College Football Saturday Sixpack

Utah State (+4) beats BYU outright 31-16 for a Friday night winner!

Network pushes the Texas A&M - Oklahoma State game but WINS the total easily on Thursday night. Friday features BYU at Utah State, and plenty of more big winners this weekend!

READ ALL ABOUT IT! OUR JIM SEZ COLLEGE FOOTBALL SATURDAY SIX-PACK GETS YOU ALL THE NEWS THAT'S FIT TO PRINT AS #7 FLORIDA AND #1 'BAMA BATTLE IT OUT PLUS STANFORD-OREGON SQUARE OFF IN ANOTHER TOP 10 TILT (AND MUCH, MUCH MORE!)

By Jim Hurley:

Believe it or not, one-quarter of this 2010 College Football Season's already in the books and -surprise, surprise -there are still lots more questions than answers at the proverbial quarter-pole ...

Like are #1 Alabama and #2 Ohio State indeed too"high-and-mighty" to be knocked off the top of the totem pole?

No doubt Alabama is getting tested Saturday at home against the Florida Gators -and there could be danger lurking down the road when the Crimson Tide plays at LSU on the first Saturday in November -- but it's very possible that 'Bama goes wire-to-wire this regular season sitting pretty at #1 (hey, it's been done before, you know!).

Ohio State, meanwhile, doesn't figure to get challenged this weekend at 17-point underdog Illinois but if the Buckeyes have their red magic markers out than they might wish to circle Oct. 16th when the 'Eyes head into Wisconsin plus that Nov. 20th tilt at Iowa could get real dicey too.

Now, a couple of questions about the guys on the outside looking in right now in terms of this year's BCS Championship Game:

Can #3 Boise State and/or #5 TCU climb into one of the top spots as long as there are two BCS conference teams without a loss -you know that everyone's talking about the possibility neither Alabama nor Ohio State loses but nobody brought the Oregon Ducks into the equation a few weeks back and yet here's this Pac-10 team sitting at #4 in the current Associated Press Top 25 poll even though they began this here-and-now campaign at #11 and generally"out of the conversation".

And one last question for now:

Is there anyone else out there we're all forgetting about when it comes to talk of this year's BCS Championship Game?

There's #9 Stanford ready/willing/able to make an even bigger leap in the polls should they upset touchdown-favorite this Saturday at always-noisy Autzen Stadium -but did you realize the Cardinal figure to be favored in all of its remaining Pac-10 games (yes, including the ones at Washington, Arizona State and Cal)?

And don't sleep on #10 Auburn as the Tigers have made a habit of big Saturday night home wins the past two weeks -first against Clemson and then against South Carolina -and suddenly this SEC crew  (Auburn was #22 in the AP Preseason poll) has designs on being a potential party-crasher on the scene

Hey, before we get you our Jim Sez Saturday"Six-Pack" game previews, be aware of these possible"upset alerts" that we didn't include in today's column:

Our"be careful" notices go out to Texas Tech (a TD favorite at Iowa State), Florida State (a 6 ½-point choice over Virginia) and USC (a 10-point fav against Washington) ... just saying!

The thrill-a-minute last second 38-35 win by Oklahoma State over Texas A&M on Thursday night figures to be just the start of a wild College Football weekend from coast-to-coast.

THE SATURDAY TV TRIPLE PLAY
HAS YOUR WINNING ACTION!

THE TOP 3 TV GAMES OF THE DAY!

Went 5-1 Last Two Saturdays!

 West Va. (+10) LSU          WON 14-20
Fla. St. (-20) Wake Forest   WON 31-0
Notre Dame (+5) Stanford    Lost 14-37

Kansas St. (-3.5) Iowa St.
  WON 27-20
N. Dame (+3.5) Mich St.    WON 31-34
 Arizona (-1) Iowa               WON 34-27

Games we're keeping an eye on this week include:

  • Texas vs. Oklahoma (ABC)
  • Florida at Alabama (CBS)
  • Washington at USC (ABC)
  • Navy at Air Force (Versus)
  • Penn St. at Iowa (ABC)
  • Stanford at Oregon (ESPN)

CLICK HERE TO GO 3-0 THIS SATURDAY FOR $20

OUR JIM SEZ COLLEGE FOOTBALL SATURDAY SIX-PACK

#7 FLORIDA (4-0) at #1 ALABAMA (4-0) -8 p.m. ET, CBS
These Southeastern Conference powerhouses know all about lengthy winning streaks:

Right now the Alabama Crimson Tide roll into this prime-time clash winners of 18 consecutive games and it wasn't all that long ago that the Florida Gators were proud owners of a 22-game winning streak -a streak stopped, mind you, by 'Bama in last year's SEC Championship Game.

