Updating the Diary to include writeups on the second to games today.
Ok, so Bowl Season is finally upon us. Since my Big 10 Picks were so well received, I figured I would do some 'pick essays' during the bowls. There were some issues this morning posting on this site, or I would have had this up about three hours ago. Do I feel sheepish posting this promoting Navy as a bet when they're winning already at the half? No, not really. I think its a pretty good read and this game has a long, long way to go. We'll see if my analysis is correct or not.
So, without further adieu, I give you some insight on the EagleBank and New Mexico bowls....there are two others on later and I will update this Diary (or start a new one, this already looks like someone puked up a bunch of copy) accordingly.
EagleBank Bowl, Washington DC, 11 am
Navy vs Wakfe Forest. Lines, Wake -3, O/U 43.5
An intriguing matchup of styles meets us to kick off bowl season. Its Navy's triple option versus the constant misdirection and deception of Wake Forest. I enjoy watching both teams style of play. And, I love betting on both because both are well coached, hard to play against and get zero repsect from the general public. Translation: You get generous lines in their favor all the time. I am saddened a bit that I have to go against one of these teams.
What you missed while the John Thompson Caravan rocked the Big House
These teams played each nearly three months ago. Navy took down Wake, 24-17. You probably missed the game because you were glued to Michigan's thrilling comeback over Wisconsin. So, let me offer a quick summery. Wake turned the ball over six times, including QB Riley Skinner chucking four interceptions. Navy leapt out to a 17-0 lead and outgained the Deacons 296-43 on the ground.
The game helped define Navy in the post Paul Johnson era and helped spark a nice fall run that saw Navy go 6-2 SU, 5-3 ATS in their final eight games. For Wake, meanwhile, it exposed the Deacs as a limited team on offense with a mediocre QB. Worse, it showed you could do damage, particularily on the ground, against the well regarded Wake defense. Heading into the contest, Wake had been flying high after stoning Florida State and elevated to #16 in the polls. Including the Navy game, Wake slumped to a 4-5 SU, 3-6 ATS record in their final nine contests.
Conventional wisdom says expect Wake to make amends for that defeat in this game. Skinner, has average as he is, is not a turnover machine and wont throw four picks again. Wake Forest is tied for third nationally in Turnover Margin, so dont expect a repeat of the debacle back in September.
While I agree that Wake wont turn it over six times again, I dont think the Deacons will get their measure of revenge in this bowl season lid lifter. For one, that turnover margin strength is negated by the fact that the team tied for third in this stat with Wake is Navy. Wake will improve that -4 TO stat from the first game, but it wont turn it completely around either.
I do think Navy's ability to run the football will stay constant. They outrushed the Deacs by over 250 yards. Navy's QB Kapio-Noa Kaheaku-Enhada is as healthy now as he has been all season from a nagging hamstring injury. With him, fullback Eric Kettani and tailback Shaun White, I dont see Wake having any better success stopping this attack the second time around. Indeed, Navy played most of the first game without their top QB, so the Navy attack, while familiar to the Wake defenders, may have an added edge to it that Wake wont be ready for. This will be a triple option attack humming at its best. Expect a lot of third, and even fourth, and short conversions all day for Navy as they set sail on at least three long, time consuming drives for scores.
Wake has scored 17 or less points in seven of its last 10 games and only more than 23 once in that span. This team is lousy on offense. Its in the bottom quarter of a lot of offensive categories including total offense, rushing offense and points scored. It cant lean on any one thing. While Navy can beat you with three different guys running the football, Wake cant counter with anything other than their defense setting it up on short fields and good special teams play. That combo can win you a lot of games, but against Navy, who does not turn the ball while controling time of possession, it does not.
The US Navy: Winning as an Underdog since the War of 1812
We have a time tested theory that goes back to evil days of impressment at the sea. The Royal Navy was supposed to take back the colonies in 1812, but the plucky American midshipmen had other thoughts. Be it war or football, I like the Academy in the role of underdog.
Lets stick to football for now. One of my primary rules as the season goes on is always take a strong look at Navy when its getting points. Navy is 21-9 ATS as a dog in its last 30 chances away from home. Conversely, Wake is a mediocre 11-16 ATS as a favorite.
Historically, underdogs who outrush their opponents cover the spread at alarming rates. Of course, its hard to identify which team will outrush which team prior to the game. Thats not the case with Navy, which has now lead the nation in rushing for four consecutive seasons. Navy has outrushed the opposition in 34 of its last 38 games.
Yeah, but is that really important?
Yes, especially this time of year. If want more hard numbers, try this on for size. Bowl underdogs who outrush their opponent are 122-51-5 ATS since 1980. Its a good bet that we can pencil Navy in for more yards on the ground today.
