College Football Mid-week Report

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THE NFL PRESEASON SKED SWINGS
INTO WEEK #3 AS TEAMS "GET SERIOUS"
AND WE BREAK DOWN SOME
THURSDAY/FRIDAY NIGHT ACTION ...
OUR COLLEGE FOOTBALL MID-WEEK REPORT
ANALYZES A COUPLE OF NON-TOP 25 TEAMS
THAT MUST BE WATCHED
BEGINNING WITH THEIR LABOR DAY WEEKEND ROAD TILTS

Let's not kid anybody:

The early and late portion of the NFL Preseason games often is no more than a bunch of glorified scrimmages - but that really changes with the Preseason Week #3 card.

As you know, the 32 teams play their starters way more than usual - some even into the fourth quarter - and so the games being played this week from Thursday through Sunday night is a much more accurate barometer of where teams/players stand as we get ever-so-close to the start of the 2010 NFL Regular Season.

Maybe the mainstream media folks (see ESPN analyst Ron Jaworski) might be telling you otherwise but there are some real quarterback battles to be settled including the one in Arizona as lefty Matt Leinart continues to struggle mightily ... and so might off-season acquisition Derek Anderson get the nod for the team's season-opener at St. Louis?

Neither really distinguished himself in the Cardinals 24-10 loss in Tennessee this past Monday night - Leinart was on the field for only nine offensive plays in all while completing 4-of-6 passes for 28 yards while Anderson (11-of-19 for 105 yards passing) didn't look all that sharp either and really looked awkward while unsuccessfully attempting to avoid a sack.

The Cards are in Chicago this Saturday night for their Preseason Week #3 game - and a strong Anderson showing could help him leapfrog past Leinart.

Then there's the matter of whom the Pittsburgh Steelers will start at quarterback in the first six - or maybe only four - games of the 2010 season while Ben Roethlisberger sits out his league-imposed suspension that still could get trimmed down from an original six-game ban.

As we stated in an earlier-week Jim Sez, deep down the Steelers know third-year pro Dennis Dixon is ready to take command - he was solid in last weekend's 24-17 win at the New York Giants while leading touchdown drives covering 78 and 82 yards - but just gotta hunch that head coach Mike Tomlin might have a little more trust/faith in veteran Byron Leftwich who hurled a beautiful 68-yard touchdown strike to speedy WR Mike Wallace to give the AFC North crew the lead for good in that exhibition tilt in New Jersey.

Overall, Leftwich's stats in that aforementioned game included 3-of-6 passing for 95 yards with that one touchdown while Dixon chipped in a neat stat line of 7-of-8 passing for 82 yards with no TDs and no INTs. Okay, so Dixon's ability to run the ball and scramble out of a jammed-up pocket is a plus on his side - Leftwich has zero mobility at this stage of his NFL career, in case you hadn't noticed - but we say odds are in the vet's favor unless he looks absolutely terrible (or gets injured, of course) in the Steelers tilt on Sunday night in Denver.

And one more thing about these NFL Preseason Week #3 games:

They are gonna be important for a batch of quarterbacks who have not exactly shined this summer - and so the New York Jets' Mark Sanchez (really bad in last week's ugly 9-3 win at Carolina) and Chicago Bears slinger Jay Cutler (sacked five times in last Saturday's 32-17 home loss versus Oakland) might want to give their offensive mates a bit more confidence in their respective play here.

Now, this reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NFL Preseason Winners - that's both the Side & Totals -- plus all the Major-League Baseball Winners too when you either call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you log online at www.jimhurley.com.

In fact, sign up today and get in on Jim's discount price for the whole season - get all the NFL and College Football Regular-Season Winners - and make sure you're in the winner's circle each and every week!

Important Note:

The check-in times are after 11 a.m. ET for the weekday afternoon Baseball Games; anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NFL and MLB weeknight games; and then anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

The weeknight cards this week include a pair of Thursday tilts - that's St. Louis at New England and Indianapolis at Green Bay - and then there are Four (4) Preseason Games slated for Friday: Atlanta at Miami, Washington at the New York Jets, Philadelphia at Kansas City and San Diego at New Orleans - even before we get to a busy Saturday card - that's Nine (9) Games in all plus Sunday's aforementioned Pittsburgh-Denver showdown.

So, don't miss out on all the fun-n-games - win now and get the momentum building right into the start of the 2010 College and NFL Seasons!

NFL PRESEASON WEEK #3:
HERE'S SOME THURSDAY/FRIDAY GAME PREVIEWS

On Thursday, it's ...

INDIANAPOLIS (0-2) at GREEN BAY (1-1) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Gee, if you watched the Cardinals-Titans game the other night than you know one thing:

The ESPN "promos" for this game never ended!

Now that we finally will get to see Indy QB Peyton Manning and Green Bay slinger Aaron Rodgers (and not just their photo head shots), it will be interesting to witness how much of the playbook both signal-callers utilize here. No doubt Manning has been his usual brilliant self here in the Preseason as last week he completed 8-of-15 passes for 91 yards while leading a pair of touchdown drives (including a 63-yarder) and his scoring strike to new target TE Jacob Tamme was picture-perfect stuff in that eventual 34-21 loss to Buffalo.

