Friday's College Football TV Previews (September 15, 2011)

Coming off a 9-3-1 football weekend, Hurley's back in action tonight!
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THUR-FRI COLLEGE FOOTBALL TV PREVIEWS

PLUS OUR NFL NEWS & NOTES
EXAMINES CAROLINA QB NEWTON
AND WHAT OTHER FIRST-YEAR SLINGERS
MIGHT DO THIS 2011 SEASON

We know that it’s very, very early in this NCAA and NFL Football season but …Do you detect a little bit of panic out there both with the college kids and the pros too?

Don’t know about you but the Notre Dame folks sure seem edgy following that disastrous 0-2 SU (straight-up) start and we can see folks reaching for the “panic button” in the NFL when it comes to the New York Giants and the Peyton Manning-less Indianapolis Colts – yes, maybe it’s gonna just be “one of those years” for these clubs (among others) but keep this in mind: A team’s first win of the season has a way of easing the pain and so let’s see if these three teams get to bang out a “W” this Saturday/Sunday/Monday or will a state of distress follow ‘em right into late September?

One place where optimism runs high is in Boise, Idaho where the country’s fourth-ranked College Football team has grand designs on getting to a first-ever BCS Championship Game this year and – as we discussed in a previous edition of Jim Sez – all the Broncos have to do is run the table and hope either Oklahoma or Alabama/LSU slip up … and they’re in.

Okay, so no reason to jump the gun just yet but we’ll get you a Boise State game preview for its Friday Night tilt in Toledo in just a moment plus there’s lots more goodies but first this key reminder as we head into another big gridiron week Thursday-thru-Monday ….
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THE THURSDAY NIGHT PREVIEW

#3 LSU (2-0) at #25 MISS STATE (1-1) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The stats don't lie and they say that LSU has won the last 11 consecutive head-to-head showdowns against the Miss State Bulldogs - and it's not exactly as if everything's peachy keen for the Starkville squad here:

Consider that the offensive line is banged up badly with senior center Quentin Saulsberry (sprained knee) and senior left tackle James Carmon (leg) both questionable here after suffering their injuries in last Saturday's tough 41-34 loss at underdog Auburn. If those M-State blockers are a no-go here, than you better believe LSU's defensive front seven will come at QB Chris Relf (3 TDs and 1 INT so far) in a big-time fashion and so it's imperative that Bulldogs RB Vick Ballard (301 yards rushing and 4 TDs this year) breaks a few long gainers.

Note that LSU remains without suspended QB Jordan Jefferson following an off-season bar fight and WR Russell Shepard won't be back either here following a three-game suspension handed down because of an NCAA rules violation.

The Tigers have not missed a beat with QB Jarrett Lee (no INTs through two games) and WR Rueben Randle (6 catches this year and averaging nearly 22 yards a grab with one TD) might be a game-breaker deluxe if MSU can't get a solid pass rush on Lee here.

Don't look now but a Miss State loss just about kayos any/all hopes of winning the SEC West this year and that was one of head coach Dan Mullen's "reachable" goals.

Spread Notes - LSU has split its first two pointspread verdicts this season (covered Oregon and failed to cover the 47 ½-point price against Northwestern State) but go back to the start of the Les Miles Era in 2005 and you'll discover that the Bayou Bengals are a rotten 15-29-6 ATS (against the spread) in all SEC games. On the flip side, Miss State also is 1-1 spreadwise in 2011 with a cover at Memphis and that painful loss to 5-point pup Auburn but note that the Bulldogs are a rock-solid 8-4 ATS when hosting fellow SEC teams the past three seasons.

FRIDAY NITE PREVIEWS

#4 BOISE STATE (1-0) at TOLEDO (1-1) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Should the kids from Boise State really be on upset alert here? Consider that Chris Petersen’s squad – winners of 62 games (and losers just five times) since the start of 2006 – will tangle here with a Toledo team that nearly took out Ohio State last Saturday at “The Horseshoe”.

Heck, the 17-point favorite Buckeyes won that game 27-22 and it could have been real different if Toledo didn’t miss a field goal, allow a punt return for a score and than botch yet another FG in what would have been the first in-state opponent to beat Ohio State since – get this – 1921.

P.S., plenty of Toledo folks are still remarking about the fact the Rockets were penalized 14 times for 102 yards while O-State had two penalties for 13 yards. Hmmm. Now, third-year boss Tim Beckman claims his guys will bounce back from that tough loss but there’s no question the schedule is not in Toledo’s favor – the Rockets played in Columbus last Saturday and so it’s a “short week” while Boise State’s been idle since that season-opening 35-21 win/cover against Georgia back on Labor Day Saturday.

Keep in mind that Boise State QB Kellen Moore – a legit Heisman Trophy candidate for now the third year in a row – threw three touchdowns in the first half alone in that 43-point win against Toledo last year (see our Spread Notes below) but these days there’s some distractions facing B-State including whether or not three players suspended by the NCAA will be allowed to suit up here and note they include starting S Cedric Fibis.

Spread Notes – Boise State is 26-11-2 ATS (against the spread) since the start of the 2006 campaign and note that includes a nifty 18-10-1 spread log whenever laying a double-digit price tag and that includes last year’s 57-14 thumping of 38 ½-point road underdog Toledo. Overall, the Broncos are an electric 16-4-1 ATS away the past three-plus seasons including away covers against Georgia (2011), versus Virginia Tech in Landover (2010) and Oregon (2008). Note that Toledo has notched spread wins in both of its games so far this season – a 58-22 win against 11 ½-point underdog New Hampshire and than that 27-22 loss-but-cover against 17-point home fav Ohio State.   

