College Football's Opening Thursday Night

LIGHTS, CAMERAS, ACTION!!! THE 2012 COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON STARTS THURSDAY NIGHT AND WE PREVIEW A PAIR OF KEY TV GAMES PLUS THERE'S MORE NEWS & NOTES

By Jim Hurley:

Hey, school's in session, so let's start off our mid-week Jim Sez column with a Jeopardy approach to things here:

The answer is the Texas Longhorns.

Okay, Alex, so what's the question?

Who is the last non-SEC team to win a national championship in College Football (see the 2005 season)?

It's amazing that the SEC has indeed reeled off six consecutive championships and as stated in previous Jim Sez columns lately the best conference in the country has an unbelievable five teams in the top 9 of the season-opening Associated Press Top 25 and that -of course -includes the defending champion Alabama Crimson Tide who stand at attention behind top-ranked USC in this debut poll.

The 'Bama bunch will set sail on their 2012 campaign on Saturday night with a tilt against double-digit dog Michigan (a game being played at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington) but there's another one of those high-powered SEC teams in action on this Thursday Night/Opening Night and we'll dig into what the #9 South Carolina Gamecocks have in front of 'em along with another key TV tilt on this next-to-last night in August.

Let's kick it off already, guys!

First, this important reminder ...Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are ready to rock-n-roll this Football Season and it swings into action Thursday plus don't forget some of the marquee matchups the rest of this holiday weekend including Friday's tilt featuring Tennessee versus N.C. State at the Georgia Dome, Saturday's menu featuring Clemson vs. Auburn (also in said Georgia Dome), Sunday's couple of gridiron goodies including Kentucky at Louisville and than it's all capped off on Labor Day evening with an ACC showdown between Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech -we can't wait, can you? Plus, Jim Hurley and his crew will stay on top of things in this final week of NFL Preseason action and than taking you right though a sure-to-be-thrilling NFL 2012 campaign. 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 NCAA & NFL Winners and get all the daily and nightly Major-League Baseball winners too. Let's pile up the profits together from here right thru Super Bowl XLVII.

 

THURSDAY NITE KEY TV COLLEGE PREVIEWS

#9 SOUTH CAROLINA at VANDERBILT -7 p.m. ET, ESPN
You could call it the season of "great expectations" for the here-and-now South Carolina Gamecocks: After all, this does mark the program's first-ever season-opening appearance in the top 10 and there's lots of reason to smile including the fact that star RB Marcus Lattimore is back after missing the last six games of 2011 with a severe knee injury (he still rushed for 818 yards and 10 TDs while averaging 5.0 yards a pop a year ago).

No doubt Lattimore is ready for a heavy workload -eighth-year Gamecocks' coach Steve Spurrier said he'll carry it "25-to-30 times" in this game -but South Carolina must mix in some downfield chucks against a Vanderbilt defense that figures to play eight men in the box for much of this prime-time battle.

Keep in mind also that SC has a new defensive coordinator this year after Ellis Johnson left to become the head coach at Southern Miss. New DC Lorenzo Ward is calling the shots now on this side of the ball and remember the Gamecocks ranked third nationally in defense last year behind -you got it -powerhouses LSU and Alabama.

One major key for the home-underdog Commodores here:

Quarterback Jordan Rodgers -yes, the little brother of Green Bay Packers great Aaron -is looking to improve on last year's 9-TD/10-INT campaign and play-action fakes could lead to some deep throws to WR Jordan Matthews here (he averaged a whopping 19 yards a catch on 41 receptions last year).

Spread Notes -South Carolina has gone 7-5, 7-6 and 7-6 spreadwise the past three years and did you realize that the Gamecocks have failed to cover seven of their last 11 SEC away games? On the flip side, the Vandy Commodores banged out a nifty 9-4 ATS (against the spread) mark a year ago and that included a five-game spread winning streak. Last year 15-point home favorite South Carolina whacked Vanderbilt 21-3 on Sept. 24th.
 
WASHINGTON STATE at BYU -10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
This all-Cougars matchup from Provo is chock full of storylines including the main one: Washington State head coach Mike Leach is back along the sidelines after a two-year absence following his not-so-amicable departure from Texas Tech and he just so happens to be going up against his alma mater here.

Still, it's the host BYU Coogs who enter this clash a near two-TD betting favorite and all reports indicate BYU will be more about its ole downfield passing game behind lefty QB Riley Nelson who threw for 1,717 yards and 19 TDs last year. Now that one-time BYU slinger Jake Heaps has transferred to Kansas -the new home for Charlie Weis' passing offense -Nelson no longer has anyone looking over his shoulder pads and here he will attack a W-State defense that ranked a lowly 93rd nationally against the pass in 2011.

Meanwhile, note that the Pac-12 guys from Pullman do bring a neat one-two punch into this game as QB Jeff Tuel and WR Marquess Wilson -who caught 82 balls and scored 12 TDs last season -are ultra-dangerous but if the road pups want to have any shot at landing the shocking win here than bottling up Nelson is critical and that includes closing off his running lanes as well.

