Bryce Love has put up video-game numbers as Christian McCaffrey’s replacement at Stanford.
The junior running back has rushed for 1,088 yards in five games while averaging 11.1 yards per carry. The fourth-fastest player in FBS history to gain 1,000 yards in a season, Love rushed for a school-record 301 yards and three TDs in Saturday’s 34-24 win over Arizona State after running for 263 yards and a score in a 58-34 win over UCLA.
The Love train stops at Salt Lake City on Saturday for a showdown with No. 20 Utah, which is 4-0 straight up and against the spread this season. Unranked Stanford (3-2) opened as a 6½-point favorite, but sharp money on the home underdog has since moved the line to 4½.
Utes quarterback Tyler Huntley is doubtful for the game, but Utah has a capable backup in senior captain Troy Williams, who started all 13 games last season and will face a porous Cardinal pass defense ranked 100th in the country.
Utah has had more than two weeks to prepare for the Cardinal, who lost at Southern California and San Diego State, and its 10th-ranked rushing defense should contain the power of Love.
“He put up some really big numbers against some really bad defenses,” Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said. “I definitely like Utah in that game. Utah’s better than what people think. Utah’s a tough place to play with the elevation, and (Kyle) Whittingham’s a really good coach. They don’t do a lot of dumb things out there.
“Utah’s very live in that game.”
No. 8 Texas Christian is a 13½-point home favorite over No. 23 West Virginia, which whipped the Horned Frogs 34-10 last season to avenge a 40-10 loss in 2015. The previous three meetings were decided by a total of five points.
The Mountaineers, led by former Florida quarterback Will Grier, have scored at least 56 points in each of their past three games and should keep it close against a TCU team coming off a huge win over Oklahoma State.
“You always bet against the team coming off the big win,” CG Technology sports book vice president Matt Holt said. “When they’ve both been pretty good, it’s been an ultra-tight series.”
Holt said the sharps are on West Virginia, and Salmons also leans to the Mountaineers.
“I’m really surprised how high that line came. That seems like a ton of points,” Salmons said. “West Virginia is a much better team than what people think. When you’re betting a double-digit underdog, your team needs to score some points, and this West Virginia team can score some points.”
Holt said the wiseguys also are on North Carolina (+14½) over Notre Dame, Texas-San Antonio (-13) over Southern Mississippi, Arizona (+7) over Colorado, Oregon State (+34) over USC, Louisiana State (+2½) over Florida and Miami, Florida (-3) over Florida State.
The Golden Knights are plus-205 underdogs to the Stars (minus-230) on Friday in their NHL season opener at Dallas. Hockey handicapper Alex B. Smith (AxSmithSports.com) recommends a play on over 5½ goals (minus-115), noting that 19 of the first 30 NHL games played last season went over. Three of the first four games this season went over, too.
“I’m looking at playing overs the first two weeks overall because everybody’s healthy and they have more energy now than you’ll see the entire year,” Smith said.
The Westgate opened the Knights’ season point total at 70½ in June. It was at 67½ Wednesday before climbing to 68½ Thursday.
“I would look at that going over,” Smith said. “Arizona and Vancouver are two teams on the decline in their (Pacific) division. They should win at least 25 games, and that’s 50 points right there. If they can hang around and push some games to overtime, those single points add up.”
Stanley Cup forecast
Smith likes the Edmonton Oilers, the 8-1 second choice to win the Stanley Cup, to unseat the Pittsburgh Penguins, the 7-1 favorites to claim their third straight title.
His sleeper pick is the Columbus Blue Jackets (25-1), who won 16 consecutive games last season.
“Their offense is going to be loaded,” he said.
Here are eight guesses for Week 5 (Home team in caps):
Duke (+2.5) over VIRGINIA
PURDUE (-3.5) over Minnesota
UTAH (+4.5) over Stanford
Colorado State-UTAH STATE (Over 64)
West Virginia (+13.5) over TEXAS CHRISTIAN
TEXAS (-4) over Kansas State
Fresno State (-17) over SAN JOSE STATE
Miami, Florida (-3) over FLORIDA STATE
Last week: 2-6 against the spread