Jim Sez January Bowl Blitz

JIM HURLEY scores a College Basketball Shocker Wednesday as Texas (+11) upset UNC, 86-83!  UL Monroe (+15) covers the big number in a 62-75 loss!


The NFL Week 16 card is chock full of monster matchups this Sunday/Monday – no more Thursday Night games on the docket, folks – and we’ll have plenty of Previews/Forecasts in tomorrow’s Jim Sez including words of wisdom on New Orleans at Carolina, New England at Baltimore and the key Sunday Night Game between Chicago at Philadelphia but today we reserve this space for the college kids.

So, let’s get it rollin’ with a Jim Sez look at the 12 January bowl games that take us from Jan. 1st - thru- Jan. 6th:


GATOR BOWL – at Jacksonville, FL
NEBRASKA (8-4) vs. #22 GEORGIA (8-4)
– 12 p.m. ET, espn2
Hey, the Georgia Bulldogs actually started off this current campaign at #5 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll and so don’t be so quick to cheer their ranking now! In fact, Mark Richt’s team muddled through much of the 2013 campaign with key injuries and here QB Aaron Murray (knee) – who threw for 3,075 yards with 26 TDs -- is out and so that means Huston Mason gets the call and he appeared in just three games this season. If 9-point pup Nebraska wants to salvage its season – late-year losses to Michigan State and Iowa really took the shine off what could have been a decent year for Big Red – than a ground attack that ranked 19th nationally among 125 FBS teams (averaging 222 yards per game) must step it up and that means RB Ameer Abdullah (1,568 yards rushing and 8 TDs) must rise to the occasion.

UNLV (7-5) vs. NORTH TEXAS (8-4)
– 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Please don’t bother to ask why this game is being played on New Year’s Day! Okay, so both UNLV and North Texas are “nice stories” but is this one gonna get anyone out of bed early after a late New Year’s Eve celebration? The fact is UNLV – starring do-it-all QB Caleb Herring (2,522 yards passing with 22 TDs and 4 INTs) – is playing in its first bowl game since December 21, 2000 (a 31-14 triumph over Arkansas in the Las Vegas Bowl) and fourth-year head coach Bobby Hauck is probably one more winning year away from sewing up a big-time job while North Texas is playing its first bowl game since the 2004 season when the Mean Green then lost 31-10 to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl.

#19 WISCONSIN (9-3) vs. #9 SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2)
– 1 p.m. ET, ABC
It sure seems like we’re headed to a slug-it-out game here in central Florida as blue-collar Wisky Badgers rank 8th nationally with 283 yards rushing per outing while SC Gamecocks – always underrated on the defensive side of the ball (even if DE Jadeveon Clowney was one of the country’s most overrated players this year) – surrendered 17 points or less in each of their final four regular-season games. First team to 21 points wins here? Wisconsin’s two-headed tailback tandem of Melvin Gordon and James White combined for 2,803 ground yards and 25 TDs this year but dig a little deeper and you’ll see the Big 10 team only beat three bowl-bound teams and none of them (that’s Iowa, BYU and Minnesota) exactly qualify among the sport’s “who’s who” … right? South Carolina QB Connor Shaw often takes a licking but keeps on ticking and how come he didn’t get any Heisman Trophy love after throwing 21 TDs and just one INT? If Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks win here than it’ll mark three straight bowl wins for this program and – yes – we notice the price tag of this game has come down from Wisconsin minus 2 ½ points to pick ‘em.

IOWA (8-4) vs. #16 LSU (9-3)
– 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here’s another Big 10 vs. SEC tilt – one of three on this New Year’s Day – and there’s more quarterback news here as the LSU Tigers will be without Zach Mettenberger (3,082 yards passing with 22 TDs) here after he suffered a season-ending knee injury in that day-after-Thanksgiving comeback win against Arkansas. So, all eyes will be on freshman QB Anthony Jennings who sparked that game-winning 99-yard touchdown drive for LSU against the Hogs and do keep in mind Iowa enters this matinee affair with the country’s 7th-ranked defense and one that held eight foes to 21 points or less this year. The flip side says Iowa RB Mark Weisman (937 yards rushing and 7 TDs) has to hammer out a 100-plus yard ground game here – or else the 8-point underdog Hawkeyes may wilt in the Florida heat here. One spread stat to chuck your way: Iowa’s covered six of its last eight bowl games under 15th-year head coach Kirk Ferentz … hmmm.

