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Houston over Rutgers is the AAC play of the year

By Jeff Frank, The Sports Analyst

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The Houston Cougars' initial season in the American Athletic Conference has been a successful one as they are tied for first with two other clubs at 2-0, along with a 5-1 overall record.

The only downside to their conference mark is that they have faced the only two 0-3 squads in the league in Memphis and Temple. Still, it is hard to knock what they have accomplished, especially since they finished 5-7 last year in Tony Levine's first season as head coach.

This Saturday will be Houston's first true league test as the club has to fly north to New Jersey and take on Rutgers.

The Scarlet Knights have split their first two conference matchups knocking off SMU, 55-52, and losing at Louisville, 24-10. They did beat Arkansas at home in their final September game but needed a pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally past the Razorbacks, 28-24.

Rutgers had last week off, which should help a litany of injured players get some well-needed rest. However, cornerback Lewis Toler, tied for the team lead in pass breakups, is out for the rest of the season with an arm injury, meaning a pair of true freshmen might have to start at cornerback. Considering Houston is ranked 18th nationally in passing (15th in scoring) and Rutgers is 119th in pass defense, it does not give fans of Rutgers much hope for success.

The Scarlet Knights' only chance to win is to keep the Cougars off the field by sustaining long drives on offense. Unfortunately, starting running back Paul James is expected to miss his third straight game after rushing for close to 600 yards in the first four contests.

It also does not look as if Houston will be fazed by being on the road. The Cougars are 2-0 both straight up and against the spread away from home this season, and 3-0 ATS in their last three games outside of Houston.

Take the Cougars plus seven points in the first of four three-star plays.

The second selection has Wyoming visiting San Jose State. The Cowboys were embarrassed at home by Colorado State last weekend, losing 52-22 as six-point favorites. They now have been outscored 83-39 since taking a 21-0 lead over New Mexico two games back.

All is not lost for Wyoming, especially since the club is just one-half game behind Boise State and Utah State for first place in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference.

On the other side, San Jose State, 2-1 in conference play as well, is coming off a bye week, but the Spartans have lost their last six games off a bye going back to 2009.

San Jose State relies on a passing game that is ranked 16th in the country. However, Wyoming is 16th nationally in pass defense. Furthermore, the Cowboys have been a machine covering spreads as road underdogs in recent years. Counting the opening week cover at Nebraska, they are 16-4 in their last 20 outings getting points on the road.

Take Wyoming plus seven.

Colorado hosts Arizona in another three-star play. The Buffaloes have yet to show how improved they are compared to prior seasons since they have just played one FBS home game this year and that was against Oregon.

They already have tripled their win total from 2012 and could match their four-win total from 2011-12 with a victory over Arizona. The 4-2 Wildcats come into this game off an 11-point home win over a Utah club primed for a loss after upsetting Stanford.

Arizona is 0-7-1 ATS in its last eight games as conference road favorites with three straight up losses, including one to Colorado two years ago. Don't be surprised if the Buffaloes do it again.

Take Colorado plus 14 points.

Finally, Thursday night action pits Boise State against BYU. The Cougars come into this matchup on a four-game winning streak, averaging 38 ppg over that span. Quarterback Taysom Hill has been getting better on a weekly basis as evidenced by his 65-percent completion percentage in those four games after ending week three at 35 percent.

Joe Southwick is out for Boise State so Grant Hedrick makes his first career start. He's been impressive in spot duty, and dominated Nevada last week, completing 18-of-21 passes while rushing for 115 yards. Boise has now won three in a row and five of its last six games.

Not much separates these two teams except homefield advantage for the Cougars. BYU is 41-6 at Lavell Edwards Stadium since 2006. Nonetheless, Boise State is 38-6 on the road since that time, and three of the last four losses have come by one, three and four points.

Take Boise State plus seven points.

TWO-STAR SELECTIONS

Go with Buffalo -1.5 (Kent State), Navy +6 (Pittsburgh), Temple +13 (SMU), Wake Forest +23.5 (Miami-Florida), Oregon State +4 (Stanford), North Texas -11.5 (Southern Miss) and Kansas +34.5 (Baylor).

ONE-STAR PLAYS

Take Virginia +10 (Georgia Tech), UAB +7 (UTSA), FAU +24 (Auburn), NC State +32 (Florida State) and South Florida +20.5 (Louisville).

THIS YEAR'S RECORD

After eight weeks, my record stands at 54-46 following a 12-4 week. The five- star plays went 1-1 for a 10-6 overall total. The three-star selections went 3-0 so that record stands at 9-10. The two-star choices finished 4-0 for a 21-18 overall mark and the one-star choices went 4-3 for a 14-12 total.

THIS WEEK'S JEFF FRANK "DIRTY DOZEN"

1-T) Oregon and Alabama, 110; 3) Florida State, 107.5; 4) Baylor, 102; 5) Arizona State, 100; 6) LSU, 99.5; 7) Wisconsin, 99; 8-T) Missouri and Ohio State, 97; 10) Stanford, 96.5; 11) Clemson, 96; 12) South Carolina, 95.5

(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.)

10/24 10:14:53 ET