Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 5, 2014 at 7:00 AM
NFL WEEK 14 GETS ROLLIN’
WITH THE COWBOYS’ 41-28 WIN IN CHITOWN …
IT’S COLLEGE FOOTBALL’S CONFERENCE
CHAMPIONSHIP DAY AND WE GETCHA FIVE (5)
BIG GAMES ON THIS DECEMBER SATURDAY
Pinch yourself, Cowboys fans … your team is not gonna finish 8-and-8 for a fourth consecutive season.
Dallas made sure of that with its 41-28 win/cover against 3½-point home dog Chicago on Thursday Night Football as the modern-day version of the “Triplets” dazzled as QB Tony Romo (205 yards passing with 3 TDs and 0 INTs), RB DeMarco Murray (179 yards rushing) and chatty WR Dez Bryant (6 catches for 82 yards) all shined in the NFL’s Week 14 lid-lifter game.
It helped that Dallas roared out to a 35-7 lead after three quarters and that Bears’ star WR Brandon Marshall didn’t play after getting an inadvertent knee to his back in the first half — but the bottom line is the ‘Boys averted their second two-game losing skid this year and now have 10 days to rest/prep for a revenge game against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Now that oughta be a whole lot of fun in Philly, right?
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
In yesterday’s Jim Sez column we brought you the College Football Conference Championship Game Previews/Forecasts from both the Mid-American Conference and the Pac-12, so let’s wrap up this great weekend of championship football with a look at the five title games set for Saturday plus the two super-important Big 12 games on the docket … here goes:
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME — at Huntington, WV
LOUISIANA TECH (8-4, 7-1) at MARSHALL (11-1, 7-1) — 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Now that the Marshall dreams of playing in one of the New Year’s Day bowls have gone up in smoke, gotta wonder what the Thundering Herd mind-set will be here — keep in Marshall’s an 11-point betting favorite against a Louisiana Tech team that just scored 76 points in a wipeout win against Rice last weekend.
If Tech QB Cody Sokol (3,117 yards passing and 29 TDs) is on target here, then Marshall QB Rakeem Cato (4 INTs last week in the OT loss to Western Kentucky) may need to have a really hot hand.
Spread Notes — Marshall is 14-9-1 against the odds as betting favorites since the start of last year and that includes a 10-4-1 spread log as twin-figure favs since the middle of 2013. Louisiana Tech is 9-3 ATS (against the spread) overall this year and the LT Bulldogs are 4-0 spreadwise as underdogs this season after going 1-5 ATS as pups a year ago.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME — at Atlanta, GA
#16 MISSOURI (10-2, 7-1) vs. #1 ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1) — 4 p.m. ET, CBS
The good folks in Las Vegas have posted “win-it-all” odds at 6-5 for this ‘Bama Crimson Tide team, but first things first:
Nick Saban’s crew rides a seven-game SU (straight-up) winning streak into this year’s SEC title game — the fourth in the eight-year Saban Era — and this seemingly unstoppable Alabama offense (40-plus points in six games this year) is riding a major high after QB Blake Sims aired three scoring strikes in last week’s 55-44 win/cover against Auburn after nearly getting benched! No doubt WR Amari Cooper is the central piece of this ‘Bama attack but expect Saban/offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin to balance things out with rehabbed RB T.J. Yeldon firming up a ground game that averages nearly 207 ground yards per game.
Missouri, meanwhile, might have been the best under-the-radar major-college team in the universe this year as Gary Pinkel’s club won outright as dogs against
South Carolina, Florida, Texas A&M, Tennessee and Arkansas — and QB Maty Mauk is healthy and happy these days.
Is 14 ½ just way too many points for the Tide to be laying here?
Spread Notes — Alabama has covered 13 of its last 21 games when placed in the role of double-digit betting favorites while Mizzou has covered five of its six games this year when in the point-taking role.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME — at Charlotte, NC
#11 GEORGIA TECH (10-2, 6-2) vs. #4 FLORIDA STATE (12-0, 8-0) — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
The CFP committee folks may not be overly impressed with the Florida State Seminoles but, as Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson reminded everyone this week, the ‘Noles have won 28 consecutive games, you know!
Quarterback Jameis Winston — who aired three first-quarter INTs and four picks overall in last weekend’s hang-on-for-dear-life Florida State 24-19 non-cover win against Florida — played himself right off this year’s Heisman Trophy stage after winning the hardware a year ago but don’t discount Winston from having a major stat-sheet stuffing night here.
After all, this passing attack does rank a solid 13th in the land (averaging 299.1 ypg) and veteran WR Rashad Greene may be the nation’s numero uno clutch pass-catcher aside from Alabama’s Cooper.
No question the key for 4-point underdog Georgia Tech is to control the clock with its triple-option attack — but memo to QB Justin Thomas (16 passing TDs and 4 INTs) is you better hang onto the ball ‘cause last week a couple of key lost fumbles almost doomed the Yellow Jackets in that wild 30-24 OT win at Georgia.
Spread Notes — Florida State is a rotten 3-9 against the Las Vegas prices this year while Georgia Tech rolls into this title tilt on a five-game pointspread winning streak.
