NCAA and NFL Previews

Lots to get to in today’s Jim Sez football column and we’ll begin with a trio of NCAA Football Previews/Forecasts and we’ll follow them up with some NFL Week 5 goodies.

First, a quickie house-keeping item here as NCAA Football Betting Favorites enter this brand new week/weekend with a pointspread record of 107-117-5 for a .478 winning rate. Note that last year at this very time the NCAA Betting Favorites were hitting ‘em at a .530 winning rate, so the dogs have really turned the beat around.

Note that last week’s chalk sides cranked out a 23-27-2 spread mark overall – a .460 winning rate. Just thought you’d like to know that!

On Friday, it’s …
LOUISVILLE (4-1, 2-1 ACC) at SYRACUSE (2-2, 0-0 ACC) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
What’s the lesser of two evils here?
The fact that Louisville likely must start freshman QB Reggie Bonnafon (30-of-52 passing for 357 yards and 0 INTs this year) for an injured Will Gardner here or that Syracuse is coming off a disjointed 31-15 loss to Notre Dame and may have left lots of emotions on that MetLife Stadium field last Saturday night?

The Orange failed to take advantage of those multiple Irish turnovers (Notre Dame QB Everett Golson was responsible for 4 turnovers by himself!) as Syracuse QB Terrel Hunt scored his team’s lone offensive touchdown on the night via a seven-yard scoot and now Hunt and Company must improve that shoddy 3-of-15 third-down conversion rate here … or else.

Spread Notes –Since 2005, the Syracuse Orange has covered six-of-eight head-to-head pointspread verdicts against Louisville.

Note that the ESPN Friday Night “night-cap” is Utah State at BYU – the host Cougars are 4-0 SU (straight-up) with two wins already against “Power 5” conference teams (beat Texas 41-7 and topped Virginia 41-33) and take a look at BYU’s sked and you might start to think it could be a College Football Playoff (CFB) “buster” here in 2014.

On Saturday, it’s …
#4 OKLAHOMA (4-0, 1-0 Big 12) at #25 TCU (3-0, 0-0 Big 12) – 3:30 p.m. ET, Fox

Here’s the facts, folks: Oklahoma enters this conference clash in Fort Worth averaging a haughty 44.8 points per game thus far while the TCU Horned Frogs are tops among Big 12 defenses while surrendering a per-game average of just 218.7 yards.

In the something’s-got-to-give department, it would appear that Oklahoma’s many weapons including freshman star RB Samaje Perine (242 yards rushing in that 45-33 win/cover at West Virginia two weeks ago) will be too much for the Froggies but remember that TCU has some ammo of its own with veteran QB Trevone Boykin (858 yards passing with 8 TDs and 1 INT) heading up a greatly improved aerial attack for Gary Patterson’s gang.

Spread Notes – Oklahoma’s covered its last three consecutive games after that season-opening non-cover triumph over Louisiana Tech. The OU Sooners are just 16-15 versus the vig as betting favorites while dating back to the middle of 2011. TCU, meanwhile, is a perfect 3-and-oh against the Las Vegas prices this year but the Horned Frogs are just 7-11 ATS at home the past three-plus seasons.
P.S., this is one of six matchups pitting Top 25 teams against one another … now here’s a look at an under-the-lights Top 25 bash from the Big 10.

#19 NEBRASKA (5-0, 1-0 Big 10) at #10 MICHIGAN STATE (3-1, 0-0 Big 10) – 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Okay, so we know it’s early but you might want to reserve a spot at this year’s Heisman Trophy ceremony in New York City for Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah – that’s if he can conquer the Michigan State defense that allowed 46 points to Oregon back on Sept. 6th and a combined total of 35 points in Sparty’s other three games.

Last week Abdullah rushed for 190 of his 208 yards in the first half against Illinois (he also finished with three TDs) – can he find the creases in M-State’s defense here or are the TD-plus favored Spartans gonna make Big Red throw the ball in order to snag this Big 10 upset in East Lansing?
One note on Michigan State’s offense:

The Spartans are averaging 45.4 ppg so far – the most through four games by any State team in its storied gridiron history. So there!

Spread Notes – Michigan State is a snazzy 13-5-1 against the odds while dating back to late in the 2012 season and note Sparty has notched covers in three of its first four games this year. Nebraska is 4-1 vig-wise to start off the 2014 season and Big Red is 5-1 ATS away since the start of last year.

NFL WEEK 5 PREVIEWS

On Sunday, it’s …
HOUSTON (3-1) at DALLAS (3-1) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS
How ‘bout them Cowboys is right! Okay, so America’s Team was supposed to be amongst the dregs of the NFL this year – the Las Vegas folks had dropped Dallas to 7.5 wins minus 160 right on the eve of s here-and-now season – and yet one-quarter through the 2014 campaign here’s a team with wins at Tennessee, at St. Louis and home to New Orleans and getting “all the action” on the wagering board this week as the Cowboys are up to a 5 ½-point favorite at press time!

No doubt the real shockeroo is that Dallas leads the NFL in rushing (165 ypg) as RB DeMarco Murray (a league-leading 534 rushing yards and 5.4 ypc average) and this O-line have been brilliant and now we’ll see if the visiting Texans (only ranked 23rd in the NFL in rushing defense) can slow down Murray and mates here.

