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NFL Close Calls Week 2

NFL Close Calls – Week 2

09/16/2019

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in Week 2 of the NFL regular season.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers (+6½) 20, Carolina Panthers 14 (48): The Thursday night game featured a weather delay and a slow early scoring pace as Joey Slye hit four field goals to give the Panthers a brief 12-10 lead halfway through the third quarter. Tampa Bay answered with a 75-yard touchdown drive as the road underdog took a 17-12 lead heading into the fourth quarter on a Peyton Barber score. After a Carolina fumble and a missed Tampa Bay field goal, Barber would be the victim of a safety early in the fourth as the Panthers climbed within three points to keep overtime in the range of possibility. Getting good field position after the defensive score the Panthers were stopped on 4th-and-short just past midfield but a pair of punts followed before the Buccaneers extended the lead to six points. Cam Newton and the Panthers got the ball back with just over two minutes remaining needing a touchdown drive and they eventually reached the Tampa Bay 11-yard-line with a new set of downs. Short gains and a penalty left the Panthers facing 4th-and-1 from the 2-yard-line and a direct snap to Christian McCaffrey was sniffed out as the Buccaneers were the NFC South squad to avoid the 0-2 start.

Indianapolis Colts (+3) 19, Tennessee Titans 17 (43½): The Colts had two first half touchdowns but led only 13-7 with another missed PAT from Adam Vinatieri. The Titans scored on a short field after the break to lead 14-13 and then after a Jacoby Brissett fumble, Tennessee added a field goal despite only picking up 14 yards. The Titans forced a punt and had the momentum to put the game away after pass interference call converted a big 3rd down. A few plays later Marcus Mariota was sacked on the subsequent 3rd down and the Titans settled for a kick to go up seven, only this time Cairo Santos missed. The Colts didn’t take advantage on its next possession but getting the ball back with just under seven minutes remaining the Colts were able to hit a big play with a 55-yard-run and got the eventual touchdown to take the lead. Vinatieri would again miss the PAT however to leave the lead in jeopardy. The Titans had an opportunity crossing midfield in the final minute but ultimately couldn’t get the job done as the Colts played a second-straight down-to-the-wire game, this time winning.

Detroit Lions (+1) 13, Los Angeles Chargers 10 (47): The Lions missed a field goal six minutes before halftime and allowed the Chargers to add three before the break to trail 10-6. Matthew Stafford had an interception on the first drive of the second half but the Lions were bailed out with the defense forcing a fumble of Austin Ekeler on 1st-and-goal. More mistakes followed as the Chargers missed two field goals surrounding another Stafford interception before Detroit broke through in the fourth quarter with a big play to Kenny Golladay, leading 13-10. The Chargers reached the red zone late in the fourth quarter but went backwards and Philip Rivers wound up intercepted on 3rd-and-19 before the Chargers had a chance to struggle with the decision to try for the tying field goal from punter Ty Long who was serving as the kicker with Michael Badgley injured.

Dallas Cowboys (-6) 31, Washington Redskins 21 (46): After a scoreless first quarter Washington took a 7-0 lead in the second quarter that held until Dallas hit a 51-yard touchdown with about six minutes remaining. Dallas also managed to find the end zone just before halftime to suddenly take a 14-7 lead. The Cowboys kept the momentum with another touchdown out of the break to lead 21-7 but Washington answered to sit a point short of the underdog number down 21-14. Dallas had a touchdown brought back on a penalty and Washington’s defense was able to hold for a field goal, sitting just one touchdown away from covering the number into the fourth quarter. A promising drive stalled just past midfield and with still more than 11 minutes on the clock Washington went for it on 4th-and-3 and came up empty. Dallas put the game away with another touchdown on the short field. Washington would climb back within 10 with a touchdown just ahead of the two-minute warning to clear the ‘over’ but they couldn’t get a stop to get the ball back.

Houston Texans (-7) 13, Jacksonville Jaguars 12 (43½): Houston led just 6-3 through three quarters after a scoreless third quarter but the first touchdown of the game came from Deshaun Watson with just over 11 minutes remaining. That touchdown put the Texans past the favorite spread for the first time in the game. Gardner Minshew led the Jaguars down the field for a field goal to trim the margin to seven, with a spread that closed right at +7 from as high as +9½. The Jaguars held on defense to get the ball back and Jacksonville converted two fourth downs on the way to the red zone. With 30 seconds left Minshew connected with DJ Clark and down by one the Jaguars opted to go for the win but came up short on a Leonard Fournette rush attempt.

Green Bay Packers (-3) 21, Minnesota Vikings 16 (43): After a win in Week 1 but limited offensive production for the Packers in Matt Lafleur’s debut, Green Bay came out firing in the home opener. The Packers scored just over two minutes into the game and eventually went up 21-0 early in the second quarter. Dalvin Cook broke a 75-yard run to break the momentum for the Packers and after missing an early field goal Dan Bailey added three before halftime to put the Vikings back in the game down 21-10 after the Packers opted not to kick on 4th-and-1 from the Minnesota 25. The Vikings thought they added seven on that drive with a three-yard score to Stefon Diggs questionably overturned via replay to call offensive pass interference under the new challengeable rules. Green Bay would fumble on its first possession of the second half and the Vikings added a short field touchdown to climb within five, with Bailey’s PAT blocked. Five straight punts followed as neither offense could get anything going and ‘over’ backers moaned after supposedly sitting pretty with the hot scoring start. The Vikings were poised to take the lead with about five minutes remaining reaching the Green Bay 8-yard-line with a new set of downs but Kirk Cousins made an ill-advised throw to the corner of the end zone that was intercepted on 1st down. Green Bay was able to run out most of the remaining clock to hold on despite the offense disappearing, while the ‘under’ also held on.

Chicago Bears (-3) 16, Denver Broncos 14 (40½): The spread on this game fluctuated a lot after quickly rising from even to the Bears as a slight favorite. A common number was -2 for the Bears much of the weekend but on Sunday afternoon the Bears hit -2½ and eventually -3. Chicago didn’t impress early in the game but managed a 13-3 edge through three quarter to sit comfortably ahead of the number. In the fourth the Broncos completed a lengthy drive to add three points and were poised to tie the game with 1st-and-goal from the 4-yard-line. Joe Flacco eventually was intercepted but pinned deep Chicago punted a few plays later to give the Broncos another shot. This time Flacco delivered including two 4th down conversions and after the touchdown with 31 seconds left Flacco delivered what looked like the game-winning two-point conversion in a huge bold play from Vic Fangio against his old team. It was not to be as a borderline 1st down roughing the passer call gave the Bears a big boost and Mitchell Trubisky struck for 25 yards on 4th-and-15 in the final seconds. Chicago still had a timeout and new kicker Eddy Pineiro became a hero hitting from 53 yards.

