College Football's TV Openers - What We've Learned in NFL Preseason

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THE 2011 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON IS HERE, AND WE DIG INTO A PAIR OF THURSDAY NITE TV TILTS ...

OUR NFL NEWS & NOTES COLUMN: WHAT HAVE WE REALLY LEARNED THIS PRESEASON?

Let's get something straight as we ready ourselves for the start of this 2011 College Football Season:

It's not absolutely a lead-pipe cinch that a team from the mighty Southeastern Conference will be winning a sixth consecutive BCS National Championship -- although the likes of Alabama and LSU remain viable potential champs (yes, we know all about the current state of affairs at LSU these days but a win this Saturday against Oregon in the so-called "Cowboys Classic" could just catapult the Bayou Bengals into greatness this year) and there's no telling what major-college team will come from back in the proverbial pack to make a title run.

As we've stated a couple of times in recent Jim Sez articles right here on this web site, the Auburn Tigers began the 2010 campaign ranked #22 in the Associated Press poll and nary was there a gridiron expert out there claiming that Auburn could "win it all" last season but that's exactly what happened ... right? Toss into the equation that the Oklahoma Sooners are the Preseason pick now to win it all this year but you have to go all the way back to the 2000 season to find the last time the gang from Norman won a football championship and the Sooners have started a few seasons off at #1 in recent years -- you can look it up!

Meanwhile, two teams that sport legit national title hopes -- and one of 'em is from the aforementioned SEC -- will begin their 2011 journeys on Thursday night with TV tilts and we'll get into their prime-time previews in just a moment (folks, we're talking about Wisconsin and Mississippi State) but first this key reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the College Football and NFL Winners when you check with us every Game Day either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # at 1-800-323-4453. Check in times are as follows: After 1 p.m. ET Mondays-through-Fridays and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays/Sundays/Holidays -- and remember we'll have Major-League Baseball Winners too from now right through the 2011 World Series.


COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S KICKOFF NITE -- THURSDAY'S TV TILTS FROM NOISY MADISON AND STARKVILLE, TOO

There are Six (6) on-the-board College Football games on this Thursday, September 1st schedule including Wake Forest at Syracuse and Kentucky-Western Kentucky but let's check in with two nationally-ranked teams that are hosting made-for-TV games:

UNLV at #11 WISCONSIN -- (8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

Anyone that's watched College Football over the years knows two things about playing at Camp Randall Stadium: Things are bound to get physical with the home team looking to set the tone and, secondly, that whole "Jump Around" song that blares over the stadium loudspeakers following the end of the third quarter could be happening with the Big 10 bunch holding a 30-plus point advantage while heading into the final frame -- now that's what the 35.5 point underdog UNLV Rebels must be worrying about here.

No doubt the really big news when it comes to Wisconsin football this season is that QB Russell Wilson will be the one pulling the trigger after he finished a successful career with the N.C. State Wolfpack and now continues his college days after being granted extra eligibility. Wilson threw for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns last season while leading N.C. State and now he'll look to blend in with a program that stresses blood-and-guts, ground-and-pound offense and there is some question as to whether or not Wisconsin boss-man Bret Bielema will "turn loose" Wilson in the aerial game as much/often as the veteran signal-caller wants to be turned loose.

Remember that last year's Wisconsin team scored 70-or-more points on three different occasionsand wound up averaging a haughty 41.5 points per game en route to an 11-2 SU (straight-up) season that included a 21-19 loss-but-cover in the Rose Bowl versus 3-point favorite TCU. Here, tailbacks James White (1,052 yards rushing and 14 TDs last year) and Montee Ball (996 yards rushing and 18 TDs) figure to get 35-plus carries between 'em in this game but expect Wilson to throw it 25 times or so too and that's where the hefty pointspread comes in -- did you realize that UNLV last year allowed 39.7 points a game and that was the fifth-most points surrendered by an FBS team ... ugh!


#20 MISSISSIPPI STATE at MEMPHIS -- (8 p.m. ET, Fox Sports Network)

Okay, so it's time to set the record straight on some other matters here:

The SEC has eight -- count 'em, eight -- teams in the opening AP Top 25 poll including #2 Alabama, #4 LSU, #12 South Carolina, #15 Arkansas, #19 Georgia, #20 Mississippi State, #22 Florida and #23 Auburn and the fact of the matter is these M-State Bulldogs might be the real "dark horse" to make a title run this year.

Why?

Well, third-year head coach Dan Mullen -- the guy Florida probably wished was its head coach these days after the Gators let him go from Urban Meyer's a few years back -- finally has put his personnel touch on things in Starkville and that means the 15 returning starters from last year's 9-4 SU squad know the system better than ever and know that the strength/speed combo here at most positions is as good as any in the SEC this fall. Note that Miss State is nationally ranked to start a year for the first time since 2001 and there's genuine talk that State could find itself playing in a January bowl game even if the Dawgs can't beat out the likes of 'Bama and LSU in the SEC West.

