Courtesy of Bobby Smith
CEO, Sports Reporter
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 18
AUBURN over *KANSAS STATE by 15
Look at Kansas State's wins against foes from the power conferences last season, and see if you can identify an opponent that had a good rushing offense: West Virginia, Iowa State, Texas Tech, TCU, Kansas, Michigan. That's no, no, no, no, no and no. In fact, Kansas, who ran for a mere 3.7 yards per carry, had the highest rushing rank among those sides (73rd), not that ranks are the be-all and end-all but you get the idea. Getting Iowa State again in Week 2 was a nice, cushy assignment for the Wildcats run defense. Auburn was the nation's top rushing offense last season and will be among the top rushing offenses when this season is concluded. Good luck to all home underdog backers. AUBURN, 45-30.
SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 20
TEXAS A&M over *SMU by 38
SMU, coming off a bye, has been out-scored 88-6 by Baylor and North Texas. In the face of such adversity, the time has come to act, and act fast! SMU head coach June Jones: ?I'm leaving.' He doesn't want to be associated with this score: Texas A&M, 66-6. However, since we have a policy of not making Best Bets in games with 30-ish spreads, we'll have to settle for: TEXAS A&M, 45-7.
RUTGERS over *NAVY by 1
Under Greg Schiano, Rutgers owned the academies. But times do change. Navy has covered the last two meetings, winning one outright, and they haven't met since 2011, when the Rutgers defense was more trustworthy. Rutgers' QB Gary Nova is a pick-throwing quarterback (5 INTs to happy Penn State defensive players!), but pick-prone clown QBs normally throw their interceptions against the kind of defensive pressure that Navy, as a rule, either doesn't bring or can't get. Or, when the running game stalls, as it did vs. Penn State. RUTGERS, 28-27.
*HOUSTON over UNLV by 24
The host Cougars were set up to be overvalued this season by virtue of an over-the-top positive turnover ratio from last season. Already in 2014, they are but 1-2 ATS, and their rushing attack has generated only 3.4 yards per carry. UNLV thinks it has a great pass defense. That's Houston's offensive strength, although QB John O'Korn has been inconsistent. But after UNLV has allowed 9.4, 9.0 and 10.2 yards per attempt to Arizona, Northern Colorado and Northern Illinois so far, this could be the offensive breakout game that Houston's offense is seeking. HOUSTON, 44-20.
*VIRGINIA TECH over GEORGIA TECH by 17
"We practiced for Ohio State like we practice against Georgia Tech," volunteered Hokie defensive coordinator Bud Foster a few weeks ago, noting some principles shared in the run schemes of Urban Meyer's spread and Paul Johnson's triple-option. This means that Virginia Tech got in some practice time against Georgia Tech prior to Georgia Tech week...and they were already the best-performing ACC defense against Georgia Tech during Johnson and this offense's current tenure. Georgia Tech's offense was very sloppy one week ago against an overmatched Tulane defense that, according to Tech QB Justin Thomas, was "giving us pretty much what we wanted." Virginia Tech won't give them what they want Guessing that Virginia Tech's offense won't overwhelm, but make a couple or three big plays. VIRGINIA TECH, 27-10.
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 21
*ST. LOUIS over DALLAS by 3
'The Cowboys are back! They beat Tennessee on the road!' Right. Not a surprise. Now, they make a second straight road trip, to the home dome of a young-and-hungry team intent on proving that "reports of our death were greatly exaggerated" when QB Sam Bradford was lost for the season in August. Here's the problem for St. Louis: Dallas beat them easily in 2011 and 2013 the same way Dallas won last week: over-the-top rushing production by RB DeMarco Murray, and the time-of-possesion edge associated with such rushing dominance. The Rams lost that way on opening day against the Vikings. How can it be different? Well, the defensive coordinator is different than in 2011 and 2013; the quarterback, Hill or Davis, may not get hurt early like in Week 1; the Rams' defense is maturing; and Murray would need to string together a third straight 100+ rushing yard game, which he has never done in his NFL career. Rams' DC Gregg Williams wants to say to the Cowboys, 'No, you can't do it like that again here on my watch. You'll do what we'd prefer you to do.' That would be having Tony Romo throw it in a loud dome on third-and-long, under a rush. ST. LOUIS, 23-20.
*CINCINNATI over TENNESSEE by 6
Sportswriters are using the word "depleted" to describe the Bengals following a bunch of injuries suffered in last week's two-touchdown win vs. Atlanta. If you've been betting for 20 years on every team every week that was referenced as having something "depleted," then you could probably be retired early from a day job. Bengals players won't be running on the field in walking boots, and whoever misses this game - could be star wideout A.J. Green, could be the top two tight ends Eifert and Smith, could be the starting center, could be LB Vontez Burfict -- won't have their places marked by empty jerseys while teammates pray for them in the huddle, too distraught to play their best. The Bengals' offense knows what it wants to do; the Titans' defense is transitioning from a 4-3 to a 3-4 and the offense is hit-or-miss, playing against a Cincinnati defense with good depth throughout the unit and the NFL's smallest defensive YPA, a mere 5.0 yards per opposing pass attempt right now. CINCINNATI, 23-17.
HOUSTON over *NY GIANTS by 11
Giants' quarterback Eli Manning threw 27 interceptions last season. He is on pace to throw 32 INTs this season. Nobody on this offense is in sync with anything except maybe their alarm clocks set 10 minutes early for fear of being late to Tom Coughlin's meetings. Why this "new offense" should suddenly click vs. a defense it faces once every four years - a pretty good defense currently holding garbage offenses to 25% third down conversions, with 6 forced fumbles and 4 recoveries already - should be beyond anyone's comprehension. The Jersey Turnover Boys' offense implores its defense, and lousy special teams, to help offset the messes they make. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the Houston QB, is thought to be a ticking time bomb (as opposed to the New York offense being a live grenade in Eli's right hand). But Fitzpatrick has yet to be "sacked-like-Schaub!," and New York's defense has allowed a first down on every other third down. Early last season, the Jaguars and Giants had the NFL's worst points differentials. Guess who has them now? Jaguars and Giants. HOUSTON, 24-13.
Bobby Smith is Editor of Sports Reporter and sportsreporter.com, and author
of "How to Beat the Pro Football Pointspread," currently the nation's #1 best-
selling sports betting book. Check that fact, and order it, at www.amazon.com.