Bulletin Newsletter Volume 28 Issue 17

Volume 28, Issue 17 ~ December 13-16, 2012

IT'S TIME FOR THE NETWORK COLLEGE FOOTBALL AWARDS

Hey, we let everyone else out there hand out their awards all last week and we sat back and soaked it all in ... now's the time for us to weigh in with our Jim Sez College Football Awards.

PLAYER OF THE YEAR - MANTI TE'O, LB, NOTRE DAME - Sorry, but we're not budging! You can quote us every key stat having to do with Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel (a great, great football player) but what can we say except Te'o was the boss of the nation's #1 team and isn't the goal to win? Te'o stats included 7 interceptions and a slew of goal-line stops and all we know is when push came to shove, Te'o and Notre Dame always came out on top.
Top Runner-Up - Who else but Johnny Heisman!

COACH OF THE YEAR - BRIAN KELLY, NOTRE DAME - Again, the Irish finished up 12-0 and faced immense down-the-stretch pressure to keep winning and show up in this year's BCS Championship Game and its third-year head coach never cracked under the pressure. Kelly - who was the right choice from the get-go for this South Bend school - may drive some folks nuts with his occasional musical chairs bit at quarterback but how do you argue with gridiron perfection? You don't!
Top Runner-Up - Bill O'Brien, Penn State.

GAME OF THE YEAR - TEXAS A&M 29, ALABAMA 24 - The funny thing about this November game is that in the end it didn't mean anything in regards to the national championship picture as the Crimson Tide lost and still wound up in the Jan. 7th BCS Championship Game but there was terrific drama here with 'Bama driving late after Manziel had smoked the two-TD favorites in the first quarter with a dizzying array of run/pass successes.
Top Runner-Up - How 'bout Stanford's 17-14 OT win against 19 ½-point fav Oregon as that changed the whole complexion of the BCS race late.

DISAPPOINTMENT OF THE YEAR - USC - When the preseason #1 team winds up with five losses and a berth in the so-what/who-cares Sun Bowl, than you know your season's been a total flop.
Top Runner-Up - Arkansas "edges out" SEC rival Auburn. Phooey on the two of you!

THURSDAY NIGHT NFL PREVIEW

CINCINNATI (7-6) at PHILADELPHIA (4-9) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
Put it this way: If the Cincy Bengals don't land a post-season berth this year than losing the close ones will have doomed 'em!
The Bengals, coming off last Sunday's heart-wrenching 20-19 last-second loss to heart-broken Dallas - now has dropped four"one-score" games this season including a four-point loss to Miami and a 7-point home loss to archrival Pittsburgh - and so there's no real wiggle room now for Cincinnati here in this short-week, lay-the-points, road affair against a suddenly revived Eagles crew that scored two touchdowns in the game's final four minutes to upend Tampa Bay 23-21 last Sunday.

Game plan for the Bengals here is to step things up in the red zone - keep in mind Cincinnati's new PK Josh Brown booted FGs from 25, 33 and 25 yards out among his four three-pointers and that ain't gonna cut it here against a Philly team buoyed by the play of rookie QB Nick Foles (see 381 yards passing and two TD tosses against the Bucs). One key stat to watch for here is can Philadelphia rush the ball one week after the ground game churned out only 29 rushing yards on 16 carries?

Spread Notes - Cincinnati rolls into this prime-time bash having covered four of its last five games overall but the Bengals are an ugly 12-27-2 ATS (against the spread) as betting favorites while dating back to the start of the 2007 campaign. On the flip side, Philadelphia co-owns the worst spread mark in the league this year (see our accompanying NFL Pointspread Standings Chart) and the Eagles are a collective 9-21 versus the vig when playing non-NFC East foes the past two-plus seasons.

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SATURDAY'S COLLEGE BOWL PREVIEWS

NEW MEXICO BOWL: University Stadium - Albuquerque, NM
NEVADA (7-5) vs. ARIZONA (7-5) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
The bowl blitz begins with this showdown of offensive-minded squads (note totals price currently at 76 ½ points) and take note the Pac-12 Wildcats allowed 34.3 points per game to rank 103rd nationally out of 124 FBSC schools while the Wolf Pack from the Mountain West Conference surrender a whopping 32.5 ppg.

