College Football's Key Weekend Previews

KEY WEEKEND PREVIEWS: COLLEGE & NFL

By Jim Hurley:

Here's the plain-and-simple lowdown: The top three teams in this week's BCS Standings - that's #1 LSU, #2 Alabama and #3 Oklahoma - are favored by a composite 78.5 points this weekend against the respective likes of Auburn, Tennessee and Texas Tech - and so do you forgive us for bypassing their games in our weekly Jim Sez College Football Previews section here?

Thanks, we thought that you would understand!

Instead, we take this October weekend to check in on three of the country's unbeaten teams that are not getting all the hugs-and-kisses from the national media - isn't it about time we recognized what they're doing in this 2011 season?

So, without further ado let's concentrate our attention here on Clemson (7-0), Kansas State (6-0) and Houston (6-0) - maybe all of the above have a ways to go to get into the conversation regarding this year's BCS Championship Game in New Orleans but here they stand a collective 19-and-oh SU (straight-up) and so let's shower some attention on the Tigers, Cougars and Wildcats right here and right now ... okay?

And in the NFL, think the Fox, CBS and NBC cameras will be glued to all the post-game handshakes here in NFL Week 7 play?

You better believe they will after last week's shenanigans in Detroit between San Francisco 49ers over-exuberant head coach Jim Harbaugh and salty Lions head man Jim Schwartz. No doubt that folks will be leaping at the opportunity to watch the post-game handshake between San Diego Chargers boss-man Norv Turner and New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan (see Jim Sez Game Preview below) but we think that little battle's over-and-done with already … but you never know!

The Jim Hurley Network is set with a jam-packed run of weekend action, with our College Blockbuster of the Week. We're fresh off of winning our October Golden Game last week on Bowling Green (+8) over Toledo 21-28, and we see a winner that will cover much more decisively this time around. And our TV Triple Crown series, currently at 14-7 and the most popular weekly series on the tube makes another Saturday apperance. Then on Sunday be sure to cash in our NFL Triple Crown during the day and our Sunday Night Showdown on prime-time. And if that's enough you've got the World Series going on both Saturday & Sunday, and forward-thinking bettors will check out our Breeders' Cup package for November 4-5.

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SATURDAY PREVIEWS

Now, let's check out some of Saturday's top NCAA Football games with Spread Notes included in the mix (note that all rankings below pertain to the current BCS Standings)  ...

NORTH CAROLINA (5-2, 1-2 ACC) at #7 CLEMSON (7-0, 4-0 ACC) - 12 p.m. ET
From a historical standpoint, take note that this year's Clemson Tigers are off to their best start since 2000 when that particular team went 8-0 out of the starting gate (before losing three of its final four games, you'll note). Now, here comes Clemson making a bee-line up the polls and up the BCS Standings and already having won five of its seven games in 2011 by double-digit margins - now do you know why the Tigers are 10.5-point betting favorites for this key Atlantic Coast Conference clash?

No doubt that all eyes here will be on Clemson's freshman WR/KR Sammy Watkins who last week accounted for three touchdowns in the Tigers' rollicking 56-45 win/cover at 9.5-point fav Maryland - remember that Clemson trailed by 18 points at one time - as Watkins registered a pair of TD receptions plus his electrifying 89-yard KO return for a score gave Clemson the lead for good midway through the fourth quarter.

One key here: Can the Clemson defense get a handle on Carolina RB Giovani Bernard who has exceeded the 100-yard rushing mark in each of his last five games?

Spread Notes - Clemson is a snazzy 6-1 ATS (against the spread) so far this season and that means the Tigers are 23-16 vig-wise in the Dabo Swinney Era that began midway through the 2008 season. Meanwhile, North Carolina is just 3-4 against the Las Vegas prices this year but the Tar Heels are a rock-solid 9-5 vig-wise as underdog sides while dating back to late in the 2007 season.


#11 KANSAS STATE (6-0, 3-0 Big 12) at KANSAS (2-4, 0-3 Big 12) - 12 p.m. ET

Go ahead and tell us the last time you remember some college football team winning outright as underdogs four games in a row ... sorry, but we're jogging our memory banks and can't come up with another team.

