Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, October 17, 2013 at 9:19 AM
Check it out: The NFC West is the only division in pro football where all four teams have .500-or-better records while entering Week 7 play and this evening we get a duel-in-the-desert tilt between two of these clubs as the 5-1 Seattle Seahawks battle the 3-3 Arizona Cardinals.
And here's something you might not have known about these divisional foes ...
Last year they played in the fourth-most lopsided shutout in NFL history when the Seahawks crushed the Redbirds 58-0 last December 9th in Seattle ... oh, you remember the most lopsided shutout in NFL history (see Chicago 73, Washington 0 in the 1940 NFL Championship Game)?
Let's take a look at tonight's NFL Week 7 opener and then we'll roll on with a slew of NCAA Football Previews/Forecasts ...
Tonight, it's ...
SEATTLE (5-1) at ARIZONA (3-3) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NFL Network
The one thing that really jumps out at you regarding last year's 58-0 Seahawks win was that 'Zona committed an ungodly eight turnovers including two defensive touchdowns scored by Pete Carroll's club - a 19-yard "pick six" by CB Richard Sherman and a fumble recovery in the end zone by LB Malcolm Smith.
Now we fast-forward to this prime-time affair and the Cards should have grave concerns about turnovers once again - especially when you consider that Arizona QB Carson Palmer already has thrown 11 interceptions this season (including nine of 'em in the past four games).
We'll be watching closely to see if Palmer "challenges" the above-mentioned Sherman here who figures to go mano-a-mano with WR Larry Fitzgerald who comes off a season-high 117-yard reception game but note Fitzgerald's been bothered lately by a hamstring issue and may not be 100 percent here.
One X-factor for the Seahawks:
Seattle scored TDs on only two of five visits to the Tennessee red zone in last weekend's 20-13 non-cover win against the 12 ½-point underdog Titans.
Spread Notes - Seattle has failed to cover its last two games this year after a roaring-fast 4-and-oh pointspread start but did you realize the Seahawks are 14-7 ATS (against the spread) in their last 21 divisional games? On the flip side, Arizona has split its first six spread verdicts in the Bruce Arians Era and note the home teams are 14-6 ATS in the last 20 games between these teams.
NCAA FOOTBALL PREVIEWS/FORECASTS
Here's some of what we'll be tracking on Friday/Saturday with the college kids ...
On Friday, it's ...
UCF (4-1, 1-0 American Athletic Conference) at #8 LOUISVILLE (6-0, 2-0 AAC) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The U of L Cardinals roll into this under-the-lights affair riding an eight-game SU (straight-up) winning streak dating back to late last year but all's not peachy-keen for Charlie Strong's club:
In last weekend's wobbly 24-10 non-cover win against 20-point pup Rutgers, 'Ville QB Teddy Bridgewater was high-and-wide with lots of throws en route to his 21-of-31 game that still produced 310 yards and two TDs.
If Bridgewater - who also lost a fumble on a sack against the Scarlet Knights last Saturday - can't rise to the occasion here then gritty UCF could hang around right till the finish line providing Knights' QB Blake Bortles (1,334 yards passing with 9 TDs this season) is on the mark.
Spread Note - Louisville is just 11-14-1 ATS at home since the start of the 2009 season.
On Saturday, it's ...
#5 FLORIDA STATE (5-0, 3-0 ACC) at #3 CLEMSON (6-0, 4-0 ACC) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Gotta admit that it's been awhile since we had an ACC tug-of-war qualify as "Game of the Year" stuff but here we are with not only a pair of unbeatens banging heads but you could well make the case that these are two of the most-exciting teams in the land.
Consider that the visiting Florida State Seminoles average nearly 54 points per game this year behind sizzling-hot redshirt frosh QB Jameis Winston who's thrown for 17 TDs this year.
On the other side of the coin, there's a Clemson club that's already kayoed Georgia right out of the chute and is averaging almost 41 ppg behind savvy signal-caller Tahj Boyd (1,783 yards passing with 15 TD tosses) who - as you all know - is our current Jim Sez Heisman Trophy leader.
In this showdown, Boyd must get some help from a ground game that ranks just 63rd nationally (averages 172.5 ypg) as RB Roderick McDowell hasn't cracked the 100-yard mark since that aforementioned season-opening win against the Georgia Dawgs when he ran for 132 yards on 22 carries.
Keep in mind that the 'Noles have not won in Death Valley since 2001 - that's five consecutive SU and ATS setbacks, folks - but then again FSU has not had as dynamic player as Winston since the Charlie Ward days of yore.