In short, Nevada must get a handle on Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey who rushed for 1,757 yards and 20 touchdowns this year and that includes a 366-yard rushing game against woeful Colorado back on November 10th. If Carey is corralled by Nevada's stop unit, than it'll be up to versatile QB Matt Scott to rally the U of A attack after he threw for 3,238 yards with 24 TDs and 12 INTs this season.

No question that Nevada hoped for a better year in 2012 but a pair of one-point losses - to South Florida and San Diego State with the latter game coming in OT - put a major damper on things and here Hall of Fame head coach Chris Ault is trusting oft-erratic QB Cody Fajardo (2,530 yards passing and 981 yards rushing) to make things happen for this pistol offense (and especially in the red zone) while RB Stefphon Jefferson (1,703 yards rushing and 22 TDs) must be a force if the Pack's gonna snag the big upset - at press time Arizona was a 9 ½-point betting favorite.

The Bowl Spread Notes - Arizona's failed to cover two of its last three bowl games dating back to 2008 and that includes a 36-10 loss versus 4 ½-point favorite Oklahoma State in the 2010 Alamo Bowl. Meanwhile, Nevada's a rotten 0-4-1 ATS (against the spread) in bowl games dating back to 2007 with the lone "push" occurring last year in the 24-17 Hawaii Bowl setback against 7-point fav Southern Miss.

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FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL: Bronco Stadium - Boise, ID
UTAH STATE (10-2) vs. TOLEDO (9-3) - 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The amazing thing about this year's Utah State squad is it almost went unbeaten versus the vig: The Aggies reeled off 11 consecutive pointspread covers before finally stubbing its spread toe with that regular-season-ending 45-9 non-cover win against 37 ½-point pup Idaho or else Gary Anderson's gang would have gone down in ATS history! What makes Utah State tick - and keep in mind the WAC crew is a prohibitive 10-point betting favorite here - is a balanced offense starring RB Kerwynn Williams who rushed for 1,277 yards and 12 TDs and than there's do-it-all QB Chuckie Keeton who threw for 3,144 yards with 27 TDs and 9 INTs and added 527 yards rushing - and consider that Utah State has major motivation here after blowing a 13-point lead in the second half of last year's Potato Bowl game against Ohio (see our Bowl Spread Notes below).

P.S., Utah State's won only one bowl game in his history - a 1993 triumph over Ball State in the Las Vegas Bowl. On the flip side, Toledo has more than a few question marks here including on defense where the Mid-American Conference club surrendered 464.1 yards a game thus ranking 'em 108th in the FBS in total defense. Best way for Toledo to hang in here is for Matt Campbell's club to feed WR Bernard Reedy (82 receptions for 1,051 yards and 6 TDs) early and often. Got it?

The Bowl Spread Notes - Utah State's only bowl appearance the past 10 years occurred last season with the painful 24-23 last-minute loss to Ohio University (a pick 'em affair) while Toledo has failed to cover four-of-five bowl appearances the past 10 years including last season's 42-41 non-cover win against Air Force in the Military Bowl. Note that Toledo's only bowl cover the past 10 years happened back in 2005 with a resounding 45-13 victory against 3-point dog UTEP in the GMAC Bowl.

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 NFL WEEK 15 KEY MATCHUPS
Let's dig into some of this Sunday's top NFL Week 15 showdowns:

GREEN BAY (9-4) at CHICAGO (8-5) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Keep in mind the first time these NFC North foes collided this 2012 season - a 23-10 Packers' home/win cover as 5-point favorites back in Week 2 play - Green Bay changed the complexion of that Thursday Night game with a fake field goal-turned-TD (holder Tim Masthay flipped a short pass to Tom Crabtree that turned into a 27-yard scoring gallop) and so keep eyes open here for any/all gadget plays on special teams where this game could get decided providing Bears' QB Jay Cutler doesn't chuck away four more INTs as was the case in Week 2 ... remember?

