jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/01/2013 02:47 AM

Rose Bowl:
Wisconsin vs. Stanford
Bret Bielema guided Wisconsin to four 10-win seasons and three consecutive Rose Bowl appearances in his seven years in Madison, but he couldn't deliver a win in the Granddaddy of Them All before his stunning decision to bolt for Arkansas. His replacement has had a bit more success in Pasadena. Barry Alvarez will make a temporary return to the Badgers' sideline on Tuesday looking for his fourth Rose Bowl victory in this 99th edition of college football's oldest bowl, but Wisconsin figures to have its hands full against an eighth-ranked Stanford team appearing in its third straight BCS game.

Bielema was the hand-picked successor to Alvarez when the winningest coach in school history stepped down after the 2005 season, and the former Iowa defensive lineman kept the Badgers humming along as one of the Big Ten's elite teams. Wisconsin (8-5) blew out Nebraska on Dec. 1 in the Big Ten championship game to qualify for a third straight Rose Bowl trip, though this one - possible only because Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible for the postseason - wasn't met with quite the same enthusiasm as when it entered the last two ranked in the top 10.

The Badgers' spirits were dampened even further three days later with the stunning announcement that Bielema was headed to Arkansas. But it was Bielema himself who first hinted his former mentor may temporarily take the reins in Pasadena during his introductory press conference in Fayetteville. Alvarez, though, has had his hands full with more than just preparation for Stanford (11-2).

Stanford has had no such turmoil surrounding its coach this year, with David Shaw agreeing to a "long-term contract extension" in December. Shaw has plenty of experience getting ready for a BCS bowl at Stanford, which throttled Virginia Tech in the 2011 Orange Bowl before falling to Oklahoma State in overtime in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl.

Those seasons came with Andrew Luck under center, but what the Cardinal did while moving on without the NFL's top overall pick may have been even more compelling. Stanford closed 2012 with seven straight victories, knocking off ranked opponents in its final four and ruining then-No. 1 Oregon's national title hopes in Eugene on Nov. 17. The Badgers and Oregon are the only other programs riding streaks of three straight BCS berths, while Northern Illinois and the Ducks are the only teams besides Stanford to have won 11 games in each of the last three seasons.

While Wisconsin only finished third in the Big Ten Leaders Division, there's still plenty of intrigue in this matchup. The Rose Bowl will be the final college game for Montee Ball, the all-time FBS leader in rushing touchdowns (76) and total TDs (82), and he'll be running into the teeth of the nation's No. 3 rush defense (87.7 yards per game). Stanford leans almost as heavily on Stepfan Taylor, who had just one fewer touch from scrimmage than Ball with his 38 receptions factored in. Taylor finished with 1,442 yards on the ground and will now face a Badgers defense that's 22nd (124.5 ypg) against the run.

Aside from their talented tailbacks and bruising offensive lines, Wisconsin and Stanford have other reasons for concentrating on the run. The Cardinal are 94th through the air (203.5 ypg) while the Badgers are 115th (162.6). Considering the tight games they've found themselves in, the Badgers will take any edge they can get. Their last three losses came in overtime, while their other two were by a field goal apiece in regulation.

Three of Stanford's last four victories came by four points or fewer, and it had to rally in the fourth quarter to beat UCLA 27-24 in the Pac-12 championship game. Defensive lineman Terrence Stephens missed that contest and the regular-season finale, and he has been declared ineligible for the Rose Bowl because of a secondary violation of NCAA rules related to his rental of off-campus housing.

These teams are very similar; they both prefer to run the ball, and they've both got pretty good defenses. While most of Stanford's close call affairs were against competitive teams, Alvarez gives Wisconsin the edge in experience not to mention a record that his Badgers are better than. Lean slightly to the over 47 and don't be surprised if you witness a close game ripe for an outright upset. +190 looks mighty enticing.

The pick: Wisconsin +7 (bought half)
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jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/01/2013 03:04 AM

Orange Bowl:
Northern Illinois vs. Florida St
Guided by a new coach and looking to become the sixth school from a non-automatic qualifying conference to win a BCS bowl, the No. 16 Huskies try for a 13th straight victory when they face the No. 13 Seminoles in the Orange Bowl on Tuesday night. Having won 21 of 22, riding a school-record winning streak and coming off a second straight Mid-American Conference championship, Northern Illinois (12-1) is the first MAC school to earn a BCS bowl berth. Schools from non-BCS conferences are 5-2 in such bowls and have won their last three appearances in games of this kind.

