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Syracuse to make it two straight on Saturday

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Updated: 11/07/2013 1:25 pm

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Syracuse had a difficult start this season, losing its first two games to Penn State and Northwestern. Since then, the Orange are 4-2 and looking to go over .500 for the first time in 2013.

This week's opponent is Maryland, a team that has dropped three of its last four games after beginning the season 4-0. The Terrapins' lone victory since Sept. 21 came by a single point at home to a Virginia squad that has won just two games this season.

The Terps come in well rested, having not played since Oct. 26, but that shouldn't make a difference as they are 1-5 straight up and 0-6 against the spread the last six games off a bye. In addition, they are just 8-19 ATS as home favorites (4-11 in conference games) since 2004.

I am somewhat surprised they are favored by six points over Syracuse, especially because they have done nothing to prove worthy of being such a favorite against a team that is above them in the conference standings. Moreover, the program has not won a game in the month of November since 2010.

The Terps' record this year has been helped by a very easy schedule. In fact, the five victories have come against teams that are a combined 5-27 against FBS competition. The 1-3 league mark has shown the many warts this team has, particularly on defense as opposing teams averaged 41 points per game in October.

As for Syracuse, Scott Shafer has his club playing solid ball. The Orange shut out Wake Forest, 13-0, last Saturday for their second league win over the last three games. They are extremely adept at running the ball (35th nationally in rushing) while Maryland has allowed over 700 yards and four yards per carry in its last four games.

Meanwhile, Syracuse, with its experienced secondary, should hold down the Terps' passing game as the Orange have limited opposing quarterbacks to fewer than five yards per attempt and a 45 percent completion percentage the last three contests.

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

Despite a pair of losses, Arizona State has been one of the better teams in the country this season. The Sun Devils have scored 50 points or more in their last four conference games while winning by an average score of 56-25.

Utah has lost four of its last six games, including a pair of home contests against Oregon State and UCLA. It is true the final score in both games were close, but the Beavers and Bruins are not in the same league as the Sun Devils.

Arizona State has won nine in a row over Utah with the last two coming in 2011 and 2012. Two years ago, a 6-7 Sun Devils squad won by 21 in Salt Lake City and last season ASU won by 30.

Utah comes in off a bye and the Utes have not won in that situation since joining the conference. In addition, it's not as if Arizona State comes in off a tough contest. The Sun Devils breezed by Washington State on Halloween night, so they should be well-rested for Saturday.

Take Arizona State minus seven points.

THREE-STAR PLAYS

BYU takes on Wisconsin in matchup of two 6-2 teams. Both of these clubs are similar to Arizona State in that they are playing much better than their records indicate.

The Cougars have won five consecutive games, including a pair of road contests at Utah State and Houston. In addition, not many teams take down Boise State in a manner which BYU did two weeks ago as Taysom Hill continued his exceptional play with 339 yards through the air and three touchdowns.

Wisconsin, a team that has yet to lose a game against the spread this season, has five wins versus FBS competition but the combined record of those teams is 14-29. In fact, Iowa is the only club the Badgers have beaten with a winning record.

BYU is 7-0 ATS in its last seven games as a road underdog. Look for that mark to be 8-0 after Saturday.

Take BYU plus 7.5 points.

Fresno State needs just three more victories to finish the regular season undefeated. The first step is to beat Wyoming in Laramie. The Bulldogs won last year's meeting, 42-14, a game in which Wyoming came into Fresno fresh off a disputed home loss to Air Force.

Expect different results this time around as the Cowboys' offense is much- improved. Furthermore, Wyoming had a week off after the firing of its defensive coordinator.

All the pressure is on Fresno State in this contest, so look for the home team to keep it closer than the line indicates.

Take Wyoming plus 9.5 points.

Arizona and UCLA hook up in a key Pac-12 battle. Both are 3-2 in league play, one game behind Arizona State.

The Wildcats have won their last three games after a pair of road losses to Washington and USC. They are 9-2 in their last 11 FBS home games and that doesn't count their 36-point win over UCLA two years ago. In fact, Arizona is 4-0 both SU and ATS the last four home meetings against the Bruins.

UCLA has struggled of late, losing to both Stanford and Oregon, and then failing to cover at home against Colorado. Furthermore, leading rusher Jordon James is expected to miss the game due to injury.

Take Arizona minus one point.

Finally,

Boston College takes on New Mexico State fresh off its upset victory over Virginia Tech. The Eagles erupted for 34 points, but they still amassed just 289 total yards. Four Virginia Tech turnovers certainly helped their cause.

New Mexico State comes in with just one victory this season, a five-point win over Abilene Christian. The Aggies have not defeated an FBS school since knocking off Fresno State Nov. 12, 2011.

Still, they gave Louisiana a scare last Saturday, losing by two touchdowns after leading into the fourth quarter. Quarterback Andrew McDonald threw for over 300 yards and three touchdowns, while wide receiver Austin Franklin has been a beast the last two weeks, catching 24 balls for over 250 yards. Look for them to exploit an Eagles' secondary that is allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete over 65 percent of their passes.

Boston College has covered just two of its last 13 games as a road favorite. The Aggies will make it two for 14.

Take New Mexico State plus 24 points.

TWO-STAR SELECTIONS

Go with Army +6.5 (Western Ky), Cincinnati -9 (SMU) and Wake Forest +35 (Florida State).

ONE-STAR PLAYS

Take Virginia Tech +7 at Miami (Fla.).

THIS YEAR'S RECORD

After 10 weeks, my record stands at 67-60-3 following a 7-7 week. The lone five-star play won, so that overall record stands at 11-6 overall. The three-star selections went 2-1 for a 12-13-1 total. The two-star choices finished 2-2 for a 28-22 overall mark and the one-star plays went 2-4 for a 16-19-2 total.

THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1) Oregon, 111; 2) Alabama, 110.5; 3) Florida State, 108.5; 4) Baylor, 104.5; 5-T) Ohio State and Arizona State, 103; 7) Wisconsin, 100.5; 8) LSU, 99.5; 9) Clemson, 99; 10-T) Stanford, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State, 98

(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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Brent Martineau
Brent is the Sports Director at FOX30/CBS47. He's been with Action News since March of 2008.
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