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Breaking Down the Odds: SEC and Big Ten Bowl Games 2

Posted on December 10, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Derrick Henry had a huge game earlier this season against Wisconsin. Can he have similar success against Michigan State?

Derrick Henry had a huge game earlier this season against Wisconsin. Can he have similar success against Michigan State?

The Big Ten and the SEC are about as close to rivals as two leagues can be. The bowl season always offers several high-profile matchups, mostly on New Year’s Day, where the conferences match up. They’re easily the leagues with the most television exposure, with the Big Ten Network being owned by Fox and the SEC Network owned by ESPN. But until last season, their rivalry was about as hard-fought as the battle between a hammer and the nail.

Over a four-year period, the SEC’s bowl record validated its reputation as the best conference in the country. The SEC has a 26-14 record while the Big Ten is at 14-21 in that same timeframe, due in large part to the consistent New Year’s Day beatdowns the SEC delivered.

But last season marked a change. The overall performances were close to even, with the SEC going 7-5 and the Big Ten clocking in at 6-5. In the head-to-head matchups, Wisconsin beat Auburn and most important was the high-profile victory of Ohio State over Alabama in the Sugar Bowl/College Football Playoff semi-final.

It wasn’t the whole story—Missouri also beat Minnesota and Tennessee coasted past Iowa. But the two biggest stories of last year’s college football postseason were Ohio State’s national title and the collapse of the SEC West. In addition to Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Mississippi State all laid an egg in their bowl matchups. The defeats were a big blow to SEC prestige and an offseason where Michigan’s hire of Jim Harbaugh was the most significant development added to the positive buzz moving around the Big Ten.

The SEC reclaimed some mojo in non-conference play this season when Alabama handled Wisconsin, but the real test begins now. Each conference has put ten teams in bowl games and they’ll play head-to-head in five of those, including another Playoff matchup when Alabama meets Michigan State in the Cotton Bowl.

I want to walk through some of the factors my staff and I at WinningEdge.com are looking at with each game, both the head-to-head conference matchups as well as ones they’ll play against other leagues. But before beginning, I want to remind everyone of an adage that many in football handicapping subscribe by—it’s that the pointspread matters less in the bowl season than any other time of year.

The reason is that underdogs often end up winning outright—disinterested favorites are common and Las Vegas can misfire in pricing teams from disparate parts of the country with few common opponents. I mostly agree with this line of thinking and believe the focus of football betting should be picking the outright winner. For those of you who are in bowl pools where you’re required to pick every game against the number, that’s a good thing to keep in mind.

But for those of you who wager these games individually, be careful not to oversimplify. The spread still matters, even if not as decisively as in the regular season and knowing how to pick your spots—how to narrow the card down to which games to bet and how many units to invest still have to be settled by the number. I’ll be constantly evaluating how these conferences and others match up throughout the bowl season before making final gameday decisions. Read the rest of this entry →

Is the SEC West Really College Football’s Stongest Division? 2

Posted on September 17, 2015 by Jim Hurley
Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers barely escaped an upset bid by Jacksonville State.

Gus Malzahn and the Auburn Tigers barely escaped an upset bid by Jacksonville State.

The SEC West is college football’s showcase division and it’s in the Saturday spotlight with two big games for us to watch. It starts in mid-afternoon with Auburn-LSU (3:30 PM ET, CBS) and then concludes with Ole Miss-Alabama in prime time (9:15 PM ET, ESPN). Here are some early thoughts about these four teams from a handicapping perspective, pertaining to both Saturday specifically and the long-term…

AUBURN: The scare the Tigers got against Jacksonville State on Saturday, needing overtime to pull out a 27-20 win as (-39) favorite has cost Auburn a lot of stock nationally. In fact, the Tigers have been overpriced lately anyway. What do I mean by lately? Like ever since they finished off the 2013 national championship game, a cover against Florida State.

Last season, Auburn was priced like a national championship contender and couldn’t meet that bar. The Tigers were 4-8 against the number and now they’ve started 0-2 ATS this season, even while winning both games outright.

I’m willing to give Gus Malzahn’s team a pass for the Jacksonville State near-disaster. It was right in between the season opener against Louisville in the Georgia Dome and the LSU game on Saturday, the proverbial “sandwich” spot. My concerns lie with what happened in the Louisville game itself.

