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SMU vs. FRESNO STATE
Monday, Dec. 24, 8:00 pm
ESPN After years in the shadows and under sanctions, the SMU Mustangs have been successful since rejoining the postseason festivities, winning two of their past three bowls. SMU enters its fourth straight bowl, which just happens to be a program-best streak. SMU hovered around .500 all season and finished 6-6 after upsetting the Tulsa Golden Hurricane in its final game to earn bowl eligibility. While running back Zach Line has churned out a good amount of yardage, the rest of the Mustangs' offense has been up and down. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert completed a nice percentage of passes but not much of a run game to go along with it. For Fresno State, a bowl win would be a positive sign that things are moving in the right direction after last season's 4-9 debacle under Pat Hill, who was later fired. The Bulldogs haven't won a bowl game since 2007's 40-28 Humanitarian Bowl victory over Georgia Tech. Fresno State enters the game on a five-game winning streak and boasting top units on both sides of the ball. SMU is going to have a very difficult time stopping this Fresno State offense.
You have to give credit to SMU salvaging its season with a late run, but it comes into this matchup out-gunned and over-matched. The gap in talent with Fresno State is just too wide, especially when you compare the Bulldogs’ high-powered offense against the Mustangs’ defense. Stick with Fresno State all the way as it rolls to its 10th win of the season while easily covering the spread. Although I always come back closer to game time with an update, this is a no brainer. Fresno State will win this game by 3 touchdowns and I look for the Bulldogs to win this game going away and get the bowl season started with another easy winner. We have been on the right side in ever game and only fell a couple points short with Boise to talk about being undefeated. I see lots of points in tonights game as well. Merry Christmas!!!
CENTRAL MICHIGAN vs. WESTERN KENTUCKY
Wednesday, Dec. 26, 7:30 pm
ESPN There have been some good matchups in past editions of this bowl. In 2008 Rusty Smith and Dan LeFevour put on a nice QB duel. Three years earlier DeAngelo Williams capped off a stellar college career by carrying the ball 238 yards and scoring three times as Memphis beat Akron in a thriller. There have been other compelling, intriguing games. On paper at least, this is not one of those matchups. The game falls the day after Christmas, but it’s not likely to be a big present for college football fans. One team just isn’t very good, and the other, while better, is going through a high-profile and very distracting coaching change. The Chippewas are riding a three-game win streak, while the Hilltoppers lost three of their last four, so momentum is definitely in CMU’s favor. But the break leading up to the game at Ford Field is going to even the playing field, and I expect WKU’s offense, led by Antonio Andrews and Kawaun Jakes, is going to prevail in this game. CMU did what it had to do to become bowl-eligible, winning its last three games. But still, the record of the teams it beat this season is a dreadful 15-53. the Chippewas might have home-field advantage, playing much closer to home, but I don’t think it will play a big enough factor to lead them to victory. Running back Antonio Anthony, the nation’s leader in all-purpose yards, will be cause too many problems for the CMU defense. CMU hasn’t played in a bowl game in three years, and they are playing close to home, so their fan support should be strong — at least compared to Western Kentucky. The fanbase isn’t at its most enthusiastic right now, though, and the attendance has fallen the more they have played in this game, so it would be easy to give the Chippewas too much credit for the location. With Western Kentucky, there is a whole lot of excitement around this team about having a guy like Petrino taking over. That’s a massive get for this team, and it only happened because the guy is a slimeball. Players will inevitably be looking forward to next year, so Guidry is in a very tough situation here. The advantage he has, though, is that he has been through this before — he was the interim head coach for Miami of Ohio in the GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2011, and he led the team to a win.
Time to bounce back after a beat down with Fresno State. But again start off the bowl season with 5 straight wins, once in a while you have to take one for the team. Posted this weeks ago but gotta believe Western Kentucky will bring strong fan support along with their strong running attack. The Chippewas will bring the fans as well, but this is fan base that I don’t feel is 100-percent behind this team, as many don’t feel CMU is deserving of this bid. WKU’s strong offense will be too much for CMU, as the offense will not be able to keep up. The Hilltoppers get a win in their first ever bowl game. A strong rushing game from Antonio Andrews and a large, boisterous Western Kentucky following will propel the Hilltoppers to a win in their first bowl appearance in program history. They have the better record and they have better wins, and though they aren’t wildly explosive they are good enough to exploit the lousy Central Michigan defense. Western Kentucky should win this game by more than 2 touchdowns. Dont really have much of an opinion on the total so will hope we kick off a big week with a win tonight and a bunch of games tomorrow.
