Midweek Football Update & World Series Preview





By Jim Hurley:

Who says there's nothing to look forward in life?

The College Football sked this coming Saturday is chock full of monster matchups - hey, it's surely an early Halloween treat to get the likes of #2 Florida versus #10 Georgia, #14 Texas Tech at #3 Kansas State and #11 Mississippi State at #1 Alabama ... and we haven't even mentioned the biggest bash of 'em all:

That's the head-to-head showdown of #5 Notre Dame at #8 Oklahoma! Yip-pee!

So, that's eight teams in the top 14 of this week's BCS Standings playing head-to-headknockers and - while it may be a stretch to claim that it could be "Shakeup Saturday" when all the dust finally settles, it is possible that the #2, #3 and #5 teams in the land all could lose - sorry, but expecting #1 'Bama to go down as a 23 ½-point favorite ain't very likely - and so next weekend's BCS Standings could look quite different than what you see right now.

We'll preview all of these monster showdowns later this week right here at Jim Sez but for now here's a quickie comment about the top five teams listed above:

  • #1 Alabama - The stats say it all as the Tide's #1 nationally in overall defense, #1 in rush defense and #2 in pass defense. Good luck M-State Dawgs

  • #2 Florida - The 7-and-oh Gators have now beaten six SEC teams this year by a per-game average of 18.8 ppg. Yeah, we'd call that dominant

  • #3 Kansas State - How about the fact that the K-State Wildcats are 6-1 versus the vig this year while scoring 50+ points on four different occasions

  • #5 Notre Dame - The margin for error has been slimmer with the Irish who've won games by 3, 7, 7 and 3 points but the nation's sixth-ranked defense is steel-willed.

Now, here's the Thursday Night NCAA Football TV Preview ...
#18 CLEMSON (6-1, 3-1 ACC) at WAKE FOREST (4-3, 2-3 ACC) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
As you can see from our accompanying chart below, the Clemson Tigers have owned the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in recent years but what really leaps out at you here is that the Deacs have averaged only 12.6 ppg the past five years in these matchups and that's the key here:

The Deacs remain without top wide receiver/playmaker Michael Campanaro and - without a doubt - lefty QB Tanner Price has been lost without him as last week's 16-10 upset win at Virginia was a feather-in-the-cap win for Jim Grobe's gang but all too often there was the veteran Price searching for an open receiver and not finding one.

On the flip side, Clemson's got plenty of ammo for veteran QB Tajh Boyd (15 TDs and 6 INTs) and downfield target WR DeAndre Hopkins (42 receptions and 9 TDs) will be a key here as Wake Forest must limit his YAC plays ... or else!

Spread Notes - Clemson rolls into this prime-time bash on a four-game pointspread winning streak while Wake Forest's 10-4 ATS (against the spread) as underdog sides since late in the 2010 season. Here's the last five Clemson vs. Wake Forest head-to-head matchups (note all home teams in CAPS):

2011 CLEMSON - 16 Wake Forest CLEMSON 31-28
2010 Clemson - 14 WAKE FOREST Clemson 30-10
2009 CLEMSON - 7.5 Wake Forest CLEMSON 38-3
2008 WAKE FOREST - 1 Clemson WAKE FOREST 12-7
2007 CLEMSON - 9 Wake Forest CLEMSON 44-10


TAMPA BAY (2-4) at MINNESOTA (5-2) -- 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Don't look now but the Minnesota Vikings have won four of their last five games and electric RB Adrian Peterson (153 yards rushing and one TD in last weekend's 21-14 win/push against Arizona) is just starting to get back his old form after severe knee surgery last winter.

Gotta believe the Vikes - who allowed Peterson to rush the ball some 23 times last Sunday afternoon - won't blow him out here (we say he gets less than 20 carries in all for this game) and so QB Christian Ponder (coming off that hardly-rousing 58-yaard passing game) must make some positive plays here with both his right arm and his legs.

Plus, expect WR Percy Harvin to get his mitts on the ball more than six times from scrimmage here (see two rushes for 10 yards and 4 receptions worth 37 yards and a score against the Cardinals).