Still, if there’s an X-factor at work than it’s what can Houston expect from RB Arian Foster who was a DNP two weeks ago in the 30-17 loss at the New York Giants and then last week contributed a miniscule six yards rushing on 8 carries in the 23-17 win/cover against Buffalo. Yes, we’d expect to see lots of Foster if he’s healthy but otherwise much will fall onto the shoulder pads of up-and-down QB Ryan Fitzpatrick (268 yards with 1 TD and 2 INTs last Sunday).

Spread Notes – Dallas is shooting for a fourth consecutive pointspread win following ATS triumphs against the Titans, Rams and Saints. Note the Cowboys are an ugly 10-26-1 ATS as favorites since the start of 2010. Houston is 4-9 spreadwise away overall since late in the 2012 season.

ARIZONA (3-0) at DENVER (2-1) – 4:05 p.m. ET, Fox
The Broncos got their bye between tough games versus NFC West squads – and now we’ll see if QB Peyton Manning (814 yards passing) and Company can finish the job it couldn’t finish in that recent 26-20 OT loss in Seattle.

Hey, we know that Denver never got the ball in that extra session – Manning should have called “heads”, right? – but one major change we expect here is for the Broncos to not be so darn conservative on those third-and-long plays. Maybe John Fox’s crew showed too much respect for the Seahawks’ defense in that Week 3 clash but now Manning must prove he’s unafraid of challenging this hyped Arizona secondary starring CBs Patrick Peterson and Antonio Cromartie.

The conversation on the other side of the ball continues with ‘Zona playing career backup Drew Stanton – yes, Carson Palmer is claiming his neck is feeling better but look for Stanton (244 yards passing and two scoring strikes to speedy WR John Brown in that Week 3 comeback win against San Francisco) to get the nod here and we’d like to see more magic between Stanton and WR Larry Fitzgerald who only has 10 receptions through the team’s first three games.

Spread Notes – Denver is winless in three pointspread tries so far this year and the Broncos are now 12-8-1 ATS at home since the Manning Era started in 2012. Arizona, meanwhile, is now 12-6-1 in the Bruce Arians Era that started last year and did you know the Redbirds are 15-7-1 ATS as underdogs the past two-plus seasons?

NFL WEEK 5 IS OFF AND RUNNING AS PACKERS BOP VIKINGS 42-10 LAST NIGHT

Have you all been looking for great, compelling games on these NFL Thursday Nights?
Well, forget about it as last night the Green Bay Packers became the latest lopsided winner with their 42-10 beat-down of the QB Teddy Bridgewater-less Minnesota Vikings and so here’s what the Thursday Night games have looked like so far (note all home teams are in CAPS below):

WeekWINNERSPREADLOSERSCORE
#1SEATTLE- 4.5Green Bay36-16
#2BALTIMORE- 2.5Pittsburgh26-6
#3ATLANTA- 6.5Tampa Bay56-14
#4NY Giants+ 3WASHINGTON45-14
#5GREEN BAY- 9.5Minnesota42-10

Wow, that’s a per-game average win by 29 points and so forgive all the folks for clicking off their TV sets right after halftime so far and maybe the NFL is learning lesson they should have already known … NFL folks need a full week to heal up and all you needed to hear in this game was CBS play-by-play man Jim Nantz say that if this game would have been Friday instead of Thursday, then Bridgewater would have been able to play. Too late to hold the viewers, Jimmy boy!

On Sunday, it’s …
BALTIMORE (3-1) at INDIANAPOLIS (2-2) – 1 p.m. ET, CBS

Don’t you love those sports stats that tell you so-and-so is “on pace” to do something special? Well, Indianapolis QB Andrew Luck is “on pace” to throw for 5,220 yards and 52 TDs following his first full month of work that included last weekend’s 393-yard, 4-TD showing in the 41-17 win/cover against 7-point pup Tennessee.

Now, Luck challenges a Baltimore defense that ranks a lowly 24th in the NFL in pass defense (260.2 ypg) and so the best game plan for the visiting and 3 ½-point underdog Ravens is a ground game that ranks ninth in the league (134.5 ypg) even without suspended RB Ray Rice.

Spread Notes – Indianapolis is 7-2 ATS (against the spread) overall since late last season and that includes five-of-six home covers. Baltimore is 6-3 ATS as an away/neutral site dog since late in the Super Bowl season of 2012.

KANSAS CITY (2-2) at SAN FRANCISCO (2-2) – 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
All the noise coming from this one is about former SF 49ers QB Alex Smith who these days runs the offense of the KC Chiefs – and he didn’t do half-bad this past Monday Night with a 20-of-26, 248, 3-TD performance in that stirring 41-14 win against New England.

If Smith keeps his emotions in check here and – a big if – if KayCee can get two-headed RB monster Jamaal Charles and Knile Davis to run the ball 35-plus times between ‘em than the six-point dog Chiefs could pull the surprise.

