Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, November 30, 2012 at 6:42 PM
Let's face it: The BCS folks "won out" this year as they not only got a super-duper name team already into the January 7th tilt in Miami - the #1 Notre Dame Fighting Irish remain a TV gold mine - but now they get, in essence, a national semifinal game to boot with Saturday's SEC Championship Game between #2 Alabama against #3 Georgia.
Ohh, things could have been real different - and real sticky - if Notre Dame would have lost to USC last weekend as than a slew of one-loss teams would have been staking their claim to the title tilt but score one for the BCS guys/gals who haven't always gotten it right since this whole thing started back in 1997. Now, if there's only something we could do about the 44 days between games for Notre Dame!
Okay, so we'll chat it up regarding the three big conference championship games in just a moment - the SEC, ACC and Big 10 all will get our undivided attention in today's Jim Sez column - but first let's take a moment to bring you the Best Half-Dozen Spread Sides in America as we enter this final regular-season weekend in the 2012 College Football Season:
Here goes ...
FRESNO STATE (11-1) - The Mountain West Conference club rolled up separate six- and five-game pointspread winning streaks this 2012 campaign and how 'bout the fact the Bulldogs were a perfect 9-0 ATS (against the spread) as betting favorites? Fresno State's sure come a long way from those 1-10-1 and 2-11 spread seasons back in 2006 and '08 - wouldn't you say?
NORTHWESTERN (11-1) - The only BCS conference club to bang out a .917 winning rate spreadwise this year and so "hats off" to seventh-year head coach Pat Fitzgerald and Company as the 'Cats covered all seven of their home games in Evanston and went a whopping 5-0 ATS as betting favorites and 6-1 spreadwise as point-grabbers. P.S., inside the rough-and-tumble Big 10 this year Northwestern copped spread wins in seven-of-eight tries and note that included road covers at both Michigan and Michigan State. Three cheers!
UTAH STATE (11-1) - Believe it or not, the Aggies were a perfect 11-and-oh spreadwise till they failed to cover their regular-season-ending 45-9 win against 37 ½-point underdog Idaho ... drats! No question that Utah State's sensational defense paved the way to this cash-cow season as the WAC folks held nine opponents to below 20 points (and five of them to single-digit scores) and keep in mind the Aggies registered a snazzy 6-1 ATS log as double-digit betting favs. Really!
KENT STATE (10-2) - This is the Golden Flashes' spread mark while going into the Mid-American Conference Championship Game on this final Friday night in November and take note that this K-State squad won four games in outright upset fashion (including that 35-23 win at two-TD fav Rutgers) and rolled up a super-impressive 6-1 against-the-odds log away.
KANSAS STATE (9-2) - This version of K-State also has been brilliant spreadwise this season with outright wins against 15 ½-point fav Oklahoma and 2 ½-point favorite West Virginia mixed into this batch of .818 winning percentage plays. The Big 12 team will enter Saturday's home game against Texas with a spiffy 7-1 ATS log in conference action (please, the folks in Manhattan don't wish to hear anything else more about the Baylor game back on November 17th) and the 'Cats are a rollicking 7-2 ATS whenever laying points.
SAN JOSE STATE (9-2) - Let's face facts and that's the SJSU Spartans really burst onto the gridiron scene this year after a slew of seasons in the "witness protection program"! The WAC squad whacked out six spread wins in as many road games including pointspread "W's" at Stanford, San Diego State and Navy early in the 2012 campaign and did you know that the Spartans posted a 7-2 ATS mark as betting favorites this year after having gone a composite 0-5 ATS as chalk-eaters the prior three years. You can look it up!
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COLLEGE FOOTBALL'S CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY SHOWDOWNS
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - at Atlanta, GA
#2 ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. #3 GEORGIA (11-1, 7-1 SEC) - 4 p.m. ET, CBS
Can you believe that 'Bama boss Nick Saban is belly-aching about the fact that the loser of this game won't get the invite to the Sugar Bowl?
Hey, Nicky, last year your Tide team didn't even play in the SEC Championship Game - see LSU 42, Georgia 10 -- and yet the dopey BCS system put your guys into the national championship which you won ... wow, now we see why it's so tough to root for Alabama outside the state line!
