Submitted by Jim Hurley on Friday, August 4, 2017 at 2:52 PM
NFL HALL OF FAME GAME RE-CAP: COWBOYS BEAT CARDINALS 20-18 BUT IT'S 'ZONA QB GABBERT THAT STEALS SHOW
PLUS OUR COLLEGE CONFERENCE SNAPSHOTS ROLL ON WITH A LOOK AT CONFERENCE USA
BASEBALL NEWS/NOTES TOO
Make no mistake: There is no quarterback controversy in Arizona this year - 38-year-old Carson Palmer is gonna be the man - but last night's NFL Hall of Fame Game showed that journeyman QB Blaine Gabbert plans on making the most of this summer.
The one-time high draft choice of the Jacksonville Jaguars was the numero uno story line in last night's 20-18 Dallas Cowboys' win against the Cardinals - Gabbert completed 11-of-14 passes overall for 185 yards and he really showed major zip on the ball.
Heck, even NBC game analyst Cris Collinsworth admitted he didn't realize that Gabbert had such a strong arm. Now you know!
So, while folks banter about the idea as to whether or not anthem-protester Colin Kaepernick is gonna land on his feet somewhere in the National Football League, it's Gabbert that elevated his status in the first preseason game of 2017 and don't put it past the Cards that this was a "showcase" of sorts and so maybe Gabbert's trade value just went up, up, up - yet another piece of bad news perhaps for Kaepernick.
In other Hall of Fame Game-related notes ...
The Cowboys' RB Rod Smith - brother of Dallas LB Jaylon Smith - opened up some eyes with his 18-carry, 64-yard rushing performance as he attempts to nose out RB Alfred Morris for the third-string job behind Ezekiel Elliott and Darren McFadden ...
And Arizona rookie backup FS Budda Baker was active while getting a slew of snaps with starter Tyrann Mathieu rested for this preseason opener. Baker - a true college star at Washington last year - could slip into a fifth defensive back role this year for the Redbirds and he's major insurance for an injury-prone Mathieu.
The 2017 NFL Preseason really swings into gear next week as there's a full slate of games beginning with Wednesday's Houston Texans at Carolina Panthers tilt (that's on NFL Network) plus there's 7 games on Thursday (featuring Washington at Baltimore and Philadelphia at Green Bay) and there's more action next Friday/Saturday/Sunday Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will be banging out tons of Sides & Totals winners with a reminder there's College Football on tap beginning August 26st - and get the daily winners in Major-League Baseball too when you check in either right here online or via our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL CONFERENCE GLANCES
You can't accuse Conference USA of playing boring football: The non-Power 5 league could be considered "Big 12 lite" what with all the scoring and now there's a real-live rivalry that's playing out at the top of C-USA with Western Kentucky and Louisiana Tech favored to play one another for the title game for a second straight season. We'll jog your memory and tell you Western Kentucky copped a 58-44 win/cover as 12-point home favorites in that championship game a year ago. Still, the biggest news in Conference USA is the arrival of high-profile names Lane Kiffin (new boss at Florida Atlantic) and Butch Davis (new head coach at Florida International) - let's see if they are difference-makers right from the get-go.
BEST TEAM - Louisiana Tech
It's pretty much a toss-up here between the LT Bulldogs and the WKU Hilltoppers but we'll give Skip Holtz's club the edge based on the best defensive line in the league plus the fact Western has a new head coach in Mike Sanford and he figures to have some pitfalls along the way.
BEST PLAYER - Mike White, QB, Western Kentucky
Last year this strong-armed senior threw for 4,363 yards and 37 TDs while propelling the 'Toppers to a 45.5 ppg scoring average. White may be angling for a 5,000-yard season if he's kept in the blowout games.
BEST GAME - Sept. 16, Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky
Keep in mind Louisiana Tech won the regular-season showdown between these two teams last year 55-52 as 3-point home underdogs (one of the best college games in 2016) but now this one's in Bowling Green. Hmm, the Techsters could offer up real value here as TD-type dogs, so we'll circle this one and keep you posted down the line.
HIDDEN STORY - Last year the Conference USA sent a conference-record seven teams to bowl games and that might get matched or surpassed this year if either Kiffin or Davis can weave some magic at their new schools.
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME PREDICTION - Louisiana Tech beats Western Kentucky
BASEBALL NEWS & NOTES
Great summertime series this weekend throughout MLB as the Washington Nationals are at the Chicago Cubs, the New York Yankees continue that four-game set in Cleveland against the defending AL champ Indians and the lone Interleague set is the Milwaukee Brewers at Tampa Bay Rays - and don't sleep on the weekend set that started last night between the Seattle Mariners at the Kansas City Royals - the playoff-hopeful Royals drew first blood on Thursday night with a 6-4 win thanks in large part to a pair of dingers by Brandon Moss.
One final MLB item ...Lots of MVP talk on some of the games we've been watching lately - and gotta say that Arizona Diamondbacks 1B Paul Goldschmidt is getting lots of love in the National League after his three home run game at Wrigley Field - that's 25 homers so far for "Goldy" -- while American League voters paying a bit more attention to Houston 2B Jose Altuve who added three more hits in Thursday's 5-3 loss to Tampa Bay. Altuve enters this weekend with a league-leading .365 batting average (and a .425 on-base percentage).
NOTE: More NFL Preseason News Plus College Football and Major-League Baseball goodies in the next Jim Sez.