Important Note …
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 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.jimhurley.com or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.
Hey, don’t sleep on hoops winners at this time of the year as America’s #1 Handicapper gets you all the College Basketball and NBA winners each and every day!
BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME — at Indianapolis, IN
#13 WISCONSIN (10-2, 7-1) vs. #5 OHIO STATE (11-1, 8-0) — 8:15 p.m. ET, Fox
All the buzz in the build-up for this game has to do with the injury to Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett who’s gone for the year with a busted ankle — but might the winner/loser of this game be decided by how Wisky QB Joel Stave plays at crunch time?
Keep in mind the Badgers didn’t play Stave much the first half of this 2014 season — he’s thrown only 136 passes this year with 8 TDs and 4 INTs — but he could well be the game’s main character providing record-breaking Wisky RB Melvin Gordon (2,260 yards rushing with 26 TDs) doesn’t slice-and-dice a Buckeyes’ rush defense that ranks a so-so 39th nationally.
Ohio State QB Cardale Jones gets his moment to shine and keep in mind he actually was ahead of Barrett (and behind then-starter Braxton Miller) on the team’s depth chart back in the spring, so head coach Urban Meyer knows the dude can play … the question is does Meyer turn ‘em loose or will RB Ezekiel Elliott (1,182 yards rushing with 10 TDs) have to tote the ball 30-plus times while trying to keep Mr. Gordon on the sidelines?
Spread Notes — Ohio State is 10-2 ATS as an underdog side since 2009 and that includes a 49-37 win at 4-point fav Michigan State back on Nov. 8th this year. On the flip side, Wisconsin is just 5-7 ATS overall this year and the Badgers are 1-5-1 spraedwise in their last seven meetings with the Buckeyes.
MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP — at Boise, ID
FRESNO STATE (6-6, 5-3) at #22 BOISE STATE (10-2, 7-1) — 10 p.m. ET, CBS
The “old” Boise State is back — now we’ll see if this team sporting a seven-game SU winning streak that dates back to early October will rock-n-roll as 22-point favorites and thus land a spot in one of the non-playoff big bowls (we say Boise State would head to the Fiesta Bowl and a very likely showdown against Baylor).
The hard-charging RB Jay Ajayi (career-best 229 yards rushing and 5 TDs in last weekend’s 50-19 win against Utah State) remains the engine that drives this Boise State bunch but check out the Broncos’ defense against Fresno State QB Brian Burrell who’s rebounded from some rocky showings (and a benching or two) to throw for eight TDs in his last three outings.
Spread Notes — Boise State is just 9-15 versus the vig in all home games since the beginning of the 2011 season. Fresno State is a solid 16-10-1 ATS as underdog sides the past four years.
In Big 12 games, it’s …
IOWA STATE (2-9, 0-8) at #3 TCU (10-1, 7-1) — 12 p.m. ET, ABC
Hey, the heat’s on five-TD betting favorite TCU to bang out a monster win here because the “all-knowing” CFP committee members are watching this all closely (or so they say!).
The Horned Frogs — who’ve scored 40-plus points seven different times this year — did lose its last home game to meek Iowa State as two years ago the Cyclones snagged a 37-23 win and so that also may play a bit into TCU’s mind-set here but best bet is that QB Trevone Boykin will chuck it early and often against an Iowa State side that’s simply riddled with injuries — note that nine players were lost with season-ending injuries and star TE E.J. Bibbs is expected to miss this tilt.
Spread Notes — TCU is a scintillating 9-2 against the odds this year and that includes a 6-2 ATS mark as betting favorites (as compared to a 6-17 ATS mark as chalk the prior three seasons). Iowa State is skidding badly these days on a four-game spread losing streak and overall the Cyclones are 2-5-1 ATS in Big 12 play this year.
#9 KANSAS STATE (9-2, 7-1) at #6 BAYLOR (10-1, 7-1) — 7:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Baylor QB Bryce Petty keeps telling folks that he’s fine after getting whacked with a concussion in last Saturday’s scary-as-heck 48-46 non-cover home win against four-TD dog Texas Tech.
Note that Petty didn’t practice earlier in the week but he’s about 90 percent right now (thus the Las Vegas line of Baylor minus 8 points here) and so that storyline is pretty much taken care of but what about the Bears’ mindset after getting placed #6 in this week’s CFP rankings and thus two spots below a Big 12 team in TCU the Bears beat back in October?
Meanwhile, if Kansas State’s gonna get a little revenge from that last game it played in Waco — a 52-24 train wreck that ruined any K-State shot of playing for a BCS championship — then the pass-catch combo of QB Jake Waters (2,863 yards passing with 18 TDs) and WR Tyler Lockett (1,193 receiving yards and 8 TDs) need a monster game.
Don’t forget that a K-State win here and Bill Snyder’s squad will grab a share of the Big 12 crown.
Spread Notes — Baylor’s 31-15-1 ATS overall since the start of the 2011 season and that includes a sizzling 19-3 spread mark at home. Kansas State is 8-3 vig-wise this season and a composite 26-8-1 ATS in Big 12 play the past four years.
NOTE: There’s NFL Week 14 Previews and more in the next edition of Jim Sez.