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12/09/2011 11:43 AM
Auburn vs. Virginia
Saturday, Dec. 31, 7:30 pm
I have done some bowl capping for a few years and consider myself pretty decent. One thing I have learned is trust the defense in Bowl Season. Why? Because the numbers make it seem like it’s going to be close. I don’t think they Auburn will miss Michael Dyer as much as some would believe. Onterio McCalebb is a fine talent, and Tre Mason has the same sort of physical gifts running the ball. That being said? Auburn is bad at not letting a good rush defense through. Virginia has that. Cam Johnson and Matt Conrath are fine talents, and they will get a big stop or two. Conversely? While Auburn is not going to face a singular talent as special as a Trent Richardson, the Cavaliers have a tag team in the backfield with Kevin Parks and Perry Jones who get a lot of the scoring for their offense. The Passing game for Virginia is decent. Auburn’s been okay regarding pass defense, but a good quarterback has found a way to beat them.
Though Auburn has come up with a good defensive performance or two along the way, but their defense is bad. All in all, I think Virginia is good enough to win by two scores and have them winning this game by 13 points. Can you say money line dog again. Auburn struggles mightily to get off the field. Virginia’s not nearly as much of a shutdown defense as a Georgia, let alone an Alabama, but they’re good. For the final time? Auburn’s run defense dooms them.
12/09/2011 11:43 AM
Ticket City Bowl
Houston vs. Penn State
Monday, January 2, 12:00 pm
It will be curious to see how motivated the Cougars are for this one. Houston was unbeaten and in line for its first-ever BCS bowl before running into a pretty good Southern Miss team in the Conference USA Championship Game and falling, 49-28 (that was the only ranked team Houston played this season). That swearing you heard soon after was from C-USA officials ticked off that their conference lost nearly $18 million by not getting into a BCS bowl. It also turned out to be the final game on the Houston sideline for head coach Kevin Sumlin, who now is at Texas A&M. Randy Levine, the assistant head coach and special teams coordinator under Sumlin, was quickly named the interim coach – then not long after was given the full-time job. It’s the first head-coaching gig for the 39-year-old. The Cougars are ditching C-USA for the Big East effective the 2013 season.
Meanwhile, Penn State officials probably can’t wait to put the year 2011 in the rear-view mirror in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky scandal that rocked the nation and cost several Penn State folks their jobs (and potential jail sentences) – including legendary head coach Joe Paterno. Certainly that scandal made the Lions toxic to some bowls and it’s why they ended up at a lower-tier bowl than they deserved from a pure results standpoint. I read the TicketCity Bowl had the seventh selection after the BCS of bowls with Big Ten tie-ins. That means other bowls selected Iowa (7-5), Northwestern (6-6), Ohio State (6-6) over Penn State -- the Nittany Lions beat all three of those teams and obviously had a much better record. Penn State announced it would donate its share of conference bowl proceeds this year -- about $1.5 million -- to the Pennsylvania Coalition Against Rape and the National Sexual Violence Resource Center. The revenue usually goes back to the athletic department. Defensive coordinator Tom Bradley coached the Lions’ final few games and will again here. The Lions played well in their first two games under Bradley, a close loss at home to Nebraska right after the Paterno firing and an upset of Ohio State. But PSU was crushed, 45-7, in its regular-season finale by Wisconsin. Bradley has interviewed for the full-time job but most believe that PSU will go outside the Nittany Lions “immediate family” to get a fresh start. They are hoping to get Boise State’s Chris Petersen but that’s unlikely and there are reports he already has turned the school down. Penn State got another black eye when starting quarterback Matt McGloin got into a locker-room fight with receiver Curtis Drake a little over a week ago. McGloin suffered a concussion and a seizure; he says was knocked unconscious when he hit his head on the concrete floor of the locker room during the fight, which he said included several punches and lasted about 10 seconds. It’s still not clear if McGloin can play. In addition, backup Rob Bolden was cited recently for retail theft by university police for taking a bottle of Gatorade from a convenience store on campus. Bolden started the first seven games of the season and split time with McGloin before McGloin saw most the snaps in the final three games of the season. Bolden was disciplined internally – as were McGloin and Drake, apparently (both are still listed as questionable) – but appears to be in line to start if McGloin can’t go. No matter who starts, PSU will rely mostly on RB Silas Redd, who has as rushed for 1,188 yards and seven touchdowns.
