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12/27/2011 10:49 PM
Wisconsin And Oregon In Classic Rose Bowl Battle

The Rose Bowl matchup between the Wisconsin Badgers and Oregon Ducks appears to be a classic battle between power and speed.

ESPN will have the January 2 broadcast at 5:00 p.m. (ET) from the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. This is a traditional pairing between the Big Ten and Pac-12 (formerly Pac-10).

Don Best has Oregon as solid 6-point favorites after opening at 4½. The big total of 72 points is the result of matching the nation’s third-ranked offense in Oregon (46.2 PPG) against fourth-ranked Wisconsin (44.6 PPG). The ‘over’ is 9-4 for each team this season.

The Ducks (11-2 straight up, 7-5-1 against the spread) are ranked No. 5 in the BCS, the highest among two-loss teams and even ahead of 1-loss Boise State.

Coach Chip Kelly’s guys lost to Auburn (22-19) in the national title game last year and were ranked No. 3 in the preseason AP Poll. The Ducks were actually 3-point favorites in the season opener against LSU, but went down 40-27 in a game played at Cowboys Stadium in Texas.

Oregon could have gotten down on itself, but buckled down by winning 9-straight (6-2-1 ATS). That included a signature 53-30 win at Stanford. A shocking 38-35 home loss to USC as 15-point favorites ended its national title hopes, but finished with wins over Oregon State (49-21) and UCLA (49-31), although going 0-1-1 ATS.

This spread attack offense has extremely fast athletes and plays up-tempo. Running back LaMichael James (1,646 yards) is fourth in the country in rushing and Kenjon Barner (909) is also dangerous. Junior quarterback Darron Thomas (30 TDs, six picks) is underrated as a passer and spreads it around to backs, receivers and tight ends.

The Badgers rank eighth nationally in defense (293 YPG), but are not very fast and could easily get worn down in the second half. They also haven’t faced an offense anywhere near as potent as Oregon.

BCS No. 10 Wisconsin (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) is in its second-straight Rose Bowl after beating Michigan State 42-39 in the inaugural Big Ten title game on December 3. That was a back-and-forth affair and a lucky escape as 9½-point favorites.

The Badgers are an offensive juggernaut in their own right. Quarterback Russell Wilson is second nationally in quarterback rating (191.6) behind Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. He’s a very good scrambler, always keeping his eyes down the field, and that will come in handy against the nation’s co-leader in sacks (43).

Coach Bret Bielema knows he has a gem in Wilson, but this offense is still predominately run-based (237.4 YPG, 10th nationally). Junior Montee Ball (1,759 yards) leads the nation in rushing and his 38 total touchdowns are just one short of Barry Sanders record set in 1988.

Ball has been used more as the season has progressed, 26.6 average carries the last five games after 17.8 in the first eight. The Heisman finalist is well rested and Wisky will use its huge offensive line to pound an Oregon run defense that’s allowing 137.5 YPG (45th nationally).

Oregon’s pass defense does allow 243.5 YPG (82nd nationally) and got burned by Matt Barkley (323 yards, four TDs) in the USC loss, but Wisconsin running the ball will help consume clock and limit Oregon’s possessions. Bielema needs to stay patient with the run even if down 10-14 points.

Wisconsin has been incredible at home (7-0 SU, 6-1 ATS) but is just 4-2 SU and 1-5 ATS in road and neutral site games. That includes consecutive losses at Michigan State (37-31) and Ohio State (33-29) in November that ended the Badgers' national title hopes.

This will be the final Wisconsin-coached game for offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who has accepted the job at Pittsburgh. Offensive line coach Bob Bostad is rumored to be joining him, but it shouldn’t affect preparations.

Wisconsin has some good injury news with All-American center Peter Konz (ankle) upgraded to probable after missing the last three games.

Both coaches are under a lot of pressure. Bielema is 1-3 SU in his last four bowls including losing 21-19 to TCU in the Rose Bowl last year. Kelly is 0-2 SU and ATS in bowls, losing to Ohio State (26-17) in the Rose Bowl two years ago before the BCS title game last year.

Note the Don Best Linemakers Poll feels there is little separating these teams. Oregon (119.0) ranks fourth and Wisconsin sixth (118.6). That poll has been high on the Badgers all year and suggest they are good value as the almost touchdown ‘dog.

Weather in beautiful Pasadena is projected to be partly cloudy and should be played in the low-70s, upper-60s.


