Thursday, December 29, 2011

College Bowl Picks - Part 5

Florida State vs. Notre Dame
Line: Florida State -3.5

You can't really bring motivation in to the conversation here since both teams aspired for something bigger than the Champs Sports Bowl. Before the year. Florida State was ranked in the Top 10 in the preseason and Notre Dame in the Top 20 in both polls. This game boils down to two things for me, better QB and better defense and in both cases Florida State has both. Couple that with the game being played in Florida and it's kind of a no-brainer for me.

The Pick: Florida State -3.5

Washington vs. Baylor
Line: Baylor -9.5

When all else fails I am a fan of taking the team that has the best player on the field which in this case is obviously Robert Griffin III. You couple that with the game being played in Texas and I shouldn't have to look much further than that. But why do I find myself leaning towards Washington? Both defenses are awful but Baylor's more awful, Washington was only 7-5 and their bad loss was a late hiccup at Oregon State. Other than that their losses were at Nebraska, at Stanford, at USC and at home against Oregon. Those are excusable to me. There is something in my gut that tells me it's going to be a one score shootout and 9.5 is a lot.

The Pick: Washington +9.5

BYU vs. Tulsa
Line: Pick Em

I can't take anything BYU has done this year seriously. The beginning of the year looked promising. Beating a lousy SEC team on the road and then lost by 1 at Texas back when we thought Texas was good. Since then they have only been tested once in a "neutral" site game against TCU (in Arlington, TX). On the year BYU has beaten one team that is participating in a Bowl game and that is (after their loss in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl) 7-6 Utah State at home and that was on a fluky tipped TD pass at the end of the game). If you take TCU away, the combined record of their opponents is 50-84. As for Tulsa, they don't have any remarkable wins either but at least they beat two teams going to bowls and their 4 losses were at Oklahoma and Boise and home to Oklahoma St and Houston. That's the top of college football right there. Don't get me wrong, I think it's going to be a close game but I like Tulsa's running game and senior QB to pull it out.

The Pick: Tulsa


Rutgers vs. Iowa State
Line: Rutgers -1.5

Big East football is dreadful. On the last week of the year Rutgers had a shot at a share of the Big East title and a place in the Orange Bowl. They laid an egg, turned the ball over 6 times and lost to a (at the time) 4-6 UConn team. If I'm Rutgers than I'm thinking one of two things: 1) how close we were to a BCS Bowl and this doesn't compare or 2) we are better than we really are. I'm not a big Iowa State fan but at least they are the reason we are seeing a rematch of LSU/Alabama in the BCS Championship instead of LSU/Oklahoma State.

The Pick: Iowa State +1.5

Mississippi State vs. Wake Forest
Line: Mississippi State -6.5

There are few Bowl games I care less about than this one. Wake Forest doesn't do any thing particularly well. Mississippi State held opponents to less than 20 points a game. They did only go 2-6 in the SEC West. But it's the SEC West. Alabama, LSU, Arkansas and on top of that, the top 2 teams in the SEC East in Georgia and South Carolina. Going from playing teams like that to Wake Forest should seem like slow motion. Wake Forest also lost 4 out of 5 coming in to the Bowl. I can't think of a reason to take them

The Pick: Mississippi State -6.5

Iowa vs. Oklahoma
Line: Oklahoma -14

Like I mentioned before with Texas. Guys don't come to Oklahoma to play in the Insight Bowl. 14 points is a lot in a Bowl game. Landry Jones has hit a funk and hasn't thrown a TD pass since November 5th. Oklahoma is going to win but Iowa is going to want it more enough to keep it within 14 points.

The Pick: Iowa +14


Texas A&M vs. Northwestern
Line: Texas A&M -10

With the exception of the Boise State/Arizona State game, I don't like big spreads in these smaller bowl games. Wacky things happen in these things. Texas A&M come in losing 4 of 5 while Northwestern comes in winning 4 of 5 (including a win at Nebraska last month). Like the Insight Bowl above, I think Texas A&M will end up ultimately winning the game but not by more than a score.
My two concerns are that A&M have the geographical advantage and Northwestern is turnover prone. It's a concern but not enough to overcome getting double digits.

The Pick: Northwestern +10


Georgia Tech vs. Utah
Line: Georgia Tech -2.5

These are the type of games that get me in trouble. Utah is behind the 8-Ball with me from the get go. They finished under .500 in the Pac12 without having to play Stanford or Oregon. What team worth their while loses home games to Washington, Arizona State and Colorado. I'm tempted to take Utah here because Georgia Tech just doesn't win Bowl games lately. Four weeks to prepare for the option attack nullifies it a bit. The problem I have with betting on an option team is that if they fall behind and have to play catch up they are done. Utah is offensively challenged enough that I don't think they have the firepower to jump out to a big enough lead. I think Georgia Tech is due to break their 6 bowl losing streak.

The Pick: Georgia Tech

Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt
Line: Vanderbilt -1.5

I know I'm giving another Big East team the short straw but this is pretty much a home game for Vandy. Vandy played a lot better defense that Cincy in the best conference in college football. Zach Collaros is coming back from an injury so you don't know what you're going to get. I would have taken Vandy up to 3.5 to 4 points.

The Pick: Vanderbilt -1.5

Illinois vs. UCLA
Line: Illinois -2.5

This line doesn't make much sense to me. I know the game is in California but I'm high on Illinois in this one. When in a rush I'll just go with the simplistic train of thought and say "they shouldn't even be in a bowl, they aren't going to win." But that gets me in trouble during the NCAA Basketball tournament so I didn't just discard UCLA without looking at the match up. My absolute favorite stat when picking football games is how a team can run and stop the run. Illinois doesn't run it at an elite level (171 yards/game which is 42nd overall out of 120 teams) but UCLA is towards the bottom of the FBS is run defense. On the flip side, UCLA can run the ball (better than Illinois actually. 190.7 yds/game) but Illinois is around the top 3rd in run defense and 7th overall in total yards allowed per game. With all the off the field stuff at UCLA, I don't see how Illinois doesn't win this by at least a touchdown.

The Pick: Illinois -2.5

Chick-fil-A BOWL
Virginia vs. Auburn
Line: Auburn -3

All things being equal I would like Auburn a lot in this game. But all things are not equal. Auburn's coaching staff is in disarray with both offensive and defensive coordinators getting hired elsewhere. Also Auburn's best player Michael Dyer is suspended. They are towards the bottom of the FBS in passing and without Dyer you can't say they are going to justify their 39th over ranking in rushing in this game. Virginia has a pretty good defense. Good enough to stop Auburn. I like Virginia to win outright in a low scoring game.

The Pick: Virginia +3

A couple of late additions. Busy weekend so I didn't have time for the full write ups.

Houston (-6.5) over Penn State
Michigan State (+2.5) over Georgia
Nebraska (+3) over South Carolina
Florida (-3) over Ohio State
Oregon (-4.5) over Wisconsin
Oklahoma State (-4.5) over Stanford

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