Fans at Dix Stadium had better bring their extra-thick jackets for Thursday's MAC encounter between Kent State and visiting Buffalo. The mercury is expected to dip below 30 degrees by kickoff, which could mean an added emphasis on the run game on both sides.
If that's the case, the Bulls come in with an overwhelming advantage: They rank second in the conference and 17th in the nation in rushing yards per game (224.4) while limiting opposing teams to just 85 yards per game on the ground (sixth in the country). On the flip side, only three teams in the nation are allowing more rushing yards than the Golden Flashes (256.1).
This line has already shifted as much as two points in Buffalo's favor, and with both teams likely to stick to the ground in bitter cold temperatures, we see the Bulls as a terrific option to cover the spread.
PREPARE FOR PIT PRESSURE
The North Carolina Tar Heels might need to work extra-hard to keep their quarterback upright Thursday night as they visit the Pittsburgh Panthers in a marquee ACC matchup. The Tar Heels come in having allowed 29 sacks through nine games, with their 3.22 sacks-per-game average ranking 119th in the country.
That number could skyrocket Thursday against a host Panthers defensive unit that has racked up 40 sacks in its first nine games, second only to the Ohio State Buckeyes. Pittsburgh also has a whopping 30 non-sack tackles that have resulted in a loss of yardage this season.
With the Panthers' run defense humming as well (85.9 yards allowed per game, 8th-best in FBS), North Carolina could be in all kinds of trouble. The Under on the Tar Heels' team total is a strong play here.
HOW TO BET BAMA WITHOUT TUA
The Alabama Crimson Tide aren't prepared to risk Tua Tagovailoa's long-term health – which is why the NFL draft prospect is considered a game-time decision for Saturday's encounter with Mississippi State.
Tagovailoa is still dealing with the lingering effects of an ankle injury that required surgery, and head coach Nick Saban says he might not make a decision on his star QB's status until close to kickoff. Mac Jones would likely get the call under center if Tagovailoa can't go. The Heisman Trophy candidate threw for 418 yards and four touchdowns in last week's 46-41 loss to LSU.
The Crimson Tide are 17.5-point favorites as of the middle of the week – and even if Tagovailoa sits this one out, they'll need to be dominant from here on out to ensure a spot in the College Football Playoff. We like Alabama to cover regardless.
The Memphis Tigers are set to feature a 1-2 punch at running back for Saturday's showdown with host Houston. Patrick Taylor Jr. has practiced the past two days, and while head coach Mike Norvell isn't ready to declare Taylor fit to play, the senior standout is trending in the right direction.
Taylor hasn't suited up since since suffering a leg injury in the Tigers' season-opening 15-10 win over the Ole Miss Rebels. Taylor's return gives Memphis a devastating two-headed running back monster, with Kenneth Gainwell having racked up more than 1,500 yards and 15 scores this season.
This is a big problem for a Cougars team allowing more than 460 yards per game; Look for Memphis to use Taylor and Gainwell to control the tempo early and convert the first-half cover.
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