Spread Notes – San Francisco is 18-10-1 ATS at home since the start of the Jim Harbaugh Era back in 2011 while Kansas City enters this clash on a three-game spread winning streak and with a spiffy 9-2 ATS away mark under second-year boss-man Andy Reid.

NFL NOTEBOOK – RECENT ROAD MONEY-MAKERS
Okay, so we’ve gone back to the start of the 2009 season – so that’s the past five-plus years in NFL action – and here’s the best bets as road teams in the NFL (and a reason or two why!):

MIAMI – The Dolphins exited the 38-14 Week 4 win in London versus the hapless Oakland Raiders with a 24-17 ATS away mark that’s good for a solid .586 winning rate. The Fish are a resounding 16-10 vig-wise in non-divisional road games during this time frame and so that tells us that many non-AFC East teams have either underrated Miami’s talent level or simply looked past ‘em. Remember that last year Miami was the only NFL team to win/cover back-to-back season-opening road games with wins/covers in Cleveland and Indianapolis and did you know the Dolphins have covered four of their last five games at the New York Jets?

TAMPA BAY – Believe it or not, the Bucs are 23-19-1 against the Las Vegas prices when playing on the road the past five-plus seasons and remember that includes a 7-0-1 ATS away mark back in 2010. Okay, so Tampa Bay dipped last year with a shabby 2-6 ATS away mark as the once-proud defense allowed 42 points in a season finale at New Orleans but otherwise note this defense has held host foes to 20 points or less in 15 times the past five-plus seasons.

WASHINGTON – Last but not least, the Redskins are a composite 23-18-1 ATS away dating back to the start of 2009 and that .561 winning rate ain’t bad but consider prior to last year’s 2-6 ATS away mark the ‘Skins sported a league-best 20-11-1 away mark from between the years 2009-thru-2012. Please note that Washington’s covered four of its last five games played in Dallas. So circle Oct. 27th – a Monday Nighter – on your handy dandy football calendar.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL PREVIEWS

On Saturday, it’s …
#3 ALABAMA (4-0, 1-0 SEC) at #11 OLE MISS (4-0, 1-0 SEC) – 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS

It could well be the biggest game in Oxford since the Archie Manning days some four decades ago – but the $64,000 question is can/will Ole Miss be able to handle this rather large stage and especially considering ‘Bama brings in a newfangled offense that’s averaging 42 points per game.

No doubt that Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban felt his team needed an offensive jolt and so the off-season hiring of offensive whiz Lane Kiffin both raised eyebrows and delivered results – Alabama QB Blake Sims powers the country’s 11th-ranked passing attack (335.8 ypg) and if WR Amari Cooper (10 catches for 201 yards and a TD in the recent 42-21 win against Florida) gets heated up here than the Magnolia State kids will be bummin’.

Spread Notes – Alabama is 33-20 ATS in conference play since the start of the 2008 campaign while Ole Miss is 3-0-1 spreadwise out of this year’s starting gate and 19-8-1 ATS under third-year head coach Hugh Freeze.

#14 STANFORD (3-1) at #9 NOTRE DAME (4-0) – 3:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Gotta admit that it doesn’t seem quite fair that Notre Dame “haters” are bringing up the fact that the Irish have won all four of their games thus far against teams with a 7-11 SU (straight-up) mark … is it ND’s fault that Michigan and Syracuse have slipped?

Now, Brian Kelly’s crew looks to stay unbeaten against – arguably – the most physical college football team in the land and Stanford (a two-point betting fav at press time) does bring the nation’s top-rated pass defense into this game.

Notre Dame slinger Everett Golson – who committed a fistful of turnovers in last week’s 31-15 win/cover against 9-point pup Syracuse – can’t self-destruct here or it’s curtains for the Irish’s playoff hopes.

One wild card factor: Can Stanford PK Jordan Williamson (4-of-8 FGs this year) shake out of his personal doldrums?

Spread Notes – Notre Dame’s covered eight of its last dozen overall games while dating back to last season while Stanford enters this tilt in South Bend with a 19-8-1 ATS away mark the past four-plus seasons.

#15 LSU (4-1, 0-1 SEC) at #5 AUBURN (4-0, 1-0 SEC) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Auburn folks will tell you they’re taking things game-by-game here: After all, it’s rather imposing to face an upcoming sked that includes five games against top 15 teams – but the defending SEC champs believe there’s enough firepower on hand to make another run after falling “13 seconds short” against Florida State last January.

The QB Nick Marshall-to-WR Quan Bray tandem could create major headaches for an LSU defense that does rank fifth nationally in pass defense (130.6 ypg) but all eyes here will be on newly-named starting QB Brandon Harris whose seven drives in relief of Anthony Jennings all led to LSU touchdowns in last weekend’s 63-7 win/cover against New Mexico State.

The Auburn “death march” schedule starts here … will upset-minded LSU pull the plug right away on the title dreams?

Spread Notes – Auburn’s 13-4 ATS under second-year head coach Gus Malzahn while LSU is 12-9-2 ATS as underdogs since the start of the 2004 season.

Note: More NFL Week 5 Previews/Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez – don’t forget we’ll preview the Sunday Night game between unbeaten Cincinnati at New England.

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