ROSE BOWL – at Pasadena, CA
#4 MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) vs. #5 STANFORD (11-2)
– 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
You may have noticed that this is the smallest “totals” price on the New Year’s Day board (it actually came down from an opening-line price of 45 points to 43 points) and this clearly qualifies as a rock-‘em, sock-‘em affair … unless one of those play-if-safe-first head coaches decides to show a little trust in his quarterbacks: Let’s just saw Michigan State QB Connor Cook (2,423 yards passing with 20 TDs) really “grew up” in that see-saw 34-24 win against Ohio State in the Big 10 Championship Game as he chucked three scoring strikes and was one cool dude – while Stanford QB Kevin Hogan (2,487 yards passing with 20 TDs) never gets much recognition either for the Palo Alto guys but if the Cardinal wishes to make it back-to-back Rose Bowl wins (see 20-14 over 4-point pup Wisconsin last year) than Hogan will have to make some “chunk plays” in the aerial game and so keep an eye on Stanford Ty Montgomery (58 catches and 10 TDs) who figures to be in a mano-a-mano deal with star CB Darqueze Dennard who was everyone’s top defensive back in 2013.

FIESTA BOWL – at Glendale, AZ
#15 UCF (11-1) vs. #6 BAYLOR (11-1)
– 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let’s face it – the bowl folks could have come up with sexier matchups than they did for the BCS bowls and here’s Exhibit A as we would have loved a Baylor vs. Alabama or Baylor vs. Ohio State tilt instead here but you can’t cry over spilt egg nog and so it’s the American Athletic Conference champs against the Big 12 champs and even the UCF fans have not exactly flocked to the ticket offices for this clash: Still, Baylor QB Bryce Petty – a genuine Heisman Trophy candidate till late November – enters this prime-time affair with 3,844 yards passing and 30 TDs but he may be surprised by the size/speed/toughness of this UCF defense that held eight opponents to 20 points or less this year. George O’Leary’s squad is a top 20 defense (okay, ranks 19th nationally in total defense) and PK Shawn Moffitt could keep the Knights “in touch” here with some booming FGs. The Bears are 16-point betting favorites at press time but mote UCF has covered all three of its games this year when in the point-grabbing role.

My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out and you can get the upcoming College Football Bowl Games beginning with Saturday’s Four (4) games including Fresno State vs. USC in the Las Vegas Bowl plus all the NFL Week 16 games too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley’s Network – make sure you’re all aboard for the week/weekend action here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453

Plus don’t forget all the daily/nightly action on the hardwood as there’s NBA and NCAA Hoops action all winter long right here with Jim Hurley!


SUGAR BOWL – at New Orleans, LA
#11 OKLAHOMA (10-2) vs. #3 ALABAMA (11-1)
– 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Now here’s a quirky stat: The Oklahoma Sooners and Alabama Crimson Tide have played one another just four times all-time and the teams each have scored 81 points against one another – but Mr. Oddsmaker has the Tide as 15-point betting fav right now for this day-after-New Year’s clash and the main question here is whether or not Nick Saban’s club will be “motivated” to play here after falling short of its three-peat goal as BCS champs. Note that ‘Bama ranks 5th nationally in total defense while Oklahoma has played “musical quarterbacks” lately and so if the Big 12 team has any designs on staging a grand upset we’d say that Oklahoma WR/PR Jalen Saunders (two TDs in wild 33-24 win at 10-point favorite Oklahoma State a couple of weeks ago) must be a superstar – watch him on punt bring-backs because he could flip the field a time or two here. Alabama QB AJ McCarron (2,676 yards passing with 26 TDs) may not have a walk-in-the-park night against a Sooners’ defense that ranks 15th in the land versus the pass … just sayin’.


COTTON BOWL – at Arlington, TX
#13 OKLAHOMA STATE (10-2) vs. #8 MISSOURI (11-2)
– 8 p.m. ET, Fox
These teams are not exactly strangers – they were annual Big 12 combatants till last year when Mizzou shifted over to the mighty SEC – and note this one is a dead-even or pick ‘em game right now and that’s no surprise considering Okie State has scored 40-plus points In six games this year while Missouri’s exceeded the 40-point mark seven times including most recently in that 59-42 loss to Auburn in the SEC Championship Game. If the Tigers can run the ball effectively here (note Gary Pinkel’s crew averages 236.5 yards per game rushing for 17th-best in the country) with RB Henry Josey (1,074 yards and 13 TDs) leading the way than the SEC guys will win but if a proud Oklahoma State that ranks 21st nationally in rush defense has its way, than Mike Gundy’s guys will land a fourth straight bowl win. Note that Oklahoma State QB Clint Chelf (15 TD passes) has really come into his own in recent games as both a rusher and passer.

