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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, January 7, 2014 at 2:16 PM

THE BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME IN REVIEW –FLORIDA STATE’S BETTER-LATE-THAN-NEVER 34-31 WIN AGAINST AUBURN WAS CHOCK FULL OF BIG PLAYS AND BIG SECOND-GUESSES …

OUR BOWL POINTSPREAD BREAKDOWN CHART … PLUS WE INCH CLOSER TO THE NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFF ROUND THIS WEEKEND AND WE PUT THE #1 AND #2 SEEDS UNDER THE HOME POINTSPREAD MICROSCOPE

By Jim Hurley

Let’s face it:

You might need till next Tuesday to uncover/examine/analyze all the big plays in Florida State’s wild/wacky 34-31 BCS Championship Game non-cover win against 11-point underdog Auburn – and who out there thought special teams was gonna be such a gigantic factor (we never read word one about Florida State’s kick return unit in the days/weeks leading to the title tilt!)?

No doubt the BCS Era ended in a bang with the Seminoles driving 80 yards in the final 1:19 as Heisman Trophy-winning QB Jameis Winston shook off all the negatives from the game’s first three quarters and engineered an 80-yard touchdown drive in which he completed 6-of-7 passes for 77 yards.

Winston – who appeared lost, confused, bewildered … you take your pick – in the game’s first three frames when Florida State had just 13 points (remember they came into this game averaging 53 ppg) had a majestic moment in leading the Noles to the “W” in a wild finish that included 24 total points scored in the final 4:42.

Hey, we don’t want to hear any nonsense that Auburn “scored too quickly” in the prior series when mega-star RB Tre Mason rambled 37 yards for a go-ahead touchdown while leaving those aforementioned 79 ticks on the game clock – when you’ve gotta score a touchdown and you’re close to 40 yards away from the end zone it’s not as if you can maneuver the clock down to all zeroes.

Still, on a night when big plays were the norm from the Florida State fake punt in the first half that worked wonders and set up a critically important Sems’ TD before halftime to the 100-yard kick return for a score by State’s speedy Levonte Whitfield to Mason’s bust-away run for a score that gave the Tigers a 31-27 lead, the fact of the matter is it also turned out to be a pretty big night for second-guessers a/k/a armchair quarterbacks:

Like why did it take Florida State head coach Jimbo Fisher and his offensive staff so long to get Winston into a real working rhythm?

The ‘Noles were an offensive bust in the first half when three-and-outs were the norm – the pass rush by Auburn was superb, but FSU took forever to figure out it needed Winston (20-of-35 for 237 yards with two TDs and 0 INTs) to step up and throw quick passes and not expect his receivers were gonna get open deep downfield.

And – while we’re on the Seminoles’ case – how come these star receivers were so quiet and couldn’t shake Auburn’s 85th-ranked defense? Wide-out Kelvin Benjamin scored the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left, but this dude was blanked in the first half – no catches, no yards – and exactly how does that happen with a guy who snagged 1,011 yards worth of passes this year while scoring 15 TDs?

On the flip side, no doubt that Auburn’s first-year head coach Gus Malzahn wanted to wear down the Florida State defense with his triple-option, hurry-up attack that wound up rushing for 232 yards on 53 carries (a solid 4.4 yards-per-carry average) with Mason’s 34-carry, 195-yard game leading the way, but for some reason the Tigers either didn’t care to expose FSU’s linebackers with that effective middle-of-the-field passing game that worked so well in the first half, or else didn’t always trust QB Nick Marshall after that key interception early in the fourth quarter (remember that Auburn led 21-13 at the time of the P.J. Williams pick and Marshall would only throw the ball four times in Auburn’s next 19 offensive plays).

As one of ESPN’s analysts stated, Auburn’s defense in the fourth quarter looked like Auburn’s defense for much of the year – FSU’s three TDs in the final quarter won ‘em the school’s first national championship since 1999, but it’s tough to criticize Malzahn or anyone on the Tigers’ staff simply because his unit (and especially his secondary) reverted to regular-season form.

What could Auburn have done differently on that FSU drive?

