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Wager this: Odds for the opening Saturday of the 2018-19 college football bowl season

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Fresno State has been covering as a favorite of late, while bowl opponent Arizona State has troubling trends both against the Mountain West and at this time of the year.

The Fresno State Bulldogs, with Marcus McMaryion behind center and a stout defense, are 4.5-point favorites against the Arizona State Sun Devils with a 53.5-point total on the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl odds on Saturday at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

The Bulldogs go into the game at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas with a record of 4-4 against the spread over their last 18 games, That sample includes an 8-3 against the spread (ATS) record as a favorite this season. The Sun Devils are 2-10 ATS in their last 12 games in December and are also 1-6 ATS in their last seven games against the Mountain West.

Fresno State has had the total go under in five consecutive games with an average total of 41.6. Arizona State will not have star wide receiver N'Keal Harry, who is sitting out to avoid injury before the NFL draft, so the Sun Devils might have issues finishing drives against the nation’s No. 2 scoring defense.

Elsewhere on the opening weekend of the college football bowl season:

TULANE (6-6) vs. LOUISIANA (7-6)
The Tulane Green Wave are 3.5-point favorites at sports betting sites against the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns with a 59-point total in the AutoNation Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. In a matchup of run-first offenses, it’s notable that the Green Wave allows a full yard less per carry than their Cajun counterparts. Tulane has not covered in its last three games, but is 8-2 ATS after consecutive ATS losses. The total has gone UNDER in five of Tulane’s last six games, with an average combined score of 51.83 points.

UTAH STATE (10-2) vs. NORTH TEXAS (9-3)
The Utah State Aggies are 7.5-point favorites against the North Texas Mean Green with a 68-point total on the New Mexico Bowl odds at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque. Utah State will be operating without coach Matt Wells, who has left for Texas Tech, and could be thrown off. On paper, Aggies quarterback Jordan Love leads a potent offense and Utah State is also 8-2 ATS in its last 10 games as a favorite of 7 to 10 points. North Texas, which can also score in bunches with Mason Fine at quarterback, is 0-5 ATS in its last five games.

GEORGIA SOUTHERN (9-3) vs. EASTERN MICHIGAN (7-5)
The Georgia Southern Eagles are 2.5-point favorites against the Eastern Michigan Eagles with a 47.5-point total in the Raycom Media Camellia Bowl at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, Alabama. Georgia Southern and quarterback Shai Werts use the triple-option, which could negate the influence of Eastern Michigan’s fifth-ranked pass defense and leave it vulnerable in the ground game. The total has gone OVER in five of Georgia Southern’s last six games.

MIDDLE TENNESSEE STATE (8-5) vs. APPALACHIAN STATE (10-2)
The Appalachian State Mountaineers are 6.5-point favorites against the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders with a 50-point total on the R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl odds at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Appalachian State is also under interim leadership, with Mark Ivey filling in, and the Mountaineers’ offense relies heavily on running back Darrynton Evans. Middle Tennessee, thanks to senior quarterback Brent Stockstill, has a decided edge in the passing game and is 6-1 SU and 5-1-1 ATS in its last seven games against Sun Belt teams. The total has gone UNDER in four of Appalachian State’s last five games.

For more odds information, betting picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes or Spotify or listen to it at OddsShark.libsyn.com

Penn State replaces special teams coordinator lost to NFL

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A week after losing his special teams boss to the NFL, James Franklin has found a replacement.

Penn State confirmed Thursday that Joe Lorig has been hired as Franklin’s new special teams coordinator.  Lorig will also serve as an unspecified defensive assistant as part of Franklin’s Nittany Lions coaching staff.

The move to hire Lorig comes after Phil Galiano, who spent two years with the Nittany Lions, left earlier this month for a job in the NFL.

“We are looking forward to having Joe join our staff,” a statement from Franklin began. “We conducted a comprehensive study of special teams coordinators across the country to find the best fit for our staff and identified Joe as the best candidate. His special teams units have a history of being among the best in the country and we know he can continue that success here. I have also known Joe for many years, dating back to when we worked together at Idaho State under Larry Lewis.”

“I am extremely excited to join the staff at Penn State University and begin working with such a storied program,” Lorig said. “Penn State is a program with outstanding players, coaches and tradition. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Franklin and his entire coaching staff. My wife, three children and I are very appreciative of the opportunity to join the Nittany Lion family, and we look forward to helping Penn State win championships!”