Atlanta Falcons (+1) 24, Philadelphia Eagles 20 (53½): The Falcons had a 17-6 edge in the third quarter of this game but Matt Ryan had an interception deep in his own territory to get the Eagles back in the game. Philadelphia appeared to add the two-point conversion as well but Carson Wentz was ruled down just short of the line as Atlanta held a five-point lead. Ryan would be intercepted in the end zone on the next possession when a field goal could have put the margin to eight points. After swapping punts Philadelphia delivered a tremendous 13-play drive to burn well over eight minutes to take the lead. Up by one the two-point conversion try loomed large on a spread that was commonly +2 before sliding to +1 and the Eagles hit Zach Ertz to lead by three. Atlanta stalled near midfield facing 4th-and-3 at its own 46 when a short pass to Julio Jones to get past the sticks turned into a 54-yard score. Up four Atlanta’s defense still had a lot of work ahead with the Eagles converting an epic 4th-and-14 for 43 yards and getting a free timeout as an Atlanta player was injured on the play. With still a minute to go, an Eagles score seemed inevitable but the Eagles picked up just two yards in the next three plays and faced 4th-and-8. Wentz hit Ertz again incredibly close to the line but he was ruled just short with that spot holding on review as Atlanta escaped with the win.

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4Q Covers Week 3

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 3

09/15/2018

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the third big weekend of the college football season. Each week there are several teams that cover despite not necessarily deserving it, as well as other teams that played much better than the final score shows.

Wake Forest (-3) 24, North Carolina 18: The Demon Deacons led 21-0 just a few minutes into the second quarter as little went right for the Tar Heels. North Carolina did get a 4th-and-1 stop inside the 10-yard-line to keep the margin at 21 into halftime however. Defense carried the third quarter as there were no points added until North Carolina hit a 49-yard field goal with 41 seconds remaining. After comeback wins in the first two games the Tar Heels made a great run at it again, getting to 21-10 and then 21-18 with about six minutes remaining after going 80 yards in five plays and hitting the two-point conversion. Wake Forest was able to pick up several first downs to exhaust North Carolina’s timeouts but the Deacons kept the game in play by settling for a field goal with a minute to go. North Carolina moved 33 yards before time ran out with officials later admitting one second should have been given to the Heels for a final play after picking up a late first down and getting out of bounds. It would have been a Hail Mary from there but the Tar Heels weren’t given a shot at a miracle finish as Wake Forest held on.

Washington State (-8) 31, Houston 24: Houston kept the prolific Washington State offense in check in the first half with a 14-7 lead at the break as those playing the mid-70s ‘over’ found trouble early with a scoreless first quarter. Washington State scored two touchdowns in the third quarter to get back in front and held Houston to a field goal early in the fourth quarter after a penalty handed off good field position. That four-point edge allowed Washington State to get past the favorite number with the following touchdown drive, leading 28-17 with fewer than seven minutes remaining. Washington State backers got a big break as Houston fumbled on its next offensive play but Washington State only got three points despite reaching 1st-and-goal from the 3-yard-line. A roughing the passer penalty got Houston’s final drive off to a promising start and with just over two minutes remaining a touchdown run from D’Eriq King put Houston within seven, where the final held for the narrow underdog cover.

Kansas State (+7) 31, Mississippi State 24: Kansas State was in control in the first quarter but a costly personal foul penalty allowed Mississippi State to extend a late drive and get to halftime down 17-14 instead of 17-7. The Bulldogs controlled the third quarter and took the lead with a touchdown, sitting even with the closing spread after an early fourth quarter field goal made it 24-17. The kickoff was returned 100 yards by Malik Knowles for a tying score for the Wildcats to shift the momentum back. The defenses held from there until a marginal punt put Kansas State in favorable field position and the Wildcats hit a pair of big passes on the way to the end zone for a seven-point advantage with about five minutes to go. Mississippi State would reach inside the Kansas State 30 on the next drive but went backwards and on 4th-and-16 wound up just a yard short.

Air Force (+3) 30, Colorado 23: The first meeting between these nearby schools featured some big swings as Colorado jumped out to a 10-0 lead and then trailed 20-10 by halftime. Neither team scored in the third quarter and Air Forced extended its lead with a field goal in the fourth while posting a big rushing edge as expected. Colorado would answer about four minutes later but the PAT was blocked as Air Force maintained a seven-point edge. Air Force had a pair of penalties on its next drive and had to punt quickly as Colorado had the ball back with a chance to tie. It took 13 plays but the Buffaloes were able get a touchdown in the final minute and the PAT was good to force overtime. Colorado didn’t keep the momentum long as in overtime Kadin Remsberg went 25 yards for the score on 1st down and Air Force then stopped the Buffaloes for the upset win.

Alabama (-27) 47, South Carolina 23: The box score reveals plenty of concerns for Alabama and South Carolina answered the early punches trailing only 14-10 after the first quarter. Alabama missed a field goal late in the second quarter after being handed good field position as the lead was just 24-10. South Carolina’s chance to truly get back in the game came up empty as in the final seconds before the break the Gamecocks couldn’t get into the end zone after reaching the 1-yard-line, eventually failing going for it on 4th-and-3. Alabama would pull away in the third quarter with a 21-point advantage, one touchdown short of covering the heavy road favorite spread. South Carolina would add a field goal in the fourth but Alabama quickly answered to lead by 24. A promising South Carolina drive ended in a Ryan Hilinski interception and despite limited rushing success the entire game, the Tide eventually worked its way into the end zone, converting on 4th-and-1. That appeared to be the spread-saving score for flocks of Tide backers but Will Muschamp and the Gamecocks had the last laugh, converting a 4th down with 15 seconds to go and hitting the end zone on the next play to narrowly take the underdog cover back.

Army (-14½) 31, Texas San Antonio 13: Army had a 17-7 lead through three quarters but extended the advantage to 24-7 early in the fourth. Following a nice kickoff return, the Roadrunners would add six but not the conversion to climb within the spread down 11. Army intended to run out the clock but they ran out of field and UTSA opted to use its timeouts. Army eventually rushed in from three yards out on 1st down with just over a minute remaining to get past the favorite spread despite being close to the range for taking a knee. UTSA was still a threat to steal the cover back late in the game reaching the Army 21 before an interception.

BYU (+5) 30, USC 27: These teams were knotted at 17-17 at halftime before the scoring went blank in the third quarter. BYU had a fumble and then failed to add points after a long drive trying to go for it on 4th-and-3 inside the 10. A 92-play USC touchdown drive followed to put the Trojans in front but BYU got back within the number with a field goal with about eight minutes remaining. BYU held the USC offense to a 3-and-out and the Cougars answered quickly with a three-play touchdown drive to take the lead. An 11-play USC drive followed but it stalled in deep field goal range. Chase McGrath would hit from 52 to tie the game with just under two minutes remaining. In overtime USC picked up a sack and forced BYU to kick a field goal but USC freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was intercepted to end the game. The overtime points also were enough to push the total ‘over’ for many as BYU ‘under’ backers were burned for a second straight week by the extra-session, though this week’s total did climb to close at 57½ at many outlets for mixed possible results.

Oklahoma State (-12½) 40, Tulsa 21: Tulsa played a great first half to lead 21-20 in a huge home game for the program. That score held in the first 10 minutes of the third quarter before Oklahoma State put two quick touchdowns together, the second coming on a 90-yard pass play as the Cowboys suddenly led by 12. Oklahoma State went for two and came up empty in a critical spread result play heading into the fourth quarter. Tulsa was stopped on downs twice in the fourth quarter including inside the Oklahoma State 10-yard-line. The Cowboys hadn’t been past the favorite spread in the entire game but on 4th-and-1 with just over two minutes remaining Chuba Hubbard rushed for 33 yards to put the Cowboys up 19.