ORANGE BOWL – at Miami, FL
#12 CLEMSON (10-2) vs. #7 OHIO STATE (12-1
) – 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so neither Clemson nor Ohio State won their own conference titles this year but there’s been plenty of time to get over that disappointment and so look for a super-charged affair in south Beach: Ohio State may have more motivational “issues” after suffering that aforementioned loss to Michigan State in the Big 10 title tilt but Urban Meyer’s crew here is looking for this program’s first bowl win since 2010 and QB Braxton Miller (1,860 yards passing with 22 TDs) would love to show he has a “pro-type arm” but the real key to success for these Buckeyes is RB Carlos Hyde (1,408 yards rushing despite missing two-plus games) who figures to face lots of eight-men-in-the-box looks here against a Clemson “D” that allows a generous 153 yards rushing per game. Two quickie notes on the ACC guys here: Clemson QB Tajh Boyd (3,473 yards passing and 29 TDs) didn’t win either of the high-profile games against Florida State or South Carolina after starring in the season-opening 38-35 win against Georgia – will he rise up here against an Ohio State defense that surrendered 34-or-more points in three of its final four games … and will Tigers’ WR Sammy Watkins (85 catches for 1,237 yards and 10 TDs) also be a factor on special teams where one monster return for either side could be the difference here?


COMPASS BOWL – at Birmingham, AL
HOUSTON (8-4) vs. VANDERBILT (8-4)
– 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
This one’s an “appetizer” for the NFL Wild Card Playoff Games on this first Saturday in January and don’t snooze on what figures to be a highly entertaining affair even if Vandy QB Austyn Carta-Samuels (2,268 passing yards in 2013) has declared himself out after undergoing knee surgery. Hey, the Commodores – who are playing in a school-record third straight bowl game here after losing to Cincinnati and beating N.C. State the past two years -- have some other weapons including WR Jordan Matthews who nabbed 107 balls this year and is the SEC’s top wide-out. A spread note on the Houston Coogs: They enter this tilt at 10-2 against the odds and have their own snazzy wide receiver in a cat named Deontay Greenberry (76 receptions for 1,106 yards and 10 TDs).


GO DADDY BOWL – at Mobile, Al
– 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
This one follows NFL Wild Card Sunday – we know you’ll be bleary-eyed but you can make it! – and the main reason to tune in here is to check out Ball State QB Keith Wenning who threw for 3,933 yards with 34 TDs this year and did you know the B-State Cardinals (an 8 ½-point fav at press time) are 0-6 lifetime in bowl games? Arkansas State waves bye-bye to one-and-done head coach Bryan Harsin who was just named Boise State’s newest head coach … did someone say anything about “distractions”?


#2 AUBURN (12-1) vs. #1 FLORIDA STATE (13-0)
– 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This comes straight from the “no-kidding” department: We will have reams and reams of goodies on this national title tilt in the days leading up to this final BCS Championship Game and so let’s simply whet your appetite here in today’s Jim Sez with a couple of items that you might not have heard as yet: The top-ranked Florida State Seminoles have beaten 12 of their 13 foes this year by at least 27 points and they’re 7-1 versus the vig against fellow bowl opponents this year – is Heisman Trophy-winning QB Jameis Winston (3,820 yards passing with 38 TDs) gonna be on target here after weeks of celebrating his many awards? Meanwhile, Auburn enters this clash on a FBS-best 10-game spread winning streak and did you realize the Tigers also own a five-game bowl winning streak to boot while dating back to 2006? If RB Tre Mason (304 yards rushing in the SEC Championship Game against Missouri) averages anything near his 5.7 yards-per-carry average than the SEC will have an eighth straight BCS champ. Right?
The January Bowl Blitz is gonna be a blast!

NOTE: There’s lots of NFL Week 16 goodies plus Saturday’s first Four (4) College Bowl Games in the next Jim Sez.


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