The College Gridiron Report



Okay, so you’re just gonna have to sit tight till Monday when the first-ever College Football Playoff (CFP) rankings come out but, heck, there’s a boatload of great/important games between now and then and so let’s get right to our key Friday/Saturday quick-hitter previews:

On Friday, it’s...#6 OREGON (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) at CALIFORNIA (4-3, 2-3 Pac-12) - 10 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1
Hope you hadn’t already tossed the Oregon Ducks from your four-team CFP mix! True, Oregon’s got a blemish on its record thanks to that haunting 31-24 loss to Arizona back on Oct. 2nd but back-to-back wins/covers versus UCLA and Washington has put the quack-quacks back in the hunt for a playoff berth and now we’ll see if senior QB Marcus Mariota (19 TD passing and 0 INTs) can confound a passing defense that ranks a lowly 124th in the land.

Keep an eye on RB Byron Marshall who leads the Ducks with 34 receptions to go along with his haughty 8.3 yards-per-carry rushing average.

Just a note: Cal has scored 55-or-more points three different times this year.

Spread Notes - Oregon is just 3-4 ATS (against the spread) so far this season but note the Ducks own a nifty 20-12-1 spread log in conference games while dating back to late 2010. California, meanwhile, has covered five of its first seven games this season under second-year boss Sonny Dykes but the Golden Bears have failed to cover three in a row versus Oregon.

College Triple Crown of the Month

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On Saturday, it’s ...
#3 OLE MISS (7-0, 4-0 SEC) at #24 LSU (6-2, 2-2 SEC) - 7:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

Have you thought about it for a moment or two? There are four teams from the SEC West in the top five of this week’s Associated Press Top 25 poll and none of them are named LSU!

Yes, it’s a whole new world - not that LSU is bad as Les Miles’ crew is ranked and starting to rev it up following recent back-to-back wins/covers against Florida and Kentucky but it’s #1Miss State, #3 Ole Miss, #4 Alabama and #5 Auburn who have proven to be the real cream-of-the-crop teams from this league in 2014 ... is now the team LSU crashes that party?

The Tigers are trusting that their pass defense - ranked fourth nationally while allowing just 156.3 yards per game - can stagger QB Bo Wallace (1,899 yards passing with 17 TDs and 6 INTs) who had one bad half against Boise State to start off the year and has been brilliant ever since.

If Wallace can spread the wealth here - remember Ole Miss has three different guys with 22-or-more receptions including star WR Laquon Treadwell (34 grabs) - than LSU’s only counter will be to play keep-away and so that makes Tigers’ freshman RB Leonard Fournette (544 yards rushing/5.0 ypc average/7 TDs) ultra-important.

Let’s say that for LSU to pull the home upset here, Fournett probably needs 25 touches and 150 total yards ... can he get that accomplished against DE Robert Nkemdiche and friends here?

Spread Notes - Ole Miss is a sizzling 6-0-1 versus the vig so far this 2014 season and did you know the Rebels are 22-8-1 ATS under third-year head coach Hugh Freeze? LSU enters this tilt at 5-2-1 ATS this season but the Bayou Bengals have failed to cover six of their last eight head-to-head battles with Mississippi.

MICHIGAN (3-4, 1-2 Big 10) at #8 MICHIGAN STATE (6-1, 3-0 Big 10) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
You probably have to go back to the 1960s to find the last time that Michigan State was such a monstrous betting favorite against Michigan - we did look up the past 10 years and Sparty has never been more than a 4 ½-point betting favorite in any of these games - but you do wonder if this current 17-point spread is gonna serve as motivation for the visiting Wolverines.

One thing for sure is that Michigan’s best trait - the Wolves are ranked fourth in the country in rushing defense (93.6 ypg) - could force State QB Connor Cook (1,641 yards passing with 16 TDs and 5 INTs) - to take to the air early here for a Spartans team that has scored 45-or-more points in five different wins this year.

