The college football season starts tonight and I've spent many hours analyzing all 120 Division 1A college teams to get ready for another profitable season of analysis at drbobsports.com. I only posted a few times last season (with good success on the games I chose to post), but I plan on posting analysis more regularly this season.
Below is an analysis of one of the games tonight. While this game is not one of my 3 Best Bets for this weekend it is a game where I think there is some line value due to an overreaction to the suspension of a player. I have analysis on every other Thursday night game in the Free Analysis section of my website, as well as most of the Saturday games.
MIDDLE TENNESEE ST 25 Minnesota (-1 1/2) 24 (on ESPN U at 4:30 PST)
Middle Tennessee State was favored to win the Sun Belt and favored to win this game before star quarterback Dwight Dasher was suspended. Dasher is not a great passer (6.4 yards per pass play last season against teams that would allow 6.9 yppp to an average QB), but he accumulated 1296 yards on 207 runs (not including sacks, which I count as pass plays) and that production will be sorely missed. Logan Kilgore is the likely starter with Dasher out and reports are that he should be better throwing the ball than Dasher was - although he's not likely to run much. The Blue Raiders will still have a decent rush attack with Philip Tanner healthy again and top back DD Kyles (857 yards at 6.2 ypr) also returning to run behind an experienced line - but it won't be as good without Dasher's production. Minnesota went from horrendous to respectable defensively last season, but they'll likely be below average in that regard this season with just 2 starters returning on that side of the ball. Middle Tennessee should move the ball at a decent clip even without Dasher as long as Kilgore throws the ball at least as well as Dasher did last year - which isn't asking too much.
Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber has seemingly been quarterbacking the Gophers since the 90's but all of his experience is probably not enough to overcome the loss of star receiver Eric Decker. Weber really struggled the last couple of seasons in games when Decker was out with injury, but I suspect he'll post slightly better than average numbers in his senior season given the solid talent at wide receiver that coach Tim Brewster has recruited. The rushing attack was poor last season (4.1 yards per rushing play against teams that would allow 4.6 yprp to an average team), but should pick up with all 5 starters returning along the offensive line. Overall I rate the Gophers' attack at slightly below average on a national scale, which is also where I rate the Middle Tennessee defense, a unit that should be the best in the Sun Belt by far. The Blue Raiders yielded just 5.0 yards per play last season (against teams that would combine to average 5.2 yppl against an average defense), but the loss of a few All Star performers will probably lead to worse numbers this season (I rate that unit at 0.1 yppl worse than average).
I see both teams moving the ball at about the same clip in this game, but Minnesota does have an edge in special teams and that could decide this game. MTS opened as a 3 1/2 point favorite and my initial ratings favored the Blue Raiders by 2 1/2 points. The loss of Dasher certainly hurts, but he's not worth the 5 points that the line moved in this game. In fact, my ratings now favor Minnesota by 1/2 a point (a 3 point difference from my original ratings) after taking out Dasher's rushing numbers and assuming Kilgore to be equal to Dasher as a passer. Kilgore would have to be 0.5 yards per pass play worse than Dasher to justify the 5 points move that resulted from Dasher's suspension. The line value appears to be on the side of Middle Tennessee State in this game and I suspect that the rest of the Blue Raiders will be especially fired up to prove that they are more than just one player.
Check back tomorrow for a Strong Opinion on Friday night's Arizona at Toledo game.