College Football's Super Saturday
COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S SUPER SATURDAY
FULLY CHARGED AS WE BRING YOU THE THREE TOP 25 HEAD-TO-HEAD PREVIEWS PLUS WHAT TO WATCH 'ROUND THE COUNTRY
By Jim Hurley:
Okay, so we're slightly beyond the halfway point of this 2012 College Football Season and that got us to wondering:
What does this first version of the BCS Standings look like in comparison to the season-opening Associated Press Top 25 poll?
Well, for starters the team that was on top of the AP poll - the USC Trojans - are #10 in this first look at the BCS Standings while the team that was #2 in the opening AP poll - that's the Alabama Crimson Tide - has snagged the #1 spot in the BCS and they may never let go!
Otherwise, the real newsmakers include the following:
Florida is #2 in the BCS right now; the Gators started the year at #23 in the AP.
Kansas State is #4 in the BCS Standings; the Wildcats opened the year at #22 in the AP.
And, conversely, Michigan and Arkansas were #8 and #10, respectively, in the opening AP poll and neither one of 'em "hit the board" in this first edition of the BCS Standings.
In terms of conference-by-conference news, note that the SEC had a conference-high seven teams in the AP poll to start the year and they've got seven teams in this debut BCS Standings while hats off to the oft-maligned Big East that started off with just a single AP 25 entrant (see #25 Louisville) and now has three teams inside the BCS top 21 (see #15 Rutgers, #16 Louisville and #21 Cincinnati)... so there!
Meanwhile, the question-of-the-week to ponder down the road is this: Who gets into the BCS Championship Game on Jan. 7, 2013 should Alabama, Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all sport undefeated records at season's end?
Go ahead and chomp on that query for a minute or two, will 'ya!
Okay, lots on the Jim Sez menu here and we'll get it started with the three showdowns pitting BCS Top 25 teams against one another and than we'll go 'round the country for some NCAA Football News & Notes while eyeballing some of this weekend's other key games. Note the numbers before team names reflect the BCS Standings:
Here's Saturday's key College Football Previews...
#7 SOUTH CAROLINA (6-1) at #2 FLORIDA (6-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Okay, so it's merely not enough to have long-time Florida head coach Steve Spurrier returning to "The Swamp" as the boss-man of the other team (he's done it three times before including a 36-14 win in Gainesville just two years ago) but heap onto that factoid that the winner of this game gets the inside track at winning the SEC East and so plenty is on the line here, right?
The visiting Gamecocks better have their chinstraps buckled tight on "D" as Florida's born-again ground game - ranked 14th nationally while averaging 233.3 ypg - will try the smash-mouth approach against a quick-but-light South Carolina stop unit starring soph DE Jadeveon Clowney.
Keep in mind that last week's 31-17 Gator win at Vanderbilt starred run-first QB Jeff Driskel who bolted free for 177 yards and three TDs - afterwards he told reporters than Vandy never touched him on any of the three scoring runs! - but will Driskel be allowed to dart in and out of the Carolina defense here? Hmmm
One real X-factor at work: South Carolina star RB Marcus Lattimore (bruised hip) may not start this SEC clash and so don't be shocked if QB Connor Shaw runs more options and winds up with 15-to-20 carries. If Shaw can crack a couple of big ones, the Gamecocks are "live" here.
Spread Notes - Florida enters this marquee matchup riding a five-game pointspread winning streak but did you know the Gators have failed to cover their last three in a row versus South Carolina? The SC Gamecocks, meanwhile, have covered six games in a row this year following that season-opening non-cover 17-13 win against 6 ½-point pup Vanderbilt.
#4 KANSAS STATE (6-0) at #13 WEST VIRGINIA (5-1) - 7 p.m. ET, Fox
Life in the Big 12 surely got a bit ugly last weekend for the West Virginia Mountaineers: The former Big East crew was slam-dunked 49-14 at Texas Tech as Heisman Trophy hopeful QB Geno Smith delivered only one touchdown pass and never could figure out the west Texas winds in Lubbock - now a return home to Mountaineer Field should help but check out Smith's foe this time around:
The K-State Wildcats allow just 16.5 points per game and keep in mind Bill Snyder's crew has gone up against the likes of Miami and Oklahoma. If Smith expects a fun night of pitch-and-catch with favorite wide-out targets Stedman Bailey (55 catches and 14 TDs) and/or Tavon Austin (67 receptions and 8 TDs) he may have to think twice because Kansas State will bring plenty of blitzes here and SS Ty Zimmerman has a habit of sitting back and making big picks (see the clincher against Oklahoma back on Sept. 22nd).
This battle to land Heisman Trophy votes also features KSU quarterback Collin Klein who's passed and run for nearly 1,600 yards already and pay special attention here to WR Tramaine Thompson who averages 16.6 yards a completion this year - might Klein dole out some of WVU's own medicine here and throw some deep balls that could catch the 'Neers napping?