Maybe"stop" is the operative word here because if the Florida defense -one that's allowed just 14.3 points a game so far in 2010 -cannot stop Alabama RB Mark Ingram here than there won't be a whole lot of drama late into the Tuscaloosa evening.

Last weekend Ingram often bulled his way to 157 yards rushing on his 24 carries that included the go-ahead one-yard touchdown bolt with 3:18 remaining in the Tide's come-from-behind 24-20 non-cover win at Arkansas and there is no denying the fact that last year's Heisman Trophy winner is"back" (he's averaging 9.3 yards a rush) and the truth of the matter is missing those season-starting wins against San Jose State and Penn State might just have the Flint product in mid-season form later this year when everyone else figures to be dragging from a physical standpoint.

Meanwhile, Florida unveiled its new hero last week as freshman Trey Burton scored a school-record six touchdowns in that 48-14 route over Kentucky -please no"Who's Tim Tebow" comment inserted here! -but odds are here QB John Brantley must put his best foot forward if Urban Meyer's gang is gonna steal this one and no question that heir-to-Tebow has run hot-and-cold for much of the season's first month of play.

Spread Notes -Alabama has covered 12 of its last 19 SEC affairs dating back to the start of the 2008 season and the Crimson Tide's an electric 18-9 spreadwise as betting favorites the past two-plus seasons. Meanwhile, Florida rolls into this clash on a three-game spread winning streak and did you know that the mighty Gators are 10-2 ATS (against the spread) when gobbling up points the past seven-plus seasons?


#9 STANFORD (4-0) at #4 OREGON (4-0) -8 p.m. ET, ABC or espn2
Is it Rose Bowl or bust for these two Pac-10 teams?
Nah. They both have bigger fish to fry as we alluded to up above with national title hopes dancing in their heads.

Oregon enters this bash averaging a haughty 57.8 points a game thus far in 2010 and before you shrug that off just consider that the Ducks -with a new quarterback Darron Thomas (822 yards passing and 10 TDs) running the show -posted 48 points at Tennessee and 42 points last weekend at Arizona State and neither of these teams are slouches.

The Ducks would like to bust their share of big gainers in the ground game this week behind RB LaMichael James (8.2 yards-a-rush and 4 scores) but a key element to this affair is whether or not Oregon's offense can play keep-a-way from Stanford QB Andrew Luck who was not razor sharp last week and still engineered an easy 37-14 win at 4 ½-point underdog Notre Dame.

Luck (12 yards passing with 11 TD and 2 INT) would love to get one-on-one coverage against his flashy wide receivers here -WR Chris Owusu can be a game-breaker at any time even though he's been quiet so far -and so expect a slew of blitz packages by oft-overlooked and underappreciated Oregon defense.

One final note: Oregon best beware of the Stanford special teams that can flip the field in a New York minute -it could sway the momentum here if Oregon's unable to handle Stanford's kick/punt returns units.

Spread Notes -Oregon enters this conference clash a dead-even but vig-losing 11-11 spreadwise in Pac-10 games dating back to late in the 2007 campaign but the Ducks have covered six of their last eight head-to-head showdowns against Stanford since 2002. The Cardinal rides a three-game spread winning streak into this game and so that means Stanford's a respectable 23-18 vig-wise in the Jim Harbaugh Era that began back in 2007.

     
#21 TEXAS (3-1) vs. #8 OKLAHOMA (4-0) (in Dallas) -3:30 p.m., ABC
The ole Texas State Fair has seen bigger/better matchups over the years -these were the #1 and #2 teams in the country a couple of times when they've squared off in the not-so-distant past -but there is some electricity here nonetheless when you consider the Longhorns are coming off the worst home loss in the Mack Brown Era (see the 34-12 pounding at the hands of 16-point underdog UCLA) while the Sooners can't seem to put anyone away this year (see three wins by 7, 3 and 2 points against truly inferior competition).

If Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (1,221 yards passing with 9 TDs and 3 INTs) can steer clear of the costly pick here, than he should be able to lead the Sooners to the promised land while Texas better do something about"ball security" as last week's setback included four lost fumbles and an INT of erratic signal-caller Garrett Gilbert (885 yards passing with 4 TDs and 4 INTs).

Spread Notes -Oklahoma has failed to cover three of its first four games this year and that means the Boomer Sooners are 5-11-1 against the Las Vegas prices since their BCS Championship Game loss against Florida two seasons ago. On the other hand, Texas is 4-0-1 ATS against Oklahoma the past five years and the 'Horns have covered four of their last five overall games when taking points dating back to 2005.

