12/30/2011 04:59 PM
Friday, December 30
What bettors need to know: Friday's bowl game action
Tulsa Golden Hurricane vs. BYU Cougars (+1, 56.5)
ARMED FORCES BOWL STORYLINES:
1. Brigham Young started 1-2 before winning nine of its last 10 and Tulsa rebounded from a 1-3 start to win seven in a row before losing to Houston in its last game. All four of Tulsa’s losses are to teams that were in the top 10 at the time.
2. Fifth-year senior quarterback G.J. Kinne and running back Ja’Terian Douglas, who leads the nation with 8.2 yards a carry, key a Tulsa offense which ranks 23rd in the country in scoring (34.1) and yards (454.4). BYU is ranked 17th in the nation in total defense.
3. Tulsa has won three straight bowl games, averaging 56.7 points. BYU has won four of its last five bowl outings and will try to win its 10th game for the fifth time in six seasons.
4. BYU won the first six meetings between the two former Western Athletic Conference teams, but Tulsa won the last one 55-47 in 2007.
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com.
LINE: BYU opened as a 2-point favorite and was bet up to -3, before bettors came back on Tulsa and flipped the spread to +1
WEATHER: Clear skies are in the forecast for Dallas, with game-time temperatures in the high 50s. Winds will blow at 6 mph from the NW.
ABOUT TULSA (8-4, 7-1, Conference USA, 7-5 ATS): The Golden Hurricane have plenty of weapons. Douglas and Trey Watts have both rushed for more than 800 yards. Kinne, with 900 career passing yards, has 25 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions – two against Houston. Willie Carter is Kinne’s top target with 61 catches for 868 yards. Kicker Kevin Fitzpatrick is 15-for-17 this season and is the school’s all-time leading scorer with 296 points. Linebacker Curnelius Arnick averaged 11.8 tackles, tied for sixth in the nation. All-Conference USA defensive end Tyrunn Walker is listed as questionable with a leg injury. The Golden Hurricane has an 8-9 all-time bowl record.
ABOUT BYU (9-3, 8-4 ATS): The Cougars have put up good numbers defensively in their first season as an independent, averaging 15 points against in wins and losing only 17-16 to Texas. But BYU, which has an 11-7-1 all-time record in bowls, has only one victory over a team with a winning record (Utah State). Quarterback Riley Nelson is 5-1 as a starter after replacing Jake Heaps. Nelson has 16 touchdown passes, only five interceptions and 376 yards rushing. Wide receiver Cody Hoffman has caught 53 passes for 821 yards and Ross Apo has nine touchdown receptions. Linebacker Kyle Van Noy leads the team with 10 tackles for loss and five sacks.
* Golden Hurricane are 4-1 ATS in their last five Bowl games.
* Cougars are 5-0 ATS in their last five non-conference games.
* Under is 4-1 in Golden Hurricane's last five Bowl games.
* Over is 4-1 in Cougars' last five non-conference games.
PREDICTION: Tulsa 41, BYU 31 – Kinne shakes off a rough game as the Golden Hurricane win a shootout.
Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Iowa State Cyclones (+1.5, 44.5)
PINSTRIPE BOWL STORYLINES:
1. Rutgers fell short in its bid for the Big East’s automatic BCS berth. Iowa State played a big role in the BCS in its own way, scoring one of the biggest upsets of the season when it knocked off then-No. 2 Oklahoma State in double overtime Nov. 18.
2. The Scarlet Knights came into the final weekend of the regular season with a share of the Big East title and a chance at a BCS bowl. But they committed six turnovers and fell behind by 30 points in the third quarter en route to a 40-22 setback against Connecticut.
3. Rutgers has been going back and forth between sophomore Chas Dodd and freshman Gary Nova at quarterback, with each struggling to claim the job outright. The two have the best security blanket in the Big East in receiver Mohamed Sanu, who set the conference record with 109 receptions and totaled seven touchdowns.
