachian State, Tulsa-Western Michigan. Pretty good tournament.

1) Astros are coming home to Houston this weekend; Friday’s game with the Mets was postponed to a day/night doubleheader on Saturday, with a day game on Sunday.
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Big Ten Report - Week 1
August 30, 2017


Buffalo at Minnesota (-25) - (Thursday, Big Ten, 7:00 p.m. ET)

The Gophs usher in a new coach as former Western Michigan head man PJ Fleck takes over the program. Fleck was 30-22 in his 4 years with the Broncos including 13-1 last year. He should have a good feel for Buffalo coming from the MAC. His WMU squad beat Buffalo 38-0 last season outgaining the Bulls by almost 400 yards. Minny was 9-4 last year but will be breaking in a new QB this season. Their defense was solid holding 4 of their 8 Big Ten opponents to under 20 points, however they lose 8 of their top 12 tacklers.

Buffalo was just 2-10 last year and lost all 6 of their road games by an average score of 36-9. The Bulls have won only 2 of their last 19 road openers. Minnesota has been favored by more than 24 points only 15 times since 1980. They are 13-2 SU in those games, 9-6 ATS. Buffalo has played only two Big Ten opponents since 2007 losing at Penn State 27-14 and at Ohio State 40-20.

Ohio State (-20.5) at Indiana - (Thursday, ESPN, 8:00 p.m. ET)

This is a very rare conference opener during the first week of the season. Our database goes all the way back to 1980 and OSU has NEVER been an underdog in this series. They are 30-2-1 the last 33 meetings. However, IU has given this Buckeye team fits as of late covering 6 straight by an average margin of 13.1 PPG. Last year OSU trailed Indiana 17-13 at home late in the 3rd quarter before pulling away for a 38-17 win. The Bucks return 15 starters including QB JT Barrett and a very experienced offensive line. Ohio State’s defensive line should be among the best in the nation as they bring back nearly everyone in their front 7.

The Hoosiers have a new head coach as Tom Allen takes over for Kevin Wilson. Something to keep an eye on is the fact that Wilson is now the offensive coordinator for Ohio State! Allen was the defensive coordinator for Indiana and also held the same job at South Florida prior to arriving in Bloomington. The Hoosiers return 15 starters from a team that went 6-7 last year losing to Utah 26-24 in the Foster Farms Bowl. IU has lost by more than 21 points at home just 3 times since the start of the 2009 season. OSU has been a road favorite of -21 or more 28 times since 1980 and they are 17-10-1 ATS in those games.
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NCAAF
Long Sheet


Thursday, August 31

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

OHIO ST (11 - 2) at INDIANA (6 - 7) - 8/31/2017, 8:00 PM
Top Trends for this game.
OHIO ST is 177-133 ATS (+30.7 Units) in all games since 1992.
OHIO ST is 177-133 ATS (+30.7 Units) in all lined games since 1992.
OHIO ST is 147-114 ATS (+21.6 Units) as a favorite since 1992.
OHIO ST is 54-34 ATS (+16.6 Units) as a road favorite since 1992.
OHIO ST is 71-46 ATS (+20.4 Units) in road games since 1992.
OHIO ST is 71-46 ATS (+20.4 Units) in road lined games since 1992.

Head-to-Head Series History
INDIANA is 2-0 against the spread versus OHIO ST over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 2-0 straight up against INDIANA over the last 3 seasons
2 of 2 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

BUFFALO (2 - 10) at MINNESOTA (9 - 4) - 8/31/2017, 7:00 PM
There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

LA MONROE (4 - 8) at MEMPHIS (8 - 5) - 8/31/2017, 8:00 PM
There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NEW MEXICO ST (3 - 9) at ARIZONA ST (5 - 7) - 8/31/2017, 10:00 PM
There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FLA INTERNATIONAL (4 - 8) at UCF (6 - 7) - 8/31/2017, 6:00 PM
There are no Top Trends with records of significance that apply to this game.

Head-to-Head Series History
UCF is 1-1 against the spread versus FLA INTERNATIONAL over the last 3 seasons
UCF is 1-1 straight up against FLA INTERNATIONAL over the last 3 seasons
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

TULSA (10 - 3) at OKLAHOMA ST (10 - 3) - 8/31/2017, 7:30 PM
Top Trends for this game.
OKLAHOMA ST is 82-55 ATS (+21.5 Units) as a favorite since 1992.
TULSA is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) in road games over the last 3 seasons.
TULSA is 10-2 ATS (+7.8 Units) in road lined games over the last 3 seasons.

