North Carolina St. Wolfpack at Virginia Tech Hokies 10/9 College Football Preview
NC State head coach Dave Doeren was a sophomore in high school when Frank Beamer was hired as the head coach at Virginia Tech back in 1987. Va Tech holds an all time 26-18-4 lead in the series, but the teams haven't met since 2010, when Doeren was still defensive coordinator at Wisconsin. Both teams stagger into this one off of ugly losses in their conference openers. While this game may not be much on the national radar, it's critical for both teams as they look to remain in ACC contention.NC State looked very impressive through the first 4 weeks against FCS and mid major competition, but as soon as conference play started, they had problems. After averaging over 200 rushing yards a game through the first 4, Louisville last week held them to 45. Although the defense played well enough to win, the offense now has all kinds of question marks, especially with the loss of RB Shadrach Thornton.For Virginia Tech on offense, it gets even worse, having been held to 100 total yards vs. Pittsburgh a week ago. But the silver lining is that QB Michael Brewer, injured in week 1 against Ohio St., is practicing again and may get a chance to play on Friday. Tech's defense has for the most part been pretty solid, but they need more help from the offensive side if they are to be competitive in the ACC.
Washington Huskies at USC Trojans Thursday Night College Football Preview
The historically mighty Trojans lead the all time series 50-28-4, but the last 4 meetings have been split. However, when these teams last played in 2012, USC head coach Steve Sarkisian was coaching Washington, and Washington head coach Chris Peterson was coaching Boise St., so this matchup has a "clean slate" so to speak. Both teams come into this Thursday night matchup off a bye.Although USC was considered in the preseason to be a playoff contender, the home loss to Stanford exposed some flaws. However, this is still a very talented team with a highly efficient and explosive passing game. After the last two games, there are some legitimate questions about the defense, some of which were masked by forcing a bunch of turnovers in the big win at Arizona St.Washington has serious QB deficiencies, and hasn't run the ball very well, but their opportunistic defense has kept them close in both their losses to Boise St. and Cal (teams not nearly as talented as USC). In the still young Peterson era, Washington is 5-2 ATS on the road. USC is 6-3 ATS at home under Sarkisian, so something has to give here.
SMU Mustangs at Houston Cougars Thursday Night College Football Preview
These AAC foes have been playing every year since 2005, during which time Houston is 8-2 against the Mustangs and has won the last 2. However, both teams have first year head coaches, bringing a new dynamic into this intra-state conference rivalry.Coming off last season's 1-11 dumpster fire, things can only get better for the Mustangs, but the loss to James Madison two weeks ago reminds everyone that this is a big rebuilding project. The offense has shown big progress, averaging 160 more ypg and 20 more ppg than they did a year ago, but the defense remains a smoothly paved freeway for opposing offenses to drive on.The Cougars are a legit contender for the AAC title in head coach Tom Herman's first year. Some of the explosiveness of last year's Ohio St. offense seems to have traveled to Houston with him, but what really has this team looking like a contender is a defense that has been stifling opposing running games. As we've become accustomed to in the past couple years, Houston is winning big in TO margin, +8 through 4 games. However, the competition has been weak; they have yet to face a team with a winning record.
Indianapolis Colts at Houston Texans NFL Football Thursday Night Preview
In the AFC South, the NFL's worst division, head to head wins are critical, as these teams can't be expected to win a whole lot outside of the division. So while this isn't exactly a marquee matchup nationwide, for the two participants it is a crucial game with playoff implications. The Colts have won 5 in a row over the Texans, dating back to 2012.Indy's struggles have been much discussed in the media - although 2-2, they've been outgained every week. What's different the last two weeks is they're no longer on the losing side of the turnover margin; otherwise most of the same problems exist. Luck should get the start this week after missing the Jags game - his effectiveness remains to be seen.Turnovers have been a big problem for the Texans too, -6 on the season. 4 of those this past Sundayagainst the Falcons. Without their customary strong running game working very well, and plagued by inconsistent QB play, it's been an uphill battle, although the defense has continued to play well, just without much support from the other side of the ball. Expect Ryan Mallett back under center after being benched midway through last week's blowout loss.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles at Marshall Thundering Herd 10/9 College Football Preview
These teams have played every year since 2005, and the series is split evenly at 5-5, but Marshall has won the last 4 in a row during Southern Miss's downward spiral, which they now are obviously coming out of. The Eagles have beaten them 3 times before on the road in Huntington, WV, but not since 2009.USM have been early season bettor's darlings on a hot cover streak. In head coach Todd Monken's third year, the rebuilding project is definitely starting to take shape after two dismal seasons. The offense has improved by leaps and bounds, although the defense still has a ways to go as evidenced by giving up 50 points and nearly 600 yards in the shootout win over Texas St. But the Eagles make this road trip full of optimism that they can contend in Conference USA, a conference Marshall has recently dominated.The Herd aren't quite so explosive on offense this year without Rakeem Cato, and against Kent St. two weeks ago they were very fortunate to win in OT. This, combined with USM's perfect ATS record, has had the line moving downward. However, this is a team capable of good things, as their season opening win over Purdue demonstrated, and they are 17-1 in their last 18 home games.
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