Two quickie keys for Jimbo Fisher's visiting side:
Florida State must keep in an extra blocker to offset that Clemson pass rush - note the Tigers lead the nation with 24 sacks; And, secondly, Florida State must have some answers for Boyd if/when he decides to tuck-and-run with the ball on third-down plays - if Boyd's a chain-mover here than Clemson's physical offensive line could wear down State come the early-to-mid stages of the fourth quarter.
Spread Note - Clemson has split its first six pointspred decisions so far this season but the Tigers are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 head-to-head battles with Florida State. Note the Seminoles own a 4-1 ATS mark thus far in 2013 with covers against ACC foes Pittsburgh and Maryland.
#24 AUBURN (5-1, 2-1 SEC) at #7 TEXAS A&M (5-1, 2-1 SEC) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
In yesterday's Jim Sez column we quoted you all the QB Johnny Manziel stats while heading into this conference clash but now you may wish to know the feelings of Auburn head coach Gus Malzahn who simply said of "Johnny Football" that he's "the best offensive player in college football."
Manziel rushed for three TDs and threw for two more last year in a resounding 63-21 Aggies' win against Auburn and now you toss into the equation that last year's Heisman Trophy winner has a newfound target in Travis Labhart who sported an 8-catch, 97-yard outing in last week's 41-38 non-cover win against Ole Miss.
Spread Note - Texas A&M is only 6-5 versus the vig in SEC games since the start of last year and that includes three-of-five spread wins whenever laying a double-digit price.
#22 FLORIDA (4-2, 3-1 SEC) at #14 MISSOURI (6-0, 2-0 SEC) - 12:21 p.m. ET, SEC TV
Loved the line last week used by ESPN host Chris Fowler who said that the "SEC championship road runs through Columbia, Missouri" ... no doubt the veteran 'caster was having some fun considering the Mizzou Tigers were not part of the SEC landscape till 2012 but the truth is if Missouri wins this game (Gary Pinkel's guys are a 3-point home underdog) then the Tigers will have the upper hand in who represents the East in December's SEC Championship Game.
Naturally, that's a big "if" now that Mizzou QB James Franklin is gonzo for the remainder of the 2013 regular season after suffering a right shoulder injury in last weekend's 41-26 win at 7 ½-point fav Georgia and so insert the name of Maty Mauk into the Mizzou mix and things won't be easy while going up against a Gators defense that ranks fourth in the country in rushing defense (allows just 83.3 yards per game) and third nationally in passing defense (yields just 152 aerial yards an outing).
Hey, you won't be having Florida send Missouri any "sympathy cards" considering the Gators have been going with their back-up quarterback Tyler Murphy (5 TD passing and only 1 INT) ever since oft-erratic Jeff Driskel went down in the season's third game.
Spread Note - Missouri's covered five of its first six games this year including back-to-back SEC covers against Vanderbilt and Georgia.
My handicappers and bloggers have everything all scoped out and you can get the NFL Week 7 Side & Totals winners beginning with tonight's game between the Seattle Seahawks at the Arizona Cardinals when you check with us here at Jim Hurley's Network and then keep rollin' in the green all week/weekend long with all the NCAA Football, the NFL and the on-going MLB Playoffs. There's College Football this evening too with #10 Miami at North Carolina (7:45 p.m. ET kickoff), then it's UCF at #8 Louisville tomorrow night and it's a plethora of great games on tap this Saturday too! Check with us on game days either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 - make this an October to remember! P.S., don't forget the on-going Major-League Baseball Playoffs with the American League and National League Championship Series all this week long!
In other NCAA Football games this Saturday, it's ...
#9 UCLA (5-0, 2-0 Pac-12) at #13 STANFORD (5-1, 3-1 Pac-12) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC regional
Now that Stanford is coming off its first loss following a 13-game winning streak that bridged last year and this, all eyes will be on a Cardinal defense that ranks 88th against the pass as that unit must have some answers for Bruins' QB Brett Hundley who's fresh off a career-best 410-yard passing game in last week's 37-10 win/cover against Cal.
#6 LSU (6-1, 3-1 SEC) at OLE MISS (3-3, 1-3 SEC) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Are the LSU Tigers the "sleeping giant" in the room when it comes to this year's BCS championship? No doubt that Les Miles' club would love to have a "do-over" when it came to that 44-41 loss at Georgia back on Sept. 28th but otherwise the Bayou Bengals have been strong and note they've won six of their last eight head-to-head matchups against Ole Miss. The Rebels stagger into this prime-time tilt with a three-game losing streak muddying the waters but can Hugh Freeze's club overcome the loss of DE Robert Nkemdiche (hamstring) here?
Lots more NCAA and NFL Week 7 Previews ahead in next couple of Jim Sez columns.