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August-21-2003,
NCAA analysis and opinion from gridironpics.com...By Steve Zukiel

GOING THROUGH THE NATION IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL TO FIND THE BEST TEAMS TO MAKE MONEY BETTING WITH OR AGAINST IN 2003

BIG TEN

BET AGAINST & BET .OVER.. INDIANA HOOSIERS

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This is a very young and very thin football team, which isn.t good in the Big 10. They had just 47 scholarship players taking part in spring practice, including just six seniors. The did lost both quarterbacks from last year but they do have Matt LoVecchio(ex-Irish pivot) behind center.

Offense will be sharp as they have all of their RB.s in the backfield and their top six WR.s as well.

It is the Hoosier defense that needs a ton of work as they were horrible last year. They yielded 39 ppg and 5.8 ypc along the ground. Coach DiNardo has gone to the more aggressive 4-2-5 but if spring scrimmage is any indication, this team is in for another long season. RB Brian Lewis was actually able to rush for 191 yards on 28 carries, scoring twice.

The Hoosiers are 11-21-1 ATS their last three years.

BET FOR...MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS:

I believe this could be the surprise of the Big 10. They were 8-5 SU last season and this year, they return 16 starters on both offense and defense. This includes QB Asad Abdul Khaliq, who threw for almost 2200 yards and 19 touchdowns while rushing for 328 yards and scoring five times.

Khaliq will have pressure taken off of him because both RB.s are back in the mix and that spells trouble for opposing defenses. Terry Jackson and FB Thomas Tapeh combined to rush for over 2200 yards and 14 touchdowns while averaging 5.3 ypc.

The key will be the development of the offensive line. Coach Glen Mason played several frosh last year and that will pay off big time in 2003.

This team is going to play with a great deal of confidence after their bowl win against Arkansas. Circle this team and watch them cash in tickets for you in 2003

BIG EAST

BET AGAINST..WEST VIRGINIA:

The Mountaineers, under coach Rich Rodriguez had a Cinderella season in 2002. They finished the year going 9-4 SU and 9-3 ATS. They were a very experienced team last season but now only nine players return, which gives you an indication that it will take some time for this team to gel, if at all this year.

QB Rasheed Marshall back behind center has been working on his mechanics all spring. He only threw nine touchdown passes all year and he needs to work on that.

The key here is their defensive losses. Up front, they really lost a plethora of players due to graduation with OLB Grant Wiley the only one returning. The defense is fast but they are not big up front at all.

Expect a severe crash from the Mountaineers in 2003

ACC

BET AGAINST..WAKE FOREST

The Demon Deacons had a solid season but they did benefit from having a veteran-laden team and they also took advantage of a big turnover edge.

Wake was 7-6 SU and ATS last season but they are only returning 10 starters(the least in the ACC), including just three on the offensive side and they also must replace 16 lettermen.

The defense does return seven players, but their weak offense will kill them early on. They averaged 27.4 ppg in 2002 and I can.t see them doing that this season as I also can.t see them having another +18-type turnover year like they did in 2002. They don.t have much time to get things together as they have games vs NC State and Purdue in their second and their games respectively.

Circle this team early and bet against them as their offense will hurt them in a big way.

SEC

BET WITH..KENTUCKY

The one negative for the Wildcats is that the seniors will be playing for their third HC as Guy Morriss bailed after last season. Their new head man is Rich Brooks, who we all remember from the Oregon and St. Louis Ram days. He is a no nonsense coach and from my reports I have received, all the players have been making a smooth transition under the new Head Coach.

This is a very exciting team with QB Jared Lorenzen, who actually shed some pounds and will be a little more mobile than he has been in recent years. Lorenzen threw 24 touchdowns compared to just 5 interceptions in 2003 and he still has four experienced WR.s to throw the football to and the big factor is he will be playing behind an offensive line that returns all five starters.

They do lose a very good RB in Artose Pinner but I did like what I saw from Alexis Bwenge, who had three touchdowns in the spring game.

