Ok, lets do this quickly before more rankings show up tomorrow:
#11 Michigan in the GLI. First night, we handily beat Michigan Tech, in a good game for the defense. Hogan records a shutout, but, I was there, and there were very few shots that caused us Michigan fans to go “oooh!” after good saves. Michigan State beats North Dakota in a stunner, setting up this year’s third Michigan/Michigan State match.
Next night, in front of a slightly pro-Michigan crowd, we destroyed Little Brother 5-1. Game was awesome, I was thrilled to be there. Louie for Hobey! Two more for the season sweep.
#9 Cornell plays in the Florida College Classic. Beat St. Cloud State night 1, Colgate beats Maine, setting up a Sunday night match.
In which I can’t figure out exactly what happened. The Live Stats site says 2-2 at the end of 5 minutes of overtime, and I can’t imagine a tourney can end in a tie. And I want to post this.
Hockey’s holiday break sort of ends next week. We don’t play, but, more teams play than have played all at once in some time.
Everything goes according to plan, except a BYU game that wasn’t played. Monday night, #24/NR Michigan beat Florida Gulf Coast (although, apparently we were fairly lethargic about it), then take Christmas off. Here’s a list of the rest of the games (Ranks: Media/Coaches’):
NR/#24 Memphis over Drexel
#21/#22 Baylor over Hartford
NR/#25 Marquette over NC State
BYU v. Western Oregon- Postponed to Jan 6th due to inclement weather
#20/#17 Arizona State over Idaho State
#23/#23 Minnesota over Southeastern Louisiana
#19/#19 Louisville over UAB
NR/#25 Marquette over Presbyterian
#23/#23 Minnesota over High Point
See you tomorrow with some rankings and some plans for your week.
Independence Bowl, Shreveport LA, 8:15 pm
Northern Illinois vs Louisiana Tech. Lines, LT -2, O/U 47. Moneyline (to win) for LT, -135
Why would you watch an NFL Division Title Game (SD vs Denver) when there is a bowl game on, especially one that could finally give us the elusive answer of which conference produces the less fraudulent bowl team, the MAC or the WAC. Truth seekers have looked high and low for this answer and they may get some tangible evidence tonight when Northern Illinois swaps paint with Louisiana Tech.
That can't hold a candle to deciding an AFC West Champion, or, as I like to call it, Colt Fodder for next weekend. Besides, if you're reading this, aren't you obligated to be watching the Mazie and Blue icers skate in the GLI Final? Its a presitigoous hockey tournament.....against Sparty.....the boys need you, so tune in. It's 1-1 at the first intermission right now.
Typically, the Independence Bowl is a Big 12 vs SEC matchup, which would provide an interesting undercard in advance of the showdon for all their marbles between these leagues respective conferences. They've been the best leagues all season, but ironically neither were able to qualify enough teams for their slots after placing two into the BCS. Blame Auburn, Tennessee, Colorado and Texas AM for regressing in 2008 and making this classic clash between the Huskies and the....ah.....wait a second.....crap, I dont even know La Tech's nickname. Give me a second while I look that one up.
Alright. I'm back. Thanks for cutting me some time there. The Bulldogs, eh? Gun to my head, I would have said Broncos. Dodged a bullet there, I suppose.
Kidding aside, history suggests this game will at least be close and not decided until late. Nine of the last Independence Bowls have been decided by 7 points or less. These two clubs have combined to play a dozen games this season decided by a score or less. NIU always seems to play close games. And, they typically lose those contests. NIU is 8-16 SU in games decided by a TD or less, 2-4 in those types of games this season. The Bulldogs, meanwhile, are 5-3 in those games in the two-season tenure of coach Derek Dooley (the son of UGA legend Vince Dooley), 3-2 this year.
Throw in the fact that LT will be playing this game in fron of a home state crowd, and I like their chances to pull the win. Enough, at least, to risk a one unit wager that the program's historic identities in close games will stay consistent.
