Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 5, 2013 at 9:38 AM
IT’S A MONSTER FOOTBALL WEEKEND ON TAP –
COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES TAKE CENTER STAGE ON SATURDAY AND THE NFL WEEK 14 MENU IS CHOCK FULL O’GOODIES WITH THE SEAHAWKS-NINERS REMATCH GAME THE KEY HEADLINER
By Jim Hurley
Just consider the possibilities (we didn’t say probabilities!) when it comes to Saturday’s wall-to-wall Football action of College Football Conference Championship Games:
Will #2 Ohio State lose to Michigan State in the Big 10 Championship Game and thus open the door for the Auburn-Missouri winner to stake a claim in this year’s BCS Championship Game?
Or what happens should – let’s say – Auburn or Mizzou win in a blowout in the SEC Championship Game matchup that nobody saw comin’ and the Buckeyes just barely sneak past defensive whiz Michigan State … will that push the SEC winner past Ohio State and into the title tilt on January 6th in Pasadena?
And will Stanford walk into Sun Devil Stadium and beat favored Arizona State and thus push the Cardinal back into a second straight Rose Bowl?
No doubt there could be major mayhem in the final year of the BCS – what, you’d be surprised by that? – but the flip side says that if all the betting favorites win out on this first Saturday in December then here’s some of what would happen down the road:
* Florida State and Ohio State would meet in the BCS Championship Game and the SEC would be left in the cold for the first time since the 2005 season (remember Texas 41, USC 38?) …
* Auburn – a 2-point betting choice at this moment – would play in the Sugar Bowl against UCF …
* Arizona State (a 3-point fav against aforementioned Stanford) would play Michigan State in this year’s Rose Bowl …
And the Orange Bowl and Fiesta Bowl matchups would look like this:
* Alabama vs. Baylor (Orange Bowl)
* Oklahoma State vs. Northern Illinois (Fiesta Bowl)
So go ahead and chew on that!
Now, let’s examine three of Saturday’s six (6) Conference Championship Games with the other three previews in the next "Jim Sez" column, but we’ll get it started with Friday’s big bash in the Mid-American Conference:
On Friday night, it’s …
MID-AMERICAN CONF. CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – at Detroit, MI
BOWLING GREEN (9-3, 7-1 MAC) vs. #14 NORTHERN ILLINOIS (12-0, 8-0 MAC) – 8 p.m. ET, espn2
It’s the fourth straight season that the Northern Illinois Huskies are playing in this MAC title game and worth noting that the Dawgs haven’t covered a single championship game yet … they lost 26-21 to 19-point dog Miami-Ohio back in 2010; beat Ohio (+ 3 ½) 23-20 in ’11 and last year snagged a 44-37 overtime win/push against 7-point dog Kent State … hmmm.
If Northern Illinois QB Jordan Lynch – who broke his own single-game QB rushing mark with 321 yards on the ground in last week’s 33-14 non-cover win against Western Michigan – isn’t wrapped up at/near the line of scrimmage here, then 3 ½-point underdog Bowling Green could be playing catch-up all night long here at Ford Field.
Note that the BG Falcons have allowed a grand total of 17 points scored in their last four games, but keep in mind Bowling Green’s lost its last seven in a row to ranked opponents.
Spread Notes – Northern Illinois is 24-9-2 ATS (against the spread) in MAC games since the start of the 2010 season while Bowling Green has covered 10 of its last 14 away games.
On Saturday, it’s …
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP – at Houston, TX
MARSHALL (9-3, 7-1 C-USA) at RICE (9-3, 7-1 C-USA) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
All eyes here are on Marshall QB Rakeem Cato, who has been a supreme stat-sheet stuffer this season:
Note that Cato enters this road game with 3,314 yards passing and 34 TD throws (only 8 INTs) to go along with 254 rushing yards and 6 ground scores, but Rice does own the nation’s 12th-ranked pass defense (allowing just 190.3 ypg) and the unsung Owls could spring the upset here if RB Charles Ross (1,143 yards rushing and 12 TDs) keeps the chains moving.
Spread Notes – Marshall is a rock-solid 8-4 versus the vig this year but the Herd’s just 2-4-1 ATS away in 2013. On the flip side, Rice has covered 13 of its last 19 overall on-the-board tilts.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – at Atlanta, GA
#5 MISSOURI (11-1, 7-1 SEC) vs. #3 AUBURN (11-1, 7-1 SEC) – 4 p.m. ET, CBS
Much is being made of the fact that these teams combined to win just two SEC games last year – Mizzou beat Kentucky and Tennessee, that’s it! – and now they’re here bucking heads in the 2013 SEC Championship Game, but the real here-and-now story is what’s left in the Auburn emotional tank one week after the “happiest return” epic win against Alabama?
The Auburn folks – including first-year boss Gus Malzahn – claim they won’t have any difficulties “getting up” for this tilt with a potential BCS Championship Game on the line, but it says here that Auburn better make some big “chunk plays” in the passing game and everyone knows these Tigers rank just 105th nationally in passing offense this year.
Can QB Nick Marshall – who somehow stayed behind the line of scrimmage for that critical 39-yard touchdown pass to WR Sammie Coates that tied the game in the final minute against ‘Bama last weekend -- work up some more magic here against a Missouri team that sports one of the country’s best pass rushers in Michael Sam?
