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College Football Surprise ATS Teams

   by Al McMordie - 08/27/2007

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 everyone’s radar.

Washington State: The Cougars haven’t been a cover machine lately, but this is an interesting team to watch. Last season the Cougars scored more points than their opponents with a sensational offense, averaging 259 yards in the air each game. Yet, they were 6-6 SU/ATS and failed to make a bowl because of a late season flop. The heat is on Cougar Head Coach Bill Doba, but there are no excuses for 2007 with seven starters back on offense and five on defense.

This offense averaged 128 yards rushing and 259 passing and brings back senior QB Alex Brink (19 TDs, 10 INTs) and his top wide receivers. Brink completed 60% of his passes. The problem has been a bad defense, but Doba is moving back to the defensive side of the field, serving as defensive coordinator. He was DC of this team for nine seasons before being named head coach in 2002. Remember that they lost to USC just 28-22 (as a +15 dog) and flattened UCLA, 37-15, on the road, so they are not far off.

Florida International: OK, so the Golden Panthers were a perfect 0-12 last season straight up and 3-9 against the spread. Before you start laughing, hear me out. I’m not talking about national championship fodder here, just teams that might surprise, ones flying under the betting public’s radar.

Florida International is an interesting team in that they lost four of their first five games last season by a total of 10 points. And look who they lost to: at South Florida, just 21-20. At Maryland, losing 14-10 as a 23-point dog. Against South Florida, they led 20-7 at the half, holding the Bulls to 3.6 yards per rush and forcing 3 turnovers. They outgained Maryland of the ACC 310-275 and held the Terrapins to 2.9 yards per rush.

The defense was strong, tops in the Sun Belt, and returns 8 starters to a unit that allowed 3.9 yards per rush and just 115 passing yards in conference play.

New head coach Mario Cristobal was the offensive line coach at Miami and likes the improvement he’s seen in the offense. They could surprise against the spread, or, if the offense doesn’t improve, continue to be a strong play under the total (10-2 under last season).

Georgia: Have to lean toward a bounce back season for the Bulldogs. The defense is always tough and sophomore QB Matthew Stafford was forced in as the starter as a freshman, so he has a year under his belt. Georgia returns 13 of 26 starters off the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl Championship team, one that ended the season on a 3-0 SU/2-0-1 ATS run while topping Virginia Tech. The ground game is deep and Head Coach Mark Richt is 25-7 SU/20-12 ATS on the road at Georgia!

Arizona: Out West, fourth-year Head Coach Mike Stoops continues his rebuilding job. The Wildcat defenses have been super-tough under Stoops, which is his trademark. The problem has been anemic offenses. But for 2007, Stoops went out and hired Sonny Dykes, an assistant at wide-open Texas Tech, and he brings in a

spread attack. Arizona returns 7 starters on offense and 10 on defense. It all hinges on junior Willie Tuitama, who is mobile and has been starting since his freshman campaign. It will take some time for everyone to learn the offense, but keep in mind that Arizona is 10-5 ATS its last 15 as an underdog. They might be a surprise team in the Pac 10.

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