Wild Card Weekend
COLLEGE PLAYOFF RE-CAPS AS #2 OREGON AND #4 OHIO STATE ADVANCE
PLUS THE WEEKEND'S FINAL BOWL GAMES
AND NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND IS HERE - WILL WE SEE ANY (OR MANY) UPSETS?
The first-ever College Football Playoffs were owned by Oregon and Ohio State but, boy, did those two schools beginning with the letter "O" sure get to winner's circle in completely different fashion. Here's the re-caps:
OREGON 59, FLORIDA STATE 20 - Jim Hurley Wins with OVER 70!
Maybe the Oregon Ducks (13-1) did leave a few too many points on the field in the first half of this New Year's Day game but the Pac-12 guys more than made up for it after halftime by scoring on six consecutive possessions plus don't forget that wild fumble-turned-TD when FSU quarterback Jameis Winston fell on his kister right 'round midfield and promptly lost the ball.
So, don't look now but Oregon's win streak has hit nine in a row - plus the Ducks now also have covered nine straight to boot - and, even with a shaky first half by Heisman Trophy-winning QB Marcus Mariota, the Ducks exploded with a flashy offense that "tempo-ed" the Seminoles to death as Florida State's defenders were sucking wind midway through the third quarter.
Mariota finished with 338 yards passing and two touchdown tosses but the real key here were those two lost fumbles by Florida State frosh RB Dalvin Cook as they completely swayed momentum to Oregon's side and left defending champ FSU battered and beaten.
Winston? He wound up throwing for 348 yards and one score while spending way too much time arguing with head coach Jimbo Fisher - they're like a couple of old married people! - but the 5-to-2 edge in turnovers that favored Oregon was the big diff and don't discount the contributions of the Duck ground game that averaged 6.7 yards a pop with 301 rushing yards in all.
The 7.5-point favored OU Ducks trailed once at 3-0 but became red-zone demons on "D" and Mariota and Co. eventually clicked ... it's onward and upward for (what we think) has been college football's best team the past two-plus months.
OHIO STATE 42, ALABAMA 35 - Jim wins the upset with the Buckeyes!
Okay, so at times here in Jim Sez we've ranted and raved about the fact we've never thought all year long that the 'Bama Crimson Tide was national championship caliber ... and now we've been proven to be right!
Nothing to take away from the dramatically wonderful showing by 7 ½-point underdog Ohio State here - after all, the Buckeyes rallied from a 21-6 lead to win and did so with a third-stringer at quarterback and with a hyped defense that picked off three passes - but Alabama simply never showed us championship mettle and when push-came-to-shove QB Blake Sims gagged with two really bad picks and where was that staunch Tide defense that on this night surrendered 537 yards in all including 230 rushing yards by better-than-you-thought RB Ezekiel Elliott?
There were so many momentum swings in this game it was tough to keep track but let's say this: Alabama head coach Nick Saban never did cure his defense's problems of allowing deep throws and first-year Tide offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin - as usual - got a bit too cutesy a few times with misdirection pass plays that more often than not blew up in Alabama's collective faces.
Ohio State's headed to the Championship Game on January 12 in Arlington and the 'Eyes know that QB Cardale Jones (243 passing yards with one TD and another 43 key yards rushing) is only gonna get better with more playing time and so maybe amazing head coach Urban Meyer is going to "shock the world" and win this whole thing.
Lots more Oregon vs. Ohio State coverage in the days ahead right here at Jim Sez.
Hey, let's not forget there's two more College Bowl Games this weekend:
On Saturday, it's ...BIRMINGHAM BOWL - at Birmingham, AL
EAST CAROLINA (8-4) vs. FLORIDA (6-5) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here's another big brother vs. little brother bowl matchup of a Power 5 school (Florida) getting challenged by a non-Power 5 squad (East Carolina) and always tough to figure the
mindset of a team in the midst of a coaching change as Will Muschamp's out and Jim McElwain (Colorado State) soon will be calling the shots and here defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin is the interim coach of a Gators' gang that did beat bowl squads Georgia and Tennessee this year. East Carolina QB Shane Carden (4,309 yards passing with 28 TDs and 8 INTs) will look early/often to WR Justin Hardy (110 receptions for 1,334 yards and 9 TDs) as the Pirates attempt to cop a second straight bowl win (beat Ohio 37-20 in Beef O'Brady Bowl last year).
Spread Notes - East Carolina is 1-7 ATS (against the spread) in its last eight games this season while Florida's 5-12 vig-wise as betting favorites since late 2012.
On Sunday, it's ...GODADDY.COM BOWL - at Mobile, AL
TOLEDO (8-4) vs. ARKANSAS STATE (7-5) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
In case you had lost count, this is the fourth straight GoDaddy.Com Bowl appearance for Arkansas State ... and it's the fourth different head coach to lead 'em to this post-season tilt.
Blake Anderson is the latest coach on this merry-go-round and the Red Wolves look for an offense that averages 36.1 ppg (that's 20th in FBS play) to lead 'em here with QB Fredi Knighten (2,874 yards passing with 19 TDs and 7 INTs) at the controls while Toledo is playing in its fourth bowl the past five years (missed out with last year's 7-5 team) and check out RB Kareem Hunt who averaged better than 150 yards rushing per game to rank third among all FBS backs.
Spread Notes - Toledo is 4-9-1 ATS overall while dating back to late last season while Arkansas State's covered its last two GoDaddy.Com Bowls and is a sizzling 10-3 vig-wise as dogs the past four seasons.
