Network Bulletin Volume 30 Issue 11

Jim Hurley’s Network Bulletin Newsletter

Volume 30, Issue 11 - Saturday, December 13 and Sunday, December 14

It's the final weekend of college football with Army-Navy, but there are plenty of bowls (39 this year, including the playoffs and championship game) just around the corner. We take a quick look at the early bowls and also tackle some NFL notes heading into week 15, and preview some of the top games.

Last week Jim won his college Championship Game of the Year as Ohio State demolished Wisconsin 59-0, then came back Sunday winning his NFL Mismatch of December as Seattle (+1) beat Philly 24-14, and the Top December Dog got the cover with Cleveland (+3.5) in their last-second loss to Indy 24-35.

This Saturday, College Hoops takes off with Jim's Saturday Triple Crown, and part of the 2-Sport Blitz with the Army-Navy winner. On Sunday look to cash the NFL Revenge Game of the Year, and another December Top Dog, and wind up with the Sunday Night winner between Dallas and Philly.

It's a great time to start winning in basketball, this week the Cashline is 12-7 and our Blue Ribbon picks are 9-2. Sign up here online or call 1-800-323-4453


Here’s a look at those 10 bowl games from Saturday, Dec. 20th thru Wednesday, Dec. 24th. There’s a grand total of 38 college bowl games being played this holiday season.
We’ll have more bowl coverage in the next edition as we tackle a batch of late December tilts.


Superdome - at New Orleans, LA
NEVADA (7-5) vs. UL-LAFAYETTE (8-4) - 11 a.m. ET, ESPN
This marks the fourth straight year that the UL-Lafayette Rajun’ Cajuns are playing this bowl game and they’ve won the prior three versus San Diego State, East Carolina and Tulane. Note the quick line move as Nevada went from 3-point fav to a 1-point dog.

University Stadium - Albuquerque, NM
UTAH STATE (9-4) vs. UTEP (7-5) - 2:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
Utah State’s used six different quarterbacks this year with Kent Myers slated to start here while UTEP’s making just second bowl appearance in the past nine years. RB Aaron Jones (1,233 yards rushing and 11 TDs) is the player-to-watch dude for the Miners.

Sam Boyd Stadium - Las Vegas, NV
UTAH (8-4) vs. COLORADO STATE (10-2) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Dave Baldwin - the offensive coordinator at Colorado State - will be the interim head coach for this bowl bash after Jim McElwain left to grab the Florida job and Baldwin says things will be “status quo” with a passing attack that ranked 8th nationally while averaging 326 yards per game. Note Utah is only “power conference” team on the bowl card till we get to the day-after-Christmas games.

Bronco Stadium - Boise, ID
WESTERN MICHIGAN (8-4) vs. AIR FORCE (9-3) - 5:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bounce-back year for the AF Fly Boys after last year’s 2-10 season and don’t be surprised if they chuck it more than usual whether Kale Pearson or Nate Romine starts here. Meanwhile, Western Michigan led by the youngest coach in the FBS as 34-year-old P.J. Fleck completes his second year on the job and this 2014 club registered whopping 10-2 spread mark.

Cramton Bowl - Montgomery, AL
BOWLING GREEN (7-6) vs. SOUTH ALABAMA (6-6) - 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
These so-called “minor bowls” often are a showcase for many of the game’s unknowns and so check out South ‘Bama WR Shavarez Smith who has 50 catches and 8 TDs as Bowling Green’s tattered defense (allowed 40-plus points six times this season) could get bopped.


Marlins Park - Miami, FL
BYU (8-4) vs. MEMPHIS (9-3) - 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
Tenth straight year that the BYU Coogs are going “bowling” and note they’ve gone 6-3 SU (straight-up) and 5-3-1 ATS in these prior nine bowls. Memphis, meanwhile, making first bowl trip since 2008 and QB Paxton Lynch is Tigers star with 2,725 passing yards with 18 TDs and just 6 INTs.

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FAU Stadium - Boca Raton, FL
MARSHALL (12-1) vs. NORTHERN ILLINOIS (11-2) - 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
Two weeks ago the Marshall kids thought they had a great shot at a New Year’s Day bowl bid and so this is major letdown for QB Rakeem Cato (3,622 yards passing with 37 TDs) and friends while NIU Huskies on major run after copping another MAC Championship without last year’s Heisman Trophy runner-up QB Jordan Lynch.

Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, CA
NAVY (6-5) at SAN DIEGO STATE (7-5) - 9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Middies still have monster game against Army this weekend but this does mark sixth bowl game in seven years for underrated head coach Ken Niumatalolo - Navy is the nation’s second-best ground attack (357.8 ypg) and QB Keenan Reynolds has amazing 20 rushing scores this year but gotta say San Diego State RB Donnell Pumphrey (1,761 yards rushing and 19 TDs) is best player on the field here.


Thomas Robinson Stadium - Nassau, Bahamas
One of the new bowls on the docket and while you’re wrapping those last-minute gifts you can check out WKU’s dangerous pass attack that ranks third in the land (365 ypg) starring QB Brandon Doughty (4,344 yards passing with 44 TDs) who zinged NCAA-record 8 TD passes against aforementioned Marshall.