The bottom line here is that Alabama must prove it can move the football against a Georgia defense that ranks ninth nationally against the pass (allowing just 174.4 yards per game) and has really fine-tuned its game in recent weeks while holding its last five foes to a grand total of 43 points. No wonder Georgia boss-man Mark Richt is said to have a quiet confidence here even though that means the likes of FS Bacarri Rambo and mates must slow down the nation's leader in pass efficiency as AJ McCarron does enter this fray with 25 TDs and only 2 INTs and we know he has ice water in the veins after that stirring fourth-quarter go-ahead TD drive at LSU.
On the flip side, Georgia QB Aaron Murray ranks second in the land in pass efficiency with his 3,201 yards passing and 30 TDs and just 7 INTs. Murray's "big-game" abilities have been questioned in the past and so he heads into this clash with a something-to-prove mentality and gut feeling here is Murray-to-WR Tavarres King - who averages nearly 21 yards a reception - could be the pass-catch combo that shakes up the whole BCS scene ... after all, doesn't it seem like everyone is advancing Alabama into the Jan. 7th title tilt against #1 Notre Dame?
Spread Notes - Alabama has split its dozen pointspread verdicts this year but take note that the Crimson Tide's covered four-of-five away games with the only spread loss away happening at LSU in early November. Overall, Alabama is 12-5 ATS in all conference games since the start of last year. Meanwhile, Georgia is also 6-6 spreadwise so far this year but the Dawgs did win their only underdog appearance (the 17-9 triumph over 6 ½-point fav Florida) although Georgia's just 3-10 ATS as pups the past three-plus seasons.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - at Charlotte, NC
#13 FLORIDA STATE (10-2, 7-1 ACC) vs. GEORGIA TECH (6-6, 5-3 ACC) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
So much for Florida State showing off any national championship caliber-type abilities last weekend in that 37-26 home loss against archrival Florida!
Not only did FSU signal-caller EJ Manuel spit the bit but he was planted into the Tallahassee turf - and hard - a few times and so you wonder what his mindset will be here as the 'Noles attempt to win their first ACC championship since - get this - 2005!
Now, Florida State must get "geeked" for this game against a G-Tech that made it here by default after Miami disqualified itself while hoping the NCAA big-wigs don't slam the 'Canes with some multi-year bowl ban. It's not as if the Techsters earned this appearance after getting beaten in ACC games by Virginia Tech, Miami and Clemson while losing a total of four games by 16-or-more points.
If Georgia Tech's spread option offense has something to smile about, it's the fact that earlier in the week State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops was named the next head coach at Kentucky - so maybe he wasn't always "burning the midnight oil" in preparation for this clash. We'll see.
Spread Notes - Florida State is a money-burning 4-7 against the Las Vegas prices this year and the Seminoles are a collective 4-8 ATS as twin-figure betting favorites while dating back to late last season. Meanwhile, Georgia Tech - which has covered three of its last four games this year - is 7-5 ATS overall this season and the Yellow Jackets are 12-10 vig-wise as pups in the five-year reign of head coach Paul Johnson.
BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - at Indianapolis, IN
#12 NEBRASKA (10-2, 7-1 Big 10) vs. WISCONSIN (7-5, 4-4 Big 10) - 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox
So many folks want to talk about the first meeting this year between the Cornhuskers and the Badgers - that drama-filled 30-27 come-from-behind non-cover triumph by Nebraska back on Sept. 29th but what we learned from that game is Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema - predictably - got way too conservative with a second-half lead on the road and he soon paid for his lack of aggression.
If the 3-point underdog Badgers wish to dart out to a quick start here, than record-breaking RB Montee Ball (1,528 yards rushing and 18 TDs this year) must dent a defense that's held six foes to 20 points or less and no question Wisky WR Jared Abbrederis (17.4 yards-per-grab) must shake free from some of his double teams ... or else.
Naturally, the return last week of hard-charging Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead - who scored his team's lone TD in the 13-7 win at windy Iowa - is a key here for Bo Pelini's squad but tell us that QB Taylor Martinez (21 TD passes and 8 INTs) is gonna make sound red-zone decisions and we'll tell you Nebraska will win this game by twin figures.
Spread Notes - Nebraska is 7-5 against the odds this year but note the 'Huskers have covered four of their last five games while heading into this prime-time affair. Note that Big Red is just 4-7 ATS away dating back to late in the 2010 season. On the flip side, Wisconsin is 5-7 odds-wise this 2012 season and overall the Badgers are 4-8 ATS away dating back to the start of last year.
NOTE: Catch our NFL Week 13 Key Sunday Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.