Head-to-Head Series History
There were no past matchups in this series during this time period.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

NCAAF

Week 1


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Trend Report
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Thursday, August 31

6:00 PM
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL vs. CENTRAL FLORIDA
Florida International is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Florida International's last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 7 of Central Florida's last 8 games
Central Florida is 4-9 ATS in its last 13 games at home

6:30 PM
PRESBYTERIAN vs. WAKE FOREST
Presbyterian is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games
Presbyterian is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Wake Forest is 2-5 SU in its last 7 games

7:00 PM
ELON vs. TOLEDO
Elon is 0-4-1 ATS in its last 5 games
Elon is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games
Toledo is 19-6 SU in its last 25 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Toledo's last 5 games

7:00 PM
AUSTIN PEAY vs. CINCINNATI
Austin Peay is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Austin Peay's last 5 games
Cincinnati is 1-8 ATS in its last 9 games at home
Cincinnati is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games at home

7:00 PM
RHODE ISLAND vs. CENTRAL MICHIGAN
Rhode Island is 1-3-1 ATS in its last 5 games on the road
Rhode Island is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 16 of Central Michigan's last 24 games at home
Central Michigan is 8-3 SU in its last 11 games at home

7:00 PM
BUFFALO vs. MINNESOTA
Buffalo is 1-8 SU in its last 9 games
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Buffalo's last 6 games
Minnesota is 7-1 SU in its last 8 games at home
Minnesota is 6-2 SU in its last 8 games

7:00 PM
TENNESSEE STATE vs. GEORGIA STATE
Tennessee State is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Tennessee State is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of Georgia State's last 11 games at home
Georgia State is 6-19 SU in its last 25 games at home

7:30 PM
HOLY CROSS vs. CONNECTICUT
No trends available
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of Connecticut's last 5 games
Connecticut is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games at home

7:30 PM
TULSA vs. OKLAHOMA STATE
Tulsa is 11-2-1 ATS in its last 14 games on the road
Tulsa is 6-13 SU in its last 19 games on the road
Oklahoma State is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games when playing Tulsa
Oklahoma State is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home

7:30 PM
NORTH DAKOTA vs. UTAH
North Dakota is 1-8 SU in its last 9 games
North Dakota is 1-8 SU in its last 9 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 11 of Utah's last 16 games at home
Utah is 11-4 SU in its last 15 games

8:00 PM
FLORIDA A&M vs. ARKANSAS
Florida A&M is 1-5 ATS in its last 6 games
Florida A&M is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games
Arkansas is 2-4 SU in its last 6 games
Arkansas is 3-7 ATS in its last 10 games

8:00 PM
OHIO STATE vs. INDIANA
Ohio State is 2-7 ATS in its last 9 games
Ohio State is 22-3 SU in its last 25 games
Indiana is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games when playing Ohio State
Indiana is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games when playing at home against Ohio State

9:00 PM
LOUISIANA-MONROE vs. MEMPHIS
Louisiana-Monroe is 3-6 ATS in its last 9 games
The total has gone OVER in 8 of Louisiana-Monroe's last 9 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of Memphis's last 5 games at home
Memphis is 14-5 SU in its last 19 games at home

9:00 PM
SACRAMENTO STATE vs. IDAHO
Sacramento State is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games
Sacramento State is 0-5 SU in its last 5 games on the road
Idaho is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games at home
Idaho is 6-12-1 ATS in its last 19 games at home

10:30 PM
NEW MEXICO STATE vs. ARIZONA STATE
The total has gone UNDER in 4 of New Mexico State's last 6 games
New Mexico State is 1-6 SU in its last 7 games
The total has gone OVER in 4 of Arizona State's last 5 games
Arizona State is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games

---------------------------------

NCAAF
Armadillo's Write-Up

Week 1


Thursday

Ohio State won its last 13 games with Indiana, but last two wins here were by only 7-3 points. Hoosiers covered last six series games. OSU has senior QB with 30 starts, an experienced OL with 80 career starts; Buckeyes are 9-9 as road favorites under Meyer. Indiana has senior QB with 13 starts; its OL has only 40 returning starts. Hoosiers are 12-9 vs spread in last 21 games as a home underdog