The Huskies jumped six spots to finish in the top 16 of the final BCS standings, ahead of champions from the automatic qualifying Big Ten and Big East. That qualified NIU for the BCS spot. As NIU celebrated its fifth straight bowl selection and perhaps the most significant moment in the program's history, some in the national media branded the Huskies unworthy of such a high-profile game because of their overall schedule and an 18-17 loss to a 4-8 Iowa team. Though SEC runner-up Georgia, Big 12 co-champion Oklahoma and ACC power Clemson were left out by virtue of a seemingly flawed BCS system, the Huskies won't apologize for their accomplishment.

NIU might be a heavy underdog against Florida State (11-2), but Orange Bowl officials are excited about having the latest BCS buster trying to pull off an upset. TCU beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl after the 2010 season, Boise State defeated TCU in the Fiesta Bowl the previous season in a matchup of non-BCS teams and Utah knocked off Alabama in the Sugar Bowl after 2008. Seminoles coach Jimbo Fisher will be trying make sure his team takes nothing for granted in the first meeting between the schools.

NIU entered the bowl season ranked ninth in the FBS with 40.8 points and 250.2 rushing yards per contest. Lynch was a second-team All-American all-purpose selection who has 1,771 rushing yards and 11 straight games of at least 100 on the ground - both FBS single-season records for a quarterback. His 4,733 total yards are also most in the nation. With career highs of 71 receptions for 1,054 yards and 12 touchdowns, senior Martel Moore provides capable support for Lynch. Junior Akeem Daniels has rushed for 240 yards and five TDs on 29 carries in the last two games.

Led by All-American defensive end Bjoern Werner (13 sacks, 18 tackles for loss), Florida State ranks second in the FBS with 253.4 total yards allowed and seventh with 15.1 points given up. The Seminoles are making their seventh BCS bowl appearance and first since a 26-23 triple-overtime loss to Penn State in the Orange Bowl after 2005. Florida State began the season ranked seventh and rose as high as third before losing 17-16 at N.C. State on Oct. 6. Its national title hopes ended with a 37-26 loss to Florida on Nov. 24. In the ACC title game Dec. 1, the heavily favored Seminoles were shut out in the second half and needed an interception in the final minute of a 21-15 win over Georgia Tech.

EJ Manuel set career highs of 3,101 passing yards, 22 TDs and 284 rushing yards to lead an offense that averages 39.9 points. Sophomore James Wilder Jr. (583 yards, 11 TDs) is one of three Seminoles to rush for at least 550 yards and was the ACC title game MVP with 69 and two touchdowns on 10 carries. NIU ranks 18th in the nation with 19.0 points allowed per game, but it's yielding 140 yards on the ground.

The Huskies will have their moments in this game but as far as beating Florida State, that could very well be another story. Even without Stoops coordinating the defense, the Seminoles’ front seven will hold Lynch in check, while the secondary will prevent many big plays. Northern Illinois should be able to hold its own early on the defensive side, but Florida State’s depth and speed will eventually take control in the second half. Motivation could be an issue for the Seminoles, and they cannot afford to take Northern Illinois lightly. The Huskies will hang around for perhaps a half. FSU does have some home field advantage given this game is being played in Miami. Lean slightly to the under 58.5 as the Seminoles pull away in the fourth quarter to earn their fifth consecutive bowl victory.

The pick: Florida St -14 (bought half)
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jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/02/2013 08:44 AM

overall

sides 18-9-2 .655 +18.5 gyros
totals leans 17-12 .586

Back later with a Sugar Bowl selection.

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jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/02/2013 05:09 PM

Sugar Bowl:
Louisville vs. Florida
Louisville is a clear underdog in the Sugar Bowl, but the Cardinals can already claim one major victory over an SEC team this postseason. Charlie Strong's decision to stay with the school also sets up an intriguing reunion Wednesday in New Orleans. Strong's success at Louisville (10-2) made him one of the hot names in this year's coaching carousel, but he turned down an offer from Tennessee to stay with the Cardinals, who are moving from the Big East to the ACC in 2014.

Strong helped Florida (11-1) remain among the nation's best programs in recent years. He's had four different stints on the Gators' staff, most significantly running their defense from 2003-09 - a stretch that included a pair of BCS titles. Louisville took a circuitous path to this game, starting 9-0 before dropping back-to-back contests to Syracuse and Connecticut. The Cardinals then fell behind 14-3 at halftime at Rutgers in the regular-season finale Nov. 29, but they recovered to win 20-17 to earn a share of the Big East title and the conference's BCS bid.

