Saturday's Key College Previews

Network Sweeps 2-0 Friday Night With FIU (+3.5) over Louisville 24-17 and Missouri (+9.5) vs. Arizona State 30-37!

CATCH OUR SATURDAY KEY COLLEGE GAME PREVIEWS

By Jim Hurley:

Forget for a moment that it should never have come down to a goal-line stand on the game's final play in last night's NFL Kickoff Game win by the Green Bay Packers over the New Orleans Saints.

The fact of the matter is the Packers - the defending Super Bowl champions and a neat 6-to-1 betting favorite to repeat this season - never did slam shut the door in the Saints' faces in last evening's prime-time tilt at Lambeau Field en route to a wild 42-34 win/cover (GB was a 4 ½-point favorite at game time) and so it took a gallant defensive stand to stop rookie RB Mark Ingram in his tracks inside the one-yard line and afterwards all the so-called experts were wondering about the play call:

Should New Orleans QB Drew Brees (32-of-49 for 419 yards with 3 TDs and 0 INTs) have thrown a play-action pass there or maybe tossed up a fade pattern to the corner of the end zone intended for one of those lengthy Saints wide receivers?

Yeah, probably.

Yet the Saints lost this game earlier when head coach Sean Payton merely blew it - he should have kicked a field goal from GB's six-yard line on a fourth-and-one play late in third quarter and gotten his team within 35-30 but instead he either got greedy or feared what the Packers' high-octane offense was gonna do to his team's ultra-porous defense.

In any event, the Packers are breathing a sigh of relief today - hey, QB Aaron Rodgers (312 yards passing with 3 TDs and 0 INTs) was terrific and the offensive line magnificent but the facts are the facts: Payton's blown decision was a killer and the inability of the Saints to tackle rookie Randall Cobb on a searing 108-yard kick return for a score could haunt "Who Dat Nation" for a long, long time.

Hey, there's lots more NFL coverage in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will win plenty this NFL and College Football season and so make sure you get it all jump-started with this week's NFL action right through Monday Night's twin-bill - that's the New England Patriots at the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders at the Denver Broncos -- and then, of course, get all the Winning Selections right through the BCS National Championship Game in January and Super Bowl 46 in early February. The NFL 2011 Regular Season has officially rolled into action with Green Bay's win against New Orleans - now make sure you're all aboard from start to finish!
    

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S KEY SATURDAY SHOWDOWNS

#3 ALABAMA (1-0) at #23 PENN STATE (1-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Make no mistake about it: The 'Bama Crimson Tide has some serious road challenges on this year's schedule including down-the-road dates with Florida, Ole Miss, Mississippi State and Auburn but the Las Vegas oddsmakers tend to believe this trip to "Happy Valley" won't be all that tough. The Tide's a 10-point betting favorite here and that despite the fact there's rumblings of a "quarterback controversy" here.

Expect sophomore AJ McCarron (14-of-23 passing for 226 yards but two picks in last week's 48-7 win/cover against Kent State) to get most of the snaps here for Alabama but the real key to this clash will be whether or not Joe Paterno's team gets "3's" or "7's" whereupon entering the red zone - and count us among the folks not liking the fact JoePa is flip-flopping his quarterbacks Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin.

Spread Notes - Alabama is 26-14 ATS (against the spread) in the last three-plus years of the Nick Saban Era following that forgettable 3-8-1 ATS season back in 2007. Overall, the Crimson Tide has covered 14 of its last 20 away games dating back to the start of 2008 and that includes non-conference pointspread wins at Duke (2010), Virginia Tech (2009) and Clemson ('08). On the flip side, Penn State actually has failed to cover 11 of its last 17 games dating back to the start of last year and the Big 10 team is a collective 3-12 versus the vig as point-grabbers the past five-plus seasons.

#12 SOUTH CAROLINA (11-0) at GEORGIA (0-1) - 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Did someone say "must win" here for the Georgia Bulldogs? Hey, it's no secret that 11th-year Georgia head coach Mark Richt feels the walls closing in on him these days following a losing season in 2010 (see 6-7 following that bowl loss to Central Florida) and last weekend's 35-21 loss to Boise State but it's not as if things got any better this week with the announcement that star ILB Alec Ogletree is gone for at least four weeks after undergoing surgery on his right foot.