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12/27/2011 10:51 PM
Luck And Weeden Spotlighted In Fiesta Bowl Matchup

A poll taken over the recent holidays revealed the upcoming Tostitos Fiesta Bowl is more anticipated than the BCS Championship Game by a 3:1 margin among college football fans and bettors. And why not? With a matchup between the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Stanford Cardinal, each with their own outstanding quarterback, the contest should be among the most entertaining bowls on the schedule.

Now granted, there was nothing scientific about the survey which consisted of my mingling about a party and asking a baker's dozen of the revelers which bowl they were most looking forward to. One of them even found it amusing there was a bowl game named for the corn chips she was serving alongside the seven layer bean dip.

As good as that dip was, the Fiesta Bowl should be even better. The battle closes out a strong slate of college football action on Monday (Jan. 2) with ESPN providing the pictures from University of Phoenix Stadium starting at 8:30 p.m. (ET).

Oklahoma State is a 3½-point favorite, up a half-point since the opener. While the spread has widened a tad, the total has slimed down a couple of points since the start and presently stands at 74.

The eventual television ratings for this bowl season will prove my informal survey wrong, but it would be a complete shock if the Cowboys-Cardinal matchup doesn't provide far more offensive excitement than the national title tilt between LSU and Alabama. That excitement begins with the two quarterbacks, Andrew Luck of Stanford and Brandon Weeden of Oklahoma State.

Luck has been the runner-up in Heisman Trophy balloting each of the past two years, and is expected to be the top pick in next April's NFL draft. He completed 70 percent of his passes this past season, racking up 3,170 yards with 35 touchdowns against nine picks. The senior will be concluding a collegiate career that has seen him toss 80 TDs compared to 21 interceptions, amassing over 9,000 yards through the air.

Weeden didn't place in the top 10 of this year's Heisman voting despite a 72.6 percent completion mark for over 4,300 yards and a 34:12 TD:INT ratio. The senior turned 28 this past October after first testing the professional baseball waters for a few years as a second-round pick out of high school by the New York Yankees in 2002.

While the two QBs get most of the publicity, each has a fine complement of weapons. Weeden's stable of offensive mates includes wide receiver Justin Blackmon (113 receptions, 1,336 yards, 15 TD), who placed fifth in the 2010 Heisman balloting and could be the top receiver chosen in the NFL draft if he declares. Joseph Randle rushed for nearly 1,200 yards on less than 200 carries and scored 23 touchdowns to lead the Cowboys ground game.

Luck's big-play receiver is tight end Coby Fleener who averaged over 20 yards per catch and crossed the goal line 10 times. Griff Whalen (49 rec., 664 yds.) is another receiving threat while Stepfan Taylor is the workhorse for the Stanford infantry with 207 carries and 1,153 yards rushing. One weapon expected to miss the game is receiver Chris Owusu who is dealing with the effects of a concussion and listed as doubtful for Monday's game.

With stats like that, it's no surprise to see both Oklahoma State and Stanford rank among the top offenses in the nation. The Cowboys are third in total yards (557.0 per game) and second in scoring (49.3 points per game). The Cardinal aren't far behind in those columns, finishing 11th in yardage (480.9) and sixth in scoring (43.6).

Both schools also did an excellent job against the college football odds this season. Oklahoma State and Stanford each finished with 11-1 records in the standings, each covering nine of the 12 spreads along the way.

Where the two schools differ on the stats pages is on the defensive side of the ball. The Cardinal allowed just over 331 yards per game, good enough for 25th in the country, while the Cowboys were 107th surrendering a touch more than 445 yards each contest. Stanford was 23rd in the nation in scoring defense (20.3 PPG) with Oklahoma State 60th (25.8).

Still, even with those statistical shortcomings, the Cowboys defense came up with 42 turnovers during the regular season, most in the country and twice as many as Cardinal defenders.

Oklahoma State finished the regular season ranked No. 3 in the Don Best Linemakers Poll, with Stanford coming in at No. 5. The BCS Standings also had the Cowboys third with the Cardinal down one rung in fourth. Monday's contest will mark the first time the two schools have met on the gridiron.

The roof is scheduled to be closed for the entire game, though the weather forecast for the Glendale, AZ area will be just about perfect for a football game. Clear skies and the thermometer in the low-to-mid 60s for kickoff are included in the current forecast.


