Week 1 Predictions w/Analysis
EARLY LOOKS - WEEK 1 -
*All lines & odds current at Pinnacle Sports as of Sunday, 8/28/05 at 5:20pm PST.
Vanderbilt +9.5 (+101) at Wake Forest - 4:00pm Pacific - Thursday, September 1st
The offseason death of RB Kwame Doster gives Vanderbilt an overlooked motivational advantage. The team will set up a locker before every game and wear #1 with “DOT” on their helmets to honor the would be senior. QB Jay Cutler is said to have turned down the NFL and return to school due in part to the tragedy. Cutler will be a 4th year starter and was named 1st team SEC in the preseason. He will again lead an offense that started to come on late last season averaging 388 yards per game in final 3 outings. Cutler’s primary target will be senior WR Erik Davis who was Doster’s ex-roommate. The VU defense returns 6 starters, and 3 others who made 20 or more stops last year. They are said to be faster with much improved depth this year. Despite a 2-9 record, Vandy actually led 8 of their 11 games at halftime last year and were robbed of two wins by bad officiating. Wake all-conference RB Chris Barclay has been suspended for this game making the Deacons running game much less dangerous. Wake will also be without both of their starting CB’s due to suspension and injury. Freshman have been battling for the two open jobs. Wake could be looking ahead to a big game at Nebraska in week 2. The Deacons are just 4-7-1 ATS vs non-conference foes overall and 3-9-1 ATS as a home favorite under Grobe.
Early Look: Vanderbilt +9.5 (+101) 1/2 UNIT (You can also buy to +10 at -107 currently at Pinnacle)
Rutgers +1.5 (-105) at Illinois - 9:00am Pacific - Saturday, September 3
Rutgers finished 4-7 last year but easily could have won 2 to 3 more games with some better luck. This year they return their deepest, most experienced, and most talented team ever under head coach Schiano. They have 17 starters back and the lineup consists of all but three upperclassmen. It is a make or break season for Schiano and even though this is only the first game of the season, many already consider it a make or break game for Rutgers. QB Ryan Hart has three years of starting experience and the surrounding skill positions can compete with any team in the Big East. Returning FB Brian Leonard and WR Tres Moses both were named 1st team all conference last year. Defensively, Schiano takes full responsibility naming himself the defensive coordinator, the same position he successfully held at Miami, Fla before coming here. He has 8 starters back and 3 others who made 25 tackles or more last year to work with. Illinois only beat two I-A schools last year, Western Michigan (1-10) by 3, and Indiana (3-8) by 4 thanks largely in part to +2 turnovers. Both games were played in Champaign. First year coach Ron Zook really has his work cut out and it did not help that their most experienced returning QB Brad Bowen left school before spring practice began. Rutgers is 12-5-1 ATS as a dog (6-3 ATS as a road dog) the past two seasons winning 5 of 9 outright as a dog of less than 7.
Early Look: Rutgers +1.5 (-105) 1/2 UNIT
Air Force +2.5 (+100) vs Washington - 12:30pm Pacific - Seattle, WA
The Falcons return 13 starters from last year, a huge number for a service academy. Only once in the past 15 years have they had as many. The offensive line returns fully in tact and talented sophomore QB Shaun Carney returns after becoming the first true freshman ever to start a season opener at Air Force last year. They also return 6 starters on defense but more notably have 10 players back who made 25 tackles or more last year. An example of the upgrade in talent on defense is that last years leading tackler Mark Carlson has been moved to a reserve role to start the season. Washington was horrendous on both sides of the ball last year and will be learning new schemes from an entirely new coaching staff. Even with 19 starters back they have a long ways to go. As of this writing a starting QB had not yet been named and that is just one of many question marks surrounding the Huskies. Ticket sales have reportedly been disappointing. It is expected to be the smallest Seattle crowd to see the Huskies in over 25 years. Their will be several armed forces related festivities before the game which will give the Falcons their own share of fans. Air Force is a difficult team to prepare for under normal circumstances and this may turn out to be the best Falcon squad since 1998. This line appears to be heading up to +3 so it may be a good idea to take a “wait and see” approach.
