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Rice a surprising underdog at UTSA

10:50 AM, Oct 10, 2013   |    comments
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Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Rice Owls have not gotten much respect this season even after winning their final five games last year (covering four of them).

They have won three of five games this season with the losses coming to Texas A&M and Houston. The loss to Texas A&M was expected, but the Owls still covered the spread. The other defeat came by five points to an unbeaten Houston squad and the game Owls had more yards in the game.

Now all of a sudden the Owls are getting points from UTSA!

It is true Rice's three victories have come by a combined 16 points, but last week's overtime victory at Tulsa was the team's first triumph over the Golden Hurricane since 2006.

The Owls defense is currently tied for 72nd nationally, allowing close to 28 points per game. However, both Houston and Texas A&M are in the top 15 in scoring, so that ranking has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Speaking of Houston, coach Tony Levine's squad went to UTSA a week after holding off Rice and the Cougars did not have any problems with the Roadrunners, winning, 59-28. UTSA's next contest was a 24-point loss to Marshall. The Roadrunners have played a tougher schedule than Rice, but it is important to note that only New Mexico State, California and SMU have allowed more points per game than the second-year FBS squad.

These two teams met one year ago at Rice Stadium and the Owls won, 34-14. It wasn't as if the Owls were dominant at that point because they came into the contest with a 1-5 record. UTSA was unbeaten at 5-0, but three of its opponents were non-FBS clubs.

This year's contest is in San Antonio, so maybe that is why the Roadrunners are favored. There really is no other logical reason why the line shifted from Rice -3 (opening line) to UTSA -2. A victory for the Roadrunners will be an amazing accomplishment because Larry Coker's squad has won just one FBS home game over the last year and a half and that came against Texas State in the 2012 finale.

UTSA was favored by 2.5 points over Houston two weeks ago and we saw how that turned out. Look for Rice to win its fourth straight road game against non-Top 10 teams with a handy victory over the Roadrunners.

Take the Owls plus two points in the first of two five-star plays.

The other five-star selection comes from the Big 12 Conference.

Baylor has been an unstoppable machine this season, leading the country in total offense with 780 yards per game. That is 149 more yards than the No. 2 squad (Oregon). The Bears also are No. 1 in the nation in scoring, averaging an absurd 71 points per game.

Nonetheless, this will be their first road game of the season and they have quite a disparity in wins at home compared to the road. Since 2011, Baylor is 16-1 at home but just 2-7 on the road. One of those away losses came at Kansas State two years ago.

Last season, the Bears put a dagger in the Wildcats' BCS Championship hopes with a 52-24 win on Nov. 17. Don't think for a minute Kansas State forgot about that game. The Wildcats would love nothing more than to ruin Baylor's hopes of going undefeated with a win on Saturday.

The Wildcats come into this game having lost their last two road games but last week's four-point defeat at Oklahoma State showed they are close to returning to last year's form after their opening week brutal defeat to North Dakota State.

Kansas State has lost just two home games since the middle of the 2010 campaign. The Bears could make that total jump to three, but even if they do, the Wildcats will stay within the number.

Take Kansas State plus 17.5 points.

THREE-STAR PLAY

The lone three-star play is a Conference USA tilt between a pair of 1-4 clubs. UAB's sole win came over Northwestern State while Florida International's lone victory was last week's win over Southern Miss.

UAB has now lost six consecutive games versus FBS schools. In fact, the Blazers are 2-14 in their last 16 FBS matchups. At least FIU has won four of its last 16 FBS games.

Both squads have been flat-out awful in 2013, but one of the teams is favored by a touchdown and it is the road team. I wrote last week about North Carolina State's dismal ATS record as a road favorite and the Wolfpack were beaten by Wake Forest.

UAB's record is almost as bad. The Blazers are 4-11 in their last 15 games as an away favorite. In addition, the Golden Panthers are above .500 at 7-5 in their last 12 games as home underdogs.

The Panthers have the momentum in this one after their first win of the season, albeit against winless Southern Miss, so go with them against UAB.

Take FIU plus seven points.

TWO-STAR SELECTIONS

Go with Texas +14 (Oklahoma), Virginia Tech -9 (Pittsburgh), Army -7.5 (Eastern Michigan), Kentucky +28 (Alabama) and Hawaii +9.5 (UNLV).

ONE-STAR PLAYS

Take Rutgers +19 (Louisville), Indiana +9.5 (Michigan State), Missouri +8 (Georgia) and Memphis +9.5 (Houston).

THIS YEAR'S RECORD

After six weeks, my record stands at 33-39 following a 6-3 week. The five-star play went 1-0 for a 7-5 overall total. The three-star selections went 1-1, so that record stands at 5-10. The two-star choices finished 4-2 for a 13-17 mark and the one-star choices remain at 8-7.

THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) Oregon, 110; 2) Florida State, 104.5; 3) Alabama, 104; 4) Clemson, 101.5; 5) LSU, 101; 6-T) Louisville and Baylor, 98.5; 8-T) Ohio State and Stanford, 98; 10) Texas A&M, 97.5; 11) Washington, 97; 12) Georgia, 96.5

(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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