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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, January 24, 2014 at 8:59 AM

You may have heard that this past 2013 NFL season there was a Super Bowl “Countdown Clock” positioned on a wall in the New York Giants locker room at MetLife Stadium.

Well, that didn’t work out as such great motivation as someone in the Giants’ organization actually removed the clock in December after the NFC East team was officially eliminated from post-season contention but be sure about this:

The countdown is on in earnest for Super Bowl XLVIII in New Jersey as we’re now less than 10 days away from football’s biggest spectacle and who knew that Denver QB Peyton Manning would be nearing the end of a brilliant career with a third Super Bowl appearance (and with a second different team) and that Seattle QB Russell Wilson would already be part of the Super Bowl mix just two years into his pro career?

Wilson – who has guided the Seahawks to 12-6 and 15-3 SU (straight-up) seasons (to say nothing of the team’s combined 24-12 against the spread record the past two years) – surely doesn’t have those dazzling aerial stats that Manning put up this year with 55 TDs and 5,477 yards passing but let’s take a few moments to examine some key numbers for Mr. Wilson:

The Seahawks’ quarterback threw for 3,357 yards passing with 26 TDs and 9 TDs in the 2013 regular season and in Seattle’s playoff wins against New Orleans and San Francisco, Wilson completed 25-of-43 passing tries for 318 yards with 1 TD and 0 INT but note he has been sacked seven times in the post-season and 44 times in regular-season action – in other words, might Wilson not be quite as elusive as we’ve all been led to believe or does this say more about his penchant for hanging onto the ball and not throwing a silly pass instead? Hmmm.

Note that in the regular season Wilson averaged 8.25 yards a pass attempt while Manning averaged an only slightly better 8.31 yards per attempt – bet that caught you off guard a bit, eh?

Also, note that Wilson rushed for 539 yards in regular-season action and another 16 yards so far in the playoffs – there’s no doubt that his ability to “tuck it and run” makes him something that Manning is not but the $64,000 question come SB XLVIII is should the Broncos “spy” on Wilson here?

The San Fran 49ers did at times in last weekend’s NFC Championship Game and it didn’t always work out for them!

Hey, in an earlier-week edition of Jim Sez we discussed the fact that Super Bowl Betting Favorites are a dead-even but vig-losing 22-22-3 spreadwise in the big game’s history but did you know the favored Broncos are a collective 21-9 ATS as chalk sides ever since Manning came to town and that’s a pretty heady .700 winning rate. Just sayin’.

Finally, we looked it up and Seattle has ended its season – whether it’s been the regular season or the playoffs – having failed to cover six of their last nine finales while dating back to 2004 while Denver is actually 1-9 ATS in finales the past 10 years and that includes five consecutive season-ending spread setbacks these past five years. So, there’s not like any great pointspread history going for either one of these days when it comes to finishing off one’s season, right?


The College Basketball weekend menu is stuffed with great action and here’s a couple of key Saturday tilts that should be getting your undivided attention:

TENNESSEE (12-6, 3-2 SEC) at #6 FLORIDA (16-2, 5-0 SEC) – 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Short turnaround here for the Florida Gators who held off gritty 5-point home underdog Alabama 68-62 on Thursday night for the 10th straight win by Billy Donovan’s crew.

The Gators – who drained 8-of-10 free throws in the game’s final 47 seconds – really won in Florida fashion by making 10 triples (G Michael Frazier II had five of ‘em) while the Crimson Tide sank just 2-of-10 from beyond the arc and now we’ll see if Tennessee hoists up a bunch of trifectas here in hopes of springing the road upset.

Note that Tennessee’s alternated wins/losses in its last five games and the Volunteers come off Wednesday’s 81-74 win/cover against 6 ½-point pup Arkansas as senior guard Jordan McRae poured in 34 points and that Tennessee board game – with an SEC-leading plus 12.5 rebound margin coming in and coming out with a 42-to-37 rebounding edge – again cleaned the glass effectively.

If Florida isn’t getting second opportunities off the offensive boards here, than heavy-duty dog Tennessee could hang tough.