The Bulldogs are playing better coming into this game. NIU lost 3 of their last 4 and lost all five of their games this year to fellow 2008 bowlers. LT had a four game winning streak in November, averaging 35 ppg. They did lose their finale, 35-31 to Nevada, but playing Nevada is a harder chore than going against NIU. Going back to mid October, this team has scored more than 32 ppg.
I doubt NIU can keep up for four quarters. Their D has some nice stats, but the teams with relatie offensive acumen, like CMU, WMU, Ball St and Navy have been able to call their shots and drive the ball at will versus this D. LT has the better rushing offense and better rushing defense. Thats a recipe for success.
I am going to promote another little know, mid major running back to look out for tonight. Last week, in the debut diary, I touted Gantrell Johnson, the sparkplug looking, dreadlock wearing tailback for CSU. I said he would be the most fun player to watch in that mid major slug fest. He delivered with almost 400 yards from scrimmage. I made a fatal error, however, when I bet against him. I wont make that mistake here.
Watch out for LT tailback Daniel Porter. Expect him to be the best player on the field today. He has 100 yard games in five of his last seven games as he emerged as a first teamm All-WAC performer. He's shifty, elusive, and dangerous in space, but he has enough power to also run in between the tackles. He's a complete back and reminds me of a more physically formed out Jacquizz Rodgers, the waterbug for Oregon State that nearly dragged the Beavers to Pasadena. Porter will be the Bowl MVP for LT. He'll rip off 150 yards and a couple of scores will the Bulldogs nail down a hard fought 24-17 victory.
The Pick: Louisiana Tech to win on the ML, -135, 1 Unit......the Independence Bowl historically gives us close games. So, after UM bodychecks MSU to a bloody pulp and hoists the GLI Trophy, turn the dial and watch the second half
The Bentley Historical Library recently began to provide individuals with limited access to several new additions to its collection of football lore. The very first documents examined substantiated the century-old rumors about Ole' Blue. Now is the time to unite and resurrect his spirit. [Notes and citations have been omitted to improve readability.]
In the summer of 1901, Fielding H. Yost walked onto Depot Street, took his first deep breath of Ann Arbor air, grasped the handle of his valise a little tighter, and ran up the hill to coach football, build an athletic campus, and remain forever. On the south side of the street a rather nondescript dog of undeterminable heritage and insignificant parents, new to town but already known as Ole' Blue to the regulars at the depot, roused himself from the shade of a small elm tree and trotted along behind Yost. Unaware that he was leading a small parade, Yost quickly reached Ola Svenson's boarding house where he had previously engaged rooms to serve him until he could make permanent living arrangements.
Ole' Blue continued on, cutting through backyards and under a fence to State Street and then down the hill to Ferry Field where he began to search for a bed. Close to the railroad tracks, near where Revelli Hall is now, he found an old, small outbuilding that was too good to demolish, but too ramshackle to use. Inside were two tackling dummies unused for several years with their stuffing hemorrhaging over the floor and mouse droppings in the corners. Ole' Blue settled in.
Yost hurried up and put the final polish on his new "Spread Wedge" offense, rounded up his players, and began football practice. Ole' Blue never missed a minute. The players said that he was the best manager a team ever had. He ran all the wind sprints, retrieved errant drop kicks, and faithfully returned practice punts. He provided a comforting presence to injured players. His animal instincts were unerring in his applications of various combinations of tough love and sympathy to those whose spirits were in need of bolstering. He could remove a hangdog look from a quarterback's face in an instant through the simple demonstration of his love for the game of football. The players considered him one of them.
The 1901 Michigan team was undefeated, outscoring its opponents 550-0, the beginning of a remarkable 55-1-1 record for the first five years of the new century. Yost was the toast of the town. Even the Detroit newspapers praised him. The players, however, began to feel that their achievements outran their abilities. They sensed that extraordinary help was coming from someplace and that Ole' Blue was the source. They reached the conclusion that Ole' Blue possessed special powers, and he was using them to help the Michigan football team, a conclusion they kept among themselves.