Arkansas (-9½) 55, Colorado State 34: After losing to Colorado State last season, Arkansas was again caught in a tough battle with the Rams, this season at home. Arkansas led 27-24 at halftime and the game was tied 34-34 through three quarters. Big plays followed for Arkansas with a 62-yard pass play for a second touchdown in the fourth quarter that put Arkansas past the favorite spread and a fumble return touchdown led to a lopsided final margin that the Razorbacks didn’t necessarily deserve.

Louisville (-10½) 38, Western Kentucky 21: Louisville quarterback Jawon Pass was a late scratch for this game but Louisville took a commanding 31-7 lead at halftime, helped by a defensive score just before the break. Both teams scored in the third as the 24-point edge held but Western Kentucky found the end zone early in the fourth to sit down 17 and one score away from the underdog cover. The Hilltoppers recovered the onside kick but failed going for it on 4th-and-15 just past midfield. Louisville helped the cause for the Hilltoppers by also going for it on 4th down near midfield instead of punting as Western Kentucky got the ball back in great field position. On the next drive the Hilltoppers reached the Louisville 6-yard-line but couldn’t get in and they also failed near midfield again on a late drive as Louisville held on for the favorite cover in Nashville.

Iowa (-1½) 18, Iowa State 17: This anticipated rivalry game had a nearly three-hour delay early in the game with lightning before the contest lived up to its billing with an exciting finish. Iowa State took a 14-6 lead on just two plays out of halftime after a fumble led to Iowa getting three points just before the break. Iowa added three more in the third quarter and then struck early in the fourth quarter with a seven-play touchdown drive to take the lead. Up one Iowa would miss on a critical two-point conversion try on a spread that was steady at -1½ with brief wavering up to -2 at times. Iowa State responded with a long drive but also settled for just a short field goal to lead by two halfway through the fourth quarter. Iowa again would lean on kicker Keith Duncan who a few minutes later struck from 39 to put the Hawkeyes back in front by one. Iowa State’s final drive was not without drama as Iowa declined an offensive penalty on 3rd-and-13 to force 4th down just outside of field goal range. On the first attempt of that play Iowa was called for clear pass interference but a second unseen flag whistled Iowa State for holding to offset the huge call that would have given the Cyclones a new set of downs. Iowa State was unable to convert the re-do but managed to force Iowa to a punt with the Hawkeyes surprisingly opting to pass on third down and getting out of bounds to keep well over a minute on the clock. On the punt disaster struck with a Cyclones blocker running into the returner with a slight push from an Iowa player on a short kick, ultimately contacting the ball and allowing Iowa to re-gain possession, where they took a knee to seal the narrow win but left the Cyclones with the cover.

Florida (-8½) 29, Kentucky 21: Kentucky snapped a long losing streak in this series last season but they didn’t seem ready to give the series right back to the favored Gators. Sawyer Smith led the Wildcats in his first start to a 14-7 halftime lead with the Gators having two turnovers and a missed field goal in the first half. Florida added a field goal in the third quarter after a long Kentucky drive ended in an interception but the Wildcats put the margin back to two scores quickly with a touchdown. Both teams were stopped on downs on the following possessions and with Kyle Trask replacing an injured Feleipe Franks the Gators had a quick touchdown drive in six plays to climb within five, missing on the two-point conversion. Later in the fourth Smith was intercepted near midfield but an unsportsmanlike penalty after the play pushed Florida into lesser field position. Florida was aided by two 15-yard penalties and managed to score in just four plays, taking a 22-21 lead after again failing going for the two-point conversion. The Wildcats were in position to answer but were seemingly more concerned with burning clock than getting the lead back and they wound up burned as Chance Poore narrowly missed a 35-yard kick for the lead. Looking for a first down to end the game Josh Hammond broke free and raced 76 yards for a touchdown in the final seconds and the extra-point put Florida up by eight to match the common spread on the game ahead of the weekend, though those that jumped on the Gators on Saturday mostly fell just short.

Washington (-22) 52, Hawai’i 20: Hopes for three Pac-12 wins for the Warriors went out the window quickly as Washington raced out to a 38-0 lead before Hawai’i managed a touchdown right before halftime. The Warriors didn’t fold in the second half however netting two touchdowns to climb within 18 and in position to cover the hefty underdog number. Washington would get back in front of the number early in the fourth and then added another score after an interception to seal the win and cover in a bounce back from last week’s loss to Cal.

San Diego State (-17) 31, New Mexico State 10: The Aggies made a late play to cover with 10 points in a five-minute span late in the third quarter after falling behind 24-0. San Diego State scored to get back past the number early in the fourth quarter and on the responding drive New Mexico State couldn’t convert after reaching the Aztecs 17-yard-line. New Mexico State also reached San Diego State territory late in the fourth but on 1st down a fumble handed the ball back to San Diego State.

Clemson (-27½) 41, Syracuse 6: Clemson led just 17-6 at halftime and was short of the favorite spread with a 27-6 edge through three quarters. Trevor Lawrence turned in a fourth-quarter touchdown drive as the Tigers led by 28 to slip by the spread and a late Syracuse threat was turned away in Clemson territory. For good measure Chez Mellusi broke a 57-yard rush in the final minute to pad the final score for the top ranked Tigers.

Virginia (-7) 31, Florida State 24: The Cavaliers were a -7½-point favorite much of the week but that didn’t seem relevant as Florida State led most of this game, up by seven through three quarter and well into the fourth quarter after answering an early fourth quarter tying score from Virginia. The Cavaliers looked set to tie the game with about six minutes to go with an efficient Bryce Perkins drive finding the end zone but a missed PAT left the Seminoles in front by one. The Virginia defense delivered the 3-and-out however and it took just five plays with the help of a penalty for Virginia to find the end zone again. Down five Perkins converted the two-point try and the Cavaliers led by seven to hit the number for some. James Blackman had a chance to deliver the tying score with a personal foul converting a late 4th down incompletion while pass interference added more yards for the Seminoles who received four 15-yard penalties on the drive. Florida State reached the Virginia 4-yard-line scrambling without timeouts and ran a final play that left Cam Akers just short of the end zone.

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Free NCAA Pick Saturday

#161 North Texas +14.5 over California 3:15 PM CT

The win could deserve an asterisk with an over two-hour delay in the late night time slot Saturday but California narrowly edged Washington for a second straight season. Justin Wilcox has never not started 2-0 for California but there has been inconsistency after that but the Bears are now one of only two 2-0 teams in the Pac-12 North and neither is one of three teams that most expected to be in the top half of the group.

Cal has a great defense but like last season, it was a fortunate result vs. the Huskies with the Bears getting turnover help and winning on a late kick despite struggling on offense. Coming off a blowout loss North Texas could present some promise in this matchup as Mason Fine is a proven quarterback and the Bears will host an ESPN game next Friday as the letdown risk is high in Berkeley.

