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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, November 6, 2011 at 9:01 AM

Tell the truth: Great defenses and all but did you really think there would be zero touchdowns scored in last night's 'Game of the Century' between top-ranked LSU and second-ranked Alabama? And how about this: Did you think if one of the two head coaches would 'blow it' that coach would be Alabama's Nick Saban? Gotcha again, right!

We'll delve deep into LSU's sledgehammer 9-6 overtime win against Alabama in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez but we wanted to touch on this angle that all/most ESPN analysts (and the CBS announcing team too) choose to ignore and that was Saban coached miserably as he refused to punt it three different times in the first half when he should have realized he was involved in a field position game. Instead, the Tide's field-goal kickers missed their first three in a row en route to an ultra-shaky 2-of-6 FG night and yet the 'experts' piled on the negatives with the young kickers and didn't point any rightful fingers of blame at Saban.

Plus you toss into the mix all the sloppiness involved in Alabama's game last night – the illegal substitution penalties for 12 men in the huddle, putting an injured Marquis Maze back deep to handle a punt that he allowed to bounce past him some 30 yards and let's not forget that – in our view – the Tide abandoned the ground game (only their bread-and-butter!) for a long period of time before they got RB Trent Richardson revved up a bit with a couple of big second-half runs en route to his 23-carry, 89-yard rushing performance.
LSU's defensive front seven proved to be stout and that electric secondary – clearly the best in the land – came through with some dynamite plays including that goal-line air-ball theft by DB Eric Reid. Still, LSU's starting QB Jarrett Lee threw back-to-back passes for picks and yet 'Bama couldn't convert either of them into a touchdown … and shouldn't you win when you limit the other team to just a 3-of-11 success rate on third-down plays?

On this night, Alabama didn't take advantage of its many opportunities and – for maybe his first time in Tuscaloosa – Saban must be front-and-center as the 'bad guy'. Not the way one wishes to be remembered in a 'Game of the Century', right? Lots more on LSU-Alabama and other College Football goodies in the next Jim Sez.

THE NFL WEEK 9 KEY SUNDAY AFTERNOON GAMES

NEW YORK GIANTS (5-2) at NEW ENGLAND (5-2) -4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
Forget that Super Bowl win by the Giants over two-TD fav New England following that 2007 season -we don't know why that game has received so much "pub" this week as there are only seven players on the Pats still remaining from that near-perfect squad.

Instead, the here-and-now news is that these Giants might be severely short-handed for this later afternoon game in Foxboro with RB Ahmad Bradshaw (broken foot) a big question mark here plus don't forget that WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) and center David Baas (knee) likely will be sidelined here for Tom Coughlin's club.

If you're looking for a sub-plot here, than keep an eye peeled on New England slot receiver Wes Welker who last week caught just six passes worth 39 yards in that 25-17 loss in Pittsburgh. The Giants' secondary -namely loud-mouth S Antrel Rolle -believe that a physical game plan against Welker will take him out of this game but Pats QB Tom Brady (2,361 yards passing with 18 TDs and 8 INTs) doesn't figure to be shy chucking him the ball.

If Welker gets more than 100 receiving yards here, it should spell a Pats win ...and cover.

Spread Notes -New England is just 4-3 ATS (against the spread) so far in this current campaign and the Patriots are a nothing special 18-16-1 odds-wise when placed in the favorite's role while dating back to the start of the 2009 season. On the flip side, the NY Giants are 3-4 ATS this year and the NFC East squad is just 10-15 spreadwise when stepping outside its division the past two-and-a-half seasons.

GREEN BAY (7-0) at SAN DIEGO (4-3) -4:15 p.m. ET
When we last left you, the GB Packers were enjoying their bye week following a tighter-than-expected 33-27 win in Minnesota and there was QB Aaron Rodgers (2,372 yards passing with 20 TDs and 3 INTs) informing anyone that would listen that the Pack had plenty of room for improvement:

So, should that scare a suddenly-slumping San Diego club that somehow blew last Monday Night's 23-20 overtime game in Kansas City after mistake-prone QB Philip Rivers (7 TDs and 11 INTs) closed his left hand before fully accepting the snap from center ...no wonder things have been a bit testy 'round the Chargers' practice facility this week!

If the Packers do show improvement here than you might see it first on defense where the Packers are getting healthier and the return to the starting lineup of CB Sam Shields (concussion) is key.

Spread Notes -Green Bay is 5-2 versus the vig so far in this 2011 season and the Packers are a collective 16-5 ATS in their last 21 overall games. Did you know that GB's covered seven of its last nine games played away from Lambeau Field? Note that San Diego is a money-torching 2-5 against the odds so far in 2011 but the Chargers do enter this clash at 22-8-3 ATS when placed in the underdog role since the start of the 2004 season.

