NCAA Football Predictions: Week 4 Opening Line Report and Picks
Dear readers, my apologies for no NCAA Week 3 Opening Line Report -- some big b*tch named Irma kinda got in the way.
If you do follow any of my stuff regularly, then you likely know I love "first to be fired" props regardless of sport. And we have one for this week courtesy of BetOnline: First SEC coach to be fired. Now, this was clearly posted in the wake of Tennessee's gut-wrenching Hail Mary loss to Florida on Saturday. I still have no explanation for why there weren't like six Vols standing about 45 yards from the line of scrimmage just to knock down a pass in front of their end zone.
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Here was UT coach Butch Jones' explanation for allowing Florida's Tyrie Cleveland to get wide open behind the secondary to haul in a 63-yard pass as time expired from Feleipe Franks: "We were in a nickel. But with injuries, we didn't have a dime."
Uh, use a tall wide receiver(s). Totally absurd response. Jones is the +150 favorite on this prop, and I think the only way he keeps his job is if the Vols rally to win the SEC East -- not likely. They should have no trouble as 26-point home favorites against UMass this Saturday, although I'd probably take those points expecting Tennessee to come out flat.
The other favorites on that prop, by the way, are Texas A&M's Kevin Sumlin at +275 (his fate may have been sealed in that Week 1 implosion against UCLA), Auburn's Gus Malzahn (+600), LSU's Ed Orgeron (+700) and Missouri's Barry Odom (+700). I think Sumlin and Malzahn are done. The latter two should get another season because they are so new to the job. Oh, you can get Nick Saban at +25000. Can't say I recommend that wager.
Here are a few Week 4 opening lines that caught my eye. Games Saturday unless noted.
Temple at No. 21 USF (-18.5): Thursday night ESPN game and AAC opener for both. I still believe that South Florida is the best Group of Five school out there, but the Bulls now have little wiggle room for error to earn a spot in a New Year's Six bowl because San Diego State of the MWC jumped from unranked to 22nd in this week's AP poll following the Aztecs' 20-17 win over No. 19 Stanford in Week 3. That's a better nonconference win than anything on USF's weak schedule. So you could see SDSU be ahead of USF in the first College Football Playoff rankings (if both keep winning) simply due to that. The Bulls come off a 47-23 blowout of Illinois last Friday. Quinton Flowers, a legit Heisman candidate, threw for 280 yards and four scores. He also scored his 32nd career rushing touchdown, tying Marlon Mack's school record. The Bulls had 680 yards of offense, including three 100-yard rushers. Temple has beaten cupcakes Villanova and UMass rather unimpressively since being blown out at Notre Dame. The Owls are defending AAC champions and only won the East Division thanks to a 46-30 victory against South Florida. Flowers had three TDs in the loss but left in the fourth with an injury. The Pick: USF.
Rutgers at Nebraska (-10): Speaking of coaches on the hot seat, we go to the Cornhuskers' Mike Riley. He was never a popular hire to begin with and was 15-11 in his first two seasons. Yet for some reason, AD Shawn Eichorst gave Riley a one-year extension through 2020 last week. Then Nebraska went out and was embarrassed at home by MAC school Northern Illinois, 21-17; the Huskies were starting their backup QB. It was Nebraska's first home loss to a team not in a Power 5 conference or not a major independent (i.e. like a Notre Dame or BYU) since vs. Southern Mississippi in 2004. The Huskers, who are 1-2, were held scoreless in the first half at home for the first time in 10 years, and a ton of fans left the game at halftime and didn't return. That's the last thing an AD wants to see. If Riley loses to terrible Rutgers, I don't see how you can keep him a day longer. The Scarlet Knights already have lost at home to their own MAC school (Eastern Michigan). Last year, they were winless in the Big Ten and outscored 360-86 in those nine games. The Pick: Nebraska.
No. 17 Mississippi State at No. 11 Georgia (-6.5): Battle of Bulldogs, and I'm not quite sure yet what to make of either. MSU was unranked before Saturday's thoroughly impressive 37-7 win over No. 12 LSU. It was the largest margin of victory for the Bulldogs in the series. Dan Mullen might be the second-best coach in the SEC (Saban), and QB Nick Fitzgerald is the real deal. He rushed for two scores and threw for two against a Tigers defense that was supposed to be one of the nation's best. Georgia avoided a trap Saturday against little Samford, winning 42-14. QB Jacob Eason has missed the past two games with a knee injury and isn't likely here. Tailback Sony Michel sat vs. Samford, most likely because he was slightly banged up and just wasn't needed. Ditto defensive lineman Tyler Clark. Expect both here. The Pick: Georgia.
No. 7 Washington at Colorado (+10): Pac-12 opener for both and a rematch of last year's conference title game, won easily by the Huskies 41-10. I expect them to get back there this December but not the Buffs. UW has played one of the weakest nonconference schedules out there: at Rutgers, vs. Montana and vs. Fresno State. The Buffs, 3-0 for the first time in nine years, are right there too, though, schedule-wise, having beaten Colorado State, Texas State and Northern Colorado. Perhaps CU was looking ahead to this game last week as it was only up seven on Northern Colorado late in the third quarter before pulling away. Sophomore QB Steven Montez had a big game in the 41-21 win, throwing for a career-high 357 yards and four TDs. He also ran for 68 yards. Starting defensive lineman Chris Mulumba will miss the first half of this one after being ejected for targeting in the fourth vs. Northern Colorado. The Pick: Colorado (shop for 10.5).
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