I see a lot of points scored in Kentucky games this season but if the defense does make a statement in 2003, this could very well be the best stories in football.

MAC

BET WITH...AKRON

Though the Zips were only 4-8 SU and 4-7 ATS in 2002, there was a great deal of optimism as the season ended as the Zips won four of their last six games, that coming after starting the year 0-6.

They return 17 starters from last season, including QB Charlie Frye, who I believe is one of the best QB.s in the conference. Frye threw for 2824 yards last season, and completed 65.8% of his passes. He also threw for 15 touchdowns and he will have seven of his top eight receivers returning this season.

I also like the fact that they will be returning their top RB as Bob Hendry is looking to do even better than last seasons. 1021 yards and eight touchdowns.

The offensive line struggled in 2002 but all five are returning this season so I expect a big improvement..

The Zip defense really improved over the last half of last season. In the first six games, Akron allowed 263 points but allowed just 116 in their last six games.

I love this team. Circle them as they are going to make you a ton of money.

C-USA

BET WITH..MEMPHIS:

I expect better things from the Tigers in 2003. I know coach Tommy West is counting on it. The Tigers managed just three wins last season and they came against Tulane, a 1-11 Army squad and a Div 1 AA team in Murray State.

I really believe the offense will turn things around and it all starts with their QB in Danny Wimprine. He threw for 2820 yards in 2002, while tossing 23 touchdowns and completing 54% of his passes.

The offensive line will be the big key to their season. They did lose seven of their top eight offensive linemen but they did sign two very impressive JUCO.s in 6.3. 300 LB Jason Matthews and 6.4. 305 LB Bobby Garafolo.

Key defensively is the signing of master Joe Lee Dunn. I expect big things from this unit as they do return eight starters.

I think the improved defense and the fact that they have seven home games gives Memphis a shot at having a winning season and avoiding another embarrassing year like they suffered through in 2002.

BIG XII

BET AGAINST...KANSAS & IOWA STATE:

Even the very positive Mark Mangino is starting to think about suicide. This team struggled with a 2-10 mark in 2002 and only 11 starters are returning this season. They ended the year going 0-6 both SU and ATS and were giving up AN AVERAGE of 50 ppg. How sick is that???? The best part was most of these teams that Kansas played actually eased up on them in the second half.

The defense once again will be extremely undersized for Big XII play and they are still very dangerously thin.

Expect another long year for the Jayhawks.

Iowa State had a tremendous start to the 2002 season, but they fell apart near the end and it ended with a humiliating bowl loss. They have lost QB Seneca Wallace and that is huge.

The schedule might not be as brutal as it was in 2002 but I still think, especially earlier on, you need to bet against the Cyclones as they look to break in an incumbent to the departed Wallace.

PAC 1O

BET AGAINST...CALIFORNIA:

Jeff Tedford did a great job with this team last season, as the Bears were 7-5 SU and 8-4 ATS. However, this turns immediately into a rebuilding season as they have lost a great deal of key players, none more important than QB Kyle Boller, who threw for over 2800 yards and 25 touchdowns.

They have lost 24 seniors from last year.s team and only nine starters return from 2002.

The one strong area will be the offensive line, as it looked very good in the spring but there are really no accomplished running backs behind the line as they also must replace Joe Igber, who was lost to graduation and he ran for over 1100 yards and seven touchdowns.

Boller is gone and they will be looking to JR Reggie Robertson, and though he is raw, Tedford has been a master in developing quarterbacks.

Despite this, I would jump all over the opposing teams that Cal is facing early on because if Tedford can work his magic once again with Robertson, it won.t be until the latter stages of the season. Take advantage of the early struggles.

WAC

BET WITH..NEVADA

Despite losing QB Zach Threadgill and WR Nate Burleson, I still believe this is a conference darkhorse in 2003.

First and foremost they do return 10 players on the defensive side of the ball and as this unit has been their Achilles heel over the years, I see another marked improvement this season.

The key to a successful year will be determined by how good this offense can be without their two proven stars. I believe they will be better. Sure Threadgill put up some quality numbers but what I have heard about his predecessor, Jeff Rowe, is that he has more arm strength then threadgill.

