BCS Championship Preview & Wild Card Wrapup


Auburn (-1.5) beats Oregon 22-19 for BCS Championship
Hurley misses with Oregon, but easily wins (Under 72.5)
Congratulations to both Auburn and Jim Hurley's Network for a championship college football season!

Elon (-4) UNC-Greensboro 80-65 WON




By Jim Hurley:

Just call it Football Heaven, if you will.

The NFL Playoffs just swung open their doors with a wild weekend of action - after all, it's not every day that last year's Super Bowl teams get eliminated from the playoffs on the very same day (in fact, it's never happened before!) - and there's this little thing called the BCS National Championship Game this evening in the Arizona desert.

#1 Auburn vs. #2 Oregon - okay, so maybe back in August you didn't think this would be the matchup for all the marbles in the College Football world but neither of these clubs faltered throughout a series of high-pressurized games and so we've finally come to the day of reckoning.

Who's still gonna be perfect after tonight?

Lots to chew on here in today's Football-filled edition of Jim Sez but first this important reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers continues to rock on this January with wall-to-wall winners in the NFL Playoffs continuing this weekend with the NFL Divisional Playoffs and, of course, this evening it's the College Football season finale with the much-hyped and much-anticipated BCS National Championship Game showdown between #1 Auburn versus #2 Oregon. Get the Side & Totals Winners on this clash plus all the daily/nightly NBA and NCAA Basketball winners too when check with us at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or when you log online right here online. We'll have tonight's title tilt plus the hoops anytime after 1 p.m. ET.

University of Phoenix Stadium - Glendale, AZ
#2 OREGON (12-0) vs. #1 AUBURN (13-0) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Gentlemen, start your engines! Who says the Indianapolis 500 is the most horse-powered event in American sports?

Tonight's titanic showdown between the #1 Auburn Tigers and the #2 Oregon Ducks is all about souped-up engines and racing stripes - heck, the good folks in Las Vegas established the over/under price on this game at 74 points back in early December (and it's stayed that way) and that might be a tad shy.

Hey, couldn't you envision the loser of this championship game scoring at least 40 points?

No doubt that we haven't seen a BCS National Championship Game lead-up quite like this:

After all, Auburn has the country's Heisman Trophy winner on its side as QB Cam Newton has been the sport's biggest stat-sheet stuffer in memory as the 6-foot-6 junior megastar enters this game with 2,589 yards passing with 28 touchdown flings (and just 6 INTs) to go along with his 1,409 rushing yards and 20 ground scores and did you realize that Newton led Auburn to a 42.7 ppg average this year (sixth-best among FBS teams)?

Than there's the Oregon gang that scores a whopping 49.3 ppg - the best in all the land -- with tiny RB LaMichael James (1,682 yards rushing and 21 TDs) having finished third in this year's Heisman Trophy chase despite some foot/ankle injuries that at times slowed 'em down or kayoed him completely from the lineup. James had that "spurtability" that all great small backs possess but here he could also be a key decoy at times here when underrated Oregon QB Darron Thomas (28 TDs and 7 INTs) looks to play-action fake with James and then chuck it deep.

Maybe Chip Kelly's Ducks have been a little bit too chirpy leading up to the title tilt, but we haven't heard anyone give away any game plan secrets and so look for Thomas to hurl some deep throws here with WR Jeff Maehl (68 receptions for 943 yards and 12 TDs) a major target. If Maehl can haul down a couple of long balls early, it could open up the middle of the field short for more Thomas dump-off passes which will be needed with Auburn's rock-and-tough DL Nick Fairley bearing down on 'em here.

On the flip side, Newton may appear to be a proverbial one-man wrecking crew for the Auburn offense and his second-half heroics in high-profile late-year wins against Georgia, Alabama and South Carolina (see the SEC Championship Game) proves he does not shrink when the spotlight's on him but if Gene Chizik's crew is gonna wind up king of the hill on this night then Newton needs freshman RB Michael Dyer (950 yards rushing and a 5.9 ypc average) to snap off some big gainers and here you can look for Dyer to lay back and take some delayed handoffs with Auburn offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn counting on Oregon's blitzes to run right past him here. Gut feel: Dyer needs a minimum of 20 "touches" and at least 100 yards from scrimmage... got it?

Okay, two final items to watch for in this BCS National Championship Game:

First, the expected breakneck pace of this game could serve to wear down one of these defenses before the other ever feels it - keep an eye on how the defenses substitute here because fresh legs are key right from the start;

Finally, the SEC won each of the last four championship games - two titles by Florida (in 2006 and '08), along with championships by LSU (2007) and Alabama (2009) and most in-the-know folks believe that Auburn's tougher sked this year will benefit them here - and so Oregon could enter this game with more nerves and so watch for a potentially slowish start for the Ducks. You've been forewarned.

