New Year's Bowl Games and NFL Wild Cards

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

IT'S TIME TO RING OUT THE OLD AND RING IN THE NEW WITH 10 SUPER-BIG MONDAY/TUESDAY BOWL GAMES (WITH SIX OF 'EM BEING PLAYED ON JAN. 1) ...

PLUS WE TAKE A QUICKIE PEEK AT THE NFL'S WILD CARD WEEKEND TOO

By Jim Hurley:

Tony, Tony, Tony ... you've done it again!

Nobody's picking on you, Tony Romo, but your quest - and the quest to be part of the NFL Playoffs of your still-dysfunctional Dallas Cowboys - will have to wait yet another year.

The Cowboys' 28-18 loss in Washington on Sunday night - the wrap-up game of the NFL Week 17 card and the league's regular season, for that matter - featured only one healthy quarterback (that was you, Romo!) and yet his three interceptions doomed the 'Boys and so get ready to hear "Hail to the Redskins" plenty all this week as D.C.'s team is in the post-season and will host its first playoff game since 1999.

Gee, it only seems like a lifetime ago.

In fact, when the 'Skins challenge red-hot Seattle this Sunday in the final of four NFL wild card round weekend games it will pit two headline-making rookie quarterbacks in the Seahawks' Russell Wilson and the Redskins' Robert Griffin III and so we're assured of getting one of these dudes into the divisional round and Indianapolis rookie QB Andrew Luck will be part of the fun-n-games when his team plays at Baltimore in this Sunday's opener (1 p.m. Eastern time).

Meanwhile, the Saturday slate that kicks off the NFL Playoffs brings us a repeat of last year's AFC Wild Card Game between Cincinnati at Houston and a rematch game from this past Sunday's card - but this time Green Bay will host RB Adrian Peterson and the Minnesota Vikings and go ahead right now and predict which (if any) road teams are gonna survive-and-advance.

Do keep in mind that last year's NFL Wild Card round went like this (and note the home teams are in CAPS below):

2011 WILD CARD WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
HOUSTON - 4 Cincinnati 31-10
NEW ORLEANS - 10.5 Detroit 45-28
NY GIANTS - 3 Atlanta 24-2
DENVER + 7.5 Pittsburgh (ot) 29-23

That's right! All four NFL Wild Card Round home teams won a year ago - and all of 'em covered the all-important Las Vegas pointspread too - so don't laugh at the know-nothing prognosticators who blabber on all this week and then tell you they "like all the home teams" because last year they happened to get it right! Okay, lots of time this week to kick around all the NFL Wild Card Round matchups and so make sure you check back in with us right here at Jim Sez and we'll set your straight plus remember the following:

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will light it up with the NFL Wild Card Round games this Saturday/Sunday and all through the NFL Playoffs leading up to Super Bowl XLVII on February 3rd plus get all the NBA and NCAA Basketball Winners each and every day too - and make you're all aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper to cash in big with all the College Football Bowl Games that rock-n-roll on right into the New Year and beyond and remember there are Four (4) Bowl Games on Monday, December 31st and another Six (6) Bowl Games on Tuesday, January 1, 2013 and there's Bowl action every day right thru the BCS Championship Game on Monday, January 7th when #1 Notre Dame tangles with #2 Alabama. So don't you get left out in the cold! 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 and note the check-in times are after 1 p.m. ET for weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays and Sundays.

THE COLLEGE BOWL LINEUP

ALL THE DEC. 31ST AND JAN. 1ST GAME PREVIEWS

No time to waste ... let's get you our Jim Sez College Football Bowl Previews for this final day of the 2012 calendar year and the first day of 2013. Here goes:

Today, it's ...

MUSIC CITY BOWL - LP Field; Nashville, TN
N.C. STATE (7-5) vs. VANDERBILT (8-4) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Vandy Commodores have strung together back-to-back bowl appearances now (they lost 31-24 to Cincinnati in last year's Liberty Bowl) and a defense that ranks 9th nationally against the pass and 18th overall nationally is the real star of second-year head coach James Franklin's squad - if LB Archibald Barnes and mates can find a way to slow down N.C. State slinger Mike Glennon (an ACC-best 3,648 yards passing with 30 TDs this season) than the SEC favorites should prevail.

One must-watch guy on the Vanderbilt offense is WR Jordan Matthews who had a school-record 1,262 yards receiving this year - hey, no more Tom O'Brien as Pack coach as he was canned November 25th and former Northern Illinois boss-man Dave Doeren is on deck with interim Dana Bible calling the shots here.

Spread Notes - Vanderbilt rolls into this tilt on a five-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak and the Commodores are 16-8 vig-wise overall since the start of the 2011 campaign. Meanwhile, N.C. State is just 5-6-1 spreadwise this year but does rock into this one on a three-game ATS winning streak and the Wolf Pack is a perfect 6-and-oh vig-wise in bowls the past 10 years.