Last two years, MAC teams are 15-5-1 vs spread when facing Big 14 squads. Since 2013, Buffalo is 5-11 vs spread as road underdogs; since ’10, they’re 13-17 vs spread in non-MAC games. Bulls have a sop QB, 8 starters back on defense- their OL has 68 career starts. Minnesota has new coach Fleck; his Western Michigan team beat Buffalo 38-0 late last year. Gophers also have a new QB; last two years, they’re 2-8 vs spread as a home favorite.

Memphis has a senior QB (13 starts), an experienced OL with 103 returning starts; they’ve got 9 starters back on offense, but also have their AAC opener with Central Florida on deck. Tigers are 8-11 vs spread in last 19 games as a home favorite. UL-Monroe has 16 starters back and a senior QB; since 2011, they’re 19-15 as a road underdog. Last four years, Sun Belt teams are 7-6 vs spread when playing an AAC squad.

Arizona State is 17-9 vs spread as a home favorite under Graham; ASU has 13 starters back, but its OL has only 41 returning starts- their junior QB has 10 career starts. New Mexico State has 16 starters back, 9 on defense, a senior QB (25 starts), an OL with 43 career starts. Since 2013, Aggies are 8-15 vs spread as a road underdog. Sun Belt teams covered four of their last five matchups with Pac-12 squads.

Central Florida pounded Florida International 53-14 LY, outgaining FIU 501-189, year after they lost 15-14 to the Panthers. UCF has an experienced OL (101 returning starts) but only four starters back on defense- since 2010, they’re 23-14 vs spread as a home favorite. Knights play AAC rival Memphis next. FIU is 8-4-1 in last 13 games as a road underdog; they’ve got a new coach, a senior QB (31 starts) and 15 starters back overall (73 starts on OL). Last four years, AAC teams are 8-6 vs spread when playing a C-USA opponent.

--------------------------------

NCAAF
Dunkel

Week 1



Thursday, August 31

Ohio State @ Indiana

Game 133-134
August 31, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Ohio State
109.910
Indiana
92.035
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Ohio State
by 18
61
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Ohio State
by 21
58
Dunkel Pick:
Indiana
(+21); Over

Buffalo @ Minnesota


Game 135-136
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Buffalo
69.254
Minnesota
92.331
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Minnesota
by 23
47
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Minnesota
by 25
51
Dunkel Pick:
Buffalo
(+25); Under

LA-Monroe @ Memphis


Game 137-138
August 31, 2017 @ 9:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
LA-Monroe
64.142
Memphis
95.785
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Memphis
by 31 1/2
65
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Memphis
by 25 1/2
69 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Memphis
(-25 1/2); Under

New Mexico St @ Arizona State


Game 139-140
August 31, 2017 @ 10:30 pm

Dunkel Rating:
New Mexico St
59.324
Arizona State
88.256
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Arizona State
by 29
76
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Arizona State
by 23
71 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Arizona State
(-23); Over

FIU @ Central Florida


Game 169-170
August 31, 2017 @ 6:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
FIU
70.223
Central Florida
84.452
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Central Florida
by 14
53
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Central Florida
by 17 1/2
57
Dunkel Pick:
FIU
(+17 1/2); Under

Tulsa @ Oklahoma State


Game 199-200
August 31, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Tulsa
96.552
Oklahoma State
110.217
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Oklahoma State
by 13 1/2
70
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Oklahoma State
by 18
73 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Tulsa
(+18); Under

Presbyterian @ Wake Forest


Game 215-216
August 31, 2017 @ 6:30 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Presbyterian
45.365
Wake Forest
88.310
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Wake Forest
by 43
43
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Wake Forest
by 40
43 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Wake Forest
(-40); Under

Austin Peay @ Cincinnati


Game 217-218
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Austin Peay
40.011
Cincinnati
80.410
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Cincinnati
by 40 1/2
61
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Cincinnati
by 34 1/2
59 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Cincinnati
(-34 1/2); Over

