Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, December 11, 2015 at 9:20 AM
NFL WEEK 14 REPORT: CARDS HOLD OFF VIKES 23-20 ...
PLUS OUR HEISMAN TROPHY WINNER IS ...
AND THERE'S 10 MORE COLLEGE BOWL PREVIEWS AS WE CHECK OUT THE DECEMBER 28-30 GAMES
Oops, they've done it again. The playoff-bound Arizona Cardinals -- now 11-2 and getting very close to cementing a first-round bye in the NFC post-season wars - are a perfect 4-and-oh SU (straight-up) in prime-time games this 2015 season following last night's hang-on-for-dear-life 23-20 non-cover win against the 10-point underdog Minnesota Vikings and whether it's ancient sack specialist DE Dwight Freeney making the 11th-hour strip sack to deny the Vikes a last-second field goal try or elder WR Larry Fitzgerald making an ultra-significant downfield block on a key QB Carson Palmer-to-WR Michael Floyd 42-yard scoring connection, the bottom line is Arizona gets the job done under the lights.
Okay, so the Redbirds didn't cover - they're still a snazzy 28-17-1 against the odds under third-year head coach Bruce Arians - but will anyone out there really be surprised if it's the Cardinals and not unbeaten Carolina or Green Bay or surging Seattle that represents the NFC come Super Bowl 50 on the first Sunday in February?
So, NFL Week 14 is off-and-rollin' and one week after there were nine games decided by a single score you can expect another bite-your-fingernails weekend in the league where they play for pay.
THE HEISMAN TROPHY REPORT
No doubt you heard the odds this week when it comes to capturing the 81st Annual Heisman Trophy Award - Alabama RB Derrick Henry is priced at 1-to-12 - and so it'll come as no great surprise that the shiny trophy is his to lose but gotta admit that we believe both Clemson QB Deshaun Watson and Stanford's do-it-all RB Christian McCaffery will be a bit closer in the final voting than led to believe.
Henry's been on our Jim Sez leaderboard for the past three weeks in a row and he'll be the man making the speech in midtown Manhattan at around 8:55 p.m. ET on Saturday night. Trust us.
Here's the key stats for the three finalists:
DERRICK HENRY, RB, ALABAMA - His 1,986 yards rushing, 23 TD and 5.9 yards-per-carry average were eye-opening stats but how about the fact he rushed the ball 46 times against Auburn and another 44 times in the SEC Championship Game versus Florida on back-to-back late-year weekends?
DESHAUN WATSON, QB, CLEMSON - What's better than being the star quarterback on the only unbeaten team in the land? Watson's stats include 3,512 yards passing with 30 TDs and 11 INTs to go along with 887 rushing yards and 11 scores. Gotta feeling he'll edge out McCaffery by a handful of votes for second place honors.
CHRISTIAN McCAFFERY, RB, STANFORD - He broke Barry Sanders' single-season all-purpose yardage mark while rushing for 1,847 yards while getting 540 yards receiving and he was a special teams whiz but simply not buying this hot rumor that this Pac-12 star will steal the award.
We'll get you more goodies on upcoming College Bowl Games being played on December 28th thru December 30th in just a moment but first this key reminder: Don't get left out in the cold - win all week and cash in big with both Football and Basketball when you check with us here at Jim Hurley's Network either here online or at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453. Sign up for our NCAA Bowl Winners now and get the discount rate from America's #1 Handicapper - Jim Hurley! And cash in with tomorrow's Army vs. Navy game - the only college tilt on this December weekend (kickoff is at 3 p.m. ET on CBS).
Here's a continuing look at the next 10 bowl games for Monday, Dec. 28th through Wednesday, Dec. 30th. We'll have more bowl coverage of the final dozen games in the next edition of Jim Sez, so keep it right here!
MONDAY, DECEMBER 28
Navy-Marine Corps Stadium - Annapolis, MD
PITTSBURGH (8-4) at #21 NAVY (9-2) - 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
One more game for the Navy kids - they're a whopping 22-point betting favorite against Army this Saturday in Philadelphia and the Middies have not lost this game in eons! - but this bowl bash here is a real dandy as revived Pitt under first-year head coach Pat Narduzzi did snag wins over bowl-bound squads Akron, Virginia Tech, Duke and Louisville and Panthers' WR Tyler Boyd (85 receptions for 873 yards and 6 TDs) is a first-class star. Ditto Navy QB Keenan Reynolds who enters the game versus Navy with 83 career rushing touchdowns (tied for the all-time FBS lead) and he's just 65 rushing yards from becoming the all-time rush leader among quarterbacks.
Current Line: Navy is a 3.5-point home betting favorite
QUICK LANE BOWL
Ford Field - Detroit, MI
CENTRAL MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. MINNESOTA (5-7) - 5 p.m. ET, espn2
Maybe you don't feel as if Minny's interim-turned-permanent head coach Tracy Claeys was a difference-maker but how about the fact his Golden Gophers covered four-of-five games after he replaced Jerry Kill back in late October? Now, if only Claeys can get QB Mitch Leidner (2,478 yards passing but 10 INTs) to throw the ball to the right color uniforms here!