On the flip side, Rodgers was razor-sharp en route to an 8-of-11, 116-yard, two-TD showing in that 27-24 Packers win at Seattle last Saturday night - if you loved that above-mentioned Leftwich scoring toss at the New Meadowlands Stadium than you also really appreciated Rodgers' picturesque 56-yard completion to WR Greg Jennings on GB's first offensive play from scrimmage. Wow!
If both Manning and Rodgers are allowed to play deep into the third quarter than this one could be a fireworks special - and then ESPN would really have reason to crow!

On Friday, it's ...

WASHINGTON (1-1) at NEW YORK JETS (1-1) - 7 p.m. ET

Go ahead and raise your hand if you've just about heard all you wish to hear about the Redskins' Albert Haynesworth!

Okay, so there now is no doubt that first-year Washington head coach Mike Shanahan wants to paint the former Pro Bowl defensive lineman in a harsh light but here's hoping that both gents put a moratorium on all the negative chit-chat - if Haynesworth doesn't play well here in this trip to New Jersey than maybe Shanahan will keep him in a backup role, we'll see.

Meanwhile, 'Skins QB Donovan McNabb (just 11-of-26 passing for 206 yards with no TDs and 1 INT in last week's 23-3 home loss to Baltimore) was seen walking around early-week practices with a protective boot/air cast on his left foot and so no reason here for Shanahan to tempt fate and so expect a lot of snaps for backup Rex Grossman (14-of-21 for 195 yards with 0 TD and 1 INT against the Ravens).

Now, back to Jets' second-year slinger Sanchez:

The former USC star has come off as a bit of a clown in the HBO Hard Knocks show but there was nothing funny last weekend about his performance against the Panthers as Sanchez completed just 5-of-10 passes for 12 yards and was fortunate to avoid a pair of interceptions.

Meanwhile, one real positive there was new Jets PK Nick Folk who boomed field goals covering 43, 36 and 49 yards with the latter ticking off the inside of the left upright before sailing through for the three points.

SAN DIEGO (1-1) at NEW ORLEANS (1-1) - 8 p.m. ET, CBS

It was a case of "mission accomplished" last Saturday night for the Super Bowl champion N'Orleans Saints:

Not only did the world-class offense strike up a winning tune in that 38-20 win against Houston, but Sean Payton's gang kept the ball for 40 minutes and ran 75 offensive plays with QB Drew Brees (just 5-of-10 for 36 aerial yards in limited duty) making the highlight reel with that one way-off-balance pass completion near the goal line. Toss into the mix the fact that the Saints rushed it for 198 yards (see RB Reggie Bush with 7 carries for 49 yards) and everything was clicking just right ... hey, the opener is right around the corner on Thursday, Sept. 9th against Minnesota and so maybe "Who Dat" nation can put up an encore performance after all!

Meanwhile, the SD Chargers have plenty to work on as last week's 16-14 home loss to Dallas included the Bolts committing two turnovers in their first four offensive possessions and that left tackle position is awfully wobbly right now with Marcus McNeill continuing his ugly holdout and with off-season acquisition Tra Thomas now officially retired - has anyone scoured the waiver wire lately?

COLLEGE FOOTBALL NEWS/NOTES

The clock continues to tick, tick, tick down on the start of the College Football 2010 Season and here's some quick-hitter comments on a couple of interesting non-Top 25 teams that will be playing on the road come Labor Day Weekend:

NORTHWESTERN - No doubt the Wildcats often "fall between the cracks" when folks start to dissect the upcoming campaign and that's understandable when you consider Ohio State's getting plenty of "pub" in terms of going for a BCS national championship and both Iowa and Wisconsin are legit Top 10-type teams.

Still, let us remind you that Northwestern played in a New Year's Day bowl game last year - a thrilling 38-35 overtime loss-but-cover against Auburn in the Outback Bowl - and has won 17 games the past two years as this program continues to evolve nicely under fifth-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald.

The 'Cats may have to cut-and-paste together their secondary this season and redshirt junior QB Dan Persa must prove he can handle the pressure of playing in the Big 10 on a weekly basis (he proved to be a solid sub last year) but the gang from Evanston continues to believe that it can make it to a third straight post-season bowl game.

The season-opening tilt at Vanderbilt (Sept. 4th) becomes a "must-win" affair right out of the starting gate - note that Northwestern's a 4-point betting favorite at press time - with the host Commodores playing for a new head coach and with heads spinning since former boss-man Bobby Johnson abruptly quit in the summer.

CONNECTICUT - The Huskies are shooting for a fourth consecutive bowl appearance this year and would love to show folks that they belong in the Associated Press Top 25 from the get-go and so that means beating Michigan at "The Big House" is a priority.

Randy Edsall's club brings back eight offensive and eight defensive starters from last year's squad and now the Big East bunch just has to show it can win the close ones - last year UConn lost by 2 points to North Carolina, by 3 points at Pittsburgh, by 4 points at West Virginia, by 4 points versus Rutgers and by 2 points at Cincinnati - and that came amidst all the tragedy that surrounded the mid-October stabbing death of star CB Jasper Howard.

Still, there's some trouble in paradise already in 2010 as Connecticut recently announced the indefinite suspension of backup QB Cody Endres and guard Erik Kuraczea for "violating school policies".
If the Huskies can get past this bump in the road and beat the 3-point favored Wolverines, than they'll be off that "Others Receiving Votes" list in the AP Top 25 soon enough.

NOTE: Get our NFL Preseason Week # 3 Saturday Game Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez and remember that we'll have loads of College Football Previews and Notes all next week right here ... so don't miss out as the NCAA Season begins Sept 2nd.

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