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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, August 27, 2014 at 7:00 AM

The mainstream media is making a big deal about who ISN’T in uniform for Texas A&M and South Carolina as those two SEC contenders open big time college football for the 2014 season. Yes, it’s the team that doesn’t have Johnny Manziel any more visiting the team that doesn’t have Jadeveon Clowney any more. Handicappers need to focus on who IS going to be on the field!

To help you do that for this relatively early Thursday start (6 p.m. ET, 3 p.m. Las Vegas time, televised nationally by the new SEC Network), we’ve grabbed the information boxes from our summer series of conference previews. This should help refresh your memories…



Record: 9-4 (beat Duke 52-48 in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl)

Rankings: 4 on offense, 109 on defense

Returning Starters: 5 on offense, 8 on defense

Quarterback: Kenny Hill (sophomore, saw limited action last year)

Hill, son of former Major League pitcher Ken Hill, will take over a fast-paced high octane offense that has shown it can work even when Manziel isn’t in charge. Of course…you could argue that the Aggies were at their best when Manziel was running plays called by Kliff Kingsbury (now the head coach at Texas A&M). So, Aggie fans are worried that Kevin Sumlin’s program has peaked. If the offense falls down to something more normal, but the defense stays horrible (!), things could get very ugly in this great conference.



Record: 11-2 (beat Wisconsin 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl)

Rankings: 36 on offense, 19 on defense

Returning Starters: 7 on offense, 6 on defense

Quarterback: Dylan Thompson (senior, with some experience but not a “returning starter”)

Thompson was behind Connor Shaw on the depth chart the past two season. But, he did see significant playing time last year on the road at Central Florida and Missouri in a relief role. The Gamecocks won BOTH of those games…and both of those teams played in marquee bowls last season. It’s rare to see this much experience and quality with a “non-returning starter.”

Based only on the information above, South Carolina is clearly the better team because:

*They had the much better defense by a mile

*They had more balance in their offensive/defensive ranking mix

*They had more balance in their returning starters

*The bulk of A&M’s returning starters were poor defenders!

*They very likely have the better quarterback

Regarding the head coach, Steve Spurrier is a proven quality in terms of sustaining quality from season to season. Kevin Sumlin proved he was a great “mid-major” coach at Houston. We don’t know yet if his immediate Aggies success was due to his own approach or the convergence of the right QB in the right schematic. He has proven he can’t coach defense! We’ll learn a lot about Sumlin this season given the tough challenges ahead on the schedule.


Las Vegas Line: South Carolina by 10.5, total of 58


You may be seeing South Carolina -11 by the time you read this, or by kickoff. The public generally bets home teams in TV games, and there is some skepticism about how well A&M can play without Manziel. Just remember, though, that these teams were fairly close in Power Ratings last season. A composite of ratings would have had a hypothetical postseason meeting between the two teams near pick-em. Is Manziel worth a TD all by himself (giving SC three points for home field advantage Thursday)? Doesn’t SC take a hit by losing Clowney?

If new Aggie QB Hill is overmatched, then this could be a blowout loss for A&M. But, maybe this is an underdog STEAL because oddsmakers and sharps have docked the Aggies way too much.

We know YOU want to win the first big TV game of the new season. DON’T MAKE A MOVE UNTIL YOU HEAR WHAT JIM HURLEY HAS TO SAY!

You can purchase the full Thursday slate in the hours leading up to kickoff. Daily BEST BETS are always available for credit card purchase right here at the website. If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office at 1-888-777-4155.

Our football TV previews continue through Labor Day here in the NOTEBOOK…

Thursday: College Football TV Preview…Ole Miss vs. Boise State (Atlanta)

Friday:  College Football TV Preview…BYU at Connecticut

Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Florida State vs. Oklahoma State (Arlington)

Sunday: College Football TV Preview…Utah State at Tennessee

Labor Day: College Football TV Preview…Miami at Louisville

Isn’t it great to have GAMES THAT COUNT back on the football schedule! The 2014 season has arrived. Fasten your seat belts because it’s going to be a WILD and PROFITABLE RIDE at JIM HURLEY'S NE’WORK!

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