Philadelphia, PA – Last Thursday night, Connecticut faced a Massachusetts team making its Football Bowl Subdivision debut with a third- string quarterback, and the Huskies were only 20.5-point favorites.
Furthermore, the line dropped dramatically in the 24 hours leading up to the game as Connecticut was favored by 25 points on Wednesday morning. If the oddsmakers had the Huskies favored by only 25, it showed they did not rate them as high as they should have to start the season.
My numbers had Connecticut favored by 30, so the Huskies were a five-star play even before the line dropped 4.5 points. It also could be argued that the oddsmakers were wrong about Massachusetts, especially since Indiana is favored by only two touchdowns in Amherst this weekend (I have the Hoosiers giving 20.5 points.)
Either way, it was interesting to see North Carolina State as a 6.5-point choice Wednesday even with the game being played in Storrs (the line has since dropped to five). I have the game rated as a pick, so it is easy to see where all of this is heading.
For a second straight week, the Huskies are a five-star play. They shut out Massachusetts, 37-0, in Week 1, holding the Minutemen to just 59 total yards and three first downs. The rout would have been even bigger had Lyle McCombs not fumbled near the goal line early in the third quarter. In addition, new quarterback Chandler Whitmer threw interceptions twice while the Huskies were driving inside the Minutemen's 35-yard line.
Mike Glennon, N.C. State's quarterback, also had a terrible game in throwing four picks against Tennessee. The Wolfpack lost, 35-21, after getting outscored 22-7 in the first quarter. Most folks expect them to bounce back this week and that is why they are favored on the road.
Still, the Huskies should be able to control the tempo against an N.C. State defense that allowed 191 rushing yards (on five yards per carry) versus Tennessee. Don't forget the Volunteers averaged just 90 rushing yards per game (on 2.8 ypc) in 2011.
History also says Connecticut will win the game. N.C. State is 2-5 straight-up in its last seven road games and, more importantly, the Wolfpack have not covered as road favorites since 2002. They have failed 12 straight times with just one SU victory: a seven-point win at Duke as 20-point favorites.
On the other side, Connecticut is 13-2 in its last 15 games as a home underdog with nine outright wins. The Huskies are 26-7 SU at home since 2007 while N.C. State is 8-22 SU on the road since 2006.
All those numbers add up to a Connecticut home victory.
Take the Huskies plus five points.
ONE OTHER FIVE-STAR PLAY
Oregon was nothing short of dominant against Arkansas State. The Ducks called off the dogs after leading 50-3 late in the second quarter. However, the competition gets a bit stiffer this week when Fresno State comes to town.
Fresno State's defense should be much improved this season, but it will still allow its share of points to Oregon. The key will be how many points the Bulldogs score against the Ducks.
To that end, look for quarterback Derek Carr (20-of-25 for 298 yards last week) and Robbie Rouse (123 yards on 22 carries) to keep this one closer than the 34.5-point spread. Even if the Bulldogs can't stay with Oregon early, the likelihood of a backdoor cover is extremely high as the Ducks will once again take out their starters.
Take Fresno State plus 34.5 points.
South Carolina was very fortunate to escape Nashville, Tenn., with a four-point win over Vanderbilt. Now the Gamecocks take on East Carolina with Connor Shaw, their starting quarterback, questionable after injuring his throwing arm last week.
Even if he plays, look for South Carolina to run the ball close to 75 percent of the time, just as it did in the opener. That will do two things. First, it will shorten the clock for the underdog to cover the three-touchdown spread. Second, East Carolina is much better against the run than the pass, so the Pirates will have a great chance to keep this one close.
Take East Carolina plus 21.5 points.
Ohio returns home after upsetting Penn State at Beaver Stadium. This is uncharted territory for the Bobcats because they have not been favored by three touchdowns since 2000. One has to wonder how this team will respond in the comforts of its own stadium just one week after such a huge victory.
New Mexico State lost a ton of starters from last season, but the club looked decent in Week 1 blowing out Sacramento State, 49-19. Sophomore quarterback Andrew Manley threw for 367 yards and three first-half touchdowns in the win.
These two teams met last season and Ohio only outgained New Mexico State by 84 yards, a game in which Manley was 22-of-41 for 362 yards and two touchdowns.
Additionally, the Bobcats barely defeated Utah State, 24-23, in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl last year. Utah State's prior game was at New Mexico State and the road team won by just a field goal.
If the Aggies can run the ball on Ohio's defense, they have a chance for the upset. If not, they still should cover the inflated spread.
Take New Mexico State plus 21 points.
Go with UCF +18 (against Ohio State), Indiana -14 (versus Massachusetts), Texas Tech -18 (at Texas State) and Georgia -2 (at Missouri).
Take Wyoming -3 (against Toledo), Kent State +7 (at Kentucky), Purdue +14 (at Notre Dame), Oregon State +8 (against Wisconsin) and Oklahoma State -10.5 (at Arizona).