BAYLOR BEARS (9-0) at OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS (9-1)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Baylor -9.5 & 79.5
Opening Line & Total: Bears -10 & 80
Unbeaten No. 3 Baylor looks to remain in the national title race Saturday night as it travels to Stillwater to take on No. 11 Oklahoma State in a game with huge implications for the Big 12 title.
In their matchup last season, the Bears were able to pull out a tough victory, defeating the Cowboys 41-34. However, this is a very different Baylor offense. In at quarterback is Bryce Petty, who has thrown for 2,992 yards and 24 touchdowns, while only tossing one interception all season. Petty is the leader of a Bears offense that has 34 scoring plays of at least 25 yards. In last Saturday’s 63-34 victory over Texas Tech, freshman RB Shock Linwood filled in for Lache Seastrunk (groin injury, doubtful to play Saturday), and had a terrific game with 187 rushing yards and one touchdown, showcasing electric speed. The Bears offense has been a juggernaut this season, leading the nation with 61.2 PPG and scoring at least 35 points in every game. However, they haven’t won in Stillwater since 1939 and will be going up against an Oklahoma State team that is very confident after a big 38-13 road victory in Austin last week. Quarterback Clint Chelf was huge in the win over Texas, finishing the game with 292 total yards (197 passing) and four touchdowns. His touchdown pass to Tracy Moore put the Cowboys up 21-10 with a minute to go in the first half, and then cornerback Justin Gilbert took an interception 43 yards for a touchdown to give the Cowboys a commanding 18-point lead at halftime. The Bears are 8-0 ATS in the past two seasons versus teams averaging at least 34.0 PPG, but OSU is 9-1 ATS coming off a Big 12 win in this same timeframe.
Baylor not only leads FBS in scoring (61.2 PPG), but also ranks third in passing offense (384.4 YPG) and ninth in rushing offense (300.3 YPG). Junior QB Bryce Petty has been the man all season, throwing at least two touchdown passes in every game. His favorite target is WR Antwan Goodley (48 catches, 1,075 yards, 11 TD). While he is not the tallest pass catcher at 5-foot-10, he is a strong receiver at 220 pounds and has game-breaking ability with one catch of at least 25 yards in every single game this season. Senior WR Tevin Reese is out due to a season-ending wrist injury, but Goodley has continued to play well while seeing more double teams. Under head coach Art Briles, the Bears have produced one of the best offenses in all of the country, but now they have a defense that is able to hold up its end of the bargain. The Bears rank 7th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 17.4 PPG. They have been led by S Ahmad Dixon, but CB K.J. Morton has also become a key player on defense. The senior had his first interception of the season last week against Texas Tech, but is huge against the run, tallying 41 tackles this year. The Bears defense, which has forced 20 turnovers this year, will face its toughest test of the season, as OSU QB Clint Chelf has continued to improve throughout the season.
Chelf has thrown for 1,222 yards, 11 TD and 5 INT, but he could be without top WR Josh Stewart (40 catches, 510 yards, 2 TD) who has missed the past two games with an ankle injury. Chelf has also rushed for 325 yards and five touchdowns this year, and has been especially effective on the ground recently, rushing for at least 85 yards in three of the past four games. RB Desmond Roland (565 rush yards, 10 TD) has been the Cowboys’ leading rusher this season, but has struggled in the past two games with just 103 yards on 35 carries (2.9 YPC). Roland must have a great game rushing the ball to help the defense out in stopping the Bears’ potent offense. Oklahoma State’s defense has been very opportunistic this season with 26 takeaways, and CB Justin Gilbert (2 INT last week) is the key. He will mostly be covering Goodley in what should be an entertaining matchup. Both of these offenses are able to put up serious points, but look for Cowboys head coach Mike Gundy to really emphasize the rushing attack, trying to chew up clock and keep Petty and the Bears offense off the field.
TEXAS A&M AGGIES (8-2) at LSU TIGERS (7-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: LSU -4.5 & 74
Opening Line & Total: Tigers -3.5 & 73
No. 9 Texas A&M looks to stay in contention for a potential BCS bowl game as it travels to Baton Rouge to take on No. 18 LSU on Saturday night.
Last season, these two teams squared off in College Station as LSU held on for the 24-19 victory. The Tigers did a great job of slowing down Aggies star QB Johnny Manziel, intercepting him three times while forcing five total turnovers. The Aggies were up in that game 12-0, before the LSU defense got rolling and RB Jeremy Hill started dominating the game, finishing with 127 yards. For Texas A&M, they will need to get another great game out of Manziel, who has been even better this season than in his Heisman campaign as a freshman. Manziel (3,313 pass yards, 31 TD) has become a much better pocket passer, and has continued to have better command of the offense this season under coach Kevin Sumlin. While the offense has been terrific, the defense has really struggled this season, allowing 30.9 PPG (88th in FBS). Sumlin is 22-6 Over (79%) coming off a home win, and that streak should continue as the Tigers’ offense is much better this season. There may be no more improved quarterback in the country than QB Zach Mettenberger (2,733 pass yards, 20 TD, 7 INT). Mettenberger is your prototypical quarterback, standing at 6-foot-5, 230 pounds. He has always had a big arm, but has become much more accurate, seeing his percentage go from 58.8 percent last season, to 65.7 percent this year. The mad scientist Les Miles, has had a lot of great moments at LSU, but hasn’t had great success when playing at home as a favorite by less than seven points (1-9 ATS). But Texas A&M is 0-7 ATS in the past three seasons on the road where the total is at least 63 points. If the Tigers are going to avoid their first four-loss regular season since 2008, the defense is going to have to play well.
