Submitted by Jim Hurley on Sunday, December 13, 2015 at 11:55 AM
MORE NFL WEEK 14 PREVIEWS INCLUDING FALCONS-PANTHERS & PATS-TEXANS ... PLUS A SLEW OF COLLEGE BOWLS (DEC. 31ST-JAN.2ND)
No time to waste ... there's NFL Week 14 game previews and a dozen College Bowl Previews to examine and so let's get right to it!
In NFL Week 14 action on Sunday, it's ...
ATLANTA (6-6) at CAROLINA (12-0) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Are the Panthers gonna be perfect when all the dust finally settles on this here-and-now 2015 season?
Well, Ron Rivera's gang is a prohibitive 8-point betting favorite for this NFC South clash and we're wondering aloud as to whether or not Carolina QB Cam Newton is gonna suffer any consequences from that vicious goal-line hit he took in N'Orleans last Sunday in that back-and-forth 41-38 non-cover win - expect Atlanta to come at 'em full bore here but whether Falcons cover this game or not depends on QB Matt Ryan who has been turnover machine in recent weeks.
Spread Notes - Carolina is 9-3 versus the vig all told this year but did you know the Panthers are a nifty 16-8-1 spreadwise as betting favorites since early 2011. Meanwhile, Atlanta has lost eight straight to the number after starting off the year 4-0 against the Las Vegas price tags.
DALLAS (4-8) at GREEN BAY (8-4) - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Why does anyone pay attention to what attention-seeking Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has to say? His latest public comments were back-handed criticisms of head coach Jason Garrett and staff for "not winning more games without QB Tony Romo" ... Jerry, did it ever dawn on you that you should have re-signed RB DeMarco Murray who was a perfect fit for this offense? The 'Boys enter this Lambeau Field tilt ranked 11th in the NFL in rushing (113.8 ypg) but shouldn't that be a whole lot better with three All Pros along the O-line? Green Bay's a 6.5-point fav for this clash and don't dismiss fact TE Richard Rodgers of Hail Mary fame has become one of QB Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets at any place on the field.
Spread Notes - Green Bay is 25-15-2 ATS (against the spread) at home since the start of the 2011 season while Dallas is 14-9 spreadwise as underdogs the past two-plus seasons (but the Cowboys are just 2-5 ATS as pups this year).
On Sunday Night, it's ...
NEW ENGLAND (10-2) at HOUSTON (6-6) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
The breaking news comin' out for this game was the broken hand suffered by Texans' defensive end/goal line pass-catcher J.J. Watt but he claims he's good-to-go - now can Watt (13.5 sacks this year) and friends sack/hurry QB Tom Brady here one week after he threw a goal-line pick six and generally looked lost prior to getting hot in the final frame? The Pats' well-documented injuries at wide receiver and along the offensive line have taken their toll on the defending Super Bowl champs - still, 3.5-point home dog Houston only wins here if WR DeAndre Hopkins (10 TDs this season) has a batch of "chunk plays".
Spread Notes - New England's 0-3-1 spreadwise in its last four games but the Patriots do own a still-solid 19-13-1 ATS log in non-AFC East games the past two-plus seasons. Houston has covered six of its last nine home games since late last year.
We'll get you more goodies on upcoming College Bowl Games being played from December 31st through January 2nd 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.
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Here's a look at the final 12 bowl games on the schedule between Thursday, Dec. 31st and Saturday, January 2nd. Note that as we get closer to all 40 bowl games, we'll have more detailed game previews and key spread stats - plus all the winners here online so keep it right here!
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 31
Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA
#18 HOUSTON (12-1) vs. #9 FLORIDA STATE (10-2) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Last year's "Group of Five" representative - the Boise State Broncos - beat Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl and now here's a well-oiled Houston Cougars club looking to pound home a statement for the "little guys" come the big bowls once again.
No doubt QB Greg Ward, Jr. (2,590 yards passing with 16 TDs and 1,041 yards rushing with 19 ground scores) is the key for coach Tom Herman's team but can a Houston defense ranked 11th in the land in rushing "D" contain State's Dalvin Cook (1,658 yards rushing and 18 TDs)?
