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College Football: Under the Radar

   by Al McMordie - 08/30/2009



College football season kicks off this weekend. While all the attention is focused on teams like Notre Dame, USC and defending champion Florida, sports bettors are more interested in teams that are going to cover the weekly number. Every year there are teams that rise and fall based on expectations. Here are a few college football teams that may surprise against the spread, sailing a bit under the radar.



Cincinnati: Head coach Brian Kelly came aboard from Central Michigan and electrified the Cincy offense, winning the Big East championship last season. What’s remarkable is that the offense rotated four QBs because of injuries, but still averaged 27 points and 251 yards passing! And guess who is back? All 4 quarterbacks, 7 starters in all on offense. Senior QB Tony Pike threw for 2,407 yards, 19 TDs and 11 picks while sophomore QB Chazz Anderson was forced in as a freshman and threw for 520 yards.

The running game has senior RB Jacob Ramsey, who ran for 664 yards, leading the team, while the passing game is loaded with experience in senior WR Marshwan Gilyard (1,276 yards, 11 TDs) and junior WR Marcus Barnett. The Bearcats will appear on national television five times, so you will see a lot of them. Cincy is 4-2 SU, 5-1 ATS as a dog the last two seasons.



NC State: The Wolfpack had a losing record straight up, but were a sizzling 10-2 against the number! Coach Tom O’Brien has an excellent track record as coach, and returns 7 starters on both sides of the ball. A guy to watch is mobile sophomore quarterback Russell Wilson, who was sensational with 17 TDs and only one interception as a freshman. NC State might still be under the radar, even though they have covered 8 straight games and ended 2008 on a 4-1 SU, 5-0 ATS run.



Minnesota: They are not ready to contend for a Big 10 title, but Tim Brewster is a good recruiter who has gotten excellent results since bringing the spread offense here two years ago. Nine starters on offense return, led by junior QB Adam Weber (15 TDs and 8 picks). Senior wide receiver Eric Decker returns after leading the team with 84 grabs for 1,074 yards. And there's no more indoors at the Metrodome: The new TCF Bank Stadium opens for the Gophers. Minnesota is 26-17 over the total the last four years.



Tennessee: So much attention in the SEC is on defending champion Florida that the Volunteers are getting overlooked. Their poor season coast Phil Fulmer his job, but overlooked was a defense that was terrific, allowing 16.8 points per contest. 7 starters are back on offense, 6 on defense, with a new DC in Monte Kiffin, one of the NFL’s best (Bucs). The offense was a disaster, so new coach Lane Kiffin adds offensive coordinator Jim Chaney (from the NFL Rams). That can only help senior QB Jonathan Crompton. The Vols are an impressive 18-14 SU/18-13-1 ATS on the road the last six seasons.



Western Michigan: Fifth-year Head Coach Bill Cubit runs an excellent program and is off a 9-4 SU, 5-7 ATS season. The experience on offense for the Broncos is outstanding, led by senior four-year starting QB Tim Hiller (36 TDs, 10 picks, 3,725 yards) on an offense that averaged 301 yards passing and 29.8 ppg. Almost the entire starting offensive line returns along with senior RB Brandon West (1,026 yards). Western Michigan was 1-10 before Cubit got here and they’ve been a MAC force since. They are under the radar enough to be an ATS power in 2009 and open at Michigan this week.



Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles went for an exciting, uptempo offense when they brought in Coach Larry Fedora. He helped run a spread offense at Oklahoma State and a very young Southern Miss team caught fire late last season, ending on a 5-0 SU, 4-1 ATS run. 8 starters return on both sides of the ball. Sophomore QB Austin Davis (23 TDs, 8 picks, 3,134 yards) returns, plus he ran for 508 yards while leaning heavily on one-back formations and no-huddle sets like Oklahoma State. Sophomore WR DeAndre Brown (1,117 yards, 12 TDs) is back, a former top recruit who spurned several SEC schools to play for the Golden Eagles.

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