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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, September 8, 2016 at 10:01 AM

In case you were wondering, the last time a defending Super Bowl champion wound up being a Week 1 underdog the following year was 2013 - and it just so happened to be a game in Denver as that's when the defending champ Baltimore Ravens were forced to play its season opener on the road and that was no fun as the Ravens (+ 7) were crushed 49-27 by then-QB Peyton Manning and the home town Broncos.

Now, it's Denver in the dog role in Week 1 action the year after snagging Super Bowl 50 - Carolina's got revenge but, just like in last year's SB showdown, if you like the Panthers you're gonna have to lay points.

In fact, here's the last three head-to-head showdowns between the Panthers and Broncos while dating back to the 2008 campaign (note home teams in CAPS below):

2015Denver+ 4.5Carolina24-10
2012Denver- 3.5CAROLINA36-14
2008CAROLINA- 7.5Denver30-10

Again, the 2015 meeting was in Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara and keep in mind the teams have not played in Denver since 2004 when the Broncos (- 5) copped a 20-17 non-cover victory.

The NFL 2016 season gets going on Thursday Night with the much-anticipated battle royal/Super Bowl 50 rematch as the Carolina Panthers play at the defending champion Denver Broncos and that's followed by a whopper NFL Week 1 card on Sunday/Monday featuring such marquee matchups as the New York Giants at Dallas, New England at Arizona and Green Bay at Jacksonville. Remember also the usual opening-week Monday Night Football twin-bill too - that's gonna be Pittsburgh at Washington followed by Los Angeles at San Francisco.

The College Football 2016 campaign already is off to a really dizzying start and Jim Hurley's Network will continue to pound out the winners this week after cashing last weekend with Western Michigan (+ 3.5) besting Northwestern 22-21, Wisconsin stunning 12.5-point favorite LSU 16-14, Auburn slipping under the 9-point price in that 19-13 loss to Clemson and last Sunday it was Texas (+ 3.5) toppling Notre Dame 50-47 in double overtime. The winning action this week begins with Friday's two games - that's Maryland at Florida International and Louisville at Syracuse - plus a healthy Saturday card that features Arkansas at TCU, Penn State at Pittsburgh, Kentucky at Florida and Virginia Tech vs. Tennessee.
Heck yeah, we're ready for some Football!

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Here's some of what we're looking ahead to on this weekend's college card:

On Friday night, it's ...

#13 LOUISVILLE (1-0) at SYRACUSE (1-0) - 8 p.m. ET, espn2
Last year Louisville coach Bobby Petrino spent much of the season's first month agonizing over who should be the Cardinals' starting quarterback - but no such worries here in '16 as Lamar Jackson is "the man" especially after throwing six touchdowns and rushing for two TDs in last week's 70-14 win/cover against 38-point pup Charlotte.

On Saturday, it's ...

PENN STATE (1-0) at PITTSBURGH (1-0) - 12 noon ET, ABC
These Keystone State "rivals" have not squared off since the 2000 season - really - and major key here is how Panthers' RB and cancer survivor James Conner runs it against what could be a leaky Nittanies' defense. Did you know that Penn State failed to cover all four of its games when in the underdog role a year ago?

Believe it or not, the Florida Gators have won 29 straight games played against the Kentucky Wildcats ... and now the folks in Las Vegas say the Gainesville gang is a bloated 17-point favorite here one week after the 'Cats blew a 25-point lead en route to a 44-35 home loss to Southern Miss. If you're looking for an X-factor here, than consider what Kentucky can do on the ground after RB Boom Williams averaged 7.2 ypc last week.

BYU (1-0) at UTAH (1-0) - 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox
The Beehive State Battle was re-ignited last December when Utah copped a 35-28 Las Vegas Bowl win/cover against the then-2.5-point underdog BYU Cougars but will turnabout be fair play here? The Coogs - a 3-point road dog here this weekend - are fresh off a momentum-building 18-16 win against Arizona last week as PK Jake Oldroyd boomed a 33-yard field goal with 4 seconds left to win it but can we remind you Utah PK Andy Phillips might be the best big-game kicker in the land?



On Sunday, it's ...

It's a big opening week of NFC North at AFC South sites (see Green Bay at Jacksonville, Chicago at Houston and Detroit at Indianapolis) but this one's getting our attention for now as the visiting Vikings are ready to find out what life's like without injured QB Teddy Bridgewater and Minny head coach Mike Zimmer isn't saying who will start ... recent acquisition Sam Bradford or veteran journeyman Shaun Hill. Don't be surprised if the 36-year-old Hill starts and then Bradford bolts off the bench after one or two series to "rescue" the purple gang. Pointspread note worth passing on here says the Titans are an electric 7-2 ATS (against the spread) in their last nine season openers.

NEW YORK GIANTS at DALLAS - 4:25 p.m. ET, Fox
Here we go again with an NFL playoff-hopeful team that must survive without its usual starting quarterback but instead of feeding y'all a bunch of QB Dak Prescott notes just remember that last year's Giants ranked dead-last against the pass (allowed 299 aerial yards per game) before buying up free agents DE Olivier Vernon, CB Janoris Jenkins, DT Damon "Snacks" Harrison and LB Kelvin Sheppard. Folks, remember that since 2006 the Cowboys are a collective 24-38 ATS in divisional games.

NOTE: More College Football and NFL Week 1 Previews/goodies in tomorrow's edition of Jim Sez.


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