Submitted by Jim Hurley on Monday, December 30, 2019 at 12:00 AM
NFL WILD CARD WEEKEND –
THE MATCHUPS ARE SET
AS BILLS-TEXANS, TITANS-PATRIOTS
SQUARE OFF SATURDAY IN THE AFC WHILE
DUEL IN SUNDAY’S NFC GAMES …
PLUS, THE NEW YEAR’S EVE BOWL LINEUP
FEATURING TEXAS VS. #11 UTAH
There’s gonna be plenty of time later this week to preview/analyze/chew on this weekend’s NFL Wild Card Round playoff games but here’s some quick-hitter comments on the Saturday/Sunday action that’s coming up …
On Saturday, it’s …
BUFFALO (10-6) at HOUSTON (10-6) – 4:35 p.m. ET, ABC & ESPN
Old handicapping theory will get tested here: Do you just blindly take points here with the better defense (note the Bills rank 3rd in the league in total “D”) or will a top 10 passing offense powered by WR DeAndre Hopkins (1,165 yards receiving with 7 TDs) have enough to get by? Note the Texans – currently a 3-point betting favorite – are a shabby 1-5-1 against the odds as chalk sides this season.
TENNESSEE (9-7) at NEW ENGLAND (12-4) – 8:15 p.m. ET, CBS
Gee, how angry did Patriots’ QB Tom Brady look immediately following the 27-24 home loss against 17-point pup Miami? Now, the six-time Super Bowl winner really needs old pal WR Julian Edelman (three catches for only 26 yards against the Fish) to come up big against the Titans and explosive NFL rushing leader RB Derrick Henry (1,540 yards) and Company. First non-bye playoff week for the Pats since 2009 … but did you know New England is 10-4 ATS (against the spread) in post-season games the past five years?
On Sunday, it’s…
MINNESOTA (10-6) at NEW ORLEANS (13-3) – 1 p.m. ET, Fox
The price tag on this clash is a bit richer than we thought it would be: The host Saints are 8-point favs right now and take note that Sean Payton’s crew merely split their eight home spread verdicts this year and even lost a couple of games SU (straight-up) versus Atlanta and San Francisco. However, if Saints’ slinger Drew Brees is given the time to slice-and-dice this Vikings defense – and if RB Alvin Kamera is spry – than Minny’s suddenly slumping passing game will be forced to play catch-up all game long.
SEATTLE (11-5) at PHILADELPHIA (9-7) – 4:40p.m. ET, NBC
Injury-ravaged Philly Eagles actually roll into this Wild Card round on three-game ATS (against the spread) winning streak and new star RB Boston Scott (three rushing TDs in second half of 34-17 win / cover against the NY Giants in Week 17) could be major factor against a Seahawks’ defense that had major tackling issues in Sunday night’s wild 26-21 home loss against San Francisco. Note on the visitors: Seattle’s tasty 5-2-1 ATS away this ’19 season.
Jim Hurley’s Network of Handicappers and Bloggers have the College Football Bowl winners today and all week long plus there’s NFL Wild Card Playoff action this Saturday/Sunday too – just call us on game days at the toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or go online right here at www.jimhurley.com and also cash in with NBA / NCAA hoops.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL REPORT
The College Football Playoffs this past Saturday delivered one classic and one first-round KO.
It’s onward and upward for #3 Clemson – now looking for its third national championship in four years – and #1 LSU come the night of Monday, Jan. 13, 2020.
Okay, so the Clemson Tigers showed major gumption in that 29-23 see-saw win against 2.5-point Ohio State this past Saturday night as soph QB Trevor Lawrence led a 94-yard touchdown drive late and you better believe this kid’s legs helped to save the day (see 16 carries for 107 yards rushing and one TD) while LSU’s overwhelming 63-28 win against 12.5-point dog Oklahoma was, well, simply more vintage QB Joe Burrow as the Heisman Trophy winner threw for 493 yards and 7 TDs – yes, all 7of ‘em in the first half – and the Bayou bunch looked every bit as potent as it had this year.
We’ll have plenty to say in the coming days about this year’s Clemson-LSU bout for all the marbles, so stay tuned all week long here at Jim Sez and remember we’ll have the Side & Totals winners on this showdown on Monday, Jan. 13th on game-day afternoon. Okay?
