national champs baby
Bowl Chronicles: A Gambler's Money Knows No Home Edition
Is it 2010 yet? Perhaps I can get a mulligan, at least, on starting this new year?
I had a great bowl season going until the last 48 hours came in like a plague of locusts and infected my entire profit margin.
Trutfully, I cant blame a new year's haze, locusts or, sadly, being distracted by the ending of a Michigan game leading me to confused, head scratching decisions. Seriously, I think that's how I ended up taking Piit in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl against Urban's Meyer monster Utah team. The furious closing moments of the Texas-UM Rose Bowl that day are fuzzy at best, amid a fog a Vodka drinks, reefer and, of course, a typically gut wrenching Michigan fourth quarter. Somehow I picked up the phone and uttered the phrase, 'gimme the Panthers.' Ah, sweet memories.
Nope. I cant even blame it on a similar situaiton. The last 48 hours have been on me and my reckless strategy. Up on the house, you should reduce your bets in size and quantity. I did neither, and the House, like Charlie Wies at a Chinese Buffet, gobbled up darn near all the cash.
The fact is I got hoodwinked in the number of games on the slate. Even during the year, I do so well on those midweek games, while running in place when the board is full on a typical Saturday. When I can focus on a singular game, I do fine. When the board has multiple games and endings are crossing over with beginnings, I become a spastic, sugar-addicted kid in a candy store. Sound reason gives way to emotional, from-the-heart picks. How else can you explain backing obvious overmatched teams from the Big 10 in recent days? Or, forgetting my seven-year-old rule about betting against USC, especially in big game? Or fading a Virginia Tech program that has done nothing but win me cash since I began this hobby? Or forgetting my own golden rule--that being, after taking dogs for a full week of bowls, always hop on the big favorites, come New Year's Day--about betting bowl season?
I have been winning all my big bets. That tells me my overall analysis is sound. However, I've been unable to resist the tempation and have frittered most of it away. Like I said, reckless I am. My resolutions for the new year ought to be moderation, dont bet any more totals (seriously, I wish they would just stop posting these. Between Big 10 Picks and Bowl Chronicles, I think I've won maybe two of these all season) and learn to hate the Big 10. That last one will come in handy, I am sure, in non league showdowns. We'll see if any of those take form.
Sigh. A gambler's money, indeed, knows no home.
I guess I could toss some blame onto my girlfriend. She's gone through tomorrow on a family vacation, but we did catch up a bit on the phone yesterday morning. She does a great job of helping me cut through the emotion of college football when it comes to making selections.
Yesterday, when we talked, she asked about the games, who was playing and, of course, what the spreads were. She laughed at the prospect of MSU having to play Georgia. As for the Rose Bowl? If Michigan's greatest teams cant touch USC in Rose Bowls (she was recalling the fun I dragged her family through while watching the 2007 Grandadday), how will Penn St? Interesting takes. And, right all the way.
I'd like to think that had she been around yesterday, she would have needled me so much about my Big 10 bias. I would have been convinced to go the other way in those contests, or ignore them all together. In the moments up to the Rose Bowl kick, she would have dialed the phone for me to get off of PSU and buy into some of that USC action. So, yeah, its clearly her fault for not being around.
(And, for those of you who feel its not wise to lean on someone who cant even name a person on Michigan's roster, even though she goes to half the home games, trust me, this is smart on many levels. She's basically a casul fan, but what she does pay attention to is the spreads, mostly because she's a good woman who is into her significant others, uh, hobbies. In a related note, I like cross country skiing. She has helped me cut through the fat of all the information I have and find a winning investment on several occassions. Do I get pissed if I follow her quirky guesses on a game? Hardly. After all, there is nothing quite as steamy as "sorry, I lost you a bet and money" sex. It's like fat girl sex. They just try a little bit harder than the rest.)
