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SMU vs UCF Picks & Predictions – NCAAF Week 5

SMU vs UCF

When: 7:00 PM ET, Wednesday, October 5, 2022
Where: FBC Mortgage Stadium, Orlando, Florida

After multiple postponements, host UCF and SMU finally will get together for their American Athletic Conference opener Wednesday night in Orlando, Fla.

UCF (3-1) and SMU (2-2) originally were scheduled to meet Saturday, but that was changed to Sunday in anticipation of Hurricane Ian. The game was then moved to Wednesday after the storm ravaged Florida.

With his team having to travel and in need of some recovery time, Mustangs coach Rhett Lashlee said his squad benefitted from the delay.

“It gave us maybe 36 to 48 hours for the guys a chance to catch their breath, not only physically but mentally,” Lashlee said. “Like we said last week, we’re beat up, so one of the positives is getting an extra few days maybe to try to get a little healthier.”

Lashlee views the conference schedule as a “new season” after his team came away with losses to Maryland (34-27) and TCU (42-34) the previous two games.

“We’ve got a really good league,” he said. “It’s wide open and we want to get off to a good start. Our goal is to try to be one of the two teams left, after those eight games, (that is) still in it.”

The only blemish on the Knights’ season so far is a 20-14 setback to Louisville at home Sept. 9. They bounced back with consecutive victories, including a 27-10 win over Georgia Tech on Sept. 24, when quarterback John Rhys Plumlee ran for a team-high 100 yards and a touchdown to guide the Knights.

“Obviously, the game we lost, we had an opportunity to win,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “I really think we’re getting better as a team. I know we’re getting better.”

Malzahn and Lashlee have a relationship that dates back to when Malzahn coached high school football and Lashlee was his quarterback. Lashlee later joined Malzahn’s staff as an assistant at Springdale (Ark.) High School and also was an assistant under Malzahn at Arkansas State and Auburn.

“(Lashlee) is one of the smarter coaches I’ve ever been around, been able to work with,” Malzahn said. “He’s very good with players and one of best offensive minds in college football.”

Lashlee said he spoke on the phone with Malzahn last week to make sure everyone was safe.

“I think they’ll be ready to go and so will we,” Lashlee said.

–Field Level Media

Free Picks & Predictions:

SMU +3

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College Football Week 4 Picks: Air Force vs Nevada

Air Force vs Nevada

When: 8:00 PM ET, Friday, September 23, 2022
Where: Falcon Stadium, Colorado Springs, Colorado

Overall Team Offense

The Air Force Falcons are ranked 27 on offense, averaging 483.3 yards per game. The Falcons are averaging 410.7 yards rushing and 72.7 yards passing so far this season.

The Nevada Wolf Pack are ranked 119 on offense, averaging 290.0 yards per game. The Wolf Pack are averaging 138.5 yards rushing and 151.5 yards passing so far this season.

Home and Away

The Air Force Falcons are 2-0 at home this season, 0-1 against conference opponents and 5456-5456 against non-conference opponents. At home the Falcons are averaging 44.5 scoring, and holding teams to 13.5 points scored on defense.

The Nevada Wolf Pack are 1-1 while on the road this season, 0-0 against conference opponents and 5456-5456 against non-conference opponents.

On the road, the Wolf Pack are averaging 11.5 scoring, and holding teams to 19.5 points scored on defense.

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UCF vs Florida Gasparilla Bowl Game Picks for Thursday, Dec 23

UCF vs Florida

When: Thursday, Dec 23 at 7:00pm et

Where: Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, FL

The Florida Gators are in a bowl game this year — barely.

Florida (6-6) will play in-state rival UCF (8-4) in the Gasparilla Bowl on Thursday in Tampa.

“This game is good for the state,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “With the game being sold out quickly, that speaks for itself.”

As for the Gators, they were so disappointing this year that coach Dan Mullen was fired on Nov. 21. Things unraveled quickly for Mullen, who went 10-3 in his first year with the Gators in 2018 and 11-2 in 2019.

