The good news continued to pour in last night vis a vis Michigan’s stature on the Bubble in the chase for an elusive NCAA Tournament bid. Wisconsin and Maryland continued their recent losing ways while those fun Northeastern Huskies throttled VCU in a CAA showdown for first place. That November win over the Huskies keeps getting better and better for Michigan each passing day.
The biggest bubble news of tonight will be brought to us directly by the guys wearing the Maize and Blue as Michigan treks down south to play the hated Buckeyes. Big 10 positioning in the standings and in mock NCAA projections will be on the line. The Buckeyes currently are favored by 5 points.
Both teams are in ESPN’s and in Rivals projected fields this morning, although Rivals is a bit more bullish on the Wolverines than the WWL. The loser tonight might find their spot in those fields in jeopardy, especially Michigan since the Wolverines travel to West Lafayette to play the surging Boilermakers Saturday afternoon. Expect the Wolverines to be at least double digit underdogs in that contest.
As for tonight, I could drone on and on with what I feel about the game, but Dylan over at UM Hoops has an excellent breakdown of the game tonight and Michigan’s spot on the bubble in a pair of posts over at his site.
I will add some words regarding where Michigan stands right now. I realize some fan enthusiasm has waned and the Wolverines appear to be slipping out of the mock projections. However, only the home loss to OSU earlier this month is the only result that was out of line with how I saw this team’s arc progressing this winter. I factored them to be 6-5 in the Big 10 when they host MSU on 2/10. If they don’t snare a road win this week, they’ll be one game off that pace. They can overcome that and still win a bid based on their regular season play.
Let’s play this forward. Assume road losses at OSU, Purdue and UConn with a home win over Penn St between now and the MSU game. That puts UM at 15-9, 5-6. While they won’t be in any mock brackets at that point, they’ll have plenty of chances to raise their profile over the final month.
That home game with the Spartans will be a must win. The Wolverines also host Purdue and Minnesota in February and those must be wins as well. They also have to find a way to get at least one road win at Northwestern or Iowa. Let’s assume a sweep of those home games, a split in those roadies and road losses at Minnesota and Wisconsin. That puts UM at 19-12, 9-9, but with wins over Duke, UCLA, Illinois, Michigan State, Purdue and Minnesota, the Wolverines might have the best top 6 wins of any of the bubble teams. I think they’ll earn a bit at that point, so long as they don’t totally suck in the Big 10 Tournament and lose to IU or Iowa in a 6 vs.11 or 7 vs. 10 first round game.
Sure, that’s easier said than done, but a road map to an at large bid still exists even if Michigan drops three of their next four games.
I’m not discounting their chances tonight either. I’ve said it many times this season, but OSU struggles to score the basketball. They will go through one protracted drought tonight. Michigan can take advantage of that. If Simms can outplay Mullens and, more importantly, convert on his scoring chances, I think Michigan takes down the Buckeyes. Either way, it should be an intriguing game, and I look forward to rapping with all of you wherever the CIL is being hosted tonight.
Beyond the showdown in Columbus, the schedule is full of action across the country that will likely impact the latest and greatest field projections. Here’s a quick rundown on some of those games so you can properly scoreboard watch in between Manny Harris baskets.
Duke at Wake Forest, 7pm, ESPN. Line, Duke -1
It’s one of the prime showdowns of the season. With the scalp of Duke hanging on the wall, Michigan fans probably should be rooting for the Blue Devils tonight. Since this would be a road win for Duke, I think the good old RPI might be boosted so much that Michigan might somehow manage to also score points with the BCS computers.
For those who still don’t know who these upstart Demon Deacons are, here is a primer from the eye of their enemy tonight.
I don’t think I’ve seen a team better than Duke all season at forcing teams to start their offense out of their own comfort zone and disrupting the passing lanes. It will be a huge test for the patience of Wake Forest. I love them on their home court, but Duke’s defense looks so legit I hate to go against them. For Wake to win, they need a monster outing from their superstar Jeff Teague.
I have that Gambler’s Itch to play tonight’s game, being a huge showdown and all. I’ve actually gone against Duke three times this month: pushing against Georgetown, winning against Davidson and losing against Maryland. I feel lucky to have gone 1-1-1. Betting against Duke is as comfortable as driving on ice. I’ll think I’ll just pop a beer, sit back and enjoy this one. It should one the best games of the season.
Pittsburgh at Villanova, 7pm, ESPN2. Line, Pitt -3.5
In the only other game of the night between ranked foes the Panthers and Wildcats hook up to help determine feline supremacy. Both teams need not worry about an invite to the field, but this game could go a long way when eventually sorting out seeds. As long as the Panthers stay in the top-5, they will be given strong consideration for their first ever #1 seed come March.
LSU at Tennessee, 8pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, Tennessee -7.5
Only three SEC teams are in ESPN’s projections right now. In their field, the Vols are 7-seed, while LSU is among the final teams left out. Rivals, which also has the Vols as a #7 seed, has placed LSU in their field as the fourth SEC club with a #11 seed.
The Bengals could get their first impressive win of the season tonight. They might be the most talented team in the SEC West, but winning the division won’t necessarily guarantee them anything when the season is done. New coach Trent Johnson has re-established some defense identity with the program. The results have netted a sporty 15-4 record, but there is not an impressive win in the bunch. The Tigers need to put up a serious conference record to make the field. While they're off to a nice 3-1 start, they need to notch this winnable road game against a quality foe to even think of closing in on any mock bracket bids.
