College & NFL Weekend Previews

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND PREVIEWS

#1 'BAMA AND #2 USC PACK THEIR BAGS FOR KEY CONFERENCE ROAD GAMES ...AND WE CHECK IN ON THE BES "UNDER-THE-RADAR" GAME ON THE SATURDAY CARD

By Jim Hurley:

Okay, so we've just gotta ask the following question:

Will this whole/entire 2012 College Football Season be nothing more than a run-up to a BCS Championship Game between Alabama and USC?

You do have to wonder if either one of these super-powers is gonna lose a single game between 'em this current campaign and so forgive us for thinking back to 2005 when Texas and USC rock-n-rolled their ways to perfect seasons before tangling in one of the greatest college football games you've ever seen ... remember? Texas 41, USC 38.

No doubt that there will be plenty of teams looking to stick a pin in the 'Bama and USC balloons this season- heck, the nation's top two teams do have to travel this weekend and anything's possible even though Alabama is currently listed as a 20 ½-point favorite at short-handed Arkansas while USC is priced right now as a 9-point road choice at Stanford- but it's already beginning to feel like one of those years where the Tide and Trojans appear headed for that inevitable collision course next January. Stay tuned.

On Saturday, it's ...

#2 USC (2-0) at #21 STANFORD (2-0)- 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox
True, the Southern Cal Trojans did slip out of the Associated Press top spot after just one week of action but might this be the week Lane Kiffin's crew leap frogs #1 Alabama?

The Men of Troy- fresh off last weekend's stormy 42-29 non-cover win against 25-point dog Syracuse in a game played in New Jersey- say there won't be any jet-lag issues here as they open up Pac-12 play and keep in mind USC has lost four of the last five games in this series including last year's thrill-a-minute 56-38 triple-OT affair that starred than-Stanford slinger Andrew Luck.

Luck's gone from "The Farm" but there is a Heisman Trophy hopeful at quarterback for the other team here and QB Matt Barkley rolls into action off a six-TD showing but the real star last week was WR Robert Woods who accounted for 200 all-purpose yards including a nifty 76-yard run off a reverse against the 'Cuse.

Look for USC to mix in some gadget plays here involving Woods and sidekick WR Marquis Lee while Stanford's best hope for the upset here is to get pressure on Barkley early and stuff the ground game- note that the Cardinal ranks 7th in the country in rush defense while allowing under 50 ground yards per game.

Spread Notes - USC has failed to cover its first two games in this here-and-now 2012 season and did you know the Trojans have gone 0-3 spreadwise out of the starting gates just once in the past 10 years (see 2010 in head coach Kiffin's debut season)? The Men of Troy are also a rotten 2-5-1 ATS (against the spread) in their last eight head-to-head showdowns versus Stanford. Note that the Cardinal enters this critical Pac-12 game having gone 27-12-1 ATS overall since the start of 2009 and that includes a spiffy 17-9-1 ATS mark in league play (a potent .654 winning mark).

#1 ALABAMA (2-0) at ARKANSAS (1-1)- 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Hey, does 'Bama really need any more help in attempting to win its seventh consecutive game while dating back to last year?

The nation's top-ranked team- and defending national champs -- figure to face either Brandon Mitchell (a quarterback-turned-tight end at the star of this season) or else redshirt freshman Brandon Allen under center this weekend after regular QB Tyler Wilson suffered concussion-like symptoms in last week's shocking 34-31 overtime loss to UL-Monroe.

No wonder Hog Nation is in a really grumpy mood these days!

On the flip side, let's not forget that the Arkansas defense ranks a lowly 98th nationally in pass defense (allowing 319.5 yards a game) and into town comes red-hot A.J. McCarron to test an injury-ravaged secondary and remember McCarron is fresh off a 14-of-19, 219-yard, four-TD showing a week ago in that 35-0 non-cover win against Western Kentucky.

Spread Notes- Alabama has split its first two pointspread verdicts so far this 2012 campaign but the Crimson Tide's a dynamic 35-18 ATS overall since the start of the 2008 campaign (and that's a .660 winning rate). Note that 'Bama has covered three of its last four games against Arkansas and the Tide is 8-2 vig-wise in its last 10 away games. The heavy-duty underdog Hogs enter this SEC clash without a spread win in two tries this year and Arkansas is a so-so 7-6 ATS as pups since the start of 2009.

#20 NOTRE DAME (2-0) at #10 MICHIGAN STATE (2-0)- 8 p.m. ET, ABC
All the talk this week has been about Notre Dame moving to the ACC in all sports but football but there will be a heavy accent on playing ACC teams in the coming gridiron years ... so does that perhaps mean this rivalry game with Michigan State might get dunked sometime in the next three or four years?

The here-and-now fact is that the Irish -- a six-point dog for this prime-time clash in East Lansing- will start soph Everett Golson at quarterback here even though junior Tommy Rees "saved their bacon" in last week's 20-17 last-minute home win against Purdue. If third-year Irish head coach Brian Kelly thinks Golson is overmatched here against Sparty, he'll tab Rees to come in relief.