Ole' Blue soldiered on, living on half-eaten hot dogs and opened cans of condiments, until November of 1914. Finally, cataracts causing every day to look cloudy, arthritis making every step painful, and the ache of a three loss season undiminished in his heart, Ole' Blue quietly passed away in his tackling dummy bed during an early season snow. Jim Raynsford, the team captain, discovered his chilled body the next day. He gathered as many of the players as he could find and, in the early dark of late November, they wrapped Ole' Blue in a maize and blue "M" blanket and quietly buried him in the east end of Ferry Field. John McNamara, a reserve quarterback from St. Ignace and a fine tenor, sang "Auld Lang Syne."
Early the next morning, Billy Van Orden, a young newspaper boy, was cutting the corner of Division and Hoover when he saw a shack on the south side of Hoover suddenly burst into flames. "I was just walking across Wines Field. There was nothing, then poof, the whole shebang was burning," Van Orden said. The Detroit Times was delivered a little late that morning. The Ann Arbor Fire Department didn't even uncoil the hoses, for there was nothing but embers left by the time it arrived. The two old tackling dummies, however, smoldered for several days, creating a pall of smoke over Ferry Field.
Michigan was 4-3-1 the next season. Perhaps the team spent more time looking at a slightly uneven patch of grass near the east end zone than they did listening to Coach Yost. However, as time passed, the players began to understand it was the spirit of Ole' Blue that had helped them, not the dog himself, and the ship righted itself. In 1916 they were 7-2.
In 1919 a small group of former football players, led by Willie Heston and Adolph Schultz, paid to have a monument erected in the east end of the field near the patch of slightly uneven sod. Ole' Blue's name was not publicly connected with the project for understandable reasons. The slightly modified monument, now embellished with several veiling brass plaques, remains to this day. The Athletic Department still plants more flowers around it than anywhere else.
Now is the time for Michigan fans to do their part to help the football team. This winter before spring practice begins, Ole' Blue's spirit must be resurrected and refocused along the stadium-Schembechler Hall axis. There is no need to disturb the present monument or the corporal remains. Only the spirit needs an additional place to center itself. A bronze statue, one that ages to a fine patina but shines where rubbed, set upon a concrete base outside the tunnel entrance will serve the purpose well.
The cost will be minimal. The base can be made with concrete "spillage" from the stadium construction. The statue will cost real money, but a bronze casting of a "non-descript dog of undeterminable heritage" will not be prohibitively expensive. If it looks like a dog big enough to carry a football, it will represent Ole' Blue. An appeal to letter winners and blog posters should easily provide the necessary funds.
The Athletic Department cannot be expected to initially embrace this project. A statue of a dog outside the tunnel entance, no matter how vital, is going to require a little snake oil to gain approval. The place to attack is, as always, the weakest link, the Bureau of Game Day Experience, the people who bring us Key Plays on the scoreboards and Rawk Music on the speakers.
Now, in our team's time of immeidate need, it not the time to promote critical thinking or require a precise vocabulary. The pitch should be: this is a statue of a dog that inspired Fielding Yost's "Point-A-Minute" teams of a century ago; it is much like the honorary captains who brought history and tradition to this year's games; this statue will fit into the stadium area just like the "American Eagle" at the southwest entrance does; it will enhance the game day experience of all patrons, especially the older, wealthier ones. Period. There is no need to confuse anyone with talk about a statue with juju.
Renderings will need to be made showing three-year-olds in their fathers' arms, petting the puppy, seven-year-olds sitting on the back of the statue with big smiles on their faces, young lovers with arms entwined having their pictures taken while leaning against the statue, and old blue hairs sitting on the base to gather their energy before climbing the steps.
Additionally, it can be proposed that real dogs, as living symbols of Ole' Blue, become part of the team's Victors Walk from the busses to the stadium. For one game, a dog can come from the animal shelter ready to be adopted; for another, a winner from the Ann Arbor Kennel Club can show its stuff; and another from an elementary school essay contest on "Why my dog should . . . ." Naturally, Regents, Presidents, Athletics Directors, and Football Coaches would always be welcome with their dogs.
