Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, October 5, 2012 at 4:33 PM
Is it the best single Saturday of College Football so far this 2012 season?
Hey, you could say that as our Jim Sez Saturday Six-Pack reveals five head-to-head matchups of ranked teams plus the renewal of one of the sport's all-time great rivalries in Miami vs. Notre Dame.
Now, with nine of the country's top 12 teams all part of the mix here there's no doubt there will be some high-quality football that's gonna be played from Columbia to Eugene and points in between but the $64,000 question is which highly-ranked teams will get bumped off here - and what team(s) will be able to slide up the polls and become part of the conversation when it comes to this year's national championship race?
As we pointed out in an earlier-week edition of Jim Sez - believe it or not - this marks the halfway point for many of the nation's 124 FBS teams as a whole slew of 'em will have six of their dozen regular-season games already in the bag by the time we all go to bed late Saturday night and so this is a true survive-and-advance weekend in the College Football universe... and only the strong will survive, you know!
So, let's get hopping with our Saturday Six-Pack with Spread Notes for each of the matchups included below...
#5 GEORGIA (5-0) at #6 SOUTH CAROLINA (5-0) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The big news earlier this week wasn't good for the Georgia Bulldogs: Star WR Michael Bennett (team-leading 24 catches for 345 yards and 4 TDs) tore the ACL in his right knee in a Tuesday practice and is gone for the year - and so freshmen RBs Todd Gurley (averaging 107 yards rushing per game to lead the SEC) and sidekick Keith Marshall (averaging 86 ypg) may need to tote the rock more than usual here and don't be surprised if savvy QB Aaron Murray checks down to these two pups on short-yardage pass plays - well-schooled South Carolina will be watching their every move!
Still, if you really want an X-factor key to victory here in the best game on the College Football card this first Saturday in October, than let's see how the Gamecocks fare in their deep pass plays - no doubt RB Marcus Lattimore (averaging 88 ypg with 8 TDs so far) will be the central character on this attack but what will WR Damiere Byrd (only 9 catches but averaging an eye-popping 27.3 yards per play) do when targeted down the field and will injury-prone QB Connor Shaw always be able to get 'em the ball when open?
Spread Notes - Georgia has lost seven of its last eight pointspread verdicts against South Carolina and the Dawgs are just 13-22 ATS (against the spread) in SEC play the past four-plus seasons. On the flip side, South Carolina rolls into this bash on a four-game spread winning streak and the Gamecocks are a scintillating 19-9 ATS at home since the start of the 2008 season.
#4 LSU (5-0) at #10 FLORIDA (4-0) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Here's hoping "Verne and Gary" and the good folks at CBS get another SEC barnburner - last week's 51-44 Georgia victory over Tennessee busted a short string of bummer games for the long-time announcing team (see South Carolina 31, Mizzou 10 and 'Bama 51, Arkansas 0 in the two prior weekends).
No doubt the really big question here inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium - a/k/a "The Swamp" - is whether the home-town Gators indeed are "back" as back-to-back-to-back wins against Texas A&M, Tennessee and Kentucky are nice but are they meaningful?
Florida must keep QB Jeff Driskel (sacked 12 times already this season) in an upright position and the Gators' slinger must get rid of the ball in a timely manner and not take those 10- and 15-yard losses - watch for those sterling LSU pass-rushers Barkevious Mingo and Sam Montgomery who could be real spotlight players here.
Spread Notes - LSU has covered 13 of its last 18 overall tilts dating back to late in the 2010 season but did you know the Bayou Bengals are just 2-4-1 spreadwise in their last seven showdowns against Florida? Meanwhile, the Gators have notched spread wins in three of their first four games this season but the Gainesville gang still is just 9-16-2 ATS against fellow SEC squads since the start of the 2009 campaign.
#8 WEST VIRGINIA (4-0) at #11 TEXAS (4-0) - 7 p.m. ET, Fox
Sure seems like this Big 12 tilt is getting the short end of the media straw this week what with the two above-mentioned SEC monster matchups on tap but - let's face it - if West Virginia's senior slinger Geno Smith (1,728 yards passing with 20 TDs and 0 INTs this year) rock-n-rolls all over Texas than the Mountaineers will be somewhere inside the top 5 in next week's polls and Smith will have all but locked up this year's Heisman Trophy... and we ain't kidding!
The Longhorns - a solid TD betting favorite for this clash - rank an average 45th nationally in pass defense while surrendering 210 yards a game (West Virginia's obviously the country's top passing team at 441.5 yards a game) and so this is an obvious game plan for Mack Brown's team:
Possess the ball for long periods of time with the nation's 19th-best running game (228 ypg) and keep Mr. Smith standing there on the sidelines this Saturday night in Austin.
