Joe Gavazzi NCAA Week In Review



Saturday, September 9th


Steamroller Game of the Week

Florida Atlantic at Wisconsin (-31-) Noon BIG 10 TV


Surprisingly little adjustment by the linemaker despite the divergent results of last week!  First year Florida Atlantic HC Kiffin proved once again why he should be an Offensive Coordinator instead of a Head Coach.  Inheriting the most experienced team in the Nation, the Owls lost 42-19 in their home opener to Navy.  THEY WERE OUTRUSHED 416-40!  That is a bad omen when facing a Wisconsin team who scored the last 59 points in their opener against Utah State after trailing 10-0 shortly before half.  The Badgers, with nearly 80 lettermen and a veteran OL, joined the “200 Club” with 478 balanced yards while outrushing the Aggies 234-85.  Those numbers look very similar to the team’s profile of last season and are a good reason why the Badgers moved to 2-0 ATS with this Steamrolling victory.


Faux or Fo’real Game of the Week

Buffalo at Army (-16-) Noon CBC TV

Last week’s Faux or Fo’real selection on Colorado State was an ATS loser.  Yet, anyone who watched the game was clearly perplexed.  Maybe it had something to do with the 5 point line move favoring the Rams which somehow trickled into the consciousness of the referees.  In any event, as has been widely reported, there were no fewer than (3) OPI penalties which went against Colorado State (all of the phantom variety) which clearly dictated the outcome.  The Rams outgained the Buffs 397-345 but could put only a field goal on the board.

This, from a team who, in the previous 5 games, scored 58, 50, 63, 49 and 46 points!  Hmmm!  Its bettor beware, when backing those greater than 3 point line moves which are now 0-4 ATS on the season.  At the time of this writing, the cautionary teams would be West Virginia, Oregon, and TCU, all of whom have moved 4 or more points on the betting line.  But I digress.  For the task at hand is to determine whether the Week #1 performances of Army or Buffalo were Faux or Fo’real.

At first glance, it would appear that in the Bulls 17-7 loss to Minnesota they did an excellent defensive job in allowing PJ Fleck’s 1st year Gophers to row the boat for only 3.3 YPR on offense.  Unfortunately for the Bulls, that performance may prove to be faux this weekend when facing the powerful Army offense.  Remember, this is a Bulls team that allowed 253/5.1 overland last year including allowing Army to gain 396 overland yards in last year’s game.

The Bulls got that victory outright, 23-20, as 14 point dog setting up a situation that begs for full intensity from an Army team which returns a surprising 16 starters and has a top 10 amount of lettermen returning.  That translated into a Steamrolling victory against Fordham in Week #1 when they outrushed the Rams 513-66 with veteran QB Bradshaw at the controls and the Black Knights of the Hudson on a definite uptick (8-5 SU LY) under 4th year HC Monken.  It seems abundantly clear that this running attack will prove that they are fo’real once again this Saturday.


Cheap Thrills Game of the Week

Western Michigan at Michigan State (-7) 3:30 PM ET BIG 10 TV


Last week’s Cheap Thrills Game of the Week showed great promise when Arizona State lead 37-13 as 22 point favorite against the visiting Aggies of NM State.  But a 4thquarter defensive collapse in the 100 degree heat proved their undoing.  This week, we lay a much cheaper number in a contest that has immense value.  In September matchups of “Little Brother vs. Big Brother”, it is normally inferior Little Brother who has the emotional edge.  Not today, for it is Western Michigan under then HC PJ Fleck who rowed the boat to a 13-1 SU, 8-4 ATS year.

Despite losing Fleck and having only 55 returning lettermen, the Broncos bucked their way to a late game tie with USC last week before an eventual 18 point loss.  Huge take away from that contest was the fact they outrushed the Trojans 263-232.  Clearly, that has the Spartans on high alert.  Despite their opening day 35-10 win and cover over Bowling Green (“200 Club” and Double Rusher numbers), Sparty has much to prove.  After going 36-5 SU for 3 seasons, Michigan State fell off the map last year going 3-9 SU, 4-7 ATS.  Much like visiting Western, State is one of the least experienced teams in the Nation.  But emotion and intensity can carry a team a long way.

