Saturday Six-Pack

ATTENTION, LADIES & GENTS: IT'S OUR FINAL COLLEGE FOOTBALL SATURDAY SIX-PACK AS WE TACKLE ALL THE CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP CLASHES PLUS WE PREVIEW THE 'CIVIL WAR' AND THE BATTLE OF L.A. TOO ...

NFL WEEK 13 IS UP & RUNNING: PHILLY EAGLES COP 34-24 WIN OVER HARD-LUCK TEXANS

Let's do a little gridiron history lesson here:

The College Football Conference Championship Games only have been with us since 1992 -- that's when the Southeastern Conference first introduced us to this then-unique feature of a one-game league playoff (and payoff) -- and no doubt the first Saturday in December has been a make-or-break time for many of the sport's real kingpins the better part of the past two decades.

This year is no different -- but there is a slightly unusual twist here and that it's wholly conceivable that an Auburn loss in the SEC Championship Game against underdog South Carolina won't knock the #1 Tigers out of the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 10, 2011.

Okay, okay.

So the folks at #3 TCU (12-0) don't want to hear any of that but it's true -- are you gonna sit there and tell us that a 24-23 South Carolina win is gonna knock down Auburn a couple of pegs in next week's BCS Standings? Might not.

How do we know that the strength-of-schedule bit won't save Auburn's hide in the end even if it does lose inside the raucous Georgia Dome come Saturday night?

Conventional wisdom -- and the Las Vegas pointspreads -- tell us that both #1 Auburn and #2 Oregon should win their respective games this weekend and so that somewhat inevitable matchup could be on deck and there is nothin' wrong with that but anyone who's been paying attention for years now knows things rarely go as planned on this first Saturday in December ... so you've all been forewarned.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NCAA Football Winners this weekend plus the remainder of NFL Week 13, the NBA and NCAA Basketball too when you call us daily at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you log online right here at www.jimhurley.com.

Here's an important Note: The check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET Monday-thru-Friday for all the Football/Basketball weeknight games and then anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.Keep on piling up all the Football & Basketball Winners right through the end of the calendar year!

Extra, extra: Jim Hurley's Private Line Club has won six games in a row and tomorrow (Saturday) we'll have our College Basketball Game of the Week. It's just $50 for this game and $50 to get all Four (4) College Football Conference Championship Games. Don't miss out!

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S FINAL EDITION
OF THE SATURDAY SIX-PACK

As you all know, this is the last real regular-season weekend in this 2010 College Football Season -- there is the traditional and powerful Army-Navy game that stands alone next Saturday afternoon -- and so let's ring out the year with Four (4) Conference Championship Games plus a pair of great rivalry games from the left coast (see #2 Oregon at Oregon State and USC at UCLA). Enjoy!

SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Georgia Dome -- Atlanta, GA
#1 AUBURN (12-0, 8-0 SEC) vs. #19 SOUTH CAROLINA (9-3, 5-3 SEC) -- 4 p.m. ET, CBS

Now that Tigers mega-star QB Cam Newton has been 'cleared' by the NCAA blowhards for that apparent play-for-pay business involving his father (and what a creep he must be!) the stage is set for this starry tilt in the Peach State and everyone wants to know not only what Newton will play like here but what does Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier 'have up his sleeve' for this revenge game.
Remember that the Gamecocks really had then-host Auburn on the ropes back on September 25th before the Tigers rallied for a 35-27 win that featured Newton rushing for 176 yards and 3 TDs while throwing for another 158 yards and two fourth-quarter scores but keep in mind a big part of that game was Spurrier's silly and ill-advised fourth-quarter move to pull his starting QB Stephen Garcia for wet-behind-the-ears freshman backup Connor Shaw and all the second-stringer did was throw a pair of picks that absolutely sabotaged the SC hopes -- but then whoever could have figured that would be the appetizer game for this one?