Besides, its pretty obvious the Demon Deacons are terrorists
Finally one last piece of intriguing motivation. Revenge aside, is Wake really all that stoked to be here? They had a January bowl game on their minds four weeks ago. Navy, meanwhile, will be ready to go. They could care less about the situation, venue, time of day (note, that 11 am start. Who responds better here, I wonder, the military men or the typical college boys? Gee, I''m not sure), foe or weather. Regardless, they will punch you in the mouth and run that triple option down your throat.
But, consider this bonus piece of motivation. Part of each team's pre bowl itinerary includes a visit to the US Naval Academy where they'll spend time with injured and wounded Naval troops. I am sure the moment will prove poignamt for the boys at Wake. However, something like that ought to inspire the Middies sky high. They will take the field for their fallen comrades. The Navy's senior leadership will be embarking themselves in a few months for active duty in the Persian Gulf. Spurred by the urging of their wounded buddies, they will relish the chance to take the field one more time. Wake might as well be wearing terrorist jerseys this morning.
The Pick: Navy +3....2 units...what has changed since that first match-up? Not much, although a strong case can be made that Navy has improved a bunch since then as they got used to the sideline leadership and play calling of new coach Ken Niumataloo. Wake seems to have regressed this season. They cant score points and Navy's triple option will be too much for them to overcome. Navy has covered four straight bowls. Today will make five.
New Mexico Bowl, Alburquerque, NM, 2:30 pm
Colorado St vs Fresno St. Lines, Fresno -3, O/U 60
The New Mexico Bowl, Settling Bar Stool Arguments since 2006
This is what bowl season is all about. Two middle of the pack mid major teams fighting it out for conference pride. Is the fifth place team in the WAC better than the fifth place team in the Mountain West? Is anybody even asking this question? Who cares, we'll find out anyway.
A sure sign that bowl season may be saturated is the fact bowl suits found slots for these two teams which are a combined 2-10 against fellow bowl teams this season.
Despite that, I would not be shocked if an entertaining shootout emerges in this one. Both defenses stink and rank 85th or worse in many key statistical categories. Offensively, however, there is a lot to like. Both QBs, Brandstatter for FSU and Ferris for CSU, can carry their team and dont face a lot of pressure. Fresno has a great offensive line, by mid major standards, and always has a tailback or two on its roster who can rip off yards. For the Rams, runningback Gartrell Johnson is a stud with four 100-yard games down the stretch as the Rams surged to an improbable bowl bid. He will be the most fun player to watch in this one.
I too like to live dangerously
I cant shake the feeling that Fresno will win this one going away in the fourth quarter.
But, do you know what betting on Fresno means? It means backing a team thats ranked 100th in rushing defense and hasnt stopped a quality rushing attack in years. It means backing a team thats bagged only one measly point spread cover since Labor Day and surrendered 61 points in its last contest. Oh, and the Bulldogs won the Chili Cook Off between these teams that started the week of bowl festivites for the clubs. The winner of that has never gone on to win the game.
So, yeah, sign me up for a little Fresno.......eh, what could go wrong!?!
I feel like Austin Powers when he sat at the blackjack table for the first time with #2 and boldly took a hit on 18. He did win that hand. And, I'm not sure if it will because of luck or good handicapping if Fresno pull this one out. I do think we can discount the cook off mumbo jumbo. This is just the third year for the New Mexico Bowl. Gambling commandment 'Never go against a streak' gets negated by gambling commandment 'be wary of small sample sizes.'
Fresno flat out has a more talented squad. They are faster and play more physical. One major advantage is in the trenches, especially the excellent Fresno offensive line going up against the CSU defensive front. The Rams are the worst pass rush in football, ranking last in sacks. They are undersized and often play like it. They wont be any match for Fresno offensive line. The running lanes will wide open and Brandstater will have all day to pass as he makes a strong case to NFL scouts today. This advantage for Fresno wil pave the way for a dominating second half as the Bulldogs pull away.
In addition to Fresno, I like the Over, even if its a high total. If Fresno comes out motivated from the start, they ought to put up more than 40 points. Meanwhile, the loser in Fresno's last 10 games has average 27.4 ppg. I expect both teams to be in the 30s. Bottomline, both defenses are garbage and we'll have close to 800 yards of total offense. That should translate into a lot of points. Fresno's recent bowl games have been shootouts, averaging 64 points per game the last three postseason games.
The Pick: Fresno Moneyline -135, and Over 60...1 unit apiece...Quick explanation of the moneyline for the uninitiated. Fresno just has to win the game, making the point spread irrelevant. It costs a litte more to bet. In a regular bet against the spread, a player would need to wager $110 to win $100. In this case, taking Fresno just to win will cost $135 (thus the -135 in the line above) to win $100. I feel the extra bucks in this case is worthy insurance to still give you the win when Fresno kicks a field goal at the gun. If they win by double digits, it does not matter. You get your bet money back. I have been bullied into the money line by the fact that Fresno has covered only once since its opener. I'm not ashamed to admit it.