Last year, the Gators were 8-1 and ranked sixth in the nation in early December. After that, Mullen went 5-9 before getting dismissed.

Billy Napier, hired from Louisiana, is the Gators’ new head coach, although Florida will be coached on Thursday by the remnants of the previous staff.

“You’re going to figure out quickly that I’m a football junkie,” Napier said. “I’m well aware of the history here.”

That history includes a 2-0 all-time record against UCF, beating the Knights 42-0 in 2006 and 58-27 in 1999. Both games were on Gators soil in Gainesville.

The current Gators squad has some issues, though. Defensive end Zachary Carter, who led the team with eight sacks, declared for the NFL Draft and will skip the bowl game. He was a team leader and Florida’s most physical player.

Quarterback Anthony Richardson, a Gators fan favorite, will not play due to a knee injury. Quarterback Emory Jones will play, but he has announced he will enter the transfer portal after the game.

For UCF to beat Florida for the first time, the Knights likely will need big games from quarterback Mikey Keene, running back Isaiah Bowser and wide receiver Jaylon Robinson.

Keene, a true freshman, took over after former starter Dillon Gabriel broke his collarbone on Sept. 17 in a 42-35 loss to Louisville.

Since then, the Knights have gone 6-3, and Keene has completed 63.6 percent of his passes. He has 16 touchdown passes and six interceptions, and he has played so well that Gabriel transferred to UCLA.

Bowser has rushed for 548 yards, a 4.4-yard average and a team-high seven touchdowns, but he has been limited to seven games due to injuries.

Robinson has played just six games, posting 18 catches for a team-high 17.9-yard average.

“Everyone has been practicing,” Malzahn said in reference to injuries. “We’re expecting our full team.”

Other key Knights are running back Johnny Richardson (693 rushing yards, 6.9 per carry) and wide receiver Ryan O’Keefe (77 receptions for 727 yards and six TDs).

Malzahn said preparing for the Gators is difficult due to Florida’s coaching situation. Running backs coach/special teams coordinator Greg Knox will run the Gators on an interim basis, but what that means in regards to schemes could be difficult to decipher.

“We will do our best trying to predict who is going to coach,” Malzahn said, “but we know they have excellent players.”

Jones leads Florida in rushing (696 yards, 5.2 average). He has completed 67.6 percent of his passes for 2,563 yards and 19 touchdowns with 13 interceptions.

Dameon Pierce leads Florida with 12 rushing TDs, and Jacob Copeland leads the Gators in receptions (39), average per catch (15.6 yards) and receiving yards (607). His four TD catches are tied for the team lead.

–Field Level Media

College Football Pick: Under 55 Total Points

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UTSA vs San Diego State Frisco Bowl Game Picks for Tuesday, Dec 21

UTSA vs San Diego Sate

When: Tuesday, Dec 21 at 7:30pm et

Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX

Two of the top non-power conference teams in the nation square off Tuesday night when No. 24 San Diego State opposes UTSA in the Frisco Bowl at Frisco, Texas.

Both programs are enjoying big campaigns even though they operate outside the national spotlight.

UTSA (12-1) of Conference USA is in just its 10th season as an FBS program and is looking for its initial bowl victory. The San Antonio-based school could also notch a rare 13th victory.

San Diego State (11-2) of the Mountain West is looking to win 12 games for the first time in the school’s Division I history. The school also won 11 games in 1969, 2015 and 2016.

The Aztecs, though, are limping their way to Texas after being clobbered 46-13 by Utah State in the Mountain West title game on Dec. 4.

That type of beating was a stunner as San Diego State allowed 16 or fewer points on seven occasions this season.

“We are 11-2, and many football teams would like to be 11-2, but we would rather be 12-1, but that is where we are right now,” Aztecs coach Brady Hoke said. “We can also set the school record for wins. We have an opportunity to still play for that.”