A project endorsed by PETA, the SPCA, the AKC, and Ann Arbor Schools that also demonstrates diversity among dogs, appeals to all ages, sucks up to administrators, and costs the Athletic Department nothing while enhancing the Game Day Experience for all should be a slam dunk.
Finally, it is fair to ask if this will really do any good. It will. As evidence, consider football players who also lettered in track. Ron Kramer, Butch Woolfolk, and Braylon Edwards are random examples from different eras of what can happen when football players spend time on Ferry Field and are heavily exposed to the spirit of Ole' Blue. No one can prove that their springtime proximity to the final resting spot of Ole' Blue enhanced their football prowess, but after a team goes 3-9, no straw should be left ungrasped.
Champs Sports Bowl, Orlando, 430pm
Wisconsin vs Florida St. Lines, FSU -7, O/U 51
Doing a new Diary for the other two games today. I'll update in a couple of hours with a look at the Cal-Miami game. The Wisco game starts soon, so I'll do a quick post. Writing with a distracted eye on UNC-WVA, so excuse me in advance for any random swearing.
Revolution Destination 2009
Since UM will be in strong Champs Sports Bowl contention, I figure a quick history of the bowl is in order.
Originally called the Blockbuster Bowl, the first contest was played between Penn St and Florida St in a much ballyhooed matchup of Paterno and Bowden. FSU won 24-17 and the excitement generated from that game helped put the bowl on the New Year's Day menu by its third year.
By 1995, it was back as a December game. After flirtations with new monikers Carquest, Micron PC and Tangerine, the bowl got its current name in 2004. So, dont necessarily go printing UM Champs Sports Bowl shirts just yet. It may have a different name, but I expect to see all you in Orlando anyway.
Its always had an ACC flair to it with a team from that league in this game for the last 13 seasons. The ACC is 8-5 in that span and are on a five game winning streak. The ACC-Big 10 agreement in this game is two years old with Maryland thumping Purdue in 2006 and Boston College squeaking by MSU in 2007.
My favorite Champs Sports Bowl MVP of all time is Glen Foley, who won the award on New Year's Day 1994 leading his team to a victory over Virginia. Ten months later Foley was in South Bend putting a fatal dagger in ND's last legit title contender. They've been returning to glory ever since.
Another interesting factoid is Penn St's game on New Year's Day 1993, a loss to Standford, was its last game before joining the Big 10. Losing to a Pac 10 team in a bowl game? And, you thought you would never fit in. Tsk, tsk.
Wisconsin specialzes in being overlooked as a bowl opponent only to play their butts off and impress. The Badgers are 6-3 ATS as a Bowl Underdog with 5 outright wins. I will awlays put a small amount of coin on Wisco in this role.
Is there that big of a difference between these programs? The Badgers probably have as many pro prospects as the Noles. This is not 1998 anymore down in Tallahasee. I would not trade PJ Hill, Jonathon Clay and Zach Brown for FSU's top 2 tailbacks.
The QB situation is 'meh' on both sides, but I like Sherer, who steadied the team down the stretch as it climbed out of a hole, more than I like Ponder, who has thrown as many TD as INTs this season. Wisco has been up and down all season on Defense, but they've been more consistent against the pass and feel their secondary will force Ponder into a couple of mistakes. Consider this: Ponder had a 6-0 TD/INT ratio in the two games this season against FCS schools, but a 6-13 ratio in his games against Division 1 foes. The Badgers are in the top 25 in passing efficiency D. This will come into play tonight.
Wisco will be for a slugfest against the FSU D. But, the Badgers have been able to get Hill and Clay both going in every game this season. They can do that enough tonight to control parts of the game. Wisco's O-Line is loaded with talent, but has played up and down all season. But, Bowl Season is for redeption and I see a good game out of this unit keeping the intense rush of FSU at bay enough to allo Sherer time to get to his top targets Garrett Graham and David Gilreath.
I could see a shootout, but I am ignoring the Over/Under total. I have not done well on those during the college season. 51 points seem kind of high. I think both teams are going to run, run, run the football with a lot of success. Time could slip away fast, limiting possessions in this one. When I have the Over, I hate those games. Besides, Wisco will look to force one of those games anyway, and I am all for that.