Tennessee St @ Georgia State


Game 219-220
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Tennessee St
58.100
Georgia State
64.985
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Georgia State
by 7
65
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Georgia State
by 14 1/2
56
Dunkel Pick:
Tennessee St
(+14 1/2); Over

Elon @ Toledo


Game 221-222
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Elon
44.688
Toledo
80.787
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Toledo
by 36
53
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Toledo
by 39
54 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Elon
(+39); Under

Rhode Island @ Central Michigan


Game 223-224
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Rhode Island
49.593
Central Michigan
73.141
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Central Michigan
by 23 1/2
59
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Central Michigan
by 27
56 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Rhode Island
(+27); Over

Holy Cross @ Connecticut


Game 225-226
August 31, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Holy Cross
50.781
Connecticut
64.296
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Connecticut
by 13 1/2
43
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Connecticut
by 21
46 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Holy Cross
(+21); Under

North Dakota @ Utah


Game 227-228
August 31, 2017 @ 7:30 pm

Dunkel Rating:
North Dakota
71.780
Utah
99.276
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Utah
by 27 1/2
45
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Utah
by 19 1/2
50
Dunkel Pick:
Utah
(-19 1/2); Under

Florida A&M @ Arkansas


Game 229-230
August 31, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Florida A&M
41.537
Arkansas
93.139
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Arkansas
by 51 1/2
64
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Arkansas
by 48 1/2
61 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Arkansas
(-48 1/2); Over

Sacramento St @ Idaho


Game 231-232
August 31, 2017 @ 9:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Sacramento St
49.963
Idaho
86.811
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Idaho
by 37
75
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Idaho
by 24 1/2
67
Dunkel Pick:
Idaho
(-24 1/2); Over


Delaware St @ Delaware

Game 313-314
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Delaware St
28.928
Delaware
59.742
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Delaware
by 31
47
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Delaware
by 34 1/2
51
Dunkel Pick:
Delaware St
(+34 1/2); Under

Western Illinois @ Tennessee Tech


Game 315-316
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Western Illinois
66.188
Tennessee Tech
66.686
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Western Illinois
Even
64
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Tennessee Tech
by 1 1/2
59 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Western Illinois
(+1 1/2); Over

Kennesaw St @ Samford


Game 317-318
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Kennesaw St
55.956
Samford
68.913
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Samford
by 13
70
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Samford
by 8 1/2
67
Dunkel Pick:
Samford
(-8 1/2); Over

Jacksonville @ Mercer


Game 323-324
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Jacksonville
31.171
Mercer
59.542
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Mercer
by 25 1/2
51
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Mercer
by 20
64 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Mercer
(-20); Under

Eastern Illinois @ Indiana State


Game 327-328
August 31, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Eastern Illinois
64.383
Indiana State
60.329
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Eastern Illinois
by 4
64
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
Indiana State
by 1 1/2
58
Dunkel Pick:
Eastern Illinois
(+1 1.2); Over

Maine @ New Hampshire


Game 331-332
August 31, 2017 @ 7:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Maine
64.770
New Hampshire
63.605
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
Maine
by 1
46
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
New Hampshire
by 7 1/2
51 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
Maine
(+7 1/2); Under

Duquesne @ South Dakota St


Game 333-334
August 31, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
Duquesne
58.637
South Dakota St
83.880
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
South Dakota St
by 25
46
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
South Dakota St
by 22 1/2
61 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
South Dakota St
(-22 1/2); Under

McNeese St @ Nicholls St


Game 335-336
August 31, 2017 @ 8:00 pm

Dunkel Rating:
McNeese St
67.749
Nicholls St
57.412
Dunkel Team:
Dunkel Line:
Dunkel Total:
McNeese St
by 10 1/2
63
Vegas Team:
Vegas Line:
Vegas Total:
McNeese St
by 3 1/2
57 1/2
Dunkel Pick:
McNeese St
(-3 1/2); Over


***************************
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Thursday's Best Bet
August 31, 2017


Thursday College Football Best Bet

#2 Ohio State vs. Indiana

HeritageSports.eu Odds: Ohio State (-21); Total set at 57


After watching teams from the other Power 5 conferences improve and/or test their stock right out of the gates in Week 1 of the season, the Big 10 decided to follow suit and give their schools the same opportunity. So while there still will be a few “cupcake” games for Big 10 programs in the following weeks, we've got plenty of the schools in the conference testing themselves against the likes of the Florida's and Texas' of the world here in Week 1.

