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Sandwich game could stifle Alabama

10:24 AM, Sep 19, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Alabama defeated Texas A&M by seven points last Saturday in a game the Crimson Tide defense allowed 628 total yards. The key question moving forward is, how will the Tide respond after such a gut- wrenching victory?

If the past two regular seasons hold any water, it is likely Alabama will struggle to cover the spread against Colorado State on Saturday.

The Tide have faced eight Top 25 clubs since the start of the 2011 campaign and even though they won seven of the eight games that followed, they were just 2-6 against the spread. And that includes five consecutive ATS losses.

Furthermore, Alabama tends to let up when favored by 30 points or more. Nick Saban's squad is 1-6 ATS in their last seven games under those conditions.

The Tide rarely run up the score on the opposition, especially non-conference FBS opponents. Since 2011, they have toppled the 42-point mark just once in eight non-conference FBS games. On the other hand, they have reached that total seven times in 20 league games.

Given the fact this matchup pairs Saban and his former offensive coordinator, Jim McElwain, it's doubtful Alabama will run up the score versus Colorado State. In addition, the Tide have a crucial SEC game the following week against an unbeaten Ole Miss team.

All the Rams have to do is score three to seven points to cover. And this is not the same offensively challenged squad that averaged 20 and 16 points per game in its first three contests in 2011 and 2012, respectively. This year's club is averaging 29 points, with the low mark at 27.

McElwain has an advantage in this contest since he knows most of Alabama's offensive personnel. Moreover, the Tide are a bit banged up on defense with Deion Belue still feeling the effects of an injured toe.

Look for the Rams to stay within the number and don't be surprised if this game is closer than one might expect.

Take Colorado State plus 39.5 points in the first of three five-star plays.

Sticking with the SEC, Mississippi State hosts Troy in a rematch of a game played in Troy a season ago. The Bulldogs, favored by 14.5 points that day, won by six despite getting outgained by over 100 yards. In addition, quarterback Tyler Russell was held to just 11 completions on 26 attempts and Mississippi State benefited from four Troy turnovers.

Speaking of Russell, the senior quarterback remains questionable with a concussion. Dak Prescott played well against Auburn last week, throwing for 213 yards while running for 133, so it's quite possible the sophomore will get the start.

Troy is led by Corey Robinson, who has completed 76 percent of his passes this season. The Trojans offense has scored 34 points or more in all three of its games and even though Mississippi State's defense will be the best it has seen, the Bulldogs' secondary is missing three starters from last year.

Troy's defense, which has been shaky in 2013, gave up 41 points last week to Arkansas State. However, the score was tied at 34 before the Red Wolves got the game-winning touchdown with less than four minutes remaining. Once again, the Trojans turned the ball over four times, which cost them the victory.

Troy has covered four of its last five non-conference FBS games while Mississippi State is 1-6 ATS in its last seven non-conference FBS matchups.

Take Troy plus 14 points.

Marshall travels to Blacksburg to take on Virginia Tech. The Thundering Herd disappointed their backers last week, losing at Ohio, 34-31. Still, they outgained the Bobcats by close to 150 yards. Turnovers were the main issue as Marshall had four miscues to zero for Ohio. That defeat will motivate the Herd to get back on the winning side, especially against a team such as Virginia Tech.

The Hokies return home off a five-point win at East Carolina. Their defense has been outstanding in 2013, but they have a huge ACC battle next Thursday night against Georgia Tech, so they might not be 100 percent focused on Marshall's high-powered offensive attack.

The line dropped from nine to 7.5 during the week, but the Herd are still a viable play.

Take Marshall plus 7.5 points.

TWO-STAR SELECTION

Take Georgia Tech -6 (North Carolina), ULM +29.5 (Baylor), Rice +3 (Houston), Hawaii +10 (Nevada) and UTEP +2.5 (UTSA).

ONE-STAR PICKS

Take North Texas +32.5 (Georgia), Kansas State +6 (Texas), Texas State +27.5 (Texas Tech) and Utah +7 (BYU).

THIS YEAR'S RECORD

After two weeks, my record stands at 20-19. The five-star plays went 1-1 last week for a 6-4 mark. I lost the lone three-star selection, so that record stands at 3-5. The two-star choices went 1-1 for a 6-5 overall record and the one-star picks went 2-0 for a 5-5 total.

THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) Oregon, 109.5; 2) Alabama, 108.5; 3) Florida State, 102; 4) Georgia, 99; 5) LSU, 98.5; 6-T) South Carolina, Ohio State and Oklahoma State, 97; 9) Texas A&M, 96.5; 10) Louisville, 96; 11-T) Clemson, Washington, Oklahoma and Arizona State, 95.5

(The Dirty Dozen is not a reflection of a given team's won-loss record. It is based on power ratings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all FBS teams are assigned a power number, which changes on a week-to-week basis depending on the results of the previous week.)

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