Saturday, December 17, 2011

Bowl Week One – December 17th – December 28th Games

Bowl season is here!  It now spans more than three weeks from now until January 9th as the NCAA allows more bowls…it’s almost like little league – everybody gets to participate as long as you win half your games.  This also creates some pretty crappy bowl matchups, which we will see a lot of starting out in the week one games.  If you didn’t catch my bowl game rules from last year, here they are again.

My Bowl Rules

There are always a few things that I take into consideration when analyzing these bowl games.  These sometimes make bowl games completely different than if the same two teams met in the regular season.  First, there is such a long layoff between regular season and bowl games, it can kill momentum a hot team has had over the last few weeks of the regular season. Second, as coaches leave or get fired, it affects the whole team, so I always take into consideration who has a coach leaving.  Historically, it has a negative effect on the team.  Finally, I always consider the teams who don’t want to be there.  Sometimes this is because they had higher expectations than the bowl they ended up in (think Oklahoma and Boise State this year).  Other times it is because some juniors and seniors already have one foot in the NFL draft and don’t want to get hurt or play hard in the bowl game.

The regular season was good to the blog.  “If I Were a Bettin’ Man…” portion of the blog went 18-10 record for the season against the spread.  SEC picks went 78-14 straight up this year.  National games went 68-41.  I am making a straight up pick and a pick against the spread for EVERY bowl game.  I will be happy with hitting 50% because of how unpredictable bowl season is.

