College Football Thursday Night Previews - Preseason Finales

COLLEGE FOOTBALL IS BACK!!! WE’VE GOT THURSDAY NITE PREVIEWS IN TODAY’S JIM SEZ …

THE NFL PRESEASON REPORT: WHAT TO WATCH IN THE FINAL EXHIBITION TILTS

By Jim Hurley:

Okay, so let’s be perfectly accurate and let y’all know that the 2014 NCAA Football Season actually begins on this Wednesday night with a showdown between Abilene Christian at Georgia State – the home team is a four-point betting favorite at last check in case you were wondering!

The real fireworks for the ’14 college campaign are set off Thursday when six on-the-board games come your way with three Associated Press Top 25 teams getting in on all the fun-and-games (see our three previews below).

The Labor Day Weekend, in fact, is chock full of ultra-interesting showdowns even though we must point out that among the week’s 39 on-the-board games, some 20 of ‘em have Las Vegas pointspreads of two touchdowns or more. Hmmm.

Among the single-digit lines that should pose great matchups are Friday’s intra-state duel between Colorado (- 3) versus Colorado State in Denver, Saturday morning’s battle in Ireland between Penn State versus UCF (- 2), Saturday’s Clemson at Georgia hoedown with the host Dawgs right now favored by 7 ½ points and don’t forget the capper of the holiday weekend when Miami plays at 3-point fav Louisville on Labor Day evening.

Remember last year the Labor Day evening game gave us our first look at Florida State QB Jameis Winston – and some of us right then and there knew that the Seminoles were headed for a monster season.

So, lots of gridiron goodies right out of the starting gate and we’ll get to a couple of Thursday Nite Previews in a moment but first this key reminder:

As we’re stating here, the College Football 2014 campaign swings into high gear with a full week/weekend card scheduled for this Thursday right through Labor Day.

Folks, you definitely want to be in the winner’s circle for all the big opening-week tilts with the college games starting with Texas A&M versus South Carolina (a 6 p.m. ET kickoff) this Thursday and then on Friday it’s BYU at UConn among other key tilts followed by a jam-packed Labor Day weekend card featuring Clemson-Georgia and Florida State versus Oklahoma State on Saturday, there’s Utah State at Tennessee on Sunday Night and then Miami at Louisville on Monday evening.

And the NFL Preseason wraps up Thursday night with all 32 teams in action – so there’s more winnin’ right here before we even kick off the 2014 NFL Season for real with next Thursday’s bash between the Green Bay Packers at the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks! …

Take note that Jim Hurley -- America’s #1 Handicapper – also continues to bang out lots of winners in Major-League Baseball these days and all you need to do to win in the NFL, NCAA Football and MLB is to check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for all the weeknight action, after 11 a.m. ET for weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners … can’t beat that, right?

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COLLEGE FOOTBALL – THURSDAY’S KEY PREVIEWS

#21 TEXAS A&M at #9 SOUTH CAROLINA – 6 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Let the schedule-makers be damned! For the past two years in Southeastern Conference play we didn’t get treated to a matchup between Texas A&M and South Carolina and so, thus, we didn’t get to see Gamecocks’ DE Jadeveon Clowney chase around Aggies’ QB Johnny Manziel.

Now, the teams unofficially christen this current campaign and neither mega-star is still around their college campuses and so attention is turned to their replacements:

South Carolina looks to sophomore Darius English to fill Clowney’s large shoes – note the 6-foot-6 last year registered 19 tackles and forced one fumble in part-time play last year and his target on this night is Texas A&M’s soph QB Kenny Hill (183 yards passing and one TD pass last year backing up Manziel) who promises no “Johnny Dollar” signs in this one at Williams-Brice Stadium.

Spread Notes – South Carolina is just 17-16 ATS (against the spread) overall in SEC games the past four years but note the Gamecocks have notched pointspread wins in eight of the team’s last dozen home games. Texas A&M enters this 2014 lid-lifter fresh off last year’s 0-5 ATS away mark that included spread setbacks at Arkansas, Ole Miss, LSU and Missouri.

#18 OLE MISS vs. BOISE STATE (at Georgia Dome in Atlanta) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
You can look it up: The Boise State Broncos have not been a double-digit underdog since early in the 2008 season – a shocking 37-32 win at 10 ½-point favorite Oregon – and the first thing that came into mind here is that this current price tag of Ole Miss favored by 10 points appears a tad “tall” … is it?

