Marshall at W. Kentucky (-11) Noon ET FS1
Each of these teams enters with great momentum at 9-2 SU for the season, as they vie for the CUSA East Title and the right to participate in the Championship game next week. Plenty of motivation for Marshall, who well remembers the (67-66) loss in this game last year, as 23 point home favorite. It ruined the Herd’s perfect season, yet motivated them toward the Conference Title and a Bowl victory. That, however, was with veteran QB Cato at the controls. This year, the emphasis has switched to the defensive side of the ball. Marshall is among the nation’s leaders allowing just 16 PPG and no more than 184 either running or passing. As such, it will be a battle of their defense vs. the Hilltoppers’ offense, led by explosive QB Doughty. The Toppers average 44 PPG with Doughty leading a passing game that averages 360/9.5. Last week, they warmed up with a (63-7) rout of FIU in which they won the yardage battle 477-168. Sixth year Marshall HC Holliday has been a quality revenger, winning his last 6 times in that role. As well, his Herd has been one of the best travelers in the nation, winning 14 of their most recent 17 games on the road. In a battle of offense vs. defense, we will side with the double digit defensive dog as avenger in the battle for the CUSA East title.
Iowa (-1) at Nebraska 3:30 ET ABC
At first glance, one could consider that the mental edge is with Nebraska in this one. Four weeks ago, they stood at 3-6 SU with their season on the precipice of disaster. But, a miracle win over Michigan St. and a pounding of Rutgers, plus an extra week of rest makes this the all-important game for the 6th victory and Bowl invitation. It will not come easily against today’s opponent. In fact, it will not come at all! Iowa has its own motivation, as well as the strong fundamentals to back up this pick. Some may consider this a throw-away game for the Hawkeyes, as they look forward to the Big 10 Championship game next week. But, at 11-0 SU and vying for a spot in the Final Four, they can clearly not afford that luxury. History says there is even greater mental advantage for the Hawkeyes in this game and the fundamentals back it up. Veteran Iowa HC Ferentz has been at his best in this role. It is precipitated by his loss last season to these Cornhuskers by a (37-34) count in Iowa City. But, Ferentz is 15-3 SU with revenge for a home loss, including 7-0 SU recently. In addition, his Hawkeyes have been outstanding in this role, covering 10 straight times, including 3-0 ATS this year in the role of road chalk. If you are looking for further motivation, consider the fact that with victories this week and next, Iowa is almost assuredly in the Final Four. Hawkeyes are a blue collar offense, running and passing for more than 208 YPG. But, their real calling card is a Super D that allows just 19/323 on just 4.8 YP play. That’s far more reliable than the 28/415 stop unit of the host. In a win situation, the far steadier Hawkeyes with the better defense get the victory!
W. Michigan at Toledo (-8) Noon ET CBC TV
With the NIU loss on Tuesday night to Ohio, it paves the way for the Rockets to play in the championship game next week against cross-town rival, Bowling Green. That is clearly a “with need, you bleed” scenario and sets W. Michigan up in the role of spoiler. But, the fundamentals are so great in this game that we can only back the Toledo side. With QB Ely and RBs Hunt and Swanson, the Rockets have a balanced explosive offense. That is nearly matched by QB Terrell and the Broncos. But while the OL line was gelling for Toledo, the defense was holding the fort. It has now improved by 10 PPG from last season’s allowance of 30 PPG. Such cannot be said for W. Michigan, whose defense has been torched by the quality teams they have faced. Consider allowances of 37 PPG, including 264/6.3 overland against the quality teams they faced. This includes allowing 37 to Michigan St., 43 to GA Southern, 38 to Ohio St., 39 to C. Michigan and 41 to Bowling Green. Huge edge to the Rockets on the defensive side of the ball keys this victory! IF, THEY DON’T CHOKE!
Missouri at Arkansas (-14) 2:30 ET CBS
Looking for a double-digit defensive dog with need? Look no further than the Missouri Tiger, who at 5-6 SU needs this victory for a Bowl invite for retiring HC Pinkel. With a Super D allowing just 15/301, it would seem like an automatic winner. But, the Tigers’ offense at 15/291 is so pathetic that they have no shot should they fall behind in this game. That could well happen against a highly motivated Arkansas team who has double motivation in the form of (21-14) loss at Missouri last season, as well as the motivation of last week’s (51-50) home field OT loss to Mississippi St. This year’s version of the Hogs is a far more balanced explosive offensive unit, averaging 36/470. Should they be motivated enough to sprint to an early lead, there is little hope for Missouri to answer.
Tulsa (-7) at Tulane 8:00 ET ESPNU
This is not always a good recipe for pointspread success. Here we have a “with need, you bleed” team vying for the 6th win of the season, but sporting a 39/532 defense. Sounds like a bad combination, until you consider that they are fighting the towel-tossing Tulane Green Wave, who has been inundated in this series by a 9-1 SU ATS count. Evidence of Tulane’s towel-tossing came in their (49-21) loss last week to lowly SMU, when they allowed the Ponies to prance for 324 yards overland. Could turn out to be a super-surger vs. towel-tosser, rather than Tulsa needing and bleeding!