On the flip side, Tampa Bay QB Josh Freeman comes off a career-best 420-yard passing game in that close-but-no-cigar 35-28 loss to New Orleans and one key for Freeman's Bucs here is another quick start. Tampa Bay registered touchdowns on its first three drives against N'Orleans but frittered away a 21-7 lead - if the Bucs get down early here than the noisy Metrodome could haunt Tampa Bay's audible play calls.

Spread Notes - Minnesota is a dead-even but vig-losing 3-3-1 ATS this season while the T-Bay Bucs charge into this game having covered both of their road tilts this season (at New York Giants and at Dallas) after going a shaky 2-7 spreadwise away a year ago.

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers get you all the NFL Week 8 winners beginning with this Bucs-Vikings tilt on Thursday Night Football plus there are loads of NCAA Football and - of course - the World Series too -- so go ahead and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper! 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.


For baseball historians, it's hard to believe that these old-time/proud franchises have never met one another in the Fall Classic in all these years:

This marks the 19th World Series appearance for the Giants - be it the New York or San Francisco Giants - while it's the 11th time the Tigers will be part of the World Series scene but while the NL West gang won it all just two years ago the Motowners have not sipped champagne at season's end since 1984 ... and who could forget that Detroit team starring RF Kirk Gibson and RHP Jack Morris along with Cy Young/MVP reliever Willie Hernandez?

The fact of the matter is the Tigers have their rotation all lined up and ready to go beginning with hefty favorite RHP Justin Verlander (3-0, 0.74 ERA this post-season) in Game #1 but don't sleep on the underdog Giants in this Series opener 'cause they have won the last 13 starts now made by reborn LHP Barry Zito whose Game #5 win in St. Louis last Friday night merely saved San Fran's bacon.

Here's some World Series keys with a reminder that the Tigers are a hefty - 175-to-$100 betting favorite here (you take back + 145 with the SF Giants on a $100 wager):

DETROIT vs. SAN FRANCISCO - Game 1, Wednesday at 8:07 p.m. ET, Fox
The Giants must do what their across-the-bay rivals - the Oakland A's - did for much of their best-of-five series against Detroit and that's keep the bases clear before the at-bats of 3B Miguel Cabrera and 1B Prince Fielder. Heck, a solo shot here or there or a gap double isn't gonna kill the Giants here but a three-run bomb will plus San Fran hurlers must not be afraid to pitch both sluggers inside and induce fly balls in that cavernous park in Frisco.

Secondly, we saw how St. Louis' ragged defense really cost 'em a bushel of runs in that just-completed National League Championship Series and so the Tigers must be sharp on the infield and "guess right" when San Fran employs the hit-and-run play because Giants manager Bruce Bochy really went to school on St. Loo's middle infield positioning (especially in those last two games at home).

Finally, it always seems to come down to the bullpens and there's no doubt that Tigers manager Jim Leyland is whistling past the graveyard when it comes to one-time close Jose Valverde.

Will the crafty Leyland really pop Valverde in there in Game 1 or Game 2 with a one-run ninth-inning lead on the road or will lefty Phil Coke - the closer in that four-game American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees - get the nod?

Don't be entirely shocked if a Coke versus Buster Posey matchup (or two) the first two games helps to decide matters.




By Jim Hurley:

Two weeks ago it was considered a lead-pipe cinch that a Big 12 quarterback was gonna run away with this year's Heisman Trophy race.

Okay, so that scenario is still in place - it's just a different Big 12 quarterback who appears the runaway winner now!

West Virginia slinger Geno Smith had a monster cushion in this year's Heisman Trophy race back in early October but right now we've dropped 'em all the way down to fourth place in this week's Jim Sez ballot while Kansas State QB Collin Klein appears - for now - a mortal lock to be stepping to the podium in New York City the second Saturday in December with speech in hand.

Ahh, the fates and fortunes of the Heisman Trophy and what a "little" 55-14 win by K-State over West Virginia can do to the race, right?

Now, here's our up-to-the-moment Heisman Trophy Watch List ...

COLLIN KLEIN, QB, KANSAS STATE - The new leader in the race for this famed bronze statue was merely marvelous in last weekend's 41-point win at West Virginia as the 6-foot-5, 225-pound senior completed 19-of-21 passes for 323 yards with 3 TDs plus he added another 41 rushing yards. No doubt that Klein is the headiest player we've seen in the sport this year as he deftly follows his blockers on run plays and shows great patience in finding his downfield targets but did you ever think you would see the day someone in this Bill Snyder-coached RB-oriented offense would have 1,397 yards passing with 10 TDs and 2 INTs to go along with 551 rushing yards and 14 ground scores?