The past three seasons, Lorig was the special teams coordinator at Memphis.  He also served as the outside linebackers coach for the Tigers.

Ex-Texas All-American takes defensive line job at UTSA

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Rod Wright is officially returning to the state that helped launch his coaching career.

As had been speculated on over the last few days, UT-San Antonio has announced that Wright has been hired by Frank Wilson as the head coach’s new defensive line coach.  Wright played his college football for the Texas Longhorns in the mid-aughts, earning All-American and All-Big 12 honors as a defensive lineman during his time in Austin.

“We are excited to announce Rod Wright as our new defensive line coach,” Wilson said in a statement. “He was an outstanding collegiate player and he has done an exceptional job mentoring defensive linemen everywhere he’s coached. We think he’s one of the best young coaches in the country and he will be a great addition to our staff.”

This past season, Wright served as the line coach at East Carolina, his first on-field role at the FBS level.  Prior to that, he spent four seasons at FCS Sam Houston State.

Wright began his coaching career at his alma mater, working as a student assistant/defensive special assistant for three years at UT beginning in 2011.

Nation’s top 2017 recruit announces transfer to Miami

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The transfer train has made yet another stop in South Florida, and this one brought a passenger with a helluva high school pedigree with not a lot to show for yet on his college résumé.

In mid-December, it was reported that Jaelan Phillips would be transferring from UCLA.  A little over two months later, Phillips announced on Twitter that he will continue his collegiate playing career at Miami.

Because of NCAA transfer rules, Phillips will likely have to sit out the 2019 season.  He would then have two years of eligibility to use beginning in 2020.

Phillips was the No. 1-rated recruit in the entire country for the Class of 2017 on 247Sports.com‘s composite board.  Despite that lofty ranking, although in large part due to injury, his collegiate career thus far hasn’t amounted to much.

As a true freshman, Phillips started four of the seven games in which he played. Despite missing nearly half the season because of an ankle injury, he finished fourth on the Bruins in tackles for loss with seven and second in sacks with 3.5. Battling additional injuries in 2018, including concussions, Phillips played in just four games this past season.

Phillips would be at least the seventh FBS player — and sixth from a Power Five program — to transfer to Miami since Manny Diaz took over at The U, joining USC safety Bubba Bolden (HERE), Virginia Tech defensive end Trevon Hill (HERE), Auburn running back Asa Martin (HERE), Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell (HERE), Buffalo wide receiver K.J. Osborn (HERE) as well as Phillips’ former UCLA teammate, defensive tackle Chigozie Nnoruka (HERE).

Clemson 4-star LB signee suffers knee injury in basketball game

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When a clip of Trevor Lawrence getting into a scuffle during an intramural basketball game went viral earlier this week, a chorus of takes screamed into the void asking what a college football player was doing playing basketball in the first place.

Dabo Swinney has always defended his players’ intramural endeavors, reasoning that unpaid college students should not be treated as employees. “They’re just having fun and enjoying being college people and doing what college kids do,” he said.

Swinney has defended this even in light of Jordan Williams, a potential starter at defensive tackle, suffering a leg injury during an intramural basketball game that will keep him out of a crucial spring for his development.

And now the basketball injury bug has struck another Clemson player.

Bryson Constantin, a 4-star linebacker signee in Clemson’s 2019 class, suffered a knee injury while playing for Baton Rouge’s University Lab High School basketball team last week — and he believes it could be serious.

“At a basketball game last week, I came down from an alley and I felt a pop in my knee,” Constantin told TigerNet. “I went to the ER that night to make sure it wasn’t like a knee cap or anything like that. They figured out it was most likely my ACL. I went for an MRI two days ago but I had too much blood in my knee to do an MRI, so they drained all the blood out and they were like, the only way you’d have this much blood in your knee is if you did tear your ACL. I go back for an MRI this weekend or Monday, so I’ll know for sure what it is coming up soon.”

While active college players playing intramural basketball is a (somewhat) controversial practice, incoming signees playing for their high school teams is not. Many a college coach has waxed poetically about falling in love with a player’s gridiron potential while watching him compete on the hardwood.

Still, it’s a cruel bit of irony: the only place the nation’s best football team seems to suffer any sort of defeat is on the basketball court.