Texas A&M comes into the game ranked 5th in the nation in scoring (49.2 PPG) and 6th in passing yards (379.2 YPG). QB Johnny Manziel has been great all season, but the emergence of sophomore WR Mike Evans (57 catches, 1,263 yards, 12 TD) has helped take the Aggies to the next level. At 6-foot-5, Evans has the ability to go up and catch the ball in traffic, something he has done multiple times this season for Manziel. He is a very good route runner as well, and is an absolute nightmare to cover, forcing defenses to double and sometimes triple-team him. This has helped senior RB Ben Malena (98 carries, 476 yards, 9 TD) have the opportunities to be the home-run threat that he is. Head coach Kevin Sumlin can’t be upset with the performance of his offense, but the defense has been a big reason why the Aggies are just 2-4 in conference play. In SEC action, the unit has surrendered 38.3 PPG and 502.2 total YPG, and it gave up 94 total points in losses to Auburn and Alabama. The best player on the unit is junior DB Howard Matthews, who has 73 tackles and three interceptions. Matthews will play a big role in this game, as he is going to be matched up against one of the best receiving duos in the country.
LSU WRs Odell Beckham (51 catches, 1,051 yards, 8 TD) and Jarvis Landry (63 catches, 972 yards, 8 TD) have both had huge seasons. The junior Beckham has five games with at least 100 receiving yards, and has the speed to get behind the defense, making him a threat to take it the distance anytime he touches the ball. The Tigers have been known for terrific defense, but their offense ranks 21st in the country this season with 38.0 PPG. With the vaunted passing attack of the Tigers, this has opened up things on the ground for RB Jeremy Hill. On the season, Hill has rushed for 964 yards and 13 touchdowns, while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. He is a power back that has the ability to run the defender over, while also possessing good enough speed to run away from the defense. The LSU defense gives up an average of 23.5 PPG, which ranks 38th in the nation. The unit has had some struggles this season, but appears to have found a new star in the secondary in freshman CB Tre’Davious White, who has 41 tackles on the season. He has the ability to run with any receiver, but he will also make plays against the run. White teams up with Jalen Mills to form a secondary with big potential, but not a lot of size. The Tigers are going to have problems stopping Evans, and will have to double-team him with safeties over the top.
MISSOURI TIGERS (9-1) at OLE MISS REBELS (7-3)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Missouri -2.5 & 58.5
Opening Line & Total: Tigers -3 & 58
No. 8 Missouri faces a tough road test in its quest to reach the SEC title game as it visits No. 24 Ole Miss on Saturday night.
The Tigers get a welcome addition to their offense this week as QB James Franklin looks like he’ll return after missing the past four games with a shoulder injury. Officially listed as questionable, he’s expected to start. Missouri’s only loss came without him to South Carolina, though they rebounded with dominant SU and ATS wins against Tennessee and Kentucky. Overall, the Tigers are 8-2 ATS this season and a perfect 4-0 (SU and ATS) on the road. Since a three-point loss to Texas A&M, the Rebels have reeled off four straight wins (3-1 ATS). They are 6-4 ATS this season with a 4-2 ATS mark at home. Last weekend, they covered a 28-point spread with a 51-21 win against Troy. These two teams have met only twice in recent memory, in 2006 and 2007. Missouri won both games SU and ATS. The Tigers are 19-9 ATS (68%) on the road coming off a double-digit conference win under head coach Gary Pinkel, but Ole Miss is 14-4 ATS (78%) in games played on turf in the past two seasons.
Missouri QB James Franklin was amid a tremendous season before he got hurt, completing 67.7% of his passes for 14 TD and only 3 INT. In three games before getting hurt, he threw eight touchdowns and no picks. Franklin also brings a great deal of athleticism to the table, running for 290 yards (4.5 YPC) and 3 TD. The Tigers receiving corps is deep as three players—L’Damian Washington, Dorial Green-Beckham and Marcus Lucas—all have more than 500 receiving yards. Washington and Green-Beckham are the most dangerous of the three, each corralling nine touchdowns through the air. RB Henry Josey is Missouri’s main weapon on the ground, averaging 6.1 YPC for 760 yards and a whopping 10 TD. But don’t forget about RBs Russell Hansbrough and Marcus Murphy, who have 544 and 485 rushing yards, respectively. Murphy has seven rushing touchdowns as part of this high-power offense that averages 41.3 PPG thanks to scoring 26 touchdowns on the ground thus far. The defense isn’t too shabby either, yielding 20.2 PPG, led by a fierce front seven that gives up a pithy 3.3 YPC.