On the flip side, the Missouri offense won’t be shy about airing it out with QB James Franklin eyeballing WRs Dorial Green-Beckham and L’Damian Washington – each of these pass-catching dudes have 10 TDs this year.
If you’re looking for a real X-factor here, then consider – what else – special teams.
Last week Auburn profited from Alabama’s shabby field-goal kicking (although we ain’t blaming that kid for the missed 57-yarder at the end) and keep in mind Missouri PK Andrew Baggett is just 14-of-21 this year on field goals, and that includes two big misses in the team’s lone loss twin-OT to South Carolina.
Can you imagine if Baggett is short on a 50-plus yarder here and Auburn’s Chris Davis … oh, just forget about it!
Spread Notes – Auburn roars into this SEC title tilt riding a nine-game pointspread winning streak and did you know that War Eagle is 17-9 ATS as favorites the past three-plus seasons? Missouri owns a four-game spread winning streak at press time and these Tigers are 13-4 ATS overall dating back to late in the 2012 campaign.
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SATURDAY
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UCLA and the Over in the PAC-12, Georgia in the SEC and Wisconsin in the Big-10
Plus Won our Big-12 Parlay of the Year with Baylor and Kansas St. for a 6-0 Saturday!
This Year there are 6 Title Games to sink our teeth into!
C-USA Marshall vs. Rice (NL) on ESPN2
SEC Missouri vs. Auburn (-1.5) on CBS
ACC Duke vs. Florida State (-29) on ESPN
PAC-12 Stanford vs. Arizona State (-3) on ABC
BIG 10 Ohio State (-5.5) vs. Michigan State on Fox
MOUNTAIN WEST Utah State vs. Fresno State (-3) on CBS
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ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME – at Charlotte, NC
#20 DUKE (10-2, 6-2 ACC) vs. #1 FLORIDA STATE (12-0, 8-0 ACC) – 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
It’s just a rumor that the Florida State Seminoles already reserved hotel rooms in/near Pasadena for the BCS Championship Game – but who could blame the top-ranked team in the land for being a tad overconfident here as 28 ½-point betting favorites for this clash against Cinderella-like Duke?
If Florida State QB Jameis Winston (3,490 yards passing with 35 TDs and just 8 INTs) wishes to put an exclamation point on his Heisman Trophy season – pending his potential legal woes, that is – then look for him to ravage a Duke defense that ranks a pedestrian 50th nationally against the pass while yielding 225 yards per game.
Best hope for David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils to “hang in there” here?
Pop WR Jamison Crowder (88 catches for 1,131 yards and 7 TDs) deep on first-down play fakes and hope some of the Florida State D-backs are asleep at the wheel.
Spread Notes – Duke is an electric 10-2 against the odds this magical season and the Blue Devils are a perfect 5-and-oh away spreadwise after going 1-5 ATS a year ago. Florida State’s covered its last five consecutive games this year en route to a 10-2 ATS and note the ‘Noles are 12-6 ATS as twin-figure favs since the middle of last year.
My handicappers and bloggers have everything all scoped out and you can get the College Football Conference Championship Games plus other key regular-season tilts and also all the NFL Week 14 games too beginning with tonight’s game between the Houston Texans (2-10) at the Jacksonville Jaguars (3-9) when you check with us here at the red-hot Jim Hurley’s Network – make sure you’re all aboard for the week/weekend action online here at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155.
NFL WEEK 14
Hey, it’s on to this week’s NFL Week 14 action and we whet your appetite with a look at Sunday’s key NFC West tilt between Seattle at San Francisco:
SEATTLE (11-1) at SAN FRANCISCO (8-4) -- 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
No one needs to remind the defending NFC champion San Fran 49ers that they’ve lost their last two showdowns against archrival Seattle by a composite score of 71-to-16 – and the fact is it could have been much worse!
The Niners have really been beaten to the ball and beaten up these past two games against their NFC West “pals” – a 42-13 loss in Seattle on the next-to-last regular-season weekend a year ago, and then in a Week 2 tilt in Seattle in which San Francisco lost 29-3 and never had a shot.
The 49ers believe home cooking will help, of course, even though the pointspread stats show the Niners are just 7-6 ATS at “The Stick” in their last 13 home games, and be reminded that SF could be without two offensive linemen here as LT Joe Staley is likely out (knee) and G Mike Iupati (knee) could be missing his third straight game, and so QB Colin Kaepernick might be running for his life and looking for WR Michael Crabtree (see key 60-yard reception in last week’s 23-13 win/cover against St. Louis) to make some major downfield plays.
Seattle’s already clinched a playoff bid by virtue of the Seahawks’ 34-7 win against New Orleans this past Monday Night, but did you know that Pete Carroll’s club ranks first in pass defense (177.3 ypg) while Seattle RB Marshawn Lynch has cranked out five TDs in his last two games against San Francisco – hey, folks, this will be the last time the Seahawks are in the underdog role the rest of this 2013 season (trust us!).
Spread Notes – Seattle is 8-4 against the Las Vegas odds this season and the Seahawks are 15-8 ATS in divisional duels dating back to late 2009. San Francisco, meanwhile, is 8-3-1 ATS this season and the Niners are a collective 30-16-3 ATS in the Jim Harbaugh Era (a tidy .652 winning rate).
NOTE: There’s plenty more NCAA Football Conference Championship Previews/Forecasts in tomorrow’s edition of Jim Sez plus catch up with more NFL Week 14 game previews too!