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My 10* Late-Breaker is on the LA Dodgers at 8:08 ET.
Attention: It sure looks as if Buehler will start for LA but I'm taking no chances. This is an "action" play.
The Braves fought through injuries all season, most notably losing Acuna (24 HRs in 82 games) for the entire season right before the All Star break and starter Mike Soroka (13-4, 2.68 ERA in 2019), who hasn't pitched since early 2020 because of Achilles surgery. Atlanta captured its fourth straight NL East title in 2021 and then eliminated the Brewers 3-1 in the NLDS. Waiting for the Braves in the NLCS was the LA Dodgers, who saw their eight-year run of winning the NL West end when they fell ONE game short of the Giants. The Dodgers survived a 3-1 win over the Cards in the NL wild card game (2-run walk-off HR in the 9ath) and then overcame a 2-1 deficit against the Giants to win Games 4 and 5 to advance to the NLCS.
The first two games of this series were in Atlanta and the Braves won 3-2 and 6-5, each in walk off fashion. As the series moved to Dodger Stadium, the Braves were in good shape but surely remembered that they led the Dodgers 3-1 in the 2020 NLCS (neutral-site series, played in Arlington, Texas) but saw the Dodgers rally by taking the final three games and then go on to capture their first World Series title since 1988. The Braves entered the 8th inning up 5-2 in Game 3 but lost when the Dodgers made a miraculous comeback. Heading into Game 4, the thought could have been, "Here we go again!" However, the Braves hit four HRs and jumped out to a 5-0 lead and won 9-2!
The Game 5 set up was the following. The Braves sent Max Fried to the mound. He went 17-6 in 2019, despite a 4.02 ERA if they can push the series that far. In 2020's COVID season, he made 11 starts, going 7-0 with a 2.25 ERA, as the Braves won 10 of those 11 starts. Fried made 28 starts in 2021, going 14-7 with a 3.04 ERA, as the team went 18-10. Looking a little closer, the Braves won 10 of his last 11 regular season starts and had now won BOTH of his postseason starts (1.50 ERA). Doing the math is easy, Fried took the mound Thursday with the Braves having won 12 of his last 13 starts, while the Dodgers went with a bullpen game, hoping to get Max Scherzer for a Game 6 on Saturday in Atlanta.
The Dodgers 'lit up' Fried in Game 5 (4.2 IP / 8 hits / 5 ERs), in an 11-2 win. LA pounded out 11 hits, including three HRs by Chris Taylor, the hero of LA's wild card win. As for LA's "bullpen game," NINE pitchers allowed just two runs on five hits with nine Ks and not a single walk. The victory sent the series back to Atlanta where Max Scherzer was supposed to start for LA. Ah, the best laid plans.
Scherzer will not make his scheduled start in Game 6. "I would just say my arm was dead," Scherzer, a free agent at season's end, said after that start. "I could tell when I was warming up that it was still tired. Scherzer's replacement for the Dodgers is Walker Buehler, who will square off against Ian Anderson. Buehler taking the ball requires him starting on short rest for the second time in his career, after previously doing so in Game 4 of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants. Starting anyone outside of Buehler would have morphed Game 6 into a bullpen game for Los Angeles, made more difficult because the Dodgers also staged a bullpen game in Thursday's Game 5.
Buehler's 2.47 ERA in the regular season was the third-best ERA in all of baseball (also owned a 0.97 WHIP and .199 BAA during the regular season). Buehler lasted 6.1 innings in Game 1 and allowed three ERs in a 4-0 loss. The Dodgers then brought Buehler back on short rest in Game 4 (down 2-1), for the first time in his career. He delivered 4.1 innings and allowed just one run. The Dodgers would win 7-2 and then beat the Giants 2-1 in Game 5. Buehler started Game 3 in LA and lasted just 3.2 innings, allowing four runs (just two earned).