California is on a 22-29-1 ATS run as a favorite since 2009 and the Bears are on a 2-5-1 ATS run in home games since the start of last season, averaging only 18.9 points per game vs. FBS competition at home. North Texas has won S/U in six of the past 10 road games and this will be the second biggest underdog spread for the Mean Green since the start of the 2017 season. North Texas beat Arkansas on the road last season and played competitively at Iowa two years ago as they have been able to play up.

Check out Nelly’s College Football 2/3 featuring a pair of major conference 2* picks today!

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Eliminator Contest Week 1

The 2019 Eliminator Contest is starting this week with an update Thursday and the picks for games September 14-16.

20 national handicappers are in the field led by 2018 champion Weekly Wizard, who wound up 14-6-2 last season for his third Eliminator title!

Check out the field and the Week 1 Contest Selections for FREE, posted every Thursday afternoon.

The Double Plays can be purchased for just $9 each week, or for $50 for the duration of the contest

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4Q Covers Week 2

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 2

09/09/2018

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the second big weekend of the college football season. Each week there are several teams that cover despite not necessarily deserving it, as well as other teams that played much better than the final score shows.

Wake Forest (-20) 41, Rice 21: This Friday night spread eventually hit -20 for the Demon Deacons who were caught in a 14-14 tie after the first quarter. Rice wouldn’t score again until the final two minutes of the game, but that score cut the margin from 27 to 20 to give the Owls a push for many on the closing number.

Boise State (-14) 14, Marshall 7: While the Broncos were never past this spread Friday night as Marshall scored first, they were a serious threat to beat the number in the closing seconds. Boise State had a dominant yardage edge in the game but Marshall had the ball with a chance to tie halfway through the fourth. An interception quickly gave the Broncos the ball back and Boise State led a 15-play drive to run the rest of the remaining clock, with those on the favorite not getting the breakthrough rush they needed with Boise State eventually taking a knee inside the 10-yard-line.

Georgia Tech (-4½) 14, South Florida 10: After a disastrous showing in the opener vs. Wisconsin, South Florida did find the scoreboard first in this game with an early field goal. Georgia Tech would take over from there with two second quarter scores to lead by 11. Both teams had productive drives that came up empty in the third quarter and as Georgia Tech looked to put the game away South Florida picked up an interception to stay in the game. The Bulls slipped within the spread with an early fourth quarter score and appeared poised to take the lead after getting the ball back off another turnover. Facing 3rd-and-goal at the 1-yard-line South Florida fumbled away its chance to go-ahead as the Yellow Jackets got the win but didn’t add points to get past the spread.

Colorado (+4) 34, Nebraska 31: A close call didn’t seem likely for Nebraska is this old Big 8 rivalry with a 17-0 halftime lead. Colorado didn’t score until late in the third quarter but struck again with a 96-yard pass play to climb within three early in the fourth quarter. It was back-and-forth from there with 38 combined fourth quarter points including Colorado tying the game with a 26-yard touchdown pass in the final minute. The Buffaloes went first in overtime and settled for a field goal while Nebraska lost seven yards on a 3rd down sack and wound up missing from 48 for a second straight difficult loss in this series.

Clemson (-14½) 24, Texas A&M 10: The defending national champions didn’t score until nearly 20 minutes into this game but wound up leading by 14 at halftime. The third quarter featured more defense until the Tigers completed a quick 83-yard touchdown drive to lead by 21. Texas A&M had a golden opportunity to score in the fourth quarter but wound up intercepted at the 1-yard-line. It looked like Clemson would add another score to seal the favorite cover but Trevor Lawrence was also picked off near the end zone to halt a productive drive. Down three touchdowns the Aggies only had five minutes to work with but they put together a quality drive and eventually the spread result boiled down to a 4th-and-goal play at the Clemson 2-yard-line with 10 seconds on the clock. Kellen Mond hit Jalen Wydermyer for the score, meaningless to the outcome and the national picture but a huge swing play for many in one of the marquee non-conference games of the season.

Alabama (-55) 62, New Mexico State: A 55-point spread seems outrageous regardless of the competition but Alabama wound up leading 38-0 at the half and had the margin to the 55-point mark through three quarters after answering a New Mexico State touchdown with 17 points in the final four minutes of the third quarter. Both teams had 3-and-out possessions to start the fourth before the Aggies broke through with a few decent gains after starting in good field position and nailed a 43-yard field goal that proved to be the difference in the game.

Wyoming (-7½) 23, Texas State 14: Home underdog Texas State led 14-3 early and dominated the box score in this game. Wyoming managed to climb to within a point in the third quarter and then disaster struck for the Bobcats on a potential scoring drive with interception returned the other way for a 72-yard touchdown, suddenly putting Wyoming in front. Down six the Texas State defense stepped up to hold Wyoming to a 19-yard field goal from 1st-and-goal from the 2-yard-line but that kick put Wyoming past the road favorite spread with about 10 minutes to go. After an exchange of punts Texas State appeared to give itself a shot at the comeback but a field goal was missed with three minutes remaining. Down nine in the final seconds the outcome was set but Texas State would get a final play from the Wyoming 6-yard-line with the spread result on the line but the Cowboys got the stop and turned in a second straight win despite losing badly in total yardage for a second straight week.

BYU (+3½) 29, Tennessee 26: The Volunteers program has had plenty of low moments in the last decade but the start of the 2019 season is certain to join that growing list. The Volunteers led 13-3 at the half, settling for a pair of second quarter field goals. BYU would score in the third but Tennessee still led 16-10 early in the fourth and then 16-13 much later in the game. The game appeared over as BYU was pinned at its own 8-yard-line facing 2nd-and-18 in the final minute but incredibly struck for a 65-yard completion and managed to spike the ball to stop the clock in time to get off and make the tying field goal. The Volunteers would have pushed or lost on most spreads as the real losers in overtime proved to be those on the ‘under’ as both teams scored touchdowns in the first session. Tennessee settled for three in round two and BYU needed only three plays to hand Tennessee a second straight home loss with a stunning comeback win.

Kentucky (-15) 38, Eastern Michigan 17: Kentucky was in control most of the way against Eastern Michigan but led by 14 through three quarters in a game where they had only a 76 yard edge in total production. Early in the fourth Kentucky connected for a 54-yard touchdown pass from Sawyer Smith on his first throw after Terry Wilson was injured on a vicious horse collar tackle. Mark Stoops didn’t forget that play with his offense passing three times on a late Kentucky drive including on 1st down in the final minute when the Wildcats could have taken a knee to end the game. That throw resulted in a spread swinging touchdown, though Stoops is fortunate he didn’t lose another player to a senseless injury on an unnecessary play. Spread result justice was nearly served as Mike Glass drove the Eagles down to the Kentucky 10 in the final seconds but couldn’t connect in the end zone.

