New Years Day Bowl Previews Plus Bowl Notes

South Florida (+6) Clemson 31-26 WON
Notre Dame (+3) Miami-Fla 33-17 WON
Central Fla (+6.5) Georgia 10-6 WON 

North Carolina (-1) Tennessee 30-27 WON
Washington (+14) Nebraska 19-7 WON
Kansas State (Pk) Syracuse 34-36 lost


By Jim Hurley:

Ring out the old and ring in the new!

It's time to say bye-bye to 2010 - and here's a final shout-out to all those champs like the San Francisco Giants (MLB), the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), the Alabama Crimson Tide (NCAA Football), the Duke Blue Devils (NCAA Basketball) and, of course, the New Orleans Saints (NFL).

Hope that you cleaned up on some of those "win-it-all" prices!

Now, we flip the calendar page to read 2011 and heaven knows who'll be the champs of their respective sports but our crystal ball says it could be a special few weeks ahead for the likes of New England Patriots QB Tom Brady - he's a lead-pipe cinch to win this year's NFL Most Valuable Player trophy and could wind up with a fourth Super Bowl crown to boot - and let's not forget Duke hoops coach Mike Krzyzewski who just passed Dean Smith in second place for most all-time wins at 880 and - as you all know - could wind up passing mentor Bob Knight in the NCAA Tournament this March/April.
And now hear this: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers rocks you right through this holiday season with wall-to-wall winners in the NFL along with all the College Football Bowl Games and NBA / 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. Just go ahead and keep on piling up all the Football & Basketball Winners right through the end of the calendar year and right into 2011!


NORTHWESTERN (7-5) vs. TEXAS TECH (7-5) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU

Get your New Year started here deep in the heart o'Texas and this one could be a real blast: Note that Texas Tech scored 99 points in its final two games (wins against Weber State and Houston) and QB Taylor Potts (3,357 yards passing with 31 TDs and 9 INTs) could be salivating at the thought of going against a N'western defense that surrendered 70 points in a regular-season finale at Wisconsin. Okay, the Big 10 Wildcats won't have QB Dan Persa here (right Achilles) and so redshirt freshman Evan Watkins is left to run the spread attack here.
PENN STATE (7-5) vs. FLORIDA (7-5) - 1 p.m. ET, ABC

Good to see Urban Meyer has begun his next career (see ESPN studio analyst during recent bowl games) and let's just say we're glad all the drama involving this diva coach is over with - maybe incoming boss-man Will Muschamp won't be such a prima donna! Here the Gators will try to give Meyer a going-away present and the strategy for this clash could be a bit different: If Florida was watching closely they saw Michigan State pound out the ground yards in a 28-22 regular-season-ending win at Penn State a few weeks back and so maybe Florida will hand the Nittanies a steady dose of RB Jeffery Demps and friends. On the flip side, Penn State RB Evan Royster (916 yards rushing this year) - the school's all-time rushing king - has to expose the middle of this Florida D-line or else Joe Paterno won't be getting career win #402.

Outback Bowl Spread Note - Favorites are a sporty 13-6 ATS with one pick 'em the past 20 years in this bowl tilt and note Penn State's last appearance here was a 20-10 win over 4-point fav Tennessee back in the 2006 season.

The Jim Hurley Network has a Year-End Bowl Blast primed for Friday! We've won 9 of the last 12 in the bowls, so click here to get on board!

MICHIGAN STATE (11-1) vs. ALABAMA (9-3) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN

Conventional wisdom says the 'Bama Crimson Tide won't be all that juiced up for this game after having won the BCS National Championship tilt a year ago but gotta believe Nick Saban's crew will indeed be all business after blowing that three-TD lead en route to the 28-27 sour-tasting loss to archrival Auburn. If Alabama RB Mark Ingram (816 yards rushing and 11 TDs this year) - the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner never even got mentioned for the award this time around - gets 25-or-more touches here than "Sparty" could be in deep trouble. Note that the 34 days between games for Michigan State allowed QB Kirk Cousins (2,705 yards passing with 20 TDs and 9 INTs) time to  rest up some achy joint injuries but he better be feelin' nimble here against Tide DE Marcell Dareus and mates.

