Volume XXVII, Issue 5
Jim Hurley's NCAA PICKS & PREVIEWS are based on information obtained prior to press time and may not reflect any changes that could affect these selections. For firmed-up Game-Day selections/ratings, visit us at www.JimHurley.com or call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 9:30 a.m. ET on weekends and holidays and anytime after 1 p.m. ET for weeknight games.
THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29
SOUTH FLORIDA at PITTSBURGH: No doubt lots will be discussed here on this prime-time ESPN clash regarding all the shifting/moving with Big East teams but the $64,000 question is are Pitt and Syracuse opponents "playing harder" because those two teams have announced their exodus from this league to the ACC? Meanwhile, Pittsburgh's still haunted by Notre Dame short touchdown strike in the final 6:48 of last weekend's 15-12 loss-but-cover to the Irish as the erratic Panthers could not take advantage of the turnover battle win (see 2-to-0) and never did get that passing attack in gear. Hey, note that South Florida has revenge after getting beat 17-10 on its own home turf a year ago.
FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 30
UTAH STATE at BYU: It's the "BYU Game of the Week" – or so it seems here on the all-sports network at ESPN and gotta believe last Friday's gritty/gutty 24-17 win against two-point underdog Central Florida (another Jim Hurley winner) could pump new life back into this Cougars club that had lost back-to-back games to Texas and Utah – maybe the electrifying 93-yard kick return for a touchdown by speed-burner Hoffman will wind up being BYU's biggest play of the year. On the flip side, Utah State needs to rush it better than UCF did (see just 81 ground yards) who overall out-gained BYU by 136 yards. Hmmm. We've been right with BYU all season, and will steer you in the winning direction again Friday Night.
SATURDAY, OCTOBER 1
AIR FORCE at NAVY: Count us among the folks who believe last week's bye will pay huge dividends here for the host Midshipmen who – BTW – are 3-0 ATS (against the spread) right out of the starting gate this 2011 campaign. Look for Navy FB Teich to find the creases in Air Force's front seven on "D" here while the visiting Fly Boys shouldn't figure on posting speed-limit point totals (see last week's so-what 63-24 win against 41-point dog Tennessee State). Hey, did you know that Navy's covered the last eight games in a row in this annual rivalry game between these proud service academies? Call it Navy 34, Air Force 22.
PENN STATE at INDIANA: Not inclined to be laying any sort of major points with HC Paterno's team that is now 0-4 vig-wise this 2011 season – yes, we know QB McGloin aired out three scoring strikes (and no picks) in last weekend's 34-6 non-cover win against Eastern Michigan but Nittanies' ground game not exactly purring (see modest 104 yards rushing on 25 carries against EMU) and so this is sit-it-out special and let's find out if State's looking ahead to its double-revenge game on deck against Iowa.
NEVADA at BOISE STATE: Go ahead and call us a bully … we can take it! Here's a case of the heavy-duty favorite B-State Broncos looking to get major revenge for last year's night-after-Thanksgiving 34-31 overtime loss (and as 14-point home dogs, to boot!) by the Nevada Wolf Pack in a game that kayoed State's potential national championship dreams. Now, Nevada comes into this tilt having played three consecutive road games to start off the current campaign and there's no rest for the weary who blew 35-34 loss-but-cover at Texas Tech last Saturday night. On the flip side, Boise State QB Moore (four TD strikes in last weekend's 41-21 non-cover win against 28-point dog Tulsa) really getting his act fine-tuned these days as he develops better-and-better rapport with this new group of pass-catchers (see WR Shoemaker's five grabs for 102 yards and two TDs last week). Lay it! Boise State 58, Nevada 11.
UCLA at STANFORD: Let's just say that Cardinal QB Luck has done precious little wrong this year as the highly-ranked Palo Alto guys are 3-0 SU (straight-up) and 3-0 ATS while the Heisman Trophy frontrunner has thrown for 786 yards with 8 TDs and 1 INT thus far but will last week's bye cause the Redbirds to stammer a bit at game's start here? Note that UCLA finally covered a Las Vegas price following three season-starting spread setbacks but last weekend's 27-19 win at 4 ½-point fav Oregon State ranks in our NBD (No Big Deal) category!
MICHIGAN STATE at OHIO STATE: Hey, Sparty's first – and only – road game of the year so far didn't turn out so great as HC Dantonio's team was squashed 31-13 in South Bend two weekends ago but maybe that experience will serve the green gang well here. Consider that QB Cousins is a veteran slinger who won't get discouraged if sacked a couple of times and note the Buckeyes still a work-in-progress on offense … and so you now know why this Las Vegas spread is a mere FG at press time!
