Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 30, 2013 at 9:36 AM
Here's a question: Have you truly dissected this holiday weekend's College Football menu?
If you did so, then you noted that there are 36 on-the-board games between tonight (Friday) through Monday Night and there are a whopping total of 23 double-digit betting favorites on the weekend docket - in other words, nearly 64 percent of the "bettable" games have twin-figure favorites but don't sleep on all those large-sized underdogs 'cause we all remember the likes of UL-Monroe's stunning 34-31 overtime win at 29 ½-point fav Arkansas last year on opening weekend and what about two years ago when 23 ½-point fav Auburn barely (and late) squeaked out a wild 42-38 win against Utah State?
In other words, do not at all be shocked should we get one or two monstrous upsets here and keep in mind that some of these bloated price tags might well be major overlays - is Las Vegas absolutely sure that Louisiana Tech is two TDs inferior to N.C. State or that Oklahoma State deserves to be a 12 ½-point choice over an SEC team named Miss State?
In all, 21 of the Associated Press' Top 25 teams are in action this Labor Day Weekend - so it's never really too early in a season to be thinking "upset alerts" even though you might be of the mind to believe that we won't be having any (or many) major shakeups on the poll scene come this time next week.
We'll dig into some of the marquee matchup previews for a great College Football Saturday in a moment - we'll get you the Sunday/Monday previews in our next two Jim Sez columns, respectively - but first this ultra-important season-opening message ...
Jim Hurley and his veteran Handicappers and Bloggers are all revved up for a big-time College Football Season and we're storming straight ahead after winning our last 7 consecutive NFL Preseason games. Make sure you're all aboard for the start of this 2013 College Football season and stay hot with us on our NFL Sides & Totals plays too - as we said up above, there's still 36 NCAA Football on-the-board games this holiday weekend from Friday night through Monday night and so get in on all the fun and profits!
And don't forget the NFL regular season swings into action on Thursday night when the defending Super Bowl champion Baltimore Ravens play at the Denver Broncos with the remainder of the NFL Week 1 games on tap for Sunday, Sept. 8th and Monday, Sept. 9th. Plus cash in with loads of Major-League Baseball Winners too as we've been banging out lots of "W's" in recent weeks as we head to the home stretch of this 2013 MLB season.
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Now, here's the top tilts on this College Football Saturday ...
#5 GEORGIA at #8 CLEMSON - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Talk about your opening-week "must wins"!
No doubt the loser of this battle in Death Valley quickly gets behind the proverbial eight-ball in an attempt to be in the running for the BCS Championship in January but the question is who really has the advantage here?
Is it a Georgia team - right now favored by a slim 1 ½-point price tag - that brings back eight offensive starters including QB Aaron Murray (soon to become the SEC's all-time passing leader and fresh off a 3,893-yard passing season with 36 TDs and 10 INTs) and RB Todd Gurley (1,385 yards rushing and 17 scores) ... or is it a Clemson team that's won 24 of its last 28 home games while dating back to the start of the 2009 season?
And keep in mind that Georgia will be starting seven new defensive players against a Clemson attack starring QB Tahj Boyd (3,896 yards passing last year with 36 TDs and 13 INTs) as last year's Tigers scored 37-or-more points on 10 separate occasions.
If you're looking for a high-scoring game, than join the party - the Las Vegas folks right now have this over/under price at 71 points (actually down from a game-opening 73-point price) - but gotta believe it's red-zone defense that will be key here.
Just what stop unit is gonna hold the other offense to more 3's here? Good question!
Spread Notes - The Georgia Dawgs banged out a solid 8-5 ATS (against the spread) mark last year that included road spread wins at Missouri and Auburn. Overall, Georgia's 9-5 versus the vig in away/neutral games the past two seasons. Meanwhile, Clemson is fresh off a spiffy 9-4 ATS season that featured pointspread "W's" against Florida State and LSU. Note the Tigers have covered five of their last seven season-opening affairs.
#1 ALABAMA vs. VIRGINIA TECH (At Atlanta) - 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's kinda hard to believe that since the first AP poll was released way back in 1936, College Football never - ever - has had a three-peat champion (there have been 10 repeat champs including the here-and-now 'Bama Crimson Tide) and so that's the "big picture" for this Alabama team but the fact of the matter is there were significant changes in personnel following last year's BCS Championship Game 42-14 blowout win against Notre Dame as the offensive line experienced a major facelift and that secondary welcomed some new blood too ... so is it necessarily fair for everyone-and-his-brother to think Alabama is a lead-pipe cinch to three-peat in 2013? Hmmm.
One thing about this game inside the "neutral" Georgia Dome is that Virginia Tech - normally a Top 25 staple year-in and year-out under 27th-year head coach Frank Beamer - comes in super-hungry after going just 7-6 SU (straight-up) a year ago and QB Logan Thomas surely is in a something-to-prove mode after throwing 16 picks while completing a mere 50 percent of his passes in 2012.
