Sunday, January 1, 2012

Bowl Week Three – January 2nd – January 9th Games

The last week of college football is upon us.  College football fans everywhere will enter a depression after the BCS National Title Game on Monday night, January 9th.  This also means that another season of the blog is coming to an end.  I have enjoyed writing it again this year, and I have also enjoyed the feedback from the weekly readers.  I am still having fun doing it, which was the main reason I did it in the first place, and I will plan on continuing the blog in the future.  I would like to thank the loyal readers who at least give it a look each week.

Through the December 31st games, the blog’s record against the spread during bowl season is 12-11-1 and 13-10 straight up.  The December 31st games killed the fast start.       
Now on to the meat of the bowl season… 

Monday, the 2nd:  They have moved the January 1 games to today due to the 1st being an NFL Sunday.  Regardless, this is one of the best days of the year for a college football fan.  You basically wake up and start watching bowl games, and they don’t stop until about 11 PM.  Some great non-traditional matchups always make this day so special.  No different this year.
11:00 AM – TicketCity Bowl: Houston vs. Penn State (+6.5) (ESPNU) – Remember it was just four weeks ago that Houston laid an egg against the only decent defense they faced all year versus Southern Miss in the CUSA Championship Game.  Well Penn State’s defense is even better.  Both of these teams have coaching issues, and Penn State has waaay more issues than just that.  However, you will see the difference in big boy football and mid-major football in this one.  Houston will be in over their head.  Penn State 20-17.
12:00 – I have a bone to pick real quick.  Why in the hell are three SEC – Big Ten matchups played at the same time in this time slot?  Maybe it is to reduce the embarrassment the Big Ten usually has after these games.  They hope you forget about the other two games that you didn’t watch.  After all the SEC went 3-0 in this time slot last year and outscored the Big Ten 138-45.  I think you can call that domination.  But as usual, I’m sure the Big Ten had a great excuse…maybe the 70 degree weather or the bright sun kept them from playing up to par.
Outback Bowl: Michigan State (+3.5) vs. Georgia (ABC) – This game will be the best game of the noon time slot.  I think Georgia is very overrated this year, and Michigan State is underrated.  Georgia’s best wins are still Georgia Tech and Auburn.  Georgia is 0-3 versus 10 win teams this year and weren’t competitive in two of them.  Guess what?  Michigan State has 10 wins, including wins over both Big Ten BCS participants (Michigan and Wisconsin).  Both defenses are very stout.  I don’t see either offense moving the ball too much.  I’m taking the mild upset in this one.  Sparty 19-17.
Capital One Bowl: Nebraska vs. South Carolina (-2.5) (ESPN) – This is a tough matchup for Nebraska.  First of all, Taylor Martinez is going against a fast, athletic, turnover creating defense.  He is always prone to mistakes, and the more he throws the ball, the more mistakes he will make.  The Huskers defense will also have trouble with the mobile Connor Shaw.  Nebraska’s only hope is that the Gamecocks mail it in like they typically do for bowl games.  I think this one will be different though.  Gamecocks 27-16.  
Gator Bowl: Ohio State vs. Florida (Under 44 Total Points) (ESPN2) – God bless Urban Meyer.  I’m happy he decided he wasn’t too exhausted or doesn’t miss his family anymore in order to take the Ohio State coaching job.  If there was ever a team and coach that deserved each other, it is Urban and Ohio State.  The Charlie Weis hire by Will Muschamp that I have questioned all year blew up in Muschamp’s face when Fatty Weis decided to take his talents to Lawrence, Kansas, to resurrect KU’s basketball…I mean football program.  I think Ohio State is the better team here, and Florida’s offense has been an absolute train wreck.  This is a tough one to call, but I bet all of the recruits who are now players for Florida that Urban lied to about coming to Florida telling them he was going to stay may be really motivated to beat his future team although Urban will not be coaching in this one.  Regardless, this game should be an ugly, low-scoring affair.  Ex-Urbans defeat New-Urbans 16-13.
4:00 – Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (+5.5) vs. Oregon (ESPN) – I love Wisconsin and their balanced, hard-nosed offensive attack.  This game is speed versus power.  I’m not sure how hungry Oregon is for this game; they played in the national title game last year and the Rose Bowl the year before.  Wisconsin is excited in their return to the Rose Bowl after losing to TCU last year.  This will definitely be a high scoring game with the likes of LaMichael James, Kenjon Barner, and rising freshman DeAnthony Thomas for Oregon and Russell Wilson and Montee Ball for Wisconsin.  Wilson completed a ridiculous 72.5% of his passes this season and had 31 TDs and only 3 INTs.  These two offenses are as efficient as you can find.  I don’t think the defenses will matter much in this one, and it is going to be a classic so be sure to watch it.  I’m leaning the way of the Badgers to pull a mild upset.  Wisconsin 45-43.    
7:30 – Stanford (+3.5) vs. Oklahoma State (ESPN) – Oklahoma State enters this game thinking they got the shaft not being selected to play in the national championship game.  Stanford’s Andrew Luck enters this game thinking he still has something to prove although he had a great year.  Okie State’s offense is #3 in the nation; Stanford’s is #11.  The Cardinal defense is #25, and the Cowboys is #106…and there is where the game will be decided folks.  Stanford has a physical, balanced offense that ranks in the top 26 in both rushing and passing.  Oh yeah, they have the best QB in the land too.  Okie State’s offense is very good too, but heavy on the pass with Weeden and Blackmon.  Stanford’s pass defense (#79 in the nation) likely won’t stop the Cowboy passing game, but I think over 4 quarters the balanced Cardinal attack on offense wears on the Cowboy defense.  This could be the best bowl game of the whole season.  Stanford 38-35.             
