Friday Night Lights: UConn at Syracuse

Published on Oct. 19, 2012, at 9:50 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

In a battle of Big East rivals in dire need of a victory if they ascertain any hopes of going to a bowl game, Syracuse will play host to Connecticut tonight at the Carrier Dome. Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

As of early this morning, most books were listing Syracuse (2-4 straight up, 1-4-1 against the spread) as a four-point favorite with a total of 43. Gamblers can take the Huskies to win outright for a plus-160 payout (risk $100 to win $160).

Doug Marrone’s team is mired in an abysmal 1-9-1 ATS slide in its last 11 games dating back to last season’s 28-21 loss at UConn. The ‘Cuse won a 14-13 decision over Pittsburgh two Fridays ago as a one-point home favorite, but the Orange went down 23-15 last week at Rutgers.

Syracuse got a touchdown and two-point conversion in the fourth quarter that might’ve helped a few of its backers get a backdoor push, but most books closed the Scarlet Knights as 7 ½-point home ‘chalk.’ The 38 combined points stayed ‘under’ the 50-point total.

The Orange out-gained Rutgers 418-237 in total offense, but Syracuse committed four turnovers while the Scarlet Knights played turnover-free football. Ryan Nassib threw for 356 yards and one touchdown, but he was intercepted twice.

For the season, Nassib has completed 64.7 percent of his throws for 1,896 yards with an 11/8 touchdown-to-interception ratio. In the last three games, the senior QB has a pair of TD passes compared to five interceptions.

Nassib’s favorite target is Marcus Sales, who had four catches for 100 yards last week against RU. Sales has made 36 receptions for 533 yards and five TDs.

Connecticut (3-4 SU, 2-4-1 ATS) started the season 2-1 SU and 2-0-1 ATS with wins vs. UMass (37-0) and at Maryland (24-21). The Huskies lost a 10-7 decision to North Carolina St. as three-point home underdogs in Week 2.

Since then, however, UConn has lost three of four games and has failed to cover the spread each time out. The Huskies have lost their first two Big East games, dropping a 19-3 decision at Rutgers before losing 17-14 to Temple at home last week.

Paul Pasqualoni’s squad has struggled to get decent play at the quarterback position. The result has been an offense that’s averaging a pedestrian 19.0 points per game, which ranks 111th in the country.

Sophomore QB Chandler Whitmer, a juco transfer, has 1,535 yards passing. However, he has an abysmal 6/10 TD-INT ratio.

UConn is led in rushing by sophomore RB Lyle McCombs, who was a second-team All Big East selection in 2011. McCombs has rushed for 484 yards and four TDs, but he’s averaging only 3.6 YPC. McCombs has a wrist injury that kept him out of last week’s overtime loss to the Owls, but he’s been upgraded to ‘probable’ for tonight’s game.

UConn’s defense has been the bright spot, keeping the team in every game. The Huskies are sixth in the nation in total defense, eighth in passing defense. They are 15th in scoring defense, surrendering 16.3 PPG.

The ‘under’ is 5-2 overall for UConn, but the ‘over’ has cashed in two of its three road assignments. As for the Cuse, it has seen the ‘under’ cash in three straight games to improve to 3-2 overall.

UConn has won five in a row over the ‘Cuse both SU and ATS, including a 28-21 win as a two-point home favorite last season. The 49 combined points slipped ‘over’ the 45-point total. McCombs rushed for 152 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.

UConn has been a road underdog six times under Pasqualoni, going 0-6 ATS in those situations. Meanwhile, Syracuse is 5-7-1 ATS as a home favorite during Marrone’s four-year tenure.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–Pasqualoni was the head coach at Syracuse from 1991-2004. He was a steady winner for the Orange but got fired after missing the postseason in three of his last five seasons. We should note, however, that the ‘Cuse has only gone bowling once since Pasqualoni was ousted in 2004.

–Times are tough in Lexington these days. Kentucky is 1-6 and will be without its top two quarterbacks, top two running backs and both starting safeties when it hosts Georgia on Saturday. Also, starting cornerback Cartier Rice is ‘doubtful’ with a hip injury. Most books are listing the Bulldogs as 28-point road favorites. UK has a 4-5 spread record in nine games as a home ‘dog during Joker Phillips’s three-year tenure.

–Tennessee has limped to an abysmal 1-6 spread record in seven games as a home underdog on Derek Dooley’s watch. The Volunteers are 20 ½-point home ‘dogs Saturday vs. top-ranked Alabama. UT might be without leading rusher Raijon Neal, who is ‘doubtful’ with a sprained ankle.

–Alabama is 15-7 ATS as a road favorite under Nick Saban.

–Mississippi St. is in a classic look-ahead situation vs. Middle Tennessee since it plays at Alabama next week. Most books are listing the Bulldogs as 19-point home favorites. Remember, the Blue Raiders went on the road and thumped Ga. Tech 49-28 on Sept. 29. They have won outright in all three of their road assignments.

–Vandy is a perfect 5-0 ATS as a home favorite since the arrival of second-year head coach James Franklin. The Commodores are favored by seven Saturday vs. Auburn. The Tigers are 3-8 ATS as road underdogs during Gene Chizik’s tenure.

–Miami quarterback Stephen Morris (9/6 TD-INT) is ‘doubtful’ vs. FSU due to a sprained ankle. The Hurricanes are expected to give back-up QB Ryan Williams the starting nod. Williams started 10 games as a true freshman at Memphis in 2010, throwing for 2,075 yards with a 13/10 TD-INT ratio.

–Stat of the WeeK: Tommy Tuberville now owns an incredible 6-2 straight-up record against top-five opponents during his tenures at Texas Tech and Auburn. Wow!

–When the American hostages were released from Iran back in 1981, former MLB Commissioner Bowie Kuhn granted each hostage a lifetime pass to major-league games. To this, the legendary Beano Cook, who passed away at the age of 81 last week, responded, “Haven’t they suffered enough?”

Click here for my pick on the side for tonight’s game. I’ve posted a 34-16 record (68%) in college football this year, leading ‘dime players’ to more than $16,000 of profit.

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