Auburn jumped out to a 24-0 lead and then had to hold off a late Cardinal charge to hold on 31-24. Louisville is an extremely young team and the Tigers failed to cover the (-10) line. They had serious problems defending Louisville’s versatile quarterback Lamar Jackson, who ran for 106 yards. Auburn’s own quarterback, Jeremy Johnson, threw three interceptions.

That’s not a formula for winning games against SEC opponents that have quarterbacks who can move. However, before turning this into a pile-on-Auburn segment, we also have to point out the positives. Peyton Barber is running the football effectively, going for 115 yards in the Louisville game and again getting 100-plus as one of the few bright spots against Jacksonville State.

Auburn also played good pass defense against Louisville. Jackson was not able to get anything going in the air. That might not project out to very much against some SEC West opponents, but is relevant against LSU, which has significant problems throwing the ball that we’re about to touch on. Read the rest of this entry →

LSU Tigers Prepare To Make An Impact In The SEC 0

Posted on September 16, 2013 by Dean Hybl
Zach Mettenberger is off to a hot start in 2013.

Zach Mettenberger is off to a hot start in 2013.

The first weeks of the college football season have seen Alabama, Georgia, Texas A&M and South Carolina garner the spotlight in the highly competitive SEC. Now, after three straight non-conference games, the LSU Tigers are ready to jump into conference play and regain some of the limelight.

After opening the conference schedule at home on September 21st against the Auburn Tigers, they will have to break out the LSU luggage for back-to-back road games at Georgia and Mississippi State.

By the time LSU returns home to face Florida on October 12th it will be very clear whether Les Miles’ squad is a contender for the conference and national title.

If LSU is able to withstand their SEC challenges, a big reason is likely to be the play of senior quarterback Zach Mettenberger. After struggling at times a year ago, Mettenberger has been outstanding so far in 2013 in his first season playing under offensive coordinator Cam Cameron.

A former head coach at both the college and professional level, Cameron has helped Mettenberger blossom. Through his first three games, Mettenberger is completing 65.2% of his passes for 797 yards and nine touchdowns without throwing an interception. Read the rest of this entry →

College Classic Rewind: LSU Knocks Off Dawgs in SEC Slugfest 6

Posted on November 29, 2011 by A.J. Foss

On September 20, 2003, the #7 ranked Georgia Bulldogs traveled to Baton Rouge to take on the #11 LSU Tigers in an early SEC showdown.

The Bulldogs were the defending SEC champions as they ended a 20-year drought of not winning the SEC title, thanks to head coach Mark Richt, quarterback David Greene, and SEC player of the year, defensive end David Pollack.

Greene, Pollack, and several other key starters returned for the 2003 season and helped led Georgia to wins in their first three games of the season.

Even though they would be playing in one of the toughest environments in all of college football, the Dawgs were confident as they had won all nine games played in opponents’ home stadiums since Richt became the coach in 2001.

LSU also entered the game with a 3-0 record as they had won those three games by a combined score of 143-27.
The Tigers were led by head coach Nick Saban, who had LSU to a surprising SEC championship in 2001 and was in his fourth season in Baton Rouge.

LSU was looking to rebound in 2003 following a late-season collapse in 2002 in which the Tigers dropped five of their last six games to lose their grip on the SEC Western Division title and finish the season with an 8-5 record.

The main reason for that collapse was the loss of starting quarterback Matt Mauck, who broke his foot in the sixth game of the season and was lost for the rest of the season.

Mauck had become a folk hero in the eyes of LSU fans as he had come off the bench to lead the Tigers to a 31-20 upset over Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game.

Mauck returned to Baton Rouge for his senior season and was at the helm as the Tigers faced off with Georgia in what turned out to be a preview of that year’s SEC Championship Game.

Both teams traded punts until the Dawgs drove to the LSU 16-yard-line where they had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Billy Bennett to give Georgia a 3-0 lead with 6:20 left in the first quarter.

On the Tigers’ ensuing possession, Mauck was picked off by Georgia safety Sean Jones, to give the Dawgs the ball at the LSU 40-yard-line.

