Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, January 2, 2016 at 12:05 PM
MORE NFL WEEK 17 PREVIEWS PLUS SATURDAY'S FOUR (4) BOWL GAMES
Don't hand over that TV remote to the "Mrs." just yet - there's still plenty of great gridiron action this first weekend of 2016 and we'll bring you some goodies in a moment but first this key reminder:
NFL WEEK 17
SEATTLE (9-6) at ARIZONA (13-2) - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
You know the deal: Arizona's already locked up a first-round playoff bye but with a "W" here and a Carolina loss to Tampa Bay, the Cardinals would be sitting pretty with a No. 1 NFC playoff seed ... okay, so just don't necessarily count on that latter bit happening! Still, the Cards zoom into this one on a nine-game win streak and QB Carson Palmer (363 yards passing with 3 TDs in earlier-season 39-32 win in Seattle) has plenty of ammo against a Seahawks team that figures to sit a few regulars.
The Seahawks have clinched a wild card berth but can they straighten out their beleaguered running back situation by the time we get to the post-season?
On Sunday Night, it's ...
MINNESOTA (10-5) at GREEN BAY (10-5) - 8:30 p.m. ET, NBC
Remember how we brought up the NBC Al Michaels comment following last Sunday night's New York Giants vs. Minnesota Vikings game? The play-by-play voice reminded folks that in this winner-takes-the-NFC North-crown the likely result would be a first-round playoff home game against Seattle; the loser of Vikes-Packers most likely draws a road game at Washington ... so does it benefit someone to lose here? Hmmm. The Vikings are saying all the right things and wish to end Green Bay's four-year hold on the division and QB Teddy Bridgewater (making his first-ever start at Lambeau Field) truly may be in better working condition with his wide receivers that Packers' QB Aaron Rodgers who was forced to run for his life in last weekend's 38-8 loss at Arizona.
THE COLLEGE BOWL REPORT
Here's the Saturday lineup as we round out the bowl season with the final four games ... lots to say all next week in Jim Sez regarding the January 11th Championship Game plus we re-cap the New Year's Eve playoff games too, so don't miss out:
TAXSLAYER BOWL - at Jacksonville, FL
PENN STATE (7-5) vs. GEORGIA (9-3) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hard to ignore the fact that the Georgia Bulldogs opened up the season at #9 in the rankings and never did hit their stride: Now, the SEC team here goes with a makeshift coaching staff after the late November firing of Mark Richt and there's major question marks at quarterback where Greyson Lambert hasn't been the answer and the defense didn't always play with passion. If Penn State RB Saquon Barkley (1,007 yards rushing, 6.1 ypc and 7 TDs) winds up being a "highlight film" here, than the Nittany Lions could make it back-to-back bowl wins under second-year coach James Franklin (see 31-30 OT win against Boston College in last year's Pinstripe Bowl).
P.S., these teams are a combined 3-9 spreadwise against fellow bowl teams this year.
Current Line: Georgia (- 6.5) and 42.5 points
Spread Notes - Georgia is just 4-7 ATS (against the spread) this year but the Dawgs have covered six of their last nine bowls games. Penn State's an ugly 4-8 versus the vig overall this year and note the Nittanies failed to cover all three of their games when taking points (to Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State).
LIBERTY BOWL - at Memphis, TN
KANSAS STATE (6-6) vs. ARKANSAS (7-5) - 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here's another teacher vs. pupil scenario but it's the mentor who is gobbling up nearly two TDs - now can K-State's Bill Snyder and Company keep it close against Arkansas' Bret Bielema and his Razorbacks crew that's won five of its last six games after a staggeringly bad start?
Here's a case where the double-digit favored Hogs need some real balance with QB Brandon Allen (3,125 yards with 29 TDs, 7 INTs) and RBs Alex Collins (1,392 yards and 17 TDs) looking to throw their one-two punch at undersized Kansas State which needs return specialist Morgan Burns to light it up after he saved the KSU season with that 97-yard KO return for a score against West Virginia in an early December win in Manhattan.
Current Line: Arkansas (- 12.5) and 55.5 points
Spread Notes - Arkansas is 7-5 ATS overall this year and the Hogs are an electric 8-3 vig-wise away since the start of 2014. Kansas State's 6-5-1 spreadwise this year and the 'Cats own a 19-9 ATS mark as dogs since the start of the 2011 season.
ALAMO BOWL - at San Antonio, TX
#15 OREGON (9-3) vs. #11 TCU (10-2) - 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Another bowl game, another off-the-field problem to report as TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin won't be part of this battle of nationally-ranked teams after his December 30th fracas outside a San Antonio pub and so discard his 2,928 passing yards and 28 TD passes and expect Gary Patterson's squad to go with Bram Kohlhausen here against an Oregon team that surrendered allowed 30-plus points on seven different occasions.
The Pac-12 guys - who've stayed out of the crime pages this week - zoom into this one on a six-game SU (straight-up) winning streak with QB Vernon Adams, Jr. finally healthy (finger) and fresh off throwing for 1,865 yards with 21 TDs and 4 INTs during this six-game spree. The Ducks plan on getting the ball in the hands of RB Royce Freeman (1,706 yards rushing) plenty and note this is not your big brother's TCU defense after it allowed nearly 400 yards a game this year.
Current Line: Pick 'Em and 77.5 points
Spread Notes - Oregon is 7-5 against the odds overall this year and the Ducks have covered six of their last nine bowl/playoff games the past eight years while TCU's split its dozen spread verdicts this year. Note the Horned Frogs are 1-5 ATS in their last six bowls.
CACTUS BOWL - at Phoenix, AZ
WEST VIRGINIA (7-5) vs. ARIZONA STATE (6-6) - 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
The last of the 40 bowls come your way on this Saturday night and there's a distinct home-region advantage for the Arizona State Sun Devils - and count us among the folks slightly surprised that the Pac-12 team is a smallish underdog. True, Todd Graham's club was a major disappointment this year after starting out the season ranked #15 in the nation but QB Mike Bercovici (26 TD passes) isn't afraid to mix things up and the RB Demario Richard (1,056 rushing yards) can be a scoot-and-score guy if West Virginia fails to wrap up.
On the flip side, the Mountaineers - who didn't land a "signature win" this year - will look to shine on the ground with RB Wendell Smallwood fresh off a 1,447-yard rushing campaign. Note the 'Neers rank 13th nationally in rushing (average 235.3 ypg) while A-State ranks 19th nationally in rushing defense (124.8 ypg), so something's gotta give, right?
Current Line: West Virginia (- 1) and 64 points
Spread Notes - Arizona State's 5-7 against the Vegas prices this year and the Sun Devils are 1-6 ATS in bowls the past 10 years; West Virginia is 5-7 odds-wise this year and a composite 19-28 ATS the past four years.