BOWLING GREEN vs. SAN JOSE STATE
Thursday, Dec. 27, 3:00 pm
This matchup might not seem sexy, but it should be a fantastic game. Bowling Green has the MAC’s best defense ranking seventh in the nation in yards allowed and ninth in points allowed. San Jose State’s passing game is loaded ranking second in the nation in efficiency. Both teams can bring the house. The Spartans have a few elite pass rushers who help lead the way to the nation’s fifth best defense at getting to the quarterback, while the Falcons are ninth in the country at hitting the passer. Motivation will hardly be a problem. San Jose State’s last bowl game was in 2006 and has gone to just one post-season game since 1990. Bowling Green has dabbled in bowls over the last few years, but have only eight appearances all-time and have lost their last two. The WAC proved a far stronger conference this season than most expected and San Jose State played a major role in that development as it finished with a 10-2 record. Not only did the Spartans, who finished just behind first place Utah State in the conference standings with a 5-1 league record, compile double digit wins, they did so against a schedule that featured bowl teams in Stanford, San Diego State, Utah State, Navy, and BYU. Bowling Green finished short of 10 wins and it also placed second in the MAC’s East Division behind an 11-2 Kent State team; however, it did put together its best season since 2007. The Falcons, after a 1-3 start, steamrolled their way through the remainder of their schedule, finishing on a 7-1 run with the school’s only loss coming against the aforementioned Golden Flashes.
Although this was one game early on that I didnt have a complete feel on, the coaching change at San Jose State, who will be coaching in the game,etc? I have San Jose State winning the game by a field goal but this is just too many points for a team traveling cross country into the cold and although Bowling Green may not win this game outright they will keep it close and get us a nice win here to start off the day.
CINCINNATI vs. DUKE
Thursday, Dec. 27, 6:30 pm
ESPN If this was a basketball game it would be cant miss. But Bowl Season is much more important to me than basketball. Butch Jones is among the hottest names in coaching circles after lifting the Bearcats to a share of their fourth Big East title in the past five seasons despite significant personnel losses from a year ago. Cincinnati is a 9-3 team who has been fighting for relevance as the lead institution in the Big East. They will have to continue their fight but had a great year this year. Quarterback Munchie Legaux lost his job earlier this year to Brendon Kay, but could see some time in this game to get more experience heading into 2013. A player to watch for Cincinnati is George Winn, who is the workhorse and someone who an entire offense can revolve around. His ability to break one at anytime is what the Blue Devils will have to watch out for.
David Cutcliffe, meanwhile, has won the nation's adoration after lifting the Blue Devils to their first bowl berth since 1994, snapping the nation's longest bowl-less streak. They have put together a very good team this season and were just one win away from going to the ACC championship game. Playing in the postseason without crossing state lines gives Duke a chance for plenty of its fans to be one hand. It also gives the 16 Duke players from the Charlotte area a chance to play in front of friends and family members. A key player to keep an eye on is QB Sean Renfree, who has been one of the best quarterbacks in the ACC this season. His all around play has shown that he can lead a poor program like Duke to a bowl game. Renfree will earn his way onto an NFL roster if he can have a good showing against a solid Cincinnati defense.
Duke needs to rise up from the ashes of despair. Duke was trampled four of their five previous games. The Devils’ also fell to the Pacific-12 Conference Champion by 37 points and were beaten to a pulp by the Atlantic Coast Conference Champ and Runner-Up. Duke’s lone away victory came at 5-7, 3-5 Wake Forest 34-27 to end September. Bottom line Duke is terrible at playing defense. Conversely Cincy was 2-2 on the road this season along with a 27-24 win in Washington D.C. over the Hokies. The ‘Cats beat 4-7, 2-5 Temple 34-10 and should wallop the Blue Devils here. I list more stats here because this game should not be close. Cincinnati isn’t a wildly-potent offense, and they have faced uncertainty at QB in the second half of the year. However, they did score 31 points per game, and they should be able to exceed that here. I don’t feel great about the effect the coaching change will have on the Bearcats, but they are still the simple pick here. Duke is underwhelming offensively, they are terrible defensively, they are inexperienced, and they have struggled against decent teams. There is no good reason to consider picking Duke. Cincinnati will win this game by 3 touchdowns. Another one of these bowl matchups that I dont see as being close. Jump all over Cincinnati now and later as I have posted on my NFL express the past week.