Last year the Dawgs couldn't slow down South Carolina then-frosh RB Marcus Lattimore who cranked out 182 ground yards to go along with a pair of touchdowns in a 17-6 Gamecocks win and it's safe to say 25-or-more touches here for the USC star likely equals another win/cover ... we'll see.

Spread Notes - South Carolina's covered four in a row and six of its last seven head-to-head showdowns against Georgia dating back to 2004. In fact, the USC Gamecocks are 6-1 ATS versus Georgia the past seven years but a more modest 23-22-1 vig-wise against all other SEC foes during this time span. Georgia enters this tilt having dropped nine of its last 12 pointspread verdicts overall while dating back to early in the 2010 season and the Dawgs are just 5-10 spreadwise in their last 15 home games since the start of 2008. Ugh-a!

NOTRE DAME (0-1) at MICHIGAN (1-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so neither team is ranked in this week's Associated Press Top 25 but when did that stop the drama involving these long-time rivals? In what's the first-ever night game in Ann Arbor - really, that caught us by surprise - the keys here are simple:

Michigan's do-everything QB Denard Robinson must show that quick dash to the corner and make some big first downs here one week after rushing for 46 yards in just less than three quarters of action in that rain-shortened 34-10 win against Western Michigan. Folks, we don't care that rookie head coach Brady Hoke is operating a new offense that combines some of last year's schemes with this year's stuff - Robinson must be at or near 100 rushing yards if the Wolverines are gonna snag this mild upset.

Meanwhile, last week five ND turnovers -- including three picks by the combo of Dayne Crist and newly-named starter Tommy Rees (the latter was 24-of-34 passing but tossed two INTs) -- sabotaged Brian Kelly's club in a 23-20 loss to visiting South Florida. If Rees isn't on the same page here with his receivers, than it's major trouble and remember last week that Michigan LB Brandon Herron registered two defensive touchdowns including a take-your-breath-away 94-yard INT return.

Spread Notes - Following last weekend's loss to 11-point underdog South Florida, now Notre Dame is 6-5-3 spreadwise in the Kelly Era but note the Fighting Irish covered five-of-six away games last year including road favorite covers at Boston College and versus Army. Michigan, meanwhile, didn't get Las Vegas credit last Saturday for that aforementioned 34-10 rain-soaked win against Western Michigan and so the Wolverines enter this prime-time tilt at 9-25-1 ATS overall since the start of the 2008 season (folks, that's a shabby .265 winning rate). The maize-and-blue, however, has notched spread wins in four of its last five head-to-head battles with the Irish ... so there!

In other College Football News & Notes ...

Is Baylor QB Robert Griffin III now more than just part of this year's Heisman Trophy conversation?

Well, after his five-TD passing performance in last Friday's wild 50-48 win against TCU, Griffin's somewhere in the top four right now (okay, so one week into this College Football season we have him getting an invitation to New York City for this year's presentation!) with Stanford QB Andrew Luck, Boise State QB Kellen Moore and Oklahoma slinger Landry Jones also sharing center stage right about now but the thing about Griffin - who completed 21-of-27 passes for 359 yards while adding 38 rushing yards against the Horned Frogs - is that he's quite capable of piling up plenty of yards/points these next couple of weeks with Baylor facing Stephen F. Austin (Sept. 17th) and Rice (Sept. 24th) before finally getting a road game at Kansas State (Oct. 1st).

Heck, if you listened last week to ABC/ESPN broadcasters Brent Musburger and Kirk Herbstreit, they wanted to hand Griffin the Heisman Trophy last Saturday night! Not so fast, my friends!

 

THE NFL WEEK #1 KEY PREVIEWS:

STEELERS-RAVENS & COWBOYS-JETS HEADLINE THIS SEPTEMBER 11 GRIDIRON CARD

By Jim Hurley:

Maybe it's appropriate that America has its favorite sport front-and-center on this 10th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

Sure, it's only a sport but you better believe there will be many indelible images that will come forth on this NFL Week 1 when some 13 stadia throughout the NFL remember the horrors of 9-11-01.

Maybe the games of this NFL Sunday will, indeed, provide many feel-good moments. Let's hope so.