Meanwhile, Michigan State's looking for its third 3-and-oh (or better) start under sixth-year head coach Mark Dantonio and it'll be interesting to see how much Dantonio "trusts" QB Andrew Maxwell here one week after he threw for 275 yards with two TDs and 0 INT in a 41-7 rollover win at Central Michigan. Hey, RB Le'Veon Bell did tote the ball an amazing 44 times in a season-opening non-cover win against Boise State and we won't be shocked if Bell gets 30-plus carries here ... will you? 

Spread Notes- Notre Dame is just 12-13-3 against the odds in the Brian Kelly Era that started in 2010 and the ND Fighting Irish is just 3-3-1 spreadwise under their current head coach when playing Big 10 foes. Overall, Notre Dame is 7-3 ATS as a point-grabber while dating back to the start of the 2009 season. Meanwhile, Michigan State's covered 10 of its last 13 board games while dating back to early last year and the Spartans are a healthy 20-12-2 ATS as betting favorites the past four-plus seasons.

#18 FLORIDA (2-0) at #23 TENNESSEE (2-0)- 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
It may not be the "marquee matchup" inside the mighty SEC on this day (see aforementioned Alabama at Arkansas) but this clash at Rocky Top will be a hoot nonetheless and pay special attention to Vols WR Justin Hunter who's already bagged 17 receptions worth 219 yards and three scores in early-season win against N.C. State and Georgia State.

Spread Notes- Florida owns a 6-3-1 pointspread mark against archrival Tennessee while dating back the past 10 years but did you know the Gators are a money-toasting 7-16-2 ATS in conference games since the start of the '09 season? Tennessee heads into this SEC bash having covered nine of its last dozen games when placed in the favorite's role and the Volunteers are looking to make a statement here after having gone a wobbly 1-7 vig-wise against fellow SEC teams a year ago (the lone conference cover was a 27-21 win against 1 ½-point road dog Vanderbilt).
 
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the NCAA Football and NFL Week 2 Winners this weekend plus there's lots of key Major-League Baseball Winners too every day -- so go ahead and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper! Make sure to get all this week's key gridiron games including Saturday's nationally ranked prime-time showdown between #20 Notre Dame at #10 Michigan State plus all the Sunday goodies including Baltimore at Philadelphia and the NBC prime-timer between Detroit at San Francisco  Check in with us on Game Days either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winners.

Extra, extra ...This weekend's best "under-the-radar" game will be played between Mid-American Conference rivals Bowling Green (1-1) at Toledo (1-1).

Last year Toledo hung on for the 28-21 road win but the BGs may be one of the best teams you don't know about as Dave Clawson's club hung tough in a season-opening 27-14 loss at four-TD fav Florida and Falcons QB Matt Schilz has thrown for 487 yards this year and won't be phased by playing in a hostile environment here.

Toledo- which bounced back from its season-opening 24-17 overtime loss at 10-point fav Arizona to best host Wyoming 34-31 last weekend in Laramie- features its own do-it-all quarterback Terrance Owens (5 TD passes and 0 INTs so far) plus all eyes will be on talented Toledo WR Bernard Reedy (15 catches foe 166 yards and one TD this season). It may not get front-and-center coverage on your late-night SportsCenter highlights but this in-state rivalry game could be a real doozy.


THE NFL WEEK 2

THE SUNDAY AFTERNOON MENU - WE CHECK IN ON RAVENS-EAGLES, JETS-STEELERS & SAINTS-PANTHERS

By Jim Hurley:

Now that the Green Bay Packers avoided that dreaded 0-2 start to this here-and-now 2012 season, all NFL eyes get turned to the likes of the New York Giants, Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints.

This trio of teams lost in their Week 1 games and so we'll soon see which "name" teams - if any - stumble out of the starting gates with back-to-back losses.

Talk about an almost sure recipe to a disastrous season!

The defending Super Bowl champion Giants have had 10 days to recover from their 24-17 loss to Dallas and soon "Big Blue" fans won't have to hear much more about the Week One drops of WR Victor Cruz or the first-quarter fumble by rookie RB David Wilson.

Put it this way: If the Giants self-implode here in Week 2 against Tampa Bay, than ninth-year head coach Tom Coughlin's head may pop!

In terms of the aforementioned Steelers and Saints, they'll get our Jim Sez Week 2 game preview treatment here in just a moment plus we'll clue you in on Baltimore at Philadelphia too but first a quick look at last year's slowest starters spreadwise out of the chute:

The Atlanta Falcons, Chicago Bears, Denver Broncos, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets and Philadelphia Eagles all staggered early on a year ago with identical 1-4 ATS (against the spread) marks and note it took last year's Broncos till Week 3 to cop a pointspread "W" while the San Diego Chargers dropped their first three games in a row spreadwise and the 2011 Miami Dolphins and St. Louis Rams actually lost their first six in a row versus the vig.

Just sayin'!