Yet here's the on-the-rise Kansas State Wildcats heading into this year's edition of the Sunflower Showdown against archrival Kansas having won four in a row while grabbing points in each of the games - a 28-24 hang-on-tight win at 12 ½-point favorite Miami; a 36-35 thriller home win against 3 ½-point fav Baylor; a 24-17 triumph over 4-point road chalk-eater Missouri; and last weekend's 41-34 victory at 3 ½-point favorite Texas Tech.

Okay, so that's four wins by 7-or-fewer points and now here K-State head coach Bill Snyder and Company are laying 11 points here but secure in the knowledge that QB Collin Klein has thrown for 739 yards and 7 TDs and rushed for another 578 yards with 10 TDs - and he finds ways to win each/every week.

Note that Kansas, meanwhile, ranks dead last among the 120 FBS teams while yielding a scary 49 points a game.

Spread Notes - Kansas State has covered five consecutive spread outings since that season-opening 10-7 non-cover win against 26-point pup Eastern Kentucky. Overall, the K-State Wildcats are 14-5 spreadwise in Big 12 play the past two-plus seasons and they are 6-0 ATS as underdogs while dating back to late 2010. On the flip side, Kansas has split its first six spread verdicts this season but note the Jayhawks are an ugly 5-14 ATS in league affairs since the start of the 2009 season.


MARSHALL (3-4, 2-1 C-USA) at #19 HOUSTON (6-0, 2-0 C-USA) - 4:30 p.m. ET

It only seems that Houston quarterback Case Keenum has been playing college football forever - in reality, this is his sixth season of NCAA eligibility after a torn ACL limited him to merely three games in 2010 and so get ready to start hearing about passing/offense records getting broken here and in the coming weeks.

Keenum - who led our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch List for more than a few weeks back in 2009 - needs only 130 yards before he passes one-time Hawaii QB Timmy Chang for the NCAA career total offense record (see 16,910 yards) and soon enough he'll surpass the passing offense mark set by Chang (17,072 yards) as Keenum's behind by only 1,178 yards while heading into this Conference USA clash.

Right now Keenum enters this game with a 71.4 percent accuracy rate this season with 2,309 yards passing and 17 TDs (and only 2 INTs) and better yet the UH Cougars are gunning for their first 7-0 start in 21 years.

P.S., the last time Keenum and the Coogs played Marshall was back in the 2008 season - we told you the guy's been there forever! - and that day he completed 22-of-41 passes for 317 yards with 2 TDs and 2 INTs in a 37-23 loss as 7-point road favorites.

Spread Notes - Houston's covered four of its first six games this season and the Coogs are an electric 9-1-1 versus the vig as twin-figure betting favorites while dating back to early in the 2009 season. Marshall, meanwhile, is 4-2 vig-wise this season (remember the "no-play" in that rain-shortened 34-13 loss at West Virginia in the season opener) but the Thundering Herd's just 3-6 spreadwise away since the start of last year.

NFL WEEK 7 SUNDAY SHOWDOWNS

ATLANTA (3-3) at DETROIT (5-1) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Hey, lost amidst all this "handshake" talk is the fact the Lions last weekend lost their first game of the 2011 season as they failed to salt away a second-half lead and then their trade deadline move to acquire RB Ronnie Brown blew up when RB Jerome Harrison - who was supposedly headed to the Philadelphia Eagles - was detected with a brain tumor and thus that squashed the deal.

If the Lions are gonna get back on the winning track here than a sorry ground game that's averaging only 90.8 yards rushing per game - that ranks 25th in the NFL and might well be playing here without RB Jahvid Best (concussion symptoms) - must pick up the beat and QB Matthew Stafford (15 TDs and 4 INTs) needs to be super-sharp in the red zone.

Note the Falcons are fresh off a sound 31-17 win against 3.5-point pup Carolina last Sunday as RB Michael Turner rushed 27 times for 139 yards and two TDs and don't be shocked if he gets 35-or-more totes here.