North Carolina (+4) 28, Miami, FL 25: The Tar Heels had a hot start with a few big plays to lead 17-3 early but Miami proved to be the stronger squad posting 99 more yards in the game. The Hurricanes went up 25-20 in the fourth quarter but failed on the two-point conversion try. The Miami defense seemed ready to wrap up the game and but North Carolina converted a 4th-and-17 and eventually went ahead with a touchdown with a minute remaining. The two-point conversion put the Heels up three but Miami quickly went down the field as overtime looked likely if not a win in regulation for Miami. The drive stalled and kicker Bubba Baxa had his third missed kick of the day leaving seven points on the field in addition to Miami failing on a 4th-and-1 in the red zone in the third quarter for a tough luck 0-2 start for the Hurricanes.

LSU (-6½) 45, Texas 38: The Saturday night showcase game lived up its billing with an exciting display of offense. Texas trimmed LSU’s lead to 23-21 entering the fourth quarter but it didn’t take long for LSU to climb back up by nine The teams exchanged scores again in quick order before Texas stalled and settled for a field goal to cut the margin to six points with four minutes to go, a significant figure with a spread that hovered near that margin all week. Texas had a chance to get the stop it needed for a shot at the upset but on 3rd-and-17 Joe Burrow hit Justin Jefferson for 61 yards and LSU added the two-point conversion, ending hopes for the underdog with a 14-point margin. Texas would score in the final seconds but the road favorite escaped with the win and cover.

Auburn (-16) 24, Tulane 6: Tulane was a popular underdog with a spread that was as high as +18½ upon its release. Auburn led by eight late in the third quarter before completing a long drive to lead 21-6. The Tigers added a field goal in the fourth quarter before a Tulane opportunity near midfield fell short. Auburn would fumble two plays later to give Green Wave backers a miracle opportunity with the ball at the Auburn 36 but Tulane only advanced a few more yards and again fell short on 4th down.

Texas Tech (-35) 38, UTEP 3: The Red Raiders led 21-0 at halftime and 31-0 through three quarters. Adding a touchdown early in the fourth Texas Tech was past the number at 38-0. UTEP was intercepted on the second play of its next drive but offsides gave the ball back and Miners wound up nearly doubling its game production by getting in position for a shutout-spoiling field goal with about five minutes to go, while also spoiling the big favorite cover for many as well.

Penn State (-31½) 45, Buffalo 13: You’ll do a double-take when pulling up the box score on this game as despite slipping by the heavy favorite spread with a 32-point win, Penn State was out-gained 429-357 and had only 14 first downs. A pick-six in the third quarter put the Lions in front after actually trailing 10-7 at the half while a big punt return aided by a penalty helped Penn State quickly score again to suddenly lead 21-10. Buffalo added a field goal in the third to sit down by eight and seemingly well within a safe range for the underdog cover but Penn State scored two more touchdowns in the final seven minutes of the third and added an early fourth quarter field goal to lead by 25. Buffalo then reached the Penn State 25-yard-line but failed on 4th-and-2 and with three minutes to go and a significant lead James Franklin called back-to-back pass plays, the second of which resulted in a 56-yard touchdown that put Penn State ahead by 32 and was actually the longest scoring drive of the game for the Lions. Buffalo reached the Penn State 35-yard-line on its final possession but again couldn’t convert on 4th-and-short as Bulls backers had a puzzling loss given a nearly 3:1 time of possession edge for the heavy underdog.

Minnesota (-3) 38, Fresno State 35: These teams have had exciting games the past two years with nearly identical results. Minnesota trailed 21-14 through three quarters and still 28-21 as the fourth quarter clock ticked down. On 4th-and-13 Tanner Morgan hit Chris Autman-Bell in the corner of the end zone, and he barely snuck a toe in for the tying score. In overtime Fresno State benefitted from a 3rd down roughing the passer call and found the end zone on the next play but Minnesota needed only three plays to answer. Going first in round two Minnesota had to settle for a field goal to sit even with the common road favorite spread. Jorge Reyna took a shot at the end zone for the win on first down and he was intercepted by Austin Winfield, who sealed last season’s win for the Gophers with an interception in the end zone as well.

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1-Page Stats NCAA Week 1

Check out all of last week’s college football box scores in one-page!

This page is part one of the perks of our weekly Green Sheet newsletter – getting you the data from last week by Monday afternoon in one reference page to jump start your handicapping for the following week.

Check out this week’s 1-Page Stats page featuring all 83 games from last weekend plus the late August openers!

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4th Quarter Covers NCAA 1

4th Quarter Covers – NCAA Week 1

Glancing at the scoreboard won’t tell you the whole story in most games. Here are some of the games that went down to the wire relative to the spread in the fourth quarter last week in the first big college football weekend. Each week there are several teams that cover despite not necessarily deserving it, as well as other teams that played much better than the final score shows.

Cincinnati (-2½) 24, UCLA 14: The Bearcats opened as a 4-point favorite and led by only three through three quarters, struggling to pull away from the Bruins with several missed scoring opportunities. On the first play of the fourth quarter Cincinnati struck for a 21-yard touchdown pass to lead by 10 and then watched UCLA have turnovers on its next two possessions.

Clemson (-36½) 52, Georgia Tech 14: The Tigers did not have trouble in this game but a 35-0 edge wasn’t enough to cover the spread. These teams exchanged touchdowns late in the third quarter and early in the fourth as the 35-point margin held on a spread that was commonly just past that number. With some reserves in the game Clemson added a 51-yard field goal with six minutes remaining for the top ranked Tigers to cover.

Texas A&M (-34) 41, Texas State 7: The Aggies scored twice late in the second quarter to take a commanding 28-0 lead into halftime but only added three points in the third quarter. Early in the fourth Texas A&M pushed past the spread completing a 94-yard touchdown drive and then forced two Texas State punts. The Aggies added another three points to lead 41-0 but Texas State would avoid the shutout, converting several 3rd downs on its way to the end zone in the final minute to spoil the cover for many on a spread that hovered right around 34, with winners and losers on both sides with 33½ and 34½ also common.

Arizona State (-24) 30, Kent State 7: The Sun Devils led 27-0 at halftime and wound up holding Kent State to only 200 total yards in the game. Kent State finally put a scoring drive together late in the game, finding the end zone on a 3rd-and-6 play into the fourth quarter to climb within the underdog spread. Arizona State was poised to answer but the offense stalled near the 20-yard-line and settled for a field goal halfway through the fourth quarter to only lead by 23. That would be the final with three uneventful possessions to finish out the contest.

Michigan State (-23½) 28, Tulsa 7: Everything went right for Michigan State in the second quarter with three turnovers, a safety, and a defensive touchdown to take a 25-0 lead but Tulsa was able to find the end zone just before halftime to trail by only 18. After exchanging punts, a pass interference call gave the Spartans a new set of downs in Tulsa territory but Michigan State had a touchdown called back for holding and had to settle for a field goal to push the margin to 21 points. There was only one first down on either side the rest of the game with a scoreless fourth quarter preserving the underdog cover.

Colorado (-11½) 52, Colorado State 31: The Rams scored early in the fourth quarter to get to within seven, eyeing a comeback upset in this rivalry game. Looking for a stop the defense pushed Colorado back with a holding call but Steven Montez hit several quick strikes to move the Buffaloes into the end zone and back past the favorite spread at 45-31. With about four minutes to go Colorado State fumbled deep in its own territory and Colorado ran it back for a score to put the game away with a 21-point win despite the Rams having more than 500 yards.

