Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 16, 2011 at 9:47 AM
Once upon a time - like 20-plus years ago! - we used to get early-season non-conference marquee matchups like #1 Oklahoma at #5 Florida State all the time but then things happened...Big-time teams - including the OU Sooners and FSU Seminoles -- started to schedule more "gimme wins" and claimed they had to gear up more for conference play but the reality of it is all the big shots in College Football got scared of suffering a loss in September that might cripple their BCS Championship Game bowl hopes and so we've been "treated" to just scattered monster showdowns in this era ... and that's too bad!
Now, when the sun sets in Tallahassee come Saturday night, there'll be a pair of top 5 teams squaring off - just like we had two weekends ago when then-#3 Oregon and then-#4 LSU battled in the "Cowboys Classic" - and so savor the showdown in the Sunshine State.
They still don't exactly come around all that often, you know!
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Before We Get To Saturday, let's look at Friday Night:
#4 BOISE STATE (1-0) at TOLEDO (1-1) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Should the kids from Boise State really be on upset alert here? Consider that Chris Petersen’s squad – winners of 62 games (and losers just five times) since the start of 2006 – will tangle here with a Toledo team that nearly took out Ohio State last Saturday at “The Horseshoe”.
Heck, the 17-point favorite Buckeyes won that game 27-22 and it could have been real different if Toledo didn’t miss a field goal, allow a punt return for a score and than botch yet another FG in what would have been the first in-state opponent to beat Ohio State since – get this – 1921.
P.S., plenty of Toledo folks are still remarking about the fact the Rockets were penalized 14 times for 102 yards while O-State had two penalties for 13 yards. Hmmm. Now, third-year boss Tim Beckman claims his guys will bounce back from that tough loss but there’s no question the schedule is not in Toledo’s favor – the Rockets played in Columbus last Saturday and so it’s a “short week” while Boise State’s been idle since that season-opening 35-21 win/cover against Georgia back on Labor Day Saturday.
Keep in mind that Boise State QB Kellen Moore – a legit Heisman Trophy candidate for now the third year in a row – threw three touchdowns in the first half alone in that 43-point win against Toledo last year (see our Spread Notes below) but these days there’s some distractions facing B-State including whether or not three players suspended by the NCAA will be allowed to suit up here and note they include starting S Cedric Fibis.
Spread Notes – Boise State is 26-11-2 ATS (against the spread) since the start of the 2006 campaign and note that includes a nifty 18-10-1 spread log whenever laying a double-digit price tag and that includes last year’s 57-14 thumping of 38 ½-point road underdog Toledo. Overall, the Broncos are an electric 16-4-1 ATS away the past three-plus seasons including away covers against Georgia (2011), versus Virginia Tech in Landover (2010) and Oregon (2008). Note that Toledo has notched spread wins in both of its games so far this season – a 58-22 win against 11 ½-point underdog New Hampshire and than that 27-22 loss-but-cover against 17-point home fav Ohio State.
IOWA STATE (2-0) at CONNECTICUT (1-1) – 8 p.m. ET, espn2
Let’s just say odds are this figures to be a tight fit considering Iowa State’s played a pair of barnburners thus far including a hang-on-for-dear-life 20-19 non-cover win against TD underdog Northern Iowa and than last week’s wild 44-41 triple-OT win against in-state archrival Iowa – maybe I-State head coach Paul Rhoads (seen going wild at the end of last week’s victory) will be needing some medication following this prime-time bash.
The Cyclones – listed as 4 ½-point underdogs at press time – are counting on QB Steele Jantz whose already thrown for 466 yards and 5 TDs this season while turnover-prone UConn slinger Johnny McEntee (0 TDs and 3 INTs in 2011) must do a better job of reading defenses here or else he could be setting up the ‘Clones with good field position.
Player to watch for UConn: RB Lyle McCombs (259 yards rushing) is averaging 5.1 yards a pop and has scored four TDs including a 60-yard dash – if Paul Pasqualoni’s club lets McCombs tote the ball 25 times here it should do the trick for the Big East hosts.
Spread Notes – The UConn Huskies have lost both of their 2011 spread verdicts so far (versus Fordham and at Vanderbilt) but note Connecticut’s a hearty 14-7-1 ATS at home since the start of the 2007 season. On the flip side, Iowa State’s split its first two spread decisions this season (an ATS loss to Northern Iowa and last weekend’s spread win against Iowa) but did you know that the Cyclones have failed to cover three of its last four post-Iowa games?
Now, here are College Football's Key Saturday Previews with Spread Notes included ...
#1 OKLAHOMA (1-0) at #5 FLORIDA STATE (2-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Is this the game in which Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops gets back his "Big Game Bob" nickname?
No doubt the Sooners have not always come up large in such marquee matchups in recent years but Stoops and Company do enter this clash as 3-point road favorites and QB Landry Jones (375 yards passing and one TD in OU's 47-14 win/cover against 24-point dog Tulsa two weeks ago) is armed-and-dangerous here ... and now looking to make it two in a row against Florida State (see last year's 47-17 win/cover as 7-point home favorites).