    
#11 WISCONSIN (4-0) at #24 MICHIGAN STATE (4-0) -3:30 p.m. ET, ABC or ESPN
Count us among the folks who believe that this year's Wisky Badgers are an"overration" -but that doesn't mean they can't win this Big 10 tilt in East Lansing. After all, Wisconsin sports its usual battering-ram offense and last week there were two rushers who busted past the 100-yard mark: Freshman RB James White (145 yards rushing and 4 TDs) and RB John Clay (118 yards rushing and one score) exposed overmatched Austin Peay in that silly 70-3 exhibition but can this dynamic duo thrive here against a Spartans squad that needs QB Kirk Cousins (290 yards passing with two TDs in last week's 45-7 win against Northern Colorado) to make positive plays every time he gets the green gang in the red zone.

Note that Michigan State head coach Mark D'Antonio -who suffered a heart attack in the hours following that OT win against Notre Dame two weekends ago -is expected to call the shots from the press box here.

Spread Notes -Michigan State has split its first four pointspread verdicts this season but the Spartans are a wobbly 6-11-1 against the odds overall dating back to late in the 2008 season. On the flip side, Wisconsin is 9-15 ATS versus fellow Big 10 teams the past three-plus seasons and the Badgers are a sub-par 17-23 against the odds in their last 40 on-the-board games under fifth-year boss-man Bret Bielema (he was 9-2-1 ATS in his first year at the helm but not real good since).

    
TENNESSEE (2-2) at #12 LSU (4-0) -3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
There are three things that are certain in LSU games this year: Defense, at least one special teams big play ... and Bengals QB Jordan Jefferson getting booed by the home crowd!

No question that this issue is haunting sixth-year head coach Les Miles who admitted to media members following last Saturday's 20-14 non-cover win against 9 ½-point pup West Virginia that"we have to get better play from our quarterback" ... ya' think!

Jefferson's thrown for less than 100 yards in each of LSU's last two games and no question the Bayou bunch has simplified the playbook for him and even that's not helping --  look for LSU dynamic CB/PR Patrick Peterson (he of the infamous Heisman Trophy pose last week) to make his presence felt here while a real key is simply how does Tennessee QB Matt Simms hold up under this fierce pass rush one week after the Vols barely survived in a 32-29 double-OT win against UAB. Simms aired three TDs in that nail-biter but his game still needs lots of polish.

Spread Notes -LSU is 9-21-3 versus the vig as the chalk side the past three-plus seasons (a lowly .300 winning rate, folks) and take note that the Bengals are a shoddy 13-25-6 vig-wise in conference games since Miles arrived prior to the start of the 2005 season. Tennessee heads into this tilt having split its first four spread verdicts this year and the Vols are only 7-7-1 against the odds as underdogs since late 2007.
 

VIRGINIA TECH (2-2) at #23 N.C. STATE (4-0) -3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional
There may be glitzier matchups to round out our Jim Sez Saturday Six-Pack (see Penn State at Iowa or Miami at Clemson, for examples) but this one has a neat feel to it as V-Tech's come back to reality after that stunning Sept. 11th loss against James Madison and now there's even talk that Frank Beamer's bunch could be the ACC's best team when all the dust finally settles in December ... we'll see about that!

The Techsters look to tack together back-to-back road wins after last week's solid 19-0 triumph at Boston College as the Hokies' defense made a key goal-line stand at the end of the first half and wound up holding BC to just 70 rushing yards on 28 carries -ka-boom!

Meanwhile, N.C. State has a red-hot slinger on its side as QB Russell Wilson (368 yards passing and 3 TDs in last Saturday's 45-28 conquest of 8-point home fav Georgia Tech) is making his own little case for this year's Heisman Trophy right now but can Wilson be blessed with open wide-outs here against this rough-and-tumble Tech defense?

Spread Notes -- N.C. State is 4-and-oh vig-wise so far this year and a solid 10-5 spreadwise as the host team since midway of the 2007 season and that includes spread wins this year at home against 33-point underdog Western Carolina and 2-point pup Cincinnati. Note that the V-Tech Hokies are 29-13-1 ATS away since the start of the 2004 season (a rollicking .690 winning rate).

 

THE NFL WEEK #4 GAME PREVIEWS - CAN THE STEELERS AND BEARS STAY PERFECT? PLUS (OF COURSE) MCNABB'S RETURN TO PHILLY AND PLENTY OF NFL POINTSPREAD TIDBITS

By Jim Hurley:

Is it really possible that the Kansas City Chiefs will be the last unbeaten team standing at the end of NFL Week #4?

