Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 7, 2015 at 1:09 PM
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS ARE SET:
NO CONTROVERSIES THIS YEAR AS #1 CLEMSON TAKES ON #4 OKLAHOMA, #2 ALABAMA BATTLES # 3 MICHIGAN STATE COME NEW YEAR'S EVE DAY/NIGHT, PLUS WE RAMBLE ON ABOUT THE BOWLS
THE NFL WEEK 13 RUNDOWN
WHO SAYS "NOBODY'S PERFECT" AS THE PANTHERS WIN AGAIN ... AND OUR MNF PREVIEW TOO AS COWBOYS-'SKINS CLASH
Maybe we're just in a good mood during the holidays ...But, seriously, let's give it up for the College Football Playoff (CFP) 12-person committee that not only "got it right" for a second straight year but really played it fair-and-square from the top of the playoff rankings right down to the #25 team.
Okay, so the major chore wasn't tough at all considering everyone and his brother knew Clemson, Alabama, Michigan State and Oklahoma - all power conference winners - were going to be the four teams to fill out the December 31st dance card but kudos to the committee for "jumping" Michigan State over Oklahoma ... the Big 12 tug-of-war 16-13 championship game win against previously unbeaten Iowa had to count for something while the OU Sooners sat idly by, right?
And good for the folks to reward aforementioned Iowa a well-deserved Rose Bowl berth over Ohio State plus good for the CFP for not being scared of staging a #9 Florida State vs. #18 Houston game in the Peach Bowl - that one might fall well short of a sellout inside the Georgia Dome.
The proverbial bottom line is we have a pair of high-quality matchups on New Year's Eve between the 4 p.m. ET Orange Bowl tilt between 13-and-oh Clemson versus red-hot Oklahoma followed by the prime-time 8 p.m. ET Cotton Bowl matchup between SEC champ Alabama and Big 10 titlist Michigan State.
We truly believe the committee lined up the teams #1-thru-#4 without worrying about matchups - keep in mind 'Bama opened as a hefty 9.5-point betting favorite while Oklahoma's a 2.5-point fav against #1 Clemson - and that's how it all should have been handled.
As far as those folks already calling for an 8-team playoff, we don't want it! Sure, that's more gridiron inventory and all but ask yourself the following question: Do the likes of #6 Stanford (two losses), #7 Ohio State (lost at home to a Michigan State team playing its second-string quarterback) and #8 Notre Dame (two losses) really deserve to be part of the mix at year's end when you're attempting to decide a sport's national champion? We say nay.
Meanwhile, let's take a few moments to digest some of the other bowl games on tap this holiday season with a reminder that we'll get you our quick-hitter early-bird comments later this week right here at Jim Sez. As you'll see, we like some of the bowl matchups; not so crazy about some others. Here's a little sampling:
Dec. 19 ... LAS VEGAS BOWL
Utah vs. BYU - Hey, we love the fact that this "Beehive State" rivalry game is being brought back to life here and, in fact, love it when the bowls get us that "side story" stuff whether it's a coach that used to be at the other school or two teams that once upon a time were conference rivals.
Dec. 26 ... PINSTRIPE BOWL
Duke vs. Indiana - Hey, guys, you blew it! We could have guaranteed a sellout at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx if we got what was a natural fit and that would have been Virginia Tech in coach Frank Beamer's final game against Big 10 member Penn State ... there will be more folks visiting the Rockefeller Centre tree the day after Christmas than eyeballing this tilt!
Jan. 1 ... SUGAR BOWL
Oklahoma State vs. Ole Miss - Now wouldn't this have been a great game to have a Les Miles "lovefest" and have the LSU Tigers play his old Okie State team? Heck, no offense to Ole Miss but the Rebels should have been stashed in one of the many pre-January games (like in the Belk Bowl).
Jan. 2 ... ALAMO BOWL
Oregon vs. TCU - There could be major fireworks in this tilt in San Antonio providing TCU slinger Trevone Boykin is healthy but an Oregon vs. North Carolina bash would have been sweet here; should have let TCU play Arizona State or UCLA in the Jan. 2 Cactus Bowl.
Here's our little final (for now) note to the bowl folks:
Stop already with these silly conference tie-ins and just let it roll with better overall matchups - we're not really excited about Michigan vs. offensively challenged Florida but Jim Harbaugh coaching up his first bowl game for the Wolverines against Navy or even Western Kentucky would have been fun and "natural story-type" games such as Washington State's Mike Leach against old club Texas Tech would have been great stuff; ditto for Wisconsin vs. Arkansas (The Bret Bielema Bowl). Just sayin'!