But what may be the most intriguing matchup featuring Big 10 schools is the conference game they've got here with Ohio State in Indiana to take on the Hoosiers. Coming right out of the gate with a conference game is a big opportunity for both of these schools to get a leg up on their competition, but with Ohio State ranked #2 in the preseason polls, an Indiana win could come back to bite the entire conference in the ass.

Do the Hoosiers have what it takes to shock the college football landscape on opening night, of will Urban Meyer's Buckeyes squad put the rest of the college football world on notice?

If you don't take significant risks you aren't going to score significant rewards, and a year after having three teams hovering around the CFB playoff picture – and all three teams with strong cases for inclusion – the Big 10 decided to step up their scheduling this year and further up their profile with these tremendous Week 1 matchups.

Opening up the year with a conference game is going to feel a bit different for these players early on this evening, but as three-touchdown road favorites, Ohio State sees it as a tremendous opportunity to further their goal of getting back to the CFB playoff after last year's embarrassing 31-0 loss to Clemson in the semi-finals.

Yet, what makes tonight's Ohio State/Indiana conference tilt even more intriguing is the fact that new Ohio State offensive co-ordinator Kevin Wilson was fired from his head coaching position at Indiana last year. Wilson is known for his offensive mind as he loves to air the ball down the field, and his success offensively with Indiana over the past few years is a big reason why he found this OC position so quickly.

There is no doubt that Wilson is licking his chops at the potential for a little personal revenge tonight being on Ohio State's sideline, but Indiana also knows his “system” inside and out having practised against it for the past five years. That familiarity – for both sides – gives this game that little bit of extra edge, and from a football fan standpoint, it's an exciting battle to watch.

However, from a betting standpoint, the battle between Wilson and his new Ohio State offense against his old program is part of a situation that sets up well for plays on both the side and total. The other big part of that scenario is the fact that Ohio State has a huge game against #7 ranked Oklahoma next week and you know that Meyer and the Buckeyes aren't interested in putting too much of their stuff on film in one week if they don't have too.

That means that Ohio State may be looking to go into Indiana tonight, dominate early, establish a big lead, and then bleed the clock down and get the W. A game script like that is ripe for a backdoor cover from the Hoosiers who still have an explosive offense – at least on paper – and for as much as Wilson would love to stick it to his old program, Indiana would love to stick it to Wilson and his new program just as much.

The Hoosiers know they are the big underdogs here, but with all the excitement surrounding their first game, it being against the hated Buckeyes etc etc, they know they've got nothing to really lose here. Letting it all hang out against a top-ranked team in the nation would be a great start to 2017 for the Hoosiers, win or lose SU, and giving them three TD's here is too many points to pass up.

Finally, regarding the total, the fact that we've got co-ordinators/programs who are very familiar with one another, and a top team looking to stay as “basic” as possible to win and move on to a big game a week from now definitely lends itself to an 'under' wager.

Wilson's offensive system is known for lighting up scoreboards, but this is still the first week with it in Ohio State and there are sure to be some bumps along the way tonight. Indiana's offense won't be as feared without Wilson calling the shots, and as heavy home dogs, the Hoosiers won't be shy about keeping the ball on the ground and bleeding as much clock as they can to shorten the game.

There is no question that Ohio State will likely be a much more prolific and explosive offensive team this year, that should cash plenty of 'overs' but give Wilson and company a few weeks to work out all the kinks before you really start relying on Ohio State to cash those 'over' tickets.

HeritageSports.eu Best Bet: Indiana +21
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Old 08-31-2017, 12:17 PM
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NCAAF's biggest betting mismatches: Week 1

Each week, Monty Andrews breaks down some of the underlying betting mismatches on the college football slate, giving you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule and setting your daily fantasy lineup.

Florida State Seminoles vs Alabama Crimson Tide (-7, 49.5)

Seminoles' unimpressive TO margin vs. Crimson Tide's ball-hawking prowess

There is no bigger game on the opening-week calendar than Saturday's tilt between the No. 3 Seminoles and the top-ranked Crimson Tide at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. And while the game is expected to be a tightly-contested affair - at least, relative to the rest of Alabama's schedule - both teams have advantages they will look to exploit in the season opener. One of the biggest ones, based on last year's performances, could put Florida State in a bad position this weekend.