Nevada (+11) 34, Purdue 31: The Boilermakers appeared to be in complete control with a 31-14 edge late in the third quarter. Nevada managed a field goal to trim the deficit to 14 but despite battling turnovers Purdue still led by 14 halfway through the fourth quarter before Nevada scored with fewer than seven minutes remaining. Purdue picked up a few first downs but had to punt from midfield and Nevada put together an 87-yard scoring drive to tie the game in the final minute. Elijah Sindelar was intercepted on 2nd down and Nevada ran down the clock and despite getting pushed back with a penalty. The Wolf Pack would win on a 56-yard field goal from walk-on kicker Brandon Talton, while getting a 5-0 turnover edge in the game for the upset.

Ohio State (-27½) 45, Florida Atlantic 21: Those laying the points with Ohio State had to feel good with a 28-0 lead with still nearly seven minutes to go in the first quarter. The Owls managed two field goals in the middle quarters but Ohio State still took a 29-point lead into the final frame. In the fourth quarter Florida Atlantic would put together two long touchdown drives to eventually trim the deficit to just 21 points. Ohio State reached the Florida Atlantic 22-yard-line with a new set of downs in the final minutes but went backwards with a holding call and had to settle for a field goal even with Justin Fields and the first team offense still in the game. Ohio State would get a late interception to get the ball back but simply ran out the clock with backups on the final possession as the Owls snagged an improbable underdog cover.

Kentucky (-9) 38, Toledo 24: This contest smelled like a potential upset spot and an opening line near two touchdowns fell to below double-digits by kickoff. A competitive game was in store with Kentucky leading 24-17 into the fourth quarter before completing a 92-yard touchdown drive finished off with a 40-yard run from Kavosiey Smoke. An interception two plays later from Toledo backup quarterback Carter Bradley doomed the Rockets and a short-field score put the Wildcats up by 21 with just over five minutes to go. Kentucky would fumble to give the ball back to Toledo late in the game and the Rockets added a touchdown with about a minute remaining but didn’t quite reach the underdog spread. However for most that late touchdown pushed the total just ‘over’.

Mississippi State (-18½) 38, UL-Lafayette 28: In New Orleans the heavily favored Bulldogs moved the ball with ease on the ground but didn’t build a big lead with two first half fumbles including a punt return miscue that led to a huge field position swing, while also missing a short field goal. Despite keeping the Ragin’ Cajuns in the game, Mississippi State managed to lead by 21 early in the fourth quarter, even with the common spread that dipped before kickoff with the late announcement of suspensions for the Bulldogs. Louisiana-Lafayette would score two short-field touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the yardage and scoring for the game much more respectable in a sloppy opening contest on both sides.

Memphis (-3½) 15, Mississippi 10: This spread on this game dropped from -6½ down to just -3½ by kickoff and a tight finish was in order even after a 13-0 lead at halftime for Memphis with a missed PAT potentially looming large. Ole Miss had minimal yardage in the game but climbed to within three early in the fourth quarter, getting touchdown after Memphis came up short going for it on 4th-and-1 just across midfield. Ultimately the difference on the scoreboard for many wound up being a safety on a sack with the Rebels pinned back to the two-yard-line, putting the margin from three to five. That was where the final ended up with Memphis being able to take a knee in the final seconds inside the Old Miss 20-yard-line.

Eastern Michigan (-4) 30, Coastal Carolina 23: The spread on this game fell from -6 to just -4 and those numbers were in play late in the game. Coastal Carolina led at halftime but Eastern Michigan took control from there and led 30-20 with about five minutes remaining. The Chanticleers were on the doorstep with 1st-and-goal but didn’t pick up yardage and wound up settling for a 26-yard field goal that was inexplicably missed. The defense forced a quick 3-and-out to get the ball back but again settled for a field goal instead of a spread-spoiling touchdown in the final minute. The Chanticleers actually got the on-side kick but wound up throwing an interception on 1st down.

North Carolina (+11½) 24, South Carolina 20: This spread climbed sharply during the week with an opener of 7½ skyrocketing to close at 11½. South Carolina would lead by 11 heading into the fourth quarter but the Tar Heels would put together two touchdown drives of more than 90 yards in the fourth quarter for a stunning finish. South Carolina would have four more possessions in the game but Jake Bentley was intercepted twice as the Tar Heels hung on to win narrowly despite massive production edges for the game.

Alabama (-33½) 42, Duke 3: Alabama didn’t score in the first quarter and had a modest 14-3 lead at halftime before scoring three touchdowns in the span of only about seven minutes late in the third quarter to pull away. With a 35-3 edge the Tide were just short of the common spreads on the game that reached as high as 34½. Duke had three second half turnovers but Alabama missed a field goal that could have put the margin at 35. Finally Tide backers got the breakthrough they needed as Jerome Ford ran for a 37-yard touchdown to put the favorite in position to cover for the first time with fewer than five minutes remaining. The defense intercepted Quentin Harris for a touchback in the final minute as Duke couldn’t get back within the number.

Stanford (-6½) 17, Northwestern 7: Stanford led 10-0 at halftime but would lose quarterback K.J. Costello. Northwestern appeared poised to score to start the second half but wound up fumbling at the Stanford 5-yard-line The Cardinal would give the ball back a few plays later but ultimately no points were added as Northwestern missed a field goal. Later in the third the roles reversed with a Northwestern interception and then Stanford missing a 29-yard kick. The Wildcats would convert a 4th down in the red zone and eventually added a touchdown to trail 10-7 and then got the ball back after a Stanford fumble. Punts followed and on a late desperation possession a strip sack led to a Stanford touchdown as the Cardinal escaped with the win and cover.

Syracuse (-19½) 24, Liberty 0: The Liberty defense did its job allowing just 17 points through three quarters vs. Syracuse and two of those drives were very short drives off good field position. The Flames wound up with four turnovers on offense however plus a missed field goal. Early in the fourth the quarter the Orange put together its best offensive drive of the game to take a 24-0 edge and the Flames botched two late opportunities to add points, failing going for it on 4th down once and then later fumbling near the red zone.

Boise State (+7) 36, Florida State 31: Boise State wound up playing a true road game to start the season and fell behind 24-6 early in the second quarter. By halftime the Broncos were able to get within 12 and in the second half the defense stepped up while freshman Hank Bachmeier made a name for himself. The second half started with five straight punts and then an exchange of fumbles before the Broncos got back within the spread late in the third quarter, down by five on a spread that was as low as -3½ in Jacksonville but climbed quickly to -6½ with the move to Tallahassee. Early in the fourth the Broncos again delivered an efficient touchdown drive to take the lead and the FSU offense remained quiet. Boise State would settle for a short field goal halfway through the fourth quarter to lead by six but then held Florida State to negative yards on the next drive and then in a final desperation possession the Seminoles went backwards with a holding penalty and ultimately fell short faced with a 4th-and-long.

