Indiana hosts Navy less than one year after losing to the Midshipmen by a point in Annapolis. Can the Hoosiers get revenge, especially after scoring 73 points in their season opener?
Indiana demolished Indiana State, 73-35, compiling 632 yards in the process. Still, the defense allowed over 300 yards for the 11th straight game. It is easy to say coach Kevin Wilson's team has an offense that can light up the scoreboard on a weekly basis, but in order to reach a bowl game for the first time since 2007, the defense must stop the opposition better.
This contest versus Navy will be a true test for Indiana, especially because the Hoosiers are without last year's starting defensive tackles, who combined for over 100 tackles, 25 that stopped the offense for negative yardage.
Although, Saturday's opponent is a familiar one, this Navy offense might have a few tricks up its sleeve due to the player calling the signals. Quarterback Keenan Reynolds is the best passer the Midshipmen have had in years, and his ability to throw the football will keep opposing defenses from crowding eight or nine men in the box. Look for Navy to throw more than the 13 times it did in last year's one-point victory.
This is Navy's first game since allowing 62 points to Arizona State in the Fight Hunger Bowl, so there is plenty of motivation from the defense to tighten the screws heading into the new season.
Furthermore, Navy has been as solid as a team could be in terms of covering spreads as a road underdog. The Midshipmen are 9-2 in their last 11 regular- season opportunities, and that includes six outright victories. On the other side, Indiana is 2-6 in its last eight tries as a home favorite.
Take Navy plus 13 points in the first of three five-star plays.
TWO OTHER FIVE-STAR SELECTIONS
Just one week after scoring six points against Florida, Toledo travels to Columbia to take on a Missouri squad that got the best of Murray State, 58-14, last weekend. It was the fifth time since 2008 Toledo was held to fewer than 10 points.
Historically, the Rockets have bounced back well after scoring in single digits. In 2008, they were shut out by Ball State, 31-0, but stunned Michigan by a field goal the following week as 16-point underdogs. That same year, they lost 38-7 to Northern Illinois, but covered the next game as underdogs against Central Michigan.
In 2009, they lost to Ohio State, 38-0, and went to FIU and beat the Golden Panthers by 10 as one-point underdogs. The next year, they were beaten 41-2 by Arizona in the first week of the season and then traveled to Ohio and won by a touchdown as 10-point underdogs.
On Saturday, Toledo is getting 17 points at Missouri, which bodes well for the Rockets because they are 7-1 ATS in their last eight games as road underdogs. On the other hand, the Tigers are 6-12 ATS in their last 18 games as home favorites.
Missouri struggled early against Murray State last Saturday, falling behind 14-13 after 15 minutes of play. However, the Tigers wound up scoring 44 unanswered points to pull away for the easy win.
There is no doubt in my mind this year's Missouri squad will wind up with a better record than last year's 5-7 team, but this is a tricky spot for the Tigers. The Rockets are hungry coming off a loss and they have not lost their first two games in a season since 2007.
Take Toledo plus 17 points.
Cincinnati takes on its second straight Big Ten opponent in Illinois just one week after dismantling Purdue, 42-7. The main difference in this game is that the Bearcats are on the road.
Fortunately, they have had success away from Nippert Stadium with six wins in their last nine matchups. In addition, it's not as if Illinois is a staunch home squad as the Illini have lost their last five FBS games at Memorial Stadium. In fact, Illinois had its hands full with Southern Illinois last week, winning by only eight points.
Cincinnati has one of the most underrated rush defenses in all of college football, so don't expect Illinois to gain anywhere close to the 128-yard average from a season ago. The only chance the Illini have is for Nathan Scheelhasse to have a similar game as last week's 416-yard effort, but don't count on it since there is a huge talent difference on the last line of defense between Cincinnati and Southern Illinois.
Take Cincinnati minus eight points.
Auburn opened its 2013 campaign with a 31-24 victory over pass-happy Washington State. Now the Tigers take on Arkansas State, a team that had four players rush for over 100 yards in its Week 1 win.
The Tigers gave up 344 passing yards last Saturday, and if it wasn't for Connor Halliday throwing three interceptions, the Cougars probably would have walked out of Jordan-Hare Stadium with the victory. As for Auburn's starting quarterback, Nick Marshall did not look sharp in his debut, completing only 10- of-19 passes for 99 yards. In addition, the Tigers scored just two offensive touchdowns the entire game.
Arkansas State not only has won its last nine games, but the Red Wolves also have covered 10 of their last 12 road games. Look for them to keep this one close and possibly pull off the upset.
Take Arkansas State plus 13 points.
In other three-star plays, go with UTEP -6.5 (New Mexico) and Washington State +15 (USC).
Take Penn State -24 (Eastern Michigan), Buffalo +27.5 (Baylor), San Diego State +28 (Ohio State) and San Jose State +26.5 (Stanford).
Take Syracuse +13 (Northwestern), South Alabama +6.5 (Tulane) and UAB +34.5 (LSU)
THIS YEAR'S RECORD
The 2013 campaign began slowly for yours truly with a combined 2-4 record last Thursday and Friday. However, eight wins in 13 games thereafter brought the overall mark to 10-9. The five-star plays went 3-2, the three-star selections were 2-2, the two-star choices finished at 3-2 and the one-star picks went 2-3.
THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"
1) Alabama, 108.5; 2) Oregon, 104; 3) Florida State, 99; 4-T) South Carolina and Oklahoma State, 98.5; 6-T) LSU and Georgia, 98; 8) Texas, 97; 9) Texas A&M, 96.5; 10-T) Louisville and Arizona State, 96; 12) Clemson, 95.5
(The Dirty Dozen is not a reflection of a given team's won-loss record. It is based on power ratings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all FBS teams are assigned a power number, which changes on a week-to-week basis depending on the results of the previous week.)