Capital One Bowl Spread Note - SEC teams have failed to cover five of the last six Capital One Bowls and that includes last year's mud-soaked 19-17 win by Penn State against 1-point pup LSU.

GATOR BOWL - at Jacksonville, FL
MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. MISS STATE (8-4) - 1:30 p.m. ET, espn2

It's absolutely preposterous that the 2010 Michigan Wolverines are playing in a New Year's Day bowl game ... but what are you gonna do? The Big 10 squad skidded to the regular-season finish line on a - get this - eight-game spread losing streak and QB Denard Robinson (2,316 yards passing and 1,643 yards rushing with a combined 30 TDs) may be great but he sure blew a big-time mid-season Heisman Trophy lead in a hurry! Maybe the maize-and-blue can rid themselves of sad-sack coach Rich Rodriguez should they get crushed here - while Miss State has its "mojo" working in the right direction under second-year boss Dan Mullen who here needs LBs Chris White and K.J. Wright to defuse Robinson when he gets out into the open field.

Gator Bowl Spread Note - Underdogs have swiped spread victories in each of the last four Gator Bowls but this is the first Big 10 vs. SEC showdown here in 20 years (see Michigan's 35-3 win over 11-point dog Ole Miss back in the 1990 season).

ROSE BOWL - at Pasadena, CA
TCU (12-0) vs. WISCONSIN (11-1) - 5 p.m. ET, ABC

This is not your older brother's Rose Bowl - there's no Pac-10 team in the house and even we were surprised to discover that this is Wisky's first berth in this "Granddaddy of Them All" tilt since the 1999 season. The Badgers took no prisoners late in the year while piling up 83, 48 and 70 points in their final three regular-season games and did you know that Wisconsin RBs Montee Ball and frosh James White teamed up for 977 yards rushing and 16 TDs in the team's final three games? Right, who needed Doak Walker Award finalist John Clay! Meanwhile, TCU was the "odd man out" of this year's BCS National Championship Game chase as even a perfect season wasn't good enough to kayo either Oregon or Auburn from the big game on Jan. 10th but, truth be told, the Horned Frogs (7-5 ATS this year) really struggled to get past four-TD dog San Diego State 40-35 back on Nov. 13th and less-than-brilliant wins against Oregon State and SMU didn't help matters and it so happened both of those were nationally-televised affairs. TCU slinger Andy Dalton (2,638 yards passing with 26 TDs and 6 INTs) must steer clear of active defensive tackle J.J. Watts who can be a one-man wrecking crew for Bret Bielema's stop unit.

Rose Bowl Spread Note - In the last 20 years, only five Rose Bowl underdogs have won this game outright but did you know Wisconsin's done it twice (see 21-16 triumph over 7-point fav UCLA back in the 1993 season and later Wisky copped a 38-31 triumph over 9-point fav UCLA to cap the 1998 season.

FIESTA BOWL - at Phoenix, AZ
CONNECTICUT (8-4) vs. OKLAHOMA (11-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

Let's just say there isn't a whole lot of buzz surrounding this desert duel - the Oklahoma Sooners are a bloated 17-point betting favorite at press time - and the only way UConn hangs around here is if RB Jordan Todman (1,574 yards rushing with 14 TDs) breaks off a couple of 50-plus yard runs. No doubt the Huskies are one of the more anonymous BCS bowl teams in history but it's worth mentioning the Big East champs enter this clash on a tidy five-game spread winning streak while the Sooners cranked out a modest 7-6 ATS mark this year. If the Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (4,289 yards passing with 35 TDs and 11 INTs)-to-WR Ryan Broyles (1,452 yards receiving on 118 grabs) tandem gets heated up, then it could be lights-out early. Hey, UConn, you have the record-setting women's hoops team ... you want everything?

Fiesta Bowl Spread Note - Underdogs have ruled the roost lately with a perfect 4-and-oh spread log in recent years and note Big 12 teams have failed to cover its last five appearances in the desert. Ugh!