THE LAST 3 MUSIC CITY BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Miss State - 6.5 Wake Forest 23-17
2010 North Carolina - 1 Tennessee 30-27
2009 Clemson - 6.5 Kentucky 21-13

SUN BOWL - Sun Bowl Stadium; El Paso, TX
USC (7-5) vs. GEORGIA TECH (6-7) - 2 p.m. ET, CBS
The one-and-only important storyline here is about someone who won't play - and that's USC slinger Matt Barkley who sprained his throwing shoulder in November and missed the marquee matchup against now-#1 Notre Dame and now is sitting it out here in west Texas.

So, QB Max Wittek - who showed a lively if inaccurate - arm against the Irish in that 22-13 loss - gets the nod here for the country's biggest disappointment but be sure to check out USC wide-out Marqise Lee who sported an FBS-high 112 catches for 1,680 yards and 18 TDs.

Now, if only Georgia Tech will chuck it around a bit here ... forget about it!

Spread Notes - USC is a rotten 3-9 against the prices this year and that makes the Men of Troy just 20-29-1 ATS overall the past four years ... so much for the good old days! Georgia Tech registered an 8-5 ATS mark this year and under fifth-year head coach Paul Johnson the Yellow Jackets are 13-10 ATS whenever placed in the underdog role - not quite as good as his Navy years, right?

THE LAST 3 SUN BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Utah + 1.5 Georgia Tech 30-27
2010 Notre Dame + 2.5 Miami 33-17
2009 Oklahoma - 10 Stanford 31-27

LIBERTY BOWL - Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium; Memphis, TN
TULSA (10-3) vs. IOWA STATE (6-6) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, it's not often you get a "same-season revenge game" in these bowls but that's the case here as Iowa State cranked out a 38-23 win as 2-point home dogs against Tulsa way back on September 1st as QB Steele Jantz aired a pair of scoring strikes in the win but truth is Cyclones head coach Paul Rhoads changes his quarterbacks more than we change our socks and so heaven knows who will start - or finish - this game under center for the gang from Ames.
Know this: Tulsa sports a true three-headed running back system with RB Alex Singleton (41 career touchdowns) getting plenty of support from Trey Watts (team-high 959 rushing yards) and Ja'Terian Douglas (857 yards rushing).
Spread Notes - Iowa State's only 5-6-1 juice-wise this 2012 season and the Cyclones are a dead-even but vig-losing 2-2-1 ATS in bowls the past 10 years and that includes a 27-13 loss to 1 ½-point pup Rutgers in last year's Pinstripe Bowl in New York City. Note that Tulsa enters this matinee tilt with a solid 8-5 ATS mark this season and the Golden Hurricane is 13-7 ATS in its last 20 away games.

THE LAST 3 LIBERTY BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Cincinnati + 2 Vanderbilt 31-24
2010 UCF + 6 Georgia 10-6
2009 Arkansas - 7.5 East Carolina 20-17

CHICK-FIL-A BOWL - Georgia Dome; Atlanta, GA
#8 LSU (10-2) vs. #14 CLEMSON (10-2) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's the first time in four years that the LSU Tigers are not playing in a January bowl game but - let's face it - this New Year's Eve tilt is a whole lot better than some of the junk we're getting on New Year's Day ... yes, we love football and all but the Jan. 1st card is one of the weakest in memory as you will soon see!

If LSU is gonna ring the bell on a third straight 11-wins-or-better season than Les Miles' defense must hound Clemson QB Tajh Boyd who threw for 3,550 yards and 34 TDs - but everyone wants to know if Boyd's stats are inflated because of inferior competition or not?

Look closely at LSU signal-caller Zach Mettenberger who threw only two of his 11 TDs away from Baton Rouge but here gut feeling is the SEC West gang will allow him to make some deep throws and so WR Odell Beckham (40 receptions/16.8 yards-per-catch average) could be a prime-time player here in the dome.

Spread Notes - LSU is a sub-par 5-7 ATS overall this season but the Bayou Bengals have covered six of their last nine bowl games. Meanwhile, Clemson is 8-4 against the odds overall this year but note the ACC Tigers have failed to cover six of their last seven bowl tilts.

THE LAST 3 CHICK-FIL-A BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Auburn - 3 Virginia 43-24
2010 Florida State + 2.5 South Carolina 26-17
2009 Virginia Tech - 5 Tennessee 37-14

On Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013, it's ...