MANTI TE'O, LB, NOTRE DAME - Okay, so we bumped this senior stopper back from third place to fifth place in our Heisman poll last week but now we've leap-fogged him past everyone but Klein and that's what a 7-0 start can do for someone wearing the gold helmet in South Bend. Note that Te'o has great stats of his own: He has four INTs and two fumble recoveries to go along with his 69 total tackles (33 of 'em are solo stops) and should this emotional leader of the ND Fighting Irish help his heavy-duty dog team pull out a win in Oklahoma this Saturday night, than the battle between #1 versus #2 here could get a whole lot tighter.
BRAXTON MILLER, QB, OHIO STATE - No question that last week's concussion suffered in the Buckeyes' 29-22 overtime win against Purdue caused this sophomore's stat line to suffer (he threw for only 113 yards and rushed for 47 yards before getting dinged by the Boilers) but we're not about to drop him out of our top five just yet. Overall, Miller has accounted for 1,384 yards passing with 11 TDs and 5 INTs plus he's contributed 959 yards rushing (a healthy 6.8 ypc average) with an additional 10 scores. Miller's been cleared to play this weekend's key game at Penn State and so he could hurdle himself back into the Heisman Trophy forefront with a "W" and some nifty numbers.

GENO SMITH, QB, WEST VIRGINIA - Well aware of the fact that the Mountaineers' senior slinger still sports eye-popping stats such as 2,414 yards passing with 26 TDs and 2 INTs but hard to ignore the stains of the last two weeks when Smith was a less-than-ordinary player for Dana Holgorsen's squad. The folks who remember Robert Griffin III's Heisman Trophy candidacy last year recall he had a little dip in the road too and so don't totally discount this 6-foot-5, 220-pounder who gets a much-needed bye this weekend. Next up: Home to TCU on Nov. 3rd.

AJ McCARRON, QB, ALABAMA - On a team that sports the country's no-doubt-about-it best defense, it's the fiery junior signal-caller who's popped himself right smack into this year's Heisman Trophy race. McCarron - who enters Saturday's Homecoming Game against Miss State with 1,476 yards passing - has 16 TDs and 0 INTs thus far but that Nov. 3rd game at LSU will make-or-break his candidacy and so we'll place McCarron in fifth place with a little asterisk 'cause one false move will push him out of this pack while the likes of Oregon RB Kenjon Barner and/or Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel will get consideration.

On Friday Nite, it's ...CINCINNATI (5-1, 1-0 Big East) at LOUISVILLE (7-0, 2-0 Big East) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The annual "Keg of Nails" showdown between these next-door neighbors/rivals has sported a distinct Cincinnati flavor of late: The Bearcats have won the last four games in a row in this series and so better believe 'Ville boss-man Charlie Strong will be preaching to his seniors that they don't want to leave school without at least one time beating the gang from UC.

To get mission accomplished here, the U of L Cardinals sorely need that one-two rushing attack of RBs Senorise Perry (11 carries for 29 yards against South Florida last week) and sidekick Jeremy Wright (11 carries for only 27 yards against USF) to get jump-started here.

On the flip side, Cincinnati's ground game averages 225.7 ypg and now gets to buck heads with a Louisville defense that surrendered 197 rushing yards in last week's wild 27-25 non-cover win against South Florida. The 'Cats are led by RB George Winn (607 yards rushing) who combines speed with power while averaging a heady 6.3 yards a pop.

Spread Notes - Louisville is just 2-4 ATS (against the spread) this season but the Cardinals have covered seven of their last nine conference games while dating back to the start of last year. Cincinnati enters this prime-time tilt having split its first six spread verdicts this 2012 season and note the 'Cats are just 5-9-1 versus the vig in league games the past two-plus seasons.

NOTE: Get our NCAA Football Saturday Key Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez as we bring you Florida-Georgia, Ohio State-Penn State and - of course - Notre Dame at Oklahoma.


Today’s Hot Plays