Heisman Watch and Friday's Big East Preview



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.





By Jim Hurley:

Hey, we loved the comment made last weekend by ESPN game/studio analyst Rod Gilmore who stated the following (maybe not quite verbatim):

If you-re still in the BCS top 10, than you have a shot (to win it all); if you-re not part of the BCS top 10, forget it!

No doubt it-s not every day we agree with the talking heads at the "sports family of networks" but we believe Mr. Gilmore hit the proverbial nail on the head and so - with that in mind - let-s dissect in quick-hitter fashion here what the BCS Top 10 teams have on their respective plates on this final Saturday in the month of October:

#1 ALABAMA - vs. Miss State, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Tide-s a somewhat bloated 24-point betting favorite against SEC West rival Miss State but maybe Nick Saban-s crew is a three-plus TD favorite against this #11th-ranked BCS squad from Starkville simply because nobody scores on 'Bama! Note that Alabama (7-0, 4-0 SEC) has surrendered a grand total of 58 points so far (or 8.3 points per game) and may we repeat an earlier-week statement made here in this Jim Sez column that Tide QB AJ McCarron has 16 TDs and 0 INTs ... va-va-va voom!

#2 FLORIDA - vs. #10 GEORGIA (in Jacksonville) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
You know the deal on this SEC games on CBS this year - most have been total blowouts (see last week-s 44-11 win by Florida over South Carolina, for the latest example) and so must admit we haven-t heard the dulcet tones of Verne Lundquist as much as in past years but this one should be a tight fit despite the fact the Las Vegas know-it-alls have it at Gators minus 6 ½ points at press time.

Florida (7-0, 6-0 SEC) has managed to pound out a half-dozen league wins already even though you-d have to say Will Muschamp-s crew is a bit one-dimensional with the country-s 24th-best ground game and 113th-ranked passing attack.

If Georgia (6-1, 4-1 SEC) doesn-t play "soft" on defense - an inside joke there after Dawgs senior S Shawn Williams called the team-s stop unit just that following a Monday practice - than this could be a major free-for-all at the finish line.

#3 KANSAS STATE - vs. Texas Tech, 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox
So, what will Bill Snyder-s K-State squad do for a proverbial encore following last weekend-s dynamic 55-14 win at West Virginia? Well, Kansas State (7-0, 4-0 Big 12) is shooting for its first 8-0 start since 1999 and new Heisman Trophy front-runner QB Collin Klein (10 TDs and 2 INTs) keeps spreading the wealth and one question here is can T-Tech-s secondary blanket WR Tyler Lockett who is averaging nearly 18 yards a catch this year.

Stat of this game: Kansas State has allowed only 7 passing touchdowns this year and it has 8 interceptions. Wow!

#4 OREGON - vs. Colorado, 3 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
The Ducks continue to pile up the impressive offensive numbers - they-re averaging 317 yards per game on the ground this year - but head coach Chip Kelly may have to apply the brakes this weekend against 45 ½-point dog Colorado or this could be one of those 80-14 type tilts. Want to watch for something specific here? Than keep an eye on Oregon TE Colt Lyeria (only 12 receptions but 4 TDs) who is a combo of New England Patriots- TEs Aaron Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski.

#5 NOTRE DAME - at #8 OKLAHOMA, 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Let-s just say that the 7-0 Notre Dame Fighting Irish would sign for another one of these just-get-by wins - the South Bend gang has beaten four foes by seven points or less this year including last week-s nail-biting 17-14 non-cover win against BYU but two things Brian Kelly-s club needs to accomplish here is shorten the game (if the Irish win time of possession by 10 minutes or more, it will pull the surprise here in Norman) and don-t allow Sooners wide-outs to get many YAC big plays. Note that Oklahoma (5-1) has forced nine turnovers and registered six quarterback sacks in its last three games - all resounding wins against Texas Tech, Texas and Kansas.

#6 LSU - The Tigers (7-1, 3-1 SEC) have a bye this weekend; next up is the Nov. 3rd home game vs. Alabama. 'Nuff said!

#7 OREGON STATE - at Washington, 10:15 p.m. ET, Pac-12 Network
Historians know that Oregon State (6-0, 4-1 Big 12) has never started off a season with seven consecutive wins but here Mike Riley-s club (a four-point betting favorite) has major karma on its side as QB Sean Mannion is back after missing a pair of games plus the Beavers know they can get to Washington QB Keith Price (8 TDs and 8 INTs) who seemingly has regressed from the kid we saw light it up in last year-s Alamo Bowl loss to Baylor.
#9 USC - at Arizona, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional
Don-t forget about these Troy Boys 'cause they still have a pulse when it gets to playing in this winter-s BCS Championship Game. In fact, USC (6-1, 4-1 Pac-12) has won all four of its games following that mid-September loss to Stanford by twin-figure margins and QB Matt Barkley enters this clash in the desert with the conference-s all-time mark of 102 passing touchdowns after tossing six scoring strikes in that 50-6 win against lowly Colorado last weekend. First team to 40 wins here?

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the NCAA Football, NFL Week 8 and - of course - Baseball-s World Series 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 World 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.


Let-s take a few moments to examine three College Football teams that are really bankrupting their backers this year:

BOSTON COLLEGE - The cries to fire fourth-year head coach Frank Spaziani certainly have been heard in/around Chestnut Hill as he-ll get axed the minute this dreadful 2012 season comes to an end but all you know right now is BC-s a miserable 1-6 against the spread this year and there appears to be more than enough offensive ammo so that shouldn-t be the case. However, Spaziani and his offensive coaches have botched plenty of red-zone opportunities this year and QB Chase Rettig has not always been given much help by his pass-catchers and so $100 per-play wagers on the Eagles this season will have got you in the hole some $560 ... it-s time to cry uncle!

IOWA - So much for the good old days under 14th-year boss-man Kirk Ferentz whose Hawkeyes enter this weekend-s Big 10 game against Northwestern with a rotten 2-5 ATS mark that includes home losses to 3 ½-point pup Iowa State, 14 ½-point dog Central Michigan and - than just last weekend - to 1 ½-point underdog Penn State. The 'Eyes have been bogged down by terrible quarterback play from veteran James Vandenberg plus the ground game-s been spotty with injuries (as usual) marring the day-to-day makeup of this running back corps. Throw into the mix the fact that Iowa-s once-proud defense has taken a step (or two) backwards and you get another bad spread season from a once-dependable program.

VIRGINIA - It-s hard to believe that the Wahoos still haven-t covered a single pointspread this season as Mike London-s crew heads into this bye week at 0-7-1 against the odds (the push came in the season-opening 43-19 so-what win against Richmond) and go ahead and blame any/all of the following items: Inconsistent QB play whether it be one-time starter Michael Rocco or current #1 Phillip Sims, awful red-zone execution and no mental/physical toughness on "D". Folks, we-ve watched a handful of Virginia games this year and they are your prototypical "bad team" whether it be poor tackling when defending opponents- third-down plays or ill-timed penalties. Thomas Jefferson would not have been too proud!

NOTE: Get our NFL Week 8 Key Sunday afternoon Previews in tomorrow-s edition of Jim Sez!


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