That is especially true when combined with fear of failure against an underdog rival.  Now, about that line value I mentioned.  In 2013, State was favored by 28 points on this field vs. Western.  And in 2015, State was 17 point road chalk in the matchup.  Each resulted in victories of 13 points when Fleck was the coach and Western had the emotional edge.  Not so today!  I invite you to join Spartan fans as they get their “Cheap Thrills” in watching the clock strike midnight for last year’s Cinderella team.


Under the Radar Game of the Week

Eastern Michigan at Rutgers (-5) 3:30 PM ET BIG 10 TV


The linemaker made a radical adjustment in the Rutgers power rating after their strong showing against Top 10 Washington in Week #1.  Though line value is quickly eroding, let’s see if we can squeeze a victory this week on the quickly improving Scarlet Knights.  Speaking of improvement, that’s exactly what Eastern did in last year’s 3rd season under, now 4th year, HC Creighton.

The Eagles had gone 5-31 SU, 11-23 ATS in the 3 years previous to 2016.  In a turnaround season last year, the Eagles soared to a 7-6 SU, 9-3 ATS season.  Despite having one of the least experienced OL’s in the country, E. Mich. followed up their success of last year with a 24-7 opening day win and cover vs. Charlotte.  It was a game in which they had the yardage edge at 393-280. Unfortunately, at the all-important point of attack, that OL deficiency showed as the 49ers won the overland battle, 166-126.  For Rutgers, they were showing why they figure to be one of the most improved teams this season.

Last year, the Knights were 2-10 SU, 4-7 ATS being outscored by 21 PPG with a 16/283 offense.  Dramatic improvements were evident last week , under 2nd year HC Ash, when Rutgers gave Washington all they could handle in a hard-fought 30-14 loss.  The emergence of QB Bolin and the return to health of his receivers were an important part of the victory.  But it was the 131-84 overland edge which signifies this team’s return to respectability.  Right now this team is Under the Radar.  That may not be true Sunday morning.


If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

Old Dominion (-3-) at U. Mass 3:30 PM ET


It appeared to this bureau that someone was intentionally trying to lose money when huge wagers were placed on U. Mass. in each of the 1st two weeks resulting in line moves of 5 points.  We gladly stepped in with a pair of Best Bet winners AGAINST the Minutemen.  That included last week’s 5% Game Day winner on Coastal Carolina who outrushed U. Mass. 321-79.  In the 3rd competitively priced Game of the Year for U. Mass.,

I simply can’t see why we should not fade them again.  In other words, “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It”.  With their 0-2 SU start, that makes U. Mass. 8-41 SU L4+Y.  Despite 16 RS, they have one of the least experienced OLs in the country.  That clearly showed last week.  ODU may be a notch below their 10-3 SU team of last year that provided plenty of ATS winners with their 35/434 offense and “200 Club” numbers.  But if there is one thing they did well for us it was covering the number as a favorite with a record of 7-1 ATS in that role.

Though they did not get there last week in 31-17 win vs. Albany (as -24), we will try them in a more competitive price range against what looks to be America’s worst team again this season.  Note that at the close of last season, ODU would have been a double digit favorite in this game at this site.


I.C.E. Game of the Week

Northwestern (-3) at Duke Noon ET ESPNU


Much is expected of Northwestern this season under 13th year HC Fitzgerald.  17 starters return including QB Thorsen and 4 OL.  This, however, is a team who has thrived during the tenure of Fitzgerald when the least was expected of them.  For example, consider that in the last 10 seasons, Fitzgerald is 16-25 ATS as home chalk, 5-10 ATS as road chalk, but 23-12 ATS as road dog.

