When Seattle Has The Ball
OUR SUPER BOWL XLIX COUNTDOWN CONTINUES AS WE LOOK AT WHEN THE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE FOOTBALL
PLUS TWO OF COLLEGE BASKETBALL'S BIGGEST FLOPS SO FAR (AND WE'RE TALKING TO YOU, UNLV AND MICHIGAN STATE!)
A funny thing happened to the Seattle Seahawks last year on their way to their first-ever Super Bowl win - they scored 43 points in the big game and only five other past Super Bowl winners had ever scored more.
Nope, nobody saw that coming of course although we do have to mention that Seattle's Super Bowl-winning squad from a year ago did register a 69-yard INT return for a touchdown by LB Malcolm Smith and an 87-yard TD bring-back on the second-half kickoff by Percy Harvin plus there was that early-game safety too in the 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos.
Still, go ahead and raise your hand in you thought last year's Seahawks were gonna score their second-most points in any game for that whole 2013 season (see 45-17 win against Jacksonville back in a Week 3 game last year).
Now, fast forward to this game and you do have to wonder if this year's SB 49 clash against the New England Patriots will be a high-scoring game - you'll note the Las Vegas folks opened this tilt with a totals price of 49 points and it's dropped a smidge to 48 points at press time - and we'll remind you that the here-and-now Seahawks scored 30-or-more points in five different games this year as opposed to New England having recorded 30-or-more points 10 different times.
THE SUPER BOWL XLIX REPORT -WHEN THE SEATTLE SEAHAWKS HAVE THE BALL
Hey, the numbers really don't lie as they tell you the Seahawks ranked first in the NFL in rushing yards per game (172.6 ypg) this past regular season while ranking just 27th in passing offense (203.1 ypg) ... so is this simply gonna come down to a case of whether or not RB Marshawn Lynch can power up against these Patriots?
In this post-season, Lynch has carried the ball 39 times for 216 yards (a tasty 5.5 yards-per-carry average with one rushing score) and he made a big play late in the NFC Championship Game overtime win against Green Bay with a key 26-yard pass reception but common sense dictates that New England's defense will put seven or eight men "in the box" and look to lock down the physical Lynch right there at the line of scrimmage.
Can the Seahawks win without a 100-plus yard ground game from Lynch here?
Um, probably not.
However, the Seahawks may wind up counting on other sources to provide valuable rushing yards as QB Russell Wilson surely will deploy the read-option look at times here - it worked masterfully in wins against the New York Giants and Arizona this year but two weeks for Patriots' head coach Bill Belichick to prep for this look could quiet Wilson as a rusher - but as we stated last week in a Jim Sez column we'll be expecting RB Robert Turbin (just 9 carries for 27 rushing yards this post-season in wins against Carolina and Green Bay) to have a profound impact on this clash and his speed and ability to break contain on the corners could create some major chunk plays and we say New England's secondary better tackle him near the line of scrimmage or there could be some long gainers.
Obviously, the Seahawks' passing game has been criticized for a number of things these past couple of years and in this particular post-season QB Wilson's completed a grand total of only 29 passes for 477 yards with 4 TDs and 4 INTs and those wide outs haven't been a real big factor save for the back-to-back 35-yard grabs at the end of the 28-22 OT win against Green Bay.
First, WR Doug Baldwin (9 catches for 144 yards and one TD this post-season) snagged Wilson's perfectly thrown sideline pass and then WR Jermaine Kearse (four catches for 164 yards and two TDs this post-season) famously reeled in Wilson's 35-yard scoring strike on a deep post pattern and both - no doubt - have grown tired of all the talk that they're not "big-time receivers" and now the challenge is even bigger while going up against the likes of New England CBs Darrelle Revis and ex-Seahawks star Brandon Browner.
So, just as Turbin likely has to step it up for the Seattle ground game, expect the likes of TE/WR Luke Willson (6 catches for 79 yards with 1 TD and one two-point conversion catch this post-season) and/or WR Ricardo Lockette (three catches this post-season including a key finger-tip grab against Green Bay) to launch their games to higher levels ... or else.