Houston has no quarterback problems. This season Case Keenum threw for more than 5,000 yards for the third time in his career (first player to do so), along with a career-high 45 touchdown passes. The sixth-year senior became the FBS career leader in total offense, yards passing and touchdown passes. Behind Keenum, Houston led the nation in passing (443.8 yards per game), total offense (599.0 ypg) and scoring (50.8 points per game). However, this will be easily the best defense the Cougars have faced. Penn State, led by Big Ten defensive player of the year Devon Still, finished fifth nationally in scoring defense and 10th in yards allowed.
This one is very tough to call because I have no idea which Penn State team shows up; you pretty much know what you are getting with Houston. The Lions will try and pound the ball and eat the clock – it probably doesn’t much matter whether McGloin or Bolden starts. The only BCS conference team that Houston played this year was a lousy UCLA club and the Cougars only won that one 38-34. But that said I have Houston winning by a little more than a touchdown and that makes Houston a small play at this time. May lean towards the under but played Houston early on laying 5 points and sticking with that for now.
HOUSTON/PENN STATE UNDER 57 POINTS (Opinion)
12/09/2011 11:43 AM
Capital One Bowl
South Carolina vs. Nebraska
Monday, January 2, 1:00 pm
This is one of the better bowls each postseason, matching up powers from the SEC and Big Ten. Both South Carolina and Nebraska will bring a ton of fans, and we should see a physical, “running game and defense” type of game in Orlando. Bo Pelini has taken the Huskers to a bowl game in each of his four seasons in Lincoln, while Steve Spurrier has led the Gamecocks to the postseason in six of his seven years in Columbia. One interesting note with these two teams is that both defensive coordinators were hired as head coaches in December. Nebraska’s Carl Pelini is headed to Florida Atlantic in the Sun Belt, while South Carolina’s Ellis Johnson is taking over at Southern Miss in Conference USA.
The Huskers rank 13th in the nation in rushing and the Nebraska passing game is limited. Fans know what to expect when Nebraska plays, and the running game will be the key like usual. South Carolina defense ranks fourth in the country in total defense and second in pass defense. The Gamecocks are led by a solid defensive line although rushing quarterbacks for Navy and Citadel were able to give the Gamecocks some headaches, so stopping Martinez could be a challenge.
October was a very turbulent month for the South Carolina offense. First, frequently-suspended quarterback Stephen Garcia was dismissed from the team. Second, the Gamecocks lost one of the better running backs in the nation when Marcus Lattimore suffered a knee injury in the Mississippi State game. Sophomore Connor Shaw took over at quarterback, and he has been more of a runner than typical Spurrier passer. Shaw played well late in the season. Freshman runner Brandon Wilds did a solid job in replacing the heralded Lattimore. This Gamecocks’ team is not the old-school Spurrier passing type, instead relying on the ground attack and stellar defense.
The Nebraska defense is led by All-America linebacker Lavonte David, who topped the team in tackles with 122 while also adding 3.5 sacks and two interceptions. The Huskers did not get a ton of pressure on opposing passers this season, but the key for the Cornhuskers in this game will be controlling the South Carolina run game. Nebraska definitely has the advantage in this special teams. Kicker and punter Brett Maher had an excellent season and was named first-team All-Big Ten at both positions. The Huskers also have one of the best returners in the nation in Ameer Abdullah.
South Carolina kicker Jay Wooten was 7-for-10 on field goals and only attempted two kicks of less than 40 yards. Spurrier does not like to settle for three points, and the Gamecocks went for it on fourth down 28 times this year. Punter Joey Scribner-Howard averaged 38.9 yards on 47 punts, with 10 of them inside the 20-yard line. USC does have a solid punter returner in Ace Sanders, who averaged 9.3 yards per return and scored once. Bruce Ellington, who also plays on the Gamecocks’ basketball squad, will return kickoffs.