The Seminoles were merely ordinary at taking care of the football last season, averaging 1.7 turnovers for and 1.6 turnovers against for a net differential of +0.1 - good for 51st in Division I. Florida State was even worse at taking care of the football late in the campaign, recording a net turnover differential of -4 over its last three games of the season. And while those miscues didn't prevent the Seminoles from an Orange Bowl victory, the story could be much different against the relentless Crimson Tide.

Alabama's regular-season turnover differential was elite - at 1.9 turnovers forced and 1.3 turnovers allowed, the Crimson Tide's +0.6 differential ranked 19th nationwide - but it was down the stretch when the Crimson Tide really flexed their muscles. 'Bama was sensational at ball control over the final three games of last season, forcing eight turnovers while committing zero. And if the turnover battle skews that way on Saturday night, the Crimson Tide should cruise.

Florida Gators vs Michigan Wolverines (-3.5, 45)

Gators' road third-down woes vs. Wolverines' stout D

Oddsmakers are expecting a low-scoring defensive showdown at AT&T Stadium this weekend in college football's other marquee matchup between the 16th-ranked Gators and No. 9 Wolverines. Florida's offense is in flux - surprise, surprise - and with question marks at quarterback and on the offensive line, there's no telling how well the Gators will be able to move the ball. If last season is any indication, Florida's punter might see a lot of screen time Saturday.

The Gators have struggled to find consistency at quarterback since Tim Tebow became a pro; four different quarterbacks have at least 100 pass attempts in two years with Jim McElwain at the helm. Florida's offensive struggles last season were summarized in how poorly the team performed on third down, converting at a pedestrian 41.7-percent clip. That rate drops even lower if you only count road games, with Florida making good on just 33.6 percent of third downs away from Gainesville.

That won't play well at all against Michigan. The Wolverines are set to build upon last year's promising start to the season - and atone for last year's crushing loss to Florida State in the Orange Bowl. The Wolverines were the stingiest team in the nation last year when it came to third-down conversion, allowing opponents to make good at an absurd 21 percent clip.

LSU Tigers at BYU Cougars (+14.5, 47.5)

Tigers' red-zone struggles vs. Cougars' downfield dominance

Coming off a solid showing in SEC play and a decisive win over Louisville in the Citrus Bowl, LSU opens its 2017 campaign as more than a two-touchdown favorite over a BYU team that kicked off its season last weekend with a one-sided victory over Portland State. Yet, while the Cougars aren't expected to put up much of a fight, they do own a decided advantage in red-zone play based on last year's results - and that could keep things closer than fans and oddsmakers expect.

The Tigers were slightly below average last season when it came to converting trips inside the opposition's 20-yard line into touchdowns or field goals, scoring points on five out of every six visits in games against fellow FBS opponents. It was a slight decrease from the 84.8-percent conversion rate LSU posted a season earlier. The 13th-ranked Tigers averaged 27.8 points per game last season, and will need to be sharper in the red zone if they hope to finish among the leaders in that category.

Perhaps LSU can learn a thing or two from its weekend opponent. The Cougars were one of the best teams in the country last season at turning red-zone trips into digits on the scoreboard, converting at a 95.9-percent rate; only Florida State was better. That is nothing new for BYU, which converted at a 93.6-percent clip in 2015. The Cougars are also elite at preventing red-zone scores, limiting teams to a 73.5-percent success rate - the eighth-best mark in Division I.

West Virginia Mountaineers vs Virginia Tech Hokies (-4, 51.5)

Mountaineers' ordinary pass protection vs. Hokies' sack-happy home D

This hotly anticipated matchup features two teams ranked in the top 25 who haven't faced each other in 12 years - and much of the focus will be on new Mountaineers' quarterback Will Grier, who last played with the Florida Gators in 2015. Grier looked good in Gainesville, but he had better hope his offensive line is better than it was last year. The Hokies boasted one of the best defenses in the nation in 2016.

The Mountaineers were an average pass-protection unit last season, ranking 63rd out of 128 qualifying teams in sacks allowed per game (2.1) in games against other FBS foes. They were worse down the stretch, giving up eight sacks over their final three games of the season - and now have to deal with the loss of All-American center Tyler Orlosky to the NFL. Grier will need to work fast or risk winding up on his back more than a couple of times Sunday night.