BAYLOR vs. UCLA
Thursday, Dec. 27, 9:45 pm
ESPN The Baylor Bears salvaged the 2012 season with four wins in five games to end the year, finishing with a 41-34 win over No. 23 Oklahoma State and earning a bid to the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl. Baylor is coming off a season where they didn't turn in their absolute best performance. They were 7-5, but lost three of those games by a touchdown or less. They did show that there is a ton of potential there and a win for Baylor would be a way to show that they can still take on anyone. Baylor has a couple of key players to watch in WR Terrance Williams and QB Nick Florence. As good as Kendall Wright was for Baylor in 2011, Terrance Williams has been that much better this season. He is a huge reason as to why Nick Florence has been able to throw for over 4000 yards, and the passing offense has 32 touchdowns. UCLA played a depressing pair of games the past two weeks losing in a home-and-home series to the Stanford Cardinal. They lost their shot at the Pac-12 Championship in the process. In order to gain some momentum into the next season, a Holiday Bowl win would be great for coach Jim Mora and the Bruins. The Bruins Key stud is RB Johnathan Franklin. Franklin is a back who could surprise people in the draft this year. He's been highly productive and has an excellent size and speed combination. It will be good to see how he handles the poor run defense that Baylor has in what could be a blowout.
I see no way the Bears can stop Hundley and Franklin. But I do wonder how motivated the Bruins are to be in this game after coming so close to playing in the Rose Bowl. And I’m also not sure the Bruins will slow Florence & Williams. UCLA has allowed nine receivers to have 100-yard days this season and has given up several big plays. That said I see UCLA winning this game by almost a touchdown and since this is basically a pick em there is no reason not to think that Mora ends this season on a high note with his young team. Lets roll with UCLA who should win this game by almost a touchdown and with the line moving big time with UCLA, glad we posted this early and everyone got an early jump. Not to mention a big middle if you care to look that way. Leaning towards the over as well.
OHIO vs. LOUISIANA MONROE
Friday, Dec. 28, 2:00 pm
Two teams with successful seasons will meet and two quality teams getting after it in this game here. The Independence Bowl always seems to have one of the better matchups during the bowl seasons. We have an Ohio team that was favored to win the Mid-American Conference this year but finished with four losses, which came in the team's final five games. Each of their four losses were to other MAC teams that are playing in a bowl game as well. UL-Monroe is clearly popular this season, having knocked off Arkansas way back in September that sent the Hogs in a complete tailspin for the rest of the season. The Warhawks also went to overtime with Auburn and nearly won, then followed that up by falling by just five points against Baylor in the third week of the season. This team really has no fear after playing three major schools in the opening part of the year. Monroe lost only two games in the Sun Belt conference this season, dropping games to Louisiana-Lafayette and Arkansas State.
Monroe throws the ball well, but also can get the work done on the ground as well. Defensively, they give up 28 points per game on average. Ohio defensively gives up only 25.7 points per game. They average 30.6 points per game this year, but the four losses in the last five games certainly will have an impact. They are a balanced team, throwing for more than 233 yards per game and running for 202 per game.
Louisiana Monroe has never been to a bowl game before, and it is going to be interesting to see if it can top an Ohio team that has been on a tailspin over the course of the last month or so. The Bobcats are going to be happy to have some time off, and they have the talent to be a great team led by QB Tyler Tettleton. However, the Warhawks aren’t going to be intimidated, knowing that they were able to put Arkansas and almost beat Auburn this year. If QB Kolton Browning keeps his head on straight and the moment isn’t too big for ULM, this game could be interesting but I have this game as almost a pick em and truly the public is all over ULM. But when they zig I zag. I lean towards Ohio plus the points and as long as you can grab a touchdown or more this seems like a no brainer to me. Game should be very close. Sorry for the late update but we have had Ohio winning this game outright and was posted as such weeks, so its almost considered a money line dog if you want to push it. Bowl season always seems streaky and this year its turning out no different. Lets roll with the dogs and look for a good chance to cash the Over if you are playing.