Ian Anderson starred for Atlanta in last year's playoffs and after a 9-5 season in 2021 (3.58 ERA and 1.24 WHIP) in 24 starts (team was just 13-11), the Braves have won both of his postseason starts. However, he lasted a total of just eight innings (two ERs allowed for a 2.25 ERA). Is Anderson up to the task on the 'BIG stage?' Just the facts, as Joe Friday used to say (I'm really dating myself now). For a FIFTH time in two seasons, the Atlanta Braves will take the field knowing that one victory will launch them into their first World Series in over two decades. Braves fans know all too well that they are 0-4 in their first four tries.
As for the Dodgers, they will take the field having won SEVEN consecutive playoff elimination games (four coming against Atlanta), going back to last year's NLCS. Since the last weekend of the regular season, they have lost Clayton Kershaw, Max Muncy and Justin Turner to injury, yet they keep surviving. As I pointed out in taking LA in Game 5, LA pitchers owned MLB's lowest ERA (3.01) and WHIP (1.10) during the regular season and LA won 106 games to Atlanta's 88. LA led all of MLB in run differential (plus-269 runs), while the Braves owned a differential of plus-134. The Dodgers ARE the better team. The Braves are at home but can they rise to the challenge? Sure they CAN but WILL they? My bet is on the Dodgers and will re-evaluate Sunday for Game 7. See you then.
Once again a reminder. This is an "action" play.
My 10* Situational Stunner is on the Memphis Grizzlies at 10:40 ET.
The Los Angeles Clippers will look to bounce back in the team's first home contest of the season Saturday against the visiting Memphis Grizzlies, after opening the campaign with a 115-113 road loss against the Golden State Warriors (Curry had 45 points). The Memphis Grizzlies are the opponent, coming in off a 132-121 home win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Wednesday.
Jaren Jackson Jr. came into the league when Memphis made him the No. 4 pick in 2018. The former Michigan State star has averaged 15.4 points in his first three seasons. Jackson missed the Grizzlies' first 56 games last year while rehabbing a knee injury suffered the previous season. He wound up taking the court just 16 times, the last two of which being arguably his best, when he averaged 18.0 points in losses to Utah in Games 4 and 5 of their first-round playoff series Jackson contributed 13 & 6 in the win but the star was none other than PG Ja Morant (19.1 & 7.4 APG last season), who scored 37 points and handed out six assists. Bane (22 points) and Melton (20) were surprise contributors, while Kyle Anderson added 10-7-4 and the team's new center, Steven Adams looked very good (eight points and 14 rebounds). Memphis shot 53.0% as a team, including 14 of 33 on threes!
Paul George finished with 29 points, 11 rebounds and six assists in a losing effort against Golden St but said his team will work to put the loss behind them and get a home victory against a tough Memphis team. "It was a good test for us in Game 1," George told reporters. "We know what we have to do going forward against these fast-paced teams. It doesn't get better than them (Golden State) in terms of how fast they play, and how much that ball is hopping around. All are aware that the Clippers are playing without superstar Kawhi Leonard, who suffered a partially torn ACL in his right knee during the playoffs last season and had surgery in July (he could miss the entire season). PG Jackson played excellently down the stretch and throughout the postseason last year but finished with just 11 points on 4-of-19 shooting in a loss. Some good news was that the Clippers got 22 points from new edition Eric Bledsoe. All five starters scored in double digits but it was not enough to overcome Steph's 45 points.
The Grizzlies' game against the Clippers is the start of a four-game Western trip for Memphis that includes games against the Lakers, the Trail Blazers and the Warriors. Memphis sur won't want to start off that trip with a loss. Meanwhile, the Clippers will play three straight at home, as after Memphis, they have games with Portland and Cleveland. My feeling is that the Clippers are going to need some time to develop a chemistry, while Memphis seems MUCH more settled. I know the Grizzlies' win came against the Cavs (not a real test) but the 'old and now' parts blend well. I'm taking the points.
My 9* Las Vegas Insider is on the Tor Raptors at 7:35 ET.
The Toronto Raptors flopped in their season-opening game Wednesday, falling 98-83 at home to the Wizards. However, Toronto rebounded last night with an impressive 115-83 upset victory at Boston. The Raptors travel tonight to Dallas to play the Mavericks, who got served in their season-opener 113-87 in Atlanta. Normally I avoid "playing on" teams in the second game of a back-to-back, but this is different. It's the start of the season, so fatigue simply is not an issue at this point of the campaign. Plus, this is a difficult travel spot for the Mavericks, as they make a rare trip "North of the Border." Let's take a closer look.