ALABAMA at FLORIDA: Here's a super-duper SEC showdown from "The Swamp" that has more than just a few national implications – hey, if the 'Bama Crimson Tide can snag this one than it figures to be clear sailing till that Nov. 5th home game against LSU. All Alabama HC Saban wants here is another turnover-free display by his offense (see last weekend's efficient 38-14 win/cover against 12 ½-point pup Arkansas) and more battering-ram rushing yards from RBs Richardson and Lacy (a combined 187 ground yards against the Hogs). If Florida is gonna put itself back on the "elite" map here, than HC Muschamp's gang must take advantage of any/all open spaces and that means getting RBs Demps and Rainey in the clear (they teamed up for 262 rushing yards in last Saturday's 48-10 blitzkreig of Kentucky). The Gators' RBs have to make hay with the little dump-off passes that come their way and – if so – than Florida could stay unbeaten and go to 5-and-oh versus the vig.
TEXAS A&M vs. ARKANSAS (at Arlington): Now-annual showdown in "Jerry's House" pits two teams coming loss their first loss of the season last week and gotta believe A&M Aggies will be down-in-the-mouth here after blowing 20-3 lead in 30-29 setback against Okie State – we never did think HC Sherman was another Vince Lombardi, you know! The Big 12 guys allowed 27 second-half points last weekend and lost turnover battle 4-to-1. If Arkansas can force some miscues here from QB Tannehill (3 INTs last week) than it will be "pig sooey" time.
WASHINGTON at UTAH: Gotta hand it to underrated UW Huskies boss-man Sarkisian who got his club off the mat from tough/physical 51-38 loss-but-cover at Nebraska two weeks ago to nab 31-23 win against Cal last Saturday – QB Price did commit major fumble loss but showed grit and CB Trufant remains one of the game's great stoppers this year and so be careful underestimating the road Dawgs here.
MISS STATE at GEORGIA: We won't at all blame you if thinking this year's M-State Bulldogs bunch are nothing but gridiron frauds! There was plenty of preseason hype surrounding HC Mullen and Company – yes, they were ranked #20 in the opening Associated Press Top 25 poll -- but back-to-back SEC losses against Auburn and LSU than was followed up last weekend by tightrope-like 26-20 OT win against three-TD pups Louisiana Tech … even Mullen didn't trust own QB Relf late in regulation as he put the cuffs on the kid near midfield. We were watching!
AUBURN at SOUTH CAROLINA: Loved the fact that ESPN commentators called South Carolina QB Garcia an "enigma wrapped in a riddle" as he continues to confound despite the fact the Gamecocks merrily roll along at 4-0 SU. Leave it to workhorse RB Lattimore (150 total yards and two scores in 21-3 win/cover against Vanderbilt last weekend) to bail HC Spurrier's gang out of trouble here but do you really want to lay this double-digit price?
CLEMSON at VIRGINIA TECH: Shhh … This year's V-Tech Hokies have really operated well below the radar screen but this team is for real as RB Wilson (132 yards rushing in last week's 30-10 win at Marshall) not afraid to get dirt under his fingernails and defense is stout (see 40 points allowed in 4-0 SU start). It's Virginia Tech 31, Clemson 16.
NEBRASKA at WISCONSIN: Now that the 'Huskers are part of the newfangled Big 10, they get to find out what everyone else in the league knows … it's tough to go into Madison and win a ball game! In fact, Wisky's 46-4 SU at home since 2004 but did you know the Badgers are a collective 27-19 against the odds in their own backyard and gotta think WR Toon (career-high 155 yards receiving and two TDs last week in 59-10 win against South Dakota) is prime-time target here for heavy-duty home favs.
NOTRE DAME at PURDUE: Hats off to Irish QB Rees who completed all eight of his passing attempts in aforementioned game-winning touchdown drive last weekend at Pittsburgh but how come WR Floyd (four catches in all) wasn't a bigger part of HC Kelly's game plan? Bet your proverbial bottom dollar that Irish will get Floyd hooked up early against Purdue team that's not allowed a single point since Sept. 10th (okay, so the Boilermakers followed up their 59-0 win against SE Missouri State two weeks ago with a bye!). Spread note: Notre Dame's 6-1 against the odds away in the Kelly Era after having gone 11-11-1 ATS away from 2006-through-2009. Just sayin'!
(All figures below are against the spread)
Jim Hurley's NFL PICKS & PREVIEWS are based on information obtained prior to press time and may not reflect any changes that could affect these selections. For firmed-up Game-Day selections/ratings, log online at www.JimHurley.com or call the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 after 10 a.m. ET on Sundays and after 1 p.m. ET for the weeknight games.
SUNDAY, OCTOBER 2
DETROIT at DALLAS: Think the Cowboys feel a wee bit fortunate to have survived 18-16 non-cover win against 3 ½-point underdog Washington this past Monday Night? Note that Dallas QB Romo had to chase down a handful of errant shotgun snaps from center plus his young wide-out corps never did know where to line up or how to run their patterns – maybe Mr. Romo (255 yards passing with one pick in that key divisional home win) will stick to throwing it 10-to-12 times to dependable TE Witten here (see six catches for 60 yards versus the 'Skins). Short work week for the Cowboys who are eyeballing the bye week ahead as QB Romo's ribs/lungs could use a breather plus no WR Austin and so Motowners could sneak into town and steal this one providing QB Stafford (378 yards passing and two TDs in 26-23 come-from-behind OT win at Minnesota last weekend) is on the mark.