San Diego State received one break when Roadrunners star running back Sincere McCormick decided to skip Tuesday’s game as he prepares to enter the NFL draft.

McCormick received multiple All-American honors after setting school records for rushing yards (1,479) and rushing touchdowns (15) and earning Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year honors. McCormick had eight 100-yard rushing efforts this season.

“To the city of San Antonio, UTSA and Meep Meep nation, I am so grateful for the support you have shown not just me, but the entire football program over the last three years,” McCormick said in part during his announcement.

McCormick’s exit is a blow to an offense that averages 37.9 points per game and scored 44 or more points on six occasions.

But the team’s confidence is high after the stellar campaign under second-year coach Jeff Traylor. UTSA’s lone blemish was a 45-23 road loss against North Texas on Nov. 27 but now the focus is on playing well in the school’s third-ever bowl game.

“It’s always fun to win. We don’t like to talk about it very much, but we’ve experienced that other thing this year and we don’t want to do that again,” Traylor said. “That is what is most important, for our kids to leave on a good note. In the history of the program, we’ve never won a bowl game. …

“Why not us? Some team is going to be the first to win a bowl game in the history of this school. Why not us?”

San Diego State features a star linebacker in Cameron Thomas (20.5 tackles for loss) but its most intriguing player is Matt Araiza, nicknamed “Punt God.”

Araiza won the Ray Guy Award as the nation’s top punter and his current 51.4 average would surpass Texas A&M’s Braden Mann (50.98 in 2018) as the best in FBS history.

Araiza also is a unanimous first-team All-American. The only other San Diego State player to sweep the first-team honors was legendary runner Marshall Faulk, who did it in both 1992 and 1993.

Araiza placed 36 punts inside the opponents’ 20-yard line, and has six punts of at least 70 yards — including boots of 86 and 81 yards. The 86-yarder against San Jose State came with San Diego State backed up on its own 11-yard line and Araiza standing in his own end zone to field the snap.

“I think that one rolled about 20 yards,” Araiza said. “Someone downed it at their 3.”

The Frisco Bowl is San Diego State’s 11th bowl berth since 2020. The Aztecs split the other 10.

UTSA lost 23-20 to New Mexico in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl and 31-24 to Louisiana in the 2020 First Responder Bowl in its previous two bowl opportunities.

–Field Level Media

NBA Pick: UTSA +4

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College Football Week 9 Picks and Predictions – SMU vs Houston

The first in a series of anticipated collisions atop the American Athletic Conference standings will take place Saturday night when the Houston Cougars host the 19th-ranked SMU Mustangs.

The Cougars (6-1, 4-0) have six consecutive victories since a 38-21, season-opening loss to Texas Tech.

SMU (7-0, 3-0) throttled Tulane 55-26 on Oct. 21 and is seeking its second 8-0 start in three years after finishing the 2019 season 10-3.

Second-ranked and unbeaten Cincinnati (7-0, 3-0) lurks for the Mustangs in the chase for the conference title.

Starting with the Cougars, SMU will play three of four games on the road, concluding with a showdown at the Bearcats on Nov. 20. The long, methodical climb to national prominence requires SMU to maintain the momentum it has built thus far this season.

“That’s the kind of consistency you want in a program,” SMU coach Sonny Dykes said. “That’s kind of been our deal from the get-go. If you want to be a big-time college football program, the name of the game is consistency. You can have some good years and you can be a flash in the pan, but if you want to be the real thing, then you have to do it consistently.

“Our goal is to end the year in the Top 25, which we haven’t done. We’ve lost games late, and we can’t afford to do that this year. Our goal is to continue to move up in the rankings, but most importantly finish the season ranked.”

The recent schedule in advance of the meeting with Houston could provide the Mustangs an advantage. SMU had an open week before defeating the Green Wave on a Thursday, meaning the Mustangs will have played just one game over the three weeks before meeting Houston.