A month off could get Big East offensive player of the year Teddy Bridgewater back to full health. The sophomore quarterback completed 69.0 percent of his passes for 3,452 yards and 25 touchdowns, but he didn't start and couldn't take snaps under center against Rutgers due to a broken wrist and a sore ankle.

Muschamp's defense, though, could provide a challenge unlike anything Bridgewater has seen. Led by first-team All-America safety Matt Elam, the Gators rank third nationally in points allowed (12.9 per game), and they've given up five passing touchdowns while making 19 interceptions. Their opponents completed 51.2 percent of their passes for just 186.0 yards per game. Florida held eventual Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel to a season-low 173 passing yards in beating Texas A&M in September.

All-SEC running back Mike Gillislee is another huge reason the Gators are back in a BCS bowl after going 7-6 in Muschamp's first season in Gainesville last year. With Florida's passing attack often quiet, Gillislee piled up 1,104 yards and 10 touchdowns to power one of the SEC's top ground games. While Louisville beat Wake Forest in the 2007 Orange Bowl in its only previous BCS appearance, Florida has been a mainstay on college football's biggest stage. This is the Gators' seventh BCS bid - only Ohio State and Oklahoma have more - and they routed Big East champion Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl three years ago to improve to 5-1 in BCS games.

They would have had a chance for an SEC championship and a spot in the BCS title game had they not lost to Georgia 17-9 in Jacksonville on Oct. 27. The Bulldogs fell to Alabama in the SEC title game, which gave the Gators the conference's second BCS spot even though they finished second in the SEC East. Gillislee had 24 carries for 140 yards and two touchdowns against the Seminoles. A heavy dose of the senior may again be in store considering the Cardinals allowed an average of 174.6 rushing yards in Big East play to rank seventh in the eight-team league. Florida hasn't asked too much of sophomore quarterback Jeff Driskel, who has averaged 19.6 pass attempts for 133.7 yards. He has limited his mistakes, throwing only three interceptions along with 11 TDs.

Louisville lost two of its last three, including a defeat to bowl no-show Connecticut. Bridgewater limped to the finish line with injuries, so the layoff may do the Cardinals quarterback good. Florida had its flaws, but the Gators still managed to go 11-1. The Florida defense may be overwhelming even for a healthy Bridgewater. The Gators’ offense isn’t all that great, but neither is the Cardinals’ defense. The edge goes to Florida on both sides of the ball and in special teams with a decent lean to the under 48.5.


The pick: Florida -14 (bought half)
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jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/03/2013 05:53 PM

Fiesta Bowl:
Oregon vs. Kansas St
The best postseason matchup besides the BCS title game certainly appears to be the Fiesta Bowl on Thursday, when Collin Klein and the seventh-ranked Wildcats will try to keep up with the high-powered offense of the No. 5 Ducks. Besides these teams, college football's only other unbeatens heading into Nov. 17 were bowl-ineligible Ohio State and Notre Dame, which stood third in the polls behind Kansas State and Oregon. Both the Wildcats and Ducks entered that night 10-0 with two games to go but would suffer their first loss.

Four minutes after time ran out on Kansas State's perfect season with a 52-24 loss to unranked Baylor, Oregon fell 17-14 to then-No. 14 Stanford in overtime. Both teams would get leapfrogged in the BCS standings by fellow one-loss team Alabama, which went on to claim the spot opposite the undefeated Irish in the title game. This bowl is the only one besides the national championship game in which both teams are ranked in the top 10 or have fewer than two losses - both are 11-1. The Ducks are No. 4 in the BCS standings and the Big 12 champion Wildcats No. 5.

Klein finished third in the Heisman Trophy voting but may have cost himself a shot to win it with season worsts of three interceptions and 39 rushing yards against Baylor. He did bounce back to run for 103 yards and two touchdowns in a 42-24 win over Texas. The senior rushed for 890 yards and threw for 2,490 this season while totaling 37 TDs, including 22 on the ground.

As good as Klein and the Kansas State offense have been, averaging 40.7 points to rank among the FBS leaders, they were held under 30 four times. Three came during the final seven games as leading rusher John Hubert failed to gain 100 yards in any of them, a mark he reached four times in the first five games. A consistently dominant ground game helped the Ducks score at least 40 in every game except the Stanford loss. They averaged 50.8 points to rank second nationally behind Louisiana Tech (51.5).

