Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 9:58 AM
You mean ... it's over?
The 2011 College Football Regular Season is over this weekend for all intents and purposes (see Army-Navy game next Saturday afternoon in Landover) but in case you lost count there will be a record 36 Bowl Games beginning on Saturday, Dec. 17th and running through the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans on Monday, Jan. 9th, 2012.
So, don't you despair College Football fans.
Meanwhile, if this here-and-now regular season is gonna go out with a bang than why not Six (6) Conference Championship Games plus some great rivalry game matchups to put an exclamation point on things and we'll get to all the action plus lots of NFL Week 13 goodies in just a moment but first this key reminder:
Extra, extra: Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to win big-time in NFL Week 13 action beginning with Thursday's clash between Philadelphia at Seattle and don't forget all the College Football & Basketball action all this week/weekend long including those aforementioned College Football Conference Championship Games from Detroit, Eugene, Houston, Atlanta, Charlotte and Indianapolis. Hey, get 'em while we're hot! Make sure you get all the Football and Basketball winners at our toll-free # of 1-800-323-4453 or else go online right here as America's #1 Handicapper keeps up the winning beat!
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND PREVIEWS
NOTE: All rankings below reflect the current BCS Standings:
On Friday, it's ...
MID-AMERICAN CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP - Ford Field - Detroit, MI
NORTHERN ILLINOIS (9-3, 7-1 MAC) vs. OHIO (9-3, 6-2 MAC) - 7 p.m. ET, espn2
Can a bad loss in the prior year's conference championship game be a major motivation this time around? No doubt that's what Northern Illinois is banking on here after getting beat 26-21 as 19-point betting favorites versus Miami (Ohio) last season.
The Huskies - starring dual-threat QB Chandler Harnish (2,692 yards passing and 1,351 yards rushing with 34 combined TDs) -- want to force the tempo of this tilt while Ohio truly needs a special game from talented WR LaVon Brazill (56 catches for 918 yards and 10 TDs) and the Bobcats' game plan here should include a few "go routes" where Brazill simply tries to outrun the NIU secondary.
First team to 40 points wins?
Spread Notes - Northern Illinois is 11-5-1 ATS (against the spread) versus fellow Mid-American Conference foes while dating back to the start of last year while Ohio is 16-7-1 spreadwise as an underdog side the past three-plus seasons.
PAC-12 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Autzen Stadium - Eugene, OR
UCLA (6-6, 5-4 Pac-12) at #9 OREGON (10-2, 8-1 Pac-12) - 8 p.m. ET, Fox
Think about it for a second: A win here gets the 31 ½-point favored Oregon Ducks back into the Rose Bowl and so that would make it two bowl trips to Pasadena and a BCS Championship Game all within a mere three-year span for head coach Chip Kelly and Company ... not bad at all!
Oregon's ground game - ranked fifth nationally at 291 yards a game - has become nearly impossible to slow down in recent weeks but keep an eye here on RB LaMichael James (1,427 yards rushing and 14 TDs) who these days is playing with a pair of banged-up elbows. James might be a decoy for a slew of plays here but QB Darron Thomas knows all about dissecting the Bruins as last year he threw for 308 yards and 3 TDs in a 60-13 home romp against UCLA.
It's bye-bye time after this tilt for Bruins' boss-man Rick Neuheisel (21-28 in four years on this job) and how about the fact that this "offensive genius" only watched his offense score 36 TDs this 2011 campaign - that's the fourth-worst in Pac-12 play.
Maybe TBs Johnathan Franklin and Derrick Coleman (a combined 1,555 yards rushing) can put some type of scare into the Ducks here ... but don't necessarily count on it!
The winner gets the Michigan State vs. Wisconsin winner on Jan. 2nd.
Spread Notes - Oregon is 26-16 ATS overall as hosts since the start of the 2005 season while UCLA is 9-18 ATS as point-grabbing sides the past two-plus seasons.
On Saturday, it's ...
CONFERENCE USA CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Robertson Stadium - Houston, TX
#24 SOUTHERN MISS (10-2, 6-2 C-USA) at #6 HOUSTON (12-0, 8-0 C-USA) - 12 p.m. ET, espn2
It's a given that the Houston Cougars - with a win here - will get a berth in one of the select BCS bowls come January and so you do have to wonder if the "pressure" of making it to the Sugar Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl will get to Kevin Sumlin's club here?
Let's just say that Houston hasn't responded negatively in recent weeks to any sort of "pressure" of staying unbeaten as last week's 48-16 efficient win against 3-point home dog Tulsa featured more from QB Case Keenum's goody bag (see 457 passing yards and 5 TDs) and now the NCAA's all-time leader in passing yards, TD passes and total offense will look to connect with speedy WR Patrick Edwards (second in the country with 1,496 yards) for some medium-range slant patterns that tore up Tulsa so badly the day after Thanksgiving.
Spread Notes - Houston has reeled off seven consecutive pointspread wins while heading into this Conference USA Championship Game and the UH Coogs are 10-1-1 ATS as double-digit betting favorites since the start of last year.
