The College Gridiron Report

PREVIEWS, NEWS/NOTES AND KEY SPREAD STATS! …NFL WEEK 3 NOTEBOOK

Just how fast is this here-and-now College Football season going already?

Following this weekend’s games there are gonna be a slew of 4-and-oh teams and so the stakes get higher and higher with every passing week for those clubs looking to make it to the first-ever College Football Playoff. We’ll get to some key weekend previews in just a moment but first this ultra-important reminder …

The college kids are back on the gridiron tonight and Jim Hurley and his veteran Handicappers and Bloggers are all revved up for a monster weekend beginning here with #5 Auburn at #20 Kansas State (ESPN at 7:30 p.m. ET). Then it’s UConn at South Florida on the tube Friday night (8 p.m. ET on espn2). And note the Saturday card is full of big games including Florida at #3 Alabama, Clemson at #1 Florida State and #4 Oklahoma at West Virginia.

Plus America’s #1 Handicapper is all revved up for another monster showing in Week 3 of NFL play – so make sure you’re banging out lots of winners all this week/weekend as we start off NFL Week 3 with tonight’s NFC South showdown pitting the Tampa Bay Bucs at the Atlanta Falcons (CBS at 8:25 p.m. ET).

Remember the NFL Week 3 menu has a slew of great Sunday games including San Diego at unbeaten Buffalo, 2-0 Houston at the New York Giants and the Sunday Night clash between the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Carolina Panthers. Plus there’s still lots to cash in too with Major-League Baseball as it heads down the final week-plus of this 2014 MLB regular season with a batch of meaningful games still on the daily dockets.

Check with us right here online for all the winning selections, or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. Eastern time for weeknight action and after 10 a.m. ET for the Saturday and Sunday NFL. NCAA and MLB winners!

KEY COLLEGE PREVIEWS
Note there’s Friday night action on ESPN as UConn (1-2) faces South Florida (1-2) and we’ll see which team can get its mangled quarterback situation straightened away first – the USF Bulls are 2-point betting favorites right now with a totals price of 48 but did you know that UConn is an ugly 9-17-1 ATS (against the spread) since late in the 2011 season? Hmmm

On Saturday, it’s …
#22 CLEMSON (1-1, 0-0 ACC) at #1 FLORIDA STATE (2-0, 0-0 ACC) – 8 p.m. ET, ABC
The breaking news coming out of the college football world on Wednesday was that Heisman Trophy-winning QB Jameis Winston of Florida State fame would be forced to sit out the first half of this ACC game for yelling an obscene comment from atop a table while on campus … what, does the guy already think he’s in the NFL?

Winston’s first-half sit-down punishment might actually help the top-ranked Seminoles get “focused” here after all the talk the past two weeks (both teams had byes last weekend) revolved around FSU’s severe 51-14 beating of Clemson a year ago in Death Valley.

If the heavy-duty dog Tigers have any shot of pulling off the upset here, than a veteran defense that brings back seven starters from last year’s team is gonna have to toughen up after allowing 45 points to Georgia in Clemson’s season-opening game back on Labor Day weekend.

We’ll see if Clemson DE Vic Beasley can stagger the Sems and “new” starting QB Sean Maguire.

Spread Notes – Florida State’s failed to cover its first two games out of the chute this year with non-cover wins against Oklahoma State and The Citadel but take note that the Seminoles are a collective 10-5 versus the vig as twin-figure betting favorites since late in the 2012 season. On the flip side, Clemson has covered seven of its last nine head-to-head showdowns against Florida State.

FLORIDA (2-0, 1-0 SEC) at #3 ALABAMA (3-0, 0-0 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
For you number-lovers out there, note that Alabama here is seeking to win its 23rd consecutive SEC opener – last year Nick Saban’s crew squeezed past Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M 49-42 but didn’t land the cover as 8 ½-point road favorites in its league lid-lifter.

Now this is a very different-looking Tide team that nowadays relies more on the forward pass with QB Blake Sims looking to star WR Amari Cooper (nation-leading 33 receptions for 454 yards) but if Florida’s star CB Vernon Hargreaves III can shadow Cooper in this clash than things could get sticky for the two-touchdown favorites.

Spread Notes – Alabama is 0-2 spreadwise so far this season (remember there was no spread winner/loser in that 41-0 win against Florida Atlantic game two weeks ago when it was suspended in the fourth quarter) and overall the Crimson Tide is a healthy 17-9 vig-wise in SEC play since the start of 2011. Florida is just 6-9 ATS as underdogs the past four-plus seasons and that includes a 38-10 home loss to 4-point fav Alabama in 2011 and a 31-6 loss at 8-point fav ‘Bama back in 2010.  

