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The Big Uglies

   by Bryan Leonard - 09/22/2007

There's plenty of beauty to observe in the NFL. Perfect spirals to graceful wide receivers, a slick runner cutting back against the grain, perfect blocking execution, or a great call such as a finely executed screen pass when the opposition is in an all-out blitz. There is also plenty of ugly play, too. Here are some of the “Big Ugliesâ€쳌 thus far with some pro and college offenses.

The Jaguars brought in new offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter to help jumpstart what has been a plodding, conservative West Coast offense the last few years in Jacksonville. After two games, the Jags have scored 10 and 13 points. That’s not exactly lighting up the scoreboard. On the plus side, QB David Garrard was actually strong the last game, with 272 yards on 17-of-25 passing. It’s getting into the end zone has been the problem thus far. Jacksonville is 2-0 under the total with its new wide open offense!

Speaking of ugly offenses, the Miami Dolphins were revamped the offense with new coach Cam Cameron and new QB Trent Green. First round pick WR Ted Ginn hasn’t been a factor and Green looks old beyond his years with 4 interceptions Sunday. Cameron was booed on draft day and will be booed again at home if this offense continues to struggle.

Ugly dogs can offer wagering value, however, if the situation and the matchups are right. One of the ugly dogs I had Saturday in college football was Iowa State, and they won straight up as a home dog over state rival Iowa.

In my analysis I wrote, “It’s tough to make a case for a winless team to cover the spread versus an undefeated squad, but that’s exactly why the pointspread was invented. We’re not going out on a limb and saying the Cyclones will win this game, but we sure do feel the 17 ½ points is too much of an overlay. Considering that Iowa has been favored by just 9 and 4 points their last two visits here. The Cyclones are under former Texas defensive coordinator Gene Chizik and will be a better team because of it.

“Iowa has started the season by beating up on two of the worst teams in the country, Northern Illinois and Syracuse. Garrett Wolfe was a one man wrecking crew for the Huskies and he is no longer there. In fact, Northern Illinois had to break in a new quarterback and 9 new starters. Syracuse also replaced 9 starters and looks to be one of the worst football programs in the country. Iowa brings in a new quarterback this season in Jake Christianson and he will be making his first true road start of his career. Iowa enters this match-up with a 3 game straight up road losing streak, dropping 7 straight games in the role of road favorites! Iowa is just 5-13 ATS on the road and the Hawkeyes are only 1-8 ATS in this heated rivalry.

Plus, Iowa has Wisconsin revenge on deck as the Big 10 Conference season kicks off. After beating the Cyclones in straight up fashion 3 of the last 4 years, we expect the Hawkeye players to overlook this struggling squad. Despite starting the season with losses to Kent State and Northern Iowa we can see the progress this team is starting to make. The rushing attack which managed just 3.0 yards per carry a year ago has improved and looks to be a stepping stone for this offense. Quarterback Bret Meyer struggled with his accuracy in the past but has made solid strides in the new offense. And about their competition, they outgained Kent State and Northern Illinois.

By the way, the Golden Flashes are one of the teams to beat in the MAC Conference while Northern Iowa are one of the top Division 1-AA teams in the nation. Iowa hasn’t won a road game by more than this spread in the last 3 seasons. We simply can’t see them dominating a rivalry game which obviously means much more to the Cyclones. If by chance Iowa State pulls the upset here new coach Gene Chizik will get a free ride the rest of the season. That’s how much this game means to the Cyclone faithful. Play Iowa State!â€쳌 I did, and wasn’t surprised to see the straight up win.

Back to the NFL, it’s hard not to talk about Big Uglies and not mention the Atlanta Falcons. They lost their starter and backup QB from a year ago in Mike Vick and Matt Schaub, which is why new coach Bobby Petrino scrambled to add Joey Harrington. After two games, Harrington has averaged less than 200 yards passing per game with no TDs and 2 picks. A big, giant ugly! Big uglies are important: Some offer wagering value, while others are just as profitable to go against.

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