Thursday & Friday's NFL and College Previews



By Jim Hurley:

You want instant parity in the NFL? You got it!

Okay, so we're probably not the first guys to point this out but while heading into NFL Week 3 action there are 20 teams in the league where they play for pay that sport 1-1 SU (straight-up) records - that's nearly 63 percent of the teams with break-even marks and what really would be fun stuff would be predicting which team(s) will stay unbeaten the longest this year:

Will that be the mighty San Francisco 49ers who already have chewed up and spit out a pair of 2011 playoff teams (see Green Bay and Detroit) and now look to bum-rush yet another NFC North crew this weekend in Minnesota?

Or perhaps the under-the-radar San Diego Chargers will stay unbeaten for a while longer as Norv Turner's team hosts what could be a travel-weary Atlanta Falcons club this Sunday on the left coast?

And what about those Philadelphia Eagles who've managed a pair of one-point wins right out of the 2012 starting gate? Is Andy Reid's up for the challenge this Sunday at 2-and-oh Arizona?

Lots more NFL goodies in the comin' days but our jam-packed Jim Sez Mid-Week Update gets rollin' with the Thursday Night Game, so here goes:


NEW YORK GIANTS (1-1) at CAROLINA (1-1) - 8:20 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Wonder if the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants have been practicing their "victory formation" the past couple of days!

The hub-bub surrounding last Sunday's 41-34 win against Tampa Bay that featured a post-game scream-a-thon by Giants coach Tom Coughlin directed at first-year Bucs boss Greg Schiano grabbed up all the headlines in the New York City tabloids this week but what really was newsworthy from that clash was the NYG secondary continues to get toasted for big plays and that superior Giants pass rush only chalked up a pair of sacks in that tilt - if the likes of DL Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora don't get to elusive Carolina QB Cam Newton here, than the home folks could be doing their own victory formation at game's end.

Take note that Newton - who threw for 253 yards in addition to his career-best 71 yards rushing last week - now may actually have two favorite receivers as WR Brandon LaFell nabbed six balls worth 90 yards to go along with WR Steve Smith's 2-reception, 104-yard game in that 35-27 highly-emotional win against New Orleans.

Is this a pick-your-poison deal for the Giants? Hmmm.

Meanwhile, Giants QB Eli Manning rebounded from his 3-INT first half against the Bucs to throw for 510 yards last weekend and he was razor-sharp on deep pass plays to WRs Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks and ditto on that 33-yard fourth-quarter scoring strike to TE Martellus Bennett.

Still, Manning can't afford a sluggish start here - and especially if those Giants pass rushers are not producing sacks/hurries of Mr. Newton.

Spread Notes - The NY Giants ended last year's Super Bowl run on a six-game season-ending spread winning streak but so far this here-and-now Jints team is 0-2 against the number with pointspread setbacks versus Dallas and Tampa Bay. Note that the G-men are 38-18 ATS (against the spread) away since the start of the 2006 season. On the flip side, Carolina has split its first two spread verdicts this year and the Panthers are a tidy 7-3 vig-wise at home since late in the 2010 campaign.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the NFL Week 3 winners beginning with the Giants-Panthers tilt on Thursday Night plus there are loads of NCAA Football and Major-League Baseball winners straight ahead too -- so go ahead and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper! Make sure to get all this week's key gridiron games! 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.


On Thursday Night, it's ...BYU (2-1) at #24 BOISE STATE (1-1) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Don't know if you happened to stay up till 2 a.m. last Saturday night to watch the end of that wild BYU-Utah clash but the Cougars actually had three chances late to win - including a field-goal try that clanked off the goal post after a silly penalty on the Utah crowd for storming the field - and so wonder what's left in the proverbial gas tank for Bronco Mendenhall's team here.

True, BYU is averaging close to 425 offensive yards a game this season and lefty QB Riley Nelson (5 TDs and 2 INTs this year) is a never-say-die character but here's short week plus travel for BYU while Boise State barely broke a sweat in last Saturday's 39-12 win against three-TD dog Miami-Ohio.

The Broncos have discovered a new star running back in D.J. Harper (see 162 yards rushing and three TDs last week) and the old gray-tooth was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the good NCAA folks and he should be kept quite busy here.

Spread Notes - Boise State rolls into this prime-time clash having already covered season-starting games against Michigan State and Miami-Ohio but did you realize the Broncos are 4-11 versus the vig on the home blue turf while dating back to late in the 2009 season? Meanwhile, BYU has failed to cover two of its first three games this season with a cover against Washington State followed by back-to-back spread losses to Weber State and Utah. Overall, the Coogs are a perfect 7-0 spreadwise as dogs since midway of the 2010 campaign. The last time these clubs collided was back in the 2004 season when 22-point home fav Boise State barely escaped with a 28-27 non-cover victory.

In other NCAA News/Notes ...

Count 'em up ... there's four games matching ranked teams this Saturday -- #18 Michigan at #11 Notre Dame, #15 Kansas State at #6 Oklahoma, #22 Arizona at #3 Oregon and last but not least there's #10 Clemson at #4 Florida State.

It's worth noting that home sides have won five in a row and nine of the last 10 games in this ACC rivalry between the Tigers and Seminoles - remember when it used to be called the "Bowden Bowl" back in the day? -- but if two-TD dog Clemson is gonna find a way to win in Tallahassee for the first time since 2006 than a rush defense that ranks just 81st in the nation (allowing 181 yards a game) better step it up 'cause now Florida State has a couple of ground-busting backs that must be eyeballed closely including James Wilder Jr. who's already scored four touchdowns on the young year ...

