Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, September 4, 2015 at 12:00 AM
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT –
THURSDAY’S NEWS/NOTES FROM OPENING NITE
PLUS KEY SATURDAY GAME PREVIEWS
INCLUDING #3 ALABAMA VS. #20 WISCONSIN
Funny how things worked out on the very first night of this 2015 College Football Season:
Second-ranked TCU somehow managed to make things a tad scary late in its 23-17 non-cover win at 16-point underdog Minnesota -- what national championship-type defense allows a pedestrian Minny attack to go 90-plus yards down the field for a touchdown to make it a 6-point game late?
Meanwhile, new Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh watched in horror as his graduate student QB Jake Rudock aired three INTs – including a fourth-quarter pick six – in the Wolverines’ 24-17 loss at Utah … a big “under” winner for the Jim Hurley Network.
Hmm, guess Harbaugh chose the “wrong QB” as he kept lefty Shane Morris on the bench the whole game!
Finally, the ’15 season kicked off in earnest with South Carolina’s 17-13 neutral field win/cover versus 1.5-point dog North Carolina but, boy, the “ole ball coach” Steve Spurrier sure survived a horrible night of play-calling and a near-disastrous fourth-down go-for-it play late when a field goal would have put the SC Gamecocks up 7 points.
Wow … a major brain cramp by Spurrier who lived to tell about it mainly because another “marquee” QB in UNC’s Marquise Williams was awful with three interceptions including two swiped in the end zone and the other in the red zone.
Jim Hurley is headed to a slam-bang football season straight ahead!
The College Football 2015 campaign swings into high gear this weekend after a batch of games were played last night as there is daily action right through Labor Day evening.
Here’s a quick-hitter list of just some of this week/weekend’s nationally-televised tilts (all times Eastern):
Tonight, it’s – #4 Baylor at SMU on ESPN (7 p.m.); tomorrow it’s – Texas at #11 Notre Dame on NBC (7:30 p.m.) and #20 Wisconsin vs. #3 Alabama (in Arlington) on ABC (8 p.m.); on Sunday – Purdue at Marshall on Fox 1 (3 p.m.); and on Monday/Labor Day – #1 Ohio State at Virginia Tech on ESPN (8 p.m.)
You want to be in the winner’s circle for all the big opening-week games and remember the NFL 2015 Season gets rolling Thursday with the Pittsburgh Steelers at Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in the Kickoff Game followed by a full Week One card that features such tilts as Green Bay at Chicago, Baltimore at Denver and the New York Giants at Dallas next Sunday along with the now-annual Monday Night Football season-opening twin-bill – that’s Philadelphia at Atlanta and Minnesota at San Francisco.
So make sure you’re with Jim Hurley for all the NFL, NCAA Football and Major-League Baseball winners all month and all season long!
And this is all you have to do:
Check in right here online at www.jimhurley.com or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 any time after 1 p.m. ET for the weeknight selections, after 11 a.m. ET for all the weekday games and after 10 a.m. ET for Saturday/Sunday/Holiday Winners.
On Saturday, it’s …
#21 STANFORD at NORTHWESTERN – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let’s kick off your Saturday with this “smart school” matchup from Evanston where the Northwestern Wildcats’ “union” was busted this past summer … now we’ll see if 12.5-point road favorite Stanford “busts ‘em” here!
Our Jim Hurley sources tell us the Stanford Cardinal is anxious to put aside its 8-5 SU (straight-up) season – remember this Pac-12 team went a collective 46-8 SU from 2010 thru 2013 – and head coach David Shaw has mucho confidence in veteran QB Kevin Hogan who really came on strong in the team’s final three games last year.
Okay, so Stanford’s “body clock” will be reading 9 a.m. West Coast time here but does N’western have the bones to win here especially with a first-time quarterback in Clayton Thorson who’s never before thrown a pass in a college game.
Hey, the last time these teams played it wound up a 41-41 tie back in 1994 … remember?
Spread Notes – Stanford covered four of their five games last year when placed in the role of double-digit betting favorite and that included a 45-21 win/cover versus 14-point dog Maryland in the Foster Farms Bowl. Northwestern, meanwhile, is a rotten 8-14 ATS (against the spread) ever since that 11-1 spread season back in 2011.
LOUISVILLE vs. #6 AUBURN (at Atlanta) – 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Don’t believe the hype?
The Auburn Tigers claim there’s a slew of freshmen and/or redshirt freshman dotting his team’s depth charts this year but national expectations are high – only in-state archival Alabama is rated higher among mighty Southeastern Conference teams – and so there’s no avoiding the fact that Auburn’s “the hunted” these days and laying 10.5 points to a quality (but young) Louisville team figures to be a major challenge.
