We’ve got early plays on two college football games–stay tuned for a full season of NCAA football action!

NORTHWESTERN AT BOSTON COLLEGE 9:00 AM PACIFIC

Kneejerk overreaction to a quarterback injury in this game—Northwestern signal caller Dan Persa has been downgraded to ‘doubtful’ as he continues to recover from a torn Achilles’ tendon suffered last season. There has been some speculation that this is a ‘smokescreen’ and that he’ll start but if he doesn’t we’re confident with his backup, sophomore Kain Colter. Colter is more of a rushing threat than Persa (his injury notwithstanding) and won’t be asked to do everything by himself—the Wildcats return nine offensive starters in all including four linemen. Across the board, Northwestern lost only 14 players to graduation last year. In particular, the Wildcats return a solid offensive line and a talented and experienced receiving corps.

The Wildcats weren’t a great pointspread team in 2010 going 3-9 ATS (7-6 SU) but in the Pat Fitzgerald era they’ve been money in the bank getting points away from their Evanston, Illinois home. Since 2009 they’re on a 10-2 ATS run as road or neutral field underdogs. Boston College will be without their own important offensive playmaker as running back Montel Harris is out for this game. They’ve also got a lot more injuries up and down the roster. BC is right at breakeven since 2009 in most ATS categories and we think the market has overreacted to Persa’s status—the game opened with BC a -3 chalk but since the Persa downgrade its moved through that ‘key number’ to -3′ or -4. We think Northwestern will be in this one throughout—in fact we like them to win this one outright in a result that will make EOG GM and Northwestern alum John Kelly very happy.

Bet Northwestern +4 over Boston College

BYU AT MISSISSIPPI 1:45 PM PACIFIC

Nothing but respect for the BYU program since Bronco Mendenhall has brought the team back from the Gary Crowton reign of error. We’ll look for opportunities to use the Cougars later this year but this is a spot where we’d rather be on the home team. Cougars have struggled against teams with superior team speed in recent years (witness their blowout losses to Florida State) and while Ole Miss may not be quite as fleet of foot as the Seminoles we think their SEC level athletes may be tough for BYU to handle. Another issue—size and strength. BYU’s defensive front succeeds more with finesse than sheer size. That might work in the Mountain West Conference, but we’re thinking it’ll be less successful against the Rebels’ beefy offensive line. Mississippi not only returns the entire starting OL but the entire second string OL with every lineman tipping the scales at 325 pounds plus. Overall, the Rebels return 9 players on offense and we expect them to be very productive for new offensive coordinator David Lee (former Miami Dolphins QB coach). That massive and experienced OL will make life easier for all SEC running back Brandon Bolden and there’s good depth behind him. Quarterback Barry Brunetti is also mobile, and we expect the Ole Miss rushing attack to open up downfield passing opportunities.

BYU has improved out of the gate under Mendenhall but they’ve never been a good investment early in the season (3-5 ATS in September since 2009, 29-40 ATS since 1992). The Mississippi heat and humidity could also be a factor for a team that plays in the dry desert climates and high altitude of Provo, Utah. The humidity at gametime isn’t expected to be as bad as it could have been for an early September day in the deep South (45%) but it’ll be plenty steamy with a gametime temperature in the mid 90’s. Everyone is familiar with the problem of ‘lowland’ teams playing ‘at altitude’, but high temps and humidity is tough for teams not used to it to deal with and prepare for. Lots of edges to Ole Miss and we look for them to win outright as home underdogs. Looking at our Sports Options odds feed there’s a wide availability of +2′ and +3—make sure to grab a 3 due to its importance as a ‘key number’.

Bet Mississippi +3 over BYU

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