The Pick: Wisco +7.....1 Unit.....So, if the Badgers win does that help Michigan's RPI? Late action drove this all the way up to +7, so this game now fits into the underdog trend spotlighted in last night's FAU-CMU game. If their bowl history is any indication, the Badgers will hang around all night and have a chance to win this one in the fourth quarter.
Update: The FSU punter is driving me to drink. Well, that and Brett Bielema's continued vomitting in key moments. Where was the review on that Defensive score by the Noles....we need to start adding in the Bielema factor when looking at Wisco games.....late FSU score to make it 14-3 at the half
Emerald Bowl, San Francisco, 8pm
Miami Fla vs California. Lines, Cal -10.5, O/U 51
Wow, did late money come in on this game or what. Actually all the money might be on Cal with this one as the line grew from -5 at the opening bell to -10.5 a couple hours before kickoff. Yes, Miami has some suspensions since this game was announced, but the line factored that and in settled in at -8.5 for most of Christmas Week. It was at -9 less than 24 hours ago. Perhaps WVA backers are angrily chasing with the heavy favorite tonight? I dont think thats a wise strategy come bowl season.
Call me crazy, but I always like to be on the side of the book. We dont see too many cash poor bookies out there and those sports books in Vegas are getting more and more plush each day.
Overall, this has the makings of a huge day for bookies. There was enough action of WVA during bowl season to lift the line to -2 and even -2.5 so they won there. In addition to the movement of the Cal-Miami game, the FSU-Wisco line grew a full point to -7 in the day leading up to the game. As it turns out, I am on the side of the books in all three games today. I feel comfortable with that.
Why do people think Cal will destroy Miami today? I just dont see it. Some of the better Pac 10 teams really shredded this Cal D and with Jacory Harris, Graig Copper and Javaris James, the Canes will be able to move the football throughout the day. MSU put up 31 points vs Cal in the season opener, why cant the U duplicate that? They'll come close.
Get to know some of these young Cane defenders, all fresmen: DT Marcus Forston, DE Marcus Robinson and LB Sean Spence. These guys will form a fierce defense that will get Miami back to playing for the league title.
This young team hit a wall to close the season. They'll be rejuvenated with the initial rest of bowl season. They might not win the game. Indeed, the turnover situation scares me in this one, but I think even that can survive a 10-point cushion. Cal might create enough turnovers to get the win, but Miami very well could get enough of their own to notch a cover.
The Pick: Miami +10.5, 1 Unit. Miami might be downgraded here because of those back to back losses to end the season to Ga Tech and NCST. But, Cal would have lost to those squads as well. I am a believer in the ACC and would take a team from that league at +Double Digits against anyone in the Pac that doesn't call the Colisuem home.
Meienke Car Quest Bowl, Charlotte, 1 pm
North Carolina vs West Virginia. Lines, WVA -2, O/U 48
Heading into the second week of November, both of these teams were in the driver's seat in their leagues and looked to be heading to a possible BCS Bowl Game. Alas, both faded down the stretch. For the Mountaineers, that was a huge disappointment as a veteran team, paced by a record setting QB, were heavy favorites in their leagues. For the Heels, it was a letdown, to be sure, but just being in that position was big time progress for a program that is young and talented with better days expected ahead.
West Virginia is not happy to be ending their season in this bowl. They expected to be playing in January. From the get go, it was obvious this program missed Rich Rodriguez. They weren't sharp coming out of August and never really regained whatever mojo they had had working in previous years. New Coach Bill Stewart promised a more downfield passing attack. The result was taking a record setting QB and forcing him to pass. That experiment did not work. The Mountaineers seemed flat all year on offense and in a lot of their key games this year only moved the ball in spurts. In most cases, if you limited the big play, the offense was unable to march down the field. One of the more powerful rushing attacks over the last three seasons, only scored 14 touchdowns on the ground all season. But the new fangled passing attack made up for that, right? Ah, no, not really as WVA finished 109th in the nation in passing offense.