Spread Notes - Detroit is 4-1-1 ATS (against the spread) this 2011 season and that means the Lions are a composite 16-5-1 versus the vig overall since the start of last season. Meanwhile, Atlanta's failed to cover four of its first six spread verdicts this year and the Falcons are 0-3 ATS this season away after compiling an 11-5 spread mark away in 2009-10.

SAN DIEGO (4-1) at NEW YORK JETS (3-3) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Lots to chew on here when AFC West meets AFC East in MetLife Stadium: For starters, how about the schedule? The SD Chargers may be playing a "body clock" game at 10 a.m. PT but the Bolts did have two weeks to prep for this clash while the Jets are operating on a short week following Monday's unimpressive 24-6 win/cover against 7-point underdog Miami. The Jets needed a 100-yard INT return by mega-star CB Darrelle Revis to turn around their fortunes in the MNF game while everyone in Gotham City wonders when QB Mark Sanchez and Company gets this offense in gear - the J-E-T-S were three-and-out on their first four possessions against the Fish.

On the flip side, the Chargers also are hoping QB Philip Rivers cuts back on his mistakes (see 6 TDs and 7 INTs) but there's hope here that tight end Antonio Gates can play after missing his team's last three games with right foot woes.

Spread Notes - San Diego has covered its last two games after staggering out of the 2011 starting gate with back-to-back-to-back spread setbacks. Note the Chargers are a ho-hum 10-9-1 vig-wise in their last 20 non-divisional games. The Jets, meanwhile, are 2-4 ATS to start off this season and NYJ's a respectable 16-13 spreadwise in non-AFC East games under boss-man Ryan.

KANSAS CITY (2-3) at OAKLAND (4-2) - 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Interesting to note here that the Las Vegas line on this AFC West battle has leaped from Raiders (- 4) to (-6) since it was announced that newly-acquired QB Carson Palmer would start here - can the former Cincinnati Bengals really be sharp after sitting out the first six weeks of the season?

If there is a game plan that makes sense here for the silver-and-black than it's to let Palmer'get his feet wet' with short tosses to RB Darren McFadden and mates and only let him cut it loose deep once he gets his footing. Meanwhile, there's nothing wrong with having the aforementioned McFadden get 15-or-so first-half carries while Palmer gets into the swing of things - McFadden's averaging a haughty 5.5 yards a carry so far and he's already rushed for 610 yards.

Spread Notes - Oakland's 4-1-1 vig-wise through the season's first six weeks but note the Raiders are a shabby 2-10-1 ATS as betting favorites while dating back to the start of the 2006 season. Kansas City, meanwhile, has covered its last three consecutive games following an 0-2 spread start this year. The Chiefs are an electric 8-2 ATS in their last 10 visits to Oakland.

Sunday be sure to cash in our NFL Triple Crown during the day and our Sunday Night Showdown on prime-time. And if that's enough you've got the World Series going on both  Sunday night, and forward-thinking bettors will check out our Breeders' Cup package for November 4-5.

NFL NEWS & NOTES: WE WEIGH IN ON THE QB CHANGES

DENVER (1-4) - TIM TEBOW
Hey, the Dolphins love the fact the announcement of Tebow as the Broncos' starting slinger here meant more than 10,000 tickets sold in the matter of mere hours and there's no question that Denver had to bench ineffective Kyle Orton but anyone thinking the Broncs will go on some type of winning streak now just ain't being realistic.

MINNESOTA (1-5) - CHRISTIAN PONDER
Count us among the minority of folks not in favor of this move... hey, Donovan McNabb didn't look bad in last week's 39-10 loss to Chicago and he should have been given at least another game or two to straighten things out. Ponder will have major growing pains and this Sunday's home game against Green Bay won't be easy. Of course!

WASHINGTON (3-2) - JOHN BECK
Let's just say neither Beck nor former'Skins starter Rex Grossman are true Grade-A quarterbacks in this league as Washington head coach Mike Shanahan tries to get lemonade out of these lemons. Beck may be less mistake-prone than Grossman (see his four INTs in last week's home loss to Philadelphia) but if he's so good than why did Miami cut'em loose?

NOTE: Get the NFL Week 7 Sunday Night Football Game Preview - that's the Indianapolis Colts at the New Orleans Saints - in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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