TAMPA BAY (4-3) at NEW ORLEANS (5-3) -1 p.m. ET, Fox
Is it time to pay the piper ...or might these New Orleans Saints be still in the midst of a little funk-filled period?

No doubt the Saints would like to pay back Tampa Bay for that 26-20 loss at Raymond James Stadium in mid-October but that, as it turned out, was just the first of two losses sandwiching that silly 62-7 win against Indianapolis two weeks ago and here we'll see whether or not New Orleans QB Drew Brees (three INTs in last week's humbling/bumbling 31-21 loss at St. Louis) can get back on target as he's now thrown 10 picks this year and hasn't been a sure thing in the red zone.

Meanwhile, the Bucs will welcome back physical RB LeGarrette Blount (left knee) who rushed for 328 yards and three scores in TB's first five games. Blount will take some heat off troubled QB Josh Freeman who sports a sour 7-TD, 10-INT ratio this year. If Freeman can dink-and-dunk the Saints here than he could be setting up some big aerial plays against a poor tackling defense.

Spread Notes -New Orleans is a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 against the odds so far this season (and that includes three spread setbacks in its last four outings) and did you realize the Saints are a rotten 4-10 versus the vig in NFC South play the past two-plus seasons? Tampa Bay's covered three of its last four head-to-head showdowns with the Saints and take note that the Buccaneers are 8-2-1 ATS away since the start of last year.

NFL Week 9 Sunday Night game …

BALTIMORE (5-2) at PITTSBURGH (6-2) – 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Turn back the clock to Week One this season and there were the Baltimore Ravens rolling to a 35-7 home win against 1½-point underdog Pittsburgh thanks to forcing a team-record seven turnovers to go along with four sacks of Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.
Has anyone out there noticed that Pittsburgh's lost only one game since (see the 17-10 loss in Houston in Week 4 play)?
Mike Tomlin's club is super-sharp these days as the Steelers eyeball a third Super Bowl trip in four seasons but to get same-season revenge here not only must Roethlisberger stay upright for the majority of this prime-time affair but Pittsburgh's suffocating rush defense must stay tough one week after allowing only 43 ground yards in a 25-17 upset win against 3-point fav New England.
Will Baltimore stay patient should its running game falter early on? That's a big question as RB Ray Rice (489 yards rushing and 5 TDs with a 4.3 yards-per-carry average) must get his 20-plus touches here or else the Ravens will heap too much responsibility on the right arm of QB Joe Flacco whose shaky 8 TD-6 INT showing so far in 2011 isn't exactly displaying Pro Bowl form.
Spread Notes – Pittsburgh's split its eight pointspread verdicts so far this 2011 season and the Steelers are 10-4 ATS (against the spread) at home since the start of last season. On the flip side, Baltimore is 4-3 ATS this season but the Ravens are a rotten 5-10-1 versus the vig in AFC North games while dating back to late in the 2008 season. 

FINALLY...2011-2012 COLLEGE HOOPS SEASON TIPS OFF!

On Monday, November 7 the College Basketball season begins with a pair of games from the (on site) opening round of the "2K SPORST COACHES VS CANCER CLASSIC."

William and Mary will visit St. Johns (tip off 7:00 PM - E) and Valparaiso will travel west to meet #16 Arizona (9:00 PM -E)

Let's get right to a brief overview of these two games.

WILLIAM AND MARY @ ST. JOHNS (ESPNU)
This is an interesting matchup for no other reason than it pits the methodical, half court offense and tight matchup zone defense of the visiting Tribe vs the open court athletic scoring of the host Red Storm.

William and Mary can't begin to claim to match St. John's in individual player size, speed or athletic talent. Their top returning scorer from last year is senior forward Quinn McDowell, who at 6-7 is their tallest impact player. He is also more comfortable on the wing than down low as his team-leading three point success from a year ago would indicate.

The backcourt is manned by a pair of sophomores, Brandon Pitt and Julian Boatner, who were more than battle-tested during their freshman season, but showed more than enough promise to indicate they should be dramatically improved in 2011.
In order to hang with the Red Storm, the Tribe will have to take advantage of their smart zone defensive play to slow down the pace St. John's has shown in their two exhibition games that they will want to play at, and will also have to get enough production from their preferred three point shooting to keep this in range.