Let's get you some more College Football Pointspread History for the dozen teams playing on New Year's Day:

ALABAMA - The defending champs banged out a 7-5 ATS (against the spread) record in the just-completed 2010 regular season and so that mans Nick Saban's crew enters the New Year's Day Capital One Bowl title against Michigan State at a nifty 25-14 versus the vig the past three years (that's a .641 winning rate). Note that 'Bama, however, has failed to cover four of its last seven bowl games dating back to 2001 although the Tide's covered two-of-three bowl tilts under Saban including last year's 37-21 triumph over 4-point underdog Texas in the BCS National Championship Game and the 30-24 victory against 4 ½-point pup Colorado in the 2007 Independence Bowl.

CONNECTICUT - Who says the UConn Huskies will get blown out of this year's Fiesta Bowl game against Oklahoma? The pointspread facts/figures say that this Big East team enters this prime-time clash on a rollicking five-game spread winning streak as the Huskies are 8-4 ATS this season and a collective 17-6-1 spreadwise since the start of 2009. Note that UConn has covered 11 of its last 13 games when in the underdog role and that includes the regular-season-ending 19-16 win at 2-point fav South Florida this year.

FLORIDA - The Gators have split their dozen pointspread verdicts this year and that comes on the heels of last season's rather drab 6-6-1 ATS mark. Overall, Urban Meyer's teams are a collective 42-28-3 against the odds (a slick .600 winning rate) and that includes four covers in five bowl games with last year's 51-24 pasting of 13-point dog Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl the last grand post-season conquest. Did you know that Florida is an amazing 18-4-1 spreadwise when playing non-Southeastern Conference clubs since Meyer's arrival prior to the 2005 campaign (and that's an .818 winning rate)? Now, the mighty Gators play Penn State in the Outback Bowl and - just so you know - the last time Florida played in that bowl tilt was a 31-24 triumph over 1-point dog Iowa back in 2005 (Meyer's first year on the job in Gainesville).

MICHIGAN - Don't know if it's ever happened before but the 2010 Michigan Wolverines actually head into a post-season bowl tilt on an eight-game pointspread losing streak. The maize-and-blue have been beaten black-and-blue spreadwise ever since head coach Rich Rodriguez skunked into town as this Big 10 team is a cumulative 9-25-1 ATS the past three years (a paltry .265 winning rate) and that includes a combined an 0-5-1 ATS log against archrivals Michigan State and Ohio State ... ugh! Don't forget the fact that Michigan failed to cover five of its eight bowl games from 2000-thru-2007 prior to Rodriguez's arrival or that the Wolverines are 5-10-1 ATS as pups the past three seasons. Let's see if Michigan can change all this bad pointspread karma with its Gator Bowl game against favored Miss State.

MICHIGAN STATE - The Spartans wound up winning 11 games SU (straightup) this year but only managed a 7-5 ATS log that featured back-to-back outright upset wins against Wisconsin and at Michigan. Note that "Sparty" covered two-of-three games this year in the point-grabbing role after having gone a collective 1-7 vig-wise as pups the two prior seasons. In terms of bowl games, M-State is 2-3 ATS in post-season games since 2001 and that includes last year's 41-31 loss to 9-point fav Texas Tech in the Alamo Bowl - a game the Spartans played terribly short-handed.

MISS STATE - Count us among the folks who thought the M-State Bulldogs sported a better-than-break-even spread mark this year but Dan Mullen's club finished up regular-season play at 6-6 ATS and that featured covers against Georgia, Florida and archrival Ole Miss. Note that Miss State is just 3-7 spreadwise in its last 10 non-SEC affairs dating back to the 2008 season but the flip side says the Dawgs have notched spread wins in both of their bowl games since 2000 - a 43-41 snowy win/cover against 1 ½-point fav Texas A&M in the 2000 Independence Bowl and a 10-3 Liberty Bowl win/cover against 3-point fav Central Florida back in the 2007 season (during the Sylvester Crooms Era).