UNC, meanwhile, has a young, exciting team. They dont do anything great, but they have a lot of fast, athletic football players whose sum combines to be greater than its parts, statistics be damned. In one of the more competitive ACC seasons ever, it was telling that such a young team was able to navigate it with enough success that it almost stole the league crown.
The Mountaineers have a lot of name players like Pat White and Noel Devine. The public knows the players and most casual observers would expect that talented duo to be enough to get the win. Not so fast, my friends.
Consider this: The Heels are 6-3 straight up versus bowl teams. WVA, on the other hand, is just 3-3 SU versus bowl teams. UNC has been able to elevate its game and fight hard against the better teams on its slate. WVA has not looked good against better foes. In those games against bowlers, WVA averaged just under 20 ppg, and three times held to 15 or fewer points. UNC is 30th in the country in scoring D, so there's plenty of reason to expect that the Heels can limit WVA the way ECU, Pitt and USF (WVA scored 3, 15 and 13 respectively against those guys) did in games this year.
I dont want to pile on WVA all day here. They have plenty of great players. Their defense will get after UNC. But I've watched just about every quarter of action these teams have played and there's something intangibly wrong with WVA and good with UNC. I know which team I trust to win the game. That would be the Heels, who played a tougher schedule and came out looking better. Frankly, put this year's WVA in the ACC and they would be lucky to have even been bowl eligible.
With Marvin Austin up front and Bruce Carter and Quin Stourdivant at linebacker, UNC has enough power, speed and tackling ability to more than contain White and Devine. Throw in Kendric Burney and Trimmane Stoddard, playmakers and ballhawkers in the UNC secondary, and I just think WVA is going to have a hard time cranking up its offense. Yes, White might rip off a vintage run or two, but I dont think they will sustain a lot of drives. This is a deep, talented and hungry defense which matches up well against WVA. The problem for WVA is that they have nothing to lean on when the Heels close down their bread and butter.
WVA has some great defensive numbers in its own right and have kept their foes from lighting up the scoreboard all year. However, UNC has been very good at holding onto the ball. They have TJ yates back at QB who is as healthy as he's been since the first half of the season. He has an awesome target in Hakeem Nicks, whose tall, physical style will create matchups problems for the WVA secondary. And, I expect the UNC special teams, which has been a boon to them all season long, to set them up on short fields in key moments throughout this game. Look for the Tar Heels to block a kick as well in this game.
The Pick: UNC +2, 3 Units......I've won a lot playing UNC games this year. From what I have seen, they are the better team in this game. WVA has had no consistency and I dont trust them in a big spot. The Heels are 7-4 ATS while the 'Neers are 4-7. But, here's where the rubber meets the road: We have two even teams. One is coached by Butch Davis. The other coached by Bill Stewart. Do you really need to do a lot of soul searching to figure out which team will be better prepped heading into the game? Throw in the fact that UNC will be playing in front of a home state crowd, and I have no problems going to the window and buying a big Carolina Blue ticket. I'm glad we talked this one out.
Diarist note....i published this tonight as I will be travelling tomorrow morning. I'll have picks on the other two bowl games, including Wisco's game as the Big 10 opens its bowl season, early in the afternoon.
Motor City Bowl, Detroit, 7:30pm
Florida Atlantic vs Central Michigan. Lines, CMU -7.5, O/U 69.5
Bowl season kicks into a second gear tonight with the first of nine straight days of bowl games with tonight being one of the few days where there's not more the one game being played. And, nothing says 'bowl season' more than the long awaited matchup between the third best team in the MAC, Central Michigan, and the second best team in the Sun Belt, Florida Atlantic.
If you think this matchup is lame, then blame our own beloved Big 10 Conference. After putting two teams into the BCS, the league was unable to qualify its requisite teams (I'm looking at you Illinois and Michigan) and, as a result, the Owls from Miami were imported up to Detroit for this game. Surprisingly, I consider this a pretty solid game between equal mid majors. The spread should be about a field goal, so with one team favored by a smidge more than a TD, I think we have a solid bet tonight with FAU.
