By Mark Lawrence, Per usual, we will begin our analysis of the college gridiron:
MARYLAND over Penn State by 1
Penn State avoided a total meltdown after losing its first game of the season against Ohio State, somehow piecing together a 33-24 win over stubborn Indiana as 31-point chalk. Yes, the Nits own the nation’s top-ranked defense, but you would too if you took on FBS foes whose offense ranked No. 91 overall (hello Iowa, UMass, Northwestern). They’re expected to continue their winning ways this afternoon against a Maryland team that’s completely trashed a 5-0 start with a trio of consecutive losses. Okay, we can understand the Terrapins getting thumped by Ohio State but losing to Illinois and Northwestern? C’mon man! Fortunately for head Terp Mike Locksley, his team could likely emerge from their shell here thanks to their appearance inside this week’s SMART BOX on page 3. Inquiring minds also know that the Lions have not exactly roared when facing a .700 or greater conference opponent away from Happy Valley, going just 4-12 ATS in this role of late. We think the deciding factor is PSU staring dead ahead to Michigan next week, which leads us to THE CLINCHER: Penn State head coach James Franklin is 8-20 SU and 9-17-2 ATS away in his career against greater than .600 opponents, including 2-15 SU and 5-11 ATS from Game Five out.
OKLAHOMA STATE over Oklahoma by 6
The Sooners are 4-0 ATS in the last four Bedlam confrontations, but plenty of the numbers going into this year’s edition are not so pretty. Oklahoma is 4-15-1 as conference road chalk of 6 points or more, 1-4 against the number in Game 9, and 1-4 versus single conference revenge. They could not slow down a Kansas ground attack last Saturday that was averaging slightly over 200 YPG going into last week’s 38-33 upset, giving up 269 yards and ultimately, the game-winning score in the fi nal minute by Devin Neal. Now, they must try to stop the Cowboys’ current version of Barry Sanders, RB Ollie Gordon II, who is literally “en fuego”. The sophomore has rushed for over 100 yards in fi ve straight contests, including 282 against West Virginia and 271 versus Cincy in the last two games. On the other side of the coin, the Cowpokes are 8-0 ATS as home dogs of less than 14 points and 6-0 ATS w/ single conference revenge. Additionally, Okie State is 5-1 ATS in their last six matchups with a conference opponent. As always, head coach Mike Gundy is there to provide THE CLINCHER: The Cowboys are 18-10 SU and 18-9-1 ATS at home under Gundy against foes with a better win percentage, including 12-2 SUATS the last fourteen contests.
USC over Washington by 10
Right on cue, it’s time to dish on the Huskies, who may be slowly coming apart as the season rolls on. UW was outgained in each of the last three games. QB Michael Penix Jr. continues to put up obscene numbers, but he has thrown picks in each of the last three games. Washington also fi nds itself in a rare spot these days, a road favorite at USC. The Huskies are 2-8 ATS as road chalk, 3-8 ATS in the last 11 against Pac 12 foes .666 or better in the W and L column and in their last four games UDub is 0-3-1 ATS. This is an historic point spread, which will be explained very shortly. In UW-USC history, the Trojans are 8-2-1 ATS when the underdog. As a Coliseum dog, the Men of Troy are 16-10-1 ATS including 7-3 ATS vs. the undefeated. SC knows it was extremely fortunate to avoid the embarrassment of losing to Cal and among the sportsbooks, the Wise Guys know the Trojans are riding an 0-6 ATS streak. In a perfect world this game turns into a wild, high scoring battle between the reigning Heisman Winner Caleb Williams, and Penix Jr, who drifts in and out of the front-runner position. Take the Trojans and you will watch knowing plunging history is being made Saturday…USC HC Lincoln Riley is a home underdog for the fi rst time in his career. You may be anticipating something historic is building. Riley is 40-3 ATS in his career at home. As the late radio host Paul Harvey used to say…” Now, it’s time for The Rest of The Story”, a history making version of THE CLINCHER: Lincoln Riley is 4-0 SU vs unbeaten conference opponents and 3-0 ATS as a conference dog. Not even he can complain about that positivity. What’s that? Phone call on Line 1 from Los Angeles?