Look for a veteran secondary -- all four starters are back -- to try to squeeze the life out of the Memphis passing game but if Miss State is gonna cover this bloated 29 1/2-point betting line (and note that it's moved up from 27.5 points in the past 48 hours, so someone thinks this is going to be "blowout central" here) than RB Vick Ballard (single-season school record of 19 ground scores in 2010) will be front-and-center in the scoring parade.

Let's get something clear: The Dawgs don't often ask QB Chris Relf to win them games (although we're expecting a real maturity leap at the position this season) but a potent offensive line that does have some issues at left tackle -- hey, we only speak the truth here, gang! -- could open up enough holes so M-State rushes for 350-or-so yards on this evening inside the Liberty Bowl.

Note that Memphis comes off a brutal 1-11 SU season in 2010 and that includes a rather lopsided 49-7 setback at Davis Wade Stadium.

Editor's Note: Naturally, there's a slew of high-profile College Football Games on the Labor Day Weekend docket including Friday night's bash in Waco between mighty TCU at Baylor plus Saturday's action includes Oregon-LSU and Boise State versus Georgia and then Sunday (Marshall at West Virginia) and Monday Night (short-handed Miami at Maryland) and so make sure you're all aboard for the winners with America's #1 Handicapper ... that's Mr. Jim Hurley.


NFL NEWS & NOTES COLUMN

No need to get all hot-and-bothered about the NFL Preseason Week 4 games -- note that 15 of the 16 exhibition tilts will be played Thursday night and than it's Oakland at Seattle on Friday and than that's it till the Kickoff Game on September 8th between New Orleans at Green Bay -- as most starters won't be playing at all or at least no more than a handful of plays but we do have to sprinkle in some NFL Preseason Spread Stats here, so here goes ...

NFL Betting favorites are a collective 32-15-1 ATS (against the spread) this summer and that includes last week's 11-4-1 ATS mark by the chalk-eaters while "totals" players will like to know that "Overs" hold a slim 24-21-3 ATS advantage thus far through three full weeks of Preseason play.

Also, check out the fact that the Detroit Lions and the Houston Texans are the NFL's only two teams to be a perfect 3-and-oh spreadwise through the Preseason.

Here's the game-by-game lowdown for both teams:

  • Detroit beat 3-point away underdog Cincinnati 34-3; tripped up 2.5-point home fav Cleveland; and than whacked 3-point road favorite New England 34-10.

  • Houston covered the 3-point road underdog New York Jets 20-16; spanked 2.5-point road favorite New Orleans 27-14; and crushed 5.5-point home dog San Francisco 30-7.

If you wish to follow whether the Lions and/or Texans finish off their 2011 Preseasons without a spread loss, than note Detroit is at 1-point pup at Buffalo on Thursday night (note that Detroit opened as a 2-point betting favorite) while Houston wraps up its 2011 Preseason at 4-point fav Minnesota (and note the Vikings opened as a 3-point fav and it's jumped up a single point during the past two days).

Okay, so what else have we learned this summer when it comes to the NFL Preseason?

Here's some random thoughts ... see if you agree:

For starters, we learned that winning in the Preseason was -- indeed -- important to the likes of third-year Detroit head coach Jim Schwartz and oft-under-the-gun Houston boss-man Gary Kubiak but no doubt the likes of Washington's Mike Shanahan (his Redskins are 2-0-1 ATS this Preseason, by the way!) wanted to win too and we learned that injuries or not the likes of the Indianapolis Colts and the Kansas City Chiefs could care
less about summertime results but don't be shocked if that "losing culture" seeps into their play right at the start of this upcoming campaign.

We also learned that the Philadelphia Eagles might not be in such great hands with newly-inked QB Michael Vick ( he really looked troubled on a few possessions this summer and might be buying into this "Dream Team" bit) and that the Baltimore Ravens have some real-live concerns about their offensive line (we didn't really know it was gonna be that bad and there's no telling if LT Bryant McKinnie is in playing shape or not).

Also, we learned that in New York City -- or rather New Jersey -- the fates/fortunes of the Big Apple's two star quarterbacks may be headed in opposite directions 'cause Jets slinger Mark Sanchez (save for a few plays against the Giants in the ugly-as-sin 17-3 win/cover as 3-point favorites this past Monday Night) has looked sharp while entering his third year on the job while Giants QB Eli Manning has been dreadful and might have less confidence in his wide receiving corps than at any time in his eight-year career.

NOTE: Catch much more College Football News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.

21
Nov

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