Philadelphia, PA – Utah State takes on BYU Friday night almost one year to the day since the Aggies knocked off the Cougars for the first time since 1993.
Utah State came into that game with a 1-3 record, almost similar to the 1-2 mark the Aggies have right now. That contest was extremely one-sided as BYU could not do anything for the first 37 minutes, scoring just three points to Utah State's 31. The Cougars managed just 4.2 yards per play for the game, including 2.6 on the ground.
Shoot ahead to 2011 and BYU is averaging the same paltry 4.2 yards per play after four games. In fact, only four teams in the country are in back of the Cougars - Kent State, FAU, Memphis, and Ole Miss. Furthermore, Bronco Mendenhall's squad is 111th overall in total offense. On the other hand, Utah State is 16th nationally in total yards with 483 per game.
The Aggies' lone win this season came against Weber State, but they had Auburn on the ropes in the opener before allowing two touchdowns in the final 2:12 minutes, and last week they fell in double overtime to Colorado State, 35-34. The defense wasn't as bad as the final score indicates, as the Rams scored just 10 points after three quarters and were able to muster only 232 total yards throughout the entire game. Utah State should be coming into this contest fired up after losing last week, which is the complete opposite of how BYU is feeling.
The Cougars are coming off a miraculous victory last Friday, one that was hand-delivered to them by UCF. The Knights, who outgained BYU 399 to 260, not only lost their starting quarterback for a drive that ended in a missed field goal, but they also allowed a 93-yard kickoff return for a score and committed three turnovers - all in the second half.
The Cougars came into that game off a monstrous home loss to Utah, and were expected to go "all out" against UCF. Instead, they were extremely fortunate to come away with the victory.
Take Utah State to gain the outright win.
The other revenge game from the WAC involves Fresno State and Ole Miss.
These two schools met last season with the Rebels blowing the Bulldogs away, 55-38. Ole Miss rushed for 425 yards (9.0 yards per carry) while Fresno St. managed just 30 yards on 33 carries.
This season, Ole Miss is averaging just 11 points per game against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) competition. The Rebels are also 118th in total offense at 236.5 yards per game and their competition hasn't been that tough, with games against Vanderbilt and BYU. Also, one can easily argue that Fresno State has played tougher competition, having played on the road against California and Nebraska.
The Bulldogs have won six of their eight previous home matchups against BCS teams with the two losses coming three years ago to Wisconsin (by three points) and to Oregon in '06 (by a touchdown). The only negative for them is a possible "look ahead" to Boise State the following Friday, but since that game is no longer a conference tilt, Fresno should be ready to take down an overmatched Ole Miss squad.
Take Fresno State minus the points.
THREE OTHER THREE-STAR SELECTIONS
I usually don't choose plays against the total but this week is the exception.
Baylor and Kansas State are both 3-0. The former is ranked second nationally in total offense with 594 yards per game and third in scoring at 51 points per contest, while the latter has averaged 32.5 points per game against FBS competition, including 28 on the road at Miami last week.
These two teams totaled 89 points in last year's matchup after going over the total back in 2007. In addition, both schools are 9-2 to the over in each of their last 11 games.
Take the over.
Nebraska makes its Big Ten debut on Saturday at Wisconsin. The Cornhuskers are a huge underdog (+9 points) despite a 4-0 mark. They come into this one with a 10-2 straight up record in their last 12 road contests, which includes huge wins over Oklahoma State and Missouri. Furthermore, they lost by only one at Virginia Tech in '09 and by three at Texas A&M last season.
Wisconsin has been one of the most impressive teams the first month of the year, but the Badgers' competition has been less than stellar. Oregon State, UNLV, Northern Illinois, and South Dakota do not put fear into anyone heading into October.
Take Nebraska plus the points.
Finally, USC hosts Arizona after taking it on the chin against Arizona State. The 3-1 Trojans have had just one easy victory this year, versus Syracuse. Their two other wins came by a grand total of 11 points, and more than half of that total could be questioned due to the late touchdown in the Utah game.
Arizona has had the toughest schedule of any team in the country this year with matchups against Oklahoma State, Stanford, and Oregon. Through it all, Nick Foles is averaging 361 passing yards per game, with 10 touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Take Arizona plus the points.
Go with Pittsburgh (hosting South Florida), Boston College (as a home underdog against Wake Forest), Tennessee (minus the points vs. Buffalo), and Western Michigan (at Connecticut).
Take Akron (plus the points at Eastern Mich), Purdue (vs. Notre Dame), and SMU (at TCU).
AFTER FOUR WEEKS
The overall four-week total now stands at 14-36. My Five-Star plays are 2-3, the Three-Star selections are 5-8, the Two-Star plays are 4-15, and the One- Star picks are 3-10.
As a reminder, the Five-Star plays are when my Power Plays and Key Plays coincide. The Three-Star choices are my personal picks, the Two-Star plays are the "power number" picks (games with at least a five-point differential between my line and the actual line), and the One-Star plays are my personal secondary selections.
THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK'S "DIRTY DOZEN"
1) Stanford, 105; 2) Alabama, 104.5; 3) LSU, 103.5; 4) Wisconsin, 103; 5-T) Boise State and Oregon, 102.5; 7) Oklahoma, 101.5; 8) Oklahoma State, 101.5; 9-T) Florida and Texas A&M, 100; 11) Florida State, 96.5; 12) Nebraska, 95.5