Heisman Top Five and Friday College Preview

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There's lots going on in the College Football kingdom -- the whole weekend doesn't exactly begin-and-end with the Alabama at LSU game, you know -- and among the key stories that folks like us will be keeping an eye on include what Heisman Trophy frontrunner QB Collin Klein does in Kansas State's game against Oklahoma State, what Notre Dame does as an unbeaten team coming off that emotionally-charged win at Oklahoma and there are some folks buzzing regarding how a couple of high-profile home underdogs fare as both USC (a once-upon-a-time #1 team in the land) and Michigan State are in the rather rare roles of gobbling up points in their own backyard. And, yes, LSU is a 9.5-point home pup against 'Bama and you just aren't gonna see that happen many times in a normal football lifetime.

Still, we roll out our latest Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch List as we update our top five and so let's get it on:

1. COLLIN KLEIN, QB, KANSAS STATE -- No doubt about it the senior star has taken a major stranglehold on first place in the race for this year's famed bronzed statue and his 8-and-oh Wildcats go for more gusto in the above-mentioned 8 p.m. ET time against visiting Oklahoma State. Last weekend Klein completed 19-of-26 aerial attempts good for 233 yards with two TDs and 0 INTs and so the up-to-date numbers for Klein now include 1,630 yards passing with 12 TDs and only 2 INTs while he's added another 634 yards rushing (a 5.2 yards-per-carry average) and 16 TDs. The 6-foot-5 senior -- who also rushed for a pair of scores last weekend against overmatched Texas Tech -- may not have been on anyone's Heisman Trophy big board comin' into this 2012 campaign but now he's starting to pull away at the top.

2. MANTI TE'O, LB, NOTRE DAME -- The country's best defensive player simply added to his legend with last week's stirring 30-13 Irish win at 11-point favorite Oklahoma and now Te'o has 80 total tackles (39 of which are solo stops) with 5 interceptions and a pair of fumble recoveries and yet those numbers still hardly tell the tale of a senior star who's overcome personal tragedy this year to lead Notre Dame to an 8-0 start. While some folks continue to rate other offensive players ahead of this senior star, we don't because if you've watched Te'o in action than you know he's played his very best ball in Notre Dame's biggest games. Another pick against the Sooners last week may have been a case of right-place, right-time but that's what stars do.

3. BRAXTON MILLER, QB, OHIO STATE -- Here's another star on an unbeaten team as the 9-0 Buckeyes right now may be the best ineligible team in the land but they have plenty of top-notch players and a real leader at the quarterback position. Miller -- a 6-foot-2 sophomore who juked Penn State plenty in last weekend's 35-23 win at Happy Valley -- finished off that game with rather modest stats such as 7-of-19 passing for 143 yards with 1 TD and 1 INT to go along with 134 yards rushing on 25 carries but if you happened to catch that whirling dervish short TD run against the Nittany Lions than you knew that was a"Hesiman Trophy moment" if there ever was one -- even ABC/ESPN play-by-play man Sean McDonough was amazed at the brilliance of that scoring run. On the year, Miller's thrown for 1,527 yards with 12 TDs and 6 INTs plus he's registered 1,093 yards rushing (a 6.6 ypc average) with 12 TDs. Next up: A home game Saturday against four-TD dog Illinois.

4. GENO SMITH, QB, WEST VIRGINIA -- Less than a month ago, this 6-foot-3, 220-pound senior was the runaway leader of the Heisman Trophy chase but now as we begin the all-important month of November the fact of the matter is Smith's one bad outing away from being whacked from our Jim Sez Top 5. Last week the skidding WVU Mountaineers were idle and so this becomes a real put-up or shut-up game against TCU this weekend as to whether or not the 6-foot-3, 220-pounder stays in the Heisman hunt or not. The season stats to this points are tough to knock: Smith has thrown for 2,414 yards with 26 TDs and 2 INTs but those lopsided losses in October versus Texas Tech and Klein's Kansas State crew has the 'Neer slinger back in our little Heisman pack.

5. AJ McCARRON, QB, ALABAMA -- Yes, we've heard the clamoring to get USC wide receiver Marqise Lee into the mix following last weekend's record-breaking 345-yard receiving game against Arizona but we'll hold firm with yet another undefeated quarterback and this lad leads the numero uno team in the land. McCarron -- a 6-foot-4, 210-pound junior -- isn't just a"game manager" for the Crimson Tide any longer as his stats prove with 1,684 yards passing with 16 TDs and 0 INTs and note he comes off a 208-yard, two-TD showing in that dominant 38-7 win against Miss State last weekend. If 'Bama scores some points this Saturday night down on the Bayou than McCarron could leapfrog a couple of folks on this list by this time next week. Do stay tuned!