Spread Notes - Kansas State's covered five of its first six games this season and the Wildcats are a tasty 16-8 ATS (against the spread) when grabbing up points while dating back to the start of the 2009 season. On the flip side, West Virginia is just 2-4 against the Las Vegas prices so far this 2012 season and the 'Neers have failed to cover six of their last seven games when placed in the chalk role.
#6 LSU (6-1) at #18 TEXAS A&M (5-1) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
It is - after all - your classic matchup of do-it-all kid quarterback against a steely-edged defense. Now that Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel has made our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch List (and just about everyone else's, for that matter) this becomes "must-see" football as the redshirt freshman comes off an SEC-record 576-yard performance in last weekend's wild 59-57 non-cover win against Louisiana Tech as Manziel rushed for 181 yards and three scores and threw for 395 yards and three TDs.
Than, again, this is the LSU defense he's going against here and the Tigers enter the fray ranked second in the land in passing defense (just 131 yards a game) and seventh nationally in rush defense (yielding 91.4 ypg) but the whole key for the home underdog Aggies here could well be what can A&M's other offensive players provide and so keep a close eye on big WR Mike Evans (36 catches) who made some big plays against L-Tech but also appeared to have trouble late with hamstring and/or leg-related woes.
LSU needs another strong game from frosh RB Jeremy Hill who banged out 124 rushing yards in last weekend's 23-21 non-cover win against South Carolina - the red-zone woes of Tigers QB Zach Mettenberger have been well-documented this year and if Les Miles' guys settle for 3's here than they could be playing with fire.
Time to check out "Johnny Football"!
Spread Notes - LSU comes skidding spreadwise into this high noon Eastern time tilt as the Bayou Bengals have dropped their last four in a row to the vig. Texas A&M is a dead-even but vig-losing 3-3 against the odds this year and the Aggies are a collective 9-19-1 spreadwise as underdog sides since the start of 2007 (that's a .321 winning rate).
NCAA FOOTBALL NEWS & NOTES
Here's some other things on our Jim Sez radar screen when it comes to Saturday's games...
#18 Texas Tech administered that major beat-down of West Virginia last weekend but here the Red Raiders play at in-state rival TCU. Sure, the Horned Frogs were crushed that QB Casey Pachall withdrew from school following his driving while drinking arrest but how about new starter Trevone Boykin who debuted by throwing four touchdown passes in a mesmerizing 49-21 upset win at 6-point fav Baylor? If Boykin can keep this TCU (5-1) ship steady, Gary Patterson's gang could have a shot at a big-time bowl game this holiday season...
#12 Florida State - a three-TD betting favorite for its Sunshine State Showdown game at Miami - has not been this sized favorite against the hated Hurricanes in more than a decade. In fact, Florida State was a 12-point fav last year against "The U" and wound up failing to cover the price en route to a 23-19 win. Meanwhile, is it really possible that the 'Canes rank 118th nationally (out of 124 FBS teams) in rush defense while yielding nearly 254 ground yards per game. Ugh...
Finally, #7 Ohio State - gunning for its first 8-0 start since 2007 - hosts Purdue at high noon ET and the Buckeyes have remained unbeaten despite the fact they rank 100th nationally in pass offense and 101st nationally in pass defense. The 'Eyes are allowing over 400 offensive yards per game that ranks 'em 10th in the 12-team league and remember LB Etienne Sabino (broken leg) won't be back for at least another three weeks.
THE NFL WEEK 7 SUNDAY AFTERNOON KEY PREVIEWS ARE HERE AS WE CHECK OUT RAVENS-TEXANS,'SKINS-GIANTS AND JETS-PATS
PLUS WE RANK THE TOP 3 NFL COACHING JOBS THIS YEAR (SO FAR)
By Jim Hurley
How's this for a strange-but-true NFL season so far?
We're now a game into Week 7 on this 2012 season and there's not a single team with a winning record in either the AFC East or the AFC West and the league's only unbeaten team - that's the 6-and-oh Atlanta Falcons - seem to get less public praise we can remember than any undefeated team at this stage of an NFL campaign.
In reality, everything's seemingly been turned upside down in Commish Roger Goodell's kingdom from that early-season replacement officials dark cloud to the here-and-now where two of the last three Super Bowl-winning teams (that's New Orleans in 2009 and Green Bay in 2010) are a combined 4-7 SU (straight-up) and on the outside looking in at the current (and albeit early) chase for playoff spots.
So, this all got us here at Jim Sez to be thinking ... with all the topsy-turvy nature to this season, what have been the best coaching jobs turned in so far?
Here's our ranking of the Top 3 NFL Coaching Jobs - feel free to disagree if you'd like:
1 - JEFF FISHER, ST. LOUIS RAMS - Maybe the team's 3-3 SU (straight-up) mark doesn't exactly wow you (we understand!) but do keep in mind this NFC West crew won a combined 15 games between the start of 2007 through the end of last year (a 15-65 mark in all) and now this club plays with major heart and with a never-say-die attitude. Note that four of the Rams' first six games have been decided by 6 points or less and if star rookie PK Greg Zuerlein could have made a couple of "gimmes"last weekend in Miami this St. Loo bunch would be the true toast of the city ... yeah, along with those unbelievable baseball Cardinals.
