Volume XXVII Issue 13
On Friday, it's ...
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (9-3, 7-1 MAC) vs. OHIO (9-3, 6-2 MAC) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
The Huskies - starring dual-threat QB Chandler Harnish (2,692 yards passing and 1,351 yards rushing with 34 combined TDs) -- want to force the tempo of this tilt while Ohio truly needs a special game from talented WR LaVon Brazill (56 catches for 918 yards and 10 TDs) and the Bobcats' game plan here should include a few "go routes" where Brazill simply tries to outrun the NIU secondary.
First team to 40 points wins?
Spread Notes - Northern Illinois is 11-5-1 ATS (against the spread) versus fellow Mid-American Conference foes while dating back to the start of last year while Ohio is 16-7-1 spreadwise as an underdog side the past three-plus seasons.
FRIDAY NIGHT CHAMPIONSHIP DUO
UCLA (6-6, 5-4 Pac-12) at #9 OREGON (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) - 8 p.m. ET, Fox
Oregon's ground game - ranked fifth nationally at 291 yards a game - has become nearly impossible to slow down in recent weeks but keep an eye here on RB LaMichael James (1,427 yards rushing and 14 TDs) who these days is playing with a pair of banged-up elbows. James might be a decoy for a slew of plays here but QB Darron Thomas knows all about dissecting the Bruins as last year he threw for 308 yards and 3 TDs in a 60-13 home romp against UCLA.
It's bye-bye time after this tilt for Bruins' boss-man Rick Neuheisel (21-28 in four years on this job) and how about the fact that this "offensive genius" only watched his offense score 36 TDs this 2011 campaign - that's the fourth-worst in Pac-12 play.
Maybe TBs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman (a combined 1,555 yards rushing) can put some type of scare into the Ducks here ... but don't necessarily count on it!
The winner gets the Michigan State vs. Wisconsin winner on Jan. 2nd.
Spread Notes - Oregon is 26-16 ATS overall as hosts since the start of the 2005 season while UCLA is 9-18 ATS as point-grabbing sides the past two-plus seasons.
On Saturday, it's ...
#24 SOUTHERN MISS (10-2, 6-2 C-USA) at #6 HOUSTON (12-0, 8-0 C-USA) - 12 p.m. ET, espn2
Let's just say that Houston hasn't responded negatively in recent weeks to any sort of "pressure" of staying unbeaten as last week's 48-16 efficient win against 3-point home dog Tulsa featured more from QB Case Keenum's goody bag (see 457 passing yards and 5 TDs) and now the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards, TD passes and total offense will look to connect with speedy WR Patrick Edwards (second in the country with 1,496 yards) for some medium-range slant patterns that tore up Tulsa so badly the day after Thanksgiving.
Spread Notes - Houston has reeled off seven consecutive pointspread wins while heading into this Conference USA Championship Game and the UH Coogs are 10-1-1 ATS as double-digit betting favorites since the start of last year.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA
#14 GEORGIA (10-2, 7-1 SEC) vs. #1 LSU (12-0, 8-0 SEC) - 4 p.m. ET, CBS
Miles' gang is striving for gridiron perfection - could it happen that LSU and the Green Bay Packers never lose a game between 'em this season? - and go ahead and find some team with a better mark considering the Bengals have beaten three teams that were either ranked #2 of #3 in the land at the time. A defense that ranks second nationally in both scoring defense (10.6 ppg) and total defense (284.4 ypg) will now try to stifle a Georgia offense that has averaged 39.5 ppg the past four weeks and no question the key here is knocking Dawgs QB Aaron Murray (2,698 yards passing with 32 TDs and 10 INTs) out of rhythm and so expect lots of off-the-corner blitzes and some "spy" tactics too.
If LSU's suddenly potent offense - one that's averaging 45 ppg ever since that epic 9-6 OT win at Alabama back on Nov. 5th - has its way than it'll be that RB-by-committee approach that will wear down Georgia's better-than-you-think defense. Throw in the fact LSU slinger Jordan Jefferson - now firmly entrenched in the starter's role - is coming on fast after throwing for 208 yards in last Friday's 41-17 hammer-job win against 12 ½-point dog Arkansas and you might see some deep balls to WR Reuben Randle (48 receptions and averaging 18.5 ypc).