The Rebels do have a whole lot of veteran flavor on this 2014 squad including senior QB Bo Wallace who threw for 3,346 yards and 18 TDs last year when Ole Miss won eight games including a 25-17 triumph over Georgia Tech in the Music City Bowl.

If Wallace can connect for some major strikes to star WR Laquon Treadwell (team-best 72 receptions for 608 yards and five TDs last year as a frosh) then keeping the Rebs below 35 points will be tough for Boise State.

The Chris Petersen Era is over for these Broncos as former B-State assistant Bryan Harsin takes over the head coaching gig and all eyes are on State QB Grant Hedrick who threw for 1,825 yards with 16 TDs and only 5 INTs while sharing the No. quarterbacking job a year ago.

Spread Notes – Ole Miss is 8-5 versus the vig as betting favorites since the start of the Hugh Freeze Era (2012) and note the Rebels have covered five of their last six on-the-board season-opening games. Meanwhile, Boise State is just 16-22 ATS overall the past three years but note the Broncos are a decent 8-7 spread log when playing non-conference foes.

RUTGERS at WASHINGTON STATE – (at Seattle) 10 p.m. ET, Fox 1
There’s a whole lotta love going ‘round for this Washington State squad that last year finished 6-7 SU (straight-up) and that included a wild 48-45 loss to Colorado State in the New Mexico Bowl.

Maybe Year Three of the Mike Leach Era – he’s 9-16 SU and 13-10 ATS overall so far – will turn out special but it all starts with QB Connor Halliday who last year threw for 4.597 yards and 34 TDs (but also 22 INTs).

On the flip side, Rutgers waited deep into the summer before announcing Gary Nova would be the team’s starting signal-caller but it’s the Scarlet Knights’ defense that really must rise up here after finishing 81st nationally in points allowed (29.8 ppg).
The Coogs are listed as 8-point betting favorites and it’s worth pointing out that Washington State has failed to cover four-of-five games under Leach whenever laying 8-or-more points.

Spread Notes – Washington State’s failed to cover seven of its last nine season-opening spread tilts and that includes last year’s 31-24 loss-but-cover at 14-point favorite Auburn. On the flip side, Rutgers is a dead-even but vig-losing 12-12 against the odds under third-year head coach Kyle Flood but did you realize the Scarlet Knights are 29-18-1 ATS away since the start of the 2006 season?

NFL PRESEASON NEWS & NOTES

Obviously, the NFL Preseason Week 4 games are considered “scrimmages” as almost all the league’s 32 teams sit out their starters and look to evaluate the other backup spots while getting ready to whittle down rosters to 53 players.

Still, there’s a few items on our Jim Sez checklist that must be watched as the NFL Preseason Week 4 calendar – yes, all 16 games will be played Thursday night – finishes up:

There’s plenty of NFL cornerbacks that will be cut from their current teams come Friday morning/afternoon and you better be sure the New York Jets will be on the lookout to scoop up two or maybe even three corners.

After all, the Jets’ summer of 2014 has been all about CBs from second-year player Dee Milliner suffering with a high ankle sprain to journeyman Dmitri Patterson going AWOL prior to last Friday’s 35-24 “Snoopy Bowl” loss to the New York Giants.

The Jets will be looking at other team’s CB “trash” as their treasure …

The Denver Broncos aren’t saying it but PK Matt Prater may not get his job back after he finishes serving a four-game regular-season suspension for substance abuse issues. Prater – who admitted to an alcohol problem in a statement the other day – is expected back for the Broncos’ Oct. 12th game against the Jets but it’s possible recently-cut Arizona PK Jay Feely could hook up with the Broncs for the long haul …

Finally, if you’ve been a religious viewer of the HBO show Hard Knocks than you know the move of rookie OT Jake Matthews from the right side to the all-important left side has been a central issue but what about Atlanta’s question marks now at RT? Offensive line coach Mike Tice must sort out the competition at right tackle with the likes of Lamar Holmes, Gabe Carimi and Ryan Schraeder all in the hunt but if none of ‘em plays well in Thursday’s preseason finale at Jacksonville then the Falcs could also be scouring the waiver wire. Stay tuned.

NOTE: Catch more NCAA Football Game Previews plus lots more in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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