NORTHWESTERN - There's nothing for the N'western Wildcats to be proud of here when it comes to 2010 pointspread success as this Big 10 team produced an ugly 3-9 ATS campaign and note that includes eight spread losses in the team's last nine games. Northwestern - which has banked back-to-back spread wins in the team's last two bowl games including a wild double-overtime 38-35 loss-but-cover against 8 ½-point fav Auburn in last season's Outback Bowl - also can claim a sturdy 12-7 ATS log as point-grabbers the past three years. Next up on the docket is the Jan. 1 Ticket City Bowl game against Texas Tech.

OKLAHOMA - Maybe this is the year that the Boomer Sooners stop their pointspread slide in bowl games 'cause this Big 12 club has dropped four consecutive spread verdicts in these post-season including ATS setbacks - in order - against Boise State (Fiesta Bowl), West Virginia (Fiesta Bowl), Florida (BCS Championship Game) and Stanford (Sun Bowl). In all, Oklahoma's a dreary 3-8 vig-wise in all bowl games in the Bob Stoops Era that started back in 1999. Note that this Big 12 teams is just 8-13 against the Las Vegas price tags in non-league games the past four seasons. No. Oklahoma heads into this Fiesta Bowl tilt against UConn as a heavy-duty double digit betting favorite and OU's split its last 10 spread verdicts when laying a two-TD-or-larger price since the start of last season.

PENN STATE - The Nittany Lions didn't exactly litter their backers' path with greenbacks this season as Joe Paterno's latest edition registered a sub-par 5-7 ATS campaign that included a rotten 2-5 spread log when playing fellow bowl foes. This Big 10 team has split its six bowl spread verdicts since 2000 and that includes last year's 19-17 mud-filled win against 1-point fav LSU in the Capital One Bowl. Overall, Penn State's a dismal 3-10 versus the vig when in the underdog role while dating back to the start of the 2006 campaign.

TCU - The Horned Frogs posted a 7-5 ATS mark in the 2010 regular season and so now Gary Patterson's squad is 23-13 versus the vig since the start of the 2008 season (that's a .639 winning rate). TCU enters its Rose Bowl matchup against Wisconsin with a spiffy 22-12 spread log when in the chalk role dating back to the start of the 2008 season.

TEXAS TECH - The bowls haven't been great for the TT Red Raiders recently as this Big 12 team has failed to cover four of its last five post-season dates. Meanwhile, the Techsters finished this 2010 regular season at 5-6-1 spreadwise but that did included back-to-back spread covers late against Weber State and Houston (25- and 10-point pups, respectively).

WISCONSIN - The Badgers have notched spread wins in five of their last eight bowl games including last year's 20-14 triumph over 3 ½-point fav Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl. Overall, Wisky's heading into this clash on a six-game spread winning streak and the Big 10 guys are a collective 4-1 ATS as pups since the start of the 2009 season. One more thing: Wisconsin is 24-15-1 ATS as underdog sides since the start of the 2001 season.


In the NFC, it's ...

TAMPA BAY (9-6) at NEW ORLEANS (11-4) -- 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Last Monday Night's 17-14 win by the Saints in hostile Atlanta might have been the key reminder that Sean Payton's club won't roll over and die in their efforts to repeat as Super Bowl champions but might even the 2009 champs take an emotional step back now that they dished out revenge in that prime-time affair inside the Georgia Dome?

Okay, so a Saints win here and an unlikely Falcons home loss against two-TD dog Carolina (the worst team in the NFL) likely gets N'Orleans the top seed in the NFC but don't expect this divisional duel to be a proverbial walk in the park for QB Drew Brees (4,424 yards passing with 32 TDs) and mates.

The Saints whacked Tampa Bay 31-6 at half-empty Raymond James Stadium back in Week 6 play. Brees threw for 263 yards with 3 TDs in that lopsided tilt in mid-October and the Bucs never sacked him in that game. Here, some of the Saints' O-line woes -- and you saw 'em for yourself as Brees ran for his life in Atlanta earlier this week -- may come back to bite the home favorites.

P.S., the Bucs' playoff hopes hinge on getting a 'W' here and then having both Green Bay and the New York Giants lose -- fat chance, right? -- but how about the fact the Bucs have been outscored 141-74 in their five games played this year against NFL teams with winning records?