They were third in rushing (323.3 yards per game) as Kenjon Barner - ninth in the Heisman voting - ran for 1,624 yards and 21 touchdowns. The highlight was a 321-yard, five-TD performance in a 62-51 win over Southern California on Nov. 3. Oregon was regularly vulnerable against the run, giving up at least 190 rushing yards in four of its final seven games. Both potent offenses must be careful about protecting the ball. The Ducks finished the regular season with an FBS-high 39 forced turnovers and Kansas State caused 31.

Oregon's Marcus Mariota threw six interceptions in 312 attempts compared to 30 TD passes, becoming the Pac-12's first freshman quarterback to make the all-conference first team since USC's Todd Marinovich in 1989. Mariota was picked off once in the last six games, a stretch during which he also showed off his rushing ability with 469 yards. Klein is the superior runner but less of a threat through the air. He had three TD passes over the final four games and failed to throw for 200 yards in six.

Still, this matchup could provide another memorable, high-scoring Fiesta Bowl like last season when Brandon Weeden led Oklahoma State to a 41-38 overtime win over Andrew Luck's Stanford team. As solid as Ty Zimmerman has been, the defensive leader is senior linebacker Arthur Brown. The Big 12 defensive player of the year topped Kansas State in tackles (91) for a second straight season and was named a second-team All-American.

However, he wasn't a Butkus Award finalist like Oregon linebacker Dion Jordan, a possible first-round draft pick who had five sacks and 10 1/2 tackles for a loss. The Ducks defense also features cornerback Ifo Ekpre-Olomu, who led the Pac-12 with six forced fumbles and 19 passes defended.

Oregon, which is facing the Wildcats for the first time, is making an eighth consecutive bowl appearance and fourth straight in a BCS game after winning last season's Rose Bowl. Kansas State has dropped its only four bowl games since 2002, including a 29-16 loss to Arkansas in the 2012 Cotton Bowl as Klein was held to 42 yards on 24 carries.

Despite the fact that Oregon is favored by nearly 10 points, this is considered by most to be the most attractive of the non-title BCS bowls. Both teams hovered near the top of the polls for most of the season and — as stated above — both teams were one win away from playing in the title game.

Kansas State has made a habit out of proving its doubters wrong over the past two seasons, but Oregon has the superior roster. The Ducks’ prowess on offense is well known, but this is also a very strong defensive team that will be as healthy especially on the front seven as it’s been since the beginning of the season. Kansas State will score some points, but not enough to beat the high-flying Ducks. Strong lean to the under 74.


The pick: Oregon -8
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jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/04/2013 05:06 PM

Cotton Bowl:
Texas A&M vs. Oklahoma
Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel and 10th-ranked Texas A&M will take on No. 12 Oklahoma in the Cotton Bowl at Cowboys Stadium on Friday night, and while the game isn't a BCS bowl, it figures to be one of the more entertaining clashes of the postseason. The Aggies (10-2) and Sooners (10-2) finished in the top 11 in the final BCS standings, but neither received an at-large bid. Oklahoma's chances ended when Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois moved up to 15th, which was enough to secure an automatic bid. Texas A&M got left out because three SEC teams (Alabama, Florida, LSU) were ranked higher, with the Crimson Tide and Gators representing the conference in BCS bowls.

The Sooners split the Big 12 title with Kansas State, but the Wildcats clinched the league's automatic BCS bid because they won 24-19 at Oklahoma on Sept. 22. That leaves an intriguing matchup in this game between former Big 12 rivals, especially with Manziel the talk of the sport after becoming the first freshman to win the Heisman. The star QB was also named AP Player of the Year by a decisive margin. The cards fell in Manziel's favor Dec. 8, when the redshirt freshman known as "Johnny Football" beat out Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te'o and Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein for the Heisman.

Manziel broke 2010 Heisman winner Cam Newton's SEC record with 4,600 total yards in the Aggies' first season in the league, and his coming-out party came at the expense of the then-No. 1 Crimson Tide. Manziel went 24 of 31 for 253 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 92 yards in a 29-24 win at Alabama on Nov. 10, ending the defending national champion's 13-game winning streak. He passed for 3,419 yards and 24 touchdowns while running for 1,181 yards and 19 scores. That made him the first freshman, first SEC player and fifth player overall to throw for 3,000 yards and run for 1,000 in a season.