Spread Notes - Georgia is 8-4 versus the vig overall this year but the Dawgs are 2-9 ATS as point-grabbers since the start of the 2009 season. LSU is 9-3 against the odds overall this season but the Bayou Bengals are just 9-8-1 ATS as twin-figure betting favorites the past two-plus seasons. CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP at Indianapolis The Big Ten finally gets in on the action with its first ever Championship Game. It's a rematch of the 37-31 thriller won on a final-play hail Mary by the Spartans on Oct 22. We had the winner that day, and will again on Saturday night.
BIG TEN CHAMPIONSHIP at Indianapolis
The Big Ten finally gets in on the action with its first ever Championship Game. It's a rematch of the 37-31 thriller won on a final-play hail Mary by the Spartans on Oct 22. We had the winner that day, and will again on Saturday night.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, NC
#20 CLEMSON (9-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. #5 VIRGINIA TECH (11-1, 7-1 ACC) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Head coach Dabo Swinney's club has dropped three of its last four SU (straight-up) and four in a row to Mr. Vig and last week's 34-13 loss at archrival South Carolina was particularly disturbing because the Tigers' offense looked lost - how about QB Tajh Boyd's stat line of 11-of-29 passing for 83 yards (a 2.9 yard passing average)?
Note that Virginia Tech sent a major message last week with its indomitable 38-0 whitewash of Virginia (so much for that Las Vegas line move of Tech favored by 4 or 4 ½ points after opening at -7) as the wobbly Cavaliers ground game rushed for 30 yards on 26 carries while Hokies RB David Wilson churned out 153 yards rushing and two TDs.
Our big question here is should a VT blowout win propel coach Frank Beamer's crew into the BCS Championship Game?
Some folks are shaking their heads "yes".
Spread Notes - Clemson staggers into this title tilt having failed to cover its last four games in a row following a glitzy 7-1 ATS start this year. Virginia Tech is just 4-8 versus the vig this year after going 10-3 ATS in 2010.
BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN
#13 MICHIGAN STATE (10-2, 7-1 Big 10) vs. #15 WISCONSIN (10-2, 6-2 Big 10) - 8:15 p.m. ET, ABC
Hey, the Badgers mean business after getting beaten at the buzzer on that crazy Hail Mary pass (and subsequent elongated replay review) back on Oct. 22nd when "Sparty" copped a 37-31 win and so expect Wisky's meat-and-potatoes rushing attack to come full bore at State's defense here with Heisman Trophy hopeful RB Montee Ball (1,622 yards rushing with 29 ground scores) getting 35-or-so carries.
How's Michigan State's gonna pull the upset here (note the Spartans are a 9 ½-point pup at press time)?
Get veteran QB Kirk Cousins (290 yards passing and 3 TDs versus Wisconsin in that earlier meeting this year) to stay with a quick tempo. Note that Cousins has thrown for 10 TDs and only 1 INT during this current four-game M-State four-game winning streak.
Spread Notes - Wisconsin has covered 10 of its last 16 conference tilts dating back to the start of last year while Michigan State's covered three in a row while heading in here and the Spartans had a four-game ATS win streak earlier in this '11 campaign.
In other Saturday key College Football Games in schedule order, it's ...
CONNECTICUT (5-6, 3-3 Big East) at CINCINNATI (8-3, 4-2 Big East) - 12 p.m. ET, espn2
No doubt that Pead will be a central character here in this revenge game - UConn smoked Cincinnati 38-17 last year en route to the Huskies' conference crown - and so let's see if turnabout's fair play here.
SYRACUSE (5-6, 1-5 Big East) at PITTSBURGH (5-6, 3-3 Big East) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
On the flip side, the 'Cuse converted just 4-of-15 third-down plays (and went 0-for-2 on fourth downs) in the above-mentioned home loss versus Cincinnati and maybe here RB Antwon Bailey (135 yards rushing on 27 carries a week ago) can motor on into the end zone a couple of times and keep this one close.
#10 OKLAHOMA (9-2, 6-2 Big 12) at #3 OKLAHOMA STATE (10-1, 7-1 Big 12) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Naturally, all eyes are on Cowboys QB Brandon Weeden who has thrown 34 TD passes this year and ranks second in FBS play with nearly 374 passing yards per outing - Oklahoma will counter with multiple defensive looks and lots of five-man lines with some blitzes mixed in - a "pick six" against Weeden (who has a tendency to stare down receivers), however, could be the diff here.
Note that Sooners' QB Landry Jones threw for 468 yards and 4 TDs in a wild 47-41 back-and-forth win at Oklahoma State last year.
