Saturday, December 24, 2011

6 Things to Expect in the Pre-New Years Bowl games

1) The Big East is terrible- I know, many people already know this, but it is still worth mentioning. Before New Years, 3 Big East teams will take the field in their respective bowl games: Louisville (7-5) vs. NC St. on 12/27, Rutgers (8-4) vs. Iowa St on 12/30, and Cincinnati (9-3) vs. Vandy on 12/31. Cincy and L-Ville tied for the “coveted” Big East conference title; however, since WVa had the highest BCS rank, they “earned” the conference’s BCS bid this season. Looking at the resumes, these teams are 2-5 out of conf. against quality opponents (major conference or mid-major above .500).

Cincy slaughtered Nc St at home and Rutgers beat Ohio for the two wins. Of the 5 losses, 3 were embarrassing: Lville lost home games to both Fla Intl and Marshall, and Cincy went to Tenn and lost by 22. By comparison, Cincy’s opponent, Vandy, also went to Tenn and lost an overtime heartbreaker. Of these 3, I give Rutgers the best shot to win, since they have the most impressive resume and should have a great home-field advantage in Yankee Stadium. I also believe they are the most complete team in the conference. However, be cautious to support Cincy and L-Ville, they have inflated records and I expect poor showings in their bowl games.

2) Don’t underestimate Florida St.’s defense- After a horrendous start to the season with 3 straight losses to Okla, Clem, and Wake, the Noles have won 6 of 7 by dominating on the defensive side of the ball. Outside of the SEC, there isn’t a better defensive team in the country the 2nd half of the year than Florida St. They have allowed an average of 11.3 ppg and 268 ypg in their last 7 contests. Granted, the competition was weak and their offense has been unspectacular, but a defense this dominant deserves respect. In addition, this team lost two games without starting QB, EJ Manuel. Anyone believing Notre Dame’s offense will put up points against this strong FSU defense should temper those expectations.

3) Missouri is better than a 7-5 team- Not only were the Tigers crushed by injuries this year on both sides of the football, but they also played the 15th toughest schedule in the country. Their 5 losses came at the hands of 5 bowl teams, 4 of which were on the road. They lost in OT at Ariz St, by 10 at #19 Okla, by 7 at #10 Kan St, by 21 vs #3 Okla St, and by 3 at #16 Baylor. They enter Monday’s game against UNC healthier than they have been all year and playing their best football (won 5 of 7). Expect a quality showing against a mediocre UNC squad.

4) Expect a shootout in Washington DC- Toledo handled Head Coach Tim Beckman’s departure for Illinois admirably by hiring rising-star OC Matt Campbell to replace him. Toledo averaged 42.3 ppg this year, with their lowest offensive outputs coming against Ohio St (22 pts) and Boise St (15 pts). Beyond these two contests against difficult competition, Toledo provided offensive fireworks all season. The problem is, they could not stop anyone either. They were 89th in the country in points against allowing 30.9 ppg.

Turning attention to Air Force, their offense appears equally dynamic, holding the 2nd leading rush offense in the nation while averaging 34.4 ppg. While they are a ball control offense, they’re ability to put up points in bunches, coupled with Toledo’s offensive capability create the potential for a high scoring affair. I expect this game to go above the posted total of 70 and for both teams to finish this shootout with impressive offensive numbers.

5) Auburn’s offense is dreadful- Since the Tigers hit October, they have averaged a paltry 19.3 ppg. Although several games have been against the top defenses in the country (Ala, LSU, and SC), this average is not indicative of a defending national champ. To add to the issues, OC Gus Malzahn bolted to take the Ark St head coaching job. Its hard to expect Auburn’s offense to execute at a high level against UVA with the staff in turmoil (DC Ted Roof also leaving) and a noticeable lack of offensive weapons to begin with. I expect Aub to struggle to score against a competitive UVA defense.

6) Vanderbilt is the most underrated team in the country- As I mentioned in an earlier piece, if Vandy were named “Florida,” they would be favored by a touchdown in this game. Since the Commodores turned over full QB duties to Jordan Rodgers in game 7, the offense has flourished, losing 3 games vs. #7 Ark by 3, at Fla by 5, and at Tenn in OT. This team, which lost 10 games last year, proved their mettle this season and I expect a terrific showing from Vandy in the Liberty Bowl.

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