Lowry's gone for Toronto and it's playing without All Star Pascal Siakam (21.4 & 7.2 LY), who is recovering from Shoulder surgery. However, Toronto received an impressive performance Friday from rookie Scottie Barnes (fourth overall pick in the recent draft!), who scored 25 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in 35 minutes. The cupboard is hardly bare, with PG VanVleet (19.6-4.2-6.3 LY), SF Anunoby (15.9-5.5 LY) and PF Boucher (13.6 & 6.7 LY) all returning. Trent was a late season pick-up from Portland last season and has averaged 13.0 PPG in two games plus PF Achiuwa came from Miami (as did veteran PG Dragic) and has averaged 10.5 & 11.0 in his two games. Gary Trent Jr. replaced Goran Dragic in the starting lineup against Boston, adding 20 points and four steals for the Raptors last night, while Precious Achiuwa had 15 points and 15 rebounds.
Luka Doncic has established himself as an elite player is just three short years but new head coach Jason Kidd would like to reduce Doncic's workload this season as the primary ball-handler to keep defenses off balance and to keep him fresher for late in games. Doncic was involved in 27.6 percent of the Mavericks' plays when on the court Thursday, which was lower than all but four of his 73 games last season, when he ranked second in the NBA at 35 percent. However, Doncic shot poorly (6-17) and his 18 points were a team-high (not a good stat!). Dallas big man Kristaps Porzingis had just 11 points and shot worse than Doncic, making only 4 of 13 shots. Overall, Dallas shot 33.3% as a team, including an 'ugly' 13 of 43 on threes.
Jason Kidd will now seek his first win with his new team, laying points in Toronto, a team that is coming off an impressive win in Boston. What's more, Toronto's loss to Washington was the franchise's first game in front of its home crowd, after playing all of last year's 'home' game in Tampa (due to COVID travel restrictions). A now-confident Raptors team gets a second chance to play in front of a packed house and in my opinion, Toronto is being underestimated by the bookmakers. Raptors head coach Nick Nurse is a better game coach on his WORST day, than Kidd is on his BEST. Take the home dog!
The 2nd play of my STP is an 8* on La Tech at 7:00 ET.
Clemson (No. 3), Iowa St (No. 7) and North Carolina (No. 10) were all ranked in the AP's preseason top-10 but are all currently unranked (and own a combined SEVEN loses), yet UTSA has opened 7-0 (3-0 in C-USA) and with road wins at Illinois and Memphis, Roadrunners are ranked for the first time in program history, at No. 24. Can't make this stuff up! The question UTSA must answer Saturday night when the Roadrunners visit Ruston, La., for a C-USA matchup with Louisiana Tech is, "can they handle success?". UTSA surely had no problem with Rice last Saturday, blanking the Owls 45-0. Second-year coach Jeff Traylor called it the team's most complete game. "It was by far the best game we have played in all three phases," he said. "This was a big game with a lot of pressure on those kids. Those kids understand the pressure. They came out and played as good as I have seen them play." This is the 11th year of the Roadrunners' program, which was started in 2011 under former Miami coach Larry Coker. He went 26-32 in five years and was replaced by Frank Wilson, who posted a 19-29 mark from 2016 to 2019 and took the school to its first bowl game. Traylor came aboard in December 2019 after serving as running backs coach at Arkansas and posted a 7-5 mark last year, guiding the program to its second bowl appearance. A third bowl game is all but assured now.
Louisiana Tech is just 2-4 (1-1 in C-USA), after a 19-3 conference loss last week at surprising UTEP. The Roadrunners are the second ranked team Louisiana Tech has played in 2021, In that one, the Bulldogs could have forced overtime at N.C. State before a final-snap interception allowed the Wolfpack to close out a 34-27 win in Raleigh back on Oct 2. "It doesn't get any easier," Louisiana Tech head coach Skip Holtz said. "It's going to be a great challenge for us. I'm glad we have the opportunity to come back home." Holtz knows more than a little bit about winning, as he led La Tech to SIX consecutive bowl wins from 2014-2019, before losing 38-3 to Ga Southern in last year's New Orleans Bowl.