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12/27/2011 10:53 PM



CFB | WAKE FOREST at MISSISSIPPI ST
Play On - Any team (MISSISSIPPI ST) off a blowout win by 21 points or more over a conference rival, with 16 total starters returning
59-26 over the last 5 seasons. ( 69.4% | 30.4 units )
6-5 this year. ( 54.5% | 0.5 units )
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CFB | FLORIDA at OHIO ST
Play On - All teams with a money line of +135 to -155 (FLORIDA) average rushing team (3.5 to 4.3 YPR) against a team with an average rushing D (3.5 to 4.3 YPR), after allowing 100 or less rushing yards last game
62-31 over the last 10 seasons. ( 66.7% | 0.0 units )
2-2 this year. ( 50.0% | 0.0 units )
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CFB | IOWA at OKLAHOMA
Play On - Any team (OKLAHOMA) off a blowout loss by 21 points or more to a conference rival, with 8 defensive starters returning
122-67 since 1997. ( 64.6% | 48.3 units )
10-7 this year. ( 58.8% | 2.3 units )
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12/27/2011 10:56 PM
What bettors need to know: Air Force vs. Toledo

Air Force vs. Toledo (-3, 71)

MILITARY BOWL STORYLINES

1. Toledo and Air Force meet for the first time, but only one team will have the same coach it had when the season started. Tim Beckman, who was 21-16 in three seasons at Toledo, left Dec. 9 to take the same position at Illinois. Beckman turned around a program in disarray with three straight losing seasons into a team playing in its second straight bowl. Offensive coordinator Matt Campbell will serve as interim coach. Air Force is coached by Troy Calhoun, who has the Falcons in a school-record fifth straight bowl game.

2. A statistical mismatch can be found in rushing defense. Toledo is 23rd in the nation among the 120 FBS teams at 123.1 yards per game while Air Force is 113th (227.7). The Rockets will face the No. 2 rushing offense (320.3); the Falcons go against the No. 14 running attack (221.1), led by Adonis Thomas and his 107 yards per game (17th in the country). Toledo’s pass defense is 109th at 277.9.

3. Air Force is 10-10-1 in bowl games and has won two straight, including a 14-7 victory over Georgia Tech in the 2010 Independence Bowl. Toledo is 7-4, including a 34-32 loss to Florida International in last season’s Little Caesar’s Pizza Bowl.

4. Air Force is 17-8 against non-conference foes in five seasons under Calhoun and has won 10 of its last 12 such games, with the losses at Oklahoma in 2010 and at Notre Dame this season.

TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com.

LINE: Toledo -3, 71. Not a lot of movement on this spread but a few places in Vegas have moved it up to 3.5. The total, one of the highest of the bowl season, is holding at 71.

ABOUT AIR FORCE (7-5, 3-4 Mountain West): Tim Jefferson holds the school record for most wins by a quarterback with 28, but doesn’t throw much in the Falcons’ run-happy offense. He attempted only 161 passes this season, completing 60.9 percent of them with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. Air Force played MWC foe Boise State tough on the road before falling 37-26.

ABOUT TOLEDO (8-4, 7-1 Mid-American): The Rockets also played Boise State – a 40-15 loss at home on Sept. 16. Toledo has won three straight and seven of its last eight. Terrance Owens took over at quarterback for Austin Dantin (concussion) and threw nine touchdowns in the last three games. Toledo averaged 42.2 points, eighth in the nation.

TRENDS:

Toledo is 8-3 ATS in its last 11 games as a favorite but 1-4-1 ATS in its last six non-conference games.

Air Force is 5-2 in its last seven games

PREDICTION: Air Force 35, Toledo 31 – Calhoun and the Falcons will figure out a way to keep the Rockets somewhat grounded and exploit Toledo’s suspect pass defense.
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12/27/2011 10:58 PM
What bettors need to know: California vs. Texas

California vs. Texas (-3, 47)

HOLIDAY BOWL STORYLINES

1. After its 12-year postseason run was snapped in 2010, Texas improved enough this season to return to a bowl game. But after a 4-0 start propelled them all the way to No. 11 in the rankings, the Longhorns stumbled down the stretch, losing three of their final four games.

2. As bad as Texas was in the season’s final month, California was the opposite, winning three of its final four games and losing only at Stanford by a field goal. Running back Isi Sofele ran for at least 96 yards in all four of those games, including a season-high 190 on 23 carries in a 23-6win against Oregon State.

3. These two teams couldn’t be more different at the quarterback position. Zach Maynard, California’s dual-threat junior, started every game of the season and averaged 246 yards of total offense per game. Texas flip-flopped at quarterback all season, starting with incumbent Garrett Gilbert, who ended up getting injured and transferring. The Longhorns wound up with a two-quarterback system utilizing youngsters David Ash and Case McCoy.