Editor's Note: One inquisitive friend wanted to know just how good spreadwise the nation's top teams were doing this year and so let's check it out:

  • ALABAMA -- The Crimson Tide is a solid 5-3 ATS (against the spread) this year and that includes"name" covers against Michigan, Arkansas and Miss State.
  • KANSAS STATE -- No doubt the Wildcats have been a major money-earner with that 7-1 ATS mark and that includes a pair of upset wins against Oklahoma and West Virginia.
  • NOTRE DAME -- The Irish is 5-3 versus the vig while also sporting two outright upset wins (against Michigan State and Oklahoma).
  • OREGON -- The good news is the Ducks have covered their last three games in a row but overall this Pac-12 team is just 4-4 spreadwise.

So, the here-and-now results for the nation's top four teams is as follows: The quartet of Alabama, Kansas State, Notre Dame and Oregon is a composite 21-11 against the Las Vegas prices -- probably a touch better than you might think considering all the times these clubs have been big betting favorites.


WASHINGTON (4-4, 2-3 Pac-12) at CALIFORNIA (3-6, 2-4 Pac-12) -- 9 p.m. ET, espn2

The Pac-12 standings show these two teams are merely battling for crumbs in the lower portion of the North Division that stars Oregon, Oregon State and Stanford (a combined 20-3 overall and 13-2 in league play) but at least the Washington Huskies come into play here off a feel-good game as last Saturday night's 20-17 mild upset win against 3 1/2-point fav Oregon State included four picks of OSU's Sean Mannion and a two-TD rushing game for RB Bishop Sankey.

If the elusive Sankey finds the seams in a California defense that ranks a lowly 66th nationally in rush defense (allowing nearly 165 yards a game) than the road dogs have a shot at landing the smallish upset (Cal's a 4 1/2-point betting fav at press time). One key for California: WR Keenan Allen (61 catches and 6 TDs) must be an impact player early here or even his brother QB Zach Maynard (12 TDs and 9 INTs) seems to forget about him for long periods of time.

Spread Notes -- The UW Huskies have split their eight pointspread verdicts so far this year but did you know that the Dawgs have covered five of their last six games against the kids from Berkeley. On the flip side, California is a rotten 3-6 against the odds this year and the Bears are a composite 18-25-1 spreadwise since the start of the 2009 season.




Did somebody out there say crunch time?

The 2012 College Football Season -- one that's brought the likes of USC and Oklahoma to their knees twice each -- has been a real wonderland of fun-and-games for teams such as Kansas State and Notre Dame who weren't expected to be part of the BCS landscape at season's start and yet they are battling for the No. 2 slot behind Alabama and let's not forget the incredible journies of Louisville and Ohio State as neither of these power conference clubs really could have thought they would be without an "L" at this rather late stage of the season.

In honor of the six unbeaten teams that are playing ball on this "nasty November" weekend, we take quick-hitter looks at all half-dozen teams that have yet to lose and we tell you the odds of 'em staying undefeated after this weekend's games have been played.

Click Here For Jim Hurley's Top weekend College & NFL Plays

Roll it! Note all rankings below pertain to the current BCS Standings:

#1 ALABAMA (8-0, 5-0 SEC) at #5 LSU (7-1, 3-1 SEC) -- 8 p.m. ET, CBS
The folks in Baton Rouge this week have been busy discussing the "scars" left from last year's 21-0 Alabama win in the BCS Championship Game -- one that we all know never should have happened in the first place!

So, you're left to wonder if a big-time case of revenge plus a hearty Bengals defense that ranks third nationally (fourth against the pass and 11th versus the run) can knock off the Crimson Tide from its number one perch or are we all headed to another 'Bama coronation game this January against -- pick one -- Oregon or Kansas State or Notre Dame.

There will be no more "do-overs" and so LSU fans better forget any/all hope of playing in the BCS Championship Game if it loses here and let's just say Les Miles' squad needs the following three things to happen:

The Tigers need to score points on defense and/or special teams; LSU needs frosh RB Jeremy Hill (322 yards rushing with a 6.7 ypc average with 5 TDs) to bust a few "chunk plays" of 20-or-more yards 'cause this QB Zach Mettenberger-led offense doesn't seem capable of marching down the field with big pass plays;

And, finally, the aforementioned Miles must take some real calculated risks here -- a fake punt, fake FG or maybe even an onside kick or two when least expected. The Tigers must win the "hidden yardage" battle or there's no hope of beating a 'Bama bunch that is second in the country is pass defense (allowing 146 ypg) and #1 in rush defense (yielding 57.3 ypg) and we haven't even said word one about Alabama QB AJ McCarron who's s tossed 16 TDs and 0 INTs this year.

Odds that Alabama gets beaten on Saturday -- 3.5-to-1

#24 OKLAHOMA STATE (5-2, 3-1 Big 12) at #2 KANSAS STATE (8-0, 5-0 Big 12) -- 8 p.m. ET, ABC
When folks think about Big 12 football, they automatically think offense... right? While on this 2012 K-State Wildcats team that has taken the country by storm, the defense for this Manhattan-based team deserves major kudos when you consider KSU's allowed 19, 16, 21, 14 and 24 points in its conference games.