Tuesday, the 3rd:
7:30 – Sugar Bowl: Michigan (-2.5) vs. Virginia Tech (ESPN) – Two highly questionable BCS at-large selections are going at it in New Orleans this year.  Virginia Tech managed to play a really, really weak schedule and only lose to Clemson (twice).  Their best win this season is Arkansas State…no, I’m being serious.  Look it up.  Michigan was also the benefactor of a favorable schedule, but they definitely have a better resume than the Hokies.  Denard Robinson has pulled out some great wins this year.  Although neither one of these teams would be BCS-worthy in any other year, Michigan is more of a complete team.  Virginia Tech does what they always do – look like world beaters in one game and then like crap in the next one.  I think Michigan will be highly motivated with first year coach Brady Hoke.  If Virginia Tech’s ticket sales to this game are any indication, the Hokie team will not show up to the game either.  Give me the Wolverines 30-19.    
Wednesday, the 4th:
7:30 – Orange Bowl: Clemson (-3.5) vs. West Virginia (ESPN) – Wow I can’t believe this is a BCS game.  West Virginia is very mediocre.  Clemson surprised me this year, but it’s still hard to give them too much credit after their performance against South Carolina to end the season.  Clemson 37-24.
Friday, the 6th:
7:00 – Cotton Bowl: Arkansas vs. Kansas State (Over 62.5 Total Points) (Fox) – On paper the Hogs should win this one by double digits.  The Hogs strong passing attack versus a Kansas State pass defense that ranks #105 in the nation is a no-brainer.  But also on paper, Kansas State should have been about 6-6 and not playing in this bowl game.  That’s where the genius of Bill Snyder comes in.  He has turned the K-State program around for a second time in his career.  Looking up and down their roster, they have no business winning 10 games, but they are just a fundamentally strong and gritty team led by running QB Collin Klein who rushed for 1,099 and 26 TDs this year.  The Hogs’ defense, which finally got rid of DC Willy Robinson, does not have a great history versus running QBs.  In the end though, I think the Hogs have too much talent in a high scoring affair.  Hogs 41-33. 
Saturday, the 7th:
12:00 – Compass Bowl: SMU vs. Pittsburgh (-3) (ESPN) – Talk about some jacked up coaching situations.  SMU’s coach June Jones was going to take the Arizona State job.  The school flew him in to accept the job and then ASU had a change of heart and said no thanks.  So Pitt coach Todd Graham took it instead and texted his team letting them know he was leaving them high and dry.  So in summary, we have a coach at SMU trying to regain the respect of his team after he tried to leave them versus a team in Pitt who has been through four coaches in 13 months.  Which team will be pumped about this matchup?  I think Pitt will come out really motivated because they are upset how Graham treated them.  I think Jones will have a tough time getting the Mustangs up for this game.  Pitt is the better team anyway.  Pitt 30-21.
Sunday, the 8th:
8:00 – Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Northern Illinois (Total Points Over 63) (ESPN) – It’s pretty amazing that ASU is one win away from being ranked in the top 25.  I never thought I would see the day.  Hugh Freeze has left to go to Ole Miss, but they actually upgraded coaches with Gus Malzahn coming in soon.  They are between coaches right now, so the question is how well will they play with Interim Coach Gunn.  Northern Illinois is also a 10 game winner and conference champion.  Both team have powerful offenses, but No Ill’s defense has been questionable in the defense optional MAC.  I think this will be a close one and a pretty exciting one to watch.  I like a lot of points, and ASU barely pulling it out.  Red Wolf Indians 38-35.
Monday, the 9th:
7:30 – BCS National Championship Game: LSU (+1) vs. Alabama (ESPN) – The stage has been set for the Game of the Century Part II.  This time it is right down the road from LSU’s campus in New Orleans.  The first time around was a very physical game for big boys only.  Alabama had the home field and seemed to play a little tight, while LSU seemed to play very loose as the visiting team.  I expect LSU to have all the confidence in the world the second time around too, and I wonder if Alabama has some doubt creeping in their minds about not being able to beat LSU in two straight matchups dating back to last year.  The position breakdowns have not changed since last time.  In my opinion, Alabama only has the advantage at running back, offensive line, and linebacker.  LSU has the advantage at quarterback, wide receiver, defensive line, defensive backfield, and special teams.  The two difference makers in the first game was the kicking game (Bama missed four FGs) and quarterback.  QB AJ McCarron threw a critical interception in the 3rd quarter and took a sack in overtime that did not help the distance for the missed field goal attempt in overtime.  Bama also tried to get cute with the wildcat package early in the 4th quarter from the LSU 28 when WR Marquis Maze threw an interception on the 1 yard line.  LSU has since added a new facet to their running game – Kenny Hilliard.  He is another bruising running back who showed out in the SEC Championship Game versus Georgia.  The Superdome will be rocking LSU style, and the Tigers have been challenged everywhere this year – road, neutral site, and at home.  This will be nothing new to them.  They are already 3-0 versus BCS teams this year (playing ZERO of the games at home).  They didn’t come this far to fail now.  Alabama’s best win is against Arkansas, which was impressive, but other than that, they beat a whole bunch of unranked teams and Auburn (should they really be ranked?).  All things considered here, it is amazing that Alabama is a one point favorite.  Jump on the Tigers because they’re gonna jump on Bama.  Geaux Tigers 24-17.              
Happy New Year!