Our Monday Night Football preview shortly here in just a second but first this important reminder ...My handicappers and bloggers have everything all mapped out for tonight's NFL Week 13 tilt between the Dallas Cowboys at the Washington Redskins ... get the Side & Totals winners here on game-day afternoon when you check with us here at Jim Hurley's Network at the toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or right here online. Plus get all the upcoming College Football Bowl games plus the Basketball action too ... don't get left out in the cold, folks!
NFL WEEK 13 RUNDOWN
First things first: No doubt those "suicide pool" players were kayoed by New England's 35-28 home loss to the 9.5-point underdog Philadelphia Eagles - not to mention all of the three-team teaser players out there - but the reality of this situation is entering tonight's Cowboys-Redskins game the NFL Week 13 betting favorites are 10-4-1 ATS (against the spread) which this year is far from the norm as NFL Betting Favorites entered this Week 13 card at 73-89-9 with 5 pick 'em games.
One of the rare underdog cover wins this NFL Week 13 was New Orleans getting the cash in that wild/wacky 41-38 win by the Carolina Panthers - and you better believe that there was plenty to learn about the now 12-0 Panthers in that one!
For starters, they have major guts.
Forget for a moment that Carolina QB Cam Newton now ranks as our numero uno Most Valuable Player candidate (New England QB Tom Brady is close behind and then there's a larger gap before you get to Arizona QB Carson Palmer and Minnesota RB Adrian Peterson) and keep in mind the NFC South leaders triumphed in a noisy road game in which there were four lead changes in the final quarter and that Newton threw five touchdown passes and it could have been more had WR Ted Ginn, Jr. not dropped so many dang passes.
The Panthers are now the ninth team in the Super Bowl era to start off 12-0 and the rundown straight ahead includes a home game against free-falling Atlanta, at the almost-cursed New York Giants, at the Falcons and then a Week 17 home tilt against Tampa Bay.
Maybe those 1972 Miami Dolphins won't be popping those champagne corks anytime soon, eh?
Meanwhile, lots of stuff was said over the NBC air waves during Pittsburgh's blowout 45-10 win against 9.5-point underdog Indianapolis regarding the fact the aforementioned Patriots have dropped to the third seed in the AFC playoff picture - okay, so everyone (including NBC's Tony Dungy) is saying the same thing that New England needs to get TE Rob Gronkowski (and other pass-catchers) healthy but were those "hurting" receivers any part of those two non-offensive TDs scored by the Eagles on Sunday (see the 99-yard INT return by Malcolm Jenkins and the 24-yard punt return score by Philly's Najee Goode)?
Finally, there's the two teams now standing above New England with the #1 and #2 seeds - that's Cincinnati and Denver (yes, all three of these teams are 10-2 right now) - and for all the talk about offense in this man's league did you happen to notice that the Bengals and Broncos allowed a grand total of two field goals in road wins/covers at Cleveland and San Diego, respectively?
MONDAY NIGHT PREVIEW
DALLAS (3-8) at WASHINGTON (5-6) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here's the facts: The Washington Redskins have not won back-to-back games yet this 2015 season and still they could be leading the NFC East by a full game over the Giants and Eagles (both 5-7) with a "W" this evening against the beaten-up and bedraggled Cowboys ... and yet the 'Skins are just a 3.5-point betting favorite for this divisional duel with no QB Tony Romo on the other side of the field.
Washington - which again will play the Cowboys come Week 17 at "Jerry's House" - has won five in a row at home ever since that season-opening 17-10 loss to Miami and if "home cooking" is gonna rear its head here than QB Kirk Cousins (10 TDs and 0 INTs in his last five home games) must stay sharp and TE Jordan Reed (8 catches for a season-high 98 receiving yards in last week's wire-to-wire 20-14 win against the Giants) must be a major red-zone factor.
How can the 'Boys steal this one?
Turn to that offensive line - yes, not nearly as effective as it was a year ago - and ask born-again RB Darren McFadden (he's had 117- and 129-yard rushing games in the past month to go with shaky 32- and 11-yard outings) to carry the mail 25-plus times and hope the 'Skins get worn down by game's end.
Spread Notes - Washington's covered 15 of the last 20 head-to-head matchups against Dallas while dating back to the start of the 2005 season. The 'Skins may be 4-2 vig-wise at home this year but overall Washington's 9-13 ATS as hosts since the start of 2013 while the Cowboys are 3-8 ATS this year and that includes a shabby 2-5 spread log as dogs.
NOTE: Lots of College Bowl talk plus NFL News/Notes too in the next edition of Jim Sez.