This will be a very physical game, where a key turnover or rare big play in the passing game could be the difference. I like South Carolina’s advantage in talent, but Steve Spurrier-led teams often struggle in the postseason. After winning their first two bowl games under Pelini, the Huskers looked bad in last season’s Holiday Bowl loss to Washington. I see Nebraska struggling against the running game of South Carolina and have South Carolina winning this game by almost a touchdown. When I post this the numbers have been just absolutely outstanding this year once again. A touchdown here or there and we would be almost undefeated but then again a touchdown here or there and I may be not doing well at all. Will come back with any totals but for now lets go with USC and play them on the moneyline just in case.
SOUTH CAROLINA PK (moneyline)
12/09/2011 11:43 AM
Georgia vs. Michigan State
Monday, January 2, 1:00 pm
Are they focused and ready? How about interested in this game? Those are some of the most important questions for this year’s Outback Bowl.Both Michigan State and Georgia played in their respective conference title games with each given more than a fair chance to go BCS bowling with a potential win. Sparty was tantalizingly close to beating Wisconsin and just missed out on the Rose Bowl. Georgia gave itself a great chance to beat LSU, but, like most teams against the nation’s top program, they faded late and the Tigers pulled away in the second half. Now it seems the team most willing to be here and put aside their last loss will be the one most equipped to win the Outback Bowl. This phenomenon is commonly known as the hangover effect: who is going to still be thinking about their potential spot in the BCS that was lost last month? Who is really to finish the year on a high and score a very quality win against an equally quality opponent?
Despite Georgia’s loss to LSU, the Bulldogs flourished at the end of the season. The Dawgs won nine of their last 10 games, including going 7-3 against the spread during that stretch. The main reason for their success was the dominant play of quarterback Aaron Murray. His game improved tremendously over the last couple of seasons, and now it appears he is ready to leap near the front of the list for next year’s Heisman.
Michigan State does it with defense. The Spartans allowed more than 21 points just four times all season. And similar to Georgia, Michigan State got great, efficient play from its own starting quarterback with Kirk Cousins tossing 24 touchdowns to just seven interceptions.Both teams come in with 10-3 records. Each also turned in winning seasons against the spread. And, quite frankly, the statistical numbers couldn’t be more similar between the two which you have seen with the power rankings that I put out almost 2 weeks ago.
In my opinion this is one of the best matchups of the entire bowl season. And the possible hangover from each team’s last game makes it all the more interesting trying to figure out a winner. For my money, Aaron Murray is playing too well, even considering the stingy defensive unit he will oppose in this clash. I don’t see any real edge in this game being played in Tampa, as both schools will have strong fan bases. This game very well may come down to a field goal, so the number could hold up in a close game. But I will side with SEC over the Big Ten. Stop me if you’ve heard that one before. The Dawgs make it count late and I have Georgia winning this game by a field goal. So based on that the early lean is to Georgia but again as the pointspread changes so can my opinion.
GEORGIA PK (moneyline) (Opinion)
12/09/2011 11:43 AM
Florida vs. Ohio State
Monday, January 2, 1:00 pm
If you had told Gator Bowl organizers back in the summer that they would be matching Florida and Ohio State, they probably would have wet themselves. Alas, this matchup of previous superpowers doesn’t hold quite the cache as expected because both enter off hugely disappointing seasons and at 6-6 each for the Jan. 2 game in Jacksonville. it’s the first 6-6 matchup in this bowl’s history.
But in many ways this is one of the most unusual bowl pairings in years. Of course, you have the Urban Meyer factor, with the former Gators head coach ending his one-year sabbatical from Florida to take over the Buckeyes. He won’t be coaching in this game – Ohio State got NCAA approval to essentially have two different coaching staffs at one time. Meyer and his new group are recruiting, etc., while Luke Fickell will be in his final game as interim head coach but is expected to take over as Meyer’s defensive coordinator unless he gets another head coaching gig (Pitt interviewed him).