4. The Cyclones, who average 181.2 yards on the ground, will put their high-scoring attack up against the Scarlet Knights and their 12th-ranked scoring defense. Rutgers’ strength is in the secondary, where it is holding teams to 168.3 passing yards. Iowa State should have room to run.
TV: 3:20 p.m., ESPN, ESPN3.com.
LINE: Rutgers opened as a 2-point favorite and has dropped to -1.5
WEATHER: Rain is in the forecast for Yankee Stadium, with a 33 percent chance of showers. Game-time temperatures will dip into the mid 40s while winds will blow South at 6 mph.
ABOUT IOWA STATE (6-6, 3-6 Big 12, 7-5 ATS): The Cyclones went up against seven ranked teams during the regular season and knocked off two, claiming upsets at Texas Tech and in the shocker versus Oklahoma State. Iowa State also holds a win at Rutgers’ nemesis Connecticut from September and played strong at Kansas State in a 30-23 loss to end the regular season. Coach Paul Rhodes was given a 10-year contract extension but will be coaching his final game with offensive coordinator Tom Herman, who is taking a job under Urban Meyer at Ohio State.
ABOUT RUTGERS (8-4, 4-3 Big East, 8-4 ATS): The Scarlet Knights’ vaunted defense was put in a tough position against Connecticut thanks to three combined interceptions by Dodd and Nova. Dodd also lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter. When the two play mistake-free football, the defense usually leaves Rutgers in a strong position. Dodd and Nova have each been getting practice reps and coach Greg Schiano won’t be afraid to pull either quarterback. The Scarlet Knights have recent experience playing at Yankee Stadium after beating Army 27-12 in the Bronx on Nov. 12.
* Scarlet Knights are 4-0-1 ATS in their last five bowl games.
* Cyclones are 6-2 ATS in their last eight non-conference games.
* Over is 4-1 in Scarlet Knights' last five Bowl games.
* Under is 4-0-1 in Cyclones' last five Bowl games.
PREDICTION: Iowa State 33, Rutgers 20 - The Cyclones are battle-tested from the Big 12 slate while the Scarlet Knights have yet to prove themselves against top competition.
Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs (-6.5, 48)
MUSIC CITY BOWL STORYLINES:
1. Mississippi State has won its past four bowl appearances, including a 52-14 thrashing of Michigan in last season’s Gator Bowl. But the Bulldogs had to beat arch-rival Mississippi in the regular-season finale just to become bowl eligible after struggling in the rugged SEC West.
2. Whether Chris Relf or Tyler Russell start at quarterback for Mississippi State remains a question. Both are splitting snaps in practice. Relf started the season on top of the depth chart and appeared in 10 games. Russell took over starting duties at midseason and played in nine games.
3. Wake Forest will look to trump a Bulldogs’ defense allowing only 19.9 points per game with the play of quarterback Tanner Price, a sophomore who completed 60.9 percent of his passes and threw for 20 touchdowns. Price’s top target, Chris Givens, caught nine touchdowns and finished with 1,276 receiving yards.
4. The Demon Deacons have not appeared in a bowl game since beating Navy 29-19 in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl.
TV: ESPN, ESPN3.com.
LINE: Mississippi State opened at -6.5 and has remained steay at that numbers with some books going to -7.
WEATHER: Cloudy skies and game-time temperatures in the high 50s are in the forecast for Nashville. Winds, blowing SW, will reach speeds of up to 11 mph.
ABOUT MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-6, 2-6 SEC West, 6-6 ATS): Expectations were high in Starkville following a nine-win season in 2010. But the Bulldogs lost to Auburn and LSU in a five-day span in mid-September and never fully recovered. Whoever plays quarterback will look to running back Vick Ballard to lead the way. Ballard rushed for 1,009 yards and eight touchdowns this season, including 144 yards against Ole Miss. The Bulldogs are in a bowl game for the second consecutive season for the first time since 1999-2000, and have won their past four bowl appearances.