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN

Line: Texas-3, 47. This line dropped from Texas -4 to -3 with the juice about 10 cents higher before Texas bettors moved the number back up to -4 at most books. The total opened at 48 but most shops have it either at 47 or 47.5.

ABOUT TEXAS (7-5, 4-5 Big 12): The Longhorns’ struggles offensively – particularly at quarterback – opened the door for the defense to shine brightly in 2011. Texas was tops in the Big 12 and 14th nationally at 315.3 yards allowed per game, but the team is coming off an awful performance in a 48-24 loss at Baylor to close the regular season. As table of running backs, led by true freshman Malcolm Brown, averaged 210 yards on the ground and helped carry the Longhorns’ offense.

ABOUT CALIFORNIA (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12): This is the Golden Bears’ third appearance in the Holiday Bowl. Sofele averaged 141.3 rushing yards over the season’s final four games to finish with 1,266 yards and nine touchdowns in the regular season. He’ll be asked to carry the load against a Texas defense that was stout against the run, surrendering only103 yards per game. Cal ranks in the top 50 but no higher than No. 25 nationally in virtually every major offensive and defensive category.

TRENDS:

Cal is 4-0 ATS in its last four games overall but 3-8 ATS in its last 11 games in December.

Texas is 7-18-1 ATS in its last 26 games against teams with winning records and 3-8 ATS in its last 11 bowl games.

PREDICTION: California 28, Texas 17. The Golden Bears will ride the legs of Sofele to move to 6-2 in bowl games under coach Jeff Tedford.
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12/27/2011 11:03 PM
Wednesday, December 28

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Toledo - 4:30 PM ET Air Force +3 500
Air Force - Over 69.5 500

California - 8:00 PM ET Texas -3 500
Texas - Over 47.5 500



Thursday, December 29

Game Score Status Pick Amount

Notre Dame - 5:30 PM ET Notre Dame +3 500
Florida State - Under 46.5 500

Washington - 9:00 PM ET Baylor -9.5 500
Baylor - Under 78 500
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12/28/2011 08:13 PM
Cornhuskers, Gamecocks Meet In Capital One Bowl

The South Carolina Gamecocks will try to complete their best season in school history on Monday when they face the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the Capital One Bowl. The Gamecocks (10-2) have already equaled their most wins ever but will need to break a three-game skid in the postseason and beat the Cornhuskers (9-3) in Orlando to set a new record.

South Carolina closed the regular season ranked No. 15 in the Don Best Linemakers Poll and opened as a 1-point favorite in the Jan. 2 contest against Nebraska. The Gamecocks have been bet up to -2 at some sportsbooks with the total moving down from 48 to 46.

Nebraska ended its first season in the Big Ten by finishing third in the Legends Division, dropping three conference games to account for all of its losses and falling twice in the final four games. The Cornhuskers utilize a power running game offensively behind quarterback Taylor Martinez (837 yards rushing and nine touchdowns) and running back Rex Burkhead (1,268 and 15 TDs). They ranked 13th in the country with 223.9 rushing yards per game as a team but will be without offensive lineman Andrew Rodriguez for the fourth straight game due to a sprained foot.

South Carolina also had a strong ground game for most of the season until star RB Marcus Lattimore suffered a torn ligament in his left knee during a 14-12 victory at Mississippi State on October 15. Lattimore was leading the SEC in rushing at the time with 818 yards and also scored 10 times in seven games. The sophomore was replaced by freshman Brandon Wilds, who finished with 486 yards and three touchdowns in nine games.

The Gamecocks have had to adjust to a change at QB as well with sophomore Connor Shaw taking over for senior Stephen Garcia under center in October. Garcia was later dismissed from the team for failing an alcohol test while Shaw ended up throwing for 1,218 yards and 12 touchdowns while running for 483 more with seven rushing touchdowns.

South Carolina is also dealing with the loss of defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson, who took the head coach job at Southern Miss on December 20 and started immediately. The Gamecocks allowed 18.8 points and 268.9 yards per game to rank third and fourth, respectively, in the SEC.

Nebraska has won all three meetings with South Carolina, with the last coming in 1987. The Cornhuskers have seen the ‘under’ cash in five of their last six games overall while the ‘under’ is also 7-3 in the past 10 for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has won three in a row and six of seven heading into this matchup but did not cover the spread in consecutive games all season.

