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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 11:39 PM

Those picking Texas A&M as a possible BCS darkhorse are looking pretty smart right now. The Aggies were very sharp in their season opener against an SMU team that had a lot going for them. SMU returned 10 offensive starters and 8 defensive starters from a bowl team. They represented Conference USA, who already had impressive performances amongst its contenders this week when Houston beat UCLA, and when East Carolina hung tough much of the night with South Carolina.

On this night, SMU was no match for Texas A&M in the trenches or on the scoreboard. Let’s check the numbers…

TEXAS A&M 46, SMU 14

  • Total Yardage: SMU 347, Texas A&M 458
  • Rushing Yardage: SMU 79, Texas A&M 212
  • Passing Lines: SMU 23-38-2-268, Texas A&M 21-26-0-246
  • Third Downs: SMU 50%, Texas A&M 17%
  • Turnovers: SMU 2, Texas A&M 0
  • Yards-Per-Play: SMU 5.0, Texas A&M 7.0

Spread offense teams can sometimes post “competitive” yardage totals in games where they weren’t really competitive. They move between the 30’s before bogging down or losing the ball. SMU did a lot of useless churning through the second half in that fashion. Here are the keys:

*Texas A&M owned the point of attack, and dominated rushing yardage

*Texas A&M only had 5 incomplete passes all night

*Texas A&M never turned the ball over

*While it’s true Texas A&M wasn’t great on third downs, they only faced SIX of them all night!

*Texas A&M had 43 points through three quarters, and pretty much called it a night then

*Texas A&M finished with 7 yards-per-play even with the fourth quarter respite

*Texas A&M’s defense threw a shutout in the second half against an offense that ranked 33rd last year

SMU was game…as June Jones teams always are. They just didn’t have what it took to compete over 60 minutes against this improving Aggies program.

We’re not going to run the numbers from West Virginia-Marshall because they weren’t able to get a full game in because of lightning. Instead, let’s provide an update on a theme we touched on a couple of days ago…

More Favorites Struggling to Score the Spread

We had fun with this late last week. We have some room tonight to check on Saturday qualifiers. Here’s a list of teams who either couldn’t score the Las Vegas spread in their game, or who barely got over the hurdle in an unimpressive non-cover.

*Missouri (-19) only scored 17 points in a 17-6 win over Miami of Ohio. Many in the media expected this offense to be fine without Blaine Gabbert. That’s why the Tigers were ranked despite having a new quarterback. They sure struggled here, gaining just 291 total yards, converting only 3 of 13 third downs, and managing 4.6 yards-per-play against a MAC defense.

*USC (-22) only scored 19 points in a 19-17 win over Minnesota. The Trojans rushed for just 64 yards on 2.3 yards-per-carry. All 19 points came in the first half. So, at least they had a good half! When the game was on the line, USC couldn’t get anything on the board…versus a bad Big Ten team.

*Pittsburgh (-30.5) only scored 35 points in a 35-17 win over Buffalo. They did clear the spread…but were far from explosive in the debut for Todd Graham against unimpressive Buffalo. When you have an offensive minded head coach, and an experienced quarterback, you should score more than 7 points in the first half against somebody like Buffalo.

*Florida State (-30.5) only scored 34 points in a 34-0 win over Louisiana Monroe. Pollsters stuck Florida State in the upper echelons of the sport despite the graduation of Christian Ponder. The team managed just 92 rushing yards on 3.3 yards-per-carry against a weak Sun Belt opponent. Not much time to get ready for Oklahoma. Note that this was still a pointspread cover. Maybe the defense is so good that the offense can take a step back.

*Iowa (-35) only scored 34 points in a 34-7 win over Tennessee Tech. Weather was a factor here, so there’s no reason to be concerned at this poing.

*Penn State (-38) only scored 41 points in a 41-7 win over Indiana State. The Sycamores are so bad they have no right to even be on the field against a big name program. Yet, Penn State gained only 359 yards on the day, and was just 2 of 10 on third downs. More of a scrimmage than a game for Joe Paterno’s bunch. It wasn’t a sharp scrimmage once you adjust for the caliber of opponent.

*Air Force (-34) only scored 37 points in a 37-20 win over South Dakota. The Falcons did have 30 points at halftime though, and may have called off the dogs to save themselves for a huge conference opener next week vs. TCU.

*Nebraska (-38) only scored 40 points in a 40-7 win over Tennessee-Chattanooga. May be another game where the leader called off the dogs. Though, you should gain more than 364 yards at home against somebody like Chattanooga.

*Oregon State (-23) only scored 21 points in regulation in a 29-28 overtime loss to Sacramento State. How are you going to deal with Wisconsin if you can’t beat Sacramento State?!

*Kansas State (-26) only scored 10 points in a 10-7 win over Eastern Kentucky. The defense obviously played well. The offense rushed for just 3.1 yards-per-carry on 56 tries.

There were some other embarrassing performances for board teams in non-board games that didn’t involve poor offense. Duke lost to Richmond 23-21. Iowa State barely survived Northern Iowa in a 20-19 win. Washington was life and death with Eastern Washington in a 30-27 win. UTEP trailed Stony Brook at the half before rallying for a 31-24 win. Wyoming survived a war with Weber State in a 30-27 win.

Smart handicappers pay attention to the whole board!

In pennant race news...

Detroit drubbed the Chicago White Sox 18-2 in the prime time TV game. They still lead Cleveland by 6.5 games in the AL Central. CWS has fallen to 8.5 games back. The New York Yankees extended their lead over Boston to 1.5 games in the AL East as they finished off a sweep of Toronto. Boston lost to Texas. The Rangers maintained their 3.5 game lead on the LA Angels with both teams winning Sunday. Arizona grabbed firm hold of the NL West with another win in San Francisco. The D-backs lead the Giants by 7 games with only 22 to play. We may be days away from all four NL playoff spots being virtually locked up.

Back with you in the morning Labor Day to get you ready for Miami-Maryland on ESPN Monday Night. The Network Notebook will talk about all the unknown quantities in the matchup. Wayne Root is scheduled to check in with his next report, where there will surely be details about his blockbuster 5-0 day this past Saturday. Enjoy your holiday!

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