Aloha Stadium - Honolulu, HI
FRESNO STATE (6-7) vs. RICE (7-5) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Annual Christmas Eve bash in the 50th state should be a real tree-lighter (Fresno State’s the 1 ½-point fav right now) but we want you to check out Rice dual-threat QB Driphus Jackson who’s thrown/rushed for a combined 2,884 yards with 22 TDs (21 of ‘em passing).


The mess in/around the Washington Redskins could wind up having a real domino effect come this off-season - consider that the ‘Skins likely will make every effort possible to deal off on-again/off-again starting QB Robert Griffin III (it’s possible they’ll find a match with the Buffalo Bills or Tennessee Titans) and we might even see another case next spring where Washington trades up - if it needs to - to the very top of the NFL Draft in order to land Oregon QB Marcus Mariota. Wonder what that’ll cost Washington in terms of future draft picks?

No doubt there’s turmoil around teams that are staggering to the finish line this year but no place is worse now than the San Francisco 49ers. Not only is soon-to-be-gone head coach Jim Harbaugh worn down - did you see his presser following last weekend’s 24-13 loss at 8.5-point dog Oakland? - but QB Colin Kaepernick isn’t exactly holding things together with a batch of screaming matches with friends/foes alike.

This appears to be a meltdown of epic proportions for the Niners and so all the more salutes to teams such as the New York Jets and Atlanta Falcons who never did “tune out” their respective head coaches.

What QB is most on the hot seat in these NFL Week 15 games? It’s not new Cleveland Browns starter Johnny Manziel but rather Philadelphia Eagles slinger Mark Sanchez who could get yanked in Sunday Night’s game against Dallas should he falter early on - the Nick Foles Era may be back providing that broken collarbone has healed.

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Let’s check out two key NFL Week 15 divisional games

MIAMI (7-6) at NEW ENGLAND (10-3) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
One of those three N’England losses happened way back in Week 1 when Bill Belichick’s crew flopped 33-20 as QB Tom Brady lost a pair of fumbles but the here-and-now says the Patriots have won eight of their last nine games and are - get this - 52-9 SU (straight-up) in the month of December under the aforementioned Belichick.

A win here clinches New England’s 12th AFC East crown in the past 14 years and don’t be surprised if the Pats run the ball 40 times here as Miami’s defense has surrendered 661 rushing yards the past three weeks ... maybe this is a LeGarrette Blount Special (see 30+ carries, 150 yards or so) ... so stay tuned.

Spread Notes - New England is 7-2 ATS (against the spread) since that now-infamous MNF loss at Kansas City back on Sept. 29th. The Patriots are just 5-9 vig-wise against fellow AFC East teams since the start of the 2012 season. Miami, meanwhile, is a respectable 24-21 spreadwise under third-year head coach Joe Philbin and that includes a 15-11 ATS log as underdogs.

DENVER (10-3) at SAN DIEGO (8-5) - 4:05 p.m. ET, CBS
News flash: Peyton Manning’s streak of 51 consecutive games in which he chucked a touchdown pass ended with last weekend’s 24-17 non-cover home win against Buffalo ... but did you know the Broncos have the league’s second-most productive running back since Week 10?

C.J. Anderson may not be the household name that is Manning but the former has rushed for 512 yards the past four games and last week’s three-TD showing proved that Denver can beat you via the ground route as well as the air waves ... so is this a pick-your-poison game then for the scuffling SD Chargers or can Mike McCoy’s club right the proverbial ship after scoring just one offensive TD in last week’s 23-14 prime-time loss to New England?

Keep an eye here on Chargers’ LB Manti Te’o who intercepted a late first-half red-zone throw by Brady and is finding himself “around the ball” more and more this season.

Spread Notes - Denver is 19-13 ATS away since the start of the 2011 season. San Diego’s failed to cover seven of its last eight games after starting off the year at 5-0 versus the vig.

NFL Revenge Game of the Year Wins Sunday! One game ends up in a shocking result!


DALLAS (9-4) at PHILADELPHIA (9-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Maybe it was appropriate that the year’s first meeting between these long-time NFC East rivals was played on Thanksgiving Day because the Eagles absolutely carved up the Cowboys with back-to-back long touchdown drives to start the game and then coasted into the winner’s circle with a 33-10 win.

No doubt there’s been plenty said about the fact the Philly defensive line “owned” the Cowboys’ much-hyped O-line in that tilt - hey, Dallas QB Tony Romo was sacked four times in that game and never did look comfortable in the pocket - and so all eyes will be on the Dallas blocking wall to see if they can keep Romo clean here.

Keep in mind this could be a tired Eagles defense - one that was kept on the field for nearly 42 minutes in last week’s 24-14 home loss versus Seattle and you keep hearing the buzz that second-year head coach Chip Kelly may indeed “go to the bullpen” for QB Nick Foles if current starter Mark Sanchez struggles out of the gate.

One X-factor to watch here: Dallas RB DeMarco Murray (NFL-best 1,606 yards rushing this season) may get the ball thrown his way lots here in an attempt to keep Philadelphia LB Connor Barwin from “spying” Romo and make ‘em cover Murray in one-on-one routes.

Spread Notes - Dallas is 9-4 versus the vig as underdog sides since the start of last year and that includes outright wins this season against 3-point fav Tennessee, 3-point favorite New Orleans and 10-point chalk guy Seattle. Meanwhile, Philadelphia is 5-2 against the odds at home this year and the Eagles own a dour 4-6 ATS mark in their last 10 regular-season home finales.

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