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joe gavazzi

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 2014

Baylor (-35) at SMU 7:00 ET ESPN

The Baylor Bears visit the SMU Mustangs for the opening game of the 2015 CFB campaign for each team. All eyes will be on Top 5 Baylor with the ESPN cameras whirring. I don’t know about you, but I have had just about enough of the talking heads espousing the excellence of Baylor, both in the years gone by and their projections for this upcoming football season. There is no question that the Bears have been a team on the rise. Under 8th year HC Art Briles, the Bears have reached the pinnacle of the CFB world with Bowl appearances in each of the previous 5 seasons. In the last 2 years alone, the Bears are 22-4 SU, while in the last 4 years, Baylor has a combined record of 32-16 ATS. But, what goes up in college football … must come down! With numbers approaching the stratosphere, look for the overrated Bears to disappoint their backers once mid-October rolls around. With an easy schedule the first 2 months, the Bears are clearly favored to be 7-0 SU, as they enter a brutal November stretch.

What makes the Bears such an exciting team is their high-powered offense. After scoring 52 PPG in 2013 on an average of 619 YPG, Baylor was expected to regress. But last year’s number of 48 PPG on 581 YPG means they barely skipped a beat. In the last 4 seasons, they have run for at least 215 YPG and passed for at least 340 YPG. With 9 RS to the offensive side of the ball, look for the Bears to again be an offensive juggernaut. But, that is not all this team is about. For, this is a vastly improved defensive team over the 2012 edition. In the last 2 seasons, Baylor has allowed a combined 24 PPG and just 371 YPG. Those are impressive numbers when you consider the offensive output.

Last year, SMU took 33 points from Baylor in Waco and got smacked 45-0! The game was every bit as bad as the final score with the yardage in favor of Baylor 574-67. The bully role has been one that has been good to Bear backers, as under HC Briles, the Bears are recently 8-1 ATS L2Y, when laying 30 or more points (conversely, SMU has faltered in this role with a record of 1-5 ATS as home dog last year, failing 58-6 to A&M, 56-0 to TCU, 41-3 to Cincinnati, 48-10 to Memphis and 35-9 to Houston). As good as Baylor was last year is as bad as SMU was in 2014. It was so bad that 7th year HC June Jones quit in the 2nd week of the season. The Ponies were embarrassed going 1-11 SU (beat UConn the last week of the season), being outscored 41-11 and outgained 499-269. In an effort to turnaround the program, SMU has hired former Clemson OC, Chad Morris, an offensive guru. This is about a large of a discrepancy as any you will see in an opening CFB game. And, I have learned over the years that “when it looks this easy … you had better look the other way.”

Ponies prance, at the price, of course.

Michigan St. (-18) at W. Michigan 7:00 ET ESPNU

Michigan St. visits in-state rival W. Michigan in the opening game of the 2015 CFB season for each team. When these teams met in the opening week of the 2013 season, Michigan St. prevailed 26-13 as a 27 point home favorite. Including that victory, Michigan St. has gone on to compile a record of 24-3 SU, 17-8 ATS L2Y. Once again this season, with 7 starters returning to each side of the ball, the Spartans are again expected to be among the cream of the crop this CFB season. But, with their thrilling 42-41 Bowl victory against Baylor to close the 2014 season (4thBowl win in a row) and with a look ahead next week to revenge for one of only 2 losses last year vs. Oregon, this has sandwich spot written all over it for Sparty. In years gone by, the defense has carried this team. The 2013 team allowed just 13 PPG on 252 YPG. Even last year’s allowance of 21/316 was impressive, considering they outscored opponents by 22 PPG, while outgaining them by 185 YPG. But, there are big changes on the Michigan St. sideline. Gone is long-time DC Narduzzi, who is now the HC at Pitt. This will be the first game for HC Dantonio without Narduzzi on his coaching staff. In his stead, is Mark Snyder, the former DC at Texas A&M. But, remember that is a Texas A&M defense which allowed an average of 30 PPG and 463 YPG in the previous 2 seasons combined. Narduzzi, he is not! There is no doubt that the Spartans are an experienced team with a 200 Club offense and an outstanding defensive pedigree. But, are they ready for this road game in this spot?

That brings us to a W. Michigan team, who is one of the most experienced in the land with 16 RS. Along with back to back Top Rated MAC recruiting classes, this team has learned how to “row the boat,” their motto under 3rd year HC PJ Fleck. After going 1-11 SU in 2013, the Broncos had one of the biggest turnarounds in CFB last year with a record of 8-5 SU, 9-3 ATS. Improvement was palpable on both sides of the ball, as they went from being outscored 35-17 to outscoring the opposition 34-25. The Broncos will clearly be tested in the month of September with games against these Spartans, at Georgia Southern and at Ohio St. But, none will hold greater significance than this in-state rivalry against the Spartans.

The technicals are all wrong in supporting this play as Western is 3-8 ATS as home dog L8Y, while Michigan St. is a CFB best 17-4 ATS as road chalk under Dantonio. But, the improved nature of W. Michigan, the sandwich spot for the Spartans and the change in DC for Michigan St., all lead us to this value laden home underdog spot.

LONE RANGER CONTRARY PLAY OF THE WEEK … WASHINGTON

Washington at Boise St. (-12) 10:15 ET ESPN

Each week in this space, I isolate the CFB LONE RANGER CONTRARY PLAY OF THE WEEK. It is a blend of statistical, situational and technical analysis that will result in an outstanding opportunity for you to cash a winning ticket.

At 10:15 pm ET, as televised on ESPN, the Washington Huskies visit the Boise St. Broncos in a battle of 2 of the premier programs in the Northwest. Much has changed since the start of last year with this line. In fact, were this contest to have been played at this site at the beginning of last season, the Huskies would have been a small road favorite.

When these teams last met, in the 1st game of the 2013 season, current 2nd year Washington HC Petersen was coaching the last of his 8 years as head man of the Broncos. Washington, playing at home in Seattle, ruled the day in the final year of the Steve Sarkisian rein. The final score was 38-6 in favor of the Huskies as 3 point home favorite. One must wonder, if that did not play a small part in the decision of Petersen to switch ranks and become head man of the Huskies last season.

In so doing, Petersen led Washington to an 8-6 SU, 7-6 ATS mark. But, the season culminated with 30-22 loss to Oklahoma St. in their Bowl game. Now, Washington brings back just 10 RS from that team, is one of the least experienced teams in the nation and is in true rebuilding mode. He takes this young team on their first road trip to one of the toughest venues in the nation (just ask Petersen, who was 48-2 SU at this site) with a young QB and offensive line. There they will matchup against a Boise team, who returns 17 starters for exciting 2nd year HC Harsin.

Last year, Harsin proved his success at Arkansas St. was no fluke by leading a Boise team to a record of 12-2 SU, 8-6 ATS, highlighted by 9 consecutive victories to close the season, culminating with a 38-30 victory over Arizona in their Bowl game. Fly in the ointment, however, is the loss of last year’s starting QB Hedrick and OC Mike Sanford, who matriculated to Notre Dame. The offensive transition may not go quite as smoothly as Bronco backers believe!

No longer are the flying geese plummeting to their deaths on the blue turf of Boise. I guess, they learned better since that first night. But, it has not stopped the public from being in love with the notion of Boise, the Broncos or the Blue Field. In fact, the public is all over the home team in this one, making you, me and the Lone Ranger the only one who are suiting up on the side of the road dog in this one! Mush! Huskies!