Combined with other situational aspects of today’s game, you will see why this is clearly not his role.  In underachieving last week, the Wild Cats, a 24 point favorite, slithered by Nevada 31-20 with a narrow 156-142 overland advantage (against a Nevada team who allowed 298/6.1 last season).  Not sure we will get a much more intense effort today against a Duke team whom they have defeated 19-10 in 2015 and 24-13 last year.

That was a game in which NW had a narrow 410-396 yardage advantage.  It was also a year in which Duke had a rare losing record of 4-8 SU.  That came on the heels of going 27-13 SU the previous 3 seasons and appearing in 4 consecutive Bowls.  Duke had a confidence building win vs. outmanned NC Central in Week #1.  As 35 point chalk, they cruised 60-7 with “200 Club” numbers including a 243-64 overland edge.

With just 5 RS on the defensive side, there is work to be done in the line and in the secondary.  But in the 2nd year of QB Jones, expect the offense to be greatly improved following last year’s dip.  Combined with the double revenge motive,  look for Duke to play the entire game with (I)ntensity, (C)onviction and (E)xecution raising their mark to 6-1 ATS as home dog of late.


The Lone Ranger Game of the Week

South Florida (-17-) at U. Conn. Noon ET ESN


Despite the 0-2 ATS beginning, you know that the public is in love with this USF offense that will have the Bulls favored in every game this season.   Returning 7 offensive starters including QB Flowers to a team who averaged 44/511 will create that perception.  The real perception working against USF, however, is on the defensive side of the ball.  1st year HC Charlie Strong comes to USF with a reputation as a great defensive coach.

That, however, is based on his work as DC at Florida 10 years ago.  That reputation has clearly become tarnished after stops at Louisville and Texas since 2010.  That includes last two years when as head man of the Longhorns, his defense allowed combined points of 31 and 450 yards.  Now, he inherits a USF defense that, although returning 9 starters, allowed 32/482 last season.

He has failed as a favorite the first two weeks because of a defense that allowed 22 to San Jose and 17 to Stony Brook, a team his Bulls could only beat 31-17 with a 339-229 yardage edge.  No way does this team deserve to be double digit chalk on the road.  Aiding the public’s perception in this game is the negative performance of U. Conn. in the previous 3 seasons under now deposed former HC Diaco.  Under his tutelage, the Huskies became a weekly AUTO FADE MEAL TICKET for this bureau recording an 8-26 ATS log.  Clearly, time for the bounce with the return of former Huskie head man, Randy Edsall to the sidelines!

Last week, in an opening day win, no cover against Holy Cross, U. Conn. got on the plus side of the line of scrimmage with a 160-89 edge.  Even in the down seasons, the Huskies played a semblance of defense. Now with the return of Edsall to the sidelines, expect positive ATS returns in the face of public displeasure.  Only you and I and The Lone Ranger will be on this game virtually insuring it to be a winner, much like last week’s Top Play in this category with Coastal Carolina.


Rivalry Game of the Week

Iowa (-2-) at Iowa State Noon ET ES2


Little doubt that Iowa State is upwardly mobile under 2nd year HC Campbell who had huge success as head man at Toledo.  Though just 3-9 SU in his maiden voyage, consider the 7-4 ATS log including 4-1 ATS in this home dog role.  Results were positive in Week #1 with a 42-24 win and cover, as -10 on this field vs. in-state rival Northern Iowa.  That, however, was with a +2 net TO margin in a game where the Cyclones were just +27 in total yards.

In a game with a similar result, Iowa was winning and covering against Wyoming.  The final said 24-3 Iowa as -13.  But that was with the Hawkeyes holding a meager 263-233 yardage edge.  True enough, Iowa State has a meaningful 42-3 revenge motive from last year and the history of this battle (last year excluded) has seen more close games than not.

But the Hawkeyes have a meaningful OL experience edge at the all-important point of attack and clearly the better defense.  In addition, Ferentz has made clear his intentions to retain state recruiting rights.  FCB (final crushing blow) for the home dog is the fact that Iowa is 10-2 ATS as road chalk L4Y.