Current Line: Minnesota is a 5.5-point betting fav
TUESDAY, DECEMBER 29
ARMED FORCES BOWL
Amon G. Carter Stadium - Fort Worth, TX
CALIFORNIA (7-5) vs. AIR FORCE (8-5) - 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
Major opportunity to see what hyped Cal QB Jared Goff (4,252 yards passing with 37 TDs this year) can do on a bowl stage as there will be plenty of NFL scouts in attendance but flip side is can this Pac-12 defense slow down the country's third-ranked rushing attack (322.1 ypg)? Air Force sports seven rushers with 300-plus yards this season but leader of the pack is RB Jacobi Owens (1,013 yards) who averaged a haughty 9.2 yards a pop in that Mountain West Championship Game loss to San Diego State.
Current Line: California's a 7-point betting favorite
RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL
Florida Citrus Bowl - Orlando, FL
#10 NORTH CAROLINA (11-2) vs. #17 BAYLOR (9-3) - 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Okay, so we realize there are all kinds of conference "tie-ins" when it comes to the bowl games but we're scratching our heads wondering why both of these high-octane teams are not playing on New Year's Day! North Carolina may still be groaning about that onside kick the ACC officials' crew blew in the championship game loss to Clemson last weekend - what conspiracy, you ask? - but now the Tar Heels must try to get QB Marquise Williams right (see 21 TD passes/11 TD rushes) after he was wobbly in that title tilt while Baylor is keeping fingers crossed that third-string QB Chris Johnson will be A-OK here - no doubt Bears' boss Art Briles played juggler with his quarterbacks late but can this Big 12 team just get the ball to WR Corey Coleman (20 receiving TDs)?
Current Line: Baylor is a 3-point betting fav
Arizona Stadium - Tucson, AZ
NEVADA (6-6) vs. COLORADO STATE (7-5) - 7:30 p.m., CBSC
We always like to examine go-against bowl plays when it comes to first-year head coaches laying points (see Colorado State's Mike Bobo here) plus Nevada's hungry to snap a three-game bowl losing streak that dates back to 2011.
Current Line: Colorado State's favored by 3
#20 LSU (8-3) vs. TEXAS TECH (7-5) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
In case you hadn't heard (ha-ha), Les Miles will be coming back to coach at LSU but you wonder whether the Bayou Bengals here will be excited about playing a pre-January bowl game for a second straight year (see 31-28 loss to Notre Dame in last year's Music City Bowl). Maybe all-offense/no-defense Texas Tech will unleash star WRs Jakeem Grant (1,143 yards receiving) and Devin Lauderdale (43 catches and averaging 15 yards per play) and make this a real humdinger affair deep in the heart o' Texas.
Current Line: LSU is favored by 7 points
WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 30
Legion Field - Birmingham, AL
AUBURN (6-6) vs. MEMPHIS (9-3) 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Memphis announced that offensive coordinator Darrell Dickey will call the shots here after the departure of boss-man Justin Fuente to Virginia Tech - and that often times has an unsettling effect on teams in coaching transitions but the $64,000 question facing Auburn is have the Tigers been overrated all year (see 3-9 spread mark) and why can't head coach Gus Malzahn straighten out his quarterback mess (see 10 TD passes/9 INTs)?
Current Line: Auburn is a 2.5-point betting fav
Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, NC
N.C. STATE (7-5) vs. MISS STATE (8-4) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This is no way to go into the bowl season: Both the N.C. State Wolfpack and Miss State Bulldogs dropped two of their final three regular-season games to smear an otherwise solid campaign for both ... here we'll be keen observers as to whether or not Pack QB Jacoby Brissett (19 TD passes and just 4 INTs) can rattle a M-State defense that surrendered 118 points in their final three games. Miss State signal-caller Dak Prescott (25 TD passes and 4 INTs) never did get into the Heisman Trophy race but save for that bomb showing in the Egg Bowl a couple of weeks ago, this senior star had a big-time campaign. Can the totals price be high enough here?
Current Line: Miss State's favored by 5 points
MUSIC CITY BOWL
LP Field - Nashville, TN
TEXAS A&M (8-4) vs. LOUISVILLE (7-5) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
Talk about making it to the same destination from different starting points:
Louisville lost its first three games this year and then regrouped even though head coach Bobby Petrino played musical chairs with his quarterbacks for the better part of the 2015 campaign while Texas A&M roared out of the starting gate with five straight wins and yet struggled to score in the final month of play and boss Kevin Sumlin had his own share of quarterback issues ... is QB Kyle Allen (2,210 yards passing with 17 TDs) gonna get the most snaps here or is Kyler Murray (5 TDs with 7 INTs) his man?
Current Line: Texas A&M is favored by 2.5 points
Qualcomm Stadium - San Diego, CA
#25 USC (8-5) vs. WISCONSIN (9-3) - 10:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hats off to USC for making lemonade out of its lemon-filled start - yes, Clay Helton wound up being the answer as the team's head coach after all the Steve Sarkisian mess - and love the Trojans' playmakers from QB Cody Kessler (3,315 yards passing with 28 TDs and 6 INTs) to RB Ronald Jones II (940 yards rushing and a 6.5 ypc average) and WR JuJu Smith-Schuster (85 catches for 1,389 yards) while hard to believe Wisky Badgers' rushing offense ranked - get this - 90th in the nation while averaging just 148 yards a game.
Current Line: USC is a 3.5-point favorite at press time