SMU (+1) 37, Arkansas State 30: This contest featured some big momentum swings as an early Arkansas State lead disappeared by halftime and then back-to-back touchdowns put the Red Wolves up by seven halfway through the third quarter. A 98-yard kickoff return touchdown followed to shift the momentum back to the Mustangs who would add two more touchdowns to lead by 14 in the fourth quarter. Arkansas State scored with six minutes to go to get back within one score and overtime looked possible with a new set of downs on the SMU 25-yard-line in the final seconds. Ultimately a fourth-down sack ended the game for a narrow SMU win.

Iowa (-25½) 38, Miami, OH 14: Iowa led only 10-7 at halftime but took control in the third quarter with a pair of touchdowns to lead by 17 on a spread that climbed steadily from -21½ to -25½. Led by Brett Gabbert, Miami was able to get what appeared to be a spread-saving touchdown in the fourth quarter to put the margin at only 10 points. Iowa wound go for the touchdown on 4th down near the end zone and succeed to lead by 17 with about six minutes left. On its next offensive snap Miami threw an interception and a few plays later Iowa was back in the end zone and suddenly up by 24 to earn the favorite cover for most though shortly before kickoff the spread climbed further for the closing line of 25½ that calls Miami a winner.

Georgia (-22½) 30, Vanderbilt 6: Georgia commanded a lot of attention as a heavy road favorite in this SEC opener but a pair of field goals before halftime kept the Commodores in play. The Bulldogs added only three points in the entire third quarter to lead by just 18 and then fumbled in Vanderbilt territory early in the fourth quarter. The Commodores didn’t take advantage but managed to stay in position to cover by holding Georgia to another field goal. Near midfield Riley Neal fumbled to thwart a potential scoring chance for Vanderbilt and Georgia again kicked for three, this time to move pas the favorite spread with just over two minutes remaining. With Deuce Wallace at quarterback Vanderbilt was a threat to score late but from the Georgia 18-yard line four consecutive incomplete passes ended that chance.

Auburn (-4) 27, Oregon 21: In the showcase game Saturday night the first half featured missed field goals and turnovers on both sides as Oregon led 14-6. The Ducks used a strong punt return for good field position to set-up a touchdown drive to lead 21-6 early in the third quarter. Auburn would control the game from there with the Ducks punting three straight times while Auburn scored two touchdowns, to close to within one point down 21-20. Oregon wound up just across midfield with over five minutes remaining before getting a big scare with Justin Herbert injured. He had to sit out on a critical 4th-and-short play that was stuffed by Auburn. The Tigers went 3-and-out from there but the defense held to get the ball back with just over two minutes to go in good field position. Bo Nix scrambled to narrowly convert a 4th down and Auburn reached field goal range in the final seconds. Opting to take one shot down the field Nix hit Seth Williams just outside the end zone and he gathered the ball and dove in for the go-ahead score on both the scoreboard and the pointspread. Oregon did get a favorable Hail Mary position from past midfield but Herbert threw over the end zone for stunning collapse for the Ducks.

USC (-14) 31, Fresno State 23: The Bulldogs hung right with the Trojans on the scoreboard and the box score, trailing by just four after a field goal halfway through the third quarter. Their kickoff was returned 100 yards for a touchdown however and USC would add another quick touchdown later in the third quarter to suddenly lead by 18. While USC backup quarterback Kedon Slovis started hot, he threw a late third quarter interception taking a deep shot and Fresno State was able to go 80 yards for a field goal to trim the margin to 15 points, not quite enough on a spread that climbed substantially from the opening price. Fresno State’s defense held again and on the next drive the Bulldogs were within one score after a touchdown with about seven minutes to go. The overtime threat lingered after Fresno State converted a 4th down near midfield but on the next play Jorge Reyna was intercepted in the end zone as USC held on.

Oklahoma (-22) 49, Houston 31: Jalen Hurts certainly had a great Oklahoma debut and could very well continue the Heisman run for Sooners quarterbacks if he keeps up the pace. Oklahoma led by 25 through three quarters but Houston would get its offense going in the fourth quarter, ultimately getting nearly half of its game production in the final frame with two touchdowns bringing the margin briefly to only 11 points. Oklahoma ended any thoughts of a miracle comeback with a short-field score after Houston wasn’t able to bring in the on-side kick but the final 18-point margin kept the underdog cover in place.

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Thursday NCAA Football

Thursday Night College Football Opening Night

08/27/2019

While college football had a brief preview last Saturday with two compelling and competitive games, the season opens more officially Thursday night with six games scheduled. Here is a look at the two ESPN contests with a pair of closely-lined battles in rematches of tight games last season.

Match-up: UCLA Bruins at Cincinnati Bearcats

Venue: At Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, Ohio

Time/TV: Thursday, Aug. 29, 7:00 PM ET, ESPN

Line: Cincinnati -3, Over/Under 60½

Last Meeting: 2018, Cincinnati (+14) 26, at UCLA 17

The highly anticipated return of Chip Kelly to the college football sidelines was spoiled on the opening college football weekend last season by the Cincinnati Bearcats. UCLA had a promising start in the game taking advantage of good field position to lead 10-0 in the first quarter but by halftime Cincinnati was up 17-10. The game was tied into the fourth quarter before a forced fumble resulted in a safety and Cincinnati would put the game away for one of the biggest upsets of the first week of the 2018 season.

UCLA started Michigan transfer Wilton Speight in that game but he was injured and freshman Dorian Thompson-Robinson took over. He wound up playing the bulk of the snaps in the next five games for the Bruins before losing playing time late in the season to Speight, who has been in 49ers camp this August. Thompson-Robinson is the expected starter for UCLA this season and he will look to improve on marginal passing numbers with a 58 percent completion rate last season for only seven touchdowns. He also managed only a net gain of 68 yards on the ground last season despite Kelly being known for using quarterbacks in the running game as well.

The final record for UCLA last season was 3-9 but the Bruins did win three Pac-12 games including beating rival USC in November. They also were very competitive in three other single-score losses in league play including a seven-point loss to eventual Pac-12 champion Washington. UCLA will again play an extremely difficult non-conference schedule this season after losing to three teams that combined to win 35 games last season but this year’s Pac-12 draw is more favorable with Oregon and Washington absent from the North.

In Luke Fickell’s second season with Cincinnati the Bearcats improved from 4-8 to 11-2 including a bowl win over Virginia Tech. One of Cincinnati’s losses came in overtime but in the big late season showdown with UCF they were blown out with a 38-13 result to fall short in the difficult AAC East race. This year’s schedule will be much more challenging even if the Bearcats can make a case for being an even better team. Cincinnati will draw Ohio State in non-conference action next week in Columbus while they must play Memphis and Houston from the AAC West, teams they did not have to play last season.

Long-time Cincinnati starting quarterback Hayden Moore did start last season’s game with UCLA but was replaced early in the game after taking two sacks in five plays including a fumble that handed the Bruins the early advantage. Desmond Ridder took over to lead the win for the Bearcats and played substantially the rest of the season as the team’s main quarterback, winding up with 20 touchdowns and only five interceptions as well as rushing for more than 500 yards.