RUTGERS vs. VIRGINIA TECH
Friday, Dec. 28, 5:30 pm
ESPN Rutgers, after its incredible 7-0 start, looked well on its way to a Big East title were it not for conference rival Louisville. The Cardinals, who shared the Scarlet Knights unblemished record, would go on to win the league championship thanks to a 20-17 win at Rutgers in their regular season finale. The loss to Louisville marked a second consecutive setback for Rutgers and the third in its final five regular season games. Despite their poor close to the season, the Scarlet Knights, who rank fourth in the nation in scoring defense (14.3 points per game allowed), finished their 2012 slate with an impressive 9-3 record. While Rutgers enjoyed some unexpected success this year, Virginia Tech suffered through its worst season since winning eight games back in 2003. The Hokies were inconsistent from the jump and, at one point; they had dropped five of six games, an almost unheard of slide during Frank Beamer’s extensive tenure in Blacksburg. Virginia Tech did rally to qualify for postseason play, though, as it closed out the season with back to back wins over ACC rivals Boston College and Virginia.
Defense is going to be the name of the game in this one. Virginia Tech’s defense figured to be one of the ten best in America this year, but what has ultimately happened is that the team has been wrecked by a number of the top offenses in the ACC. Rutgers was in the thick of the fight for the Orange Bowl this year, and we think that it has a great shot of winning this game, if it can just overcome the disappointment of not playing in Miami, but playing in Orlando instead. Small lean to Virginia Tech in a game they should win by less than a field goal and with the line moving our way going to pull the trigger and make this a decent play. Very familiar with Rutgers having gone there for some school certifications and with a rookie head coach whom usually do not do well in their first bowl game. So lets see what happens.
MINNESOTA vs. TEXAS TECH
Friday, Dec. 28, 9:00 pm
Reliant Stadium will host the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Minnesota and Texas Tech both come into this game with absolutely no positive momentum. The Golden Gophers started 4-0, but they have won only two of their last eight games. Texas Tech also started the season at 4-0, but they have lost four of their last five games. Texas Tech’s only win in their last five games was a 41-34 overtime victory over the lowly Kansas Jayhawks. If this matchup sounds a little familiar, there is indeed some history here. These two teams met in the 2006 Insight Bowl. Minnesota led 38-7 before blowing that massive lead and losing 44-41 in overtime against Texas Tech. That game would mark the end of the Glen Mason era at Minnesota. Both of these teams have had a pretty continuous coaching carousel going on in the last few years. Minnesota seems to have found the right guy for the job in current coach Jerry Kill. Texas Tech thought they were set for quite some time until Tommy Tubberville shocked the program by bolting for Cincinnati a few days ago. The Red Raiders are actively searching for a new head coach. Some stability would be nice for both of these programs. Offensive line coach Chris Tomsen will lead the Red Raiders in this contest.
Both of these teams have some notable bright spots on their roster, but they also have some pretty glaring weaknesses. Minnesota’s offense has been downright awful this year. The Golden Gophers have scored more than 17 points only four times all year. Who were their opponents in those games? Minnesota was able to score against UNLV, Western Michigan, New Hampshire, and Purdue. Clearly, the Golden Gophers haven’t been able to pile up the points against decent defenses this year. Freshman Philip Nelson is expected to start at quarterback for Minnesota in this game. Texas Tech’s defense was amazing through their first four games of the season. In fact, the Red Raiders were among the Top 5 defenses in the nation in the first month of the year. The defensive production went south in a hurry for Texas Tech. In the last six games of the year, the Red Raiders allowed 50 points or more four times. They didn’t allow less than 31 points in any of those final six games. Minnesota’s defense was awful the last few years, and many people expected much of the same this year. Instead, the Golden Gophers unexpectedly got a lot tougher on this side of the ball. The secondary was brilliant all year. Minnesota allowed only 179 yards per game through the air. Troy Stoudermire and Michael Carter are the leaders of this strong group. Overall, Minnesota gave up just 23.9 points per game this season.
Texas Tech has an impressive slinger in Seth Doege under center. Doege threw 38 touchdown passes on the year. He racked up 3,934 yards through the air. Eric Ward caught 11 touchdowns, while Darrin Moore brought in 13 touchdown receptions this year. Texas Tech had 11 players who caught at least 15 passes this year, so that shows you what kind of depth the Red Raiders have on offense. Texas Tech averaged 37.8 points per game this year.
It will be strength against strength in this game, and that should be the matchup to watch. Can Minnesota’s strong pass defense keep Doege and the Red Raiders out of the end zone most of the game? The Big Ten didn’t have a lot of great passers, so it’s possible that Minnesota just didn’t get tested nearly as much as they normally would.