SEC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Georgia Dome - Atlanta, GA
#14 GEORGIA (10-2, 7-1 SEC) vs. #1 LSU (12-0, 8-0 SEC) - 4 p.m. ET, CBS
No doubt you've heard LSU head coach Les Miles - yes, our official Jim Sez National Coach of the Year winner this season - inform the media masses that his top-ranked team will indeed play hard here even though conventional wisdom tells folks that a Tigers loss here won't keep 'em out of the BCS Championship Game in New Orleans on the night of 1-9-12.
Miles' gang is striving for gridiron perfection - could it happen that LSU and the Green Bay Packers never lose a game between 'em this season? - and go ahead and find some team with a better mark considering the Bengals have beaten three teams that were either ranked #2 of #3 in the land at the time. A defense that ranks second nationally in both scoring defense (10.6 ppg) and total defense (284.4 ypg) will now try to stifle a Georgia offense that has averaged 39.5 ppg the past four weeks and no question the key here is knocking Dawgs QB Aaron Murray (2,698 yards passing with 32 TDs and 10 INTs) out of rhythm and so expect lots of off-the-corner blitzes and some "spy" tactics too.
If LSU's suddenly potent offense - one that's averaging 45 ppg ever since that epic 9-6 OT win at Alabama back on Nov. 5th - has its way than it'll be that RB-by-committee approach that will wear down Georgia's better-than-you-think defense. Throw in the fact LSU slinger Jordan Jefferson - now firmly entrenched in the starter's role - is coming on fast after throwing for 208 yards in last Friday's 41-17 hammer-job win against 12 ½-point dog Arkansas and you might see some deep balls to WR Reuben Randle (48 receptions and averaging 18.5 ypc).
Spread Notes - Georgia is 8-4 versus the vig overall this year but the Dawgs are 2-9 ATS as point-grabbers since the start of the 2009 season. LSU is 9-3 against the odds overall this season but the Bayou Bengals are just 9-8-1 ATS as twin-figure betting favorites the past two-plus seasons.
ACC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, NC
#20 CLEMSON (9-3, 6-2 ACC) vs. #5 VIRGINIA TECH (11-1, 7-1 ACC) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
No doubt that much will be made of the fact Clemson flattened than-host V-Tech 23-3 back on Oct. 1st and so the "R" word as in revenge will be uttered plenty of times this week - but shouldn't the real issue heading into this tilt be the fact Clemson's in a major free-fall right here and right now?
Head coach Dabo Swinney's club has dropped three of its last four SU (straight-up) and four in a row to Mr. Vig and last week's 34-13 loss at archrival South Carolina was particularly disturbing because the Tigers' offense looked lost - how about QB Tajh Boyd's stat line of 11-of-29 passing for 83 yards (a 2.9 yard passing average)?
Note that Virginia Tech sent a major message last week with its indomitable 38-0 whitewash of Virginia (so much for that Las Vegas line move of Tech favored by 4 or 4 ½ points after opening at -7) as the wobbly Cavaliers ground game rushed for 30 yards on 26 carries while Hokies RB David Wilson churned out 153 yards rushing and two TDs.
Our big question here is should a VT blowout win propel coach Frank Beamer's crew into the BCS Championship Game?
Some folks are shaking their heads "yes".
Spread Notes - Clemson staggers into this title tilt having failed to cover its last four games in a row following a glitzy 7-1 ATS start this year. Virginia Tech is just 4-8 versus the vig this year after going 10-3 ATS in 2010.
BIG 10 CHAMPIONSHIP GAME - Lucas Oil Stadium - Indianapolis, IN
#13 MICHIGAN STATE (10-2, 7-1 Big 10) vs. #15 WISCONSIN (10-2, 6-2 Big 10) - 8:15 p.m. ET, ABC
The Big 10's inaugural conference championship game doesn't have Michigan, Ohio State or Penn State in the mix - perhaps that knocks a little "name" luster off the deal here even though the winner here could wind up inside the top 10 at year's end and revenge-minded Wisconsin is also shooting to make it to a second straight Rose Bowl.
Hey, the Badgers mean business after getting beaten at the buzzer on that crazy Hail Mary pass (and subsequent elongated replay review) back on Oct. 22nd when "Sparty" copped a 37-31 win and so expect Wisky's meat-and-potatoes rushing attack to come full bore at State's defense here with Heisman Trophy hopeful RB Montee Ball (1,622 yards rushing with 29 ground scores) getting 35-or-so carries.
How's Michigan State's gonna pull the upset here (note the Spartans are a 9 ½-point pup at press time)?
Get veteran QB Kirk Cousins (290 yards passing and 3 TDs versus Wisconsin in that earlier meeting this year) to stay with a quick tempo. Note that Cousins has thrown for 10 TDs and only 1 INT during this current four-game M-State four-game winning streak.
Spread Notes - Wisconsin has covered 10 of its last 16 conference tilts dating back to the start of last year while Michigan State's covered three in a row while heading in here and the Spartans had a four-game ATS win streak earlier in this '11 campaign.