Phew! Now that I've found a way to blame someone else for my losses and addiction, i feel like I am a true gambler again. You know what else would make me feel like a true gambler, I mean, besides pointing fingers at my enablers? Wagering on today's bowl tripleheader, that's what. Besides, I am still up almost two units and still playing with house money. Without further adieu:
Cotton Bowl, Dallas, 2pm
Ole Miss vs Texas Tech. Lines, Tech -5, O/U 66
The famed Cotton Bowl. My worst Cotton Bowl memory? New Year's Day, 1987. As Ohio State put the finishing touches on Texas A/M, the announcers trumpeted the victory by saying the Bucks were the first school to win all of the major bowls. In my mind, it was a shady accomplishment at best because most schools at the time had no chance to play in the Rose Bowl. And, Michigan had never been to the Cotton Bowl, so who cares? Oh, but the Bucknuts I was with that day kept celebrating the fact and when UM dropped the Rose Bowl to ASU (A John Copper-led squad, ironically), they became insufferable. In the final Coach's Poll, OSU was actually one place ahead of UM, despite the Wolverines beating them in Columbus 26-24. Those aforementioned jokers taped several copies off the poll onto my locker. Such is the topsy-turvy world of this backyard rivalry. Here's hopnig 2009 brings a big dose of topsy-turvy to this series.
Anyway, on to today's Cotton Bowl. I'm grabbing the points with the Rebels. This is an underrated program and may be primed for bigger and better things next season. I love this team in both trenches. Ed Ogeron recruited well and left the Rebels surprisingly strong with NFL prospects on both defensive and offensive lines. In their upset of Florida and near miss against Bama, the Rebels owned the lines of scrimmage. This will catch Tech off guard today.
Ole Miss traditionally is a solid underdog bet, logging a 30-20 ATS mark in its last 50 when catching points. This number has been trending upward in recent seasons, covering 13 of its last 20 and seven in a row as a pup, the last six on the road. The Rebels covered all four games this year when catching points (Wake, Florida, Alabama and LSU), including a pair of outright upsets. They are also 8-2 ATS vs teams with a winning record.
Meanwhile, the Raiders have struggled to a 2-6 ATS mark as bowl favorites and are just 4-9 ATS as favorites from 3.5 to 10 points. They've always been a dicey play away from Lubbock.
Can Ole Miss keep up with Tech? Why not. They've moved for more than 350 total yards in 11 games this season and are 38th in the country in total offense. And they're ranked 14th in both total defense and scoring defense. They might not have to keep up as much as you think in this one. Its safe to say Ole Miss will outrush Tech, making the one good piece of advice I passed on yesterday in play: Bowl teams who outrush their foes covers the spread at a 79% clip.
The Pick: Ole Miss +5, 1 Unit......another tipping point in this game. Consider half the roster from Tech is returning home to the Dallas area. How many of them have broke curfew this week to hang with their boys during various New Year festivities. I'll take the Over on that one. This feels like a pleasure trip for the Red Raiders and business trip for the Rebels.
Liberty Bowl, Memphis, 5pm
ECU vs Kentucky. Lines, ECU -3, O/U 44
Last year in the Liberty Bowl the team from mighty SEC, in this case Mississippi St, took down the plucky CUSA Champ, Central Florida, in a bone crunching 10-3 final. Back when I used to play totals (see, this resolution thing is going well so far), it was the easiest Under bet I had ever won.
I think the opposite is going to happen in this one. No, not a shootout, per se, but I think the mid major is coming out of this contest with at least the win.
I like how the Pirate program has performed under Skip Holtz when the spotlight is on. Whether its taking on high end programs from BCS leagues (VT and WVA in September), playing a league title as significant underdog (Tulsa, last month) or going up against a allegeldy superior bowl team (Boise St, last year), East Carolina has always been up to the task. Did they struggle a bit this year with the bullseye on their back? Yes, but mid majors always do that, but the good ones find a way to rebound and close strong. That is exactly what ECU is doing.
I'll take the QB Pickney is this one. I dont trust the UK offense. I'll take Skip Holz over Rich Brooks anyday.
ECU comes in hot, having won 6 of their last seven, including a great performance in winning their league title game against Tulsa. In this stretch, they've allowed less than 17 points. Pickney, the offense and the playcalling of Holtz can clear that scoring bard with no problem.
The Cats are not hot. They've only won twice since September, both single point wins over non-bowl teams. Yes, the SEC slate did get harder as the year wore on, but this team seemed to get worse as well. UK may be the biggest bowl fraud this side of Hawaii or Minnesota. They went 0-5 against fellow bowlers this year.
They may not cover, but I expect ECU to notch the win. I will play them on the moneyline.
The Pick: ECU moneyline, -145, 1 Unit......Under Holz, the Pirates are 23-8 ATS as a dog or favored by 5 or less points.
I'm working on the Sugar Bowl while watching the start of the Libery Bowl. So, if you want to see who to fade, check back a bit later.