Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 23, 2011 at 9:19 AM
It's another great Saturday of College Football action and - really - it's the last weekend before we go full-steam ahead into the slew of Conference Games that will dominate the remaining weeks of this here-and-now 2011 season.
Want to keep track of what #1 Oklahoma, #2 LSU and #3 Alabama are up to this weekend?
You came to the right place 'cause today's edition of Jim Sez previews what's on tap for all three powerhouse teams plus don't forget there's a highly-underrated and highly-unpublicized Top 10 showdown comin' from College Station way.
P.S., not every game figures to be a 30-point blowout, you know (see last night's never-in-doubt 44-14 win by 7-point Cincinnati over hapless N.C. State - a WINNER that started out our TWO FOR THE MONEY 2-week special. This program is full of big game plays for the next two weekends so get aboard today, and click here.
Now, let's check out Saturday's top NCAA Football games with Spread Notes included in the mix ...
#2 LSU (3-0) at #16 WEST VIRGINIA (3-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Let's cut right to the proverbial chase here: Just how can 5 ½-point home underdog West Virginia "steal" this marquee matchup game under the lights in rambunctious Morgantown?
For starters, WVU must get a "short field" or two here and so winning specials teams is critical because moving the ball on this LSU defense is a real pain - the Tigers gave up 27 points in a season-opening 13-point upset win against Oregon although there was a garbage-time touchdown there and than 3- and 6-point yields followed in wins against Northwestern State and Miss State.
In short, LSU's defensive line is the best in the biz right now and that secondary starring S Brandon Taylor ain't too bad either!
True, the Mountaineers - fresh off last Saturday's hang-on-for-dear-life 37-31 win at Maryland (a pick 'em game) - sport a red-hot quarterback in Geno Smith who ranks fourth in the FBS with 1,008 passing yards to go along with 7 TDs and the Big East bunch has won 16 of its last 17 home games but how about the factoid that LSU's defense holds its opponents this year to either no gain or a loss on 46 percent of the snaps ... yowie!
Every week so far this season the College Football world has offered up a sensational showdown of highly ranked teams - from Oregon-LSU, to Alabama-Penn State to last week's Oklahoma-Florida State affair -- but now here's a cream-of-the-crop team laying road juice and looking to win the speed game against a very speedy team that likes to get off lots of snaps, thanks to new head coach Dan Holgorsen and his high-octane offense.
First team to 30 points wins? Not likely. The team that keeps the other guy from getting 20 points probably takes this tilt.
Spread Notes - LSU's covered two of its first three games this season but did you know the Bayou Bengals are just 10-17-1 against the Las Vegas prices when placed in the favorite's role since the start of 2008? West Virginia has split its first two spread verdicts this year - remember the 34-13 win against Marshall back on Sept. 4th was a "no play" having been halted with 14:36 remaining in the fourth quarter - and the Mountaineers are 9-3 ATS (against the spread) as point-grabbers the past six-plus seasons. Last year WVU covered the 9 ½-point price in a 20-14 loss at LSU.
#7 OKLAHOMA STATE (3-0) at #8 TEXAS A&M (2-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC/espn2
Can we put all this talk about Texas A&M heading to the SEC - and all the other realignment chatter that's really/truly taking away from the start of a very interesting College Football season - to rest here and just examine what's on deck for this Big 12 clash?
The visiting Okie State Cowboys presumably got plenty of sleep after finishing up its 59-33 win/cover at Tulsa last weekend at 3:35 a.m. ET following a three-plus hour weather delay - and now QB Brandon Weeden (1,154 yards passing with 8 TDs but 6 INTs) will look to confound an A&M defense that's allowed just 21 total points this year.
The Weeden-to-WR Justin Blackmon (27 catches and 3 TDs) combo will get plenty of attention here but count us among the folks who believe Okie State's other receivers must stretch the field here while Texas A&M would love to get a 50-50 run-pass balance here with RB Cyrus Gray looking to go over 100 yards rushing for a tenth consecutive game.