Dykes has taken precise measures to keep his players rested and sharp during that stretch.

“This time of the year, I think it’s really important to get your football team as fresh as you can,” he said. “It’s such a grind, and any chance you have an opportunity to get a day or two of rest, you want to take advantage of it.”

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Conversely, the Cougars endured a bit of an ordeal last Saturday against East Carolina. Inclement weather delayed kickoff several hours, and then the Cougars needed overtime to win 31-24. Given the circumstances, and the underrated quality of the Pirates’ defense, it’s no surprise that Houston scuffled offensively.

“I knew they were good on defense,” Houston coach Dana Holgorsen said. “I knew that we were going to have problems with some of their stuff. I’ve got to figure some stuff out on offense. There’s no mistake about that.”

Houston will have quarterback Clayton Tune, who ranks second in the AAC and 14th nationally with a 69.1 completion percentage, available against SMU despite a lingering hamstring injury. His presence should help Holgorsen advance his goal of improved play on offense, but given the stakes for both teams, the Cougars realize that even more will be required on Saturday.

“How we played offensively is not good enough,” Holgorsen said. “If we play like that against SMU, we’re going to have some problems.”

–Field Level Media

Free Pick: SMU +1.5

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Memphis vs UCF Game Preview and Prediction

When the Memphis Tigers visit the UCF Knights on Friday night in Orlando, it could come down to a battle between true freshman quarterbacks.

Memphis (4-3, 1-2 American Athletic Conference) is powered by Seth Henigan, a 6-foot-3, 200-pounder from the Dallas area who is the first true freshman to start a Tigers season opener.

UCF (3-3, 1-2) is led by Mikey Keene, a 5-11, 180-pounder who went 23-0 and won a pair of state titles over the past two years in Arizona.

Henigan, who has started all seven of Memphis’ games, is second in the AAC in passing yards per game (307.6) and in TD passes (16).

“One of the things that brought me to Memphis was their winning culture,” Henigan said.

Indeed, the past three Memphis starters at quarterback have been standouts: Paxton Lynch, an NFL first-round pick in 2016, Riley Ferguson and Brady White.

This year, the Tigers got off to a 3-0 start, including an upset win over Mississippi State. But then Memphis’ 22-game non-conference home winning streak was snapped with a 31-28 loss to UTSA. The Tigers then lost league games to Temple and Tulsa before ending their three-game skid last week with a 35-17 win over Navy.

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Now comes UCF, a team that had beaten Memphis 13 consecutive times before last year, when the Tigers rallied to beat the Knights 50-49.

On Friday, of course, there will be two different starting quarterbacks. For UCF, that’s Keene, who in four games is ninth in the league in passing yards (142.0 per contest).

Keene, who has tossed four TD passes and the same number of interceptions, has been filling in for injured standout Dillon Gabriel.

In the games Gabriel started and completed, UCF went 2-0. Since Keene became the starter, the Knights are 1-2, including a blowout loss last week to then third-ranked Cincinnati.

UCF’s top playmakers are running back Johnny Richardson (team-high 317 rushing yards, 6.1 average) and receiver Ryan O’Keefe (team-high 35 catches and 375 yards). Running back Isaiah Bowser and wide receiver Brandon Johnson — a Tennessee Volunteers transfer — are tied for the team high with six touchdowns.

“We’ve got to have big plays,” UCF coach Gus Malzahn said. “We’re halfway through the season. We’ve got to get better.”

Memphis’ top playmaker is Calvin Austin III, who has 10 TDs this season — eight on receptions, one on a 69-yard reverse, and one on a punt return.

–Field Level Media

Free College Football Pick: Memphis -125

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Navy vs Memphis Picks and Predictions – NCAAF Week 7

Memphis won’t have to wait long for a chance to erase its three-game losing streak, as the Tigers return home Thursday night to face a similarly struggling conference opponent in Navy.