Spread Notes - Michigan State’s 4-3 versus the vig this year and 27-18-1 ATS overall since the start of the 2011 season. The Spartans have covered their last six in a row against archrival Michigan but note the visiting maize-and-blue have notched spread wins in seven of its last 11 conference affairs.

#13 OHIO STATE (5-1, 2-0 Big 10) at PENN STATE (4-2, 1-2 Big 10) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Don’t sleep on the 13th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes when it comes to filling out this year’s four-team CFP field - Urban Meyer’s club has roared back from that 35-21 home loss to Virginia Tech back on Sept. 6th and actually outscored their latest four foes by a 224-to-69 count.

Give all the credit to the Buckeyes’ kid QB J.T. Barrett who shook off some early-season jitters as Braxton Miller’s injury replacement and - believe it or not - Barrett’s starting to get some Heisman Trophy hype of its own while throwing for 20 TDs and 1,615 yards and now he’ll test a Penn State defense that has held 18 points or less in four of its first six games.

Spread Notes - Ohio State is 5-1 ATS overall this year and the Buckeyes are a solid 6-2 spreadwise in their last eight games against Penn State. Note that the Nittanies are 3-2-1 ATS this season and a collective 17-11-2 ATS in the post-Joe Paterno Era.

Won Sept. Shocker with Missouri (+6) over South Carolina 21-20
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When Jim Hurley designates a game A SHOCKER he means you won’t just cover the spread but your DOG WILL WIN OUTRIGHT. In September Jim won his 9th SHOCKER OF THE MONTH from the LAST 11 TRIES with Missouri (+6) over South Carolina and 7 of them WON STRAIGHT UP. Once again his Dog Means Business. Don’t miss the STRONGEST PLAY OF THE DAY. $50

There’s been plenty written/said this past week regarding ex-Seattle WR/KR Percy Harvin who suits up as a New York Jet player this Sunday against Buffalo - but could Harvin “sabotage” Jets’ second-year QB Geno Smith before too long?

Word is Harvin was annoyed with Seattle QB Russell Wilson for not getting him the ball enough the past year-plus as part of the Seahawks’ passing attack and now there are whispers that NYJ will try its best to get Harvin the ball a bunch in this Week 8 game.

If he doesn’t get six or eight or 10 touches here, will Harvin “go off” on the troubled Smith? Stay tuned ...

For years and years we’ve all wondered whether there will ever be a team “hosting” a Super Bowl and maybe this is the year.

The Arizona Cardinals - off to a scintillating 5-1 start - would love to host Super Bowl 49 in Glendale this coming February but some of the early numbers don’t point to that happening.

Okay, so the Redbirds have beaten the likes of San Diego and San Francisco so far but check out the point differential category and you’ll see Arizona has scored 140 points and allowed 119 ... just a plus 21 and the fact of the matter most Super Bowl-winning teams wind up with 2-to-1 or nearly 2-to-1 scoring differential advantages.

So, if Arizona is not gonna host this next Super Bowl, what do the scoring differential numbers tell us?

Well, tough to say in the NFC where Green Bay’s plus 52-point differential is best in the conference while the AFC’s best point differential team is Baltimore at plus 89

Final pointspread notes:

The Atlanta Falcons enter their London game against Detroit in the midst of a four-game ATS losing skid;

The Cincinnati Bengals have lost their last three consecutive spread decisions while heading into Sunday’s home game against Baltimore;

The Green Bay Packers have notched four consecutive spread wins while heading into Sunday Night’s game in New Orleans. P.S., the last time the Packers covered five-in-a-row was back in 2009;

The Indianapolis Colts have covered five in a row and now are laying road points in Pittsburgh this Sunday;

Finally, the Washington Redskins have dropped four consecutive pointspread verdicts while heading into Monday Night’s game at Dallas.

NOTE: There’s plenty of NFL Week 8 previews in the next Jim Sez including Baltimore at Cincinnati, Indianapolis at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia at Arizona ... so don’t miss out!



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