Saturday NFL Previews - Big Ten Questions

THE NFL PRESEASON WEEK 3

"DRESS REHEARSAL" GAMES ROLL ON AND WE PREVIEW THE SATURDAY TILTS IN D.C. AND N'ORLEANS ...PLUS MORE COLLEGE FOOTBALL GOODIES AS WE BRING YOU FIVE QUESTIONS FROM THE BIG 10 CONFERENCE

By Jim Hurley:

It's a funny thing: There's been all this NFL quarterback talk - definitely more now than we can remember in any recent summer - with hot shot rookie slingers, QB controversies in a bevy of towns and yet we haven't heard much about the guy chuckin' it for the Baltimore Ravens.

Maybe QB Joe Flacco "announced" to the rest of the world last year that he was the real deal while guiding the Ravens to the AFC Championship Game but in last night's 48-17 walkover win against 6 ½-point pup Jacksonville there was Flacco posting the following stat line:

He went 27-of-36 passing for 266 yards with two TDs and 1 INT and he connected with nine different receivers on the night.

Guess Flacco has indeed "arrived" and, in a year in which AFC championship-caliber teams are hard to find (at least for us they are right now) it could well be Flacco powering the Ravens to their first Super Bowl showing since 2000 ... stay tuned. No doubt the "dress rehearsal" game went just great for this AFC North squad.

The start of the 2012 NCAA Football Seasons is now just one week away - yes, the college kids swing into play for real next Thursday, August 30th with some key games including the ESPN tilt between South Carolina at Vanderbilt plus the ESPN night-cap tilt between Washington State at BYU: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be on top of things right from the start and we'll continue to bang out the NFL Preseason Winners this summer too and so make sure to cash in with all the gridiron action beginning with tonight's NFL tilts and remember you can sign up now for all the 2012 action ... so don't delay! Make sure to check in with us on game days either right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the NFL Preseason Winners, the upcoming NCAA Football Games plus get all the daily and nightly Major-League Baseball winners too.
 

NFL PRESEASON WEEK 3: CHECKING OUT A PAIR OF SATURDAY NIGHT GAMES

There are Five (5) games on the NFL Preseason Week 3 Saturday docket ... and here's a couple of games we're looking at:

INDIANPOLIS (1-1) at WASHINGTON (1-1) - 4 p.m. ET, NFL Network
No doubt that all eyes will be on the #1 and #2 overall draft picks from this past April as Indy Colts slinger Andrew Luck (175 yards passing but two INTs last week) showed major bounce-back abilities in that 26-24 loss-but-cover clash in Pittsburgh while Washington Redskins QB Robert Griffin III is hoping for a better showing after getting sacked three times and losing one fumble in last Saturday's 33-31 loss at Chicago. Griffin already has taken some hard/mean shots - and that's all inside the pocket, mind you! - and so don't expect Washington head coach Mike Shanahan to green-light any Griffin runs here 'cause last year's Heisman Trophy winner already has been subject to his share of physical pain. Meanwhile, the 'Skins say RB Tim Hightower - who tore his ACL last October - will play here but fellow RBs Evan Royster and Roy Helu will not play.

HOUSTON (2-0) at NEW ORLEANS (1-2) - 8 p.m. ET, CBS
The big news comin' from the Saints this week was that offensive line coach Aaron Kromer will be the team's head coach for the first six regular-season games while head coach Sean Payton sits out the year and "interim" head coach Joe Vitt serves a six-game suspension handed down thanks to the whole BountyGate mess - geez, isn't every football fan now officially sick-and-tired of that story? The Saints claim that their "us-against-the-world" mindset will take them places this season but here against the Texans you can't expect all the starters to play a half or more considering this is New Orleans' fourth preseason game this summer - no doubt RB Travaris Cadet has been a summertime star as last week he accounted for 38 yards receiving on 5 grabs to go along with three rushes for 28 yards. Cadet could make the cut with another strong showing, so check him out. Houston, meanwhile, believes this preseason has brought out their latest weapon as return specialist Trindon Holliday who last week raced 87 yards for a punt bring-back touchdown in a 20-9 win against San Francisco and the week before he galloped 90 yards on a kickoff return en route to a road win in Carolina.