Newton's piled up the numbers -- and the 'W's' -- all year long en route to what surely will be his coronation as the next winner of the Heisman Trophy (see 2,254 yards passing with 24 TDs to go along with 1,336 yards rushing and 18 TDs so far this year) but the fact is the Gamecocks bottled him up at times in that first encounter and could put eight men in the box here and have a couple of 'spies' monitor his every move -- it's a gamble but may be worth the shot.

If the Gamecocks are gonna swipe this one (and note SC is a 5 1/2-point pup at press time) than Garcia (2,646 yards passing with 18 TDs and 9 INTs) must not get rattled by Auburn D-lineman Nick Fairley plus Carolina RB Marcus Lattimore (1,114 yards rushing and 17 TDs) must get the 'tough yards' and he was not able to do that in the September meeting.

Auburn wins and they go straight to the BCS Championship Game; Auburn loses and, as we said above, the Tigers still might go. Hmmm. Stay tuned.

Spread Notes -- Auburn is a rock-solid 8-4 ATS (against the spread) this season and the Tigers enter this SEC Championship Game bash having covered three-of-four away games after going 1-9 ATS away combined in the 2008-09 seasons. Meanwhile, South Carolina is 7-5 vig-wise overall this season and the Gamecocks have covered eight of their last 11 games as underdogs since the start of last season.

BIG 12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Cowboys Stadium -- Arlington, TX
#13 NEBRASKA (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) vs. #9 OKLAHOMA (10-2, 6-2 Big 12) -- 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Hey, as long as we're talking history lessons here how about the fact the Oklahoma Sooners have won six of these Big 12 Championship Games since the arrival of head coach Bob Stoops back in 1999?

P.S., Oklahoma has lost only once in this league title game (see 35-7 loss to Kansas State back in 2003) and on two occasions the 'Boomer Sooners' have propelled themselves into the BCS Championship Game after a win here (see 2000 and 2008) and even when they did lose to K-State back in '03 they still got a shot at playing for all the marbles but lost 21-14 versus LSU in that season's Sugar Bowl.

Okay, so all that may seem like ancient history but now the Sooners need that high-octane offense to get out of the chute quickly and it's worth noting that QB Landry Jones has thrown for 1,853 yards in his last five games and sports a 34-to-10 TD-to-INT ratio this season.
Nebraska's heading to the Big 10 after this clash and so there's lots of emotion surrounding this showdown game and keep in mind that last year the Cornhuskers' defense picked off Jones five times in a 10-3 upset win in Lincoln.

Just saying!

Spread Notes -- Nebraska is 5-7 against the odds overall this season but note the 'Huskers have covered six of their last nine games when in the point-grabbing role. Meanwhile, Oklahoma rides a three-game spread winning streak into this Big 12 shindig and the Sooners are 7-5 ATS overall this year. Note Oklahoma has covered each of its last four appearances in the Big 12 Championship Game (2004-06-07-08).


ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
Bank of America Stadium -- Charlotte, NC

#21 FLORIDA STATE (9-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. #15 VIRGINIA TECH (10-2, 8-0 ACC) -- 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Maybe this year's Virginia Tech Hokies proved to folks in College Football that it's never too late to stage a revival.
Following season-opening losses to Boise State and -- egads -- James Madison it sure seemed as if Frank Beamer's bunch would fold their proverbial tents and bag this 2010 season but not so fast, my friends!

The Techsters reeled off 10 consecutive wins -- hey, they beat the likes of Georgia Tech, North Carolina and Miami in one late-season three-game stretch -- and now are super-powered to make it back to a BCS bowl game but QB Tyrod Taylor (2,258 yards passing with 20 TDs and just 4 INTs) must stay cool when the Seminoles send pressure his way. Remember that Taylor lasted just one play two years ago in a 30-20 loss to Florida State as an injured ankle kayoed 'em from that tilt (and the teams have not met since).