Rebels QB Bo Wallace has been among the most productive throwers in the nation this year, completing 64.7% of his passes for 2,664 yards and 17 TD while only tossing five picks. He’s completed more than 70% of his passes over his past three games, throwing for 8 TD and 2 INT. Wallace is less of a threat on the ground, averaging only 2.3 YPC, but he does have four rushing scores. RB Jeff Scott (488 rush yards, 7.6 YPC, 2 TD), I’Tavius Mathers (429 rush yards, 6.3 YPC, 2 TD) and Jaylen Walton (391 rush yards, 5.1 YPC, 6 TD) take care of most of the work on the ground. Wallace’s favorite target has been WR Donte Montcrief, who has 44 catches for 686 yards and five touchdowns this year. He’s talented, but inconsistent. In his past six games, he has gained more than 100 yards three times, but fewer than 40 yards three times. The Ole Miss defense is giving up only 25.0 PPG this season, with opponents rushing for 4.1 YPC and completing 64.2% of their passes, which could mean an easy transition back to action for Franklin.
ARIZONA STATE SUN DEVILS (8-2) at UCLA BRUINS (8-2)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Arizona -1.5 & 62.5
Opening Line & Total: Sun Devils -3 & 62
With a Pac-12 title game berth on the line, No. 19 Arizona State will travel to the Rose Bowl to take on No. 14 UCLA Saturday night.
The Sun Devils are 8-2 and have dropped only one game in the conference, to powerhouse Stanford. They have wins against USC and Washington already, so the Bruins are their final tough test as they have gone 5-5 ATS this year and 4-3 ATS in the Pac-12. Arizona State has lost two in a row ATS however, barely beating Utah 20-19 and just missing out on covering a 13.5-point spread with a 30-17 win against Oregon State last weekend. Since 1992, Arizona State is 8-21 ATS (28%) when playing a team with a winning percentage of higher than 75% like the Bruins. UCLA, meanwhile, has already lost to both Stanford and Oregon, and faces a tough end to the season with the Sun Devils and USC remaining on the schedule. The Bruins are an impressive 7-3 ATS this season, going 4-3 ATS in league action. They have covered twice in a row with an upset win against Arizona and then a 41-31 win against Washington last Friday. With these two offenses averaging nearly 80 PPG combined, a shootout appears likely and could be reminiscent of last season, when the Bruins (6.5-point underdogs) eked out a 45-43 victory on the road on a last-second field goal. UCLA won and covered the last meeting in L.A., winning by one point as an 8.5-point home underdog in 2011.
Arizona State QB Taylor Kelly is a workhorse under center, completing 236-of-378 (62.4%) of his passes this season for 2,838 yards, 24 TD and 10 INT. He was brilliant in last year’s loss to the Bruins, throwing for 315 yards, 4 TD and just 1 INT. His top target is Jaelen Strong (59 catches, 834 yards, 5 TD), though he has a deep arsenal of options with D.J. Foster (523 rec. yards, 3 TD), Chris Coyle (370 rec. yards, 4 TD) and RB Marion Grice, who leads the team with 6 TD receptions. Grice has also been a menace on the ground, rumbling for 901 yards (5.2 YPC) and 14 rushing TD. Kelly can also carry the ball himself, rushing for 312 yards and 7 TD so far this year. Last year though, Grice and Kelly were both limited to less than 4.0 YPC by the Bruins defense. The Arizona State defense is yielding only 3.7 YPC this year, while the secondary has limited opponents to a 53.3% completion rate.
UCLA QB Brett Hundley is an NFL prospect for good reason, completing 68% of his passes this year for 2,384 yards, 20 TD and 8 INT. He was similar to Kelly in last year’s meeting, throwing for 274 yards, 4 TD and 1 INT. He is even more of a threat than Kelly on the ground though, rushing for a team-high 502 yards and seven touchdowns this season. Joining Hundley on the ground is a deep stable of ball carriers, as four other Bruins have at least three rushing touchdowns and 175 yards on the ground. Paul Perkins and Jordon James lead that crew with 476 and 471 rushing yards, respectively, while Myles Jack—who is also a linebacker—is a dangerous red zone threat, scoring four touchdowns last week versus Washington. The biggest weapon in UCLA’s receiving corps is WR Shaquelle Evans, who leads the team with 524 receiving yards on an impressive 14.6 yards per catch, hauling in a team-high seven touchdowns. The Bruins pass defense has struggled this season, allowing foes to complete 62.0% of their passes, while the line has been better, giving up a pedestrian 3.9 YPC.