COLLEGE BOWL POINTSPREAD STANDINGS
(thru Dec. 28th)
CONF WON LOSS TIE PCT
Mid-Eastern Athletic 1 0 0 1.000
Big 10 3 1 0 .750
Mid-American 3 1 0 .750
Independents 2 1 0 .667
Mountain West 3 2 0 .600
Conference USA 3 3 0 .500
SEC 1 1 0 .500
ACC 2 3 0 .400
Big 12 1 2 0 .333
Pac-12 1 2 0 .333
Sun Belt 1 2 0 .333
American Athletic 1 3 0 .250
SWAC 0 1 0 .000
COLLEGE BOWL BONANZA
Here’s the College Football Bowl Games for Tuesday, Dec. 31st:
BELK BOWL – at Charlotte, NC
KENTUCKY (7-5) vs. VIRGINIA TECH (8-4) -- 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Great challenge for soon-to-be-retired Virginia Tech DC Bud Foster as his unit (two shutouts in last three games) looks to corral run-run Kentucky QB Lynn Bowden (1,235 yards rushing with 11 TDs) but you also might want to check out the other side of the ball where QB Hendon Hooker (11 TD passes, 2 INTs) could be a rising star. The Techsters are a wacky 3-4-2 against the odds in their last nine bowl games … look it up!
Spread Note – Kentucky has covered six of its last seven games while V-Tech is 5-1 spreadwise in its last half-dozen outings.
SUN BOWL – at El Paso, TX
FLORIDA STATE (6-6) vs. ARIZONA STATE (7-5) – 2 p.m. ET, CBS
The Mike Norvell Era at Florida State will officially start after this game – interim boss Odell Haggins calls the shots here – as 4-point fav Arizona State looks around to see who will play as both RB Eno Benjamin and top WR Brandon Aiyuk are sitting this one out for NFL Draft purposes. Might want to hone in on Sun Devils’ slinger Jayden Daniels (2,748 yards passing with 7 TDs and 2 INTs) – a true frosh – who engineered wins against Oregon and Arizona in late November.
Spread Note – Arizona State is a crummy 4-9-1 ATS since late in the 2018 campaign.
LIBERTY BOWL – at Memphis, TN
KANSAS STATE (8-4) vs. #23 NAVY (10-2) – 3:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Already one service academy team – the Air Force Falcons – has “cashed” this bowl season with last week’s 31-21 win /cover against Washington State in the Cheez-It Bowl and now here comes Navy looking to finish off its year on a four-game SU /ATS winning streak: The 3-point favored Midshipmen sport the nation’s top-ranked rushing game (averaging 363.7 yards per game) and QB Malcolm Perry (1,804 yards rushing with 21 TDs) is a real blur for enemy defenses … and did you know that K-State is a vastly underrated 9-3 against the odds overall under first-year head coach Chris Klieman?
Spread Note – Navy has banged out five consecutive bowl game covers and the Middies enter this clash with a 9-3 spread mark overall this year.
ARIZONA BOWL – at Tucson, AZ
GEORGIA STATE (7-5) vs. WYOMING (7-5) – 4:30 p.m. ET, CBS Sports Network
The upset hopes of 7-point underdog Georgia State ride with do-everything QB Dan Ellington (2,291 yards passing and 598 rushing yards this year) but keep in mind he’s played the past three-plus games with a torn ACL. On the flip side, Wyoming – which started off the year with a 37-31 win against 16-point fav Missouri – hopes to ride soph RB Xazavian Valladay (1,061 yards rushing) and don’t be shocked if this ride ‘em Cowboy gets 30+ carries here.
Spread Note – Since the start of 2017, Wyoming is 12-5 ATS as betting favorites and that includes a Potato Bowl cover versus Central Michigan back in ’17.
ALAMO BOWL – at San Antonio, TX
TEXAS (7-5) vs. #11 UTAH (11-2) —7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Best game on the New Year’s Eve card and a good one to “ring out the old” – you can hold off on Ryan Seacrest and Company till we get close to midnight, folks! The TD-favored Utah Utes had their bubble burst with that 37-15 loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game and so, naturally, folks are wonderin’ if Kyle Whittingham’s crew will be “into” this bash deep into the heart o’Texas but keep in mind Utah usually comes to play at bowl time and this Utes’ defense ranks numero uno in the country in rushing defense. If Utah RB Zack Moss (1,359 yards rushing with 15 TDs and a spiffy 6.2 yards-per-carry average) gets heated up, then watch out!
Meanwhile, Texas – winners of the Texas Bowl (against Missouri) and Sugar Bowl (versus Georgia) these past two years – can wash away some bad feelings about this ’19 season if QB Sam Ehlinger (3,462 passing yards with 29 TDs and 9 INTs) plays with his usual swashbuckling style. Keep in mind the Longhorns – which will have 80 percent or so of this crowd – have surrendered 30+points six different times this year.
Spread Notes – Utah is a collective 23-14-1 ATS the past three years and that includes eight spread wins in its last nine games this season; Texas is 10-3 vig-wise as underdog side under third-year head coach Tom Herman.
NOTE: Get our New Year’s Day Bowl Game Previews including the Rose & Sugar Bowls in the next Jim Sez.