Will Muschamp’s Gators, meanwhile, are using an interim offensive coordinator in running backs coach Brian White. He had to slide into that gig because former OC Charlie Weis left Gainesville after one disappointing season to take the head coaching job at Kansas. And finally, you have the specter of this being Ohio State’s only postseason appearance for a year: The NCAA handed down its penalties Tuesday for the tattoo/memorabilia/Jim Tressel/Terrelle Pryor issues and, along with scholarship reductions and probation, OSU can’t play in a bowl next season (or the Big Ten title game). The last meeting between these two programs was in the 2007 BCS National Championship Game, won by Florida. That started the SEC’s current run of five straight national titles, which, of course, will become six with LSU and Alabama in this year’s championship.
OSU’s offense is actually worse than Florida – the Buckeyes ranked No. 107 in the nation in total yards, averaging 320 per game. But Ohio State did put up 372 yards in the season finale vs. Michigan, with Braxton Miller throwing for 235 yards, his highest total of the season by more than 100.
This could be offensively ugly. Ohio State has thrown 17 touchdown passes this season, and as bad as that is, it's still more than Florida, which has thrown just 12. That's the same number as last season, which is the fewest since the Gators threw just 10 TD passes in 1989. But at least OSU’s Miller seemed to improve near the end of his freshman season, while UF’s John Brantley proved to be a vastly overrated former five-star recruit and plays his last game. Brantley suffered a concussion in the season-finale vs. FSU but is in line to start. However, defensive tackle Dominque Easley is out with a torn ACL. He started every game this year. In six of their last seven games against FBS foes, the Gators were held to 13 or fewer points on offense. But the Gators were No. 10 in the nation in total defense, while Ohio State was 24th. The Big Ten usually lays an egg during bowls. During the past eight years the Big Ten has had one winning bowl season, going 4-3 in 2009. This game is another that just doesnt jump out at this point. Remember I am posting all this week or weeks in advance. I have this game as a pick em and although that doesnt surprise many it may make sense to take the points since if everything holds true then it could be an ugly close type of game. Lets wait and see and although you are tired of hearing that there are better plays that are out there with all the games ahead at this time.
OHIO STATE +3 (Opinion)
12/09/2011 11:44 AM
Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Monday, January 2, 5:00 pm
The “Granddaddy of Them All” where USC should be playing this year. While most would consider the Rose Bowl the top non-title bowl game, both UW and Oregon had National Championship hopes this year. The Ducks (11-2) fell in their season opener to now top-ranked LSU but had climbed up to No. 4 in the BCS and were in solid shape for the BCS title spot. But that was spiked when Oregon fell, 38-35, at home to Southern Cal on Nov. 19. Oregon still advanced to the first Pac-12 title game and handled UCLA – perhaps the worst BCS conference finalist ever – in that one with relative ease. The Ducks and Badgers are both looking for redemption in the Rose Bowl. And what should give Badgers fans a good feeling is that Oregon’s fast-paced, high-scoring offense has been slowed in the past two bowl games. In last year’s loss to Auburn, Oregon was held to 81 yards rushing after entering at 304 per game. And two years ago in the loss to the Buckeyes, Oregon was held 20.7 points and nearly 200 yards below its season averages. Could all that time between the end of the regular season and the bowl games be giving defensive coordinators a window to figure out that Chip Kelly offense? Wisconsin is no slouch on offense itself. Wisconsin averaged 44.6 points, fourth best in the nation, and 467 yards per game this season. Running back Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist, leads the nation with 1,759 yards rushing and 38 total touchdowns. With two more touchdowns in the Rose Bowl, he’ll break Barry Sanders’ single-season FBS record. And QB Russell Wilson was brilliant in his lone season in Madison, finishing behind only Heisman winner Robert Griffin with a 191.6 rating, throwing just three picks to 31 touchdowns. This will be the last time you see Wilson and, expectedly, Ball and Oregon star running back LaMichael James on a college field. Wilson’s eligibility is up and both Ball and James are likely headed to the NFL as juniors.
It’s also the last time you will see Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst on a Badgers sideline. He has accepted the Pitt head coaching job but will coach in this game. Chryst has been in his position for seven seasons. For those of you thinking the Chryst thing might be a distraction, it’s the second year in a row that UW is dealing with something like this. Last year defensive coordinator Dave Doeren had been hired as head coach at Northern Illinois but stayed to coach in the Rose Bowl. While UW lost the game, that defense held TCU 22.3 points below its scoring average and to just 301 total yards, 190.5 yards below its average. This could be the best bowl game of the season and it wouldn’t shock anyone to see a total approaching triple digits with the Ducks’ inventive offense against Wisconsin’s old-school power football.