TICKET CITY BOWL - Cotton Bowl; Dallas, TX
PURDUE (6-6) vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (7-5) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Raise your hand if you don't think this should get New Year's Day billing! One thing about the heavy-duty favored Okie State Cowboys - a 17-point betting choice right from the start - is that they started three different quarterbacks this year though coach Mike Gundy says junior Clint Chelf gets the nod here and he will be looking to connect with WR Josh Stewart (96 receptions and 7 TDs while RB Joseph Randle (1,351 yards rushing) is aces. Purdue axed head coach Danny Hope back on November 25th and so receivers coach Patrick Higgins calls the shots here before Kent State's Darrell Hazell comes aboard for good.

Spread Notes - Oklahoma State is 7-5 odds-wise this season and the Cowpokes have covered 10 of their last 14 games when in the role of double-digit betting favorite. Purdue, on the other hand, is 6-6 ATS overall this season and when the Boilermakers are gobbling up a twin-figure price tag they are 5-6-1 ATS the past three years.

THE LAST 2 TICKET CITY BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Houston - 6.5 Penn State 30-14
2010 Texas Tech - 7.5 Northwestern 45-38

GATOR BOWL - Everbank Field; Jacksonville, FL
MISS STATE (8-4) vs. #20 NORTHWESTERN (9-3) - 12 p.m. ET, espn2
The Northwestern Wildcats have not won a bowl game since the 1949 Rose Bowl - that's a 63-year dry spell that includes nine consecutive bowl defeats -- but maybe the fates/fortunes of this Big 10 team is about ready to change here as do-everything QB Kain Colter (820 yards rushing) is reported healthy after a series of body part injuries this season and keep an eye on soph QB Trevor Siemian who threw for 1,192 yards in "part-time" duty this year.

One question regarding this Miss State gang that has won back-to-back bowl outings the past two years against Michigan and Wake Forest, respectively, is that QB Tyler Russell still is suffering the effects of a sprained ankle and thus the major reason why this Las Vegas price has gone from State minus 3 points to N'western favored by a deuce.

Spread Notes - Miss State is 6-6 spreadwise this season and note the Bulldogs are just 3-9 vig-wise away since the start of the 2011 season (and that includes this year's ugly 1-4 ATS away mark). Northwestern meanwhile, is one of the country's best bets this year while standing 11-1 against the odds (the lone spread loss was at Penn State back on Oct. 6th) and note the Wildcats have covered three of their last four bowls tilts under boss-man Pat Fitzgerald.

THE LAST 3 GATOR BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Florida - 2.5 Ohio State 24-17
2010 Miss State - 3 Michigan 52-14
2009 Florida State + 3 West Virginia 33-21

OUTBACK BOWL - Raymond James Stadium; Tampa, FL
#10 SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2) vs. #18 MICHIGAN (8-4) - 1 p.m. ET, ABC
If it's up to the best player on the field here - and that's South Carolina DE Jadeveon Clowney (13 sacks this year) - than he'd like to face off with Michigan QB Denard Robinson who missed two games and was relegated to an oft-forgotten running back in the Wolverines loss to Ohio State. Robinson is iffy to play at quarterback here as a right elbow injury continues to bother him and so expect Devin Gardner to likely get the start here and let's hope Michigan boss-man Brady Hoke lets the kid throw it more providing he gets the time.

Two quickie notes on the SC Gamecocks:

Ole ball coach Steve Spurrier is likely to play both Dylan Thompson and Connor Shaw at quarterback (the latter threw for 15 TDs this year but suffered with late-season foot woes) and keep in mind this is an opportunity for Carolina to win back-to-back bowl games for the first time in the eight-year Spurrier Era and that's important to this whole SEC program ... trust us.

Spread Notes - Michigan is 5-7 against the Las Vegas prices this year after going a solid 7-4-1 ATS in head coach Brady Hoke's debut season in 2011. The maize-and-blue is 2-4-1 spreadwise in bowl games since 2003. South Carolina's 8-4 versus the vig this year - and that included a haughty six-game early-season spread winning streak - and note the Gamecocks have covered seven of their last 11 non-conference affairs the past three seasons.

THE LAST 3 OUTBACK BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Michigan State + 2 Georgia(3ot) 33-30
2010 Florida - 7 Penn State 37-24
2009 Auburn - 8.5 Northwestern (2ot) 38-35

CAPITAL ONE BOWL - Citrus Bowl Stadium; Orlando, FL
#7 GEORGIA (11-2) vs. #16 NEBRASKA (10-3) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
So, what's exactly gonna get the Georgia Bulldogs excited about playing in this New Year's Day bowl game? Keep in mind that Mark Richt's crew was oh-so-close to beating Alabama in the SEC Championship Game - the 32-28 loss figure to linger with the Dawgs for a long, long time - while the flip side here is Nebraska comes into this tilt off a humbling/bumbling 70-31 loss to Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game plus the Cornhuskers lost in this very same bowl game a year ago (see our accompanying Jim Sez chart).

