College Football Kickoff Weekend

And you thought the football-filled Labor Day weekend would never get here!

Well, the fact of the matter is the College Football kids kicked things off a gazillion miles away in Australia last weekend when California (- 21.5) failed to cover in its 51-31 SU (straight-up) win against Hawaii but the really action-packed gridiron card swings into high gear from Thursday-thru-Monday with 40 on-the-board games for your "entertainment" and viewing pleasure.

We'll have plenty to say all this week about some of the high-quality, marquee matchups set for Saturday-Sunday-Monday including #3 Oklahoma at #15 Houston, #5 LSU at Wisconsin (at historic Lambeau Field) and #1 Alabama vs. #20 USC (at Arlington) - all of them are on Saturday with #10 Notre Dame at Texas on Sunday and #4 Florida State vs. #11 Ole Miss (from Orlando) on Labor Day evening -- but let's now take a quickie peek at a couple of Thursday's games ...

On Thursday night, it's ...

APPALACHIAN STATE at #9 TENNESSEE 7:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Better believe that the here-and-now Tennessee Volunteers are the most hyped Knoxville edition in more than 25 years but can QB Joshua Dobbs (2,291 yards passing and 671 yards rushing last year) deliver 'em an SEC East crown ... and maybe more? Note the three-TD underdogs from Appy State won 11 games a year ago and Mountaineers' QB Taylor Lamb (2,387 yards passing with 31 TDs in 2015) can really zing it!
Spread Notes - Tennessee's just 9-15 ATS (against the spread) at home the past four years while Appalachian State has covered seven of its last 10 away games.

SOUTH CAROLINA at VANDERBILT - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, we know you've noticed the Las Vegas pointspread on this game has been climbing as Vandy opened a 2.5-point choice and now it's up to 4.5 points but may we remind y'all that the Commodores have been betting favorites only 35 times in all the past 10 years? If Vanderbilt wishes to dunk the South Carolina debut of head coach Will Muschamp, than TB Ralph Webb (1,152 yards rushing last season) must be a chain-mover for the 'Dores.
Spread Notes - South Carolina is just 10-17 vig-wise in SEC games while dating back to late in the 2012 campaign. Vanderbilt enters this tilt having covered four of its last five conference home games.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL - THE ODDS TO WIN IT ALL

TEAMODDSCOMMENT
Alabama  11-2 The Tide better not get too cute at QB
Clemson  15-2  QB Watson is best big-game guy in USA
Ohio St.   15-2  Must admit we think 'Eyes are overrated
Florida St.  8-1  Love to see RB Cook get 30 touches per
LSU9-1  All comes down to Nov. 5th vs. 'Bama
Michigan   12-1 Put-up or shut-up time for Harbaugh
Oklahoma  12-1 The title in 2000 is a long time ago, eh?
Tennessee  15-1Lost 4 games by combined 17 pts in '15
Notre Dame 22-1Off-field junk could signal Kelly's end
Iowa30-1Sked could mean a Big 10 West win
USC30-1Maybe Pac-12's best raw talent is here
Georgia35-1New boss Smart challenged right away
Stanford35-1RB McCaffrey getting lots of face time
TCU40-1They already built a Patterson statue
Washington40-1Everyone says the Dawgs will bark big
Florida45-1 Gator speed/defense something else
Ole Miss45-1Can NCAA bad boys beat 'Bama again?
Oregon45-1HC Helfrich may not be the answer
Houston50-1 QB Ward country's most fun player
Texas50-1 Is it Jan. bowl or bust for HC Strong?

Okay, so in case you're wondering here are some other "notable" teams and their odds to win it all this season:

Michigan State and Nebraska are each 55-to-1; UCLA is 65-to-1, Baylor is 70-to-1 and Wisconsin is 100-to-1.

For you long-shot players, whatcha think about Boise State at 125-to-1 or maybe Utah at 150-to-1? Hmmm.

 

THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL SEASON IS HERE - AND THERE'S PREVIEWS, PREDICTIONS & MORE

Don't know if you agree with some of the TV talking heads on ESPN, Fox, etc. that have been saying it's quite likely that a two-loss team could find its way into this year's four-team College Football Playoff setup ... yes, we know what these folks believe and that's this could be an uber-competitive season in which even some powerhouse teams lose twice and still have a CFP shot.

But hold your horses!

The fact of the matter is this College Football Kickoff weekend from here through Labor Day evening may be the most important single weekend this season ... just imagine if some combination of the likes of #1 Alabama, #2 Clemson, #3 Oklahoma, #4 Florida State, #5 LSU and/or #10 Notre Dame lose - hey, they are all playing high-profile opponents, as you know! - and that would mean virtually no "wiggle room" for any of the teams named above the rest of the way.