Okay, so the Chiefs are one of four NFL teams with a bye this Sunday (along with Dallas, Minnesota and Tampa Bay) but if both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Chicago Bears get beat this weekend than KayCee's the king of the NFL hill (for now) with a dandy 3-and-oh mark.

How'bout that!

Last year the NFL went deep, deep, deep into the regular season before the Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints finally lost a game and then they wound up squaring off in a very exciting Super Bowl XLIV clash in Miami - just wondering aloud here whether the Chiefs/ Steelers will be meeting up with the Bears in this year's Super Bowl.

Sounds preposterous ... ya' never know!

NFL RIVALRY PARLAY OF THE MONTH

Ravens at Steelers
1pm (ET)  Redskins at Eagles 4:15pm (ET)
Sunday features these two heated rivalries
and I've got the info to win both!

First the Ravens take on the undefeated Steelers in Pittsburgh, who are without Big Ben.
However, Baltimore may be without star running back Ray Rice. After that comes Donovan McNabb's return to Philly...as a Redskin...and taking on new and rejuvenated Eagle QB Michael Vick. 
With bitter division rivals, there are so many storylines and so many conflicting signals in these two marquee matchups, how do you figure it all out? Chances are, you can't on your own.

BUT JIM HURLEY"S NETWORK CAN! 
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NFL WEEK #4 PREVIEWS
   
BALTIMORE (2-1) at PITTSBURGH (3-0) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
You better believe there's been a bunch of "Who's Ben?" signs sprouting up in the Steel City as Pittsburgh seeks to notch its first 4-0 SU (straightup) start in the past 31 years.

The four-game suspension of QB Ben Roethlisberger was supposed to have a crippling effect on the six-time Super Bowl champions but instead his absence has galvanized this AFC North crew - wheel in any number of quarterbacks (see Dennis Dixon, Charlie Batch, etc.) and the Steelers just keep on truckin' thanks to a dominant defense that may already have two Defensive Player of the Year candidates in S Troy Polamalu and LB James Harrison.

The Steelers' stop unit has yielded a grand total of 33 points so far in wins against Atlanta, Tennessee and Tampa Bay and now Mike Tomlin's club - and Hall of Fame defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau's unit -- has squarely put a target on Baltimore QB Joe Flacco (5 INTs already in 2010) here.

How do the Ravens survive a possible poor game by Flacco (see 59.2 career passer rating in three games at Heinz Field)?

The answer is they probably don't but the presence of do-everything RB Ray Rice (his bruised right knee won't keep him out here) has gotta help and the Ravens need Rice to make all the tough inside yards here ... or else.

Spread Notes -   Pittsburgh registered a wobbly 1-4-1 ATS (against the spread) mark inside the AFC North a year ago but the Steelers are a perfect 3-and-oh spreadwise out of the 2010 starting gate. Baltimore is a money-losing 8-12-1 vig-wise when playing fellow divisional foes the past three-plus seasons and that includes back-to-back spread setbacks this year at Cincinnati in Week #2 and home to Cleveland in Week #3.

    
CAROLINA (0-3) at NEW ORLEANS (2-1) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox

Normally, this sort of "pushover" game wouldn't get our undivided attention in a listing of Jim Sez NFL Game Previews but we just had to ask ... what's really wrong with the defending Super Bowl champions?

The 2010 New Orleans Saints have not looked crisp on offense in any of their first three games - wins against Minnesota and at San Francisco and then last week's 27-24 overtime loss against 3-point pup Atlanta - and even with last week's 30-of-38, 365-yard, three-TD game by QB Drew Brees it appears the Saints are out of sync at critical times. Now, New Orleans is reaching back into the time machine to ask 46-year-old John Carney to make the big field goals for'em this weekend after 2009 post-season hero PK Garrett Hartley botched last week's gimme 29-yard FG try in the extra session.

If Carolina appears to be the perfect stooge for the Saints here than consider that the Panthers can be encouraged by the fact New Orleans allowed 202 rushing yards versus Atlanta last Sunday afternoon - and here comes RBs DeAngelo Williams and Jonathan Stewart just chomping at the bit to break loose after a slow start (just 248 combined rushing yards through the first three games).

Spread Notes - The Saints are actually 2-8-1 against the odds in their last 11 games dating back to late last season and did you know that New Orleans failed to cover five of its seven games last year when in the role of double-digit betting favorite? On the flip side, Carolina has dropped all three of its spread verdicts to start off this tormented 2010 season but the Panthers did ring up a nifty 5-1 ATS log inside the NFC South last year and that included the 30-20 loss-but-cover at 11 ½-point fav N'Orleans.