Spread Notes - Auburn is 9-4 ATS (against the spread) overall this season and that includes a shabby 1-3 spread mark when playing non-conference opponents. The Tigers are also a rotten 4-10 versus the vig away since the start of the 2008 campaign although Auburn did cover three-of-four away tilts this year. Note that this SEC gang has covered three in a row and six of its last seven overall games this season while heading into this prime-time bash in the desert. On the flip side, Oregon's 7-4-1 against the Las Vegas prices overall this season and that includes a perfect 3-and-oh spread mark when heading outside Pac-10 play (covers against New Mexico, Tennessee and Portland State). The Ducks have covered five of their nine post-season bowl games since 2000 including last year's 26-17 loss to 5-point underdog Ohio State. Note that Oregon is just 1-2-1 vig-wise in its last four games this 2010 season with the lone cover coming in the team's 37-20 win at 16 ½-point pup Oregon State on Dec. 4th.


We'll have lots of time/space this week to dissect all four NFL Divisional Playoff Games this weekend right here in Jim Sez but let's get out our quick-hitter comments on last weekend's Wild Card Round Winners"

SEATTLE (8-9) - So, who's laughing now? The NFL's worst-ever division champions dug themselves a 10-0 hole in last Saturday's eventual 41-36 win against 10-point favorite New Orleans and surely the NBC folks were thinking doom-and-gloom... yeah, but who knew that it would be the Seahawks with the double-digit lead in the game's final minutes or that born-again QB Matt Hasselbeck (272 yards passing with four TD passes) would be the most effective passer on a day that also included QBs Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Mark Sanchez?

Maybe Seahawks' first-year head coach Pete Carroll gets a little ditzy on the sidelines but his club showed that old college spirit and especially when RB Marshawn Lynch rumbled 67 yards with the game-clinching touchdown run with 3:22 remaining in the final quarter. The Seahawks allowed 32 first downs and 474 offensive yards but it's the guys from the great northwest that survived in this "tournament" and now you have to wonder if Hasselbeck can be so sharp in Chitown this Sunday will that be the Bears' worst nightmare?

NEW YORK JETS (12-5) - Okay, so you could fill up a notebook with all the mistakes the Indy Colts committed in the final few minutes of NYJ's thrilling 17-16 win last Saturday night at Lucas Oil Field but just remember that the high-and-wide aforementioned QB Sanchez (18-of-31 for 189 yards passing) suddenly found his targets when it counted and it sure helped that WR Braylon Edwards is about 6-foot-10 (or so he seemed on that critical sideline catch that helped to set up PK Nick Folk's 32-yard game-winning field goal with no time left).

The Jets benefited from a strange third-and-seven running call - what was Manning thinking at the line of scrimmage there? - and don't forget that brainiac head coach Jim Caldwell aided/abetted the Jets late with a time out on defense that had Manning looking more than a bit puzzled. The Jets took advantage of the opening to score following PK Adam Vinatieri's 50-yard FG with 53 seconds left and now Rex Ryan's club looks to power that momentum surge into Foxboro this Sunday where Edwards and WR Santonio Holmes likely need to combine for 15-to-20 catches if the green gang is gonna stay alive.

BALTIMORE (13-4) - No one put the hammer down on any opponent quite like the Ravens did in their scrimmage-like 30-7 win in Kansas City as John Harbaugh's club sent a message to the other teams still standing in this year's NFL Playoffs that you better expect to get physically bludgeoned if you happen to get in Baltimore's path. The Ravens sacked Chiefs QB Matt Cassel three times and forced five turnovers - and, boy, did Cassel appear amateurish for much of the chilly afternoon! - while Baltimore QB Joe Flacco fended off some plenty of early-game hits to finish with 265 yards passing with two TDs (and no INTs).

Maybe the best part about the "W" for the Ravens is that they didn't expend a whole lot of emotional or physical energy here and so the "short week" now might not be as much a factor while heading into Saturday's 4:30 p.m. ET clash in Pittsburgh. One area of concern for Baltimore, however: The Ravens had to settle for Pro Bowl kicker Billy Cundiff's field goals from 19, 29 and 29 yards at Arrowhead Stadium - such red-zone inefficiency will certainly cost 'em in Pittsburgh next weekend.

GREEN BAY (11-6) - Much is being made of the fact that the Packers' hang-on-for-dear-life 21-16 at Philadelphia yesterday marked the first post-season win in the career of QB Aaron Rodgers (180 yards passing with 3 TDs and 0 INTs) but has everyone lost sight of the real stars here?

The Packers thrived on the ground thanks to rookie RB James Starks (123 yards rushing) - a sixth-round pick from Buffalo, mind you - and because Eagles kicker David Akers picked Sunday for his biggest gag-it-up game in his career with two critical FG misses. No doubt the misfires really shaped how the game played out late.

Now, Green Bay turns its attention to a Saturday night showdown with the NFC's top-seeded team - the Atlanta Falcons - and no one needs reminding the Pack that they could have won the regular-season meeting there at the Georgia Dome had not Rodgers lost a fumble on a quarterback sneak play... remember?

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