Oklahoma is led by senior quarterback Landry Jones. They suffered its only other loss by a 30-13 score at home to the Fighting Irish on Oct. 27. Jones had another outstanding season, completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,989 yards and 29 TDs. He set a school record with 554 yards in a 50-49 win at West Virginia on Nov. 17 and passed for 500 more the following week in a 51-48 overtime victory over then-No. 22 Oklahoma State, making him the career Big 12 career leader in passing yards.

Jones had another outstanding season, completing 65.5 percent of his passes for 3,989 yards and 29 TDs. He set a school record with 554 yards in a 50-49 win at West Virginia on Nov. 17 and passed for 500 more the following week in a 51-48 overtime victory over then-No. 22 Oklahoma State, making him the career Big 12 career leader in passing yards. Jones is the Sooners' career leader in passing yards, TD passes, wins (39), completions (1,353) and attempts (2,135). He is the first FBS quarterback to throw for at least 3,000 yards and 26 touchdowns in four seasons.

Manziel being on the field is a major reason for that hype. He thrived under the tutelage of first-year Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin and offensive coordinator Kliff Kingsbury, but the 33-year-old Kingsbury won't be around for this game after accepting the head coaching job at his alma mater Texas Tech on Dec. 12. Kingsbury crafted a Texas A&M attack that was third in the country in yards per game (552.3) and scoring average (44.8).

Oklahoma was just as solid on offense with averages of 505.9 yards and 40.3 points, and the teams also have similar defensive statistics. The Sooners allow 378.8 yards and 24.2 points per game, while the Aggies give up averages of 389.3 and 22.5. Oklahoma is 27-17-1 in bowl games and will be trying to match a school record with a fourth straight bowl win. The Sooners beat Arkansas 10-3 in their only other trip to the Cotton Bowl after the 2001 season.

Texas A&M is in the Cotton Bowl for the 13th time. The Aggies, 14-19 in bowl games, lost 41-24 to LSU following the 2010 season to extend their skid at this event to six. Oklahoma won eight of the final nine meetings between the teams before Texas A&M left for the SEC, but those victories came before Manziel and Sumlin joined the Aggies.

Both teams have elite offenses and adequate defenses, so we are likely in for a high-scoring affair especially if you, the viewer love offense. However, Oklahoma doesn’t have a name like Damontre Moore on its defensive line. He’s been a terror to opposing backfields all season and that shouldn’t change tonight. If he can pressure Jones, he can force him out of the pocket and into some ill-advised decisions. Slight lean to the under 72.

The pick: Texas A&M -2.5 (bought half)
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enzymex Posts:1732 Followers:61
01/04/2013 05:08 PM

Thanks for the pick and detailed analysis! Tailing tonight on Texas A&M -2.5.

jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/05/2013 02:07 AM

overall:
sides 20-10-2 .656
+20 gyros (who's hungry for more?)


totals leans 19-13 .594

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jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/05/2013 02:33 AM

Compass Bowl:
Mississippi vs. Pittsburgh
Pittsburgh may be a long way from home, but it should feel rather comfortable at the BBVA Compass Bowl. After reports that he was a possible candidate for another job, Paul Chryst is staying with Pittsburgh and will be on the sidelines when it faces rejuvenated Mississippi for the first time Saturday. The Panthers (6-6) will play roughly 750 miles from campus, but they're accustomed to Legion Field after splitting the last two BBVA Compass Bowls, losing 28-6 to SMU last season.

The team was led by interim coaches during its last two bowls, as Dave Wannstedt was fired two years ago before Todd Graham missed last season's defeat to take over at Arizona State. This time, though, Pitt will have the coach that guided it through the season on the sidelines. Chryst went so far as to issue a statement of committal after his name was circulated as a potential candidate for the Wisconsin opening. He played for the Badgers and was their offensive coordinator for seven years before taking the reins at Pitt after the 2011 season.

Chryst guided the Panthers to a fifth consecutive bowl appearance, going 3-4 in their final season in the Big East before moving to the ACC. However, his optimism may stem from going 2-1 against ranked opponents, while his team nearly pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the season Nov. 3. Pittsburgh fell 29-26 in triple-overtime at then-No. 4 Notre Dame after squandering a 20-6 lead to start the fourth quarter. Ray Graham rushed for a season-high 172 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in that loss. The senior ran for 399 yards with five of his team-leading 13 touchdowns in those three games against Top 25 foes.