NEW YORK GIANTS (8-5) at ATLANTA (11-2) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
No doubt the Falcons are spending the better part of this here-and-now week answering questions as to what went wrong in last Sunday's 30-20 non-competitive loss against Carolina and one thing the Birds must clear up is that rush defense that allowed 195 ground yards in all including that spell-binding 72-yard touchdown gallop by Panthers' QB Cam Newton - hey, it's not as if Giants QB Eli Manning is gonna take off and gallop 70-plus yards here but the sudden emergence of rookie RB David Wilson (13 carries for 100 yards against New Orleans last week) should have Atlanta a bit spooked.

DENVER (10-3) at BALTIMORE (9-4) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Now that the Ravens have ditched offensive coordinator Cam Cameron for QB coach Jim Caldwell - yes, we applaud the move even at this rather late stage of the season - we'll see if this AFC North crew can get its act together here against a Broncos bunch that's won eight in a row SU (straight-up) and is allowing a mere 14 points or less in four of the team's last seven games. If Caldwell wants to get square in the mind of Ravens fans, than he'll feed RB Ray Rice (20 rushes and 3 receptions in last Sunday's bitterly disappointing 31-28 overtime loss at Washington) a minimum of 30 times in all here even if that means taking a few shots from superstar LB Von Miller.

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INDIANAPOLIS (9-4) at HOUSTON (11-2) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
So much for the Houston Texans looking like world-beaters every week! The 42-14 MNF beat-down at the hands of the 5 ½-point favored New England Patriots (another Network MNF Winner, now 12-5-1 on the season!) sure was a big-time serving of humble pie for a Texans team that had dismantled more than a few foes along the way this year - Houston had beaten six teams by twin-figure margins this season - and now we'll see how Texans' head coach Gary Kubiak gets his guys ready for the first of two head-to-head meetings with the Indy Colts in these final three weeks of play (talk about your strange scheduling!). One item from Colts-land: Maybe PK Adam Vinatieri hadn't much entered your mind this year but those 53- and 40-yard field goals in the fourth quarter of last week's 27-23 come-from-behind win against Tennessee (remember the Titans led 20-7 at halftime) showed the future Hall of Fame kicker is still on his game and don't be shocked if he's front-and-center at crunch time here again.

PITTSBURGH (7-6) at DALLAS (7-6) - 4:25 p.m. ET, CBS
Emotions run high in Cowboys land after the tragic auto accident of practice team LB Jerry Brown, Jr. and you do have to wonder if Jason Garrett's club will be a tad worn out emotionally come game time here on Sunday: Consider that Dallas managed to snag that aforementioned 20-19 win at Cincinnati last week despite the fact the 'Boys rushed for only 49 yards on 24 carries and despite the fact they forced just one Bengals turnover (a pick of Cincinnati QB Andy Dalton) and both categories must be improved here against an ornery Steelers club that was never really in the game in last weekend's 34-24 loss to San Diego. Got a feeling we're not gonna be seeing that"bubble screen" pass operated out of the Pittsburgh end zone here, right coach Mike Tomlin?

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On Sunday Night, it's ...SAN FRANCISCO (9-3-1) at NEW ENGLAND (10-3) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
As NBC analyst Chris Collinsworth stated last week, this was almost the Super Bowl matchup a year ago but San Fran's NFC Championship Game overtime loss to the NY Giants squashed that and so now we'll see what these powerhouse squads have to offer in - you know we have to say it - what could be this year's Super Bowl preview. So there! Okay, so brainy Bill Belichick and the Patriots defense will sure be spending lots of time this week devising ways to slow down the rushing skills of San Fran kid QB Colin Kaepernick but gotta believe this result will hinge more on whether or not Kaepernick can make New England's secondary pay here - no doubt Houston QB Matt Schaub was out-foxed more than once by the Pats' much-maligned but improving secondary as Devin McCourty's goal-line pick with New England up 7-0 proved to be the single-biggest play in that prime-time affair from Foxboro. Meanwhile, the Pats - who have now outscored their opponents 472-to-274 this year - are banking on California guy QB Tom Brady (four TD passes against the Texans) dissecting this sure-tackling, fundamentally sound SF defense that has held seven foes to 16 points or less.
P.S., the Patriots have scored 16 points or less a grand total of two times since the start of the 2010 season (that's twice in 49 games!)

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