Spread Notes -Believe it or not, the BYU Cougars are a collective 16-5 against the prices in their last 21 overall games while dating back to midway of the 2010 season (folks, that's a .762 winning rate). Last year BYU banged out a 9-4 ATS log that included a cover versus a Pac-12 team as the Coogs topped 3 ½-point home fav Oregon State 38-28 (but did lose 54-10 against 4-point road dog Utah). Since the start of 2010, BYU is a tasty 6-2 versus the vig when laying a twin-figure price tag. Washington State, on the other hand, is coming off a 7-5 ATS campaign and so the Wazzu bunch is a neat 14-9 vig-wise overall the past two seasons. Note that W-State is a money-toasting 2-8 spreadwise in on-the-board openers the past 10 years.

In other NCAA Football News & Notes ...
As you know by now, Thursday's Texas A&M versus Louisiana Tech tilt in Shreveport has been postponed until Oct. 13th thanks to Hurricane Isaac.

Too bad 'cause there has been lots of folks anxious to see how the Aggies perform under first-year head coach Kevin Sumlin. The College Station gang -which figures to fall somewhere from the middle to near the bottom of the SEC West this season -will be led by redshirt frosh QB Johnny Manziel. The 6-foot-1, Kerrville (Tx.) native has big shoes to fill after the NFL departure of Ryan Tannehill but Sumlin isn't expecting any early-season miracles and now A&M must wait till their Sept. 8th home game against #23 Florida to find out how Manziel handles the heat. Hmm, it would have been real nice to get Manziel into game action before than but that's the breaks! ...

Finally, one other Thursday Night game to check out includes Minnesota at UNLV. Strangely enough, this marks the fourth consecutive season that the Minny Golden Gophers will open up on the road but note the Big 10 team won 23-20 at Syracuse back in 2009 and copped a 24-17 win at Middle Tennessee in 2010 before getting nipped 19-17 last year at 23 ½-point fav USC. Word is Minensota will host season-opening games the next four years at its TCF Bank Stadium, so stop complaining already!

IT'S A GREAT GRIDIRON WEEKEND AHEAD

WE PREVIEW FRIDAY'S TOP TWO TV TILTS (THAT'S TENNESSEE VS. N.C. STATE AND #24 BOISE STATE AT #13 MICHIGAN STATE ...PLUS WE TOSS YOU OUR TOP FIVE "UNDER-THE-RADAR" PLAYERS WHO'LL SHINE BRIGHTLY THIS 2012 COLLEGE CAMPAIGN

By Jim Hurley:

Hey, you're not kidding that the NCAA Football's Associated Press Top 25 really has a "who's who" feel to it when you check out the nation's top teams as #1 USC, #2 Alabama, #3 LSU and #4 Oklahoma each have copped at least one national championship since 2000 but there's plenty of high-quality clubs throughout the top 25 and two of them - that's #24 Boise State and #13 Michigan State - will clash right out of the starting gate in a premier showdown in East Lansing come Friday night.

In case you didn't know, it's one of only two opening week/weekend College Football Games that pit ranked teams against one another - no doubt you've been hearing plenty about #2 Alabama versus #8 Michigan and their scheduled shindig in Arlington come Saturday night - and there's another great Friday night game from inside the always-noisy Georgia Dome that figures to have fans tuning in as unranked Tennessee plays unranked N.C. State but dare we say the winner of this prime-timer will leap into that aforementioned AP Top 25 by this time next week.

So, lots to do here on the eve of this big-time Labor Day Weekend as we preview the two key Friday night games plus we always offer up our top five "under-the-radar" players who figure to make a major splash on the national scene this year ... trust us! But first this important reminder:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are ready to rock-n-roll this Football Season and it swings into action Thursday plus don't forget some of the marquee matchups the rest of this holiday weekend including Friday's tilt featuring Tennessee versus N.C. State at the Georgia Dome, Saturday's menu featuring Clemson vs. Auburn (also in said Georgia Dome), Sunday's couple of gridiron goodies including Kentucky at Louisville and than it's all capped off on Labor Day evening with an ACC showdown between Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech -we can't wait, can you? Plus, Jim Hurley and his crew will stay on top of things in this final week of NFL Preseason action and than taking you right though a sure-to-be-thrilling NFL 2012 campaign. 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 NCAA & NFL Winners and get all the daily and nightly Major-League Baseball winners too. Let's pile up the profits together from here right thru Super Bowl XLVII.

THE FRIDAY NITE KEY TV COLLEGE PREVIEWS

TENNESSEE vs. N.C. STATE (at Georgia Dome) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPNU
It's still hard to believe that last year's Tennessee Volunteers won only one league game, finished alone in the SEC East basement and didn't make it to a post-season bowl even though some 68 other NCAA teams did - and now you wonder if under-siege third-year head coach Derek Dooley can turn the beat around beginning with this interconference duel in the dome. No question the Vols have had their fair share of negative news already as former WR Da'Rick Rogers has transferred to Tennessee Tech after failing recent drug tests at the SEC school and don't forget he accounted for 1,040 receiving yards last year.

