UConn at East Carolina (-28.5) — 7 p.m. — ESPNU
This game is going to be ugly — either because ECU is going to blow UConn out, or because the UConn defense is going to muck up the Pirates enough to bring them down to their level. Either way, I wouldn’t recommend watching this. Think of your health.
This is a great line, and I’ve struggled with which way to go on it. Conflicting times. UConn has a surprisingly decent pass defense. It’s No. 31 in the country in yards per game — No. 77 in yards allowed per attempt (7.2). But ECU averages 44.2 pass attempts per game and is gaining 8.4 yards on those attempts. Toss-up. But then again, UConn has scored only 27 points in their last three games, against South Florida, Temple and Tulane. Not 27 points per game against those defenses, 27 points total. But ECU's defense isn't necessarily great. I don’t know if UConn can score 17 points in this game, but it’s hard to pick against a team with a decent defense when it’s a four-touchdown dog.
The rational provides few answers. But the emotional might give a hint. ECU, at home, on national tv (even if it’s the U) will need to make a statement that they belong in a New Years Six bowl. UConn stinks, but that’s the opponent on the docket. I think Ruffin and Co. try to put on a show, take an early lead, and force UConn to throw — which… well, that’s not something they’re good at doing. Also, I hate picking road teams on Thursday night games. Take the Pirates, but I think this line could bring on a sweat.
UConn — 16
ECU — 48
USF at Cincinnati (-10.5) – 7 p.m. – ESPN2
This has the chance of being a really good game. USF has a strange voodoo going — they’ve made theoretical blowouts against Wisconsin and ECU decent games. And I think that Mike White has finally found a rhythm at quarterback.
Cincinnati’s defense remains atrocious — a nice game against SMU can’t make me forget a three game stretch where the Bearcats allowed an average of 647 yards.
Cincy is going to score its fair share. Expect at least three touchdowns. But I think USF can keep up with them in that department for most of the game. I think home-field matters in this situation, and Cincy will pull away early in the fourth, but I’ll take USF on a backdoor cover.
USF - 28
Cincinnati - 34
Memphis (-24) at SMU– Noon – ESPNews
Memphis won this game last season — my how the tables have turned. The Tigers need a bounce-back game to rebuild momentum for an AAC title run, while SMU is coming off another dud of a game, most recently against Cincy.
Let's establish something as fact — Memphis’ offense is underrated, and its defense is stout (despite what the loss to Houston last week might say). The only question in this game is if SMU’s defense can make the couple of stops necessary to cover. At home, it's possible, so I'm picking a backdoor cover on a generous line.
Memphis - 45
SMU - 23
Temple at UCF (-7) — 5 p.m. — CBSSN
This is the game of the week. The line for this game started with UCF -11 and has dwindled to -7 during the week. The margin could become smaller before Saturday, as wise guys put their bucks on Temple. It’s a good bet. The Owls are a well-rounded, sound team. UCF could be the best team in the American, but they haven’t put together a great week on both sides of the ball yet. I like Justin Holman, but his growing pains make it tough to pick the Knights on a consistent basis.
Expect a bounce back game from Temple offensively, as well. UCF’s defense might be strong, but there’s nil chance the Owls only score 10 points again this week. The game rests on Holman’s shoulders, and this week, against a strong front-four, I’m betting against him. Temple pulls off the upset.
Temple - 28
UCF - 24