Dallas over PHILADELPHIA by 8
Jalen Hurts, on an injured knee, led the Eagles to a hard-fought 38-31 win over the Commanders. The MVP candidate threw for 319 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 0 interceptions. Meanwhile, his goto receiver, AJ Brown, became the fi rst player in NFL history with at least 125 receiving yards in six consecutive games. It’s a good thing Hurts was on his game, as the Eagle defenses allowed 472 yards in the game. However, there may be cause for concern, reports LegitFootball.com, as star rookie DT Jalen Carter, who is arguably the Eagles’ best defensive player, left in the third quarter with a back injury and did not return. He is listed as questionable today. We all know that Dallas has 11 wins in a row at AT&T Stadium, the league’s longest current run of dominance at home, but they are only 4-6 in their last 10 road games. However, they are also 6-1 SUATS in their last seven division games as a road dog of fewer than 4 points. Mike McCarthy chips in with a 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS mark in division games with a .500 or greater record with Dallas. The Cowboys enter this division duke out at 4-0 ATS in the fi rst of back-to-back division games, while fi rst-place Philly is 5-12 ATS in division home games against avenging opponents, including 1-5 ATS when the Eagles sport a winning record. With revenge looming large, we roll it over to THE CLINCHER: Dallas QB Dak Prescott is 27-7 SU and 24-10 ATS in division games, including 7-1 SUATS during the first half of the season.
Seattle over BALTIMORE by 6
The Seahawks have won five of their last six to take over first place in the NFC West. The Ravens own a cushy 1.5-game lead in the AFC North. In theory, that makes this a possible Super Bowl preview, although we know better. But let’s give Pete Carroll and his crew their due. After surrendering 88 points in their fi rst three games of the season, the defense has settled in, allowing 50 points total in their last four games, and they now sit at No. 3 in the current NFC Playoff Picture. Seattle knocked off the potent Lions in Detroit, and head coach Pete Carroll is 52-36-3 ATS as a dog with the Seahawks, including 16-7-1 ATS as a single-digit dog versus .750 or greater opposition. Adding fuel to the fi re is the fact that the home team is 26-43-3 ATS in Lamar Jackson’s NFL starts (see more in THE CLINCHER below), and Baltimore is 0-5 ATS in games when coming off consecutive wins. With the Black Birds just 1-4 ATS in the first of three straight home games, we wrap things up with THE CLINCHER: Baltimore QB Lamar Jackson is 12-21 ATS as an NFL home favorite, including 1-7 ATS when the Ravens are coming off an ATS loss of -3 or more points.
Buffalo over CINCINNATI by 6
Last season the NFL was forced to cancel the pivotal Week 17 game between Buffalo and Cincinnati due to the terrifying injury to Damar Hamlin. With it, the league moved a potential AFC Championship matchup between Kansas City and Buffalo to a neutral site in Atlanta because the canceled game affected playoff seeding. The bottom line here is Buffalo takes the fi eld tonight with a playoff-loss revenge chip on its shoulders to face a suddenly red-hot Cincinnati squad where they will dress up as a regular season dog for the fi rst time in the last 30 games. Meanwhile, Joe Burrow completed 28 of 32 passes – a Bengals record 87.5% – and threw three touchdown passes in a decisive 31-17 win at San Francisco last week. He also had six carries for 43 yards; his prior season highs were four carries and 7 yards, all of which confirm the fact that his sore calf is back to good health. Buffalo has been struggling so much of the year, yet is only one game back of the Dolphins in the AFC East. Nevertheless, they’ll take the field this evening knowing they are 4-1-1 ATS in their last six regular games against the AFC Central, as well as 13-1 ATS in games when both teams arrive off SUATS wins. Yes, it’s tough to step in front of Joey Blue-Green Eyes right now, but we feel the Bills are up to it.