Hidden Gem of the Week

Mid-Tenn State at Syracuse (-9-) 3:30 PM ET


Meet Scott Schafer, the current OC at Mid-Tenn State.  Last year, he helped guide the Blue Raiders offense to 40 PPG on 517 YPG.  But what did he do the previous 3 years?  Well, he was HC at Syracuse, today’s opponent.  He was relieved of his duties in November of the 2015 season after combined seasons of 7-17 SU in which the Orange averaged only 325 combined yards.

EVERYONE MUST MATRICULATE TO THEIR PETER PRINCIPLE.    Be sure he will be well-prepared to guide a Blue Raider offense against his former team.  That would be a Syracuse team, who under current HC Dino Babers allowed 39/501 last year including at least 225 YPG both running and passing.  Forget the Week #1 Syracuse win, 50-7, vs. C. Conn. State, a team who has just 45 scholarship players.

The Orange didn’t cover that anyway!  This week, the Blue Raiders step way down in defensive class following a home loss to Vandy, 28-6.  Combined with their Bowl loss at Hawaii to end last season, there will be full focus by Mid-Tenn State in the Carrier Dome today.  Look for a huge performance by MTSU QB Stockstill (coach Rick’s son) as this Hidden Gem wins this game outright in a final that will not surprise you.


Crusher of the Week

Indiana (-3) at Virginia 3:30 PM ET

Last week’s Crusher, Notre Dame -18, cruised easily to a 49-16 win vs. Temple.  I expect this week’s win to be just as easy.  A stunned National TV audience watched as Indiana played powerful Ohio State on even terms in the 1st half last week.  The Hoosiers, best known for their offense in recent years, showed why, under 1st year HC Allen, they will continue the defensive improvement of last year when they improved over 2015 numbers by 11 points and 130 yards.

The Buckeyes eventually broke loose for a 49-21 win and cover rolling up 596 balanced yards.  But that Indiana defense, returning 9, will face no such challenge against this UVA attack.  Respected 2ndyear Virginia HC Mendenhall took on a near impossible task when he inherited a Cavs team who had gone 11-25 SU the previous 3 years.  Last year’s 2-10 mark saw the Cavs finish on an 0-7 SU, 1-6 ATS slide.  If last week’s 28-10 win, no cover as -28 vs. lowly William & Mary, is any indication the regression may continue for this UVA team.

The Boys and Girls actually outrushed the Cavs 168-92 in that contest.  And with a PED in the bottom 10 last year, that defensive back 7 will be fresh meat for an emerging Hoosier QB Lagow who torched the OSU secondary for 420 PY last week.  With offense and defense both greatly favoring the visitor, I can only envision this as the CFB Crusher of the Week.


Perception/Reality Game of the Week

Marshall at NC State (-24) 6:00 PM ET ES3


Not enthralled with the fact that we are laying more points than Week #1 despite 2 of the phoniest final scores of the week, EACH OF WHICH SHOULD HAVE AIDED OUR LINE VALUE TODAY.  Against our Top Rated play on Miami, OH., Marshall was outgained 429-267 BUT SCORED ON 2 KICKOFF RETURNS AND A LONG PICK 6.  Offensively, they scored just 10 points on 208 yards.

What a joke!  In a similar way, NC State held a 504-246 edge on South Carolina yet managed to lose 35-28.  Those type of results definitely even out! There is a case to be made that Marshall will have a bounce back season for 8th year HC Holliday.  The Herd went 3-9 SU LY after a 33-8 SU the previous 3 years.  Major decline came with a defense that was 17 points and 96 yards worse.  Based on the defensive allowance in Week #1 and the fact there are only 4 defensive returning starters, improvement may not evolve.

The Wolfpack, with arguably the best combination of OL and DL line experience in the Nation, should have their way vs. the outmanned CUSA rep and power their way to a confidence-building 4 TD victory.  Note that HC Doeren who is feeling a bit of heat needs a big victory to quiet the critics.  With a record of 7-2 ATS as double digit favorite, it figures to come in style in our Perception/Reality Game of the Week.

