College Football Pick: SMU +4½ over Rutgers

LT Profits Sports Group

Thursday, October 3, 2013 4:00 AM UTC

Thursday, Oct. 3, 2013 4:00 AM UTC

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights are a missed two-point conversion away from being 4-0, but the loss of running back Paul James could prove fatal at SMU on Saturday.

The loss of their leading rusher and the biggest part of their offense could hurt the road favorites immensely Saturday when those Rutgers Scarlet Knights (3-1, 0-1 away) pay a visit to the SMU Mustangs (1-3, 1-1 home) at Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas, TX at 12:00 Noon ET in a game televised nationally on ESPNews.

The point spread at Pinnacle Sports has SMU as a home underdog for this contest with the current line at +4½ with odds of -104.

Rutgers and SMU are meeting as conference mates for the first time ever here as this is each school’s first conference game in the American Athletic Conference, an offshoot of the original Big East.

Rutgers enters this contest 3-1, and it is just a failed two-point conversion at now nationally ranked Fresno State away from being 4-0. It should be pointed out tough that all three wins came at home and the Scarlett Knights had their worst defensive showing of the year in that one road game allowing 52 points in Fresno. SMU meantime is 0-3 vs. the FBS and it was almost embarrassed on its lone win, beating Montana State of the FCS by just one point 31-30.

Still, we feel that the Mustangs have a real shot to pull an upset here, or at the very least take this game down to the wire. Yes, Rutgers has had two weeks to prepare for this with a bye last week, and the Scarlet Knights come off of a statement 28-24 win over Arkansas of the SEC where they overcame a 24-7 second-half deficit.

However, the Knights lost running back Paul James for a few weeks in that game to a leg injury. James was the third leading rusher in the country at the time he went down as he has 573 rushing yards in four games on a whopping 7.4 yards per carry, and he was obviously an enormous portion of the Rutgers offense. The rest of the running backs rushed for 21 yards on 10 carries vs. Arkansas, as the reason Rutgers came back was because Gary Nova threw for 346 yards.

Nova still completed just a shade over 50 percent of his passes though (22-for-43) and he has always been erratic throughout his career in Piscataway, so he needs an effective running game to be semi-effective as his passing performance vs. the Razorbacks was an anomaly rather than the norm.

Now, SMU may be 0-3 vs. FBS schools, but to be fair, they have been underdogs in all of those games. The Mustangs lost 48-17 to the TCU Horned Frogs last Saturday as 17-point underdogs after losing to Texas A&M and Texas Tech! Thus Rutgers represents a big drop in class from the teams that SMU has been facing.

Also never forget that the Mustangs have one of the best coaches in the entire country in June Jones, and you can bet that he will devise a defensive game plan to take advantage of James’s absence for RU. Offensively, former Texas Longhorns’ quarterback Garrett Gilbert has passed for nearly 1300 yards in four games, meaning SMU probably has the best passing attack that Rutgers has faced since its secondary got torched by Fresno State’s Derek Carr opening week.

Add all of this up and SMU looks like a very dangerous underdog on Saturday.


College Football Pick: SMU +4½ (-104)

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