Game time is scheduled for 1:00 p.m. (ET) with television coverage provided by ESPN. The weather forecast for Orlando on Monday calls for a high temperature of 70 under partly cloudy skies.
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12/28/2011 08:15 PM
Houston Cougars Face Penn State Nittany Lions

Who says the old Cotton Bowl has gone away?

Credit the TicketCity Bowl for reviving an old New Year’s tradition in Fair Park.

Technically, it’s not the old Cotton Bowl game, which has been moved to Jerry Jones’ new Cowboys palace in Arlington. But the venerable old Cotton Bowl itself, which has been spruced up and expanded in the past few years, is once again a New Year’s – or January 2 this year – college football destination thanks to the TicketCity Bowl, which made its debut a year ago when Texas Tech outlasted Northwestern in a real shootout, 45-38.

Matchups like the one a year ago and this coming Monday’s between Penn State (9-3 straight up, 3-8-1 against the spread) and Houston (12-1 SU, 10-3 ATS; No. 21 Don Best Linemakers Poll) don’t quite recall some of the great memories of past New Year’s games in Dallas. But Nittany Lions-Cougars does kick off gridiron action in a now-thinner New Year’s college card, with the start in Dallas set for 12 noon (ET). TV coverage will be provided by ESPNU.

A quick check of the Don Best odds screen shows that Houston is priced as a 6½-point favorite at the vast majority of Las Vegas wagering outlets, with the total between 56½-57½ points.

Cotton Bowl stadium history on New Year’s includes some of college football’s memorable games and greatest players. For years, it was the site of New Year’s battles in which the old Southwest Conference champion was the host team. It was the site of Rice’s Dicky Maegle being tackled by Alabama’s Tommy Lewis, who came off of the bench to stop the Owl speedster, speeding unimpeded toward the end zone. Maegle was credited with a 95-yard TD run by the officials, en route to a Cotton Bowl game record of 265 rush yards that stood for 54 years, or until Missouri’s Tony Temple gained 281 against Arkansas in 2008.

All-time greats such as Syracuse’s Jim Brown (1957) and Ernie Davis (1960) participated on New Year’s Day in Big D, as did Navy’s Roger Staubach in the 1964 battle vs. Texas for the national title (won by the Longhorns, 28-6). Notre Dame returned to bowl action after a 44-year absence in the 1970 Cotton Bowl against Texas, a game in which the 'Horns scored late and claimed the national crown thanks to a pulsating 21-17 win. The next year, Joe Theismann and the Irish got their revenge and denied Texas back-to-back national titles in a 24-11 upset.

So much for Dallas history on New Year’s. The present is rather intriguing as well with this curious matchup between Penn State and Houston.

We don’t have to amplify much further on what has transpired lately within both of these programs. Especially Penn State; for those just returning from a two-month around-the-world cruise or an extended African safari, consult the internet for loads of info regarding the Jerry Sandusky scandal and Joe Paterno ouster at State College, Pa.

As for Houston, things haven’t been quite as dramatic, although the then-unbeaten Cougars did blow a clear shot at a BCS bowl when being humbled at home, 49-28, in the C-USA title game vs. Southern Mississippi. Subsequently (and to no one’s surprise), head coach Kevin Sumlin departed the program, taking the top job at Texas A&M Then, just before Christmas, special teams coordinator Tony Levine was promoted to the top spot after being given an interim HC designation for the bowl game.

More off-field news was to follow, as the Nittany Lion situation became even more outrageous when QB Matt McGloin suffered a mild concussion and seizure after a recent locker-room brawl with WR Curtis Drake. What next, Hulk Hogan becoming Paterno’s successor as the new Penn State coach? For the moment, defensive coordinator and interim head coach Tom Bradley remains in charge and is one of several candidates in the mix for the full-time assignment.

These are also two of the most contrasting bowl entrants in this postseason slate, with the Nittany Lions’ neanderthal “O” scoring less than 20 ppg and the video game UH spread, piloted by prolific 6th-year QB Case Keenum, tallying a nation’s-best 51 ppg.

We’re not necessarily buying into any arguments that suggest Penn State merits consideration simply because of a tougher schedule. The fact is that the Nittany Lions were roundly outclassed by the best teams they faced (outscored 72-18 by Alabama & Wisconsin) and mostly struggled vs. marginal foes, fortunate to escape with wins over the likes of Temple, Indiana and Purdue.