Spread Notes -- New Orleans is just 5-7-1 against the Vegas numbers when laying points this season and the Saints have failed to cover seven of their last 11 divisional games dating back to the start of last year. On the flip side, Tampa Bay's 6-2-1 spreadwise in its last nine overall games and the Buccaneers are a spectacular 6-0-1 against the prices away this year including covers at Atlanta and at Baltimore ... not bad!

CHICAGO (11-4) at GREEN BAY (9-6) -- 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Will there be a batch of 'Lambeau Leaps' on tap for the GB Packers here? No doubt that Mike McCartney's club has loved the home-field advantage this season -- Green Bay's won six of its seven home games this 2010 season -- love the fact that this win-and-you're-in game is in its own backyard but might the Packers be ready to take a step backwards after playing their most complete game of the year last week in that electrifying 45-17 triumph over the NY Giants?

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers -- now being regularly named among the top 3 or 4 slingers in all the land -- is fresh off a season-high 404 yards passing with four TDs and here he bucks heads with a Bears team that already has cinched a first-week playoff bye but could like the feel of being a spoiler here.

If Chicago pulls the shocker -- and the Bears are 10-point underdogs at press time -- than the Giants could slip in with a win in Washington but remember this is a revenge spot for the Packers who lost 20-17 back in Week 3 when Chicago PK Robbie Gould booted a 19-yard chip-shot field goal with 4 seconds left.

Spread Notes -- Chicago is 8-6-1 versus the vig overall this 2010 campaign and the Bears are 5-2 spreadwise as underdogs after going a combined 4-11-1 ATS (against the spread) as dogs the prior two seasons. Green Bay, meanwhile, is a solid 9-6 against the Las Vegas prices this season and the Packers are an electric 41-23-2 ATS overall since the start of 2007 (folks, that's a .641 winning rate).

NEW YORK GIANTS (9-6) at WASHINGTON (6-9) -- 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
There's more as much talk about the NY Giants' penchant for second-half collapses as there have been about the unplowed streets of New York City this week in the 'Big Apple' and now even a win here by Tom Coughlin's club might not be enough to save the day -- think the Giants will be retracing the steps made by Philly punt returner DeSean Jackson for the next seven or eight months?

Here the under-the-radar key is more injuries to the G-men's pass-catchers as now WR Hakeem Nicks (broken big toe on left hand) is listed as doubtful and it's become apparent in recent weeks that QB Eli Manning (24 INTs) simply doesn't trust his other wide-outs with Pro Bowler Steve Smith long gone for the year. Is it time to wave bye-bye to Coughlin? Seems that a loss here will put an end to his seven-year run.

Spread Notes -- The Giants are 11-5 spreadwise in head-to-head showdowns against Washington since midway of the 2000 season and NYG's covered its regular-season finale five times in the past six years. Note that the Redskins are a kooky 7-5-3 ATS overall in Year One of the Mike Shanahan Era and they are 2-2-3 ATS at home this season after producing a shoddy 5-11 spread log in the 2008-'09 campaigns.

On Sunday Night, it's ...

ST. LOUIS (7-8) at SEATTLE (6-9) -- 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Hey, let's give the 'peacock network' some props for making this their national TV game -- it is a win-and-you-re-in deal, of course, but the NBC folks easily could have been scared off by the sight of two losing teams 'battling' for an NFC West crown.

Two items to watch here:

The visiting Rams haven't won their division since 2003 and have not swept Seattle since 2004 when they actually beat the 'Hawks three times including a 27-20 playoff win and here need to sport advantages in the kicking game with PK Josh Brown a nifty 10-of-13 from beyond 40 yards out. If Brown bangs home a couple of 40-plus yarders here, it could deflate the Seahawks;

Finally, no doubt that Seattle QB Charlie Whitehurst -- expected to start with Matt Hasselbeck (hip) banged up -- has the arm strength to make the big-time throws here but will he have that same rapport with born-again WR Mike Williams (62 receptions)?
If Seattle pulls the mild upset here, than Whitehurst-to-Williams must weave some magic of their own.