Both defenses have shown some weaknesses at times. UW’s defense is No. 6 overall in the nation, however, while Oregon is way down the list. But that’s sort of unfair because that unit is on the field so much and often allows garbage yards and points with the Ducks so far ahead. Still, it’s concerning that Oregon lost to a strong running team (LSU, although largely due to turnovers) and an excellent passing team (USC and Matt Barkley). Wisconsin can do both. And I do think all the time to game plan benefits the Badgers to stop the Oregon offense. I think UW may be the third-best team in the country. Everything screams the ‘over’ considering we have two Top-5 offenses and neither team has been held below 27 points yet this year. But right now the total is too high and not sure about that. I have Wisconsin winning by almost 2 touchdowns. Yes 2 touchdowns, so this makes Wisconsin not only a money line dog but one of the strongest plays of the bowl season. As always come back closer to game time with an update but right now its all Badgers to take home the Roses. And although I am buying the point listed below I am also taking this on the money line (+200).
WISCONSIN +7 (buy pt)
WISCONSIN/OREGON OVER 72 POINTS (Strong Opinion)
12/09/2011 11:44 AM
Oklahoma State vs. Stanford
Monday, January 2, 8:30 pm
Just so we’re clear on where I stand: Oklahoma State got screwed. The Cowboys, the champions of the Big 12, were left out of the BCS National Championship Game as voters elected to go with a rematch between LSU-Alabama in the title clash. Oklahoma State was passed over despite the fact that Alabama didn’t win its own division in the SEC, much less a conference title, and the fact that Oklahoma State has performed better against a more difficult schedule this season. Instead, No. 3 Oklahoma State will take on No. 4 Stanford in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.
How Oklahoma State approaches this game mentally will be a key to this game. If the Cowboys are still focusing on how they were shafted for a chance at a BCS Championship then Stanford could have its way with them. But if the Cowboys are focused and angry, looking to show the college football world that they truly are the best team in the country, then we could see an inspired effort from the Cowboys. The last time out the Cowboys played their best game of the season, dominating hated rival and former No. 1 Oklahoma, 44-10, in the Bedlam Game. There is also a chance that the Cowboys could have a letdown after winning that game in such an overwhelming fashion.
Stanford is no pushover and played this entire season as a true BCS title contender. They finished the regular season 11-1 with their lone loss coming against Oregon. Ironically, that loss kept the Cardinal out of the Pac-12 Championship Game. And the fact that they didn’t win their division or conference championship may be the only thing that has kept them out of the BCS Championship Game. Oklahoma State’s lone loss this season came in overtime at Iowa State. That loss occurred in a Friday night game at Ames on the same day that two Oklahoma basketball coaches were killed in a plane crash.
This game features several Heisman Trophy candidates and several players that will be first round picks in this April’s NFL Draft. Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck is all but assured to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft while Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon should definitely be a Top 10 pick. Not surprisingly, this game features two of the most dynamic offenses in college football. A key component in this game will be turnovers. Oklahoma State has forced 42 turnovers this season – the most in college football – and that is a huge part of their game plan. But Stanford has only turned it over 15 times on the season, which is the eight-lowest total in the sport.
I know that it is very square to call for a high scoring game, but I think that’s exactly what we’ll see. Stanford is going to get its points because Luck is just that good and I don’t see any way that the Cardinal defense is going to handle the speed of the Oklahoma State attack. Sure, part of the game plan for Stanford could be slow the tempo down and try to control the ball and the time of possession. But OSU scores fast. And if the Cowboys get a lead that could force Stanford’s plan out the window. But I have Stanford winning this game by 2 touchdowns and the numbers dont lie so lets jump all over this money line dog and take Stanford to the bank.