Meanwhile, the Seattle offensive line has some issues to tackle: Center Max Unger has been hurting and some of his shotgun snaps to Wilson were wobbly and wide in that overtime triumph against the Packers plus it cannot be dismissed that Wilson's been sacked seven times this post-season - and it's not all been because he "holds onto the ball too long".
If LT Russell Okung has problems with pass rushers here, than Wilson could well be scrambling more by necessity than by design.
Prediction - Seattle has run the ball 63 times while averaging a haughty 4.7 yards a tote and the Seahawks have attempted 52 passes - and that includes the 19-yard touchdown toss by holder/P Jon Ryan-to-OT Gary Gilliam - this post-season and Pete Carroll's team should be thriving for a near 50-50 balance here.
The Seahawks found themselves in a slew of third-and-long plays against Green Bay (they managed to convert 8-of-16 third-down plays in all versus the Packers but faced 3rd-and-7 or longer nine times in the game) and obviously must avoid that here but if the read-option or Lynch's runs on first down aren't getting the job done, expect OC Darrell Bevell to change course a bit and have Wilson chuck some deep balls on first-down plays to keep Revis and folks honest here.
The Stat Box - Note that when the Seahawks score 24-or-more points they're 7-3 ATS (against the spread) this season and when the defending Super Bowl champs are held below the 24-point mark they're just 4-4 versus the vig.
Jim Hurley will have the Sides & Totals Winners of Super Bowl XLIX when you check with us on Sunday morning plus go ahead and continue to pile up all the profits with loads of NBA and NCAA Basketball winners right here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - go ahead and score big today!
THE COLLEGE HOOPS REPORT
The College Basketball talking heads on ESPN and Fox (among other networks) love to pile on the platitudes when it comes to "surprise teams" at this stage of the season but who's gonna slam the teams that have not exactly lived up to preseason hype?
Okay, so we'll do it!
UNLV (11-9, 2-5 Mountain West Conference) - Wait a second ... weren't folks calling last year's Runnin' Rebels a "major disappointment" en route to a 20-13 record?
Now, the Rebs are one of this year's flop teams - remember that most "experts" thought that Dave Rice's squad would be right behind San Diego State and Boise State near the top of the MWC and instead the Rebels entered this work week in ninth place in this 11-team league.
True, UNLV's been in a fistful of close games lately including last weekend's 79-77 overtime non-cover win against 5 ½-point road dog Utah State as four of UNLV's last six games have been decided by six points or less but this club's 85th in the country in scoring (68.1 ppg) and 70th in the land in scoring defense (64.4 ppg) and there's no real identity except for the fact there's just two double-digit scorers on the squad in frosh G Rashad Vaughn (17.9) and 6-foot-11 soph Christian Wood (14.2) - and can't anyone here drill a trifecta?
MICHIGAN STATE (13-7, 4-3 Big 10) - Ohh, you thought Michigan would be on this short list but the maize-and-blue have their legitimate excuses for being down in 2014-15 but it's Sparty who's gotta answers some critics now.
Tom Izzo's club just can't find its footing these days with last weekend's 79-77 loss at 2-point pup Nebraska highlighting the team's major flaws.
One of the so-called strengths - free-throw shooting - meanwhile was a disaster in Lincoln as Michigan State canned just 5-of-13 freebies in the first half when the Spartans trailed 39-25 at intermission but turnovers remains a bugaboo and can't ignore the fact that guard play in general has been a weakness on this team with Denzel Valentine, Travis Trice and Branden Dawson all seemingly taking turns missing shots, handling the ball like a hand grenade and getting beaten to the punch by less-skilled backcourt players.
Maybe M-State goes on a patented run but something's clearly wrong with a team that's lost twice to new Big 10 foe Maryland and struggles on an almost-nighty basis.
NOTE: More Super Bowl XLIX coverage and NCAA/NBA Hoops coming your way all this week right here at Jim Sez ... and make sure you catch our Super Bowl Preview in Friday's column.
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