Two runs by running back Michael Cooper gained 22 yards and the Dawgs were in prime position to expand their lead as they had a 1st-and-10 at the Tigers’ 18-yard-line.

Following a one-yard-loss by Cooper, Greene scrambled ten yards and was poised to get the 1st down when he was hit by LSU defensive end Marcus Spears at the eight-yard-line, forcing a fumble which Spears recovered, ending the Bulldog scoring threat. Read the rest of this entry →

College Football: BCS Mess Has Us Right Back Where We Started 75

Posted on November 20, 2011 by Dean Hybl

After three crazy college football weeks LSU and Alabama are back on top, but can they stay there?

After three crazy weeks of college football upsets, looks like we are right back where we started the month when trying to determine which college football teams will play for the national title in January.

We began the month excitedly waiting for the matchup of the year between top-ranked LSU and second-ranked Alabama. The general consensus at the time was that they were unquestionably the two best teams in college football.

While the game did need overtime before LSU emerged victorious, few were willing to call the 9-6 defensive struggle a thriller. Granted, both teams had great defenses, but Alabama missed four field goals and neither team played with the offensive confidence you generally expect from a top-ranked team.

Except for a few folks from the SEC, most across the country were not interested in a potential rematch and glad that there were several undefeated teams, including Oklahoma State, Stanford and even Boise State still in-line to serve as LSU’s opponent in a national title game.

However, two of those teams took a tumble the very next week as Stanford was rocked by a suddenly resurgent Oregon (which had been unimpressive in an opening loss to LSU, but had quietly started playing like a national title contender again) and Boise State had its dream of finally making it to the title game snatched away by TCU.

This weekend was expected to be more like a place-holder weekend as most BCS contenders were prohibitive favorites and biding time for big games over the final two weeks of the season.

Instead, it suddenly became the weekend of the big upset. It started on Friday night when Iowa State shocked Oklahoma State in overtime to hand the Cowboys their first loss of the season. Then, just as quickly as they returned to the national conversation, Oregon was gone again as USC (anyone remember them) jumped out early and held on for a 38-35 victory. Read the rest of this entry →

College Classic Rewind: LSU Defeats ‘Bama in Inaugural “Saban Bowl” 55

Posted on November 01, 2011 by A.J. Foss

This Saturday, #1 LSU travels to Tuscaloosa to face off with #2 Alabama in the latest “Game of the Century”.

This showdown between the Tigers and the Crimson Tide is the latest chapter in a SEC rivalry where the intensity has risen since Nick Saban became the head coach at Alabama.

From 2000-2004, Saban was the head coach at LSU where he compiled a 48-16 record, won two SEC Championships, and the 2003 BCS National Championship in his five seasons at Baton Rouge.

Saban left LSU following the 2004 season to become the head coach of the NFL’s Miami Dolphins while Les Miles moved from Oklahoma State to become the LSU head coach.

During the next two years, Miles would lead LSU to back-to-back 11-win seasons while Saban would struggle in Miami as he compiled a 15-17 record during that same time.

Almost immediately after the 2006 NFL season ended, Saban left Miami to become the Tide’s head coach, which in the minds of LSU fans was seen as an act of betrayal since ‘Bama played in the same division as LSU, the SEC West.

So when ‘Bama hosted LSU on the first Saturday in November 2007, it was an emotionally-charged game for the Tigers as the fan base demanded a victory over Saban and the Tide.

Alabama entered the game as the #17 team with a 6-2 record, and were 4-1 in the SEC, tying them with #3 LSU who were 7-1 but also had a 4-1 SEC record. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Earl Morrall: The Perfect Backup
      November 16, 2019 | 10:46 am
      Earl Morrall

      In a career that started in 1956 and ended in 1976, the Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month was never really a leading man, but he seemed to be part of the supporting cast for many huge moments in NFL history.

      The second overall pick in the 1956 NFL Draft out of Michigan State, Earl Morrall joined a San Francisco 49ers team that already included the famous “Million Dollar Backfield” of Y.A. Tittle, Hugh McElhenny, Joe Perry and John Henry Johnson.

      Morrall started four games during his rookie season, but just before the start of the 1957 season was traded along with guard Mike Sandusky to the Pittsburgh Steelers in exchange for linebacker Marv Matuszak and two first-round draft picks.

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