It could be gut check time early for the host Seminoles who have cranked out 96 points in season-opening SU (straight-up) wins against UL-Monroe and Charleston Southern but the $64,000 question here is what team will decide to perk up the tempo first? Tell us that either team will get 70-or-more offensive snaps here and that's the side that'll win as FSU quarterback EJ Manuel (581 yards passing with 6 TDs so far in 2011) isn't afraid to put his foot on the gas pedal and go no huddle for a 10- or 12-play drive.
Spread Notes - Oklahoma has covered eight of its last 11 overall games dating back to early 2010 but note the Boomer Sooners are a dreary 4-7 ATS (against the spread) in non-conference affairs since late 2008. Florida State, meanwhile, has split its first two spread verdicts this year and the Seminoles are 8-7 ATS thus far in the Jimbo Fisher Era. Note that Florida State's a collective 15-9 versus the vig as underdog sides since the start of the 2005 campaign.
WASHINGTON (2-0) at #11 NEBRASKA (2-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET. ABC
Fancy seeing you again ... this is the third time in a year that the UW Huskies and Nebraska Cornhuskers have banged heads on the gridiron as Big Red snared a 56-21 win at 3-point home dog Washington last Sept. 18th and than who's gonna forget the Huskies 19-7 Holiday Bowl shocker win against the 11 ½-point favored 'Huskers?
Now the "rubber match" is set here in Lincoln -- and Nebraska dual-threat QB Taylor Martinez (a team-leading 301 yards rushing and 335 yards passing) must prove he can take the big hits and still be standing there at the finish line. If Washington - a 17-point pup here - is seriously entertaining any upset hopes than the heir to QB Jake Locker - that's soph Keith Price (417 yards passing with 7 TDs and 1 INT in '11) -- must get three or four "chunk plays" here and that means aerials gains of 30-plus yards.
Spread Notes - Nebraska actually has failed to cover six of its last eight overall pointspread decisions since mid-to-late last year and that includes shabby 0-2 ATS start here in 2011. The Big Red is 9-13-1 vig-wise at home in the Bo Pelini Era that began back in 2008. Note that Washington is 5-1 vig-wise as double-digit underdogs since the start of 2009 and that, of course, includes last year's aforementioned upset win against Nebraska.
TENNESSEE (2-0) at #16 FLORIDA (2-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
You know that it's mid-September when these SEC rivals are squaring off but did you know that Florida's won the last six in a row SU in this series and the Volunteers have not scored in excess of 20 points in any of these games while dating back to 2004:
Now the "mighty Gators" need to prove that they can handle Tennessee's starry one-two wide receiver punch here as WRs Justin Hunter (16 catches for 18.9 ypc and 2 TDs) and Da'Rick Rogers (15 receptions worth 13.3 ypc and 3 scores) have been dynamite so far - might that tempt Florida's first-year offensive coordinator Charlie Weis to run more traps/draws and thus keep Tennessee's high-octane passing game on the sidelines more here?
The big beneficiary could be Florida's red-hot RB Chris Rainey who has rushed for 198 yards (a 7.3 ypc average) as he continues to put last year's suspension in the rear-view mirror.
Spread Notes - The Florida Gators have chomped down with back-to-back pointspread wins to start off the Will Muschamp Era but note the Gainesville gang is a rotten 1-6 versus the vig when hosting SEC foes the past two-plus seasons. On the other hand, Tennessee's 4-5-1 against the odds in its last 10 head-to-head showdowns against Florida and that includes last season's 31-17 loss/spread push as 14-point home dogs in Knoxville. The Vols are a collective 12-6-2 ATS away dating back to late in the 2007 season.
#17 OHIO STATE (2-0) at MIAMI (0-1) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Just when you thought College Football was getting closer to riding itself of scandals, along come both the Buckeyes and the Hurricanes ... good grief!
No need to get into all the details here but consider this is the first road game for Ohio State boss-man Luke Fickell and his Big 10 guys barely made it past 17-point pup Toledo last week but count us among the folks impressed thus far with QB Joe Bauserman who is starring in Year One after Terrelle Pryor - Bauserman's stats already include 4 TDs and 0 INTs and no doubt the hungry 'Canes need to force a few turnovers here and continue playing strong red-zone defense.
Or was that merely a case of Maryland's offense botching things up when they got deep in Miami's territory in that 32-24 win/cover on Labor Day evening?
Note that Miami QB Jacory Harris is back from his one-game suspension and here's hoping booster Nevin Shapiro doesn't show up in the team huddle!
Spread Notes - Ohio State's split its first two pointspread verdicts this year but did you know the Buckeyes are 8-4 spreadwise as underdog sides since the start of the 2005 season. Miami enters this prime-time affair at 27-45-1 against the Las Vegas prices the past six-plus seasons and that includes failing to cover four of its last six non-league affairs.
NOTE: Get our NFL Week 2 Key Sunday Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.