Game plan for the touchdown-plus underdog 'Huskers is to get QB Taylor Martinez out "in space" after he powered up the nation's eighth-best ground game - Martinez has rushed for 100+ yards in five different games including a 205-yard performance against Michigan State - while Georgia wants to get physical with the lanky Martinez here while Georgia's offensive mission is to stay as balanced as possible with veteran QB Aaron Murray looking to shake off the tag that he can't beat elite teams.

If Georgia's frosh RB Todd Gurley (1,260 yards rushing and 16 TDs) gets past the first line of defenders, than Big Red could be "watching his tail lights" most of the day.

Spread Notes - Georgia managed a 7-6 spread log this year while entering this New Year's Day bowl bash and the Dawgs are only 4-8 vig-wise when playing non-SEC opponents the past three years. Nebraska enters this bowl game at 7-6 ATS overall this season and the Huskers have failed to cover four of their last five games when installed as the underdog side.

THE LAST 3 CAPITAL ONE BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 South Carolina - 2.5 Nebraska 30-13
2010 Alabama - 8 Michigan State 49-7
2009 Penn State + 1 LSU 19-17

ROSE BOWL - Rose Bowl; Pasadena, CA
WISCONSIN (8-5) vs. #6 STANFORD (11-2) - 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sure wish there was a better matchup in this "Battle for the Roses" as a five-loss Wisky Badgers club - sorry to say - really doesn't deserve this grand stage but that's what happens when half your conference is on probation!

So, the big storyline here is out-of-the-mothballs head coach Barry Alvarez steps in for Bret Bielema who flew the coop for Arkansas - cha-ching! - and everyone knows Alvarez has copped three Rose Bowl crowns in his career but bagging a fourth won't be easy as Stanford - the highest-ranked team in the latest BCS Standings that's playing here on New Year's Day - sports the nation's third-best rush defense (allowing 87.7 ypg) and Cardinal RB Stepfan Taylor (1,442 yards rushing in 2012) is a real-deal performer.

If Stanford head coach David Shaw wants freshman QB Kevin Hogan to have an eyes-wide-open game, than he'll let 'em chuck it a few times deep against a porous Wisconsin defense that has allowed 76 points in its last three games.

Spread Notes - Stanford is 8-5 odds-wise this season and that makes the Pac-12 Cardinal a heady 34-16-1 ATS overall the past four years. Note that Stanford's also covered its last three bowl games since 2009 with pointspread "W's" against Oklahoma, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State. Note that Wisconsin is 6-7 against the odds this year but the Badgers have notched spread wins in seven of their last 10 games when snapping up points.

THE LAST 3 ROSE BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 Oregon - 4 Wisconsin 45-38
2010 TCU - 3 Wisconsin 21-19
2009 Ohio State + 5 Oregon 26-17

ORANGE BOWL - Sun Life Stadium; Miami Gardens, FL
#15 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-1) vs. #12 FLORIDA STATE (11-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so let's hear it for the "little guy" as the appearance of Mid-American Conference champ Northern Illinois in this prime-time tilt not only shocked the gridiron masses (including us) but allowed for the TV bullies to take its many shots at the Huskies who just so happen to have averaged 40.8 points per game this year behind ultra-versatile QB Jordan Lynch (1,771 yards rushing) who finished up with an amazing 4,733 total yards to his credit - maybe some folks believe Florida State QB E.J. Manuel is more a "finished product" but we're not so sure!

If there is gonna be an uprising by this Northern Illinois crew - and please take note that the non-automatic qualifier teams are 5-2 SU (straight-up) in these BCS bowl games - than Lynch must protect the ball and NIU must force Manuel to cough it up - it's as simple as that, folks.

Keep in mind the aforementioned Dave Doeren quit as head coach of Northern Illinois to take the job at N.C. State and so offensive coordinator Rod Carey is in charge here while FSU boss-man Jimbo Fisher has been adamant that his ACC champion squad won't take NIU lightly ... stay tuned.

Spread Notes - Florida State is a money-roasting 4-8 ATS this season but did you know the Seminoles have covered their last eight consecutive bowl games while dating back to 2004? On the flip side, Northern Illinois is 9-3-1 ATS overall this starry season and the Huskies are 7-1-1 ATS overall since late September.

THE LAST 3 ORANGE BOWL GAMES

YEAR WINNER SPREAD LOSER SCORE
2011 West Virginia + 3 Clemson 70-33
2010 Stanford - 3.5 Virginia Tech 40-12
2009 Iowa + 5.5 Georgia Tech 24-14

     NOTE: Lots more College Football Bowl Previews straight ahead including Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl and Thursday's Fiesta Bowl in the next Jim Sez!
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