Simply put, it could have tackled better on that 49-yard catch-and-run play by WR Rashad Greene, but otherwise you’ll hear no major Monday Morning Quarterbacking from us.

If Auburn wishes to kick itself over a couple of in-game moments, then it should start with that missed chippie field goal by PK Cody Parker, who misfired on a 33-yarder midway through the second quarter – think that didn’t come back and bite War Eagle? – and what about not containing FSU’s Karlos Williams on that snazzy reverse play on the fake punt: The Noles were facing 4th-and-4 from their own 40-yard line and down 21-3. Williams barely made it to the corner for a seven-yard gain, but watch the replay again and you’ll see how close the Tigers were to stopping him behind the line of scrimmage.

Sometimes the best team/the best player wins when everything’s on the line.

The Florida State Seminoles and birthday guy Winston in this BCS Championship Game were proof of that fact.

Your attention, please …

Get all the NFL Divisional Playoff Game winners this Saturday and Sunday when you check with us after 10 a.m. ET on game days plus there’s NBA and NCAA Basketball winners each and every day right here online at www.vegassportsmasters.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-888-777-4155 – pile up the profits this winter!

Now, here’s a look at the College Bowls Conference Pointspread Breakdown Chart:

CONF RECORD PCT
Sun Belt 2-0-0 1.000
Pac-12 6-3-0 .667

AAC

3-2-0 .600

SEC

6-4-0 .556
Big 12 3-3-0 .500
CUSA 3-3-0 .500
MWC 3-3-0 .500
ACC 5-6-0 .454
Big 10 3-4-0 .429
Independents 1-2-0 .333
Mid-Am 0-5-0 .000

Take note that the BCS conferences – the AAC, ACC, Big 10, Big 12, Pac-12 and SEC – went a combined 26-22 ATS (against the spread) for a .542 winning rate at bowl time while the non-BCS leagues finished the bowl season at 9-12 ATS with the Mid-American Conference winning the booby prize while failing to cover all five bowl tilts. Ugh!

 

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  Saints at Seahawks (-8.5) (4:35 ET, Sat)             Colts at Patriots (-7) (8:15 ET, Sat)
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NFL DIVISIONAL PLAYOFFS –

Let’s take quick-hitter pointspread looks at the NFL’s #1 and #2 playoff seeds:

In the NFC, it’s …

#1 SEATTLE (13-3) – The Seahawks are 5-3 ATS at home this year including that 34-7 win/cover against 6 ½-point underdog New Orleans in Week 13 but take note that the NFC West team is 24-9 versus the vig at home in the Pete Carroll Era that started back in 2010. The lone playoff home game for Seattle in the Carroll Era is the 41-38 win against a 10-point favored Saints team in 2010.

#2 CAROLINA (12-4) – The Panthers own a spiffy 6-1-1 spread log this year at home, and that includes spread wins against two playoff teams (New England and New Orleans) and a 3-1-1 spread mark when playing teams outside the NFC South. Go back the past three years in the Ron Rivera Era and you’ll see Carolina is 14-9-1 ATS overall in its own backyard.

In the AFC, it’s …

#1 DENVER (13-3) – First off, the Broncos’ 5-3 ATS mark at home this year includes six instances in which the AFC West champs were laying twin-digit spreads. The previous home encounter with San Diego – a 27-20 loss as 10-point favs – was Denver’s most recent home game, but keep in mind the Broncos covered three-of-five other tilts in which they were laying 10-or-more points. In the John Fox Era that started in 2011, the Broncos are a collective 16-9 ATS as hosts for a .640 winning rate.

#2 NEW ENGLAND (12-4) – The Patriots are fresh off a solid 6-2 ATS home mark in regular-season play (remember NE cranked out an 8-and-oh straight-up mark in the regular season) and so that means Bill Belichick’s crew is a dead-even but vig-losing 40-40-2 ATS at home since it won that Super Bowl back in the 2004 season. The Pats are a 7 ½-point betting fav right now for this weekend’s game against Indianapolis, and note New England’s split its four home games spreadwise when laying a TD-or-more.

NOTE: Get our NFL Divisional Playoff Previews in the next couple of Jim Sez columns.

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