UTSA's offense is led by QB Frank Harris, who has completed 69.2 percent of his passes for 1,600 yards, with a 14-3 touchdown-interception ratio. RB McCormick has rushed for 778 yards on 4.7 YPC with six TDs (team averages 18.0 YPG on the ground to rank 48th). A trio of WRs, Joshua Cephus, Zakhari Franklin and De'Corian Clark, have combined for 113 receptions and accounted for 14 TDs. UTSA's defense is allowing just 19.1 PPG (22nd) on 323.3 YPG (31st) and is greatly helped by having forced 14 turnovers.
La Tech averages 28.3 PPG, led by QB Austin Kendall, who has thrown for 1,342 yards and 10 TDs in five games, with eight INTs (he's completing 59.5%). He has a mediocre receiving corps and the Bulldogs' running game averages only 123.8 YPG (98th).The La Tech defense is allowing 31.0 PPG (99th) on a whopping 457.3 YPG (118th).
Clearly, La Tech does NOT match up well on paper but we all know games are NOT played on paper. The Bulldogs, particularly under Skip Holtz own a fairly impressive history. Look how close La Tech came to NC St on the road (see above). This marks the Bulldogs first home game since a 24-17 conference victory over North Texas back on Sep 25. Note that last season, that UTSA was only able to eke out a 27-26 victory in San Antonio and that Louisiana Tech owns a 7-2 lead in the all-time series, First-ever game as a ranked team and the Roadrunners draw a La Tech team that is 5-0 when hosting UTSA, winning by a margin of 19 PPG! 'Bow Wow!' Take the points. Upset Alert? Just maybe.
The first play of my STP is an 8* on Clemson at 3:30 ET.
Clemson began the season ranked No. 3 in the AP's preseason poll but opened with a 10-3 loss to then-No. 5 Georgia. The way the Bulldogs have played here in 2021 (now a unanimous No. 1), that loss is nothing to be ashamed of. However, when the Tigers visit Pittsburgh for the first time in program history on Saturday, Clemson will come in 4-2 and unranked, while the Panthers are 5-1 and ranked 23rd in the latest AP poll. The last time Pitt won 10 games was back in 2009, while Clemson came into the current season having won 10-plus games in every season since going 6-7 in 2010.
That said, Panthers head coach Pat Narduzzi isn't buying the perception that the Tigers are a mere shell of their former self. "They're obviously a great football team," Narduzzi said. "I know they're not tops in the country right now, but they are talented. They're one of the top scoring defenses in the country." Narduzzi is correct on that count, as the Tigers are allowing 12.5 PPG (2nd) and have allowed only two rushing TDs this season. However, Clemson's offense is quite another story, as after averaging 44.3, 43.9 and 43.5 PPG behind Trevor Lawrence the previous three seasons, Clemson QB Uiagalelei has NOT been ready for primetime. Clemson is averaging just 20.5 PPG, ranking 113th in the nation. Say it Ain't so, DJ!
The QB of note in this game will be Pitt's Kenny Pickett, who is completing 69.8% for 1,934 yards with 21 TDs and just one INT. WR Addison has 34 catches (17.2 YPC / 9 TDs) plus TE Krull checks with just 17 receptions but five TDs. Pitt's defense is not quite in Clemson's class but the Panthers are allowing just 20.0 PPG (34th) on 319.3 YPG (26th). That's nothing to shake a stick at, as my grandfather used to say.
Clemson will enter this game as an underdog in an Atlantic Coast Conference game for the first time since 2016 and that should add plenty of motivation (the good old chip on the shoulder kind). It's also worthy of noting that Pittsburgh beat the Tigers in Clemson 43-42 midway through the 2016 season, a year in which the Tigers went on to win the national championship that season. Clemson has won 31 straight home games since that loss and has dominated both meetings against Pitt since, winning 42-10 in the 2018 ACC Championship Game and 52-17 last season at Clemson.