2 - LESLIE FRAZIER, MINNESOTA VIKINGS - Here's another major rags-to-riches story inside the NFC: The Vikings had a preseason won/loss forecast of just 6 victories but there's an opportunity this weekend to go 5-2 with the home date against Arizona and so let's toss some bouquets the way of Minny's two-plus year head coach. Frazier's already pushed his club into the winner's circle as underdogs against San Francisco and Detroit this season and how about the fact the Vikes are a perfect 3-and-oh SU at home after winning just once inside the Metrodome a year ago? The defensive-minded boss man has allowed his offense to take the training wheels off QB Christian Ponder and the defense has yielded 13 points or less in three different games. Bravo!
3- MIKE SMITH, ATLANTA FALCONS - Maybe other gridiron "experts"believe that the Falcs' balloon will burst soon enough but the reality is this NFC South squad remains the league's only unbeaten bunch and gut-check wins the past three weeks against Carolina, Washington and Oakland have proven that this franchise has indeed turned the corner and knows how to win the tight-fitting games. Smith's confidence in both the offense/defense has been illustrated on many occasions this year and somebody's gotta get a round of applause for allowing QB Matt Ryan to throw that long ball from his own end zone a couple of weeks back in the aforementioned win against the Panthers, right?
If you're looking for "honorable mention"types to our NFL Coaching Job of the Year award for now than don't forget Miami's first-year coach Joe Philbin, New York Giants two-time Super Bowl-winning boss Tom Coughlin and Chicago coach Lovie Smith. Three cheers for this trio as well!
Now, here's a look at the NFL Week 7 Key Sunday afternoon previews:
BALTIMORE (5-1) at HOUSTON (5-1) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Just 'cause the Texans finally lost a game last week is no reason for anyone to push the proverbial panic button in the Space City but folks in these parts know that Houston's lost all six of its games against Baltimore while dating back to the 2002 birth of this AFC South franchise. Plus, there is some concern with a Houston secondary that last Sunday night surrendered six scoring strikes from Green Bay slinger Aaron Rodgers - might Baltimore QB Joe Flacco (1,924 yards passing with 8 TDs and 4 INTs) be licking his chops a bit here while eyeballing WR Torrey Smith for some deep passes?
Spread Notes - Baltimore staggers into this tilt on a four-game pointspread losing streak but note the Ravens are 12-8-1 ATS away since the start of the 2010 campaign. Meanwhile, Houston's 4-2 vig-wise so far this year and the Texans are 11-5-1 ATS as betting favorites the past year-plus.
WASHINGTON (3-3) at NEW YORK GIANTS (4-2) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Loved how the Giants downplayed that terrific 26-3 win in San Francisco last week - maybe the football world at large expected the 49ers to win that one going away but not Big Blue!
Now, the G-men must prove that they can get a little angry at an opponent as last year's clean sweep by the 'Skins (see Spread Notes below) has a few of Coughlin's crew in a rather feisty mood but the real X-and-O key here is can Washington's rag-tag pass defense (last in the league while allowing 328.3 yards a game) slow down QB Eli Manning who's completed 10-or-more passes this year to six different receivers and mega-star Victor Cruz (43 receptions and 6 TDs) may gets a few chances to do the salsa here.
Spread Notes - The NY Giants are 3-2-1 spreadwise this season and 11-3-1 ATS overall dating back to the middle of last season. Note that Washington won/covered both matchups a year ago (a 28-14 triumph as 1 ½-point home dogs and a 23-10 win as 6-point road pups) and the 'Skins have split their six overall spread verdicts this season.
NEW YORK JETS (3-3) at NEW ENGLAND (3-3) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Want to know something a tad strange?
The Jets and Patriots each have won on the same weekend only once so far in 2012 - see Week 1 - and so it's not as if either of these AFC East rivals has gotten any real momentum going forward.
If the double-digit dog Jets wish to build on last weekend's sturdy 35-9 win against 3 ½-point dog Indianapolis, than RB Shonn Greene - who rushed for a career-best 161 yards last Sunday - must bang out the key between-the-tackle ground yards here and thereby keep that up-tempo Pats offense off the field.
Hey, did you realize that New England ranks third in the NFL in passing offense (293 ypg) and fourth in rushing offense (152.3 ypg) and yet Bill Belichick's crew found ways to blow fourth-quarter leads against Arizona, Baltimore and Seattle?
Spread Notes - New England is 4-2 versus the Vegas price tags this season and the Patriots are 11-6 ATS in head-to-head battles with the J-E-T-S since 2004. Note that NYJ is 3-2-1 ATS this season and a collective 31-28-1 ATS in the Rex Ryan Era that started in 2009.
NOTE: Catch our NFL Week 7 Sunday Night Game Preview - that's Pittsburgh at Cincinnati -- in our next edition of Jim Sez.
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