Neither Penn State QB, McGloin nor Rob Bolden, performed with much sparkle (just 9 TD passes between them), and McGloin’s iffy status for the bowl opens the possibility that red-shirt frosh Paul Jones might even take his first snaps of his career in Dallas. The only reliable component on the attack side for the Nittany Lions has been punishing RB Silas Redd (1,188 rush yards).

Granted, the Nittany Lion stop unit was typically stingy, ranking fifth overall and against the pass, suggesting a good potential matchup vs. Keenum. But Penn State saw nothing resembling the Houston spread and the 51 TD passes (45 by Keenum) the Cougs produced.

Also, don’t forget that UH (which posted a solid 9-3 spread mark) has been waiting 24 months for another bowl opportunity since an ugly loss to Air Force in the 2009 Armed Forces Bowl. Especially Keenum, guilty of an uncharacteristic six picks in that stunning 47-20 loss to the Falcons, who had been beaten by the Cougs in the same bowl a year earlier.

The bottom line is that even before all of the late-season Sandusky and Paterno distractions, this was hardly a vintage Penn State edition, and we suspect its 9-3 mark is misleading. Rather, its subpar 3-8-1 spread mark is a better indicator of the relative value it provided in 2011. This Nittany Lion edition was nothing special, and as long as Houston has recovered emotionally from the Southern Miss loss (as CUSA sources suggest), the Cougs at least figure to have an easier time moving the football and scoring than Penn State will in Dallas.

We would advise those who still might fancy a flier on the Nittany Lions to proceed very carefully.
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12/28/2011 08:18 PM
Brigham Young And Tulsa Renew Rivalry In Dallas

BYU and Tulsa have run into one another on the gridiron before. And if we get anything resembling the last time these two tussled four years ago, hang on to your hats.

The specifics say that the Cougars (9-3 straight up, 8-4 against the spread) and Golden Hurricane (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) will be playing in the 8th Armed Forces Bowl, on Friday in Dallas at SMU’s Gerald J. Ford Stadium, which has become the temporary venue for this game while TCU’s Amon Carter Stadium continues to undergo renovations. This bowl is slated to return to Fort Worth next December when work is complete at the Horned Frogs’ stadium, which will supposedly resemble a sort of “Camden Yards” for football. We can’t wait to see the refurbished facility, which was already one of our favorite venues in its former configuration at one of our favorite campuses in the country.

In the meantime, a check of the Don Best odds screen shows that this game is rated a toss-up at most Las Vegas wagering outlets, with a handful pricing BYU as a narrow 1-point favorite. The total sits mostly at 55½ around the various sports books in town.

Kickoff for the Friday game will be 12 noon (ET), with ESPN providing the TV coverage. The start time is early enough to probably guarantee that the game won’t extend into New Year’s Eve, although past meetings have often seemed like they would never end.

We mention the 2007 tussle between these teams because it was such a wild and memorable affair. Indeed, it recalled the old days of the WAC, of which BYU was a charter member and which Tulsa joined for several years beginning in 1996. The teams met three times in the mid-90s, with the Cougs prevailing by 45-35, 55-30 and 49-39 scorelines. BYU also won a 2006 renewal at Provo by a 49-24 count.

But the Golden Hurricane would get its revenge on September 16, 2007 at the newly-named Skelly Field at Chapman Stadium in Tulsa, although it took over four hours for Tulsa to gain its pound of flesh. The teams combined for a whopping 1027 passing yards that night, as Cougar slinger Max Hall accounted for 537 of those himself, with four TD passes. Three BYU receivers gained over 100 yards from their catches.

Not to be outdone, however, Hurricane counterpart Paul Smith passed for 454 yards and five TDs in a breathless display in which Tulsa rallied from a 34-31 halftime deficit to an eventual 55-47 win that to this day has Cougar coach Bronco Mendenhall shaking his head.

“I certainly remember that game,” recalled Mendenhall to the Deseret News. “We had no idea what we were defending, quite frankly. That was one of the most explosive offensive schemes we’ve ever seen.”

Most observers expect something a bit more tame on Friday in Dallas, although for a time this season, we weren’t quite sure we’d be seeing either of these entries in the postseason.

Indeed, it's too bad the Cougs and Golden Hurricane didn't begin their seasons until October; September was almost as bad for both as it was for the Boston Red Sox.

Tulsa, however, had a legit excuse...its schedule.