Clemson is 0-6 ATS and Pittsburgh is 5-1. Something tells me those trends reverse here. Take the points.
The 3rd play of my STP is an 8* on Ga Tech at 7:30 ET.
The Cavaliers (5-2, 3-2 ACC) scored on all six first-half possessions and cruised to a 48-0 blowout of the Blue Devils last Saturday, while the Yellow Jackets (3-3, 2-2) seized the lead with 51 seconds left in a 31-27 win against Duke in their most recent game (Oct. 9). Virginia lost 59-39 to North Carolina and then 37-17 to Wake Forest but has ripped off three straight wins since, nail-biters over Mia-Fl (30-28) and 34-33 over Louisville, prior to the beatdown of Duke. Ga Tech gave then-No. 6 Clemson all it wanted in a 14-8 loss, before shocking then-No. 21 North Carolina, 45-22. Ga Tech is off a bye week
The Yellow Jackets have lost their last three games on Cavaliers' home field, and 12 of 14 since 1992. However, head coach Geoff Collins hopes that is about to change. Back on Oct 9 against Duke, QB Jeff Sims led a clutch six-play, 88-yard drive in the final two minutes, capped by a 36-yard TD pass. Sims finished with 297 yards on 12-of-25 passing with three scores and two interceptions. He has accounted for 10 TDs (six passing, four rushing) in his last three games and is now the clear starter at QB. "Jeff's a big-time player," Collins said. "Obviously, we want to eliminate those early turnovers moving forward, but he's a big-time player. ... The guys have faith in him." Ga Tech has a trio of quality RBs and the team averages 169.0 YPG (61st)
UVA's offense is centered around QB Brennan Armstrong, who has completed 63.8% for 2,824 yards with 19 TDs and six INTs. WR Kemp has 48 catches but averages inluy9.9 YPC (he does have four TDs). Fellow WR Wicks has 32 catches and averages 21.2 YC with six TDs while TE Woods has 23 catches and five TDs. The running game offers little help, averaging 119.9 YPG (10st). UVA's defense allows 24.4 PPG (to Ga Tech's 25.7 PPG) but is giving up way too many yards (413.1, which ranks 94th). UVA has the better QB but as Ga Tech coach Collins points out, Sims is making his mark and his confidence (and the team's) is growing.
Ga Tech is more than capable of sneaking up on UVA, which has a trip to BYU up next for the Cavaliers (note: UVA head coach Bronco Mendenhall left BYU for UVA after the 2015 season, having taken the Cougars to 11 bowls in his 11 seasons at Provo). Take the points.
My 10* CFB Game of the Month is on USC at 7:30 ET.
USC/Notre Dame is the greatest intersectional rivalry in CFB history. The schools had met in every season since World War II before this long standing rivalry took a one-season break due to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020. "It's baaack!" in 2021, as No. 13 Notre Dame (5-1) hosts an underachieving USC team that opened 15th in the AP's preseason poll but is currently unranked with a 3-3 record. Notre Dame leads the all-time series 47-36-5, as after after winning SEVEN straight in the series, the Trojans have lost SEVEN of the last 10, including four straight in South Bend.
USC is no longer referred to as "Tailback U," as the Trojans are averaging a modest 129.8 YPG on the ground (93rd), although RB Ingram (419 yards on 5.7 YPC) is a solid player. QB Kedon Slovis was often mentioned as a Heisman hopeful coming into the season but has NOT played like one. He's completing 64.0% for 1,519 yards but has a modest 9-5 TD/INT ratio. He does own an outstanding WR in Drake London, who can make a case for being the best WR in the nation. He has 64 catches for 832 yards and five TDs. His reception total ranks second nationally and the yardage ranks fourth. The USC defense is pretty mediocre, allowing 27.3 PPG (79th) on 382.2 YPG (69th).