#22 TEXAS (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) at #17 BAYLOR (8-3, 5-3 Big 12) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, reserve QB Nick Florence (151 yards passing with two TDs) did fine in relief but we gotta know who's under center here before taking any type of financial plunge ... got it?
There is one under-the-radar game this final football Saturday, and from all the reports I'm getting, it looks to be the Cinch of the Season.
NEW MEXICO (1-10, 1-5 MWC) at #7 BOISE STATE (10-1, 5-1 MWC) - 6 p.m. ET, Mountain Network
Maybe Boise State slinger Kellen Moore (279 yards passing with 3 TDs in last week's 36-14 non-cover win against 32 ½-point dog Wyoming) will pile up more numbers here but who really cares at this point! Go get yourself a kicker, guys.
BYU (8-3) at HAWAII (6-6, 3-4 WAC) - 7:30 p.m. ET, espn2
Look for RB J.J. DiLuigi to be stat-sheet stuffer guy for BYU here but will Hawaii QB Bryant Moniz (2,733 yards passing with 22 TDs and 5 INTs) strike up a winning tune here for the 8-point home dogs?
Note the 50th-state squad is a rotten 4-8 versus the vig this year after going 10-3 spreadwise in 2010. Just sayin'!
CINCINNATI (7-4) at PITTSBURGH (8-3) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
No doubt that nifty tandem shined in the 23-20 come-from-behind non-cover win against 7-point pup Cleveland last week and should Pittsburgh play here without stud S Troy Polamalu (head injury) than the road team's game plan figures to include more downfield chucks.
NEW YORK JETS (6-5) at WASHINGTON (4-7) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Is Rex Ryan's team really good enough to win its final six games of the regular season?
Last Sunday's scary 28-24 hang-on-for-dear-life non-cover win against 9-point dog Buffalo featured key third-down receptions by WRs Patrick Turner and Plaxico Burress but when does the J-E-T-S ground game ever get going?
No question the 'Skins will be dropping more folks into coverage here and challenging NYJ slinger Mark Sanchez and look for Washington CB DeAngelo Hall to be a central character here - for better or for worse.
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ATLANTA (7-4) at HOUSTON (8-3) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Hey, keep in mind this is all foreign stuff for the Texans who sport a two-game lead in the AFC South over Tennessee (6-5) and playing from the lead late in the year hasn't exactly been Houston's M.O. since they were born back in 2002 - Jim Hurley knows better than anyone that putting teams/players in uncomfortable or unusual situations could be hazardous to one's health and so make sure you check with us for this game and all the NFL Week 13 key tilts.
DETROIT (7-4) at NEW ORLEANS (8-3) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Note that N'Orleans is averaging 450 yards a game on offense (Detroit's averaging 377) and even that oft-criticized ground game has perked it up lately.
DENVER (6-5) at MINNESOTA (2-9) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Meanwhile, it's the Broncos' defense that ought to be taking the lion's share of bows these days as Denver's stop unit has held its last three foes to 10, 13 and 13 points with Rookie of the Year frontrunner LB Von Miller a uber-active player for John Fox's team.
The Vikes believe RB Adrian Peterson (ankle) will be able to play by game time but don't be surprised if RB Toby Gerhart gets 20 totes - and one note to the Denver special teams:
Do not kick the ball in the direction of Minny's Percy Harvin because in this game where the margin for error is slim on both sides he could be the X-factor plus.
GREEN BAY (11-0) at NEW YORK GIANTS (6-5) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Now, Green Bay ace QB Aaron Rodgers (3,475 yards passing with 33 TDs) looks to humble a Giants team sorely lacking a pass rush in recent weeks and now missing oft-injured DE Osi Umenyiora (ankle).
How does Tom Coughlin's NYG crew bounce back from Monday Night's brutal 49-24 loss in New Orleans?
Our best educated guess here at Jim Sez is that the Jints should spread the field, keep QB Eli Manning (3,358 yards passing with 20 TDs) in the shotgun and chuck it 45-to-50 times ... heck, the ground game ain't getting them a darn thing!
SUNDAY NIGHT NFC SHOWDOWN
The Lions have to keep winning to stay in the NFC Wild Card picture, while the Saints control the NFC South, still a game up on Atlanta. This is a make-or-break matchup for both, and I expect full intensity for both these talented teams. What makes the difference? I know, and I'll have tonight's winner along with two bonus plays from the daytime card for just $15. Click Here to win
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