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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, October 21, 2015 at 12:00 AM

Jim Sez for Wednesday, October 21 …


Here’s a question that goes out to a slew of NFL teams (see Baltimore, San Diego, Kansas City, Chicago and New Orleans) among ‘em:
Just how deep a hole can a team dig before rallying with a real-life playoff charge?

No doubt that’s what the two-time defending NFC champion Seattle Seahawks are asking ‘cause they head into Thursday’s NFL Week 7 bash in San Francisco with a 2-4 SU (straight-up) mark and – hey – it could have been even worse had the zebras gotten that batted ball call correct a few weeks ago versus Detroit!

So, under-siege Seahawks’ Pete Carroll woke up this morning to find his team tied for the basement in the NFC West and – get this – 10 teams in his conference have a better record than his ‘Hawks who can chat all they want about “miscommunication” in the defensive backfield (see preview below) and key injuries but the reality is this just may rank as the biggest “Super Bowl hangover” we’ve ever seen!

On Thursday Night, it’s …
SEATTLE (2-4) at SAN FRANCISCO (2-4) – 8:25 p.m. ET, CBS
There’s lots of scary stats facing the here-and-now Seahawks but how about the fact Seattle’s yet to win on the road with 2015 losses in St. Louis (in overtime), Green Bay and Cincinnati (also in OT) … still, the road team opened as a 4-point betting favorite for this NFC West bash and it’s zoomed up to minus 6 points so somebody out there “trusts” the Seahawks will turn this losing beat around.

We briefly touched on that now-famous “miscommunication” deal late in last Sunday’s 27-23 loss to Carolina when the veteran Seattle secondary didn’t know what defensive scheme to play – Cover 2 or Cover 3 – and it wound up burning ‘em as QB Cam Newton zinged in a 26-yard scoring strike to TE Greg Olsen with just :32 remaining (note Newton completed 12-of-15 passes for 169 yards in the fourth quarter of that game) and here CB Richard Sherman and mates better get their act together because San Fran slinger Colin Kaepernick is starting to regain his confidence after throwing for 340 yards and two TDs in last Sunday’s 25-20 win against 2.5-point road fav Baltimore.
Spread Notes – Seattle is a money-burning 1-4-1 ATS (against the spread) so far this year and overall the Seahawks are 12-4-1 versus the vig in head-to-head showdowns with San Francisco dating back to the start of the 2007 season. The 49ers, meanwhile, are a dead-even but vig-losing 3-3 this year and San Fran’s 6-13-1 spreadwise in NFC West games the past three-plus seasons.

We’re back with the latest Installment of the 2015 Heisman Trophy Watch List where we offer up our top five contenders for college football’s most coveted individual award … now here’s how we see things shaping up while heading into this busy October weekend:

1 – LEONARD FOURNETTE, RB, LSU: No change at the top here as this Bayou Bengals superstar comes off a 180-yard rushing, two-TD showing in last Saturday’s scary 35-28 win/cover against 6.5-point underdog Florida. Fournette – who now has rushed for 1,202 yards with 14 TDs while averaging a haughty 8.0 yards per pop – has LSU very much in the hunt for a playoff berth this year and he’ll resume his chase of the Heisman this weekend with a Homecoming Game against Western Kentucky.

2 – TREVONE BOYKIN, QB, TCU: Gotta say that the gap between Fournette at the top and this Horned Frogs’ mega-star tightened a wee bit after this senior threw for 436 yards and 4 TDs in last Saturday’s 45-21 win/cover versus three-TD dog Iowa State. Note that Boykin chipped in another 74 rushing yards and one ground score in that tilt and so the yearly totals right now reads 2,539 passing yards with 25 TDs and just 5 INTs plus 440 yards rushing with another 5 TDs. Next up is an October 29th prime-time TV tilt against visiting West Virginia.

3 – EZEKIEL ELLIOTT, RB, OHIO STATE: Make no mistake that Fournette and Boykin are way ahead of the rest of the crowd these days in terms of Heisman consideration but let’s round out our Jim Sez group beginning with this Buckeyes’ stud who pounded out 153 yards rushing with one score in last weekend’s 38-10 victory against 18.5-point pup Penn State. Keep in mind Elliott – who zoomed into this year’s Heisman race off last year’s spectacular play in OSU’s playoff wins against Alabama and Oregon – now has exceeded the century rushing mark 12 games in a row and he’ll enter Saturday’s Big 10 game at Rutgers with 988 yards rushing (6.7 ypc) with 11 TDs.