Early Look: Air Force +2.5 (+100) 1/2 UNIT
Boise State at Georgia -7 (-108) - 2:30pm Pacific - Saturday, September 3
Despite losing some great individual talent from last year, Georgia returns 15 starters and is VERY experienced with 20 of 22 starters being upperclassmen. I like the fact that expectations are a bit lower than in past years. The team does not have as much pressure and may be playing with a chip on their shoulders. Senior QB D.J. Shockley is a talented dual threat who now gets his long awaited opportunity to start. The Bulldog offensive line returns all 5 starters and will be one of the best in the country. The running back position is deep. The UGA defense has held opponents at 16.5ppg or less in each of the last 3 years and with 8 starters back will be in fine shape again. Boise State is only 7-7-1 ATS in non-conference play compared to 22-10 ATS in WAC play under Hawkins. Last year they did not play a single non-conference away game. Even in conference they were tested at Tulsa in a 3 point win and at SJSU in double OT finishing 1-3 ATS in road games. Boise gave up a whopping 6.6ypc in bowl game vs Louisville. From that defense they have lost two 1st team WAC players in LB Andy Avalos (led team in tackles last 3 years) and CB Gabe Franklin (top cover corner). Georgia has dominated teams that they could run well against in recent years. Don’t expect this line to stay at -7 for long.
Early Look: Georgia -7 (-108) 1/2 UNIT
Florida Atlantic at Kansas -22.5 (-105) - 4:00pm Pacific - Saturday, September 3
KU head coach Mark Mangino enters his 4th season and calls this the best team he has had here. All of the key ingredients from last years squad return including two experienced QB’s and a defense that should be one of the best in the Big 12 this year. They return 8 starters including 2 1st team Big 12 selections from a unit that allowed just 21.4ppg last year. The defense really showed flashes of greatness and this year features an all upperclassmen starting lineup. They will be especially tough to move the ball on in home opener night game setting. FAU is an ideal go against team early on. They are clearly in a rebuilding phase with only 3 returning starters on offense and 5 on defense. They are undersized, inexperienced, and out of their league. They will be playing their first ever BCS conference opponent. The Owls may also be looking ahead to next week when they host Oklahoma State in what will be their biggest home game ever. Missing valuable practice time due to Hurricane Katrina has not helped their preparation. Kansas faithful are more excited for this season than they have been in years. KU put up 63 on Toledo in non-conference game last season and Mangino has been preaching the need to “finish” games throughout fall drills which makes a blowout score even more likely. Get this one before it hits the next key number at -24.
Early Look: Kansas -22.5 (-105) 1/2 UNIT
West Virginia at Syracuse - UNDER 46 (-102) - 10:30am - Sunday, September 4
The Orange bring in new head coach Greg Robinson who was DC last year at Texas. Naturally, he is a defensive minded coach. One of his first moves was switching Steve Gregory, the teams leading returning WR back to his original position of CB where Gregory excelled in his first two seasons. That leaves the team without its top 3 receivers from last year and with two QB’s who both threw more interceptions than touchdowns last year. Meanwhile, they will be adapting from a run oriented scheme to a new west coast style offense. They will have their work cut out. Defensively, SU looks to be in good shape. They have 9 starters back plus Gregory back at CB and the new defensive schemes can only help. WVU’s offense will have a similar tough task here in the opener. They only return 3 offensive starters and will be breaking in new faces at every single starting skill position (QB, RB, WR’s) for an opener at the Carrier Dome. WVU ran the ball 49 times a game last year and could easily top that number here regardless if they have success with it or not. This will ensure continuous clock movement. Defensively, WVU only returns 5 starters, but 8 returnees made 20 stops or more and they expect to be in decent shape. Look for both offenses to struggle and both coaches to play conservatively. Last years meeting here resulted in a 27-6 final. Points will again be at a premium.
Early Look: UNDER 46 (-102) 1/2 UNIT
UNLV at New Mexico - OVER 45.5 (-105) - Monday, September 5 - 10:00am Pacific
Former Utah OC Mike Sanford takes over at UNLV and is installing his version of the spread offense. Lots of shotgun formations and throwing the ball to all parts of the field have been promised. UNLV should see better QB play with junior Shane Steichen getting 7 valuable starts last year. Former starters WR Kirkland and TE Estandia are back in the mix after missing all of last season with injuries. Estandia is a real stud who should be drafted in the early rounds and is a matchup nightmare for defenders. Big things are expected from speedy 5-6 RB Jackson who fits the scheme well. Defensively, UNLV returns just 3 starters from a unit that gave up 32.5ppg. Coaches say this will not be a bend but don’t break defense. They plan to be aggressive which could lead to many big plays in the early going. By all indications Lobo star senior RB Moore (recovering from offseason knee injury, has participated in fall practices with limited contact) will see plenty of action in the opener. New Mexico returns 8 starters on offense overall including dual threat QB McKamey and Biletnikoff Award nominee WR Hank Baskett. Defensively, UNM must replace 6 of their top 8 tacklers including 3 all-conference players. I look for both offenses to carry their respective teams early on. Last years meeting reached only 44 points, but UNLV turned the ball over 6 times. Expect a higher scoring game this year.
Early Look: OVER 45.5 (-105) 1/2 UNIT