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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, September 4, 2011 at 8:59 AM

Wonder if you heard that gasp coming from the great Northwest? It was Oregon Ducks Nation letting out a deep breath now that their 3rd-ranked team was buried by turnovers (four of ‘em leading to 20 points) and by LSU in Saturday night's 40-27 loss in the latest edition of the 'Cowboys Classic'.

No doubt many Ducks fans saw that ABC/ESPN graphic that claimed since 1936 there's only been four NCAA Football teams that lost their season-opening game and yet went on to win the national championship – yes, the last time it happened was indeed all the way back in the 1983 season when Howard Schnellenberger's Miami Hurricanes team managed that feat following a season-opening loss to Florida.

Maybe the Ducks aren't burnt to a crisp just yet … but you tell us how head coach Chip Kelly is gonna get this team 'up' for their remaining 11 regular-season games one year after having played in the BCS Championship Game?

There is no question about it that Oregon was Saturday's biggest 'loser' considering all that was at stake in that tilt against a short-handed LSU team that pounced on a slew of Oregon fumbles – especially in the third quarter – and than made the best of ‘em. While you're at it, chuck Oregon QB Darron Thomas into that first week's 'loser's' bracket as his empty 31-of-54, 240-yard passing performance that included one TD and one INT was really weak after intermission and it proved critics correct when they claimed in the days leading up to this game that Thomas didn't have enough arm to best a still-solid LSU defense.

As long as we're touching on opening-week 'losers' than don't leave out the Notre Dame Fighting Irish: Not only did this weather-interrupted 23-20 home loss versus 11-point underdog South Florida leave ND fans all wet but it showed that 'quarterback guru' and Irish head coach Brian Kelly really doesn't have a top-quality signal-caller at his disposal as he benched starter Dayne Christ (7-of-15 for 95 yards and one pick) at halftime and last year's fab frosh Tommy Rees (24-of-34 for 296 yards with two INTs) made enough mistakes to keep Notre Dame from snagging what was considered a gimme win.

P.S., Notre Dame was the biggest on-the-board betting favorite to lose 'the whole game' in the first weekend of NCAA Football action – shame, shame.

Okay, so let's put a positive spin on a couple of teams here: Fifth-ranked Boise State – a workmanlike 35-21 win against 3-point underdog Georgia – quieted the red-and-black clad Bulldogs fans inside the Georgia Dome and immediately climbed the polls with yet another impressive season-opening performance but what about QB Kellen Moore who aired three scoring strikes with a rather novice wide receiver corps at his service en route to a 261-yard passing outing that jets him inside the top four in this year's Heisman Trophy list that – dare we say – so far includes Baylor QB Robert Griffin III (359 yards passing and 5 TD strikes in last Friday's wild 50-48 win versus TCU), Stanford QB Andrew Luck (17-of-26 for 171 yards passing with two aerial TDs and a rushing score in a rocking-chair 57-3 win/cover against 30-point pup San Jose State) and Oklahoma QB Landry Jones who chucked it for 375 yards and one TD in the Sooners' 47-14 win/cover against 24-point dog Tulsa.

Want another weekend winner from the world of College Football? Than how about one of the teams that lost … The Utah State Aggies.

No doubt that U-State would like to have that onsides kickoff back in the gut-wrenching 42-38 loss-but-cover against defending national champ Auburn but hats off to Gary Andersen's team for pounding out 27 first downs thanks to 227 rushing yards and 221 passing yards. Still – as will be the case with above-mentioned Oregon -- it won't be easy for Utah State to 'get up' for next week's game against Weber State.

And now hear this: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are gonna win plenty of greenbacks this 2011 College Football Season and so make sure you get it all jump-started with this weekend's action right through Labor Day Monday and then, of course, right through the BCS National Championship Game in January.

The NFL 2011 Regular Season rolls into action come Thursday night – it's the 2009 Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints at the 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers – and get all of the Week 1 Winners and take it straight through to Super Bowl Sunday on February 5th.

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No big surprise that the NFL's worst team last year – the 2-14 Carolina Panthers – announced the other day that rookie QB Cam Newton would be their starting quarterback come the NFL Week 1 tilt at 7-point favorite Arizona on the afternoon of September 11th. Newton – in truth – beat out last year's second-round pick QB Jimmy Clausen easily in this so-called competition and former Cardinals QB Derek Anderson was no match for the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner either.

In the end, Newton threw for 300 yards with one TD and 0 INTs in this 2011 Preseason and he added another 86 yards rushing on 9 carries (a 9.6 yards-per-carry norm) while also scoring once and there was never any doubt who the 'fan favorite' was as Newton's play brought cheers in Charlotte while both Clausen and Anderson's play brought jeers.

Hey, the Panthers were 4-12 ATS (against the spread) last season and scored in excess of 21 points only twice – a 23-20 home win against 2-point underdog San Francisco and a 24-23 loss-but-cover at 7-point fav Cleveland – and the bottom line is Newton already has a favorite target lined up in TE Greg Olsen (late of the Chicago Bears) who averaged a hefty 17.5 yards a catch with six grabs this Preseason.

Prediction on Newton: He'll still lose way more than he'll win this year – we're thinking 5-11 or possibly 6-10 for the 2011 Panthers – but he'll be one of the league's three or four most-exciting players in this league where they play for pay.

NOTE: More College Football and NFL News & Notes in the next edition of Jim Sez.


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