Spread Notes -- Florida State's 7-5 against the Las Vegas prices this year and the 'Noles are 14-8 ATS as underdogs since the start of the 2005 season. On the flip side, Virginia Tech is an electric 9-2 against the spread this year (and that includes an 0-2 ATS start) but did you realize the Hokies are an amazing 35-15-1 vig-wise in ACC affairs dating back to the start of the 2005 season? Folks, that's a .700 winning rate in league games over the course of a nearly six-year time span.

CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME
At Orlando, FL
SMU (7-5, 6-2 C-USA) at CENTRAL FLORIDA (9-3, 7-1 C-USA) -- 12 p.m. ET, ESPN

When this year's National Coach of the Year award gets handed down sometime this holiday season, here's hoping both Central Florida's George O'Leary and SMU's June Jones are at least getting honorable mention after they artfully guided their respective teams to this Conference USA Championship Game.

SMU relies on savvy soph QB Kyle Padron (3,306 yards passing with 28 TDs and 10 INTs) to get the job done while Central Florida is old-school in its approach with defense the key and note the Knights rank 11th nationally in rushing defense and 17th nationally in total defense.

Central Florida RB Ronnie Weaver registered 11 rushing scores this year and could be a frequent end-zone visitor here if SMU turns the ball over in its end of the field.

Spread Notes -- Central Florida is 9-3 versus the vig overall this year and that included a seven-game spread winning streak in the middle of the campaign. The UCF Knights are a more-than-respectable 15-8-2 ATS at home dating back to late in the 2006 season. SMU, meanwhile, is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 against the odds this year and the Ponies are 8-2 spreadwise as underdogs since the start of the '09 season.

In other College Football action on Saturday, it's ...

#2 OREGON (11-0, 8-0 Pac-10) at OREGON STATE (5-6, 4-4 Pac-10) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional
Maybe years ago the thought that the Pac-10 -- and the national championship -- would go through a team from Eugene would seem silly stuff but here we are on the final big weekend in College Football and the Oregon Ducks have 'destiny' in their own green-and-gold hands.
There's a Heisman Trophy wannabe on their side -- that's RB LaMichael James (1,548 yards rushing with a 6.1 ypc average and 19 TDs) and one of the country's most dynamic quarterbacks running the show (that's Darron Thomas and, no, he's never quite received as much 'pub' as he deserved this season) but let's not lose sight of the fact that Chip Kelly's crew can play some 'D' too as evidenced by the fact Oregon's held six of its 11 foes to 16 points or less.

If Oregon State is gonna make a splash here -- and keep in mind the Beavers are 16 1/2-point home underdogs at press time -- than RB 'Quizz' Rodgers must keep moving the sticks and he better not pucker out here 'cause O-State head coach Mike Riley is counting on feeding him the ball 30-or-more times here ... trust us!

Spread Notes -- Oregon is 6-4-1 spreadwise this season and the Ducks are a collective 14-9-1 ATS as twin-figure betting favorites while dating back to the start of the 2007 season. Oregon State's also 6-4-1 versus the vig overall this year plus the Beavers have notched spread wins in six of the last 10 head-to-head battles with their in-state archrival.

USC (7-5, 4-4 Pac-10) at UCLA (4-7, 206 Pac-10) -- 10:30 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Network
In case you didn't realize, this will be the first time this century that both the USC Trojans and the UCLA Bruins will not be playing in post-season bowl games -- one or both of 'em have been in bowls straight through since 2000.

The Troy Boys can point their fingers at the Pete Carroll Regime for getting excluded from the bowl wars even before this 2010 season started but the Bruins can only blame themselves with horrific 35- and 47-point losses on their less-than-mediocre resume.

Now, the Battle of LA goes on without any national or Pac-10 significance but we include it in our Jim Sez Saturday Six-Pack only to remind you of what was a superb rivalry game with meaning 'back in the day' -- and don't look for many celebrity sightings on the sidelines either!

P.S., the USC folks say QB Matt Barkley (2,593 yards passing with 25 TDs and 10 INTs) will play here after missing last weekend's uninspired 20-16 home loss versus Notre Dame with an ankle injury.

