Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 at 10:40 AM
Okay, so it seems that with each passing week we slice back on the number of unbeaten teams out there in FBS-land - last week the Oregon Ducks tasted defeat for the first time this year -- and so now the "short list" of something-and-oh teams include the following:
There's #1 Alabama (9-0), #2 Florida State (9-0), #3 Ohio State (9-0), #5 Baylor (8-0), #14 Fresno State (9-0) and #15 Northern Illinois (9-0)... and we must say that we don't hold out much hope that a one-loss team will get a shot in the BCS Championship Game although #4 Stanford sure is giving pollsters somethin' to think about, right?
We begin to dig into this week's college card with football-on-a-school-night tilts in DeKalb and in Clemson these next two nights and we'll have a whole lot to say later in the week when it comes to the marquee matchups this weekend that includes Washington at #13 UCLA on Friday night and such Saturday showdowns as Georgia at #7 Auburn and #12 Oklahoma State at #24 Texas plus we'll keep eyes peeled on #4 Stanford at USC too.
Overall there are lots of fantastic matchups on this mid-November card and we'll get to tonight's Ball State at Northern Illinois tilt plus the Thursday Night showdown from Death Valley between Georgia Tech at Clemson but first this key message:
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In tonight's NCAA Football action, it's ...
BALL STATE (9-1, 6-0 MAC) at #15 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (9-0, 5-0 MAC) - 8 p.m. ET, espn2
Gotta say it does look funny to check out the Mid-American Conference West Division standings and see Ball State on top by virtue of its 6-and-oh league mark while Northern Illinois is at 5-0 ... even though all the chatter lately has been about the NIU Huskies possibly getting a BCS bowl bid at year's end.
No doubt Northern Illinois has something special going on at home where the Dawgs have won 24 consecutive games SU (straight-up) and Heisman Trophy candidate QB Jordan Lynch (see below) has this team averaging a haughty 44.2 ppg while gaining 545.4 yards per game.
If Lynch can power his way to some big gainers on the ground - note Ball State ranks an ugly 96th nationally in rush defense while yielding 197.5 ypg - than the TD-favored Huskies could romp and keep in mind Northern Illinois has won its home games this season by a per-game score of 43-26.
The Ball State game plan here is simple:
Look to clog up the rushing lanes of Lynch (1,150 yards rushing with 12 TDs) and Northern Illinois RB Cameron Stingily (784 yards rushing and 8 TDs) and then hope Cardinals QB Keith Wenning has time to pick-and-choose his downfield targets.
Wenning enters this prime-time affair with a stellar stat line of 3,164 passing yards with 27 TDs and just 5 INTs. The Cards rank 17th nationally in passing and could be seeking out matchup advantages deep downfield here ... could Ball State actually wreck the NIU hopes of playing in a second straight BCS bowl?
Spread Notes - Northern Illinois has covered five of its last six games this year and the Huskies are a collective 30-16-2 ATS (against the spread) overall since the start of the 2010 season (that's a spiffy .652 winning rate). Meanwhile, Ball State's 7-3 versus the vig overall this year and the Cardinals are a rock-solid 14-8 spreadwise in all Mid-American Conference games the past two-plus seasons.
On Thursday Night, it's ...
GEORGIA TECH (6-3, 5-2 ACC) at #8 CLEMSON (8-1, 6-1 ACC) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Ninety-nine points ... that's what the Clemson Tigers have scored the past two games in double-digit wins against Maryland and Virginia following that 51-14 blowout loss to Florida State back on Oct. 19th and so Dabo Swinney's guys will look to keep the beat going here in this TV tilt against a Georgia Tech squad that's lost seven consecutive games to Top 25 competition.
Let's just say if the QB Tajh Boyd-to-WR Sammy Watkins combo stays "connected" - they've combined for 22 completions for 332 yards including a 96-yard scoring strike the past two games - then G-Tech probably won't have the firepower to fight back although the Yellow Jackets do own the sport's 5th-best rushing offense starring leading rusher RB David Sims (610 yards rushing and 9 TDs) who is one of seven GT players to exceed 100 rushing yards on the season.
