College Football Key Sturday Previews


By Jim Hurley:

Is it the best single Saturday of College Football so far this 2012 season?

Hey, you could say that as our Jim Sez Saturday Six-Pack reveals five head-to-head matchups of ranked teams plus the renewal of one of the sport's all-time great rivalries in Miami vs. Notre Dame.

Now, with nine of the country's top 12 teams all part of the mix here there's no doubt there will be some high-quality football that's gonna be played from Columbia to Eugene and points in between but the $64,000 question is which highly-ranked teams will get bumped off here - and what team(s) will be able to slide up the polls and become part of the conversation when it comes to this year's national championship race?

As we pointed out in an earlier-week edition of Jim Sez - believe it or not - this marks the halfway point for many of the nation's 124 FBS teams as a whole slew of 'em will have six of their dozen regular-season games already in the bag by the time we all go to bed late Saturday night and so this is a true survive-and-advance weekend in the College Football universe... and only the strong will survive, you know!

So, let's get hopping with our Saturday Six-Pack with Spread Notes for each of the matchups included below...

#5 GEORGIA (5-0) at #6 SOUTH CAROLINA (5-0) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The big news earlier this week wasn't good for the Georgia Bulldogs: Star WR Michael Bennett (team-leading 24 catches for 345 yards and 4 TDs) tore the ACL in his right knee in a Tuesday practice and is gone for the year - and so freshmen RBs Todd Gurley (averaging 107 yards rushing per game to lead the SEC) and sidekick Keith Marshall (averaging 86 ypg) may need to tote the rock more than usual here and don't be surprised if savvy QB Aaron Murray checks down to these two pups on short-yardage pass plays - well-schooled South Carolina will be watching their every move!

Still, if you really want an X-factor key to victory here in the best game on the College Football card this first Saturday in October, than let's see how the Gamecocks fare in their deep pass plays - no doubt RB Marcus Lattimore (averaging 88 ypg with 8 TDs so far) will be the central character on this attack but what will WR Damiere Byrd (only 9 catches but averaging an eye-popping 27.3 yards per play) do when targeted down the field and will injury-prone QB Connor Shaw always be able to get 'em the ball when open?

Spread Notes - Georgia has lost seven of its last eight pointspread verdicts against South Carolina and the Dawgs are just 13-22 ATS (against the spread) in SEC play the past four-plus seasons. On the flip side, South Carolina rolls into this bash on a four-game spread winning streak and the Gamecocks are a scintillating 19-9 ATS at home since the start of the 2008 season.

#4 LSU (5-0) at #10 FLORIDA (4-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Here's hoping "Verne and Gary" and the good folks at CBS get another SEC barnburner - last week's 51-44 Georgia victory over Tennessee busted a short string of bummer games for the long-time announcing team (see South Carolina 31, Mizzou 10 and 'Bama 51, Arkansas 0 in the two prior weekends).

No doubt the really big question here inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium - a/k/a "The Swamp" - is whether the home-town Gators indeed are "back" as back-to-back-to-back wins against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky are nice but are they meaningful?

Florida must keep QB Jeff Driskel (sacked 12 times already this season) in an upright position and the Gators' slinger must get rid of the ball in a timely manner and not take those 10- and 15-yard losses - watch for those sterling LSU pass-rushers Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery who could be real spotlight players here.

Spread Notes - LSU has covered 13 of its last 18 overall tilts dating back to late in the 2010 season but did you know the Bayou Bengals are just 2-4-1 spreadwise in their last seven showdowns against Florida? Meanwhile, the Gators have notched spread wins in three of their first four games this season but the Gainesville gang still is just 9-16-2 ATS against fellow SEC squads since the start of the 2009 campaign.
#8 WEST VIRGINIA (4-0) at #11 TEXAS (4-0) - 7 p.m. ET, Fox
Sure seems like this Big 12 tilt is getting the short end of the media straw this week what with the two above-mentioned SEC monster matchups on tap but - let's face it - if West Virginia's senior slinger Geno Smith (1,728 yards passing with 20 TDs and 0 INTs this year) rock-n-rolls all over Texas than the Mountaineers will be somewhere inside the top 5 in next week's polls and Smith will have all but locked up this year's Heisman Trophy... and we ain't kidding!