Spread Notes -- USC enters this LA-LA land battle royal at 4-8 against the Las Vegas price tags in Year One of the Lane Kiffin Era and so that means the Men of Troy are a collective 8-17 ATS the past two years ... ugh! UCLA isn't any better as the Bruins are 3-7-1 ATS overall this season and 5-11-1 ATS as pups these past two seasons. Double ugh!

EAGLES POST 34-24 COMEBACK WIN

It's safe to say that when they write the story of the NFL 2010 season, Philadelphia Eagles QB Michael Vick will be a huge story and the latest chapter-and-verse of his comeback came in last night's 34-24 win against the 8-point pup Houston Texans.

Okay, so Vick's stats included 302 yards passing and 3 TDs but how about the fact the Eagles (8-4) now have scored TDs on their opening possession six times this year and Andy Reid's club has won all six of those games?

Let's say this about the Texans (5-7): They won't be making a first-ever playoff appearance -- again -- and can someone please tell us how this defensive staff keeps its jobs? Last night the Birds averaged 6.6 yards per offensive play and scored four TDs against one of the four or five-worst defenses in this NFL.

Shame on you, Houston!

 

THE NFL WEEK 13 SUNDAY KEY PREVIEWS ARE HERE - IT'S STEELERS-RAVENS IN PRIME-TIME AFC NORTH BITTER BATTLE PLUS FALCONS-BUCS & MORE ...

OUR NFL WEEK 13 SPREAD TIDBITS ...AND THERE'S NFL NEWS & NOTES AS THE NAMES JON GRUDEN AND JIM HARBAUGH CONTINUE TO MAKE WAVES

By Jim Hurley:

If you're all about those great head-to-head divisional rivalries in the National Football League, then this week's menu set up for Sunday and than Monday Nights are just for you ... but then you already knew that!

The AFC North hoedown between the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Baltimore Ravens steals the Sunday headlines in the league where they play for pay and than there's that Monday Night Football game that's getting hyped to the moon as AFC East combatants the New York Jets at the New England Patriots square off in Foxboro.

Good stuff!

Then again, there's plenty to chew on when it comes to the NFL Week 13 Sunday afternoon card and we preview three key games - that's Atlanta at Tampa Bay, Dallas at Indianapolis and Denver at Kansas City below - and how about a couple of words on some real NFL streakers:

The defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints - once upon a time left for dead in this here-and-now season - bop into Cincinnati having won their last four consecutive games and keep in mind that head coach Sean Payton and Company have the offense in gear with 34-, 34- and 30-point outputs in those last three wins.

Could the Saints be the "vogue pick" now to get back to the Super Bowl?

There are potential potholes in Baltimore (Week 15) and in Atlanta (Week 16) but right now anything less than an 11-5 SU (straightup) season would seem surprising. Hey, we thought it would be Saints-Ravens in Supe 45 back at season's start and we're not about to back down now!

Than there's the case of the always late-blooming San Diego Chargers - the 6-5 record may not astound you but the Bolts do come into Sunday's AFC West bash against visiting Oakland on a tasty four-game winning streak and Norv Turner's team is averaging better than 33 points a game in the past month's worth of work.

Note the oft-overlooked defense has held each of the last two foes to 14 points apiece and - what do you know - even the San Diego special teams have been making nice contributions the past couple of weekends.

If the Chargers go on and win the AFC West, no one in/around the NFL will be very surprised but how about San Diego possibly winning its final nine regular-season games - they won its final 11 games last year before a playoff pothole against the J-E-T-S - and then announcing themselves as legit threats to win the AFC. Hey, first things first as this is a revenge game against the Raiders who copped a 35-27 win back in Week 5 play.

And now hear this:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NCAA Football Winners this weekend plus the remainder of NFL Week 13, the NBA and NCAA Basketball too when you call us daily at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you log online right here. Here's an important Note: The check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET Monday-thru-Friday for all the Football/Basketball weeknight games and then anytime after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays. Keep on piling up all the Football & Basketball Winners right through the end of the calendar year!