#4 OKLAHOMA (3-0) at WEST VIRGINIA (2-1) – 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox
You no doubt noticed that the Las Vegas price tag on this Big 12 bash went from the OU Sooners favored by a dozen points all the way down to just seven points … it can’t all be for injured Okie RB Keith Ford (small fracture in right leg suffered in last weekend’s 34-10 win/cover against Tennessee).

Somebody out there is “buying” the West Virginia Mountaineers who last week nearly squandered a 28-6 lead at Maryland before winning at the buzzer 40-37 on a 47-yard ultra-clutch field goal by PK Josh Lambert – it sure helped that veteran QB Clint Trickett threw for 511 yards and four TDs but here the gaudy Oklahoma defense will be a tough nut to crack after allowing a grand total of 33 points through its first three games.

One key here is WVU converted 11-oif-24 third-down plays at Maryland last weekend – think Oklahoma’s stop unit is gonna surrender similar numbers here?
Spread Notes – Oklahoma is 6-1 ATS in its last seven overall games and note the last time the Sooners played in Morgantown the result was a wild 50-49 non-cover win by the then-10 ½-point road favorites. West Virginia is a perfect 3-and-oh spreadwise this season but the Mountaineers are just 7-11 spreadwise in Big 12 play since entering the league back in 2012.

MIAMI (2-1) at #24 NEBRASKA (3-0) – 8 p.m. ET, espn2
Is this the good ole days again for Big Red? The Nebraska Cornhuskers – seeking their first 4-0 SU (straight-up) start since 2011 – are back to their old ways with 55, 31 and 55 points scored thus far in season-starting wins against Florida Atlantic, McNeese State and Fresno State but the step up in “comp” is significant here even if these aren’t exactly the “salad days” for this Miami Hurricanes program.

If the road underdog ‘Canes have any upset hopes here, than keeping Nebraska QB Tommie Armstrong in check is critical – the Cornhuskers’ star has helped his squad rank fifth nationally with a per-game average of 594.3 yards a game and these days RB Ameer Abdullah (132 rushing yards a game) is providing plenty of help.

Miami’s true freshman QB Brad Kaaya threw for 342 yards and four touchdowns last weekend in a 41-20 win/cover against 14-point pup Arkansas State but his key to success here may well depend on star RB Duke Johnson who rolls into Lincoln with 277 offensive yards to his credit.

Spread Notes – Nebraska is just 40-38-2 ATS in the Bo Pelini Era that began in 2008 and the ‘Huskers are just 9-11-1 versus the vig as betting favorites the past two-plus seasons. Miami enters this prime-time affair having failed to cover nine of its last 11 games while dating back to the mid-season last year but the ‘Canes are a tasty 11-5 spreadwise as underdog sides since the start of 2011.

KEY SPREAD STATS
It’s time to check in on the “Best & Worst” of the College Football spread scene and here’s what we’ve got while heading into this September weekend:

THE BEST –
All of the below-listed teams are 3-0 against the odds thus far this 2014 season:
Baylor, East Carolina, Florida International, Georgia Southern, Kentucky, Louisiana Tech, Middle Tennessee State, Northern Illinois, Ole Miss, UTEP, Virginia and West Virginia.

THE WORST –
All of the below-listed teams are 0-3 against the odds so far in this ’14 campaign:
Buffalo, Connecticut, Fresno State, Iowa, Kent State, Texas Tech, UCLA, UNLV, Utah State and Vanderbilt.

NFL WEEK 3 NOTES
Enough’s enough with Adrian Peterson and all the other junk that’s piling up against the National Football League these days … can you really ever remember the start of a season when just about everything – save for the start in born-again Buffalo – has been so damn negative in tone? Well, time to get you some on-the-field notes as we head into NFL Week 3 with a reminder that a slew of game previews comes your way in tomorrow’s column space:

Let’s start with tonight’s NFC South duel between the winless Tampa Bay Bucs at Atlanta – history is on the side of Falcons’ QB Matt Ryan who owns a 5-1 career SU home mark against the Bucs and that features 7 TDs, 0 INTs in the last four Georgia Dome meetings …

For those folks critical in the past of Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton, note he leads the NFL right now with a tidy 9.07 yards-per-attempt average but the big question here for the red-head is who will he be throwing to if WR A.J. Green (toe) and TE Tyler Eifert (elbow/out 8 games minimum) both are on the sidelines for this Sunday home game versus Tennessee? …

Finally, from the we-know-it’s-still-very-early department, the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks head into Sunday’s “SB rematch” versus Denver ranked 17th in the league in pass defense and only ninth in rush defense – are we seeing a step-back in defensive production from Pete Carroll’s pride-and-joy unit? Hmmm.

NOTE: Catch more NCAA and NFL Week 3 Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.

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