Finally, no national rankings attached here but pay close attention to this Saturday's showdown between Utah at Arizona State.

Both of these teams could well be on the brink of a big year and Utah - now with Jon Hays back under center following the "retirement" of Jordan Wynn - is quite capable of big things in the Pac-12. If the TD-underdog Utes are gonna pull off the upset in Tempe this Saturday night than Hays must chuck some deep balls to WRs Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott ... stay tuned!




By Jim Hurley:

Just in case you are starting to buy some of this nonsense that College Football's other conferences/leagues are beginning to "catch up" with the mighty SEC, just consider the following:

Not only does the SEC sport the nation's #1 and #2 teams in this week's Associated Press Top 25 poll in Alabama and LSU, respectively, but there are five teams from the SEC in the top 14 overall including #5 Georgia, #7 South Carolina and #14 Florida and our true Jim Sez gut feeling is that all of the above save for the Florida Gators could probably win any other conference title out there if they didn't have to play in the talent-jammed SEC.

And now chew on this:

Both 'Bama and LSU are perfect 3-and-oh SU (straight-up) out of the 2012 starting gate and each has cashed two-of-three plays for their loyal wagering backers but did you realize that the Crimson Tide has been a per-game betting favorite on average of 24 points this season while the Bayou Bengals have been laying nearly 36 ppg in their first three tilts?

Not much is changin' this weekend as you will see in a moment as we begin this weekend's NCAA Football Game Previews with a look at the top two teams in the land plus we'll toss in Friday's TV preview as Baylor plays at giant-killer UL-Monroe - and a reminder that Friday's Jim Sez column will be jam-packed with NCAA Key Previews, so don't you dare miss out!

Now, let's get it started here with the Friday Nite TV Preview ...

BAYLOR (2-0) at UL-MONROE (1-1) - 8 p.m. ET, espn2
Hey, the start of the 2012 season hasn't been just all about the country's super-powers: L'il UL-Monroe has been a major newsmaker thanks to that season-opening 34-31 overtime win at 29 ½-point favorite Arkansas and than last week there were the gritty/gutty Warhawks going into OT again en route to a 31-28 loss-but-cover at 15-point fav Auburn.

Hats off to third-year head coach Todd Berry for gearing up his gang for that battle with the War Eagles and lefty QB Kolton Browning (649 yards passing and a team-leading 127 yards rushing) remains one of the sport's most exciting players. His TD run in OT at Arkansas a couple of weeks ago was breath-taking stuff as he pranced in on a do-or-die fourth-down play.

Browning's thrown for 6 TDs and just one INT in his 113 aerial attempts and - while he may not get his hands on this year's Heisman Trophy like one-time Baylor mega-star QB Robert Griffin III (see last year) - it'll be fun stuff to see how Browning fares against yet another BCS conference defense.
Note that the 7 ½-point road-favored Bears rank 9th nationally in passing offense (352.5 ypg) and QB Nick Florence has been Griffin-like sharp so far with his 653 yards passing, 63.4 accuracy rate and a healthy 7-TD versus 2-INT ratio. So far, Baylor has beaten SMU and Sam Houston State and so no one yet is holding a parade for this Waco bunch!

Spread Notes - Baylor's split its first two pointspread verdicts this year but this marks the Bears' first road game in 2012 and they're only 5-8 ATS (against the spread) in road tilts the past two seasons. On the other hand, UL-Monroe - fresh off back-to-back season-opening covers against SEC folks Arkansas and Auburn - is a collective 5-1 vig-wise while dating back to last year and the Warhawks are 29-19 ATS as pups since the start of thee 2005 season.

On Saturday, it's ...

FLORIDA ATLANTIC (1-2) at #1 ALABAMA (3-0) - 5 p.m. ET, ESPN GamePlan
Right now the Alabama Crimson Tide is listed as a whopping 49½-point betting favorite for this tilt against Sun Belt Conference club FAU but keep in mind that Nick Saban's team rarely takes its foot off the pedal as evidenced by last Saturday's 52-0 win at Arkansas - the Tide ranks 10th nationally in pass defense (152.3 ypg) and 7th nationally in rush defense (57.7 ypg) ... and so how does one exactly go about exploiting this defense that's surrendered a grand total of 14 points through three games?

Nobody talks about 'Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron in terms of the Heisman Trophy but note the kid's already thrown for 607 yards with 7 TDs and 0 INTs out of the 2012 starting gate.

Spread Note - Alabama is 14-4 spreadwise whenever laying twin-digit prices while dating back to the start of the 2010 season (and that's a heady .778 winning percentage).

#2 LSU (3-0) at AUBURN (1-2) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, maybe one of these days the LSU defense will score more points than the offense: Folks, that's not a jab at an improved LSU attack that actually ranks 13th in the land in rushing (269.3 ypg) and is 31st nationally in scoring but last week there were two "pick six" TDs by the Tigers defense in that runaway-and-hide 63-14 win against Idaho and afterwards the chirpie LSU secondary hinted lots more of that was in store for the rest of this '12 campaign ... we'll see.

Note that LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger is completing more than 70 percent of his passes but a pair of INTs near the opponent's goal line this year has head coach Les Miles a bit concerned with his signal-caller's red-zone concentration.

Spread Note - LSU has notched pointspread wins in 13 of its last 17 games while dating back to late in the 2010 season (and that's a sizzling .765 winning rate)

NOTE: Get our NCAA Football Saturday Key Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.


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