ABOUT WAKE FOREST (6-6, 5-3 ACC, 7-5 ATS): A 35-30 upset victory over then-No. 23 Florida State on Oct. 8 pushed the Demon Deacons to 4-1 on the season. But Wake would drop five of its final seven, including an ugly 41-7 loss at home to Vanderbilt in the regular-season finale. Price will have to spark the offense as Wake Forest ranks 96th in the nation in rushing offense. Leading rusher Brandon Pendergrass posted back-to-back 100-yard rushing games against Clemson (134 yards) and Maryland (125 yards) late in the season.
* Demon Deacons are 4-1 ATS in their last five bowl games.
* Bulldogs are 4-0 ATS in their last four bowl games.
* Under is 4-1 in Demon Deacons' last five Bowl games.
* Under is 7-3 in Bulldogs' last 10 games overall.
PREDICTION: Mississippi State 24, Wake Forest 20 - The Bulldogs find a way to keep Price in check just enough to pull out a close victory.
Iowa Hawkeyes vs. Oklahoma Sooners (-14, 57.5)
INSIGHT BOWL STORYLINES
1. Oklahoma opened the season with national-championship expectations, but the loss of leading receiver Ryan Broyles and leading rusher Dominique Whaley combined with a sloppy defense has Bob Stoops’ Sooners outside of a BCS bowl for only the second time in the last six years. Iowa also enters off a down year by Kirk Ferentz’s standards, but has won three straight bowl games, including the last two as underdogs.
2. Oklahoma quarterback Landry Jones, billed as a Heisman candidate for the first half of the season, didn’t throw a touchdown pass in his last three games and had five interceptions. Iowa junior quarterback James Vandenberg was up-and-down, but finished with 23 touchdowns and only six interceptions. He'll be missing his backfield mate, leading rusher Marcus Coker, who has been suspended for the game. Coker set Iowa bowl records for rushing attempts (33) and rushing yards (219) in the Hawkeyes' 27-24 win over Missouri in last year's Insight Bowl.
3. Stoops played safety at Iowa, when Ferentz was the Hawkeyes’ offensive line coach in the early 1980s.
4. Ferentz has been mentioned as a candidate for the Kansas City Chiefs vacancy.
LINE: Oklahoma opened at -15.5 and has been bet down to as low as -13.5.
WEATHER: Clear skies and temperatures in the high 50s is in the forecast for Sun Devil Stadium. Winds, blowing WSW, will blow at 2 mph.
ABOUT IOWA (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten, 5-7 ATS): A difficult offseason was followed by an up-and-down regular season for the Hawkeyes. They had an impressive win over BCS-bound Michigan, but also suffered an embarrassing loss to a three-win Minnesota team. Vandenberg has a big-play target in Marvin McNutt to throw at the suspect Oklahoma secondary. The Hawkeyes’ defense struggled to pressure the quarterback, which left their secondary vulnerable. Iowa ranked last in the Big Ten in pass defense.
ABOUT OKLAHOMA (9-3, 6-3 Big 12, 6-6 ATS): The Sooners are making their 12th straight bowl appearance, a streak spanning Stoops’ entire tenure in Norman. But bowl season hasn’t always been kind to Oklahoma, which has lost three of its last five postseason appearances. Oklahoma was No. 1 in the nation until suffering a stunning upset at home to Texas Tech in late October. The Sooners managed to climb back into the national-title picture, before falling at Baylor. If Jones can’t get the offense clicking, look for backup Blake Bell to get more snaps. Bell was used as a short-yardage specialist as Jones faded late.
* Hawkeyes are 4-0 ATS in their last four bowl games.
* Sooners are 1-4 ATS in their last five bowl games.
* Over is 5-0-1 in Hawkeyes' last six non-conference games.
* Over is 4-1 in Sooners' last five Bowl games.
PREDICTION: Oklahoma 34, Iowa 28. After a blowout loss at Oklahoma State to end the regular season, the Sooners’ motivation will be tested by the less-talented Hawkeyes.
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