NFL WEEK 13 SUNDAY PREVIEWS

PITTSBURGH (8-3) at BALTIMORE (8-3) - 8:20 p.m. ET, NBC
The big news is the late-in-the-week word that Steelers' QB Ben Roethlisberger does indeed have a broken right foot and has been in a walking boot for the whole week - and something tells us the archrival Ravens are not shedding a whole lot of tears for the two-time winning Super Bowl signal-caller.

Maybe Roethlisberger's mobility will be affected here but will his ability to shake off enemy defenders come into play too? Hmmm.

No question that's a major part of "Big Ben's" game and if he is unable to sustain any pressure applied to him by Baltimore's D-linemen and linebackers than you can expect the Steelers to put Roethlisberger back in the shotgun and have him operate the offense from there 90 percent of the time.

On the flip side, Baltimore plans on "spreading the field" on offense and so if you're eyeballing key stats in this game than let's tally up what WRs Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason do - something tells us that the Ravens won't win and thus sweep this season's series without at least 150-to-175 receiving yards by these veteran ball-hawks.

Spread Notes - Baltimore is a dead-even but vig-losing 5-5-1 against the odds this season but the Ravens have notched spread wins in 13 of their last 21 home games. Pittsburgh, meanwhile, enters this clash with a modest 6-5 ATS (against the spread) mark overall this year but the Steelers are a shabby 2-5-1 versus the vig inside divisional play since the start of last year.

ATLANTA (9-2) at TAMPA BAY (7-4) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
In case you had lost track, the Falcons have won six games by a touchdown or less this year and PK Matt Bryant might wind up getting MVP votes at year's end if he continues to boot the big field goals - last week's game-winner in a 20-17 triumph over Green Bay allowed Atlanta some breathing room in the tightly-packed NFC South but Mike Smith's crew better not take its foot off the gas here.

The Falcons need RB Michael Turner (974 yards rushing and 7 TDs) - more than ever - to shoulder the rushing load as reports are RB Jason Snelling (hamstring) missed his third day of practice this week on Friday plus the depth at this position is not great as RB Antone Smith (hamstring) also is listed as questionable.

If the Bucs are going to swipe the mild upset here than hard-charging rookie RB LeGarrette Blount (team-leading 496 yards rushing) must get all/most of the key short-yardage plays here and remember that T-Bay didn't score a touchdown in last week's 17-10 loss-but-cover at Baltimore until 3:05 was remaining in the final quarter. Hey, 10 points here just ain't gonna get it done!

Spread Notes - Atlanta's covered its last three consecutive games and overall the Falcons are an electric 11-4 ATS dating back to late last season. Note that the T-Bay Buccaneers roll into this tilt on a five-game spread winning streak and note they have not covered six in a row at any point since the start of the 2000 season.

DALLAS (3-8) at INDIANAPOLIS (6-5) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Here's something to refresh your memory when it comes to the Indy Colts: They entered this 2010 season some 69 games over .500 between the start of 2003-through-2009 and yet here's Peyton Manning and Company a mere one game above the break-even mark as they play their first December game ... what a long, strange year it's already been for the "Horseshoes" who are averaging 25.6 points a game and yet remain without a major cast of characters here including TE Dallas Clark and (most likely) RB Joseph Addai.

Spread Notes - Dallas has whacked out three consecutive spread wins after a 1-7 ATS start and did you realize that the Cowboys are just 2-8 vig-wise when facing AFC competition the past two-plus seasons? Meanwhile, Indianapolis is a collective 18-11-1 ATS since the start of last year and that includes seven covers in its last 10 games when in the role of home favorite.