Get all the remaining College Football Bowl Games plus the Championship Game on Jan. 12 and the NFL Wild Card Round games this Saturday/Sunday too when you check with us here at Jim Hurley's Network. And, of course, make sure you're all aboard for the NBA and NCAA Basketball daily/nightly winners all this week/weekend action either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.
NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND
On Saturday, it's ...
NFC WILD CARD GAME
ARIZONA (11-5) at CAROLINA (7-8-1) - 4:35 p.m. ET, ESPN
Forget the records ... the Carolina Panthers suddenly have become America's Darlings (we've already heard a number of folks claim they believe the NFC South repeat champs can win in Seattle next weekend ... hold your horses, folks!) and the whopping 6.5-point spread here shows whose arrow is pointing up and whose is pointing down.
Carolina has ridden a renewed vigor from QB Cam Newton and an air-tight secondary to four successive regular-season ending wins and now get to go up against Arizona QB Ryan Lindley who is 1-5 SU (straight-up) as a starter. If the Cardinals are gonna steal this one in Charlotte, than not only will Lindley have to steer clear of the red-zone INT but Arizona must keep Newton in check as his legs have been key in recent wins against Cleveland and New Orleans.
Spread Notes - Carolina is 12-6-1 ATS at home since late in the 2012 season while Arizona is 21-10-1 ATS under second-year head coach Bruce Arians.
AFC WILD CARD GAME
BALTIMORE (10-6) at PITTSBURGH (11-5) - 8:15 p.m. ET, NBC
It only seems that the Ravens and Steelers meet every year in the post-season after slugging it out twice-a-year in the regular season but, in fact, this marks the fourth time that this matchup will occur in post-season play with Pittsburgh winning at home in 2002, 2009 and 2011 - so what can John Harbaugh's crew do here to snap that playoff losing skid?
For starters, the Ravens can't relax on defense even though it appears Pittsburgh's star RB Le'Veon Bell won't play here after that ugly hyperextended knee injury a week ago. Common sense would dictate that means more QB Ben Roethlisberger-to-WR Antonio Brown pass plays after the latter led the NFL with 129 receptions but it's worth watching the blitz packages the Ravens have installed here - and don't forget Baltimore NT Haloti Ngata is back after serving a four-game substance abuse suspension.
If Ravens QB Joe Flacco - who last week threw for 300-plus yards for the first time since Week 9 - can get some rhythm here, than Baltimore could finally a playoff game in the Steel City.
P.S., we say Baltimore RB Justin Forsett (1,266 yards rushing) needs 25 touches here if the mild upset's gonna happen.
Spread Notes - Baltimore's 4-8 vig-wise versus AFC North foes the past two years while Pittsburgh rides a season-best four-game ATS win streak into this prime-time tilt.
On Sunday, it's ...
AFC WILD CARD GAME
CINCINNATI (10-5-1) at INDIANAPOLIS (11-5) - 1:05 p.m. ET, CBS
Think the Cincy Bengals have heard enough about this prolonged playoff drought? Let's just say that 1991 seems like a really long time ago for Bengal backers who have suffered through a 12-year Marvin Lewis Era that includes zero playoff wins in five tries and don't forget that Week 7 game this year in Indianapolis when the Bengals were squashed 27-0.
In that tilt, the Bengals were held to 135 total yards and P Kevin Huber punted the ball away 11 times - maybe this now run-heavy offense starring RB Jeremy Hill (1,124 yards rushing) can kill two birds with one stone while chewing yards/clock and keeping Colts' pitchman QB Andrew Luck (4,761 yards passing with 40 TDs) on the sidelines for chunks of time.
Luck orchestrated last year's miraculous 45-44 come-from-behind AFC Wild Card win against Kansas City but Chuck Pagano's club is hoping to avoid such high drama here but keep an eye on a Cincinnati defense that recorded 20 INTs this year (third-best in the NFL) and whether or not Indy can get this sluggish ground game untracked as the Colts rank 22nd in the league in rushing yards per game (110.8 ypg).
Spread Notes - Indianapolis is 19-8-2 ATS as favorites the past three years while Cincinnati's covered four-of-six games as dogs this year.
NFC WILD CARD GAME
DETROIT (11-5) at DALLAS (12-4) - 4:40 p.m. ET, Fox
Right now, this Cowboys minus 7 price tag over the Lions is the largest pointspread of the wild card weekend - we remind you that last year San Diego (+ 6) beat Cincinnati and Indianapolis (+ 2) bested Kansas City for the two Wild Card weekend upsets - and if the Lions are going to snap this dreadful seven-game post-season losing streak than that pepped-up rush defense that held foes to an NFL-low 69.3 rushing yards per game must wrap up league rushing leader RB DeMarco Murray (1,845 yards) and also apply some heat on QB Tony Romo who is playing at a high level these days with major "chunk plays" to WR Dez Bryant very much part of the Dallas diet.
Detroit QB Matthew Stafford should show some no-huddle, tempo offense here and if WRs Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate wind up with close to 20 catches between 'em than the Lions could be "live" here ... hey, Ndamukong Suh, can you finally behave yourself here?
Spread Notes - Dallas is 10-6 against the odds overall this year (the best spread season for the 'Boys in more than a decade) while Detroit is 7-13-1 as dogs since the start of 2011.
NOTE: We'll recap NFL Wild Card Weekend in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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