Auburn QB Jeremy Johnson looks to attack a ‘Ville defense that last year ranked sixth nationally but did lose seven starters from that rock-solid unit – if the U of L Cardinals are gonna hang tough or even entertain outright upset hopes here than slowing down this up-tempo Auburn offense means sticking Johnson with big line-of-scrimmage hits plus coach Bobby Petrino’s crew must win the field position game and make Auburn go 75-plus yards on its possessions.
Spread Notes – Auburn’s been good news/bad news when it comes to playing away from Jordan-Hare Stadium as War Eagle sandwiched a perfect 6-and-oh away spread log in 2013 around 1-4 and 1-5 away spread seasons. Louisville is more-than-respectable 16-9 versus the vig as dogs the past four seasons.
#15 ARIZONA STATE vs. TEXAS A&M (at Houston) – 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Might this be the best game of college football’s opening week? Heck, we had this very comment penned even before the ESPN trio announcing the Carolina vs. Carolina game echoed our thoughts!
You see that Arizona State is nationally ranked – and Texas A&M is not – and yet the Las Vegas price tag on this game has the A&M Aggies favored by 4 points in not-so-neutral Houston … a trap or perhaps A-State’s getting under-bet here?
The fact of the matter is Sun Devils’ QB Mike Bercovici has been champing at the bit after last year coming off the bench to throw for an NCAA-record 998 yards in his first two career starts last year and keep in mind this Aggies defense ranked 77th versus the pass and 105th versus the rush nationally a year ago.
Spread Notes – Since 2011, Arizona State is a wobbly 3-8-2 spreadwise as underdog sides but note the Sun Devils did cash as pups last year at USC and versus Stanford. On the flip side, Texas A&M is just 15-20 spreadwise in the coach Kevin Sumlin Era that started in 2012 and that includes two-of-three spread setbacks in season-opening affairs.
TEXAS at #11 NOTRE DAME – 7:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Count us among the folks who believe the ND Fighting Irish will play in a nice January bowl game this year – but also count us among the folks who don’t believe the South Bend gang will still be standing there at CFP (College Football Playoff) time. There’s monster talent along the Notre Dame O-line – including LT Ronnie Stanley who could be top 5 or top 6 pick in next year’s NFL Draft – but why are so many people already “sold” on QB Malik Zaire who played great in that bowl win against LSU last year but is largely a great unknown heading into this 2015 season.
What’s known about Texas, meanwhile, is incumbent Tyrone Swoopes won the battle for first-string quarterback but just remember last season the Longhorns ranked an ugly 88th nationally in passing yards per game (199.9 ypg).
Spread Notes – Here’s something that probably will surprise you: Notre Dame is just 29-32-4 ATS in the Brian Kelly Era that began in 2010 and the Fighting Irish is just 5-10-1 vig-wise as chalk sides the past two years. Believe it or not, Texas is a dead-even but vig-losing 26-26 ATS the past four years and just 9-17 ATS as underdogs since the start of the 2009 campaign.
#20 WISCONSIN at #3 ALABAMA (at Arlington) – 8 p.m. ET, ABC
The one-and-only head-to-head matchup of ranked teams will take place at “Jerry’s House” – a/k/a Cowboys Stadium – but the Las Vegas ain’t convinced it’ll be a close game.
In fact, Alabama’s a haughty 12-point betting favorite (keep in mind it opened at 9.5 points) and our Jim Hurley insiders say head coach Nick Saban has been breathing fire in practice while wanting a quicksilver start from this crew after last year’s club staggered at the start with that not-so-memorable 33-23 non-cover win against 22-point dog West Virginia.
And – as far as that sketchy quarterback battle – the good folks at ESPN were reporting last night that actually three players have thrown their proverbial hats into the ring while looking to win the starting job but expect vet Jake Coker to win out over junior Alec Morris and kid Cooper Bateman. Still, the Crimson Tide will cover this game if it runs the ball 40-plus times and plays keep-away from a Wisconsin crew that hopes RB Corey Clement can run it like the 2014 version of Melvin Gordon (the former had 949 yards rushing last year in part-time duty while the latter rushed for a Big 10 single-season mark of 2,587 yards).
One item on your what-to-watch list must be just how many yards does ‘Bama back Derrick Henry make “after contact” – better wrap ‘em up Badgers or you’re really gonna be in for a long night in the Lone Star State!
Spread Notes – Alabama is a mediocre 19-19 ATS as betting favorites the past three seasons and that includes a shabby 4-8 spread log when favored versus non-SEC competition. Wisconsin’s 22-17 ATS overall in non-Big 10 games the past 10 years.
NOTE: Lots more holiday weekend College Football Reports plus more in the next edition of Jim Sez – don’t miss out!