Saturday, December 24, 2011
8:00 EST- Southern Miss (11-2) (-8.5) vs Nevada (7-5) O/U 63- Similarly to the Boise St./Ariz St. contest, this match-up will be determined by motivation. Since Southern Miss pulled off their season-defining upset of Houston to win the C-USA title, two setbacks have occurred: 1) Head Coach Larry Fedora agreed to take the UNC head coaching job, and 2) The Liberty Bowl passed over the Golden Eagles in favor of matching the Big East and the SEC in a move the C-USA commissioner called "very disappointing." Fedora remains on to coach Southern Miss as the travel far west now to Hawaii to face a capable Nevada team.
Southern Miss, however, is one of the stronger teams in the country from a yards per play perspective, ranking in the top 20 both offensively and defensively. Although Nevada was 9th offensively in YPP, their defense struggled mightily stopping the run allowing 4.5 yards per carry. Nevada's pass defense, though, posted a respectable 6.8 yards per pass attempt.
Play- If Southern Miss shows up for the game highly motivated, they will handle Nevada with ease; however, their motivation is highly in question and they must deal with the dreaded "lame-duck" coach scenario. Play Nevada +8.5 and play it soon, as the line continues to drop. No lean on the over/under.
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.
Thursday, December 22, 2011
8:00 EST- Boise St. (11-1) (-14) vs. Arizona St. (6-6) O/U-66- Make no mistake, the talent gap between these two teams is not that sizable; however, there are several reasons Boise is lined as a two touchdown favorite. Ariz St's motivation is highly questionable after a late season collapse and the firing of head coach, Dennis Erickson. After 8 games, the Sun Devils were 6-2 and a virtual lock for the Pac-12 South Title. After that, they went 1-5 and were left out of the title game. Now, they will face a formidable Bronco team with a lame duck coach leading a back-sliding team.
Boise has issues of their own. They have not covered a game since Oct. 15th (6 straight ATS losses). In addition, this team was hoping for a BCS appearance. Now, they need to play a pre-christmas bowl game against a .500 ball club; nonetheless, they have 25 seniors on the roster who will want to finish their careers on a positive note.
Play- Slight Lean to Boise St. I can't trust them with an 0-6 ATS record to end the year, especially against a team with equal (if not better) talent. I do think it's a strong possibility that Ariz St does not show up, so I will be interested to see what happens in the 1st half. Depending on Ariz St's effort (or lack thereof), a 2nd half wager could be a decent play. Play the Over at 66. When two teams come in with questionable motivation, the offenses tend to outplay the defenses. With two nfl-caliber starting qb's looking to showcase their talents, 66 is an attainable number.
Tuesday, December 20, 2011
8:00 EST- Fla Intl (8-4) (-4) vs. Marshall (6-6) O/U 49- Marshall struggled with two tight wins late to gain bowl eligibility, while Fla Intl had the best record since program inception. That being said, The Thundering Herd clearly played the superior schedule (127 vs 55). These teams had one common opponent in Louisville and both went on the road to beat the mediocre big east squad (what does that tell you about L-Ville and the big east as a whole!). Fla Intl excelled this year with an efficient offense that protected the football beautifully (1 TO per game). They will also be playing just 3 hours from campus and should have tremendous fan support.
Play- Slight lean Fla Intl -4. I'd like to play it but the -4 is too high. My gut says they are a better team and I have no interest in the points with Marshall. If Fla Intl gets down in the first half, look for a potential 2nd half wager, as this team is capable of coming from behind. No lean on the over/under.