Hey, if Texas A&M slinger Ryan Tannehill (a 72.3 percent passer with 4 TDs and 1 INT) can make some plays with his legs too than the 4-point favored Aggies could dance up a couple of places in the polls. Did you realize that Texas A&M's had just one three-and-out on offense this year?
Spread Notes - Oklahoma State's covered two of its first three games this season and the Cowboys are a collective 12-4 versus the vig since the start of last year. On the flip side, Texas A&M is 18-20-1 spreadwise in the Mike Sherman Era that began back in 2008 and note the Aggies are 0-3-1 ATS in their last four head-to-head showdowns against Okie State.
#14 ARKANSAS (3-0) at #3 ALABAMA (3-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
The SEC opener for both teams has a strange recent history: Okay, so 'Bama has won the last four head-to-head showdowns SU (straight-up) but two of the games have been blowouts (by 28 and 35 points) and the other two have been tight fits (by 4 and 3 points) and so the inevitable question here is how close will this encounter be in always-noisy Tuscaloosa?
Maybe that's not so easy to answer but consider that Alabama - an 11-point betting favorite at press time - has surrendered 18 points in all while besting Kent State, Penn State and North Texas and now looks to put the hammer lock on Arkansas QB Tyler Wilson who threw for 303 yards in last weekend's 38-28 non-cover win against Troy but still infuriated head coach Bobby Petrino by making some bad red-zone throws - if the Razorbacks don't get at least three TDs when getting into 'Bama territory here they can forget about the outright win while the home folks won't be subtle:
The pass rush pressure will be intense and the Alabama backfield tandem of RB Trent Richardson and Eddie Lacy (328 rushing yards combined in the 41-0 non-cover win against 46 ½-point pup North Texas last weekend) will get 35-to-40 rushes between 'em and the Tide will be asking flat-out ... can you guys stop it or not?
Spread Notes - Alabama enters this conference tilt at just 17-16-1 ATS in SEC affairs during the Nick Saban Era that began back in 2007 but note the Crimson Tide's a nifty 24-14 spreadwise as favorites the past three years including 2011 covers thus far against 39-point dog Kent State and 10-point home pup Penn State. Meanwhile, Arkansas has notched spread wins in two of its first three games this year (covers against Missouri State and New Mexico) and note the Hogs have covered 12 of their last 16 games played against SEC competition dating back to the start of 2009.
MISSOURI (2-1) at #1 OKLAHOMA (2-0) - 8 p.m. ET, FX
No doubt there are some wishful-thinking folks who believe that the Oklahoma Sooners might have an emotional letdown here following on the heels of last Saturday night's key 23-13 win/cover at 3 ½-point underdog Florida State.
Here's what we have to say about that ... no chance!
The Boomer Sooners - a full three-TD betting favorite for this Big 12 affair from Norman - have the "R" word going here and that's revenge after last year's humbling 36-27 loss at Missouri.
Expect Sooners' boss-man Bob Stoops - now armed with a contract extension that takes him into 2018 (and maybe beyond!) - to have his club operating a hurry-up offense that will apply major heat on a Mizzou defense that surrendered 37 points (in OT against Arizona State) to its only real "name" opponent this year.
Some numbers for you: Quarterback Landry Jones has completed 53-of-74 aerials for 574 yards with 2 TDs and no question that WR Kenny Stills (see 37-yard game-winning touchdown grab in Tallahassee last weekend) has become a superb "second target" behind All-America Ryan Broyles (21 catches already this year).
Take note that Stoops suspended WR Trey Franks (violation of team rules) earlier this week and that presumably means more passes to Broyles and Stills.
Spread Notes - Oklahoma has notched back-to-back pointspread wins to start off the current campaign and the Sooners are a rock-solid 16-9-1 against the odds in Big 12 games the past three-plus seasons. Meanwhile, Missouri enters this prime-time road tilt at 2-1 ATS this season and the Tigers have split their last 10 away verdicts including the 37-30 loss-but-cover at 10-point favorite Arizona back on Sept. 9th.
NOTE: Get our NFL Week 3 key Sunday Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez including the NFC East showdown between the New York Giants at the Philadelphia Eagles and that NFC Championship Game rematch between the Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.