    
WASHINGTON (1-2) at PHILADELPHIA (2-1) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Yes, he's baaack ... but whoever would have thought the return of QB Donovan McNabb to Philly in a strange-looking Washington Redskins uniform would have come at precisely the same time the Philadelphia Eagles would be experiencing a renaissance at that very position?

The Week #1 concussion suffered by Eagles' slinger Kevin Kolb opened the door for Michael Vick and all he's done is lead the Birds to back-to-back road wins against Detroit and Jacksonville and his numbers thus far are simply staggering: Vick's thrown for 750 yards with 6 TDs and 0 INTs and he's averaged 7.4 yards a rush while netting 170 ground yards - McNabb (833 passing yards this year) has had his moments in D.C. but he's the "second fiddle" guy here, folks!

If McNabb can filter out all the boo-birds (and there will be plenty of'em) and play a little pitch-and-catch with favorite target WR Santana Moss (22 receptions and a 13.2 yards-per-grab average) than the'Skins could harbor real hopes of the road upset in this clash but look for one major key to be the Eagles running a lot of misdirection plays at a Washington defense that has surrendered 30 points in each of its last two games (losses to Houston and St. Louis).

Spread Notes - Philadelphia is a solid 18-11 ATS as betting favorites since the start of the 2008 season and that includes last week's 28-3 win/cover against 3-point underdog Jacksonville. Meanwhile, Washington is 8-4-3 versus the vig whenever taking points dating back to late in the '08 campaign and did you know that the road teams are 13-6 spreadwise in this series since midway of the 2000 season?

On Sunday Nite, it's ...

CHICAGO (3-0) at NEW YORK GIANTS (1-2) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Here's what the still-perfect Bears have to be thinking while heading into this prime-time tilt at the New Meadowlands Stadium:

Do everything in your power to keep the heat off QB Jay Cutler (870 yards passing with 6 TDs and 2 INTs this year), force the NY Giants into two or three turnovers and you get to walk out of Gotham City at 4-and-oh.

Easier said than done?

Well, consider that Chicago's updated offensive game plans - all masterminded by first-year offensive coordinator Mike Martz - contain a slew of quick-hitter passes by Cutler who is not asked to stand in the pocket for all that long (yes, the Bears' offensive line is not particularly a strong point) and the Giants have yet to show that fierce pass rush thus far in 2010. Then toss into the mix the fact the Giants' defense is allowing nearly 137 rushing yards per outing (ranked 26th in the NFL) and there could be those opportunities to bust a big one for RB Matt Forte who's averaging a paltry 2.8 yards a carry so far.

As far as those Giants' turnovers, well, Tom Coughlin's club has been on a self-destructive path so far in 2010 with 10 miscues already in the first three weeks and let's not forget about all those penalties we alluded to in a recent Jim Sez column (see five personal foul penalties in last weekend's 291-0 home loss to 3-point underdog Tennessee).

One last note of advice to the G-men: Don't punt the ball to Devin Hester (see 62-yard punt bring-back for a touchdown in last Monday's stirring 20-17 win against Green Bay) ... or you won't live to tell about it!

Spread Notes - The Giants have failed to cover seven of their last 10 games against fellow NFC opponents. Meanwhile, Chicago's just 6-10-1 ATS away the past two-plus seasons and the Bears are just 6-11-1 spreadwise as point-grabbers despite dog covers this year versus Dallas and Green Bay.
 

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NFL WEEK #4 POINTSPREAD TIDBITS

Here's more around-the-league pointpsread facts/figures pertaining to other NFL Week #4 games:

  • The Atlanta Falcons have notched spread wins in 12 of their last 17 home games;
  • The Cincinnati Bengals are 2-11 ATS as betting favorites the past two-plus campaigns;
  • The Denver Broncos have lost their last five spread decisions against fellow AFC competition;
  • The Green Bay Packers are 7-1 ATS in their last eight showdowns with NFC North rival Detroit;
  • The Houston Texans are 8-4-1 against the odds away dating back to late in the 2008 season;
  • The Indianapolis Colts have covered just seven of their last 17 games when favored against rival Jacksonville;
  • The New York Jets have failed to cover nine of their last 13 spread verdicts against Buffalo;
  • The Oakland Raiders are a dreadful 17-38-1 ATS as hosts dating back to the start of 2003;
  • The Seattle Seahawks have lost nine of their last 10 spread decisions away;
  • And the Tennessee Titans are 16-12-1 ATS as betting favorites since late in the 2007 season.

NOTE: Get our NFL Monday Night Football Preview - that's the New England Patriots at the Miami Dolphins - plus all the weekend NCAA Football and NFL Week #4 roundups in the next edition of Jim Sez.

24
Sep

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