Facing three powerhouses (Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, and Boise State) out of the chute in the first four weeks of the campaign. any Golden Hurricane BCS Buster talk was muffled before autumn officially began. BYU also got off a bit slowly, and had Mitt Romney and other diehards worried when local rival Utah rolled up a 54-10 win at Provo in late September.

But, like in 2010 when the Cougs found traction by midseason, this BYU version also managed to reverse course and concluded its first season as an Independent entry with quite a hot streak. Mendenhall's crew won eight of its last nine and covered the spread in the last six, with a win margin better than 30 ppg the last three triumphs.

Like last year, however, it is fair to question the validity of the late-season uptick accomplished mostly at the expense of struggling WAC and Big Sky opposition. A year ago, BYU answered its critics by blasting UTEP in the New Mexico Bowl. Can the Cougs do the same to Tulsa?

It won’t be as easy, but BYU will like its chances, especially since livewire southpaw QB Riley Nelson returned to action from rib injuries and looked as good mas new in the regular-season finale at Hawaii when passing for 363 yards and 3 TDs. Along the way, Nelson has also developed admirable rapport with wideouts Cody Hoffman and Ross Apo, who combined for 16 TD catches between them. The running game, while not spectacular, has been serviceable, with JJ Di Lugi and Michael Alisa each gaining better than five yards per carry and providing a modest infantry diversion.

In an interesting peripheral development, former starting QB Jake Heaps, a ballyhooed recruit in 2010, has recently decided to transfer to Kansas, although a healthy (and more mobile) Nelson had supplanted him in the lineup.

No matter, the Golden Hurricane will believe it can trade points behind senior QB G.J. Kinne (25 TDP) and a pair of RBs who are closing in on 1000 yards, JeTerian Douglas (8.2 ypc) and Trey Watts (J.C.'s son). Kinne was also able to flourish despite the absence of last year’s top receiver and kick return threat, Damaris Johnson, who was suspended before the season commenced. Johnson’s absence allowed hybrid RB/receiver Willie Carter (61 catches) to emerge as field-distorting threat.

Tulsa's 90th-ranked stop unit, however, leaked more than BYU's, and the Cougars likely have the top defensive playmaker on the field in 6-3 LB Kyle Van Noy (5 sacks; 3 ints.), a force who can also drop back effortlessly into pass coverage and provides Bronco Mendenhall's stop unit added flexibility.

Also remember that the Golden Hurricane "D" was obliterated by the best attacks on the Tulsa slate, most recently by Houston in the C-USA regular-season finale that cost the Golden Hurricane a chance to win the Western half of the conference in coach Bill Blankenship’s first year in charge. Tasked to rejuvenate Tulsa for the bowl game after that 48-16 loss, Blankenship’s motivational skills will be put to the test after a crushing end to the regular season for the Golden Hurricane.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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12/28/2011 08:20 PM
Spartans And Bulldogs Duel In Outback Bowl

Once upon a time, bowl games and Michigan State agreed with one another.

But that hasn’t been the case lately for the Spartans.

Looking to avoid a seventh straight bowl defeat, Michigan State tussles with SEC East champ Georgia in the Outback Bowl at Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium, just off Dale Mabry Highway, on Monday. Kickoff time will be at 1:00 p.m. (ET) with ABC providing the TV coverage.

A quick check of the Don Best odds screen notes that Georgia (10-3 straight up, 8-5 against the spread; No. 12 in latest Don Best Linemakers poll) is priced as a 3½-point favorite at most Las Vegas wagering outlets entering the weekend, with the total hovering between 50 and 51 points, depending upon the outlet.

While postseason adventures have been difficult for the Spartans lately, there was a time when bowl games were a celebratory time for Michigan State (10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS; No. 10 in Don Best Linemakers Poll). But we have to go all the way back to the 1950s, and the eras of Biggie Munn and Duffy Daugherty, to recall the glory.

The Spartans, added to the Big Ten in the early 1950s, made their first bowl visit a memorable one when beating Red Sanders’ UCLA, 28-20, in the 1954 Rose Bowl. A block of a Paul Cameron punt by Spartans halfback Ellis Duckett and resultant TD on the recovery got MSU back in the game before halftime after falling behind 14-0. The Spartans rallied in the second half and finally sewed up the win on Billy Wells’ 62-yard punt return TD in the fourth quarter.

Two years later, Michigan State and UCLA got together in another Rose Bowl thriller. By this time, Munn had retired as coach to concentrate on Athletic Director duties, and former aide Daugherty had been promoted to the top spot. With future NFL stars Earl Morrall at QB and Clarence Peaks in the backfield, MSU fought the Bruins on even terms until Dave Kaiser, normally an end, barely connected on a 41-yarder, the first field goal attempt of his career, to give the Spartans a thrilling 17-14 win.