Current Line: Florida State is favored by 7 points
COLLEGE FOOTBALL PLAYOFFS
Sun Life Stadium - Miami Gardens, FL
#4 OKLAHOMA (11-1) vs. #1 CLEMSON (13-0) - 4 p.m. ET, ESPN
Lots to say about this game and the playoff tilt below (Michigan State vs. Alabama) when we draw nearer to the College Football Playoffs but just to whet your appetite, how about the fact the nation's only unbeaten team is listed as a 3.5-point underdog? The last time the Clemson Tigers were grabbing points was last year's 40-6 romp over - you got it - Oklahoma in the Russell Athletic Bowl and can we remind y'all that Clemson's covered its last three consecutive bowl games under pizza-crazy head coach Dabo Swinney?
Current Line: Oklahoma is a 3.5-point betting favorite
AT&T Stadium - Arlington, TX
#3 MICHIGAN STATE (12-1) vs. #2 ALABAMA (12-1) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
If you've listened closely to 'Bama boss Nick Saban - and how could you not as ESPN interviews the man every five minutes! - than you know he feels last year's Crimson Tide club was merely "happy to be there" in the first-ever playoffs but that wasn't the sentiment last weekend when the SEC champs were announced as the #2 seed but can Saban and Company really count on another 40-plus carry game here from RB Derrick Henry (1,986 yards rushing)? On the flip side, Michigan State's defense/ground-control offense has been the major key in allowing just 50 points in the past four games but something tells us QB Connor Cook (bad shoulder) must air-mail a few long balls here if Alabama's defense is gonna get stretched out.
Current Line: Alabama is favored by 9.5 points
FRIDAY, JANUARY 1
Raymond James Stadium - Tampa, FL
#13 NORTHWESTERN (10-2) vs. #23 TENNESSEE (8-4) - 12 p.m. ET, espn2
Enough of this "no respect" spiel from N'western head coach Pat Fitzgerald who talks as if he thinks his Big 10 Wildcats deserved a spot at the playoff table - chill out, coach Pat, and make some noise here against an 8-point fav Tennessee team that closed out regular-season play with five consecutive SU (straight-up) wins behind do-it-all QB Joshua Dobbs (2,125 yards passing with 15 TDs to go along with 623 rushing yards and 9 TDs).
Current Line: Tennessee's an 8.5-point betting fav
Citrus Bowl Stadium - Orlando, FL
#14 MICHIGAN (9-3) vs. #19 FLORIDA (10-3) - 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Year One in the Jim Harbaugh Era received plenty of play over the air waves, on the internet and in print ... that wasn't so much the case for Florida's first-year boss Jim McElwain but guess what: "Coach Mac" was the one who copped a divisional crown; "Coach Khaki" did not.
Now, a Florida defense that ranks in the top 20 nationally against both the rush and the pass looks to snag the upset win - listen for updates on Michigan QB Jake Rudoch (2,739 yards passing and 17 TDs) who got dinged up in that lopsided loss to Ohio State on November 28th.
Current Line: Michigan is a 4-point favorite
University of Phoenix Stadium - Glendale, AZ
#8 NOTRE DAME (10-2) vs. #7 OHIO STATE (11-1) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Everyone's counting on this being some sort of New Year's Day classic but do keep in mind these are teams that had playoff hopes dashed in November ... will Urban Meyer's defending champs be all-out to silence Notre Dame here or might Fighting Irish QB DeShone Kizer (2,600 yards passing with 19 TDs) be able to set-and-throw to his speedy-but-not-always-sure-handed corps of wide outs? One guess is that Buckeyes' RB Ezekiel Elliott (1,672 yards rushing and 19 TDs) will get at least his 22 carries-per-game total here ... or he'll pout!
Current Line: Ohio State is right now a 6.5-point betting favorite
Rose Bowl - Pasadena, CA
#6 STANFORD (11-2) vs. #5 IOWA (12-1) - 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
Count us among the folks pleased to see Iowa get rewarded here with a Rose Bowl berth - the school's first since 1990 - but now let's see if this Big 10 team can cop a bowl win as Kirk Ferentz's crew has dropped its last three in a row. If QB C.J. Beathard (only 4 INTs this year) can make some things happen with the occasional downfield chuck, than favorite Stanford could have hands full here but we say if do-it-all Cardinal QB Christian McCaffrey (the NCAA's all-time all-purpose yardage king) gets his hands on the ball 25 times or more, the probability is that David Shaw's gang wins by twin figures.