12/09/2011 11:44 AM
Michigan vs. Virginia Tech
Tuesday, January 3, 8:30 pm
Don’t look now, but the Maize and Blue are back in the BCS. It may not be the Rose Bowl, but things appear very good in Ann Arbor in Brady Hoke’s first season with his Michigan Wolverines. But then again, his opponent in the 2011 Sugar Bowl is Virginia Tech, and neither this program nor head coach Frank Beamer is a stranger to this game or the big stage. The Hokies have yet again made a statement that they are one of the class programs in all of college football with another big game appearance.
The Wolverines were a dominating 8-0 at home in the Big House this season, so one of the main concerns for me is how they will perform away from home, albeit in a neutral environment.
Denard Robinson, Michigan’s do-it-all quarterback, is no doubt going to be the talk of the town leading up to this year’s game in New Orleans. But with Logan Thomas opposing him under the center Virginia Tech has its own dual-threat calling the plays.
Points are going to be scored in this one. Michigan knows its best chance to win is to outscore teams with Robinson and his feet. Granted, this offense is much more tame than last year’s version. But Michigan knows it isn’t going to pitch many shutouts. Especially with its defense still evolving and improving from a season ago.
Let’s watch Bud Foster work. How will Virginia Tech’s defensive coordinator scheme up a plan to contain Denard Robinson?
Well, containing Robinson isn’t really possible, so maybe the thing he will have to do is limit is number of rushes and force the turnover-prone quarterback into bad decisions throwing the ball. That is something Michigan’s top weapon has done way too often over the last couple of seasons. But at the end of the day, I have a hard time seeing how Virginia Tech can match what Robinson brings to the table offensively. I know Logan Thomas and speed merchant David Wilson are going to be dynamic together in the backfield. But Michigan is playing too well and knows how big this game is toward making another step forward to reclaim its position as the dominant program it once was. As long as Michigan doesn’t completely struggle with turnovers they will score a BCS victory. I see Michigan winning this game by a little more than a field goal. So right now they are a play but we will wait until we get closer to game time to finalize everything.
MICHIGAN PK (Moneyline)
12/09/2011 11:44 AM
Clemson vs. West Virginia
Wednesday, January 4, 8:30 pm
As the calendar turns to 2012 college football fans will be treated to a week of outstanding football. And while random teams from conferences across the country are thrown together, somewhat haphazardly, into odd bowl games, the Orange Bowl promises to be a rare game that has both national and regional significance.
This game pits the Big East champion Mountaineers against ACC champion Clemson and is a clash between two teams with fan bases comprised of rabid mountain folk and histories full of near-misses. There has been no love lost between the Big East and the ACC; especially considering the latter’s recent raiding of some of the former’s top schools. And this BCS game should have a little more edge than most as a result. Clemson is riding high after their first ACC title in over 20 years. That is quite the accomplishment considering that Florida State and Virginia Tech were regarded as the powerhouses heading into this season.
The Tigers rely on a high-octane offense and an opportunistic defense. However, Clemson hasn’t been as efficient recently as they have lost three of their last five quite soundly. Georgia Tech, South Carolina, and North Carolina State, all beat the Tigers by at least two touchdowns. West Virginia has gone the other way. They have been playing their best ball as of late, winning three of their last four games. The Mountaineers are a mediocre 1-1 versus ranked teams on the year.
The Mountaineers seem to be playing a different type of football over the last month as their scoring offense is down, and their defense has become somewhat stingy. The West Virginia football schedule has been considerably easier than the Tigers’ as they were able to take advantage of a sloppy Big East. Their matchup with LSU was supposed to show that the Big East was a bit tougher than many of us expected but they were shellacked, 47-21. That final was a bit shocking as they outgained LSU by almost 300 yards, yet scored only 21 points. This game features two extremely high-powered offenses that can absolutely light up the scoreboard. Clemson, at one point, had a chance to be considered one of the best teams in the country. But they came out flat at Georgia Tech. And after playing extremely poorly in two of their last three games (after clinching their half of the ACC) they fell out of favor for many national experts. But I don’t think that Clemson is a fluke this year and I would not be surprised if the Tigers rebound in a big way. If West Virginia doesn’t take care of the football and capitalize on good offensive possessions they are looking at a long night. All that said this game looks like a money line dog kind of play. I have this game almost even with WVU winning by a point so right now I lean towards West Virginia but honestly I am not sold on that. So another game I am waiting on.