Memphis (3-3, 0-2 AAC) hasn’t won since upsetting Mississippi State 31-29 in Week 3 of the FBS season to improve to 3-0. The Tigers dropped their next three outings by a combined 12 points. Most recent was Saturday’s 35-29 loss at Tulsa after the Tigers made it close in the fourth quarter with two 75-yard touchdown drives.

“Unfortunately it’s been a similar narrative in all of our games, right, being down the last possession,” Memphis coach Ryan Silverfield said. “And looking at our opponent ahead at Navy, a lot of their games have come down to one possession. … Like a lot of teams, the records necessarily don’t indicate what type of team you’re getting.”

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The close losses tell Silverfield that his team simply needs to drill down on cleaning up the details. Against Tulsa, for instance, the Tigers gained 614 yards of total offense but lost the turnover battle 3-0 and missed three field goals and an extra point.

Senior all-conference wideout Calvin Austin III (48 receptions, 837 yards, eight TDs to lead Memphis) said Saturday the team needed to address its “sense of entitlement” over assuming it would beat teams it’s supposed to beat.

“I appreciate Calvin’s mature enough to recognize that’s a trend and we gotta make sure that it doesn’t continue on our team or find a way to rear its head in the locker room,” Silverfield said.

Behind quarterback Tai Lavatai, the Navy offense has woken up. After three weeks it was averaging 10.0 points per game, worst in FBS. But the Midshipmen scored 34 and 24 points the last two weeks against respectable conference opponents in UCF and then-No. 24 SMU.

Lavatai completed his first career touchdown pass on a flea-flicker against SMU, but Navy (1-4, 1-2) couldn’t hold on and lost 31-24.

Coach Ken Niumatalolo said his team is preparing for “a typical Memphis team.” The Tigers have won between eight and 10 games for seven consecutive seasons and taken their last two meetings with Navy.

“They’ve got good coaches on their staff, good players,” Niumatalolo said. “Tough loss versus Tulsa. We had a tough loss last week also versus SMU. But both of us, we’ve got to find a way to bounce back, and the team that does that is the team that’s gonna be successful.”

–Field Level Media

Free Pick: Navy +11

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Arizona State vs BYU Prediction & Game Preview

No. 19 Arizona State is preparing to play its first road game with fans in the stadium since 2019 when the Sun Devils travel to Provo, Utah, to face No. 23 BYU on Saturday.

COVID-19 protocol kept fans out of the stadium for the Sun Devils’ 2020 season that included four games against Pac-12 opponents.

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards knows of the challenge ahead facing the Cougars at LaVell Edwards Stadium in a higher altitude than Tempe, Ariz.

The Sun Devils (2-0) have routed Southern Utah and UNLV at home in their first two games, outscoring those teams by a combined 78-24.

“They’ve got a great fan base, and it’s going to be loud,” Edwards said of the BYU game. “You couldn’t go into a better venue when you think about college football. They have a great venue and they do a great job supporting their team.

“This is kind of what you want to experience as a football team. Kind of figure out what you are.”

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What the Sun Devils have shown offensively to this point is a potent running game with versatile quarterback Jayden Daniels leading the team in rushing (165 yards on 19 carries) and passing (30 completions in 41 attempts for 307 yards with two touchdowns and an interception).

Arizona State is coming off rushing for 290 yards in the 37-10 win over UNLV with Daniels gaining 125 yards on 13 carries, Rachaad White amassing 90 yards on 22 rushes and two touchdowns, and Daniyel Ngata gaining 64 yards on six rushes with a score.

BYU (2-0) will look to win its first three games against Pac-12 opponents. The Independent power has already defeated Arizona 24-16 in Las Vegas and rival Utah 26-17 in Provo.

The Cougars are also trying to start consecutive seasons 3-0 for the first time since the 1951 and 1952 seasons.

BYU coach Kilani Sitake, 40-26 in his sixth season at his alma mater, said he believes the matchup with the Sun Devils will be the “most difficult” to this point in the season.

