A Deeper Look - Scouting The Mid-Majors (Free Picks Inside)
by Strike Point Sports - 09/06/2007
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Back by popular demand, this season it will be a bit different. Each week we'll delve into some of college football's smaller conferences and focus and breakdown more obscure matchups that are off the radar for most beyond the Top 25. Here's what we have going on this week:
Air Force +7.5 at Utah - Saturday, 6 pm EST (Total: 48 points)
The Mountain West gets a solid matchup early this season in week two. The biggest focal point in this game is Utes starting quarterback Brian Johnson and his absence after suffering a concussion in the opener last Thursday. Johnson is out until mid October and the offense will fall off drastically as we saw with backup Tommy Grady against Oregon State. Utah was unable to move the ball, and while they'll be at home against a weaker defense in Air Force, the offense will still struggle to be totally on point.
Conversely, the Utes were unable to stop Beavers tailback Yvenson Bernard, allowing 241 yards to the opposition in their first game. If that was the case, how are they going to slow the Falcons' option attack? Shaun Carney is back under center for this rushing dynamo, and again expect another 200+ yards allowed by Utah.
Bottom line is this is too many points to be laying for a team that lost its top offensive weapon and then on top of that will playing a team that does exactly what they cannot stop. That's like expecting Michigan to stop Oregon's spread attack this weekend when they couldn't contain D-1AA Appalachian State.
The underdog is 8-0 ATS in the last eight meetings and we'll see the Falcons stay within this number in Salt Lake City on Saturday.
Prediction: Utah 27, Air Force 23
Rice +6 at Baylor - Saturday, 7 pm EST (Total: 44 points)
Here's the smaller version of the Texas Two-Step. While Texas and TCU will be tangling in Austin, two more Longhorn State programs will face off a week after each getting embarrassed in their respective 2007 openers. Baylor played the previously mentioned Horned Frogs and felt the wrath of their storming defense and was shut out, 27-0. Rice was surprised by Nicholls State, 16-14, and now both are looking to get their first victory of the season.
The big difference between the teams is the starters under center. The Owls have do-it-all quarterback Chase Clement, however he was everything but in an awful performance at home. The junior threw three interceptions and completed less than 50 percent of his passes, and I, for one, did not see that coming.
Baylor's sophomore Blake Szymanski, too, struggled with three turnovers through the air, and his team wasn't even able to push across any points.
Both will look to bounce back, the difference being Rice's Clement has proved his worth all of last season and his passing and running skills are worth a whole heck of a lot more than what Szymanski can match.
The Bears have now failed to cover each of their last seven spreads dating back to last season, while Rice is 6-1 ATS in their last seven. Baylor is also 0-7 against the number when losing their previous game by at least 20 points. We'll side with Rice, assuming that Chase Clement and his talented top wide out Jared Dillard will be the likely choice to come through and avoid an 0-2 start.
Prediction: Rice 24, Baylor 18
Mississippi State -6 at Tulane - Saturday, 7 pm EST (Total: 45 1/2 points)
The good news for the Bulldogs is LSU is out of their sights. As bad as that loss was, the Bayou Bengals have moved on and things can't possibly get worse. Can they? Well, it probably won't be in the same state where their week one massacre occurred. Now visiting New Orleans, Mississippi State should fair better against the likes of Tulane.
Quarterback Mike Henig threw six interceptions and was absolutely hounded by LSU, and now he should fall back to a normal game where he actually has time to plot out passes to his own receivers and get the ball to his ground game attack. Tailback Anthony Dixon should cue up the offense with a 100+ yard performance and find the end zone once or twice.
The Bulldogs are 5-1 in the last six meetings against the Green Wave in which they were favored by at least a touchdown. They are slightly lesser favorites this time around, but still they should find a victory of at least an end zone strike.
We saw glimpses of the Bulldog defense and their capabilities as a strong SEC unit. They certainly are not LSU, but they will be good enough to limit Tulane to around 300 yards and keep them under 20 points.
Prediction: Mississippi State 23, Tulane 16