Losing WR Nate Burleson hurt but they are all very high on 6.4. JUCO Willie Johnson who many believe has more of an upside than Burleson.

Finally, what will make this team more dangerous than most will be one of the best RB tandems in the nation in Chance Kretschmer and Matt Milton. Kretschmer tore an ACL early last season, giving the job to Milton. All he did was rush for 1108 yards, nine touchdowns and averaged nearly 5 ypc. Let.s all remember that Kretschmer was the same back who rumbled for over 1700 yards in 2001.

If Jeff Rowe can deliver behind center, I would watch out for this team.

SUN BELT

BET WITH..ARKANSAS STATE

I will be the first to tell you that I think North Texas is once again the team to beat in the Sun Belt but I believe one of the big darkhorses could be this Indian squad. Steve Roberts has done a magnificent job with this team, especially on the defensive side.

The Green Eagles have shown that defense can win championships and the Indians have a defense. After giving up more than 32 ppg in 2001, this team allowed just 18.2 ppg. Roberts scrapped the old 3-4 and went to a more aggressive 4-2-5, and turned his players loose. They accumulated 34 sacks last season, which was a huge improvement upon the eight they record in 2001.

They have just five players returning on the offensive side of the ball, but one of them is QB Elliot Jacobs and he did perform admirably in 2002. I expect much better things from him this season.

They did lose a good RB in Danny Smith but I like what I have seen from Antonio Warren and if he produces, this team could surprise.

Let.s not forget that last season, the Indians shocked Middle Tennessee State and all three conference losses came by five points or less and that included games as conference winner North Texas and runner-up New Mexico State.

Watch out for this squad.

INDEPENDENT

BET WITH..CONNECTICUT

Oh how I love this team. The Huskies went 6-6 last year but more more importantly they were 9-2 ATS and now they return 16 starters from their 2002 squad, eight from each side.

Offensively they are a very talented bunch as they are led by QB Dan Orlovsky. Orlovsky had a breakout year in 2002. The Huskie pivot threw for 2488 yards, 19 touchdowns and completed over 60% of his passes. He has a great supporting cast with the likes of RB Terry Caulley, who rumbled for 1247 yards and 15 touchdowns, while averaging 5.7 ypc. They did lose their top receiver from last year but six of their top eight return at that position so Orlovsky will still have plenty to throw to.

Four of their five offensive linemen return as well and coach Randy Edsell loved their focus during the spring.

The defensive front has steadily improved against the run over the last few seasons. They gave up 230 ypg in their first season in Division I-A, to 183 in 2001 to 171 last season.

There is a great deal of excitement surrounding this school. They will be playing in their new stadium, which is called Rentschler Field, a stadium which holds 40,000 people. 27,500 of those seats were sold to season ticket holder or allocated for distribution to students. Expect huge and exciting crowds all year long.

They will make you a ton of money once again in 2003.

MOUNTAIN WEST:

BET WITH.NEW MEXICO

All the talk in the Mountain West is usually about Colorado State or BYU, and rightfully so, but don.t ignore the Lobos this season.

Coach Rocky Long has stated that he believes this is the most potent offense he has been a part of since he took over the program.

They will go with QB Casey Kelly behind center and I believe Kelly will have a big season because he knows there is somebody waiting to take his place if he falters. Kelly was pushed hard in spring by Tali Ena, who has a stronger arm than Kelly. But it is Kelly.s to lose so expect a big season from him.

I think the key here is the offensive line. They are big, they are experienced and they will open up holes. These guys average 6.5. and 319 lbs. That is unbelievable!!!! They will open up holes from the talented RB in Dontrell Moore, who rumbled for 1134 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2002.

This team does have seven players returning on the defensive side of the ball and though they are somewhat vulnerable in the middle, I expect big things from them.

They do have a killer schedule, but I think it will help them by the time the conference games come full swing.

Don.t ignore Rocky Long.s Lobos. I think they are going to surprise some people.



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