“They have tons of athletes and size and playmaking ability in a lot of different places,” Sitake said. “Jayden Daniels is a really, really good player. He has a lot of poise. He just seems like a veteran right now, and he is surrounded by a physical, athletic offensive line, good tight ends that can block and catch, and a number of skill players at running back and receiver that have tons of athleticism and speed.”

Edwards is equally impressed with BYU quarterback Jaren Hall, who he describes as a “wow guy.”

Hall has completed 36 of 58 pass attempts for 347 yards with five touchdowns and no interceptions. He is a dual threat similar to Daniels, rushing for 128 yards on 13 carries.

His favorite target, Neil Pau’u, has 11 receptions for 145 yards with three touchdowns.

Tyler Allgeier is BYU’s featured back with 196 yards on 44 carries with a touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

Free Pick: Arizona State -175

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Texas Tech vs Houston Prediction & Game Preview

Two old conference foes who could wind up being league opponents again are set to get the new season rolling Saturday on the national stage with plenty of storylines in tow.

Houston and Texas Tech square off at NRG Stadium in Houston, a high-profile game between two programs that have slipped off the radar a bit the last few seasons.

Both teams are guided by third-year coaches who likely need their teams to show some progress this fall: the Cougars’ Dana Holgorsen and the Red Raiders’ Matt Wells.

The two old Southwest Conference foes are among a group of teams somewhat in limbo after the bombshell news that Texas and Oklahoma are leaving the Big 12 Conference for the SEC.

Whether Houston and Texas Tech wind up together again remains to be seen, but this season revives their series for just the fifth time since the end of the SWC after the 1995 season.

Holgorsen said his team is already fired up for a new season, especially after a 2020 campaign perforated by COVID-19. Add in some other elements — including a handful of Cougars who transferred from Texas Tech and some connections between the coaching staffs — and there is plenty of intrigue.

“You throw a Texas school in there, a Big 12 school in there, and you expect them to be excited,” said Holgorsen, who has guided Houston to 4-8 and 3-5 records in his first two seasons.

The Red Raiders have been slightly better under Wells, going 4-8 in 2019, 4-6 in 2020. But this will be a new-look team in a lot of ways with 20 transfers and a Big 12-leading 12 super seniors, those players who are taking advantage of the NCAA’s decision to give them another year after 2020 was derailed by COVID.

“The thing that gives me confidence is the amount of games played by the guys that we’re playing with on both sides of the ball, whether here at Texas Tech or at other schools,” Wells said. “I would say we do have an older presence. We have a veteran team. A lot of guys have played in big games — Division I games — and that’s what I draw confidence on.”

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Most prominent among the list of newcomers for Texas Tech is an experienced starting quarterback.

Tyler Shough made the move to Lubbock after starting all seven games last season for Oregon and passing for 1,559 yards and 13 touchdowns. He is the front-runner of arguably the deepest collection of passers the Red Raiders have had since Patrick Mahomes left after his junior season in 2016.

“He’s everything you could hope for, and the big thing is he’s fit in very well with his teammates,” Wells said.

Shough has company in the group of newcomers. Left tackle T.J. Storment was an All-Big 12 player at TCU. Receiver Kaylon Geiger is in scarlet and black after catching 141 passes and scoring eight touchdowns at Troy, and safety Marquis “Muddy” Waters started 35 games in four seasons at Duke.

While Houston didn’t load up as much in the transfer market, the Cougars are also leaning on a veteran quarterback to engineer Holgorsen’s version of the Air Raid offense. Clayton Tune passed for 2,048 yards and 15 scores in eight games last fall.

“Clayton is a guy we know we can rely on because he knows the offense,” Holgorsen said.

No argument from Wells.

“He’s accurate, throws a good ball, throws different kinds of balls,” Wells said. “He’s got arm strength to throw it down the field, so I think those are the things that make him good.”

–Field Level Media

Free Pick: Texas Tech +2