Now on to the games… 

Saturday, the 17th:
1:00 PM – New Mexico Bowl: Temple vs. Wyoming (+7) (ESPN) – Not necessarily a stellar start to the bowl season here, but I do see the first upset of the bowl season here.  Wyoming’s strength of schedule is #88, and Temple’s is #121.  Temple has not really defeated any decent teams with a winning record this year.  Wyoming’ Coach Christensen signed a five-year extension with the team yesterday after he was rumored for other jobs.  This should give his team a lift in this one.  I’ll take his coaching over Temple’s Steve Addazio any day.  Cowboys 27-23.    
4:30 PM – Potato Bowl (I am not kidding): Ohio vs. Utah State (-1) (ESPN) – Every time I go with Coach Solich, he lets me down.  I remember Utah State giving Auburn all they wanted at the beginning of the year.  That’s all I need to know.  Utah State 24-21. 
8:00 – New Orleans Bowl: San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (Over 59 Total Points) (ESPN) – San Diego State has been a disappointment to me this year.  I liked their QB Lindley and RB Hillman.  While they have not disappointed for the most part, they have not been able to put everything together.  Lafayette is playing in its first bowl game ever, and the game is not far from their campus.  They will have the home field big time.  I expect this one to be really high-scoring.  I think San Diego State wins out finally, but it will be close.  Aztecs 38-37.   
Tuesday, the 20th: 7:00 – St. Petersburg Bowl: Florida International vs. Marshall (+4) (ESPN) – Both of these teams started the year off with a bang but have progressively gotten worse as the season went on.  Marshall beat Southern Miss and Louisville early in the season but barely beat miserable Memphis and lost big to any decent CUSA opponents.  FIU beat the likes of Louisville and Central Florida early on and were even talking about an undefeated season after those wins.  Four losses later (3 in the Sun Belt), they are in this bowl game.  Two common opponents here: Louisville and Central Florida.  FIU is 2-0 and Marshall is 1-1.  However, both games have been pretty comparable scores.  These teams are pretty even on paper except for strength of schedule.  FIU had the #128 schedule in the nation (that means even some D1-AA schedules were tougher) and Marshall had #58.  I think that makes a difference in this game.  Neither defense is great; it could be a high-scoring affair.  Thundering Herd 31-28.    
Wednesday, the 21st: 7:00 – Poinsettia Bowl: TCU vs. Louisiana Tech (+10) (ESPN) – TCU has been on a roll including an upset victory over Boise State on the blue turf.  They have won seven in a row.  Louisiana Tech has been sneaky good this year.  They have also won seven in a row.  Three of Tech’s losses have been to Southern Miss, Houston and Mississippi State by a combined 9 points.  TCU barely missed being an automatic BCS qualifier and now they have to play in a bowl game before Christmas.  Some reward huh?  I think they will not be too excited to be here, while La Tech will be ready to go.  I’ll still take TCU to win straight up, but I like La Tech with the points.  TCU 30-27.
Thursday, the 22nd: 7:00 – Las Vegas Bowl: Arizona State vs. Boise State (-14 & Over 66 Total Points)  (ESPN) – If you would have told me after the first month of the season that these two teams would be playing in a bowl game at the end of the season, I would have bet you it would have been in a BCS bowl.  Arizona State started a slide in mid-October that eventually cost their coach his job,  The Sun Devils are definitely capable of playing with Boise State but without a coach and playing in Las Vegas, how much are they really worried about a football game?  Boise is very consistent although they had a stumble against TCU this year that ultimately cost them a title game shot.  Give me Boise and the over in this one as Kellen Moore finally plays his last college football game.  Boise State 48-30.
Saturday, the 24th: 7:00 – Hawaii Bowl: Nevada vs. Southern Mississippi (-6) (ESPN) – Southern Miss has a stout defense that was showcased in the CUSA Championship Game when they shut down Case Keenum and the Houston Cougars.  Nevada is the small conference version of the Georgia Bulldogs this year – a fraud.  They are 0-4 against teams with a winning record and 7-1 versus teams with a losing record.  USM’s Larry Fedora has decided to take the North Carolina job, which could affect the Golden Eagles some, but he has decided to stay with USM to coach the bowl game.  However, Southern Miss is just better and I’ll take them big in this one.  USM 35-14.
Monday, the 26th: 4:00 – Independence Bowl: Missouri (-5) vs. North Carolina (ESPN2) – The Tar Heels were below .500 in the mediocre ACC this year.  They have been very inconsistent.  I’m sure part of that is their coaching situation affecting them on the field.  They hired Larry Fedora for next year, but they have to get through this bowl game first.  Everett Withers, UNC’s interim head coach all year, interviewed for the full-time job and obviously didn’t get it, but he will stay on to coach the bowl.  This is a recipe for disaster for the Tar Heels – a disappointed interim coach who feels like he got the shaft from the school he is coaching in a bowl game.  Mizzou picks up a win in their last game before joining the SEC.  Mizzou 38-17.
Tuesday, the 27th:
3:30 – Little Caesars Bowl (Hot n Ready): Western Michigan vs. Purdue (Under 60 Total Points) (ESPN) – Wow, is this really a bowl game?  Find something else today.  Give me the under 60 total because only one Purdue game all year has went over this number, and I think Purdue will win straight up.  If Purdue wins, this one will not go over 60.  Boilermakers 24-23.
7:00 – Belk Bowl: Louisville vs. NC State (Under 44 Total Points) (ESPN) – Two of the hottest teams (from very average conferences) in the nation.  Louisville has won 5 out of 6 and NC State has won 5 out of 7.  These teams have a lot in common, including both are pretty damn boring to watch.  Keep in mind this game is in Charlotte, which I think can make a huge difference in this one.  NC State 16-14.
Wednesday, the 28th:
3:30 – Military Bowl: Toledo vs. Air Force (+3) (ESPN) – Another brutal one to watch.  Just know this.  The MAC already didn’t fare very well in bowls in recent history, and this year they put a record 5 teams in bowls.  Just a hint, but their conference is not better this year.  The Air Force running attack can give some of the best teams fits.  Air Force 26-23.
7:00 – Holiday Bowl: California vs. Texas (-3) (ESPN) – I can see this one going a lot like last time the Longhorns went to the Holiday Bowl in 2007.  Everybody was on Mack’s case, and they were actually underdogs versus Arizona State.  The Horns showed up to play and won by 18.  I think Texas will use this game to jumpstart next season after an average year this year.  Horns 33-16. 


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