Note that the entire Associated Press Top 25 is in action this holiday weekend and we'll touch on some key previews shortly but let's roll out some fearless predictions when it comes to SU (straight-up) and ATS (against the spread) goodies:

  • We see the likes of Alabama, Ohio State and Tennessee all being "overpriced" for much of this 2016 season (especially early on) meaning that all of their preseason hype adds up to laying more points than should be. Fearless forecast is that this combo - the Crimson Tide, Buckeyes and Volunteers - will wind up with a losing pointspread record this year ...
  • It's usually been sound handicapping methodology to expect bounce-back season from teams/coaches that underachieved the year before and so keep a close eye (as we will!) on the likes of Georgia Tech, Arizona State and Auburn. The gut feel right now is that this trio of teams will bang out a slew of spread winners (and we'll keep you updated along the way) ...
  • Finally, everyone loves to kick off the College Football season with Heisman Trophy predictions and we believe someone out there is gonna roar past folks such as Clemson QB Deshaun Watson, Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey and LSU back Leonard Fournette - all of whom we expect will enjoy solid seasons - but we'll grab Florida State RB Dalvin Cook to snag this year's bronze statue when all's said and done. So there!

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL WEEKEND PREVIEWS

Here's some goodies to sink your teeth into and there's more previews in tomorrow's Jim Sez too!

On Friday night, it's ...

KANSAS STATE at #8 STANFORD - 9 p.m. ET, Fox 1
The Cardinal - Pac-12 champs in three of the past four years - would like this to be aforementioned RB McCaffrey's "coming-out party" for this 2016 season but there will be plenty of eyes on new QB Ryan Burns (a redshirt junior) too. Still, it's McCaffrey's stage after he busted Barry Sanders' 27-year-old NCAA all-purpose yardage record last year by rushing/passing/receiving/returning his way to a whopping 3,864 yards.
Spread Notes - Stanford is 42-24-1 ATS under sixth-year head coach David Shaw and that includes a snazzy 6-2 ATS mark last year when in the role of double-digit betting favorite.


On Saturday afternoon, it's ...

#3 OKLAHOMA vs. #15 HOUSTON (at NRG Stadium in Houston) -- noon ET, ABC
The price tag's been soaring up in this tilt as the OU Sooners opened as a 10-point betting fav and it's climbed to 11.5 or even 12 points in some wagering locals - and lots of folks are betting that Bob Stoops' crew gets back to the playoffs after last year's ugly 37-17 semifinal round loss to Clemson. Hey, if this Oklahoma defense can't get a grip on Houston QB Greg Ward, Jr. (2,828 yards passing with 1,108 yards rushing last year) than this could be a whole lot closer than the "experts" think, eh?
Spread Notes - Oklahoma cashed 8-of-12 plays as chalk sides last year while Houston is a nifty 25-11-1 ATS overall the past three years.


#5 LSU vs. WISCONSIN (at Lambeau Field) - 3:30 p.m. ET, CBS
Thought you might like to know that the LSU Tigers - despite all the grief head coach Les Miles seemingly gets - are an electric 11-6-1 versus the vig as betting favorites since the start of the 2014 season and for the Bayou Bengals to cover this haughty 10-point price at the home of the Green Bay Packers, both RB Fournette (1,953 yards rushing with 2 TDs last year) and under-the-microscope QB Brandon Harris must not turn the ball over in red zone situations. No doubt another story line here is that new LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda served as Wisky's DC the past three years - is that as big an advantage as we might think?
Spread Notes - Truth is LSU is just 7-14-1 ATS away the past four years while the Badgers are a solid 8-5 spreadwise whenever playing non-Big 10 foes the past three years.

 

THE NFL REPORT

Maybe Minnesota Vikings' QB Teddy Bridgewater isn't the first slinger you think about when ranking your NFL top 10 passers but the fact of the matter is this NFC North crew really couldn't afford to lose him to a season-ending (career-ending?) knee injury - and the Vikes can't afford to leave the upcoming 2016 campaign to the likes of backups Shaun Hill nor Joel Stave even if some folks have "come to their defense" and let everyone know they're capable quarterbacks.

No, the Vikings have to shake the tree of NFL quarterbacks and hope/pray someone good falls into their lap in time for this season that promised to be a good one - heck, just last week we were busy telling friends we saw Super Bowl 51 pitting Minnesota vs. Cincinnati and now we're looking to re-think that one (how about a Carolina vs. Cincinnati S-Bowl instead, okay?).

Best guess-estimate is that the Vikes will wind up with one of the following by the time Week 1 rolls around with a season-opening road tilt in Tennessee:

Denver's soon-to-be cut Mark Sanchez, Jacksonville's Chad Henne, former Vike/current San Fran backup Christian Ponder or Kansas City's Nick Foles could be the Minny signal-caller before you know it - we know none of the above excites you - or Minnesota could take its chances with, hmmm, San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick who would be packing a lot of baggage to the Twin Cities.

Instead, we say Minny should package some premium draft picks and send 'em to Tampa Bay for 6-foot-7 Mike Glennon ... and then live with the '16 results.