Notre Dame's lone blemish this season came in a 24-13 home loss to then-No. 7 Cincinnati on Oct 2 (Bearcats are now No. 2 in the nation!). Notre Dame is off a bye (so is USC), eking out a 32-29 win at Virginia Tech 32-29 in its most recent game Head coach Brian Kelly said that Jack Coan (62.1% for 1,208 yards with 10 TDs and three INTs) would be the starting QB against USC but that Tyler Buchner also would see action. Coan began the season with 366 yards and four TDs against Florida State but has seen his yardage drop in all of the ensuing games. He threw for 108 yards against Virginia Tech while splitting time with Buchner (113 yards). Notre Dame's running game is worse than USC's, averaging only 96.2 YPG (119th) on a pathetic 2.9 YPC. The Irish do have some quality receivers in TE Meyer (32 catches / 3 TDs) plus WRs Austin and Davis, who each have 18 receptions while both are averaging over 17.0 YPC with a combined five TD catches. Notre Dame's defense is not bad (24.3 PPG and 360.7 YPG allowed) but it's clearly NOT in the class of a defense that allowed 19.7, 17.9 and 18.2 PPG the previous three seasons.
USC could surely use a big victory during a season that has been overshadowed by the firing of Clay Helton after a loss to Stanford in Week 2. Donte Williams is serving as interim coach while athletic director Mike Bohn works on making a hire to lead the program. Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly reacted by saying, "USC is going through a coaching change. We understand that, but this team plays extremely well against Notre Dame. It's a rivalry game, and they've played very well on the road. I'm sure that's because they can get away from the distractions that they're dealing with on a day-to-day basis. So, we expect to get the best version of USC, which will be a very good football team."
I agree with Kelly (never thought I'd say that!). USC has lost all three Pac-12 home games but has won 45-14 at Washington St and 37-14 at Colorado. Those teams are NOT Notre Dame but note that THREE of Notre Dame's five wins have come by three points plus its wins over Purdue and Wisconsin were VERY deceiving final scores (if you don't believe, look it up!). The Irish are just 2-5 ATS as a home favorite since the start of 2020, while USC has played well coming off a loss for quite a while now, going 38-17-1 ATS in its last 56 following a SU loss. This game always means a lot to both schools but I HAVE to believe this one "means more" to USC.
Trojans running back Vavae Malepeai (who?) made it clear his team plans to go into South Bend and come out with a victory. "There's a lot of history behind this game," Malepeai said. "We're putting it on our shoulders to make sure we get that job done." Hell, earlier I agreed with Brian Kelly (who I can't stand), so I may as well agree with someone I never heard of. Take the points. "Fight On!"
My 9* Eye Opener is on Kansas St at 12:00 ET.
Chris Kleiman led Kansas St to an 8-5 season in his first year at Kansas St but fell to 4-6 last year. Kansas St opened the 2021 season 3-0, including solid wins over Stanford 24-7 at a neutral site) and 38-17 at Nevada. However, the Wildcats have opened Big 12 play 0-3, allowing 101 points (33.7 PPG) , in losing to Oklahoma St, Oklahoma and Iowa St. Texas Tech began with a 38-21 over Houston (neutral site) and was 3-0 when it got pounded 70-35 by Texas. The Red Raiders rebounded with a 23-20 win at West Va but then lost 52-31 at home to TCU, before beating Big 12 'punching bag' Kansas, 41-14. Head coach Matt Wells is in his third season in Lubbock, after leading Utah St to bowls in five of his six seasons. The Red Raiders have gone 4-8 and 4-6 in his first two seasons but this year's team is 5-2.
Wildcats QB Skylar Thompson is 44 of 64 for 526 yards with five touchdowns and one interception in two games since returning from a knee injury. For him to be effective, he needs balance and the running has shown promise (162.5 YPG ranks 69th), with RB Deuce Vaughn rushing for 543 rushing yards on 5.0 YPC and 5 TDs (he's also the team's leading receiver with 23 catches, adding two more TDs). The defense is allowing 24.7 PPG (60th) on 355.2 YPG (52nd), despite struggling against big 12 opponents. The Red Raiders average 168.6 YPG on the ground (63rd) with Thompson (314 yards on 5.0 YPC and 6 TDs) plus Brooks (284 yards on 8.1 YPC with 4 TDs). QB Tyler Shough averaged 218 passing yards per game before breaking his collarbone in the Sept 25 loss to Texas but backup Henry Colombi has stepped right in, averaging 264.5 YPG over the past four games. The Texas Tech defense is allowing 31.4 PPG (102nd) on 386.4 YPG (75th).