The Penthouse Pick

Mississippi State (-8) at Louisiana Tech 7:30 PM ET CBSC


Easy case to be made for the underdog in this contest!  LA Tech HC Holtz is historically best in the underdog role.  A powerful offense that averaged 44/515 LY would seem capable of putting up points if last week’s 52 points and 497 yards vs. NW State is an indication.  Combined with the Miss State look-ahead to LSU, Georgia and Auburn in the next 3 weeks, the stage is set in the minds of many for possible home dog upset.

The linemaker simply does not agree boosting this line from where it would have been in Week #1.  Maybe it was the 49-0 upset authored by Miss. State vs. Georgia Southern in which they had a yardage edge of 555-33.  With that rugged SEC slate ahead, 9th year Miss. State HC Mullen is well aware that he cannot afford a non-con loss.  Must respect the fact that Holtz has authored 3 consecutive 9 win seasons!  This year’s team, however, features just 10 RS and bottom 10 experience.

Miss. State has jumbo QB Fitzgerald operating behind an SEC OL which will command the point of attack all day against a smallish defensive front of the home underdog who is geared to stopping the wide open attacks of their CUSA brethren.  This is a fundamental mismatch on both sides of the ball.  With the visitor bringing full focus, I expect none other than a double digit romp in our Penthouse Pick of the Day.


Dog of the Week

Oklahoma at Ohio State (-7-) 7:30 PM ET ABC


Our Underdog of the Week last week, Florida State, took it in the chops from mighty Alabama who turned the game around in one 5 play sequence, with their defense and special teams.  Yet when the dust cleared, Alabama had only a 19 yard edge despite the Sems losing QB Francois to a knee injury.  Today, we line up with another TD dog in the Marquee Matchup of Saturday night.

Admittedly, we will have the worst of it on the pine with veteran OSU mentor Meyer calling the shots against 1st year Sooner head man Lincoln Riley.  Tonight, however, the Sooners enter the contest with an 11 game win streak including their confidence-building wipe out of UTEP last week when they outgained the Miners 676-167. That included 496 PY through the air led by QB Mayfield.

Considering that the Buckeyes allowed 420 PY to Indiana QB Lagow last week, there would appear to be a fundamental edge for the underdog Sooners.  Throw in revenge for a 45-24 home field loss in Week #3 last season (the Sooners last defeat) and you can see why we are all in with Oklahoma as our Dog of the Week.


Pup of the Week

Stanford at USC (-6-) 8:30 PM ET FOX


Viewers on the West Coast will consider this to be the Marquee Matchup of the week.  And why not, for it appears these could well be the 2 best teams in the PAC 12. Last week, the Trojans were life and death with Western Michigan before pulling away in the 2nd half for an eventual 49-31 win, no cover.  Key statistical take-away from that game is Western’s 263-32 edge at the line of scrimmage.

That’s bad news for the Trojans should they hope to slow down the Stanford ground game.  In seasons past, this is a battle of the Trojans aerial attack against the ground game and defense of the Cardinal.  Predictably, when a team has a running edge and defensive edge and appears in the underdog role, it is a favorable scenario.  Such has been the case in this matchup as Stanford is 11-3 ATS in this series of late including victories of 27-10 LY (295-117 RY), 41-31 in 2015, preceded by narrow losses of 3 and 3 points.

In the 1st two years under HC Shaw, Stanford recorded victories of 7 and 8 points.  ALL OF THOSE GAMES WOULD HAVE GOTTEN THEM MONEY AT THIS PRICE POINT FOR THE CARDINAL.  With QB Chryst returning to run the controls for the Cardinal along with 8 returning starters on each side of the ball, it would appear that it is All Systems Go for the Cardinal in their matchup today.  Finally, note that under HC Shaw, Stanford is 22-12 ATS on the road.

Joe Gavazzi


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