I love this QB matchup between the Chips Dan Lefevour and the Owls Rusty Smith. Both teams were preseason favorites to win their leagues and are looking to cap off relatively disappointing seasons with a bowl win. Both teams ought to be urgent, they're both well coached and they both have NFL prospects playing quarterback. Translation: This should be a fun, high scoring, close contest that wont be decided until very late in the contest.
Defense will be optional in this one.
When the Owls have the ball, FAU's QB Rusty Smith will lead one of the nation's better passing attacks against CMU's 118th ranked passing D. That's next to last in the country for those keeping score at home. The Chips allow more than 30 points per game, never a good stat for a team favored to win by a touchdown. Smith threw for over 2,900 yards, and that was considered a disappointing season for the junior. However, he enters the game on a roll with 14 TD passes in his final four games. I expect him to have a big game tonight to set the stage for a huge senior campaign next fall.
Meanwhile, we all know about the Chips offense. LeFevour puts up Tebow-esque stats and is as dangerous running as he is throwing. Injuries derailed him a bit this year, but he enters this game as healthy as ever, and, like Smith on the other side, he wants to make a statement tonight heading into his wown senior season next year. Statistically, FAU's D is better than CMU's, but they're still in the bottom third is categories like passing D and scoring D. CMU will be able to do damage.
Both teams come into this game having allowed 50 points in their final regular season game of the season. I'd say expect a shootout tonight.
I like the Owls to cover the number for a variety of reasons.
First, lets consider bowl history. If you're looking for some basic bowl wagering strategy, jot this one down: Before Christmas, take favorites; after Christmas, take underdogs; and once January rolls arounds, hop back on the favorites. Bowl dogs betweem Xmas and New Years have covered the number 58% percent of the time since 1990. So, if you take every dog from now through 12/31, you will likely turn, at worst, a small profit. Why not start tonight with an offense that wont be stopped getting a TD head start?
Two, within that history is the following juicy tidbit: Bowl dogs of +7 to +16.5 are 60-34-1 after Christmas Day since 1998. So, if we limit our 'play dogs on the blind' theory to within those numbers, we will increase our likely profit. We have several bowls to close December that fit this bill, and I will be on all of them. Hopefully, history holds true. There's been only one season where this produced a losing record and it was in 2001 when it netted a 2-3 mark.
Third, FAU's coach Howard Schnellenberger has never lost a bowl game. This guy is one the greatest coaches in our lifetime and he specializes in long term reclamation projects. He has created FAU from scratch. He knows how to win, and he knows how to win bowls games. Against Central, he is not facing a more talented team. He's the more proven coach, in my mind, tonight and his gameplan will reflect that. I would be surprised if FAU did not take a level of control of this game early on. CMU will be fine in catchup mode, they wont fade. But, getting a seven point head start with a equally talented Schnellengerger team is too tempting to pass up.
Fourth, while both Defenses are sub par and will be on the run all night, I do like FAU's defense a little bit more. CMU is a bit banged up in the secondary. More importanly is the fact that I feel FAU has better individual talent on that side of the ball and, as a result, might be able to get more stops as the game wears on into the second half. Watch Owl LB Franz Joseph. He will be the best defender on the field tonight. A tackling machine, he has played his best against dual threat type QBs such as the one he'll play against tonight. He had more than 14 tackles against the three spread type teams they faced this year in Minnesota, ULL and UAB. I think his presence will be able to neutralize the running part of Lefevour. That will be enough to keep CMU from running away in this one.
Meanwhile, the strength of CMU's D is its pass rush, but that plays into a big strength of FAU's offense, its pass protection. Smith, thanks to his OL and his own quick release of the ball, has only been sacked 12 times this season.
Central has played nothing but close games this season regardless if they're playing a top notch foe from their league or one of the bottom wrung MAC teams. Its too much to ask of them to win this going away against a team that is probably faster and more athletic than your typical MAC team. Smith will match Lefevour throughout the game. The Owls might just pull the upset and this CFB fan would not be surprised.
The Pick: FAU +7.5, 2 Units; Over 69.5, 1 Unit.....someone is going to win this game 41-38 with a field goal at the buzzer