If Thomas can extend some plays and give the Hokies some 6- and-7-minute offensive possessions here, then this one could get interesting despite the three-TD price tag attached to this SEC vs. ACC affair.
Obviously, the biggest noisemakers from the 'Bama side are quarterback AJ McCarron (2,933 yards passing with 30 TDs and 3 INTs last year) and wunderkind running back T.J. Yeldon (1,108 yards rushing with 12 TDs) but if Alabama has the shot to win it all again then defense - the staple of all Nick Saban-coached teams - will be front-and-center and the game plan here is to get in Thomas' face and not let him breath outside the pocket.
Spread Notes - Alabama is a collective 41-24 vig-wise the past five years (a .631 winning percentage) but note the Crimson Tide last year finished just 7-7 against the odds. On the flip side, Clemson's gone 8-5 and then 9-4 ATS the past two years and note the Tigers last year bested 2 ½-point fav Auburn 26-19 in their season-opening bash.
#12 LSU vs. #20 TCU (at Arlington) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
This game's in the "House that Jerry Built" - a/k/a Cowboys Stadium - and playing in a pro venue is pretty fitting for the LSU Tigers who lost 11 non-senior starters last year to the NFL Draft and so the word "rebuilding" has been tossed 'round some in these parts but ninth-year head coach Les Miles isn't buying any of it!
In fact, Miles believes his offense will be better than ever and it'll be interesting to see what effect new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has on QB Zach Mettenberger who threw for 2,609 yards with 12 TDs and 7 INTs for a unit that finished 89th nationally in passing offense - not good.
Keep in mind that Miles hasn't yet said whether RB Jeremy Hill is gonna play here after an off-season arrest for his role in an alleged bar fight.
On the flip side, TCU has its own "bad boy" back in the saddle:
QB Casey Pachall returns after plenty of personal problems last year but Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson has told media folks that last year's backup-turned-starter Trevone Boykin (2,054 yards passing with 15 TD passes) will get some time too - but that won't be the case with defensive stud DE/LB Devonte Fields who is suspended for the first two games this year. Note that Fields accounted for 10 sacks a year ago as a freshman.
Spread Notes - LSU registered a shoddy 5-8 ATS mark a year ago with the Bayou Bengals failing to cover four-of-five games played outside Baton Rouge. Overall, LSU is also 1-4 vig-wise in its on-the-board season openers the past five years. TCU, on the other hand, also has skidded spreadwise lately with a collective 16-21 ATS log the past three years.
In other NCAA Football games on this Saturday, it's ...
RICE at #7 TEXAS A&M - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so controversial Heisman Trophy-winning QB Johnny Manziel will sit out the first half of this game for his "inadvertent" violation of NCAA rules regarding autographs (whatever that means!) and so it'll be interesting to see how the now four-TD favored Aggies handle things in the game's first 30 minutes as junior Matt Joeckel is expected to start while frosh Kenny Hill could share in the snaps. Still, it's all about "Johnny Football" here and he - eventually - figures to lead A&M to a 16th consecutive SU win in this series that dates back to the old Southwest Conference ... remember those dudes?
#19 BOISE STATE at WASHINGTON - 10 p.m. ET, Fox
Folks will recall that these teams ended their 2012 seasons against one another with Boise State escaping the Las Vegas Bowl back on Dec. 22nd with a 28-26 non-cover win against the 4-point underdog Washington Huskies - now they open up the 2013 season against one another and the Dawgs are a 3-point favorite. We must mention Washington's a dandy 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games as the chalk side and for Steve Sarkisian's crew to get the "green" here then TE Austin Seferian-Jenkins (69 receptions and 7 TDs last year) must shine in the red zone. If Boise State's gonna come out on top again in this regional battle, then QB Joe Southwick (2,730 yards passing with 19 TDs and 7 INTs in 2012) must be a bit more daring down the field against a Washington defense that last season finished a very decent 22nd in the land nationally.
Hope you caught some of College Football's opening-night action on Thursday as #6 South Carolina downed 11-point pup North Carolina 27-10 in a game delayed by lightning for one hour and 45 minutes midway through the final quarter. Yes, a goal-line stand late enabled the SC Gamecocks to cover the price tag - North Carolina had four shots from the two-yard line to score but couldn't get the job done - but for all the summertime hype of Gamecocks DE Jadeveon Clowney, the fact of the matter is he was a total no-show while battling fatigue for much of the night.
Did Mr. Clowney spend too much time reading those proverbial press clippings? Okay, so we'll cut him some fourth-quarter slack after he was cheap-shotted by a kid UNC offensive lineman but let's just say Clowney took three or four big steps backwards in his Heisman Trophy campaign plus the pro scouts likely took heed as well - we'll see if he steps it up for the Georgia game next or whether folks have learned how to handle him at the line of scrimmage.
NOTE: Lots more College Football Previews straight ahead as we tackle Sunday's two tilts - that's Ohio at Louisville and Colorado vs. Colorado State - plus more!