In Monday's Opening Line Report story , I led with the quandary that the SEC was in while trying to reschedule last week's Hurricane Matthew-postponed LSU at Florida matchup. Nov. 19 always looked like the date it would be played, but LSU athletic director Joe Alleva basically drew a line in the sand to the SEC leadership and said there was no way that his school was giving up a home game that day for financial reasons. And, to be fair, flood-ravaged Baton Rouge does need all the money it can get. Amazingly, the SEC blinked, and Florida's chances of winning the East Division for a second straight season took a big hit.
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The schools will indeed play Nov. 19, with LSU buying out scheduled opponent South Alabama and Florida doing the same vs. against Presbyterian. What's interesting is that the game will now be played in Baton Rouge. What Florida got in return is LSU agreeing not to schedule the kickoff later than 3:30 p.m. ET -- winning at night in Death Valley is incredibly tough to do -- and the Tigers will visit Gainesville next year. Well, the next two years as the 2018 game was already scheduled there.
Entering this weekend, Florida is tied with Tennessee in the SEC East with a 2-1 conference record, but the Vols own the tiebreaker. I would have given Florida a good shot of beating LSU last week at home but much less of one now on Nov. 19. So even if the Vols lose Saturday vs. No. 1 Alabama, as I expect, they could still be in great shape to play in the SEC title game. It's a huge win for LSU as it wasn't going to have an injured Leonard Fournette last week vs. Florida and gets to keep its bye week ahead of the annual showdown at Alabama on the first Saturday of November. The Tigers are just a game in the loss column out of the West Division lead, and this increases their chances of winning it, although I'm not confident that happens.
LSU hosts Southern Miss as a 25-point favorite this week, and Fournette is expected out again. Florida (-13.5) hosts Missouri and will get back starting quarterback Luke Del Rio after he missed the previous two games. Here are some news, notes and any major line moves for some of Saturday's games around the country, in no particular order.
Arizona State at Colorado (-13, 60.5): Big questions at quarterback for ASU entering this important Pac-12 South game. Starter Manny Wilkins missed last week's 23-20 win over UCLA with a leg injury. Backup Brady White started and played well but also suffered a season-ending foot injury. Coach Todd Graham thinks Wilkins will play but perhaps not the entire game. Freshman Dillon Sterling-Cole is next up on the depth chart. By the way, ASU's Zane Gonzalez kicked three field goals against UCLA to become the FBS all-time leader with 89. Florida State's Dustin Hopkins had held the mark of 88. ASU, Colorado and Utah are all atop the Pac-12 South with 2-1 records. The Buffs' schedule the rest of the way is easier, but Utah still plays both.
Kansas at No. 11 Baylor (-35, 67): This is the biggest spread on the board Saturday, to little surprise. Possible trap game for the unbeaten Bears not only off a bye week but with another up next and then the schedule getting much harder. BU has won the last six against Kansas by an average of 37.7 points and boasts a 7-0 record in Waco in the series. So the Bears don't need top receiver KD Cannon back from injury this week, but it's looking like he might be. Cannon has 27 catches for 370 yards and four touchdowns in his four games but missed the last one and was also hampered the one before that due to a groin injury.
Minnesota at Maryland (-6.5, 49.5): This line has grown 2.5 points, and I think I know why: Gophers starting QB Mitch Leidner, a guy NFL scouts like, has been ruled out with a concussion. He was hurt in last week's loss to Iowa but played through it, apparently not showing symptoms until in the locker room after the game. Redshirt junior Conor Rhoda, a former walk-on, is in line to start. He has attempted just two passes in his college career. Rhoda beat out Demry Croft, last year's backup, during training camp to earn the No. 2 job. The Gophers are hoping to redshirt Croft.
UCLA at Washington State (-7, TBA): This line has risen four points and there's no total yet because of the status of Bruins quarterback Josh Rosen. He twice left last week's loss at Arizona State with separate injuries. Former walk-on Mike Fafaul was inserted into the game both times and would start Saturday. The fifth-year senior was 3 of 11 for 44 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns vs. ASU. Coach Jim Mora said the offense wouldn't be simplified for Fafaul, but I don't buy that. The Bruins have several other players listed as questionable, so I love Wazzu here. A loss all but ends UCLA's Pac-12 South hopes. The Cougars have won three straight this season by a combined score of 149-55.
No. 20 West Virginia at Texas Tech (pick'em, 83): This has the smallest spread on the board (obviously) and the largest total. Has any unbeaten Power 5 team gotten less publicity than WVU? The Mountaineers come off their bye and have been fortunate to win their past two games, edging BYU by a field goal and Kansas State by 1. This is West Virginia's first true road game. It has had one of the best defenses in the Big 12 thus far but hasn't seen an offense anything close to TTU's. Led by QB Patrick Mahomes, the Red Raiders are No. 1 nationally in passing and No. 2 in total yards and scoring. Texas Tech has scored at least 52 points in every home game under Mahomes since he became the starter. West Virginia will have a new kicker after Josh Lambert left the team this week. In 2014, Lambert kicked a 55-yard field goal as time expired to beat the Red Raiders 37-34 in Lubbock. He had an NCAA record with 16 field goals of 40 or more yards that year and ranked No. 2 in the nation in scoring. Lambert had kicked in just one game this year due to suspension.
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