4 – DALVIN COOK, RB, FLORIDA STATE: Don’t discount this Tallahassee toughie from becoming the first running back since 2009 (see Alabama’s Mark Ingram) from winning a Heisman Trophy but keeping healthy is the key. In last Saturday’s 41-21 win/cover against 6.5-point dog Louisville, Cook rambled loose for 163 yards rushing with two TDs but a nagging hamstring continues to bite into his overall playing time. For the year, Cook has 955 yards rushing with 10 TDs (a healthy 8.7 ypc average) and next up he gets a wobbly Georgia Tech team this Saturday.

5 – (tie) SETH RUSSELL, QB, BAYLOR and COREY COLEMAN, WR. BAYLOR: Why not share the love between teammates on this #2-ranked Bears bunch that has scored 62-or-more points in each of their last five games? QB Russell – who last week we had slotted in at fourth place in the Heisman Trophy chase – didn’t hurt his cause at all with last week’s showing in a 62-38 win/cover against West Virginia as the junior slinger threw for 380 yards with 5 TDs and kicked in 160 rushing yards with one score while wide-out Coleman’s gotta get a place in this Heisman Trophy Watch List as he’s caught 41 passes for 877 yards with an eye-popping 16 TDs (his numbers last week were 10-199 with 3 TDs).


On Thursday, it’s …
#20 CALIFORNIA (5-1, 2-1) at UCLA (4-2, 1-2) – 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Note the all-important scheduling here: Cal had a bye last week and hasn’t played since that 30-24 loss-but-cover at Utah back on October 10th while UCLA spent last Thursday night getting thumped 56-35 at 7-point favorite Stanford … advantage Cal Bears.
Now, if Cal QB Jared Goff can get his season back on track after tossing five INTs against the Utes, the Golden Bears could set sights on a January7 bowl game … and don’t even ask us the last time Cal played in January!
Head-to-Head Spread Note – Home teams have covered eight of the last 10 games in this Pac-12 rivalry and that includes last year’s wild game: UCLA (- 6.5) won but didn’t cover in a 36-34 triumph in Berkeley.

On Saturday, it’s …

#1 OHIO STATE (7-0, 3-0) at RUTGERS (3-3, 1-2) – 8 p.m. ET, ABC
Big thrill for the Big 10 fans in New Jersey to check out the nation’s numero uno team but this could be a case of “buyer beware” on both sides as the Ohio State Buckeyes are just 2-5 against the odds this year while 21-point pup Rutgers comes off a major 25-point fourth-quarter comeback in beating Indiana 55-52 … so what’s left in the tank, boys?
All the QB talk in/around this Ohio State program – don’t know about you but we’re getting pretty weary of this Cardale Jones/J.T. Barrett stuff – but how can Urban Meyer’s club go wrong by handing off to the aforementioned RB Elliott and the nation’s 12th-best ground game?

Head-to-Head Spread Note – Ohio State crushed three-TD dog Rutgers 56-17 as the Buckeyes at the time capped a four-game spread winning streak in the 2014 championship season.

IOWA STATE (2-4, 1-2) at #2 BAYLOR (6-0, 3-0) – 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so we mentioned Baylor’s #1-2 punch above in our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch List but the fact of the matter is the QB Russell-to-WR Coleman combination could really strike it rich here against a Cyclones pass defense that ranks 108th nationally while allowing 290 ypg … ouch!

Head-to-Head Spread Note – Since 2005, Baylor’s covered five of its seven showdowns against Iowa State including last year’s 49-28 win/cover as 20.5-point road favorites.

#3 UTAH (6-0, 3-0) at USC (3-3, 1-2) – 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Betcha didn’t think the Utah Utes would be sitting here in the third slot in the Associated Press Top 25 poll back in August … as a matter of fact, Utah wasn’t so much a part of the season-opening top 25 but Kyle Whittingham’s crew has beaten Michigan, Oregon, Cal and Arizona State along the way and so this veteran crew has an inside track at the Pac-12 South Division crown and maybe more. Look for Utah RB Devontae Booker (783 yards rushing with 8 TDs) to get plenty of cracks at a USC defense that simply can’t plug all the holes these days as the Tory Boys have allowed 41 points in a game twice this year.

Head-to-Head Spread Note – The home teams have covered all four of these Utes vs. Trojans matchups the past four years with Utah copping a hard-fought 24-21 win/cover as 1.5-point home favs last year.

NOTE: More NCAA Football Previews plus NFL Week 7 goodies in the next Jim Sez.



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