Current Line: Stanford's favored by 6.5 points
Superdome - New Orleans, LA
#16 OKLAHOMA STATE (10-2) vs. #12 OLE MISS (9-3) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This marks the third time these teams have clanked heads in a bowl game since 2000 - there's no Eli Manning under center for the Ole Miss these days but the Rebels do rank 10th nationally in passing yardage (333.7 ypg) with QB Chad Kelly one of the country's top five or six throwers all year long with his 3,740 yards passing and 27 TDs. Hey, Okie State was sliding backwards at season's end with back-to-back losses to Baylor and Oklahoma by a total of 45 points ... can the Cowboys get their act together here or is this free-fall gonna be complete with a January bowl loss?
Current Line: Ole Miss is favored by 7 points
SATURDAY, JANUARY 2
Everbank Field - Jacksonville, FL
PENN STATE (7-5) vs. GEORGIA (9-3) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
The coaching merry-go-round - one that's really pronounced this bowl season with all the comings-and-goings - impacts this game of "high-profile" teams as Georgia's Mark Richt is gonzo to Miami and so wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon has been named the interim with Alabama DC Kirby Smart already hired to do the job full time once his season is finished. Got it all? Not sure if the Penn State kids even care - the Nittanies were supposed to display a high-energy passing game this year but instead QB Christian Hackenberg operates the nation's 80th-ranked aerial attack (just 209 ypg) and so maybe best shot for underdog Penn State to snag the upset win here is to get the ball in the hands of RB Saquon Barkley (1,007 yards rushing and a 6.1 ypc average) - how about 25-plus touches for the kid, coach James Franklin?
Current Line: Georgia is listed as a 6.5-point favorite
Liberty Bowl - Memphis, TN
KANSAS STATE (6-6) vs. ARKANSAS (7-5) - 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
Note that from a pointspread standpoint the Arkansas Razorbacks really got their act together after a sluggish start - the Hogs covered six of their final eight regular-season games and actually won at Ole Miss and at LSU on back-to-back November weekends while best thing we can say about Bill Snyder's K-State 'Cats is they won final three games to get bowl eligible and return specialist Morgan Burns scored four TDs on kick bring-backs - could he be the "not-so-secret-weapon" to keeping this Big 12 team in the thick of things here in this day-after-New Year's tilt?
Current Line: Arkansas is an 11.5-point betting fav here
Alamodome - San Antonio, TX
#15 OREGON (9-3) vs. #11 TCU (10-2) - 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hate to turn the clock back for these two teams but the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll had TCU at #2 and Oregon at #7 - so isn't any bowl game that's not part of the College Football Playoffs a letdown? You bet it is but at least we salute a Ducks bunch that won its final six regular-season games while averaging 44.8 ppg in those tilts and watch here for QB Vernon Adams, Jr. (2,446 yards passing with 25 TDs) who really bounced back nicely after some early-year finger woes. Hey, TCU QB Trevone Boykin (3,575 yards passing with 31 TDs plus 612 rushing yards with 9 TDs) was on our Jim Sez Heisman Trophy Watch List for much of the year before injuries kayoed 'em from the elite group.
Current Line: Right now Oregon vs. TCU is a Pick 'Em game
Chase Field - Phoenix, AZ
WEST VIRGINIA (7-5) vs. ARIZONA STATE (6-6) - 10:15 p.m. ET
Best thing you can say about this Arizona State squad is that it finished regular-season play with a flourish of three consecutive spread wins - otherwise 2015 was a huge disappointment for a team that started out ranked #15 in the land. Maybe QB Mike Bercovici (3,437 yards passing with 26 TDs and 9 INTs) can rattle a West Virginia defense that surrendered 40 points or more three times this season.
Current Line: Arizona State's favored by 1 point