Kansas St is on a three-game slide but note Oklahoma St and Oklahoma are both unbeaten, while Iowa St was ranked No. 7 in the preseason (pretty tough three-game stretch). For one, Texas Tech head coach Matt Wells is not buying the fact that Kansas State is struggling. "K-State has beat us (five) years in a row," Wells said. "They're tough; they're physical. I have a lot of respect for Chris Kleiman. I think Skylar Thompson is gritty and tough. He has a lot of moxie. Deuce Vaughn is one of the best in the country, and they've got some guys in the special teams that keep you up at night."
Great situation for Kansas St to get back in the win column after a rough three-game stretch. Kansas St has gone 9-1 SU and 8-2 ATS against Texas Tech since 2011. What changes here? Nothing.
My 9* Las Vegas Insider is on BYU at 3:30 ET.
BYU surprised all by going 11-1 (9-3 ATS) in 2020 (finished 11th in the final coaches' poll) and opened 5-0 in 2021, including notable wins 26-17 over then-No. 21 Utah (ending a 9-game losing streak in "The Holy War") and 27-17 over then-No. 21 Arizona St. However, the Cougars come to Pullman off back-to-back losses, 26-17 at home to Boise St and 38-24 at Baylor. Washington St played just four games in 2020's COVID season, winning its opener and then going 0-3 SU and ATS, while allowing 42.0 PPG. It was Nick Rolovich's first season at Washington St, after he led his alma mater (Hawaii) to a 28-27 record in four years but with three Hawaii Bowl berths (2-1). Rolovich is a former QB, well-liked and the Cougars expected him to revive the program. Wash St opened just 1-3 but then beat Cal (21-16), Oregon St (31-24) and Stanford (34-31) to reach 4-3 (is on a 4-0 ATS streak0. However, as all have to know by now, he was dismissed from his head coaching position, along with four assistants (more later).
BYU averaged 43.5 PPG last season (down to 26.7 in 2021), while allowing only 15.3 PPG (up to 23.0 in 2021). QB Jaren Hall got hurt and Baylor Romney filled in nicely (80.0% with 5 TDs and zero INTs) but Hall is back and it's hard to blame him for the two losses, as he threw for 302 and 342 yards. He's completing 62.6% for 1,476 yards with 15 TDs and just 5 INTs, plus has run for 188 yards on 6.3 YPC. RB Allgeier is a tough inside runner and has 675 yards on 5.0 YPC and nine TDs. BYU always has receivers and this year's team in no different with Pau'u (31 catches / 4 TDs), Gunner Romney (26 catches / 17.4 YPC / 3 TDs) and Nacua (20 catches on 22.62 YPC).
Washington St QB deLaura has completed 62.6% for 1,476 yards with 15 TDs and 5 INTs. He also has some 'sweet' WRs in Harris (44 catches / 5 TDs), Jackson (37 catches / 4 TDs) and Stribling (24 catches / 4 TDs). However, the Washington St running game averages just 111.7 YPG (114th) on 3.7 YPC with the lone notable contributor being Borghi (421 yards on 5.1 YPC / 5 TDs). The Cougars are scoring 25.7 PPG and allowing 25.7 PPG.
Teams respond in one of two ways after a coaching change. They either rally and dig deep for a victory, or they fall flat on their face. Nick Rolovich was loved by his players but he took a public stance against being vaccinated for COVID-19, in spite of a state mandate that applies to public education workers. He's no longer a state employee. Do the players feel abandoned by Rolovich? Are they upset with the school? I guess we'll find out. BYU has played the tougher schedule and knows a loss here (off back-to-back losses) and the team's season would be in a severe downward spiral (plenty of motivation here for the Cougars). I'm a big fan of BYU head coach Kelani Sitake and right now, Washington St is basically coach-less. I'm laying the short price.