WEST VIRGINIA +4
WEST VIRGINIA/CLEMSON OVER 64 POINTS (Opinion)
12/09/2011 11:44 AM
Arkansas vs. Kansas State
Friday, January 6, 8:00 pm
The Cotton Bowl has kind of fallen off the big bowl radar in recent years, which is too bad considering it's got a lot more tradition than most other bowls. For Instance, Alabama's Tommy Lewis stepping off the bench to lay out Rice's Dicky Moegle in the 1954 game; all those great Southwestern Conference teams; Joe Montana leading Notre Dame back vs. Houston in '79; those early New Year's Day kickoffs, to go along with your favorite hair of the dog. All good stuff. But the Cotton Bowl doesn’t have that overrated BCS tie-in, it's not played on New Year's Day anymore, and it's not even played at the Cotton Bowl. How can you play the Cotton Bowl somewhere other than the Cotton Bowl? But I think the Cotton Bowl lucked out this year with a very good matchup between two highly-ranked and fairly local teams; the 10-2 Arkansas Razorbacks, who were once ranked No. 3 this season, and the 10-2 Kansas State Wildcats, a pleasant surprise this season under their old-school coach.
Arkansas returned 13 starters this year from a team that went 10-3 and nearly rallied to beat Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl last year. But the Hogs had one big hole to fill this season, at quarterback, after Ryan Mallett left for the pros. Fortunately, junior Tyler Wilson has stepped in and performed well, leading Arkansas to its second-straight 10-win season. The Hogs opened an easy 3-0 this season, but then got skinned at Alabama, 38-14. The following week, though, in maybe the most important half of football they played this year, the Razorbacks rallied from down 35-17 to beat Texas A&M, 42-38, sparking a seven-game winning streak in which they also knocked off ranked teams in Auburn and South Carolina. Going into its regular-season finale Arkansas had climbed to the No. 3 spot in the BCS rankings. And the Hogs jumped out to a 14-0 lead on top-ranked LSU, bringing on fleeting dreams of a rematch with Alabama in the BCS title game. Alas, it was not meant to be, as the Tigers then scored 41 of the next 44 points, and Arkansas fell, 41-17. So the only two teams the Hogs have lost to this season are playing in the national championship game.
It's taken K State three seasons to go from five wins to 10 in their second go-around under head coach Bill Snyder. This season the Wildcats also returned 13 starters from a team that went 7-6 last year, losing a minor bowl game to Syracuse. Kansas State also had to replace its starting quarterback, but the Cats also found a capable replacement in big Collin Klein. K State was picked by most “experts” to finish in the bottom half of the Big 12 this year. But the Wildcats started 7-0, with wins at Miami and at home over Baylor, Missouri and Texas Tech, and nearly broke into the Top 10. The 'Cats then led Oklahoma 17-14 in the second quarter, only to have the Sooners score 44 unanswered points, handing K State its first loss of this season. The Wildcats then put on a valiant effort as a 20-point underdog at Oklahoma State, and had three shots to tie the game right at the end, but lost, 52-45.
Arkansas under head coach Bobby Petrino likes to move the ball through the air. The Hogs are averaging 308 yards per game passing this season, 138 yards rushing. The Wildcats, meanwhile, move it mostly on the ground, and mostly with Klein.
So this matchup looks like one team that likes to throw the ball vs. another team that has trouble defending the pass; and one team that likes to run the ball vs. a team that has problems stopping the run. It sounds like fun, and maybe worth a play on the ‘over’. Arkansas is fun to watch, throwing the ball all over the place, and its only two losses this season are to 'Bama and LSU. But we've been big Coach Snyder fans for years, most memorably when his upstart Wildcats upset the hell out of No. 1 Oklahoma in the 2003 Big 12 Championship Game. That being said, Arkansas wins this game by two touchdowns and no matter how many ou are giving up this game should be a no brainer all the way unless someone opens the back door.
ARKANSAS/KANSAS STATE OVER 62 POINTS (Opinion)