Posted 08/30/2008 at 08:58 AM
8:50 a.m. Eastern: Good morning, ladies and gents. Thursday and Friday offered us a couple of teaser games, but we've got a real slate of matchups to sort through today. I'll check in on and off from now until I head downtown to take in tonight's colossal clash between Alabama and Clemson.
Speaking of 'Bama-Clemson, I might add a play on this game in the next couple of hours. As of right now, I have three selections loaded up for the noon games. I've started the season 2-0 with easy winners on South Carolina (34-0 win as a 14-point 'chalk') and Rice (56-20 win as a 3 1/2-point favorite).
9:00 a.m.: Maybe Vandy isn't going to be quite as down as I anticipated? The Commodores cruised to an easy 34-13 win at Miami (OH.) on Thursday as 3 1/2-point underdogs, hooking up money-line backers with a plus 140 payout (risk $100 to win $140). Chris Nickson looked good, rushing for a career-high 166 yards. Remember, Nickson was outstanding in 2006 before injuries led to his loss in confidence (and eventually his starting job) early in 2007. We know the 'Dores have an excellent secondary and a solid coach in Bobby Johnson. If Nickson can play like a stud this year, gamblers holding an 'over' three wins ticket for Vandy are loving life. The 'Dores play host to South Carolina this Thursday. I'll guess that the opening number will be the Gamecocks as seven-point favorites.
--Remember, the LSU-App St. game has been moved to an 11:00 a.m. kick-off due to the expected evacuation of the region with Hurricane Gustav bearing down on the Gulf Coast. The game was originally going to be a 5:00 p.m. kick on ESPN. Now the Tigers and Mountaineers will play on both ESPN Classic and ESPN360.
--On a 1-10 scale, ESPN's Erin Andrews is an ELEVEN! Memo to EA: I'm also a GATOR and also live in Atlanta AND I'm damn good looking and single.
--I went ahead and pulled the trigger on a 'Bama-Clemson play -- it's guaranteed!
--How good did Rice QB Chase Clement and WR Jarett Dillard look last night in a 56-27 win over SMU? The 83 combined points sailed 'over' the 70-point total and I'm still kicking myself for not playing the 'over' in addition to the Owls. As for SMU fans, don't fret. June Jones' first game at Hawaii was a 62-7 home loss to USC. That Hawaii team went on to go 9-4. The Mustangs are in good hands with Jones.
--I still say Utah wins outright at The Big House today, but for some reason I'm not backing the Utes.
--Back shortly, as I need to put the finishing touches on my Rutgers-Fresno St. preview. Speaking of RU-FSU, I have a play on this game already loaded.
10:00 a.m.: To open ESPN's Game Day, Chris Fowler said that "they're saying this is the toughest ticket in the history of Atlanta sports with some going for $1,600 last night." I'm not confirming or denying that suggestion, but I will say that I got mine for FREE (that's me!) last night. And that's a big thank you (and rear smack) for the lovely Lisa Caldwell, who will enjoy many cocktails tonight on my dime.
--Five Players on the Hot Seat today:
1-Juice Williams (Illinois)
2-Julio Jones (Alabama)
3-Javon Ringer (Michigan State)
4-Sean Glennon (Va. Tech)
5-Jevan Snead (Ole Miss)
--I say Snead, Jones and Ringer respond with huge games. I'm not so sure about Williams and Glennon.
--If I hear another analyst or handicapper mention Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor in the same sentence as Tim Tebow again, I'm going to puke.
12:20ish: I've got three games going early -- Northwestern, East Carolina and the Florida-Hawaii 'over.' Syracuse has jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the Wildcats, while the Pirates and Hokies remain scoreless. Meanwhile, LSU has taken a commanding 24-0 lead over App St. in the second quarter. Wisconsin is out to a 14-0 lead over Akron midway through the first quarter, while Pitt has a 7-0 lead over Bowling Green.
