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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 7:00 AM

After the Big 10 suffered a series of high profile losses this past Saturday (and survived a few other embarrassing near-misses), the common media theme was that the conference was already out of the championship picture because there was no way their champ would finish in “the Final Four” selection structure.

*The champ wouldn’t be that good anyway

*The champ would have a lousy strength of schedule

*The other conferences were likely to spit out extremely strong candidates

Of course, all of that was true before any games were played Saturday! Michigan State NEEDED to upset Oregon because they were already a longshot to finish in the top four. Ohio State NEEDED to show the world they could impress without Braxton Miller at quarterback. And, if the strength of schedule element was going to loom large, then the conference at least NEEDED Michigan to play well at Notre Dame after Wisconsin lost the prior week vs. LSU, and the conference needed everyone else to establish meaningful superiority vs. lesser opponents.

The Big 10 was on the outside looking in before:

*Nebraska was tied with McNeese State in the final minute (as a 34-point favorite!)

*Iowa had to sweat Ball State as a double digit favorite

*Maryland had to sweat South Florida as a double digit favorite

*Northwestern lost to Northern Illinois

*Purdue lost to Central Michigan

*Wisconsin could only manage a 9-3 halftime lead as a 40-point favorite over W. Illinois

Based on current Las Vegas Power Ratings, which are a good reflection of team quality.

*FLORIDA STATE is possibly a sure thing to reach the Final Four even if they suffer an upset somewhere along the way. Yes, they haven’t exactly sparkled out of the gate. But, they were fantastic last year and much of that talent is back. Only a suspension to Jameis Winston seems possibly of derailing a Final Four bid.

*The SEC CHAMPION is very probably a sure thing to reach the Final Four, even if they suffer a loss at some point during the season. This league is so strong that they might get TWO teams into the Final Four even with one loss! If Alabama, Auburn, and maybe Texas A&M or LSU all run the table against outsiders but split with each other…who do you keep out?!

*OREGON is now very much in the driver’s seat to reach the Final Four as Pac 12 favorites who just added a high profile TV win to their resume. If Oregon goes 13-0, they’re a lock. If they go 11-1 or 12-1 with a loss to Stanford or USC, they still might get in over the Big 10 champ.

*OKLAHOMA or BAYLOR from the Big 12 would currently get the nod over any Big 10 team…and might still get that nod with an 11-1 record at the end of the season. They both will have a strong math case given their victory margins when things are going well. And, running the table just got easier because Texas and Texas Tech have played below expectations.

All we learned last Saturday was that the Big 10 would have been in trouble if the championship tournament was an 8-TEAM field! They were already on the outside looking in needing a lot of help four the four-team brackets.  

It may seem a little early to talk about the championship. We do think that handicappers need to be thinking in those teams as they evaluate week-to-week performance. It’s already clear to us that Florida State is playing half-heartedly, feeling like they’re a lock to bet there regardless of effort. THAT’S WORTH KNOWING! Alabama has a bit of that overconfident swagger to them as well. Will they be overpriced in SEC play? On the other end of the spectrum, both Oklahoma and Baylor are playing like style points are all that matters…and will probably continue to run up the score at every opportunity.

JIM HURLEY knows you have to handicap from all angles! You can enjoy the benefits of his 25-plus years of experience online. Purchase game day BEST BETS right here at the website with your credit card. You should build your bankrolls for weekend football with some Tuesday Night baseball! If you have any questions about seasonal packages, or combination packages for football and baseball, call us in the office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you tomorrow in the NOTEBOOK to talk pro football. Here’s this week’s schedule…

Wednesday: NFL Handicapping Notes

Thursday: NFL Thursday Night TV Preview…Pittsburgh at Baltimore

Friday: College Football Early Look…Georgia at South Carolina

Saturday: College Football TV Preview…Tennessee at Oklahoma

Sunday: NFL Sunday Night TV Preview…Chicago at San Francisco

Monday: NFL Monday Night TV Preview…Philadelphia at Indianapolis

Some drama already in those pro games. Baltimore, Chicago, and Indianapolis are all starting at possible 0-2 starts…and we all know how hard it is to make the playoffs when you start 0-2! The college schedule isn’t quite as dynamic as last week’s. But, Georgia is hoping to throw its name into the SEC championship hat (and maybe national championship hat) with a big road performance at SC. Will we see the first chinks in the armor for Oklahoma as they host an SEC opponent?

So many questions…link up with the man who has the answers…WORLD CHAMPION HANDICAPPER JIM HURLEY!

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