Graham was fourth in the conference with 1,042 yards while averaging 4.7 per carry. He's also a threat out of the backfield, connecting with quarterback Tino Sunseri on 36 completions for 340 yards. Sunseri, also a senior, proved to be very efficient by ranking second in the Big East with a 154.9 rating. He completed 66.5 percent of his passes for 3,103 yards with 19 TDs and two interceptions, and he's gone nine games without a pick since throwing one in a 35-17 win over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech on Sept. 15.

That was Pitt's first victory of the season after losses to Youngstown State and Cincinnati. The Panthers went on to become bowl eligible with a 27-3 victory at South Florida in the regular-season finale Dec. 1, when Graham raced for two scores. Graham may be in for another strong performance on the ground against the Rebels (6-6), who allow an average of 133.3 rushing yards. Ole Miss, however, yielded 30 yards on 25 carries in a 41-24 victory over then-No. 25 Mississippi State on Nov. 24, claiming its first Egg Bowl in four years.

Hugh Freeze signed an extension that should keep him at Mississippi until 2016. He seems to have Ole Miss on the road back after it went 2-10 last year and lost all eight games in SEC play. The team was 3-5 within the conference under Freeze, who feels returning to the postseason is a major boost. Jeff Scott has rushed for a career-high 828 yards while reaching the end zone seven times. He carried the load against the Bulldogs, rushing 28 times for 111 yards. Quarterback Bo Wallace, who led the Rebels with eight rushing scores, threw five TDs with two INTs against Mississippi State. Wallace passed for 19 scores with 15 interceptions while completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 2,843 yards.

The Panthers finished their regular season well, while the Rebs needed that win over Mississippi State to snap a three-game losing streak. This is the third year in a row Pitt is playing in this bowl. Two years ago the Panthers beat Kentucky 27-10, but last year they lost to underdog SMU 28-6. This will be the final game for both Sunseri and Graham, so I'm counting on the Panthers giving a similar right at home effort against Ole Miss. Expect a hard fought close battle, so a slight lean to the under 54 while Pitt should prevail.


The pick: Pittsburgh +4 (bought half)
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jimmythegreek Posts:10907 Followers:378
01/06/2013 12:44 PM

GoDaddy.com Bowl:
Kent St. vs. Arkansas St.
Both coaches for the teams in GoDaddy.com Bowl have left for other jobs, although one of them will be sticking around for the penultimate game of the bowl season. Darrell Hazell will coach his final game for No. 25 Kent State on Sunday night when it takes on Sun Belt Conference champion Arkansas State, which makes its second straight appearance in this bowl.

It's not unusual for teams in this Mobile, Ala., game to be dealing with coaching changes, with this marking the fifth straight year that at least one coach has been unavailable after taking another job, but it's the first time other schools have hired both. Hazell has accepted the job at Purdue, but he wanted the opportunity to try to lead Kent State (11-2) to its first-ever bowl victory. This is the school's first postseason appearance since losing to Tampa in the Tangerine Bowl in 1972, when Alabama coach Nick Saban played for the Golden Flashes.

Arkansas State (9-3) won't have coach Gus Malzahn, who will take over at Auburn. The Red Wolves were 10-2 last season heading into this bowl when Hugh Freeze departed to coach Mississippi, and they lost 38-20 to Northern Illinois. Defensive coordinator John Thompson will serve as Arkansas State's interim coach this time. Malzahn will take offensive coordinator Rhett Lashlee with him to Auburn, but Lashlee will serve in that position for this contest.

Kent State will be trying to shake off the disappointment of seeing its 10-game win streak end Nov. 30 with a 44-37 double-overtime loss to then-No. 19 Northern Illinois in the MAC championship. The Golden Flashes battled back from a 14-point deficit with five minutes left in regulation only to fail to match the Huskies' touchdown in the second extra session. Running backs Dri Archer and Trayion Durham combined for 200.0 yards per game on the ground to lead a rushing attack ranked 16th in the country. The duo had 29 of the Golden Flashes' 35 rushing scores. Kent State's passing game produced the nation's 11th-lowest yardage average at 162.9 per game behind senior quarterback Spencer Keith.

The range of possibilities for this game is pretty high, with Arkansas State on the winning end most of the time. We don't see why that trend wouldn't continue this evening given their dangerous run based spread that is likely to catch Kent St off balance most of the evening. Combine that with the Red Wolves' ability and efficiency in the passing game against Kent's suspect secondary. Slight lean to the under 63.

The pick: Arkansas St -2.5 (bought half)
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