Thursday Pre-Season Notes and A Look at the Big Ten

Okay, so you might have been a bit surprised to discover that 14 teams - or nearly 44 percent of the National Football League - scored 25-or-more points in their Preseason Week 1 tilts last weekend and so it comes as no great surprise that totals prices have gone up, up and away here this week's Preseason action:

Heck, last week the highest total that was posted for a game was 38 points (see both Arizona's 17-13 win against the Los Angeles Chargers and Kansas City's 38-17 triumph against the Cincinnati Bengals) and this week all but one game have a totals price higher than 38 points ... only Thursday's Philadelphia at Jacksonville affair has a price of 35.5 points while there are 14 games that sport totals numbers of 40-or-more points.

No doubt we saw more than usual passing for an NFL Preseason Week 1 but we also witnessed lots of second- and third-stringers getting ample opportunity to chuck it and so there were a number of big-yardage touchdown strikes when all was said and done.

Obviously, we're gonna see more and more starters at all the positions garnering more playing time here in NFL Preseason Week 2 but - keep this in mind - there will be a batch of superstar or "name" players not even suiting up.

Here's some NFL Preseason Week 2 What-to-Watch items for Thursday's games ...

PHILADELPHIA (0-1) at JACKSONVILLE (0-1) - 7 p.m. ET
Don't expect one-time Eagles' Super Bowl hero QB Nick Foles getting into action here for his new Jaguars team: J'ville head coach Doug Marrone claims he is gonna sit a slew of starters here and so that means more rookie QB Gardner Minshew (7-of-14 for 46 yards passing while getting ravaged in last week's 29-0 loss in Baltimore) and more Tanner Lee (two sacks and a "pick six" against the Ravens). Ugh! On the flip side, the Eagles will sit RT Lane Johnson (knee) and remember Philly lost backup QB Nate Sudfeld (broken wrist / out six weeks) in last week's 27-10 home loss versus Tennessee. Journeyman Cody Kessler will back up Carson Wentz for the Birds.

NEW YORK JETS (0-1) at ATLANTA (0-2) - 7:30 p.m. ET
Funny how little the Falcons care about preseason results under head coach Dan Quinn - the NFC South squads enters this home clash against the J-E-T-S having lost their last 10 consecutive exhibition affairs and yet Atlanta's still a 1.5-point betting favorite here ... hmmm. Expect Falcs' veteran QB Matt Ryan to suit up here after he sat in the team's first two summertime tilts (wet field in Miami last Thursday night kept 'em sidelined) while NYJ's first-year head coach Adam Gase wants to get second-year QB Sam Darnold more reps after he looked sharp while completing 4-of-5 passes for 68 yards and a short TD fling to new WR Jamison Crowder in last week's storm-interrupted 31-22 loss to the New York Giants. Big story with the Jets is the barrage of injuries - especially to the secondary - as depth is not a strength for gang green.

OAKLAND (1-0) at ARIZONA (1-0) - 8 p.m. ET
The Cardinals have been taking some money here - Arizona opened as a 3-point favorite and it went as high as 4.5 points before settling at - 4 at last check - and everyone's getting a little silly because Heisman Trophy-winning QB Kyler Murray really completed all six of his passes in last week's win / cover against the Chargers (technically, Murray went 6-for-7 passing for 44 yards but a receiver that went out of bounds and came back into the field of play to make a catch and that's an INC pass). Murray figures to get in at least two offensive series here and would love to see how he operates out of the pocket. Meanwhile, the soap opera that is Oakland WR Antonio Brown - enough already! - rolls on here in prime time but don't expect the former Pittsburgh Steelers' star to play a single down but do keep an eye peeled for wide-out J.J. Nelson who made a great 38-yard reception in last week's 14-3 win /cover against the Los Angeles Rams.

 

COLLEGE FOOTBALL CONFERENCE REPORTS - THE BIG 10
Gonna spend the next couple of weeks getting you quick-hitter comments from 'round the NCAA Football universe and our conference-by-conference updates continue here with the Big 10:

THE CONTENDERS - Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State all hail from the Big 10 East and all have legit shots at getting into the playoffs this year but watch out for Wisconsin (Big 10 West) as the Badgers play only two tough road games ... in Columbus and at Nebraska.

THE DARK HORSE - Wisconsin. Most preseason publications believe the Badgers are a borderline Top 25 team at best but Paul Chryst's club has a potential 2,000-yard rusher in RB Jonathan Taylor (2,194 yards rushing and 16 TDs last year along with a 7.1 yards-per-pop average) plus five straight home games after a season-opening tilt at South Florida will allow this young O-line to grow.

BEST PLAYER - Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue. Here's the single-best playmaker in the Big 10 and one of the top five playmakers in the whole country as last year as a frosh Moore caught 114 passes for 1,258 yards and 12 TDs. Memo to Boilers' head coach Jeff Brohm: Get Moore the ball 15-to-20 times a game!

CIRCLE THE DATE - Nov. 16, Michigan State at Michigan. Odds are the host Wolverines need the "W" here to stay in the Big 10 Championship Game hunt and so the maize-and-blue can't be thinking Ohio State (Nov. 30th) just yet.