But, hey, let's not "bury the lead" and that's QB Collin Klein who remains number one in our Jim Sez hearts for this year's Heisman Trophy as the senior star but here Klein must challenge an underrated Oklahoma State defense that's allowed less than 20 points against its last three consecutive conference foes (that's versus Kansas, Iowa State and TCU) and so maybe that 9 1/2-point Las Vegas pointspread appears a bit too tall at further review.

Odds that Kansas State gets beaten on Saturday -- 15-to-1

PITTSBURGH (4-4) at #3 NOTRE DAME (8-0) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Maybe the best thing you can say about this year's edition of the ND Fighting Irish is no task has been too tough for third-year head coach Brian Kelly's club.

Last week's venture into Oklahoma -- where the Sooners were a hefty 11- or 12-point betting favorite (depending on when you played it) -- was proof positive as Notre Dame's lack of offensive pop (among other things) was supposed to keep the Irish down but instead freshman QB Everett Golson rose to the occasion and helped the Irish outscore OU 20-7 in the final frame while LB Manti Te'o was everywhere at all times.

Now, folks in/around South Bend are wondering if the Irish are gonna suffer some sort of emotional letdown here against a so-so Pittsburgh team that ranks in the top 30 nationally both passing the ball and defending the pass ... so Golson may not have a real walk-in-the-park game here even though the oddsmakers have it as Notre Dame favored by 16.5 points.

Odds that Notre Dame gets beaten on Saturday -- 30-to-1

#4 OREGON (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) at #17 USC (6-2, 4-2 Pac-12) -- 7 p.m. ET, Fox

Just to put things in proper perspective, the Oregon Ducks have beaten teams this year by 23, 17, 49, 49, 25, 31, 22 and 56 points -- not a real challenge in the mix and so exactly how will Chip Kelly's team respond here should the Ducks find themselves in a close-fitting affair?

Well, one thing that bodes well for the road favorites here is that nobody's yet stopped this potent ground attack that averages a whopping 331 yards a game but expect the SC defensive game plan here to include an extra man (or two) in the box while daring kid QB Marcus Mariota to chuck it.

Chucking it won't be an issue with USC slinger Matt Barkley who may have fallen off everyone's Heisman Trophy list this year faster than you can say Lane Kiffin but following last week's 345-yard receiving game by WR Marqise Lee you gotta believe it'll be an old-fashioned air raid by the Troy Boys here -- but will all that aerial magic be enough to win this high-profile tilt? Hmmm. Probably not!

Odds that Oregon gets beaten on Saturday -- 5-to-1

ILLINOIS (2-6, 0-4 Big 10) at OHIO STATE (9-0, 5-0 Big 10) -- 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

The Las Vegas oddsmakers don't give the visiting Illini a chance to KO the big, bad Buckeyes here but the $64,000 question is will Urban Meyer's team do enough silly/dumb things to keep Illinois in the heat of battle here?

No doubt the 'Eyes -- ineligible to play in either the Big 10 Championship Game or any post-season bowl game -- absolutely have willed their way into the winner's circle in games against California (see 35-28 win back in mid-September) and that wildly exciting 29-22 overtime triumph over Purdue two weeks ago and here soph QB Braxton Miller (a Big 10-best 121.4 yards per game rushing) will look to weave his way in-and-out of an Illini defense that surrenders more than 365 yards a game.

Odds that Ohio State gets beaten on Saturday ... 150-to-1

TEMPLE (3-4, 2-2 Big East) at #10 LOUISVILLE (8-0, 3-0 Big East) -- 12p.m. ET, ABC regional
Maybe the biggest unknown unbeaten bunch of 'em all -- the Louisville Cardinals -- have the best shot to run the table this year when you stop to consider Charlie Strong's squad only has road games at Syracuse and Rutgers to concern themselves with (yes, the latter is gonna be a whole lot tougher to win than the former!) but will the Cards still be on Cloud Nine here following that emotionally-charged 34-31 OT win against Cincinnati last Friday night?

Sophomore QB Teddy Bridgewater played a major starring role in that OT tilt as he threw for a career-high 416 yards with two TDs and no doubt the Redbirds went to school in the film room this week after Temple surrendered 25 and 49 points the past two weekends.

Hey, here's something to watch for with the 'Ville: Will they slam-dunk Temple RB Montel Harris who is averaging a sub-par 77 yards a game this year. Didn't the Owls expect more from him in 2012?

Odds that Louisville gets beaten on Saturday -- 25-to-1

NOTE: There's NFL Week 9 Sunday afternoon previews straight ahead in the next edition of Jim Sez!


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