Spread Notes - Clemson is just 4-5 ATS overall this season after the Tigers piled up a 17-8 ATS mark in the 2011-12 campaigns. Note that Georgia Tech is just 1-4-1 spreadwise in its last six outings this season and the Yellow Jackets have failed to cover three of their last four games at Clemson including last year's 47-31 loss as 11-point road dogs.
THE JIM SEZ HEISMAN TROPHY WATCH LIST
We're back with the latest Installment of the 2013 Heisman Trophy Watch List where we offer up our top five weekly contenders for college football's most coveted individual award.
Note that this has become the most "fluid" Heisman Trophy race in years - heck, we already zapped Clemson QB Tahj Boyd from our Top 5 after he was the early-year leader and now we've "demoted" Oregon QB Marcus Mariota to third place after putting him in the lead prior to last Thursday's 26-20 loss at Stanford.
Now here's how we see things shaping up as we get set to head into another big-time gridiron week/weekend:
- JAMEIS WINSTON, QB, FLORIDA STATE - The stat line from last weekend's 59-3 rollicking win at five-TD dog Wake Forest wasn't mind-blowing at all (see 159 yards passing with 2 TDs and 1 INT) but overall this redshirt freshman has dazzled with 2,661 yards passing, 26 TDs and 7 INTs for the 9-and-oh Seminoles. Gotta believe he has a healthy advantage at the top over any/all Heisman contenders but a couple of quiet stat games could bring 'em back to the proverbial pack. Next up is this week's home game against a Syracuse team that's allowed just 3 total points in its last two games.
- JOHNNY MANZIEL, QB, TEXAS A&M - Last year's Heisman Trophy winner comes off a five-TD passing performance in the Aggies' nip-and-tuck 51-41 non-cover win against Miss State and the up-to-the-minute stats for "Johnny Football" now include 3,313 yards passing with 31 TDs and 11 INTs plus don't forget Manziel's 611 rushing yards with 8 TDs. The Aggies have registered 40-plus points in all 10 of their games this year and so Manziel's very much in the hunt and a 40-pass TD season could catapult 'em past Winston at the finish line ... stay tuned.
- MARCUS MARIOTA, QB, OREGON - The precipitous drop from first place in the Heisman Trophy standings was expected after that shabby showing in Palo Alto last Thursday night. Mariota finished with negative rushing yards in that 26-20 loss (see minus 16 yards rushing) plus his 250-yard, two-TD passing night was a little deceptive because the Ducks were down 26-0 before the 19-year-old ever got things cranked up. On the year, Mariota has thrown for 2,531 yards with 22 TDs and 0 INTs plus he's rushed for 495 yards and 9 TDs.
- BRYCE PETTY, QB, BAYLOR - The high-octane Bears are 8-0 for the first time in school history and this junior slinger has been front-and-center in the rebirth thanks to his 2,657 yards passing with 21 TDs and 1 INT and last week's electric 41-12 win against 16 ½-point underdog Oklahoma featured yet another glitzy stat line that included three TDs passing and 0 INTs.
- JORDAN LYNCH, QB, NORTHERN ILLINOIS - Despite the calls for folks such as Alabama QB A.J. McCarron and Fresno State QB Derek Carr, we'll keep this veteran dual-threat quarterback right where he was a week ago with a fifth-place slot in this year's Heisman Trophy race. Lynch has thrown for 1,871 yards with 19 TDs and 5 INTs while rushing for an additional 1,150 yards with 12 scores. A big night against Ball State here could have more voters moving him on up the Heisman charts.
NOTE: Lots of NFL Week 11 goodies in tomorrow's Jim Sez including the Thursday Night Game preview - that's the Colts at the Titans - and plenty more!