The Longhorns - a solid TD betting favorite for this clash - rank an average 45th nationally in pass defense while surrendering 210 yards a game (West Virginia's obviously the country's top passing team at 441.5 yards a game) and so this is an obvious game plan for Mack Brown's team:

Possess the ball for long periods of time with the nation's 19th-best running game (228 ypg) and keep Mr. Smith standing there on the sidelines this Saturday night in Austin.

We give the Fox broadcast team about three minutes into game action here before they bring up the YAC (yards after catch) stat for West Virginia wide-outs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin - and who can blame 'em?

Spread Notes - West Virginia finds itself in the underdog role here and the Mountaineers are a collective 8-2 ATS as pups while dating back to the start of 2007. Texas sports a nifty three-game spread winning streak while entering this under-the-lights duel (covers against New Mexico, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State) but the 'Horns are a money-toasting 7-14 ATS at home the past three-plus seasons.

MIAMI (4-1) at #9 NOTRE DAME (4-0) - 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
You're 100 percent correct - this Miami v. Notre Dame clash doesn't have that blood-boiling "Catholics vs. Convicts" feel to it from back in the 1980s but - than again - who really believed that these two football-rich schools would be a combined 8-1 SU (straight-up) upon entering the month of October this year?

Not us!

If the heavy-duty favorite ND Fighting Irish are gonna continue its zoom up the polls here than it needs yet another super game from LB Manti Te'o - he will be on our short Heisman Trophy list when we begin publishing that feature sometime next week! - as he needs to get into the grill of Miami QB Stephen Morris who's fresh off an ACC-record 566-yard passing game in that kooky 44-37 triumph over N.C. State. The 'backer must also go sideline-to-sideline tracking down Miami's speedy backs that include frosh star-in-the-making Duke Johnson.

Note that Miami - which has yielded 32, 52, 36 and 27 points in four of its first five games this year - figures to face both Notre Dame QBs Everett Golson and Tommy Rees here... and did you know that Notre Dame is the only FBS team yet to trail in a game this year?

Spread Notes - Notre Dame's covered three of its first four games out of the chute this year but note the Fighting Irish owns a shoddy 10-18-3 ATS mark as betting favorites the past three-plus seasons. Miami is a solid 5-2 spreadwise as an underdog side since the start of last year and the 'Canes are 7-3 vig-wise in their last 10 away games and that includes the 33-17 Sun Bowl loss to the Irish back in 2010.

#23 WASHINGTON (3-1) at #2 OREGON (5-0) - 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
t's getting to be that the Oregon Ducks are your late-night TV pals this year: In the past two weeks the thrill-a-minute Ducks have bombarded both Washington State and Arizona in late-night action and now here Chip Kelly's crew is another whopper-sized favorite (it's 24 ½-points at last glance, folks) and you have to wonder whether Washington can weave the same magic it did en route to that 17-13 upset win against Stanford a couple of Thursday nights back.

Hey, the Huskies took away the Stanford aerial game and swallowed up star RB Stepfan Taylor (only 75 yards rushing) and so lassoing the likes of Oregon back Kenjon Barner (195 yards rushing and three scores in last Saturday's 51-26 non-cover win against Wazzau) is critical here or this one could be history just past midnight in the East.

Spread Notes - Oregon has failed to cover four of its first five games this year but did you know the Ducks are 8-4-1 against the odds in Pac-12 tilts since late in the 2010 season? Washington, meanwhile, is a rotten 1-7 ATS in its last eight hoedowns against Oregon and that includes last year's 34-17 loss as 16 ½-point home dogs. Ouch!