The Hokies defense will be licking its chops after putting together one of the most dominant showings in the nation last season. With a secondary ranked in the top five in Division I coming into the season, the Hokies are in great position to make life miserable for Grier and the rest of the West Virginia passing game.
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Old 08-31-2017, 12:18 PM
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NCAAF

Thursday, August 31


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thursday's NCAAF Game of the Day: Ohio State at Indiana
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Ohio State Buckeyes at Indiana Hoosiers (+21, 57)

Ohio State goes into another season with high expectations and will be tested right out of the gate on the road, as the second-ranked Buckeyes visit Indiana on Thursday for an early Big Ten matchup. J.T. Barrett returns at quarterback for Ohio State with Heisman Trophy aspirations after completing 61.5 percent of his passes, throwing for 24 touchdowns and running for nine scores last season.

“His accuracy and just his energy level now are incredible,” Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer told reporters of Barrett. “He’s providing that energy for everybody. He’s always done that, but … he’s got complete ownership of everything going on in that offense.” Tom Allen, who begins his first full season as coach at Indiana, hopes to end Ohio State’s 22-game winning streak in the series on the way to leading the Hoosiers to their third straight Bowl appearance. Indiana has the benefit of a productive senior quarterback in Richard Lagow (3,362 passing yards in 2016) and an All-American caliber senior linebacker in Tegray Scales (33.5 career tackles for loss). The Hoosiers will have to contain a talented Buckeyes offense that will be led by first-year offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who was fired as Indiana’s coach in December after going 26-47 over six years in Bloomington.

TV:
8 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY:
The Buckeyes opened as 20.5-point favorites and by Wednesday evening that number was bumped slightly to 21. The total hit the betting boards at 53 and has been bet way up to 57.

INJURY REPORT:

Ohio State - WR T. Grimes (Probable, Knee), RB M. Weber (Probable, Hamstring), TE M. Baugh (Probable, Toe), QB J. Burrow (Out Indefinitely, Hand), TE A. Alexander (Out For Season, Knee), DT M. Hill (Out Indefinitely, Suspension).

Indiana - WR S. Cobbs Jr. (Questionable, Possible Suspension), DB B. Fitzgerald (Out For Season, Eligibility), DL N. Sykes (Out For Season, Undisclosed).

WEATHER REPORT:
Weather condition should be pretty good for football with cloudy skies and temperatures in the low-70's to upper-60's.

ABOUT OHIO STATE (2016: 11-2 SU, 6-7 ATS, 6-7 O/U):
Barrett rushed for 100 yards three times while throwing just seven interceptions last year, but he will have to be even better with the departure of his top three receivers from 2016. Parris Campbell could step up to a key swing role on offense and the Buckeyes will depend a lot on sophomore running back Mike Weber (1,096 yards, nine TDs), who is expected to play after being slowed by a hamstring injury in the preseason. Three high draft picks from the secondary must be replaced on a defense that is led by lineman Tyquan Lewis (eight sacks last year) as Ohio State opens the season against a Big Ten team for the first time since 1975.

ABOUT INDIANA (2016: 6-7 SU, 6-7 ATS, 4-9 O/U):
Allen will be looking for more efficiency from Lagow, who completed 57.8 percent of his passes in 2016 and had 19 touchdown tosses but also threw 17 interceptions - four in his last two games. The Hoosiers do not have a running back returning that gained at least 250 yards, although they have a talented receiving corps that is led by junior Nick Westbrook (54 catches, 995 yards, six TDs in 2016). The status of junior Simmie Cobbs, who missed most of last season with an injury after registering 1,035 yards on 60 catches in 2015, is uncertain for the opener after he was arrested last month.

TRENDS:


* Buckeyes are 2-7 ATS in their last 9 games overall.
* Hoosiers are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 home games.
* Over is 4-1 in Buckeyes last 5 games on fieldturf.
* Under is 7-3 in Hoosiers last 10 games overall.
* Underdog is 6-0 ATS in their last 6 meetings.

CONSENSUS:
The road chalk Buckeyes are picking up 62 percent of the action from Covers users and the Over is picking up 67 percent of the totals wagers.
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