College Football Week in Review + NFL Notebook

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL OPENING-WEEK

REPORT CARDS—HANDIN’ OUT SOME “A’s” AND “F’s” RIGHT OUT OF THE OLD STARTING GATE…
PLUS MIAMI AT LOUISVILLE PRIME-TIME PREVIEW IS HERE…

THE NFL NOTEBOOK: THE COACHES ON THE REAL “HOT SEAT”

By Jim Hurley

Hey, if we heard it once then we heard it a gazillion times by week’s end… this is Year One of the brand-new College Football Playoff (CFP) system and yet it’s not as if many of the country’s highly-ranked teams did all that much to raise their respective profiles.

Okay, so 20-point favorite and top-ranked Florida State needed a key fumble recovery in the final quarter to help overcome gritty Oklahoma State 37-31 in the annual Cowboys Classic, #2 Alabama didn’t exactly set the world on fire en route to its hard-fought 33-23 non-cover win against 23-point pup West Virginia and need we really provide commentary here for the likes of #7 UCLA, who needed three defensive touchdowns to hold off 18½-point underdog Virginia 28-20.
Is that the best you favorites could have done right out of the starting gate?
As a matter of fact, we wouldn’t give any of the above-named ranked teams more than a “C” in our Jim Sez grading department and we’ll clue you in that #9 South Carolina (a 52-28 loser to Texas A&M last Thursday night), Houston (a 27-7 home loser to 9-point pup UT-San Antonio last Friday) and #25 Washington—a 17-16 non-cover winner at 17½-point dog Hawaii—all get “F’s” for their shoddy first-week play.

Lucky for all of them that the school year still has a long way to go, right!

Now, here’s some other opening weekend NCAA Football News & Notes…
If anyone thought that the UCF Knights could be the “party spoiler” for this year’s Power 5 conferences when it comes to the aforementioned playoffs, then forget it after Central Florida’s 26-24 last-second loss to 1½-point dog Penn State in Dublin.

Okay, so don’t blame a UCF attack that converted a miraculous fourth-down pass play in which WR Josh Reese snagged a critical pass that set up QB Justin Holman’s six-yard run, but what’s up with UCF’s normally stingy defense that allowed the Nittany Lions march downfield for a PK Sam Ficken 36-yard field goal?

Maybe the worst stat that George O’Leary’s club had to own up to afterwards was the one that said Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg threw for 454 yards—not exactly the same defense that generally silenced Baylor QB Bryce Petty and mates in last year’s Fiesta Bowl shocker…

If you wish to hand out an “A” this weekend past, then dole one out to the Cal Golden Bears and second-year head coach Sonny Dykes. Okay, so last year’s Berkeley bunch won just once and Dykes was barbecued as a guy who was “in over his head”, but last weekend’s 31-24 win at 7½-point favorite Northwestern not only featured a three-TD, 281-passing yard game by QB Jared Goff, but Cal led 31-7 before N’western ever knew what hit ‘em and Dykes’ up-tempo offense had won the day in Evanston with six different Bears receivers nabbing two-or-more passes and how about only pick of Goff who—dare we say—played a whole lot better on this opening day than did UCLA’s more-heralded Heisman Trophy hopeful Brett Hundley (see no TDs passing in scary non-cover win against the Cavaliers)…

Here’s a couple of quick hitters that you might have missed from the opening weekend of the college football season:

Guess the USC Trojans were not “distracted” by the events of last week as Steve Sarkisian’s debut game as the team’s head coach resulted in a 52-13 win/cover against 18½-point underdog Fresno State—not only did QB Cody Kessler throw for 394 yards and 4 TDs in the blowout home win, but the Southern Cal defense held the Bulldogs to just 2-of-12 on third-down plays and the time of possession was wildly one-sided with USC controlling the pigskin for some 38:54.

