Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, September 1, 2012 at 10:58 AM
Talk about bringing out the heavy-duty ammunition!
Folks, this first Saturday in the month of September shows off the top eight teams in the land (according to the season-opening Associated Press Top 25) and - as you've no doubt been hearing for weeks now - it includes the defending national champion/second-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide against #8 Michigan in a marquee matchup that the Las Vegas oddsmakers nonetheless claim will be one-sided (note that 'Bama has gone from an 11-point opening-line betting favorite to a full two-TD or 14-point price at press time).
It's also an opportunity to feast your eyes on #1 USC - granted a near six-TD betting choice over Hawaii - plus don't forget the whole day starts off in Ireland with Notre Dame battling Navy in the Emerald Isle class. Hey, set those alarm clocks early because that one starts at 9 a.m. ET.
So, pass the orange juice gimme me the remote control ... it's gonna be a great Labor Day weekend of College Football with this well-stocked Saturday card featuring some 28 on-the-board games and all those high-profile teams in action and you must wonder if any of 'em will be hitting an opening-week speed bump.
'Cause that almost happened on Opening Night to the #9 South Carolina Gamecocks.
Steve Spurrier's squad endured a game-opening torrential rainstorm, a first-half shoulder injury to starting QB Connor Shaw (he returned to action in the third quarter) and the "ole ball coach's" own rather conservative game calls to squeak out a 17-13 non-cover win at 6 ½-point fav Vanderbilt and so "upset alert" was averted but it wasn't easy - and it may be a sign of what's to come this college football season where many in-the-know folks believe not all that much separates the top 25-to-30 teams in the land.
Lots of goodies straight ahead and so let's get the Saturday menu started with the starriest game on the board:
#8 MICHIGAN vs. #2 ALABAMA (at Arlington) - 8 p.m. ET, ABC
So, just how does one beat the defending champs who last year led the nation in scoring, rushing, passing and total defense?
In short, flip the script ... that's how.
In other words, if two-TD dog Michigan really wants to "shock the world" than the Wolverines' defense must force turnovers, make key third-down stops and win most of the grunt battles in the trenches and common sense says that's not gonna happen as 'Bama has a glitzy offensive line that figures to pave plenty of holes for RB Eddie Lacy (674 yards and 7 TDs in part-time duty last year) and remember that second-year slinger AJ McCarron is brimming with confidence these days after a very special spring.
No doubt Michigan's do-it-all QB Denard Robinson - who last year threw for 2,173 yards and rushed for another 1,176 yards - will be the focus point for the aforementioned Alabama defense and expect Wolverines' head coach Brady Hoke's game plan here to include a stretch-the-field approach in the passing game but do you really think the maize-and-blue can get three or four 40-plus yard plays here?
Note that Alabama's won its season-opening games by 41, 45, 10, 24 and 46 points in Nick Saban's dominant stay in Tuscaloosa - albeit save for Virginia Tech back in 2009 none of the other season-opening foes were considered top 10-caliber squads but the point is 'Bama always comes out of the gates with a passion and now it can defuse Robinson's Heisman Trophy candidacy even before it ever really gets warmed up here.
Spread Notes - Alabama rolled up a nifty 9-4 ATS (against the spread) mark last year en route to winning its second national championship in three years but did you realize that the Crimson Tide have covered all five of their on-the-board season-opening games under boss-man Saban? Also, 'Bama is an electric 9-3 versus the vig in non-conference affairs dating back to the start of the 2009 campaign. Note that Michigan enters this high-profile shindig having registered a neat 7-4-1 ATS log last season in Year One of the Hoke Era. The Wolverines, however, are just 6-12-1 against the odds when in the underdog role since the start of 2008.
#14 CLEMSON vs. AUBURN (at Georgia Dome) - 7 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's the third straight year that these two southern powers will meet and - after both teams "held serve" with home wins the past two showdowns - this one goes indoors for a "neutral setting" and so right away you think of which team holds the speed advantage as they play on the fake stuff inside the Georgia Dome.
No question that one speed guy that Clemson will sorely miss here is sophomore wide receiver and return specialist Sammy Watkins - a legit Heisman Trophy candidate once upon a time - who has been suspended by the team for the first two games this year and so no wonder the ESPN broadcasters in that South Carolina-Vandy game said the Clemson kids better watch out here because Auburn QB Kiehl Frazier seems ready/willing/able to strut his stuff now that he beat out Clint Moseley for the starting job last spring.
If the SEC gang can step up its rush defense (ranked 94th nationally last year) and keep Clemson QB Tajh Boyd from getting into a rhythm here, than you might get the mild upset in Hot-lanta but that's a lot on Frazier's shoulders here.
Spread Notes - Clemson is just 8-12 vig-wise in non-ACC affairs the past five years but that does include a pair of covers against Auburn both in 2010 (a 27-24 loss-but-cover as 7 ½-point underdogs) and in 2011 (a 38-24 home winner as 5-point betting favorites). Meanwhile, Auburn staggered through a 5-8 spread season a year ago (just one year removed from that national championship) and the SEC Tigers have failed to cover six of their last nine season-opening games.
HAWAII at #1 USC - 7:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Wonder how many times "Traveler" will be making his merry way around the Los Angeles Coliseum on this night!
The fabled white horse that charges around the perimeter of the field following Trojans touchdowns might need oxygen at some point here as USC's a stiff 40-point betting favorite with a current "totals" price of 64 points ... yowie!
The top-ranked Men of Troy have the horsepower - pardon the pun - to run roughshod over plenty of teams this year and it'll be interesting here to see how many rushes former Penn State star RB Silas Redd gets in his debut in the wine-colored jerseys as SC head coach Lane Kiffin may ease the former Big 10 star into play with just 6 or 7 carries here.
Hey, Heisman Trophy frontrunner QB Matt Barkley (3,528 yards passing with 39 TDs a year ago for USC) will be the one doing the "heavy lifting" in this pass-first offense, you know!
Spread Notes - USC really piled up the greenbacks last year with a tidy 8-3-1 ATS log that included a modest 4-2 spread mark whenever laying twin-figure prices. Overall, the Men of Troy are 6-0-1 spreadwise in their last seven games heading into this clash but USC is just 7-11-1 vig-wise at home the past three years. Hawaii is coming off a rotten 4-9 ATS campaign that included a season-ending three-game spread losing skid. The Warriors have covered eight of their last 13 games when in an underdog role.
Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers are ready to rock-n-roll this Football Season with Saturday's menu featuring Clemson vs. Auburn (also in said Georgia Dome), Sunday's couple of gridiron goodies including Kentucky at Louisville and than it's all capped off on Labor Day evening with an ACC showdown between Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech -we can't wait, can you? Plus, Jim Hurley and his crew will stay on top of things in this final week of NFL Preseason action and than taking you right though a sure-to-be-thrilling NFL 2012 campaign. Make sure to check in with us on Game Days either right here online or else at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 for all the NCAA & NFL Winners and get all the daily and nightly Major-League Baseball winners too. Let's pile up the profits together from here right thru Super Bowl XLVII.
NOTE: There's more Labor Day Weekend College Football action as we'll post Sunday's showdowns - that's Kentucky at Louisville and SMU at Baylor - in the next edition of Jim Sez plus we'll preview the Monday night tilt between Georgia Tech at Virginia Tech in our Sunday Sez ... so don't miss out!