Saturday, December 31, 2011

College Football Bowl Preview- All New Years Eve Bowls

Record- Plays- 10-4 (2-1 on Big Plays)
Leans- 7-2

Saturday 12/31- 12:00 PM EST- Texas Bowl- Texas A+M (6-6) (-10) vs. Northwestern (6-6) O/U 70- Tex A+M has suffered through a disastrous season, mainly because of their inability to hold onto halftime leads. In 4 of their 6 losses, they lead by at least 9 at halftime only to succumb to their opponents late in games. These 4 collapses most likely lead to the firing of coach Mike Sherman, which was an unhappy surprise to his former players. In addition, interim coach and defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter is leaving to take the head coaching job at Fresno St. Everything that has happened this season indicates that the Aggies will not show well against a Northwestern team known for hanging with heavy favorites in bowl games (3-0 ATS last 3 bowl games- all as dogs). The gap between these two teams isn't as large as perception indicates. Looking at TAMU's wins, they only beat 2 bowl teams (Baylor and Iowa St.). Northwestern only defeated 1, but that was on the road against a solid Nebraska squad.

Prediction- Texas A+M takes yet another halftime lead, but Northwestern's tenacity and QB Dan Persa's ability to score quickly when needed will give the Wildcats enough to win straight up. Score- Northwestern 34-31.

Gambling Perspective- Big Play (2 units) on Northwestern +10. This line has tremendous value and take it tonight because smart players will drive this line down. Lean to the Under at 70 as this total seems too high for a Northwestern squad that improved on defense dramatically in the back half of the year.

2:00 PM EST- Sun Bowl- Ga Tech (8-4) (-2) vs. Utah (7-5) O/U 50- Looking strictly at 2nd half of the season win/loss, Utah appears to be streaking while Ga Tech is falling apart; however, analyzing their schedules, Utah's schedule eased dramatically in the 2nd half, while Tech's strengthened. The Yellow Jackets lost 4 of 6 after starting the season 6-0. Their losses came against 4 high quality opponents (at UVA, at Mia, vs VaTech, vs UGA) and they even managed to hand a solid Clemson squad their first loss of the season. Like most recent seasons, Tech's offense is elite, ranking 12th in the nation in YPP, while their defense is a pedestrian 69th. They thrive on being able to establish the run (2nd in nation in Yards per Rush at 5.7) and milk the clock, something they couldn't do in their last two losses to VaTech and Georgia. Unfortunately for Ga Tech, they're facing an opponent ranked 8th in the nation in Yards per Rush Defense, allowing a stingy 3.0 per carry. This could be an illusion as 4 teams that Utah played (Colo, Ore St., Ariz, and Wash St.) rank in the bottom 20 in the nation in rush yards per game. This will be the best unit they've faced this year.

Utah streaked towards the end of the year mainly because of a favorable schedule, facing no bowl teams in their 4-1 run to end the year. In their final game, they lost at home to a pathetic Colorado team with a chance to win the Pac-12 South. The Utes played only two teams with a winning record, blasting BYU and losing to USC early in the season. Their defense ranks highly (21st in YPP allowed), but their offense struggled all year to establish consistency, ranking 99th in YPP.

- Although Utah's defense appears to be solid against the run, I think much of their statistical success is based on the weak rush attacks of their competition. Georgia Tech should be able to establish the run and control the clock against a clearly average Utah team. Score- GaTech 27-20.

Gambling Perspective- Strong Lean to GaTech -2. I can't make this a play in the off chance that Utah's rush defense is as good as their stats appear, but my instinct is they are a paper tiger. Not a bad play if you decide to take the Jackets here. Play under at 50. Utah can't move the ball well offensively and if GaTech establishes their rushing attack, they will look to run the clock and win a low scoring battle.

3:30 PM EST- Liberty Bowl- Vanderbilt (6-6) (-1.5) vs Cincy (9-3) O/U 49- Vanderbilt might currently be the most underrated team in the nation. Since making the change at QB to Jordan Rodgers in week 7, Vandy's offense has gone from scoring 21.7 ppg and gaining 262 ypg, to scoring 32.2 ppg and racking up 424 ypg. This improvement was not reflected in the win/loss (3-3 in 6 games), but is extremely relevant in evaluating this game. Their 3 losses with Rodgers under center came by 3 to Ark, 5 at Fla and OT at Tenn, all respectable defeats. In Cincy's early season trip to Tenn with a healthy Zach Collaros at QB, the Vols pummeled Cincy by 22. Collaros is expected to split time in the bowl game with Munchie Legaux, his inadaquate replacement during his injury.

Prediction- Not much analysis needed here as Vandy should easily handle an inferior team from an inferior conference. Beyond the improvement with Jordan Rodgers at QB, Vandy should also be motivated for a victory under 1st year head coach Tony Franklin. Score- Vandy 34-20.

Gambling Perspective- Big Play (twice your regular bet) on Vandy -1.5. This line is a joke with or without a healthy Collaros. Vandy should cover this easily. Also play the Over at 49 as this game should see plenty of scoring with Vandy's improved offense and the (kind of) return of Collaros for Cincy.

3:30 PM EST- Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl- Illinois (6-6) (-2) vs. UCLA (6-7) O/U 47-
Both of these enter the postseason having fired their head coaches. The situation might be worse, however, on the Illinois side, having also lost OC Paul Petrino to Arkansas. They also enter this bowl game as the coldest team in the country, having lost 6 consecutive games, averaging just 11 ppg in those contests. UCLA, on the other hand, established somewhat of an identity as a rushing football team late in the season and was able beat Cal and Ariz St to earn a trip to the Pac-12 title game. Their offense ranks surprisingly high at 34th in the nation in YPP, while their defense failed to stop opponents, yielding 6.0 ypp, good for 91st in the nation. Illinois has the opposite issue: while their offense ranks 104th in the nation, their defense stands firmly at #9 in YPP allowed against strong competition.

Prediction- This should be a low scoring battle (although I expect many trick plays from both sides), but I expect better focus from the UCLA side. Their late season improvement and slightly more stable staff give them the edge in this battle of teams in turmoil. Score- UCLA 20-14

Gambling Perspective- Play UCLA +2. They have team playing better right now, and the will be more focused entering the game. Strong Lean to the Under as Illinois should have issues establishing their offense, having lost both their head coach and coordinator.

7:30 PM EST- Chick-Fil-A Bowl- Auburn (7-5) (-3) vs. Virginia (8-4) O/U 49
- This is definitely a game pitting two teams heading in opposite directions. Virginia turned their season around by winning 6 of their last 8, including wins over GaTech, Miami, and Fla St. They enter this game highly motivated, since this will be their first bowl appearance under head coach Mike London. Auburn's season, conversely, peaked week 5 with a win against South Carolina. Since then, they've lost in blowout fashion to Ark, LSU, UGA, and Ala, while earning one legitimate win at home against a Florida team without their starting QB. To compound their issues, the Tigers have lost both their OC and DC since the regular season finale.

Prediction- Auburn will struggle to score points against a respectable UVA defense, and the Cavs will make enough plays offensively to earn the victory. Score- UVA 24-19.

Gambling Perspective- Play UVA +3. Auburn has no business being a favorite in this game. UVA will handle their offense and come away with a straight up victory. Strong Lean on the under at 49 because of Auburn's inability to establish consistency on offense and UVA's proclivity towards winning close, low scoring games.

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