IOWA STATE (2-0) at CONNECTICUT (1-1) – 8 p.m. ET, espn2
Let’s just say odds are this figures to be a tight fit considering Iowa State’s played a pair of barnburners thus far including a hang-on-for-dear-life 20-19 non-cover win against TD underdog Northern Iowa and than last week’s wild 44-41 triple-OT win against in-state archrival Iowa – maybe I-State head coach Paul Rhoads (seen going wild at the end of last week’s victory) will be needing some medication following this prime-time bash.

The Cyclones – listed as 4 ½-point underdogs at press time – are counting on QB Steele Jantz whose already thrown for 466 yards and 5 TDs this season while turnover-prone UConn slinger Johnny McEntee (0 TDs and 3 INTs in 2011) must do a better job of reading defenses here or else he could be setting up the ‘Clones with good field position.

Player to watch for UConn: RB Lyle McCombs (259 yards rushing) is averaging 5.1 yards a pop and has scored four TDs including a 60-yard dash – if Paul Pasqualoni’s club lets McCombs tote the ball 25 times here it should do the trick for the Big East hosts.

Spread Notes – The UConn Huskies have lost both of their 2011 spread verdicts so far (versus Fordham and at Vanderbilt) but note Connecticut’s a hearty 14-7-1 ATS at home since the start of the 2007 season. On the flip side, Iowa State’s split its first two spread decisions this season (an ATS loss to Northern Iowa and last weekend’s spread win against Iowa) but did you know that the Cyclones have failed to cover three of its last four post-Iowa games?

 

NFL NEWS & NOTES

Nothing can be finer that having a QB star in Carolina … or so it would seem following the Week One exploits of Panthers rookie Cam Newton who wowed the football world with his 24-of-37, 422-yard, two-TD showing in a down-to-the-wire 28-21 loss/push at Arizona. True, Newton didn’t get the job done at the very end when Carolina was knocking on the door to tie the game but even than he showed some major grit and never showed any signs of panic – might folks wish to reconsider their “under” bet with the Panthers in this 2011 season?

No doubt that the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner from Auburn had an electric game last weekend in the desert – and, yes, on the very same field where his War Eagle bunch beat Oregon in last season’s BCS Championship Game – and the $64,000 question right now is just how good can Newton be this year and beyond?

The Panthers – who were expected to win no more than five games in 2011 – have a major hurdle on their schedule this Sunday when the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers come to Charlotte and you just know that Green Bay defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have a few wrinkles for Mr. Newton and so don’t get on the kid’s case if he gets a little befuddled here … okay?
And naturally there will be savvy defensive coordinators ‘round the league that will make here-and-now life very difficult for Newton who more than validated his numero uno draft position after last week’s solid outing.

Okay, so what might we expect from some other NFL rookie quarterbacks?

Here’s a little rundown …

Andy Dalton, Cincinnati – It didn’t take long for the rough-and-tumble world of the NFL to catch up to this former TCU hero as Dalton was kayoed late in the first half in the Bengals’ 27-17 win at Cleveland in Week One. Dalton – who claims he’s a go for this weekend’s game at Denver – completed 10-of-15 passes for 81 yards and one TD in his pro debut and looked more polished than most NFL rookies. All the time in this past Preseason no doubt helped but – in a perfect world – Dalton still would be sitting behind Carson Palmer right now and right through 2011.

Christian Ponder, Minnesota – Much is being made of the fact Vikings QB Donovan McNabb threw for a grand total of 39 passing yards in last Sunday’s 24-17 loss-but-cover at San Diego but you cannot blame McNabb for everything like why did SD have 77 offensive plays to Minny’s 43? McNabb will stay put here till further notice but Ponder – who received his own fair share of criticism for being nabbed with the 12th overall pick – needs to get stronger and needs some garbage-time minutes to get pointed in the right direction.

Blaine Gabbert, Jacksonville – The tenth overall draft pick last spring didn’t see a single minute of action in the Jaguars’ 16-14 home win against Tennessee as journeyman Luke McCown (17-of-24 for 175 yards passing with 0 TDs and 0 INTs and a decent 91.5 QB Rating) played the whole game but something tells us we’ll see Gabbert by mid-season if McCown can’t engineer some scoring in the red zone. The Mizzou signal-caller received mixed reviews for his Preseason work (more bad than good, if truth be told) and so he needs more seasoning for sure.

Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco – Last Sunday’s 33-17 win/cover by the 49ers was some ugly stuff on offense (remember that Ted Ginn scored a pair of late-game touchdowns on returns) but at least starting QB Alex Smith didn’t implode (see 15-of-20 for 124 yards with a 90.4 QB Rating) and so he figures to hang onto the job for a while. Note that Kaepernick – more a runner than a passer in his days/nights at Nevada – has a real “up side” but first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh simply can’t afford to roll the dice with a rookie slinger. Don’t be shocked if Kaepernick rides the Niners bench for the whole year as long as Smith stays in one piece.

Ryan Mallett, New England – Obviously, don’t expect this former Arkansas slinger to see the light of day this year unless QB Tom Brady (517 yards passing against Miami last Monday Nite) gets hurt and even then Mallett would be the backup to Brian Hoyer. The former Hog star has a big arm but there’s a reason he dropped deep into Round III of the latest draft.

 
NOTE: Get more NCAA Football Game Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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