Cincinnati’s success last season in conference play came due to its defense which allowed an AAC best 139 points in eight games for an average of just over 17 points. That average was just over 14 points per game allowed against the teams other than UCF, and that even includes two overtime contests. In great contrast UCLA allowed more than 34 points per game last season, albeit through one of the nation’s most difficult schedules. The 26 points allowed in the loss to Cincinnati was technically the second best defensive scoring game of the season for UCLA.

In last year’s game UCLA posted 4.6 yards per rush and had a stronger yards per pass average compared with Cincinnati, finishing the game with two more yards in the box score overall. The turnovers were even and the penalty count was close as well but field position wound up being critical with each team having two short scoring drives of 36 yards or fewer.

Cincinnati can survive a loss next week to remain in the conversation for the top Group of 5 team bid but they need to win this game and maintain a run of 17 straight S/U wins in the season home opener. For a UCLA program looking to improve in stature this will be a big win to elevate its postseason prospects and improve on a 2-15 S/U record on the road the past three seasons.

Match-up: Utah Utes at BYU Cougars

Venue: At LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo, Utah 

Time/TV: Thursday, Aug. 29, 10:15 PM ET, ESPN

Line: Utah -5, Over/Under 48

Last Meeting: 2018, at Utah (-10½) 35, BYU 27

Utah has been consistently successful under Kyle Whittingham who is the longest tenured coach in the Pac-12, even though Utah has only been in the Pac-12 since 2011. His career record is 120-61 and the Utes have had five straight winning seasons, while winning the Pac-12 south for the first time last year. The expectations continue to grow for the program in a potentially wide-open race out west with the Utes opening the season in the top 15 of the polls.

Utah closed the regular season with BYU last November and managed to erase a 20-0 deficit to come back and win. It is worth noting that the Utes clinched the Pac-12 South the prior week and had their first appearance in the Pac-12 championship six days following this rivalry game and that perhaps showed in the slow start. The final score was misleading as BYU had a 357-296 yardage edge and Utah added a late touchdown after BYU fell a yard short of converting a 4th down on its own side of the field. Utah had a field goal blocked but also had a pick-6 that cut into the 20-0 deficit to start the game.

The other caveat is that Jason Shelley started the game for Utah at quarterback as a freshman that had played in only two prior games as Utah was without Tyler Huntley as well as last year’s top running back Zack Moss for the game. Huntley had produced very solid numbers the past two seasons and is healthy and one of the top returning leaders in the conference, and Moss is also back as the lead back on the team. Top receiver Britain Covey also appears cleared to play for the Utes after recovering from knee surgery.

BYU had some ups-and-downs last season with a 3-1 start that included wins at Arizona and then at Wisconsin. BYU was blown out in the next two games and wound up losing four of the next five before sneaking into the bowl picture at 6-6, where they soundly defeated Western Michigan. The Tanner Mangum era at BYU is over as despite some nice moments the long-time starter was a consistent turnover risk. Zach Wilson took over midseason as a freshman last season and wound up with good numbers, albeit mostly facing some of the lesser teams on the season schedule.

Playing as an independent BYU’s opportunities against major conference teams come early in the season and they have a heavyweight path in the first half of the season facing Utah, Tennessee, USC, and Washington in the first four games, though three of those games will be in Provo. Add in contests vs. Toledo, South Florida, Boise State, and Utah State in the next block of the schedule and getting back to .500 is far from a given for this team in the fourth season for Kitani Sitake, who is 20-19 in his career.

BYU outscored foes 354-278 last season but the unbalanced scheduled meant a few blowouts. This contest carries great weight as a long-time rivalry with this year’s game actually the 100th all-time meeting between these nearby schools. Utah owns a substantial edge in that ledger including eight consecutive wins with the last BYU victory coming in 2009. Each of the past six Utah wins has come by eight or fewer points as a close game has been the norm in recent years.  

The stakes are high in this year’s ‘Holy War’ as BYU seems likely to be dogged each of the next three weeks as a 0-4 start is certainly possible. For Utah a chance to breakthrough on a national level this season seems attainable with this game being one of three most dangerous road games on the season. The Pac-12 draw misses both Stanford and Oregon for a preferable path as a double-digit win season is realistic and running the table isn’t out of the question for an experienced group if they can first get by their historical rival.

Other Games Thursday

Georgia Tech at Clemson: Clemson will open up its defense of last season’s national title in a game that many won’t be able to see with the launch of the ACC Network with few active providers carrying the new channel. The spread doesn’t suggest a compelling game in the debut for Geoff Collins leading Georgia Tech but Clemson did lose to the Yellow Jackets in 2014 and the past two regular season defeats for the program were unassuming contests in which the Tigers were at least three-TD favorites.

Florida International at Tulane: The Panthers won as a double-digit underdog hosting this matchup two years ago and this closely-lined contest will be an important win for the victor in a battle of a pair of programs potentially headed to the bowl bubble by season’s end. Both teams have difficult non-conference games ahead as this will be a big swing game for teams looking to take another step forward.

Texas State at Texas A&M: Jake Spavital is the new Texas State head coach and he was an assistant at Texas A&M for three seasons under Kevin Sumlin. The Bobcats project as one of the teams at the bottom of the FBS rankings but this was a fairly competitive team with several narrow losses last season. Texas A&M will likely have few games like this taking on one of the nation’s toughest schedules in year two for Jimbo Fisher.

Kent State at Arizona State: True freshman quarterback Jayden Daniels will be worth watching as the new starter for Arizona State, a program that should remain in the Pac-12 South mix in year two under Herm Edwards. Kent State played up-tempo last season for Sean Lewis and brings back a lot of experience following a tough 2-10 campaign that did feature great strides offensively compared with the 2017 numbers.

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Free Pick Thursday

1st Half: #139 Texas State +20.5 over Texas A&M 7:30 PM CT

Jimbo Fisher will be looking to get to 1-0 without a major exertion this week knowing that a season-making game with Clemson is on deck. Texas State was 3-9 in 2018 but actually only allowed six first quarter offensive touchdowns all season. This the most experienced team in the Sun Belt and Jake Spatival will bring a more aggressive approach to the offense, going back to a campus where he was an assistant for three years earlier in his career.

Expect the potential for a big play or two from the Bobcats early in this contest while Texas A&M will hope to offer conventional looks and play-calling to leave the top ranked Tigers will little meaningful film to dissect this week. The halftime spread priced just below the three touchdown threshold is certainly intentional and presumably enticing for many in a matchup where the Bobcats aren’t likely to draw a lot of support.

While at Florida State Jimbo Fisher beat Texas State 59-16 to open the 2015 season but it was only 21-10 at halftime and Fisher is just 2-4 ATS in home openers the past six years with last year’s win coming against FCS competition.

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Nelly’s 2019 Football Annual

Take a look at this year’s 2019 College and Pro Football Annual with predictions for the 2019-20 football season. This booklet features some summer predictions on conference and division finishes while also offering our weekly college football Pointspread Preview selections.

This is our 30th football season and the Annual provides a jump start to the Green Sheet and Phone Service seasons allowing us to put some of our off-season research into pre-season predictions, even if some of those predictions will need some adjustments by the time the season actually starts. Take a look at this year’s Annual by clicking the below link:

Nelly’s 2019 Football Annual – CLICK HERE

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