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT:

TIME TO POP OPEN THE CAN ON FIVE KEY QUESTIONS IN THE BIG 10

In our continuing conference-by-conference look at this year's NCAA Football Season, it's time to check in on the Big 10:

Q: Now that the Ohio State Buckeyes are ineligible to compete for the Big 10 championship this year (or even go to a post-season bowl game) what than becomes the biggest game on this year's Big 10 Conference schedule not including - of course - the aforementioned Big 10 Championship Game?
A: Mark down the October 27th game between Michigan at Nebraska as the single-biggest showdown on this year's Big 10 sked as both clubs are quite capable of monster seasons and note both the Wolverines and Cornhuskers will visit the O-State 'Eyes this fall (that's November 24th and October 6th, respectively). Both Michigan and Nebraska are part of the Big 10's Legends Division and so this game figures to have major tie-breaker implications and keep in mind the maize-and-blue will be coming off their annual rivalry tilt with Michigan State while the 'Huskers will be coming off back-to-back road games at Ohio State and at Northwestern.

Q: What defensive player in the Big 10 will be capable of being a difference-maker this fall?
A: Michigan State OLB Denicos Allen might only be a preseason conference second-teamer according to some publications but we expect last year's Spartans' sack leader (with 11) to enjoy a monster year especially now that he's surrounded by so much veteran "D" talent with eight returning starters from that Outback Bowl-winning crew. Allen has great "quicks" off the edge and he is one of a very few defensive folks who probably can contain or track down Michigan QB Denard Robinson and Ohio State QB Braxton Miller and his ability to wreck havoc against enemy OTs will enable the interior folks on this M-State squad to shine ... watch!

Q: Which one of the Big 10's three new head coaches - Illinois' Tim Beckman, Ohio State's Urban Meyer and Penn State's Bill O'Brien - will wind up meeting or exceeding expectations in this 2012 season?
A: Strange but true, look for O'Brien to get some real satisfaction in his first year on the job in not-so-Happy Valley. Okay, so maybe it helps matters that there are zero expectations on this '12 football season for the Penn State Nittany Lions but expect this short-handed squad to bond together and win at least a handful of games with conference tilts against Northwestern, Indiana and at Illinois all being marked into PSU's win column (says us!). Conversely, Illinois' Beckman is already pushing the notion that the Illini will be part of this year's Big 10 Championship Game while Ohio State's Meyer believes he has the folks to win 11 or maybe even 12 games this year. Neither the Illini nor the Buckeyes have an abundance of firepower on hand (they finished 91st and 81st respectively in scoring offense last year) and so expect some bumps in the road for these teams and their new boss-men.

Q: What Big 10 team faces the biggest non-conference challenge in the month of September?
A: It's a slam dunk that Michigan's season-opening game against Alabama on Sept. 1st (in Arlington) marks the toughest non-league game for any Big 10 side this month of September but don't sleep on one other: Michigan State's home game against Notre Dame slated for Sept. 15th. Okay, so the Spartans know full well that this rivalry game is always a major taffy pull but note that if M-State wins the games it "should" win before and after the Notre Dame tilt than Mark Dantonio's squad could be looking at a 7-and-oh start before getting to the Michigan game on Oct. 20th.

Q: What Big 10 quarterback will have the opportunity to really "light it up" this year?
A: Maybe you think we're immediately gonna say Michigan's Robinson or Ohio State's Miller ... but no! Iowa senior James Vandenberg - who last year threw for 3,022 yards with 25 TDs and 7 INTs - will be a major power broker in the Big 10 this year for a Hawkeyes crew that has designs on a double-digit win season (go ahead and check that lousy non-league schedule). If Vandenberg gets some help from a rather depleted Iowa running back corps, than he might inject himself into Heisman Trophy talk and thus comparisons are sure to be made with early 1980s hero Chuck Long ... remember him?

NOTE: Catch all our season-opening NCAA Football Game Previews all next week right here at Jim Sez!

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