DENVER (3-8) at KANSAS CITY (7-4) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
If revenge is best served cold than KayCee head coach Todd Haley would love to be serving up a freezer's chest of whuppin' on a Broncos bunch that rolled to a 49-29 win just three weeks ago thus leading to the infamous non-handshake between Halley (who's since apologized) and Denver's second-year boss-man Josh McDaniels. No doubt that "cold war" stuff will get lots of pre-game attention but how about these two items:

The Chiefs rushed for just 41 yards in that loss at Invesco Field - KC's averaging an NFL-high 174.3 yards a game on the ground this year - while the Broncos are hoping hot QB Kyle Orton keeps on sizzling after he threw for 8 TDs and 1 INT in the month of November.

Spread Notes - Denver's a rotten 3-8 against the Las Vegas price tags this year and the Broncos overall are a horrible 6-15 ATS since the middle of the '09 season. On the flip side, Kansas City is 7-4 versus the vig overall this year but the Chiefs are just 3-6 ATS in AFC West games since the start of last year. 


NFL WEEK #13 POINTSPREAD TIDBITS

Let's go 'round the league and get you our Jim Sez NFL Week #13 Pointspread Tidbits with all figures below against the spread:

  • The Arizona Cardinals have dropped five of their last six spread verdicts since their Week 6 bye;
  • The Buffalo Bills are 4-0-2 vig-wise since their Week 6 bye;
  • The Chicago Bears are 8-4-1 dating back to the latter portion of the 2009 season;
  • The Cleveland Browns have lost their last three consecutive pointspread decisions;
  • The Green Bay Packers are 13-6-1 overall in their last 20 games;
  • The Jacksonville Jaguars are riding a four-game spread winning streak into Sunday's game in Tennessee;
  • The Miami Dolphins are 7-15 at home since the start of the 2008 season;
  • The New Orleans Saints are 20-15-1 as betting favorites the past two-plus seasons;
  • The St. Louis Rams are 8-3 this year and that includes four-of-five road covers;
  • The Seattle Seahawks are 5-12 in non-NFC West games since the start of last year.
  • And the Washington Redskins have failed to cover six of their last eight games against the New York Giants.

NFL NEWS & NOTES: ARE THERE MORE NEW/OLD COACHING NAMES GETTING INTO THE MIX IN TIME FOR 2011?

It's been simply impossible to miss:

Each and every day for the past week the ESPN "Bottom Line" crawl has been saying one thing or another about current Monday Night Football game analyst Jon Gruden - first he was in the mix for the head coaching vacancy at the University of Miami and than he was said to be out of the mix.

Now, there's word that Gruden does, indeed, wish to get back onto the so-called coaching wheel but it's a pro job he allegedly prefers and so the usual suspects - the Carolina Panthers and the Cincinnati Bengals are getting mentioned in some circles - but don't be at all surprised if Gruden doesn't have his eye on the Houston Texans job.

It's not open, you say?

Well, following the Texans 34-24 prime-time loss in Philadelphia the other night - a loss that dropped Houston (5-7)  two games back in the loss column behind AFC South-leading Jacksonville (6-5) and Indianapolis (6-5) -- there's scuttlebutt that fifth-year head coach Gary Kubiak might not necessarily be long for his job in the Lone Star State.

No doubt that this year's Texans have been stung by a streak of bad luck/bad fortune as evidenced by those back-to-back last-second loss to Jacksonville and the NY Jets but this club's potent offense hasn't scored 30-or-more points since Oct. 17th - that was six games ago - and there's cause for concern when you team's won/loss record is lousy and yet you have one of the game's best wide receivers in Andre Johnson, one of this year's best rushers in RB Arian Foster and one of the game's top-notch quarterbacks in Matt Schaub.

Let's see if Gruden holds out for this job ...

Than there's Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh whose name is popping up all over the college football and NFL landscape with word that alma mater Michigan would like to trot him out as its next head coach if they can jettison Rich Rodriguez but the pros are sending out feelers too and Harbaugh may not even have to "leave home" if the San Francisco 49ers knock on his door following this 2010 campaign. We'll keep you posted.

NOTE: Get our Monday Night Football Preview - that's the New York Jets (9-2) at the New England Patriots (9-2) -- plus all the NFL Week 13 and College Football Conference Championship Game roundups in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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