12:40: As the first quarter comes to an end in Charlotte with the game scoreless, you sense that East Carolina has the momentum. Va. Tech twice advanced into the red zone only to come up empty on both trips. Glennon threw an interception on the first possession, and then the Pirates stuffed the Hokies on a fourth-and-goal attempt. Now the Pirates have put together a few first downs and are beyond mid-field.
The Gators have taken the field at The Swamp. You'll have to excuse me as I go into the living room to catch a good 15-20 minutes worth on hi-def.
1:15ish: Hawaii has been impressive early, keeping Florida's defense off balance with a variety of runs, passes and a well-designed delayed screen. The Warriors have controlled time of possession and done a good job of playing keep-away from Tim Tebow and Co. The first quarter finished scoreless, but now the Gators are knocking on the door. Tebow just had an amazing highlight-reel type of run and the play is being reviewed to determine whether or not it's a touchdown. It wasn't but Brandon James scored on a one-yard plunge the following play to get the Gators on the board.
Va. Tech jumped out to a 14-0 lead over East Carolina, but the Pirates have cut the deficit to 14-7 late in the second quarter. Northwestern has a 9-3 advantage over Syracuse as that game nears intermission.
1:45ish: The Gators now have a 21-0 lead after Brandon James had a long punt return for a TD. UF closed as a 35-point 'chalk' at most books. Both ESPN's noon games are back underway, while LSU has a 34-10 lead late against App St.
Oh man, on the first play of the third quarter, the 'Cuse forces a fumble and recovers inside NW's 10 for a first-and-goal opportunity. The Orange score a few plays later to take a 10-9 lead.
The Gators are now up 28-0 after a Chris Rainey touchdown. Meanwhile, East Carolina's kicking game is absolutely killing 'em. After scoring to make it 14-13, the Hokies block the PAT and take it back for two points. The three-point swing makes it 16-13 Va. Tech instead of 14-14. In the first half, ECU's kicker missed a 35-yarder (or close to it) wide right by about 25 yards. Jeez!The Zips are giving Wisconsin all it wants, cutting the deficit to 17-10 in the third quarter.
2:25ish: Northwestern just cashed in a pick-six to get ahead of the number (23-10 as 12-point favorite) for the first time all day late in the third quarter. Va. Tech, which closed at 9 1/2 at most spots (but I have ECU +10), just scored but missed the PAT, leaving the Hokies ahead 22-13 (but ECU backers most likely in front). Crazy game.
Bowling Green has cut into Pitt's lead, pulling to within 17-14 midway through the third. Wisconsin now leads Akron 31-10 as a 27-point 'chalk,' so that's a nail-biter for our purposes. ECU on the move with 12:00 left.
Just saw the DUMBEST play of the day by far: With the 'Cuse facing 3rd and 22, QB Andrew Robinson was scrambling out of bounds for about a 2-3 yard gain and a given punt. What does NW do? One of its ignorant DBs hits Robinson 2-3 yards out of bounds for a 15-yard penalty and FD for 'Cuse. Unreal! And here's the thing: it's not as if he gave the QB a good pop. It was a sissy shove for no reason. If Syracuse scores on this drive and covers, that scrub will be on the hook for the ATS defeat.
Wisconsin is now ahead of the number for the first time with a 38-10 lead. The Gators go up 35-0 on an eye-opening run by freshman RB Jeff Demps, who I say is the fastest player in America (and dare anyone to question me on that!). The public is apparently hammering the books with 'Bama bets because Clemson is now down to four at most spots about 5.5 hours before kick-off. Turns out, the 'Cuse did eventually punt on that drive, so Northwestern takes over on its own 20 with just more than 12:00 left. A long TD drive should put Wildcat backers (like myself) in good shape. We'll see what happens...
Allright, folks. Going to check out and head downtown for the Clemson-Alabama experience here shortly. Good luck with your bets today (and tomorrow, and the next day). Football season is here!!!