Meanwhile, the NFL Week 1 card swung into action with Green Bay's wild 42-34 win/cover against New Orleans this past Thursday Night and a quick check on this menu shows us the following:

Right now there are five games that sport Las Vegas pointspreads of 3 points-or-less and there are three home underdogs on the docket (that's Chicago, St. Louis and Washington) but what catches our attention is that teams such as Cleveland, Jacksonville and San Francisco all are listed as betting favorites - and that may not happen for any/all of the above too often this 2011 NFL season. Now, let's take a look at some of the NFL Week 1 Key Sunday Matchups ...

PITTSBURGH at BALTIMORE - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
One thing on the side of the Baltimore Ravens here: At least a loss won't end their season! In two of the last three years a playoff loss to the archrival Pittsburgh Steelers shoved the Ravens out of the playoff picture and now here John Harbaugh's guys must show they can beat the Steelers with Pittsburgh QB Ben Roethlisberger in the lineup - the Steelers have won the last seven in a row SU (straight-up) versus Baltimore with "Big Ben" in the lineup and here Ravens OLB Terrell Suggs (11 sacks in 2010) must lead the defensive assault and Baltimore's at-times overrated secondary can't allow the "home run" ball (see long-ball chuck to WR Orlando Brown that set up the game-winning score in last year's AFC Divisional Playoff Game).

Spread Notes - Baltimore has covered its season-opening game in each of the past three years but the Ravens are a shabby 4-8-1 ATS (against the spread) in AFC North games since the start of the 2009 season. On the flip side, Pittsburgh has covered its season-opening game three times in four years under now fifth-year head coach Mike Tomlin. The Steelers are just 4-8-1 ATS against Baltimore in the teams' last 13 regular-season but Pittsburgh's won/covered both playoff matchups in recent years (a 23-14 victory as 6-point home favorites back in the Super Bowl-winning 2008 season and a 31-24 triumph as 3 ½-point home favorites in last year's Super Bowl-losing season).
   
ATLANTA at CHICAGO - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Maybe it's time the Chicago Bears - and their often unyielding fans - finally sacked talk of QB Jay Cutler's toughness. True, the flame-thrower did famously remove himself from last year's NFC Championship Game home loss to Green Bay but remember he was sacked an NFL-high 52 times last season.

The real irony of this high-profile game from Soldier Field is that the result here likely hinges on whether or not the Bears defense - which registered an NFL middle-of-the-pack 34 quarterback sacks last year - can get in the grill of Falcons QB Matt Ryan who threw for 3,705 yards and 28 TDs last year and now has added rookie WR Julio Jones to the mix.

P.S., if the Bears' speedballs Devin Hester and/or Johnny Knox are allowed to return any kickoffs or punts here, than Atlanta head coach Mike Smith should get his noggin checked!

Spread Notes - Atlanta is 22-11 ATS the past two years and note that includes a tasty 11-5 vig mark away. The Falcons have covered both of their recent head-to-head matchups with Chicago (see 2008 and '09) as Atlanta (- 4) downed the visiting Bears 21-14 in '09 and grabbed a 22-20 triumph as 3-point home dogs back in 2008. Note that Chicago covered 7-of-10 games while placed in the underdog role last season ... and when is the last time a team that hosted that year's NFC Championship Game been a wagering pup 10 times, we ask!

PHILADELPHIA at ST. LOUIS - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
As long as the "Dream Team" label is gonna be planted on the scalps of the 2011 Philly Eagles, than know this: The Birds need to improve their red-zone offense (they ranked just 14th in the NFL in that key category a year ago) and QB Michael Vick must show he won't get rattled by a Rams pass rush that could be sending the proverbial "kitchen sink" at times. Vick showed some chinks in the armor this Preseason - no doubt that Pittsburgh rushed his reads and caused him to be confused - and so St. Loo head coach Steve Spagnuolo (a true defensive whiz) must make shadowing Vick his top priority here even if that means allowing RBs "Shady" McCoy and Ronnie Brown some rushing room.

Remember that St. Louis hired former (and failed) Denver Broncos head coach Josh McDaniels as the team's offensive coordinator this past off-season and even with star-in-the-making QB Sam Bradford (3,512 yards passing last year) there better be plenty of handoffs for RB Stephen Jackson who's coming off a sixth straight 1,000-yard rushing season and that's the NFL's longest active such streak.