Moving now to the Red Storm, perhaps the first thing to discuss is how they will handle the three-point shooting of W&M. In their most recent exhibition, St. John's managed to eke out a 77-70 win over D-III St. Mary's (MD), a game that was kept close by the visitor's ability to connect on 13 shots from beyond the arc.

Given the fact that St. John's is right now playing with a shorter rotation (7 players during the two exhibition games) that features 4 freshmen and a pair of junior college transfers who love the up tempo game, it isn't difficult to project that a controlled pace will be coming in the near future. After all, the last things that high talent players with a lack of familiarity with each other learn are the half court offense and cohesive defense. This was not only on display in the St. Mary's game, but also when they played C.W. Post in their opener when they put up 110 points but allowed 80.

Junior College transfers God'sgift Achiuwa (from here on in referred to as GG Achiuwa) a 6-9 forward and 6-3 guard Nurideen Lindsey join lone holdover from last season, junior G Malik Smith and a quartet of freshmen. The youngsters, guards D'Angelo Harrison and Phil Greene, G-F Dom Pointer and F Moe Harkless all saw significant action (remember I mentioned that the Storm is operating with a 7 man rotation right now) all contributed significantly in either or both games.

There is no question that the hype surrounding what HC Steve Lavin did on the recruiting trail was for real. So William and Mary will definitely be in deep. But the question for this one is...will the more disciplined slower pace efforts of the visitor be able to stifle the preferred athletic up tempo frenetic style of the host?

VALPARAISO @ ARIZONA (ESPNU)
While the host Wildcats pretty much know what they have even with the departure of #2 NBA draft choice Derrick Williams and second leading scorer Lamont "Momo" Jones, a junior PG who is returning to his NY home base to play with Iona of the MAAC conference, Valparaiso is going forward with quite a bit of "new" this and "new" that.

The Crusaders' key "new" is right at the top as Valpo alum Bryce Drew takes over for his father, the legendary Homer Drew, who retired for the second time (he retired once before to allow another son, Scott Drew to take over, but returned when Scott got the job at Baylor after only a year in Indiana.) And there is plenty of new on the court as well with the departure of three of the top four scorers from last year's 23 win squad. Corey Johnson (14.1 ppg) and Howard Little (9.5 ppg) graduated. But a dagger was plunged when All-Horizon Conference G Brandon Wood (16.7 ppg) decided to transfer to Michigan State, largely in part because he has already graduated from Valparaiso, yet with a year of eligibility left to his college career doesn't need to sit out a year before beginning play.

In opening vs Arizona Drew the Younger is going to find out in a hurry if he has enough to work with based on a presumed healthy Netherlands import Kevin Van Wijk, JC forward Rich Edwards and intriguing 6-11 freshman Vashil Fernandez from Jamaica as well as transfers Will Bogan and Ben Boggs. It will take time for the newcomers to blend with a core of capable returnees, but if Bryce has had any of the family coaching know how wear off on him, which it definitely should have, Valparaiso will once again play the kind of heady, tough nosed ball it has always been known for.

As mentioned, the Wildcats also face a few significant player personal changes, but HC Sean Miller might not miss the dynamic Jones as much as he'll miss Williams for the simple reason that Miller has always preferred a more system oriented and less flamboyant point guard. He has also prized depth and team play, so this year should be a pleasure.

A strong recruiter from the moment he arrived at Tucson, Miler looks to have done it again with newcomers Josiah Turner, Nick Johnson and Angelo Choi. Turner will probably start right away at the point, and despite the loss of Williams and Jones, the Wildcats have plenty of experience moving into the main rotation with the likes of senior PF Jesse Perry, senior SG Kyle Fogg, senior G Brendon Lavender, junior SF Solomon Hill, junior C Kyryl Natyazhko and junior F Kevin Parrom.

With a roster that is 9-10 deep with both enough individual takeover talent and dedicated team play mentality, the Wildcats are likely the favor to repeat as conference champs and Miller will definitely be using these opening games to fine tune that depth-in-rotation.

 

 

Now hear this …Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be winning big-time with NFL Week #9 games including the Monday Night Football clash between the Chicago Bears at the born-again Philadelphia Eagles -- and don't forget College Basketball starts Monday night with the 2K Classic (opening-night matchups include William & Mary at St. John's, Eastern Kentucky at Miss State and Valpo at Arizona). Just remember to call our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else go online right here at www.jimhurley.com for the NCAA Football, the NFL and NCAA Basketball. The calling/check-in times are after 10 a.m. ET on Saturdays & Sundays; And anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the Monday-thru-Friday night action.

 

     NOTE: Get our Monday Night Football preview plus lots more NFL Week 9 action in the next edition of Jim Sez.

 

END END END …

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