St Petersberg Bowl, 4:30 pm
Memphis vs South Florida. Lines, USF -12, O/U 56
There are 34 bowl games. There's no rule that says you have to make a play on everyone. This will be one I wont play. I just see anything to like in either case.
I wont lay double digit chalk with USF. I just dont trust Matt Grothe. The recipe for a three interception game includes this guy's DNA. Most pundits gush over his game, but I am not impressed. In his last five games, he has tossed 11 interceptions to just three touchdowns and USF has averaged a paltry 14 points per game. Grothe forces the ball way too much and does not play smart football. Plus, he sports the dorkiest mohawk I've ever seen. While they're playing a de facto home game 30 miles aay from their campus, I do not trust this team really giving a damn about playing Memphis.
However, that is not pushing me into the direction of the Tigers. At no point did this team catch my eye this season. I suspect they're nothing more than a mediocre team. I have no feel if they can hang in this game or not. And, while I distrust USF on offense, I like their defense from playmaking end Selvie to their ball hawking secondary. They ought to get their share of takeaways.
So, we have the sixth place team from the eight-team Big East playing a mediocre squad from the Conference USA. On one hand, the sixth place team should probably never lay this much chalk. Then again, should the middle class of CUSA be able to compete evenly with bowl teams from the BCS leagues? I dont know the answers to any of those questions. Both these teams lost to Louisville and made Ron English's defenses look good.
Yeah, thanks, but no thanks on this one.
The Pick: No pick........This game reminds me of being dealt a 12 in Black Jack. It never matters if I play the percantages or take a risk. Hit or stick, I always lose.
Las Vegas Bowl, 8 pm
BYU vs Arizona. Lines, Arizona -3.5, O/U 59.5
The third place team from the Mountain West Conference squares off against the third place team from the Pac-10. It's an interesting clash that gives the mid major the chance to scalp a big league pelt. Whats compelling is BYU is arguably the more talented and better schooled football team. Since they're getting points, that makes them a more than attractive play.
The Mountain West went 6-1 versus the Pac-10 this season. Why should that change in this game? BYU is an upper echelon MWC team while Arizona remains a middle of the pack Pac 10 team. I think BYU should be favored to win the game, not the other way around.
Both teams feature great offenses and the QB battle between the Cougars Max Hall and the Wildcats Willie Tiutama will be one of the best of the bowl season. Both will do damage and make statements during the game. They lead a pair of offenses that both rank in the top 20 in points scored. Each quarterback has weapons all over the field. This will be a fun game.
My case for BYU starts with this interesting college bowl angle: Underdogs who won their bowl game last season are 23-12 ATS, including 15-3 ATS if they're playing a team that won eight or less games. That fits the Cougars who won this bowl last season against UCLA and it also fits the 7-5 Wildcats. Also, always look to fade those teams making a bowl appearance after a postseason draught of three or more years. The Cats have not been to a bowl since the late 1990s. These historical trends all point to BYU.
Lets also play arm chair psychiatrist while breaking down how each of these teams are handling their bowl week. Surrounded by all sorts of temptation to lose focus and forget you're even a member of a football team, let alone one that will be playing a high stakes bowl game in front of a sellout crowd and national TV audience, which team can handle the pomp and circumstance better?
My vote goes to BYU. This is their fourth trip to this bowl. The glitz of the Strip wont faze them. Its nothing more than a business trip. Adhering to Morman principles and the school's strict code, I believe all the BYU players were in bed by 10 oclock last night. If not, they were up spending time with the wife and kids.
As for Arizona, I dont care what they say. They are a distracted bunch. Its their first bowl in years and these players have obviously never played in one. Its not a typical game. People all over the place are patting your back for your great season. Instead of breaking down assignments, you are feted all week with banquets and team social events to attend. You hob knob with the other team. That in and of itself is a bizarre situation to adjust to and maintain top notch competitive focus. Toss in the fact that all this is going on with the Las Vegas Strip as background and you know Mike Stoops--he himself in his first bowl game as a head coach--has a huge challenge keeping his kids focused.
I know what I would do as a college student in Vegas, especially if I had the built in confidence and entitlement of being a member of a winning football team. And, it would have little to do with getting ready for the game.
The Pick: BYU +3, 2 Units; Over 60, 1 Unit......BYU will come out ready to play. They will land a couple opening salvos and forge out to a comfortable early lead. The Cats won go away. They will make their run. But, they'll be playing catchup the whole way, a la their game with Oregon last month, and when the final gun sounds BYU will be ahead 35-31.