If the Vols are gonna have success through the air waves here than QB Tyler Bray (1,983 yards passing with 17 TDs and 6 INTs in 2011) must make good use of his backs and tight ends against a State squad that boasts one of the best DBs in the land. Or had you forgotten that CB David Amerson intercepted a whopping 13 enemy passes last year?

Spread Notes - Tennessee failed to cover six of its final eight games last year en route to a shabby 5-7 ATS (against the spread) record but did you know the Volunteers covered all four of their non-SEC games in 2011? On the flip side, N.C. State is coming off a 6-6-1 ATS season (but one that started out at 0-4-1 vig-wise) and note that the Wolfpack is 22-9-1 against the odds whenever in the underdog role since the start of the 2008 season (that's a .710 winning rate).

#24 BOISE STATE at #13 MICHIGAN STATE - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The $64,000 question making the rounds this summer was this: Is Boise State really still Boise State or has this proud program taken a huge step (or two) backwards?

The fact that lefty QB Kellen Moore - who threw for almost 15,000 yards with 142 TDs and just 28 INTs in his storied four-year college career - is gone means that head coach Chris Petersen's squad enters a whole new unknown period but last year's 12-win team says everything is gonna be alright with Joe Southwick set to make his first career start under center and no question that Southwick must do everything in his personal power to steer clear of Michigan State DE William Gholston who registered a handful of sacks last year but figures to be a dominant force in 2012 and don't forget about active LB Denicos Allen who piled up a team-high 11 sacks a year ago.

Michigan State's a solid touchdown betting favorite for this interconference clash and if the Motowners are gonna win/cover than the Spartans' senior slinger Andrew Maxwell must be sharp from the get-go. Note that the Big 10 team averaged 37 ppg last year behind QB Kirk Cousins who threw 25 TDs and only 10 picks - hey, it's a lot to live up to for both of the "new" quarterbacks here.

Spread Notes - Michigan State's fresh off a spiffy 10-4 ATS season that included spread wins in the team's final five games plus note that Sparty has covered seven of its last nine games when placed in the favorite's role. The Boise State Broncos, meanwhile, registered a shoddy 5-8 ATS mark last year and just compare that with the program's 77-45-2 ATS record from 2001 thru 2010 - a rare pointspread bust. Boise State has covered its last three season-opening games with wins against Oregon, Virginia Tech and Georgia.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S TOP FIVE UNDER-THE-RADAR STARS

So, you've seen all the Heisman Trophy lists, the preseason All-America lists, etc.

Now, you want to know what "under-the-radar" players will make things happen this 2012 NCAA Football Season ... well, you came to the right place. Here's our top 5:

BRYN RENNER, QB, North Carolina - The blue sky's the limit for this junior slinger who last year set a school record with 26 touchdown passes and now that new Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora has moved to a no-huddle spread attack, Renner could position himself right into this year's Heisman Trophy conversation should this ACC crew win eight or nine games.

AARON DONALD, DT, Pittsburgh - Don't sleep on this year's Panthers who are counting on new head coach Paul Chryst staying awhile and pay special attention to this junior defender who last year racked up a team-best 11 sacks despite the fact he faced a slew of double-teams. The emotional leader of this Big East crew might not remind everyone of the Hugh Green/Ricky Jackson days but he'll be a monster every Saturday.

BILLY RAY STUTZMANN, WR, Hawaii - You may have to wait up late at night to track this next dude but the Warriors' best pass-catcher could be snagging more than 100 balls this year for first-year head coach Norm Chow. Stutzmann - who caught 78 balls worth 910 yards a year ago for a Hawaii team that ranked 12th nationally in passing (3-8.8 ypg) - has great hands and can fit in as a possession receiver or more of a long-ball threat.

JORDAN WILLIAMSON, PK, Stanford - This sophomore kicker is known more for his two missed FGs in the Cardinal's 41-38 loss to Oklahoma State in last year's Fiesta Bowl but the Pac-12 second-teamer could be an integral part of this 2012 team that is eyeballing another double-digit win season. If Williamson has his confidence back, than Stanford could snag a couple of close conference wins this time around.

TAVARRES KING, WR, Georgia - Is this gonna be the real breakout year for the Georgia Dawgs offense? Last season's club was ranked 49th nationally in rushing and 48th nationally in passing and all signs point to veteran QB Aaron Murray having a monster season and so Mr. King (team-high 47 catches for 705 yards and 8 TDs) could be that next great receiver the Bulldogs have been searching for the past couple of years.

NOTE: Catch all our season-opening NCAA Football Game Previews this week./weekend right here at Jim Sez make way for the 2012 NFL Season all next week too!

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