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Surveying the weekly NCAAF schedule can be a daunting task for even seasoned bettors. So each week, Monty Andrews breaks down some of the underlying betting mismatches on the college football slate, giving you an inside edge when handicapping the schedule.
Miami at Florida State (+3, 48)
Miami's vaunted run defense vs. FSU's struggles on the ground
The Miami Hurricanes made a major statement this past weekend, shutting down host Duke en route to a 31-6 win over the Blue Devils. Now, the 13th-ranked Hurricanes will look to end a seven-game losing skid to rival Florida State as they visit the Seminoles on Saturday afternoon. Florida State has had a dreadful start to the season - thanks in no small part to the havoc caused by Hurricane Irma - and won't dig out of its hole if it can't find a way to solve Miami's impressive run defense.
Duke came into last week's encounter armed with one of the most potent ground attacks in the nation - and while it did manage to rack up 183 rushing yards against Miami, it needed a whopping 46 carries to do so. More importantly, Miami kept the Blue Devils out of the end zone; Duke entered the game with 11 rushing scores in its first four games. The Hurricanes have held opponents to a minuscule 3.5 YPC average through three games and have permitted just one rushing touchdowns so far.
That doesn't bode well for Florida State, which had high hopes coming into 2017 but has yet to get its running game untracked. The Seminoles average a paltry 3.1 YPC through three games, with just one rushing touchdown on its ledger. Florida State ran the ball 43 times in Saturday's victory over Wake Forest, but generated just 149 yards on the ground (3.5 YPC); a similar effort against the formidable Hurricanes this weekend could drop the Seminoles to 1-3 on the season.
LSU at Florida (-3, 46.5)
LSU's third-down troubles vs. Florida's drive-killing prowess
Things are B-A-D at LSU after the Tigers saw their 49-game home winning streak against non-conference opponents halted in a shocking 24-21 loss to Troy - a game in which LSU was a 20-point fave. Things don't get any easier this coming weekend as the Tigers tangle with a Gators team that improved to 3-0 in SEC play with a two-touchdown triumph over Vanderbilt. LSU will need to be much better than it was last week - particularly when it comes to third-down conversions.
The Tigers can point to several factors that contributed to their stunning loss - and failure to extend drives is at the top of the list. LSU went an unfathomable 0-for-9 on third-down conversions, and needed to connect on a pair of fourth downs just to score a fourth-quarter touchdown that made things interesting. The Tigers have gone a combined 3-for-22 on third-down conversions in their two losses this season, and rank a dismal 93rd in overall third-down success rate (35.7 percent) on the season.
Florida has done a lot of things right in conference play so far this season, and forcing teams to punt has been among its most impressive feats. Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt have gone a combined 9-for-39 on third downs in the Gators' three SEC victories, pushing Florida to 14th in the nation in overall third-down conversion rate allowed (28.1 percent). With these teams at the opposite end of the third-down spectrum, don't be surprised to see the Gators extend their success through the weekend.
West Virginia at TCU (-13.5, 71)
WV's underwhelming red-zone defense vs. TCU's nose for the end zone
If you like touchdowns and haven't already set your PVR for this game, you're doing it wrong. Two of the top five scoring offenses in the nation square off this weekend as the TCU Horned Frogs welcome the West Virginia Mountaineers to Amon G. Carter Stadium. These teams combine for an obscene 96.6 points per game - and while they might not get there on Saturday, you can bet on TCU's potent red-zone offense to give the Horned Frogs a decided scoring edge in this one.
West Virginia's 48.8 points per game rank second in the nation - but the Mountaineers haven't faced an offense like this. And given how they have performed against opposing teams in the red zone so far this season, they should be concerned. West Virginia has allowed foes to score on 12 of 14 trips inside its 20-yard line - an 85.7-percent success rate that ranks 76th nationally. Eight of those scores have been touchdowns - five on the ground and three through the air.
As you might expect, TCU - which averages an equally impressive 47.8 points per contest - has excelled in the red zone this season. The Horned Frogs have 14 touchdowns - eight rushing, six receiving - and three field goals in 19 visits inside the opponents' 20, good for an 89.5-percent success rate that ranks 37th in Division I. If this game becomes a battle of red-zone defenses, bank on TCU, which ranks inside the top 25 in red-zone defense at 72.7 percent.
Washington State at Oregon (-2, 64)
WSU's terrific discipline vs. Oregon's penalty parade
Washington State is knocking on the door of the top 10 following an impressive 30-27 win over USC last weekend. In addition to holding the Trojans to 2-of-11 on third down and forcing a pair of turnovers, the Cougars prevailed both in penalties (six to USC's nine) and penalty yards (59 to the Trojans' 80). Look for a similar - or larger - advantage this weekend, as Washington State looks to remain unbeaten against an Oregon side that can light up the scoreboard but has littered the field in yellow.
The Cougars have shown great discipline to date, ranking fourth in the Pac-12 in total penalties (27), penalty yards (251) and average yards per game (50.2). They're at a modest advantage in that regard, having drawn an average of 54 opponent penalty yards through five games. Keeping the flags off the field has contributed, at least in part, to Washington State's 33:36 average time of possession, which leads the Pac-12 and ranks 13th nationally.
The Ducks are an imposing unit, leading the nation in scoring (49.6) while ranking inside the top 15 in rushing yards per game (260.8). But when it comes to discipline, Oregon is miles behind the rest of the pack. The Ducks have racked up the most penalties (52) and penalty yards (467) in Division I, while ranking second from the bottom in penalty yards per game (93.4). Combined with the fact that Oregon has drawn an average of just 48.1 penalty yards per game, and it's a wonder the Ducks are 4-1.
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