Now here's a look at the NFL Week 2 Key Sunday afternoon previews:

BALTIMORE (1-0) at PHILADELPHIA (1-0) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Let's face it: It's not often that your team is gonna win a game when your star quarterback tosses four INTs but the Philly Eagles survived Michael Vick's hiccups to top Cleveland 17-16 as Vick led the game-winning 91-yard TD drive and RB LeSean McCoy rushed for 110 yards - and note the Eagles now are 9-1 SU (straight-up) when McCoy rushes for more than 100 yards.

If McCoy can get heated up here against a Ravens defense that will keep Baltimore's new-fangled no-huddle offense off the field -- and you saw how well QB Joe Flacco (299 yards passing with two TDs and 0 INTs in season-opening 44-13 win against Cincinnati last Monday Night) played in his 2012 opener - than the Eagles could dictate the pace/tempo of this game.

It's a new era for the Ravens who didn't overuse RB Ray Rice in the opener and watched Flacco pick/choose downfield receivers while this better-than-you-think O-line kept him upright.

The Eagles live for the sack maybe more than any team in the NFL - if they don't get to Flacco a handful of times here they won't be able to crank out their first 2-and-oh start since 2004.

Spread Notes - Baltimore is a solid 23-15-2 ATS away while dating back to the start of the 2008 season and note the Ravens have covered both of their regular-season meetings with Philadelphia since 2004 (a 15-10 loss-but-cover as 7 ½-point road dogs in '04 and a rollicking 36-7 home win as 2-point betting favorites). Meanwhile, the Eagles have failed to cover their home-opening tilt the past three years in a row including a 29-16 loss to the New York Giants in Week 3 a year ago.

NEW YORK JETS (1-0) at PITTSBURGH (0-1) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Go ahead and look it up: Prior to last year's season-opening 35-7 thud-job loss to Baltimore, the Steelers had copped Week 1 wins eight years in a row and so last Sunday Night's 31-19 setback against Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos gave Mike Tomlin's team that bitter-taste look - will the visiting New York Jets now pay for the Steelers' anger?

Safe to say that Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger loves home cooking - the Steelers are 24-5 SU at Heinz Field in his last 29 starts there but "Big Ben" must get his timing down with long-time summer holdout WR Mike Wallace who last weekend was a total non-factor in the Mile High City. Roethlisberger would welcome a better ground attack here too as the RB Rashard Mendenhall-less Steelers rushed for just 75 yards last week, thus ranking 24th in the league in Week 1 rushing yards.

Conversely, just about everything worked right for the Jets last weekend in their 48-28 never-was-close win against the 3-point underdog Buffalo Bills.

Not only did QB Mark Sanchez get the cheers from the MetLife crowd but he threw for 266 yards and three TDs and let's see here if rookie WR Stephen Hill (five catches for 89 yards in his pro debut) is a major plus here against this rough-and-tumble Steelers secondary.

Of course, the really big news heading in here is the status of Jets Pro Bowl CB Darrelle Revis (concussion) who figures to be a game-time decision.

Spread Notes - The NY Jets staggered to a 2-6 ATS mark away last year after having gone 14-8 spreadwise on the road in the first two years of the Rex Ryan Era but how about the fact the J-ET-S are 7-2-1 against the odds in road openers dating back to the 2002 campaign? Note that Pittsburgh's just 19-22-1 ATS as chalk sides since the start of 2009 and the Steelers are 3-7 ATS overall since last year following last week's 12-point loss in Denver.

NEW ORLEANS (0-1) at CAROLINA (0-1) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Here's the bad news for the N'Orleans Saints: Head coach Sean Payton won't be walking through those locker room doors any time this year but that rag-tag defense will:

In last week's 40-32 loss to Robert Griffin III and the new-look Washington Redskins, the Saints' defense surrendered 306 yards passing (25th-worst in the league) and 153 yards rushing (27th-worst in the NFL) and LB Jonathan Vilma may have been reinstated from his BountyGate woes but a knee injury has shelved him till further notice as New Orleans placed him on the PUP list.

So, what's the remedy here?

The Saints - who have not started a season at 0-2 SU since 2007 -- need to bottle up Carolina QB Cam Newton in his red-zone visits plus N'Orleans slinger Drew Brees can't stall any drives with bad picks. Last week's two INTs really haunted the 2009 Super Bowl champs and we'll expect more "safe stuff" here with TE Jimmy Graham and RB Darren Sproles potentially catching 15 balls between 'em in this NFC South showdown.

Key stat: Last week Newton rushed for a career-low four yards in his team's 16-10 loss at 3-point home dog Tampa Bay. Say what?

Spread Notes - New Orleans has covered seven of its last 10 games at Carolina and note despite last week's home loss to the 'Skins, the Saints still are a tasty 12-5 versus the vig as betting favorites while dating back to the start of last year. On the flip side, Carolina is just 4-9 vig-wise when playing fellow NFC South foes the past two-plus seasons.

NOTE: Catch our NFL Week 2 Sunday Night Game plus much more in the next Jim Sez.

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