Regular PK Gerald Planutis had earlier missed a 41-yard try, prompting Kaiser’s attempt at the game-winner in the final seconds. That kick was set up by a series of controversial events, including an intentional grounding call on the Bruins that set the ball back to their one-yard line on their previous possession, plus three consecutive penalties against UCLA, including interference on the subsequent punt.

The tables were turned on the Spartans in their next Rose Bowl visit 10 years later, when Daugherty’s top-ranked and unbeaten Michigan State, featuring George Webster and Bubba Smith, was upset by Tommy Prothro’s upstart UCLA, 14-12, in the 1966 Rose Bowl. Bruin soph QB Gary Beban, who would go on to win the Heisman Trophy, scored twice on short TD plunges, although UCLA would not secure the win until DB Bob Stiles made a heroic stop of bruising MSU FB Bob Apisa’s two-point conversion run in the final 30 seconds.

So much for MSU’s ancient bowl history, but we recall those games because it has been a long time since the Spartans won a bowl. The last such success came in the January 1, 2000 Florida Citrus Bowl at Orlando, which was the first Spartan game following Nick Saban’s departure for LSU. Under new coach Bobby Williams, MSU beat Steve Spurrier’s Florida, 37-34, but hasn’t won in six bowl tries since, including losses each of the past four years.

One of those defeats came against Georgia in the Capital One Bowl three years ago when the Bulldogs prevailed by a 24-12 count. Georgia and MSU also met in the 1988 Gator Bowl, in Vince Dooley’s final game as Georgia coach. The Bulldogs won that one too, 34-27.

It is safe to say that the SEC was dominant in the three New Year’s Day Florida bowl games vs. the Big Ten a year ago, winning and covering each, with the Spartans particularly humiliated in a 49-7 Capital One Bowl loss to Alabama.

But it is also fair to speculate whether the SEC, at least beyond LSU and Alabama, was down a notch or two this season. It is a legitimate argument, considering some of the shortcomings demonstrated throughout the season by others, including Georgia, which was humbled by Boise State, 35-21 in Atlanta, in its only severe non-conference test.

That loss to the Broncos, which preceded another to South Carolina the following week, had Bulldogs coach Mark Richt under the gun in September. At the time, SEC sources wondered if Richt’s chances were even better than 50-50 to last beyond the season. Richt, however, was able to straighten out the Bulldogs, who proceeded to win their next 10 games and claim the SEC East crown before falling to top-ranked LSU in the conference title game. Richt now stands on much firmer footing in Athens.

Along the way, soph QB Aaron Murray developed into a true gunslinger and the SEC’s top signal caller, and ended up tossing 33 TD passes. The potent Georgia no-huddle offense, which scored 34 ppg, also welcomes back rugged RB Richard Samuel, who missed the last few games due to injury, although the status of flashy true frosh RB Isaiah Crowell (ankle) remains up in the air.

Georgia’s defense also was formidable, allowing under 20 ppg and featuring a couple of likely NFL-bound performers in LB Jarvis Jones and S Baccari “Stallone” Rambo (7 picks). But acknowledging the dearth of top-notch QBs in this year’s SEC, and the fact Boise’s Kellen Moore picked apart the Georgia defense in the opener, it is fair to speculate how the Dawgs might cope with MSU’s quality QB, Kirk Cousins.

Cousins was certainly efficient this season, completing 65% of his passes for 24 TDs. Long-striding wideouts B.J. Cunningham and Keshawn Martin combined for 132 catches, while LeVeon Bell (900 yards rushing) and Edwin Baker (another 655 rush yards) provide a substantive infantry diversion.

Moreover, Michigan State had what was considered to be the Big Ten’s top defense, as coordinator Pat Narduzzi’s stop unit allowed only 18 ppg and a mere 2.9 yards per carry.

The resiliency of both sides will be tested after each faltered in conference title games, although the Spartans could be excused for feeling a bit more deflated after allowing a potential win to slip through their fingers vs. Wisconsin. How MSU coach Mark Dantonio rallies his troops will go a long way to determining if the Spartans end their bowl drought and reverse last year’s New Year’s trend that favored the SEC in a big way over Big Ten foes in Sunshine State bowl action.
Always remember the 3 G's Girls,Golf, Gambling not in any particular order......:2thumbs:
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