SAN FRANCISCO at PHILADELPHIA: Let's keep track of how many QB Vick physical updates we get from ESPN this week (the "Breaking News" feature on SportsCenter will get a workout!) but fact of the matter is HC Reid's guys need to get a whole lot better in short yardage situations as fourth-down stop of RB McCoy was game's biggest play in last week's 29-16 shockeroo home loss to the Giants. Now that everyone knows the 49ers itinerary – HC Harbaugh's guys stayed "local" with a week-long stay in Youngstown after last weekend's 13-8 win against 1-point home favorite Cincinnati – the $64,000 question is will the Niners be fresher than usual or will the extended road trip have taken its toll on the team's legs/psyches here? One thing you had to like about SF's road win in Week 3 was the fact it committed just one turnover (the Bengals had three miscues) while QB Smith finished 20-of-30, 201-yard passing game without a pick.
BUFFALO at CINCINNATI: Hip-hip-hooray as the Bills are 3-and-oh SU (straight-up) for just the second time this century (see 4-0 start in 2007) but you have to go back to the franchise's Super Bowl-losing glory years of the early 1990s to find the last time they come off such a huge win … last Sunday's epic 34-31 come-from-way-behind triumph over 7-point fav New England featured two more scoring strikes by QB Fitzpatrick plus four picks of immortal QB Brady but can HC Gailey's gang stay with that Cloud 9 feeling here? Note that Buffalo scored three TDs in four red-zone visits versus the Pats last weekend and that's the real key as to whether Buffalo covers this price tag or not!
ATLANTA at SEATTLE: No doubt that Falcons WR White will be kicking self all week long after missing QB Ryan strike last week late in 16-13 loss at Tampa Bay (and not his only drop of the game, folks!) and now HC Smith's squad having to play in third road game already this year and may be emotionally/physically drained here. Gotta believe Seahawks feel revived with WR Rice (8 catches for 109 yards in the 13-10 mild upset win against 3-point fav Arizona) back on board after missing first two games this season.
NY GIANTS at ARIZONA: Is this one of those ultimate "letdown games" for the visiting Jints? Sure seems to be the case when you consider HC Coughlin's guys out-toughed the Philly Eagles 29-16 last Sunday at "The Link" as QB Manning aired four scoring strikes and front seven on defense made life miserable for QB Vick (bruised-up hand among his many problems) but be careful here 'cause 'Zona QB Kolb (two picks in 13-10 loss in Seattle in Week 3) still prone to shaky decisions/passes and WR Fitzgerald (only 64 yards receiving last week) still not in sync with new slinger.
DENVER at GREEN BAY: It's not often you'll catch us laying monster points with a team that's fresh off an emotional rivalry game but here's the exception to the rule: The Packers – who have now covered 13 of their last 17 overall games dating back to the middle of last year (that's a fancy .765 winning rate) – know Denver defense is hurting in more ways than one and so Pack's QB Rodgers-to-TE Finley tandem (they combined for three scores at Solider Field last weekend) make it happen in a big way here. Green Bay 36, Denver 13.
NEW ENGLAND at OAKLAND: In case you're wondering, the NE Patriots have failed to cover four of their last five pointspread verdicts the week after losing in SU fashion and now HC Belichick's gang in salty mood after surrendering 21-0 first-half lead en route to humbling/bumbling loss in Buffalo – you know QB Brady aired four INTs but what about the fact New England allowed 9.2 yards per pass play in that divisional loss and Oakland QB Campbell flashed some nice feel on passes to TE Boss and WR Schilens in that 34-24 win. No doubt that RB McFadden (groin) showed superb form last week as he broke loose on 70-yard scoring jaunt but is he 100 percent here?
NY JETS at BALTIMORE: Lest there be any doubt that the major storyline of this clash will be the return of Jets' HC Ryan (the one-time Ravens' defensive coordinator) but when you get down to the nuts-and-bolts of this AFC prime-time matchup there's little doubt that the road folks won't be winning if they can't run the ball or stop the run (see 100 yards rushing on 25 carries in last week's 34-23 loss in Oakland while the Raiders got out their shovels and dug in for 234 yards rushing and 7.3 yards a carry). If Ryan wants to prove his club is resilient, than LB Harris and Company need to put a fork in Baltimore RB Rice and Company who averaged 6.5 yards-a-pop after QB Flacco-to-WR Smith teamed up for first-quarter TD strikes of 74, 41 and 18 yards in 37-7 romp over St. Louis.
MONDAY, OCTOBER 3
INDIANAPOLIS at TAMPA BAY: Think there might be some sentiment to "flexing out" of all 2011 Colts' national TV games the rest of the way? We'd sign on for that as Indy could be headed for numero uno draft pick next April while T-Bay feeling frisky after hang-on-tight 16-13 win/cover against Atlanta – hey that fourth-quarter goal line stand was brilliant by the Bucs who will feed RB Blount another 24-or-25 rushes here.
(All figures below are against the spread)
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