#21 NEBRASKA (4-1) at #12 OHIO STATE (5-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Both of these Big 10 teams come off mega-important wins last week - the Cornhuskers came from 17 points down to bop Wisconsin 30-27 while Ohio State grinded out its 17-16 victory at 2 ½-point fav Michigan State - but odds are the winner of this free-for-all will be the one that throws it best. Really!

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez - as Big Red Nation well knows - can be a real hit-or-miss guy while the Buckeyes rank a putrid 98th nationally in pass offense and QB Braxton Miller (933 yards passing with 8 TDs and just 3 INTs) could find that first-year head coach Urban Meyer is gonna take off the kid's "training wheels" here should Nebraska put eight men in the box.

Hey, did you know that Ohio State has held four of its first five foes this year to 16 points or less - and that only happened three times all of last year!

Spread Notes - Ohio State steps into this Big 10 tilt having gone 38-17-2 versus the Las Vegas numbers in all intraconference games since 2005 (that's a sizzling .691 winning rate) and despite some early-season home spread woes this year the Buckeyes still are 17-9 ATS in Columbus the past three-plus seasons. Nebraska is a respectable 16-10 against the odds away since the start of the 2008 season.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the NCAA Football, NFL Week 5 and - of course - the Major-League Baseball Playoff winners just for you and so go ahead and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper! Make sure to get all this week's key gridiron games and the MLB Divisional Series winners and be sure to 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.




By Jim Hurley:

And than there were two ...

There's just a pair of undefeated teams that remain in this here-and-now NFL now that the Arizona Cardinals have been zapped in St. Loo and so the sidebar story here is which team - the Atlanta Falcons or the Houston Texans - will stay perfect longer?

Well, the Falcs get their crack at 5-and-oh come Sunday's Week 5 game in D.C. - the Texans will be the star attraction in this week's Monday Night Football game against the battered/beleaguered New York Jets - but check it out:

Atlanta will host Oakland next week before getting its bye week and so there's a strong possibility that Mike Smith's squad will be unbeaten when we all get to the weekend before Halloween and than up next is a road game (Oct. 28th) at Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles.

Now wouldn't that make for great theatre if it is the former Falcon who is trying to KO this NFC South squad ... wow!

Meanwhile, you know the Texans are heavy-duty favorites against the J-E-T-S this Monday Night (it's 8 points and seemingly growing at press time) and than Gary Kubiak's crew will follow up that prime-timer in Jersey with four straight weeks at home: Games against Green Bay, Baltimore and Buffalo with a Week 8 bye jammed in there too.

Are we looking at a Houston team that could bang out eight wins to start the year before a Nov. 11th road tilt in Chicago?

Hey, maybe those 1972 Miami Dolphins - celebrating their 40th anniversary of their perfect season - will have reason to fret after all!

Okay, so we'll get to our Jim Sez NFL Week 5 Key Previews in just a moment but let's update you all on the NFL Favorites vs. Underdogs battle:

Last week NFL Betting Favorites flopped again - they went 5-9-1 ATS (against the spread) -- and so that means following the outright win by the St. Louis Rams over 2 ½-point fav Arizona this past Thursday Night, NFL Favorites are a collective 22-39-3 spreadwise for a dismal .361 winning rate. Yup, it's been a dog-loving year so far in the NFL - we'll see if that trend continues in Week 5.

One other note: NFL Totals players should be advised that "Overs" now barely trail the "Unders" 32-31-1 following the aforementioned Cardinals-Rams game the other night.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all th NFL Week 5 and - of course - the Major-League Baseball Playoff winners just for you and so go ahead and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper! Make sure to get all this week's key gridiron games and the MLB Divisional Series winners and be sure to 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.

Here's a look at the NFL Week 4 Key Sunday afternoon previews:

ATLANTA (4-0) at WASHINGTON (2-2) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Okay, so how does an NFL team go about trying to beat the Falcons?