Spread Notes -- St. Louis enters this prime-time affair with a spiffy 10-5 spread log this season and that includes four covers in five tries inside the rotten NFC West. Meanwhile, Seattle is 6-9 against the prices this year but the Seahawks are 32-17-2 ATS at home the past five-plus seasons (that's a rollicking .653 winning rate).

In the AFC, it's ...

PITTSBURGH (11-4) at CLEVELAND (5-10) -- 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Just how big is this Week 17 tilt for the visiting Steelers? Win it and Pittsburgh's sitting pretty in the #2 seed in the AFC Playoffs with an all-important first-round bye: Lose it and Pittsburgh could drop all the way to the #6 seed with no chance of playing any post-season home games.

No doubt there's some sweaty palms among Steeler Nation -- okay, maybe some folks feel better knowing fourth-year head coach Mike Tomlin is 6-1 SU in his showdowns with the Browns -- and you better believe that the fired-up head coach has read the riot act to his offensive line. You'll recall last December that the Browns sacked Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger eight times in a frosty 13-6 Cleveland home win on a Thursday Night Game a year ago and now an array of up-the-gut blitzes (and the Browns don't normally blitz all that much) will be designed to rattle Roethlisberger who's injured more body parts this year than can be listed on!

Spread Notes -- Pittsburgh is 9-6 ATS overall this season but did you realize that the Steelers are a money-losing 15-17 vig-wise away in the Tomlin Era that started back in 2007? Since mid-November, Cleveland's dropped six of its last seven pointspread verdicts including the last three in a row when the Brownies have scored 6, 17 and 10 points ... ugh!

CINCINNATI (4-11) at BALTIMORE (11-4) -- 1 p.m. ET, CBS
If the Baltimore Ravens want to know why they're not in the driver's seat for an AFC North crown and a first-round playoff bye that could go with it, than they need to look no further than that Week 2 loss in Cincinnati -- the Bengals scored a 15-10 win against John Harbaugh's bunch as Baltimore QB John Flacco aired four INTs and finished with a dismal QB rating of 23.8.

Flacco (3,497 yards passing with 25 TDs and 9 INTs on the year) is hoping the wide-out combo of Anquan Boldin and Derrick Mason (120 combined receptions and 14 TDs) has sticky fingers here but you can bet the Ravens will be spending plenty of time checking the out-of-town scoreboard too as they've become Browns fans for a day.

Note that this is likely the swan song game for Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and his eight-year tenure will conclude without a single playoff win ... terrible!

Spread Notes -- Baltimore's covered its last three consecutive games (versus Houston, New Orleans and Cleveland) but the Ravens head into this AFC North clash sporting a rotten 4-8-1 ATS mark in divisional games dating back to late in the 2008 season. Meanwhile, Cincinnati has failed to cover five of its seven away games this year and the Bengals are a collective 11-19-1 vig-wise away since the start of the 2007 season.

TENNESSEE (6-9) at INDIANAPOLIS (9-6) -- 4:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Get a load of these factoids: The Indianapolis Colts have lost four games by three points or less this year, four-time MVP-winning QB Peyton Manning's aired 17 INTs and the team's leading ground-gainer (see RB Donald Brown) still hasn't eclipsed the 500-yard rushing mark for the year and still the Colts enter this game the odds-on favorites to win their seventh AFC South crown in eight years.

The Colts have gone back to basics to win their last two games against Jacksonville and Oakland as a revitalized ground game has spurred on Jim Caldwell's club and odds are the aforementioned Brown (488 yards rushing and a decent 3.9 ypc average) will get plenty of touches here even if Manning is tempted to burn the Titans deep as that secondary loves to gamble -- and often gets toasted!

Spread Notes -- Indianapolis is just 12-13 against the odds in all home games dating back to the start of 2008 and did you know the Colts are just 12-17 ATS in divisional games the past four-plus seasons? Yup, that surprised us too! Tennessee's failed to cover six of its last eight overall games and the Titans are a collective 6-8 ATS as underdogs the past two years after sporting a glitzy 17-8 spread record as pups between 2006-thru-08.


NOTE: Catch more NFL Week 17 coverage and College Bowls too in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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