Spread Notes - Philadelphia is a rock-solid 27-18 ATS away the past five years and that includes eight covers in its last dozen road games against NFC competition. Meanwhile, St. Louis comes off a 10-6 ATS season - their best spread log in more than a decade! - and the Rams covered 7-of-11 dog appearances last year including outright winners against 5-point favorite Washington, 2 ½-point fav Seattle, 8 ½-point fav San Diego and 3-point favorite Denver.
 
MINNESOTA at SAN DIEGO - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
No excuses, Chargers. If San Diego gets off to its usual slow start this year than heads may roll by early-to-mid-October and so gut feeling here is QB Philip Rivers (4,710 yards passing with 30 TDs and 10 INTs in 2010) will have carte blanche to chuck in around Qualcomm Stadium here and the $64,000 question is will San Diego have an improved special teams - you know, the kicking game and kick coverage units killed the Bolts last year.

Minnesota - coming off a dreary and drama-filled 6-10 SU season - has settled on aging Donovan McNabb at quarterback but whether this game stays tight or not rests on what Minny RB Adrian Peterson does: The perennial Pro Bowler has 52 TDs the past four years and he must get 30-or-so touches here and he must make sure the Vikes win time of possession while keeping Rivers stationed on the sidelines.

Spread Notes - San Diego rolled to a 6-2 ATS home mark a year ago but did you realize that the Chargers are a tidy 6-2-1 spreadwise against NFC teams the past two-plus seasons? Minnesota registered a wobbly 5-10-1 spread mark last year and the now the Vikings are a collective 10-15-1 ATS away since the start of the 2008 campaign.

On Sunday Nite, it's ...

DALLAS at NEW YORK JETS - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Amidst all the activity at MetLife Stadium surrounding 9/11, there's an important Week One football game and you already know the major storylines:

New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan - who guarantees a Super Bowl win each and every year - bangs heads with new Cowboys defensive coordinator/twin brother Rob here and so there could be some "macho head games" going on here between these two defensive gurus.

However, when push comes to shove in this prime-time tilt, the Cowboys need to scorch the Jets oft-times overrated secondary by getting off deep balls to WR Dez Bryant and over-the-middle chucks to TE Jason Witten - now can QB Tony Romo just less than a full year removed from a broken collarbone stay in the upright position for a full 60 minutes?

On the flip side, the J-E-T-S welcome WR Plaxico Burress into the fold but keep in mind the once-imprisoned Super Bowl hero of the NY Giants did suffer through ankle and back pains this past summer. Look for Jets' QB Mark Sanchez to try and get Burress involved right from the get-go here. Plus, look for the Jets to really take some chances deep against a Cowboys secondary with injury woes as CBs Terence Newman (groin) and Mike Jenkins (knee) are far from 100 percent.

Spread Notes - Dallas is just 10-15 versus the vig away dating back to the start of the 2008 season and that includes a 5-6 spread log when in the role of road underdog. Meanwhile, the NY Jets are a composite 22-16 ATS in the Ryan Era thus far and that includes a dead-even but vig-losing 8-8 ATS mark at home and a 12-10 ATS log as betting favorites. P.S., the last time these clubs played one another the 14 ½-point favored Cowboys crushed the Jets 34-3 back in 2007.

Now hear this:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will win plenty this NFL and College Football season and so make sure you get it all jump-started with this week's NFL action right through Monday Night's twin-bill - that's the New England Patriots at the Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders at the Denver Broncos -- and then, of course, get all the Winning Selections right through the BCS National Championship Game in January and Super Bowl 46 in early February.

The NFL 2011 Regular Season has officially rolled into action with Green Bay's win against New Orleans - now make sure you're all aboard from start to finish! Plus get all the Major-League Baseball Winners too each and every day and this is all you have to do to get all the Winners: Just remember to call our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here for NCAA Football, the NFL and MLB winners! Sign up now and get the College Football and NFL Seasons for a grand total of $199. Check it out today!

NOTE: In the next Jim Sez we'll examine the NFL's Incoming QB Rookie Class - so don't miss out!

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