Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, November 26, 2011 at 9:00 AM
So, what was the final verdict coming out of the NFL's Thanksgiving Games?
Well, the Green Bay Packers again displayed their mettle en route to a 17th consecutive win and they stayed perfect on this 2011 season at 11-and-oh and both the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens flexed their muscles en route to home wins that allowed all three of the above-winning teams to stand alone in their respective divisions by end of day.
Not even foot-stomping Lions' DL Ndamukong Suh or that Cowboys cheerleader who was run over by Dallas TE Jason Witten could stand in the way of the Packers and 'Boys, respectively, in those traditional Thanksgiving Day tilts but let's spend a few moments on that famed Harbaugh Bowl in Baltimore on Thursday Night as folks 'round the league learned one thing:
When the Ravens throw the proverbial kitchen sink at an enemy quarterback, it's usually lights out time!
No doubt that Ravens' DE/LB Terrell Suggs - yes, the guy the NFL Network folks kept calling by his nickname "T-Sizzle" - deserved that post-game pudding pie after he collected a team-best three sacks on a night Baltimore sacked San Francisco QB Alex Smith a grand total of nine times.
The Ravens held the Niners to 2-of-12 on third-down plays and - let's be fair - were quite fortunate that 49ers wide receiver Ted Ginn, Jr. dropped that pass 'round midfield late on a fourth-down play or else things might have gotten a tad dicey in the waning moments of that clash. Still, when push came to shove here there were the Ravens keeping SF out of the end zone entirely and kudos to a Baltimore offense that didn't commit a single turnover against a defense that's prided itself this season on rough-housing opposing QBs/RBs/WRs.
So, score one for older brother John over younger/bigger brother Jim on this first-ever showdown of coaching brothers and remember that - even though the Packers are perfect SU (straight-up) and may stay that way the rest of this season -- the Niners proved it's tough to win 'em all spreadwise - note SF entered this game at 9-0-1 ATS (against the spread) and so that's history.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S KEY SATURDAY PREVIEWS
Note: The rankings below reflect the current BCS Standings:
#2 ALABAMA (10-1, 6-1 SEC) at #24 AUBURN (7-4, 4-3 SEC) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
This marks the fourth consecutive year that this Iron Bowl matchup had some sort of impact on the national championship picture - although this year there are more than a few critics who simply don't believe the 'Bama Crimson Tide deserves a BCS Championship Game berth if they can't even win the SEC West! Let's not get into all the possibilities here but instead focus on the between-the-white-lines stuff and that means three-TD fav Alabama needs RB Trent Richardson to go to the well for another 30-plus carry game.
Last weekend Richardson (1,380 yards rushing and 20 TDs) rushed it 32 times in a 45-21 non-cover win against Georgia Southern and so Auburn's gotta bring eight men to the line of scrimmage and look to stuff the Heisman Trophy candidate and so if the Tide's gonna win by a substantial margin here than kid quarterback AJ McCarron (2,216 yards passing with 13 TDs and 5 INTs) must be razor-sharp.
Hey, remember last year Alabama dashed out to a 24-0 lead and still lost to Cam Newton and friends 28-27.
Spread Notes - Alabama is 7-4 ATS this season but note the Crimson Tide's failed to cover its last three games in a row (versus LSU, Miss State and Georgia Southern). Meanwhile, Auburn's covered 12 of its last 16 SEC affairs dating back to the start of last year.
#5 VIRGINIA TECH (10-1, 6-1 ACC) at VIRGINIA (8-3, 5-2 ACC) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC or espn2
In case you had not noticed, the Virginia Cavaliers moved into the Associated Press Top 25 rankings this week for the first time since 2007 (the AP's got the Wahoos at #24 but the BCS Standings don't have Virginia in the Top 25) and - while we're at it - the V-Tech Hokies are better than folks originally thought as Frank Beamer's squad was ranked #13 by the AP back in August.
So, what gives here for the right to win the ACC's Coastal Division by these two "overachievers"?
In short, upset-minded Virginia - a 4-point dog at press time - will try to snap a seven-game SU (straight-up) losing streak to Tech here by gang-tackling Hokies QB Logan Thomas (2,338 passing yards and 387 passing yards) while the Cavs' offense needs WR Kris Burd (53 receptions) to make some home-run plays downfield versus a Tech defense that's held six foes to 14 points or less this season.
Spread Notes - Virginia Tech is a dreadful 3-8 versus the vig this season but note the Hokies are 5-1-1 against the odds in their last seven head-to-head showdowns against Virginia. On the flip side, the Wahoos enter this clash on a four-game spread winning streak.
#22 NOTRE DAME (8-3) at #6 STANFORD (10-1, 8-1 Pac-12) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
What's on the line in this prime-time affair from Palo Alto? Not much unless you discount Stanford's still-alive status in the BCS Championship Game hunt (albeit that's a long shot) or the fact that the winner here figures to snag a spicy January bowl game and than there's Heisman Trophy hopeful QB Andrew Luck (2,937 yards passing with 31 TDs) who could pull a modern-day "Carson Palmer" and throw for 350-or-so yards and a few TDs to take full command of that bronzed statue.
Know this about the ND Fighting Irish: They've won four in a row SU but that's come against teams with a composite SU mark of 15-29 and now must go it here without RB Jonas Gray (791 yards rushing and 12 TDs) who last weekend suffered a season-ending knee injury in the 16-14 non-cover win against Boston College.
Spread Notes - Stanford is 8-2-1 versus the vig overall this season and did you know the Cardinal has failed to cover four of its last five home games played against Notre Dame? Note that the ND Fighting Irish is just 11-10-3 ATS under second-year head coach Brian Kelly.
#19 PENN STATE (9-2, 6-1 Big 10) at #16 WISCONSIN (9-2, 5-2 Big 10) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's really rather simple: The winner of this clash plays opposite Michigan State in next weekend's inaugural Big 10 Championship Game and there will be no trickery here when it comes to the Wisky Badgers' game plan as RB Montee Ball (25 rushing TDs and 5 receiving scores this year) figures to get his mitts on the ball 35-or-more times and so Penn State must force some fumbles and win the field position game or the Nittany Lions will be "toast" here as 14 ½-point road dogs.
Is there some magic in the genie bottle for Penn State interim head coach Tom Bradley?
We'll see but a likely bad sign for Penn State is it ranks 96th nationally in passing offense (194.5 yards a game) and odds are the Lions will be forced to play catch-up at some point here, right?
Spread Notes - Wisconsin has failed to cover four of its last five spread verdicts this season but the Badgers overall are a haughty 6-and-oh versus the vig in their last half-dozen Big 10 home games. Meanwhile, Penn State's 3-8 against the Las Vegas prices this year and just 8-15 ATS overall dating back to the start of last season.
NOTE: Get the NFL 12 Sunday afternoon previews in the next Jim Sez.