We give the Fox broadcast team about three minutes into game action here before they bring up the YAC (yards after catch) stat for West Virginia wide-outs Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin - and who can blame 'em?
Spread Notes - West Virginia finds itself in the underdog role here and the Mountaineers are a collective 8-2 ATS as pups while dating back to the start of 2007. Texas sports a nifty three-game spread winning streak while entering this under-the-lights duel (covers against New Mexico, Ole Miss and Oklahoma State) but the 'Horns are a money-toasting 7-14 ATS at home the past three-plus seasons.
MIAMI (4-1) at #9 NOTRE DAME (4-0) - 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
You're 100 percent correct - this Miami v. Notre Dame clash doesn't have that blood-boiling "Catholics vs. Convicts" feel to it from back in the 1980s but - than again - who really believed that these two football-rich schools would be a combined 8-1 SU (straight-up) upon entering the month of October this year?
If the heavy-duty favorite ND Fighting Irish are gonna continue its zoom up the polls here than it needs yet another super game from LB Manti Te'o - he will be on our short Heisman Trophy list when we begin publishing that feature sometime next week! - as he needs to get into the grill of Miami QB Stephen Morris who's fresh off an ACC-record 566-yard passing game in that kooky 44-37 triumph over N.C. State. The 'backer must also go sideline-to-sideline tracking down Miami's speedy backs that include frosh star-in-the-making Duke Johnson.
Note that Miami - which has yielded 32, 52, 36 and 27 points in four of its first five games this year - figures to face both Notre Dame QBs Everett Golson and Tommy Rees here... and did you know that Notre Dame is the only FBS team yet to trail in a game this year?
Spread Notes - Notre Dame's covered three of its first four games out of the chute this year but note the Fighting Irish owns a shoddy 10-18-3 ATS mark as betting favorites the past three-plus seasons. Miami is a solid 5-2 spreadwise as an underdog side since the start of last year and the 'Canes are 7-3 vig-wise in their last 10 away games and that includes the 33-17 Sun Bowl loss to the Irish back in 2010.
#23 WASHINGTON (3-1) at #2 OREGON (5-0) - 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
t's getting to be that the Oregon Ducks are your late-night TV pals this year: In the past two weeks the thrill-a-minute Ducks have bombarded both Washington State and Arizona in late-night action and now here Chip Kelly's crew is another whopper-sized favorite (it's 24 ½-points at last glance, folks) and you have to wonder whether Washington can weave the same magic it did en route to that 17-13 upset win against Stanford a couple of Thursday nights back.
Hey, the Huskies took away the Stanford aerial game and swallowed up star RB Stepfan Taylor (only 75 yards rushing) and so lassoing the likes of Oregon back Kenjon Barner (195 yards rushing and three scores in last Saturday's 51-26 non-cover win against Wazzau) is critical here or this one could be history just past midnight in the East.
Spread Notes - Oregon has failed to cover four of its first five games this year but did you know the Ducks are 8-4-1 against the odds in Pac-12 tilts since late in the 2010 season? Washington, meanwhile, is a rotten 1-7 ATS in its last eight hoedowns against Oregon and that includes last year's 34-17 loss as 16 ½-point home dogs. Ouch!
#21 NEBRASKA (4-1) at #12 OHIO STATE (5-0) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Both of these Big 10 teams come off mega-important wins last week - the Cornhuskers came from 17 points down to bop Wisconsin 30-27 while Ohio State grinded out its 17-16 victory at 2 ½-point fav Michigan State - but odds are the winner of this free-for-all will be the one that throws it best. Really!
Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez - as Big Red Nation well knows - can be a real hit-or-miss guy while the Buckeyes rank a putrid 98th nationally in pass offense and QB Braxton Miller (933 yards passing with 8 TDs and just 3 INTs) could find that first-year head coach Urban Meyer is gonna take off the kid's "training wheels" here should Nebraska put eight men in the box.
Hey, did you know that Ohio State has held four of its first five foes this year to 16 points or less - and that only happened three times all of last year!
Spread Notes - Ohio State steps into this Big 10 tilt having gone 38-17-2 versus the Las Vegas numbers in all intraconference games since 2005 (that's a sizzling .691 winning rate) and despite some early-season home spread woes this year the Buckeyes still are 17-9 ATS in Columbus the past three-plus seasons. Nebraska is a respectable 16-10 against the odds away since the start of the 2008 season.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have all the NCAA Football, NFL Week 5 and - of course - the Major-League Baseball Playoff winners just for you and so go ahead and climb aboard right now with America's #1 Handicapper! Make sure to get all this week's key gridiron games and the MLB Divisional Series winners and be sure to check in with us on Game Days either right here online or at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the winners.
NOTE: Get our NFL Week 5 Key Previews in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez as we bring you the likes of Philadelphia at Pittsburgh, Denver at New England and much more!