For starters, these Washington Redskins must hammer out a minimum of 150 rushing yards against the league's 27th-ranked rush defense (allowing 146.2 ypg) and the 'Skin secondary must get physical - and than stay physical - against this Atlanta receiving corps that right now stars WR Roddy White (27 receptions, 15.3 ypc average and 3 TDs) who's our quarter-pole league MVP.

You can bet the Carolina Panthers are still beating themselves up for not jamming White at the line of scrimmage on that monstrous 59-yard pass completion from QB Matt Ryan late in last week's 30-28 Falcons win but - now with the regular on-field officials back in tow for a second straight week - will they be flagging DBs more on all their chucks? Stay tuned.

One key item for the Redskins and rookie sensation QB Robert Griffin III (see 1,070 yards passing and only one pick):

They must get more "chunk plays" in the passing game after averaging only 12.4 yards-per-catch so far this year - how about a bomb (or two) to WR Leonard Hankerson who caught a 68-yard finger-tip scoring strike a few weeks back.

Spread Notes - Atlanta has covered three of its first four games this year but the Falcons are just 1-4-1 ATS when playing fellow NFC teams since late last season. Washington's split its first four spread decisions this year but the 'Skins are a lousy 11-19-3 ATS as home the past four-plus seasons.

PHILADELPHIA (3-1) at PITTSBURGH (1-2) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Why do you get the feeling that the Steelers have a winning record (they don't, of course) and the Eagles are the ones with the sub-.500 mark?

In this strange-but-so-far-true NFL season the Steelers have squandered a pair of games at AFC West foes (see Denver and Oakland) but Mike Tomlin's club now hangs its collective hat on the following items:

The Steelers are 13-1 SU (straight-up) in home games against NFC foes in the QB Ben Roethlisberger Era and note the hard-to-take-down signal-caller enters this Week 5 game as the league's second highest-rated quarterback (109.2).

Toss into the mix that following last week's bye, the Steelers say S Troy Polamalu, LB James Harrison and RB Rashard Mendenhall all are expected back from injuries here.

On the flip side, the Eagles have been kings of the close call with those now well-documented 1-, 1 and 2-point wins the past few weeks but to pull the road upset here QB Vick must make some plays with his legs here (see season-high 49 yards rushing in last Sunday Night's 19-17 win against the NY Giants) and PK Alex Henery must figure out the Heinz Field environs and make his 40-plus yard attempts ... or else!

Spread Notes - Philadelphia's a money-cooking 0-3-1 against the odds so far this year but the Birds are 32-23 ATS away since the start of the 2006 campaign. Note that Pittsburgh heads into this interconference clash with two spread setbacks in three tries this year but the Steelers are a haughty 13-6 vig-wise at home while dating back to the start of 2010.

DENVER (2-2) at NEW ENGLAND (2-2) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
All the headlines - of course - will be about this being the latest Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady Showdown and just for the record note that Brady owns an 8-4 SU mark against the elder Manning brother through the years.

However, the here-and-now story is this: Last week Manning didn't throw a single interception and wasn't sacked either in the Broncos' 37-6 rocking-chair win against 6 ½-point underdog Oakland as he continues to find his groove/rhythm after missing all of last season with neck woes.

Meanwhile, it wasn't like Brady was a slouch in Week 4 play either: The three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback threw for 340 yards and 3 TDs in that 52-28 blowout win in Buffalo when the Pats exploded for 45 points in the second half.

No doubt both veteran slingers will be looking to find their groove from the get-go here but gotta believe Brady "goes after" Denver's under-siege CB Tracy Porter and so look for his downfield coverage (or lack thereof) to be a real key here.

Spread Notes - Denver has split its first four pointspread verdicts in this new Manning Era but did you realize the Broncos are just 9-15-1 versus the vig in their last 25 non-AFC West tilts? Meanwhile, New England's 3-1 juice-wise so far this season and the Patriots are a rotten 3-6 spreadwise as home favorites dating back to early last season.

NOTE: Catch our NFL Week 5 Sunday Night Game Preview - that's San Diego at New Orleans - in our next edition of Jim Sez.


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