#21 MICHIGAN (14-4, 6-0 Big 10) at #3 MICHIGAN STATE (18-1, 7-0 Big 10) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
The behemoths of the Big 10 square off in the House that Magic Built here but we gotta ask it here: Were you truly ultra-impressed by either of the wins posted this week by Michigan State (a 71-66 non-cover home triumph over 13 ½-point dog Indiana) or by Michigan (a 75-67 win/cover versus mistake-prone and 2 ½-point dog Iowa)?

Okay, so Sparty is keeping fingers crossed that big man Adreian Payne – who has missed the last four games with a sprained right foot – will be green-lighted for this monster matchup but Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo isn’t so sure and MSU continues to struggle on the boards without Payne as even tiny Indiana sported a 29-to-25 board advantage in that last tilt.

If State PG Keith Appling – just 2-of-10 from the floor against the IU Hoosiers – doesn’t get a grip here, than Michigan could pull the road upset providing maize-and-blue G Nik Stauskas (26 points including four triples against Iowa) stays on fire.

No doubt that John Beilein’s team is missing its big man Mitch McGary who remains out indefinitely with a back injury but give the savvy Wolverines head coach credit for making this one a guard game without McGary in the lineup and so reserve G Zak Irvin (11 points in just 16 minutes against the Hawkeyes the other night) remains very much a key component in this game.

Note that according to the STATS Inc. folks, Michigan and Michigan State never before have played one another while both teams were 6-and-oh or better in Big 10 play and the Spartans bring an 11-game winning streak into this tilt as Izzo’s gang has not lost since that December 4th game against North Carolina … remember when?
Here’s some more NCAA Basketball News & Notes …

Much is being of the 20-and-oh start for the Wichita State Shockers but how about another non-power conference team that’s all the rage these days … San Diego State.

The Aztecs – now 17-1 overall and 6-0 in Mountain West Conference play following Wednesday’s never-in-doubt 75-50 win at 13-point dog San Jose State – have won their last 16 games in a row and sport the nation’s second-ranked scoring defense while yielding a mere 55.4 points per game.

Hey, veteran head coach Steve Fisher has been down this road before with a couple of other great San Diego State teams but this unit is loaded with F Josh Davis registering his 12th consecutive double-figure rebounding game as he snatched down 12 boards as SDSU ran away and hid after San Jose State had closed the margin to 35-30 minutes into the second half. Davis – who was one of four San Diego State players to score double digits in the 25-point victory against the SJSU Spartans – is part of a cast that’s learned to win the close ones as SD State has chalked up five wins by 10-or-less points since New Year’s Day and the lone blemish on the Aztecs’ record remains the 69-60 setback against #1 Arizona way back on November 14th in San Diego (note the Aztecs shot just 36 percent from the floor in that tilt and were out-boarded 36-23 in a game State closed a 14-point second-half deficit to just four points with two minutes left).

Perhaps if they meet again – say in an NCAA Tournament Final Four game – it might be a different story …

And doesn’t it rank as a surprise that the South Carolina Gamecocks will enter Saturday’s game at Missouri (4 p.m. ET on espn2) still without a league win?
The Gamecocks are 0-5 in SEC play (just 7-11 overall) and it goes back to what we’ve been thinking for the past year-plus and that’s head coach Frank Martin was the wrong guy for this job all along. Martin’s been an utter flop in SEC where last year the Gamecocks finished up 14-18 overall and a dismal 4-14 in league play – and to think folks in these parts used to complain about all those NIT appearances under Dave Odom whose teams won NIT titles back-to-back in 2005 and ’06.

If South Carolina already has its antenna up for a new coach beginning next year, the SEC school may want to consider UMass boss Derek Kellogg who may have his personal pick of big-name jobs that might also include fellow SEC cellar-dweller Auburn as the Tony Barbee could be coming to an end after four years.

NOTE: Catch our Super Bowl XLVIII News & Notes all this week plus get more NCAA Basketball Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez as we check out Sunday’s top tilts in College Hoops.

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