Let’s just go ahead and state the obvious: this bowl game is one of the least anticipated matchups of the season. Still, that doesn’t mean there isn’t money to be made on this one. Tubberville leaving Texas Tech at the last moment made this game a little complicated to handicap. Minnesota certainly isn’t very good, and they played in a very weak Big Ten Conference. If Texas Tech could channel their performances from early in the year, this one could be over by halftime. Texas Tech’s running game is better than most realize. Don’t be surprised if the Red Raiders get it going on the ground early to open up the passing game. The side in this one is a very tough call, but I do think the under may be the way to play this game. I have Texas Tech winning by almost 2 touchdowns but with the line I will just tread lightly and look for a low scoring game.
AIR FORCE vs. RICE
Saturday, Dec. 29, 11:45 am
Rice has only been “bowling” four times in the past 50 plus years and once endured a 43-year stretch without qualifying for the postseason! Thats pretty crazy. Meanwhile, Air Force has been a bowl regular for three decades and makes its sixth straight postseason visit. While Air Force is admittedly more familiar with bowl surroundings this was not a vintage Falcon edition in 2012. At 6-6 the Force was barely bowl-eligible, and lost its highest profile games vs. Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy rivals Navy & Army. While its run option ranked second among the nation’s rushing leaders, the change-of-pace passing dimension was mostly absent in 2012. As is often the case in Air Force games, how the opponent copes with its unorthodox option is crucial, and the undersized Rice rush “D” was not exactly robust vs. the run. But unlike the regular season, the Owls will have had nearly a month to prepare for the option. And Rice can play some ball-control, too, with an infantry that gained a nice amount of yards over the last six outings in 2012, winning five of those to become bowl-eligible.
At the end of Oct Rice was sitting at 2-6 having to sweep the board to have a shot to get to a bowl and they did just that. Of the 4 teams they beat, none have a winning record. AF dropped its last 3 games away from home but the last 2 losses were against two teams that shared the Mountain West crown with Boise. It’s no secret that to beat Air Force, you need to stop the run but Rice has struggled. Rice hasn’t faced an option offense this year but still allowed a bunch of yards. Rice’s defense only starts 1 Sr and when facing the option you must be disciplined and stay home or else they will break numerous long plays. I feel this very young defense will have trouble doing that and call for the Falcons to win their 3rd bowl game in the last 4 years in a very close game. I have Air Force winning this game by less than a field goal so right now will hold off on a selection but leaning towards Air Force at a pick em. With the line moving in our favor as happened last night with Virginia Tech will make a very small play on Air Force and even buy a point since the line went all the way down to a pick em. Not a strong play but that never stopped me.
WEST VIRGINIA vs. SYRACUSE
Saturday, Dec. 29, 4:00 pm
This is the first bowl game in the series between old Big East and regional rivals. The Mountaineers had dominated the Orange before Syracuse won the last two meetings, recording sizable upsets in 2010 and 2011. This appearance must be looked at in consideration of very different attitudes of the teams involved. West Virginia and QB Geno Smith were looking like BCS Championship & Heisman candidates, respectively, after breaking from the gate 5-0. Then a 5-game losing streak left West Virginia scrambling for enough wins just to qualify for a seat in the bowl version of musical chairs. Smith had an impressive year, despite the mid-season losing run. The prolific Smith’s favorite targets were Stedman Bailey and Tavon Austin who made WVU roll most of the time. While Smith and the offense held up their end, the WV defense did not. With just 6 returning starters and only a
sprinkling of seniors in its two-deep, the defense stunk. The WVU secondary was ripped repeatedly. Syracuse has weapons that might hurt that West Virginia defense in recordsetting sr. QB Ryan Nassib, WR Alec Lemon and sr. WR Marcus Sales. Orange
RBs Jerome Smith and Prince-Tyson Gulley. The Orange OL was pretty damn good despite not having the services of left tackle Justin Pugh (best in the Big East at the position) for the first 4 games while he recovered from shoulder surgery. .
It is no surprise that the Mountaineers would finish in this spot after their 5-0 start but they now have to be completely discouraged as the public and media basically named Geno Smith the Heisman winner and had them in a BCS bowl. Playing on the grass of Yankee Stadium, in the possible cold and windy late-December New York conditions, must favor the “local” team that’s got a better defense and much more productive running game and familiarity with the surroundings and ability to rise to the level of the competition are additional edges. All Syracuse does is play solid, basic football and did so again this year, especially down the stretch. I have Syracuse winning this game by more than a field goal and since they are getting ponts this makes them a Money Line Dog. So its all about Syracuse and will determine how strong as we get closer to the game. Ohio came thru as a money line dog yesterday so lets roll with it again. A very solid play for today.