Finally, let’s hand out another “A” for the opening week of action for the #4 Oklahoma Sooners—sure, the Big 12 team was a heart 5-TD betting favorite over Louisiana Tech and “didn’t cash” en route to a 48-16 win but the Sooners had a whole lot of pressure heaped on ‘em by folks picking them to win it all this year and gotta say Bob Stoops’ crew stepped it up with a balanced attack (see 183 yards rushing and 253 yards passing) and even though OU didn’t get the green here the prognosis is good that the QB Trevor Knight-led attack hit the ground running… not every day we give out an “A” for a team that didn’t cover a Las Vegas pointspread but hats off to Oklahoma for playing big here with lots on their plate.

Extra, extra …

The College Football 2014 campaign puts a big-time exclamation mark on a very busy opening week with this Monday Night game between Miami at Louisville (8 p.m. ET on ESPN).

Folks, you definitely want to be in the winner’s circle for the Side & Totals plays here as we wrap a monster holiday weekend.

And don’t forget the NFL 2014 season gets going on Thursday Night with the much-anticipated battle royal between the Green Bay Packers at the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks followed by a whopper NFL Week 1 card featuring Cincinnati at Baltimore, San Francisco at Dallas, the Sunday Night Game between Indianapolis at Denver and then the Monday Night Football twin-bill: The New York Giants at Detroit followed by San Diego at Arizona!

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 at www.jimhurley.com 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?

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT—
HERE’S THE MONDAY NITE PREVIEW

MIAMI at LOUISVILLE—8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Nope, you won’t see any national Top 25 rankings attached to either of the two teams’ names here but one year after Louisville banged out a snazzy 12-1 SU (straight-up) mark and one year after Miami won nine games for the first time since 2009 you get the sense that the winner of this prime-time Labor Day evening game will catapult into the rankings… and might even have lots of bigger/better days ahead.

No doubt the U of L Cardinals find themselves in a transition year of sorts following the exit of brilliant head coach Charlie Strong to Texas after four years that produced 37 wins (and only 15 losses) but familiar face Bobby Petrino is back along the sidelines and so that means the passing game is front-and-center but the ‘Vill has been hit with a major injury even before this ’14 season gets started as WR DeVante Parker (foot) is out for 6-to-8 weeks.

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On the flip side, Miami’s fourth-year head coach Al Golden surprised lots of folks when he recently named true freshman Brad Kaaya as his starting quarterback over the more experienced Jake Heaps who played at both BYU and Kansas before making this latest pit stop.

If the Hurricanes can get 20-plus touches from RB Duke Johnson—coming off season-ending knee injury last year—than the 3½-point road underdogs could swipe this ACC opener and maybe Golden’s guys will be the ones hurdling into the top 25.

Spread Notes —Louisville is just 15-24-1 ATS (against the spread) at home since the start of the 2007 campaign but note the Cardinals have covered all three of their head-to=-head showdowns with Miami since 2004 and that includes last year’s 36-9 win as 5½-point favorites in the Russell Athletic Bowl. Note that Miami enters this tilt having covered 11 of its last 16 games when in the underdog role but the ‘Canes last year registered a shabby 2-6 ATS mark in ACC affairs.

NFL NOTEBOOK
Tick, tick, tick…
We’re now just days away from the start of the 2014 NFL Season—so is it too early to reveal the head coaches truly on the “hot seat”?

Nah!

MIKE SMITH, Atlanta—One of the stars of the HBO “mini-series” Hard Knocks doesn’t have a whole lot of wiggle room this year following last season’s highly disappointing 4-12 SU season. The gut feel here is a .500-or-pooer record sinks Smith after seven years on the job.

JASON GARRETT, Dallas—Okay, so you’ve probably had this name on your “hot seat” list for the past couple of years and yet somehow Garrett (29-27 SU) has survived three consecutive 8-and-8 seasons but anything less than a nine-win season figures to bury Garrett this time… but we’ll see!

JOE PHILBIN, Miami—Somehow and some way this third-year coach survived last season’s BullyGate business (we believed the Dolphins should have “cleaned house” at year’s end) but now the Fish boss must produce after back-to-back 7-9 and 8-8 seasons. Our crystal ball says Philbin and Company will have to win season-ending home games against Minnesota and the New York Jets… or else!

NOTE: Get the NFL 2014 season started off right with our Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks game preview in the very next edition of Jim Sez plus catch up with all the NCAA Football News & Notes.

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