Meanwhile the Vols continued presence on the Bubble will give us plenty of time to debate the merits of a team that played a very challenging schedule, but did not win many of those games. Perhaps this slate was too ambitious for a program replacing two players now earning NBA paychecks. Because of the transition in personnel, the Vols have scraped their full court, high scoring pace and continue to tweak their attack. Coach Bruce Pearl has thrown down the gauntlet calling this the most important week of the season. Here’s a Volunteer perspective on the first game of this critical week.
Vanderbilt at South Carolina, 7pm, no TV. Line, South Carolina -6.5
If the Vols have the most important week of any team in the SEC, then South Carolina may have the second. With a win tonight against Vanderbilt, South Carolina will have its first three game SEC winning streak in almost three years and only the fifth league hat trick in the last ten seasons. Everyone has taken notice of the Gamecocks since this win over Florida. They've made it onto Lunardi's radar, albeit as one of final teams cut from the field. It could just be a blip on the radar, however, if they drop tonight’s home game against the Commodores. On Saturday, a date with an angry Kentucky team in Lexington awaits.
Syracuse at Providence, 7pm, ESPN Full Court Line, Providence -2
Nobody claims the Friars a contender to make the field. They do, however, sit in fifth place in the Big East with a 5-2 record. They've feasted on the dregs of the league, but wins are wins. If they have the chops to break even the rest of the way, there's no way the committee leaves out a team with 11 Big East wins. Tonight begins a four game stretch that will determine if the Friars belong in this discussion or not. After hosting Syracuse, PC plays at UConn, vs Villanova and at West Virginia. We'll revisit the Friars chances if they manage to break even in those games. They'll try to get this stretch off to a good start against a banged and bruised Orangemen squad.
Georgetown at Cincinnati, 7:30pm, ESPN 360. Line, Georgetown -6
The Hoyas resemble Notre Dame's position, detailed here yesterday. Losers of three in a row and five of seven games this month, Georgetown can’t afford losses to teams like the Bearcats, especially after losing to Seton Hall on Sunday. These squads are tied for ninth in the conference and CU actually has a better overall record. If they spring the upset tonight, perhaps it’s the Bearcats, instead of the Hoyas, who may find themselves on the bubble. Georgetown travels to Marquette on Saturday, so a loss tonight means they're staring at a 0-2 week. That’s not great news for a team seeded #10 in the latest mock bracket.
Illinois State at Northern Iowa, 8pm, no TV. Line, UNI -2.5
The Missouri Valley Conference is accustomed to getting multiple bids into the tournament. Last year, however, broke a long streak of receiving multiple bids as only one team was invited into the field. I don’t care what the mock brackets say today (indeed, they agree as only UNI as a #13 are in ESPN’s field right now), I feel the MVC is going to receive just one bid again. Then again, it is the #8 ranked in the latest RPI projections, so perhaps I am underselling the Valley. Observers of the league, however, are not and the league’s mediocre play might net it just a lone bid again come March
These are the top two teams in the league as the second half of their conference season begins. Despite that, their RPI projections are not that great with the visiting Redbirds checking in at #59 while the Panthers are #73/ I don’t see anything on the Redbirds or the Panthers resume that stands out. We'll see how February plays out, who knows maybe these clubs combine to close out 16-2 or something. Then, we'll talk. But, first place is on the line tonight in Cedar Rapids and they play good hoops on the MVC. It should be a fun game, too bad there's no television coverage.
North Carolina at Florida State, 9pm, ESPN Full Court. Line, UNC -11.5
Without gaining much notoriety, the Seminoles have done enough little things to merit a mock invite. They won a holiday tournament by beating Cincy and Cal. They beat rival Florida. They're off to winning record in the ACC. The have a winning record on the road in conference play. The worst part of their resume is losing at Northwestern. But, at this point isn't that better than losing at Maryland? The Seminoles appear to have a bid to lose. Not everyone is impressed. After tonight, they stil have four games left with the ACC's Big Four and an intriguing home and home with Virginia Tech during the season's final two weeks. I guess I'm not sold on them either. Yet. I'm not sure I'll like them anymore after tonight when the 305th worst turnover team (who is their point guard, fer gawd's sake? Nick Sheridan?!?!) hits the court against the premium Tar Heels.
Before moving on to some of tonight’s action, a few words need to be said about what transpired last night as it impacts the hunt for NCAA Tournament bids.
Oklahoma went into Stillwater and topped the Cowboys, 89-81. I predicted a 20/20 for Blake Griffin, but he fell short by scoring 26 points and “only” grabbing 19 boards. Meanwhile for the Pokes, this is the third game in league play that OSU has lost despite scoring more than 80 points. Expect their defense to continue to fail them as they try to establish their resume. Oklahoma State was in the same boat as Michigan in ESPN’s latest field projection—a 12 seed and among the last few put in the field—so a loss and missing out on a chance for a good looking resume win is good news for Michigan fans.
Perhaps, more compelling, though is the news coming out of South Bend.
After winning 45 straight at home, the Irish lost last night to Marquette for their second home loss in a span of 48 hours. Folks, the Irish are in trouble. They’ve lost four games in a row, and five of their last seven. They’re in 11th place in the Big East with a 3-5 record. Their RPI is all the way down at 73, and that’s before last night’s loss is factored in. To compare, Michigan is 44th in the latest RPI. The Irish have a worse RPI rating than teams like Providence, St. Joe’s, Buffalo, Stephen F. Austin and Penn State. None of those teams are getting any consideration for an at large bid right now, so why should the Irish?
What helps is they play in the uber tough Big East. I heard the hoops guru on Rivals Radio this afternoon claim that a Big East team could go 8-10 and still make the field. Perhaps, but the downturn by the Irish bears continued watching. Check out ND’s next stretch of games: at Pitt, at Cincy, at UCLA, Louisville, USF, at WVA and at Providence. They also still have a road date at Uconn. With three straight road games beginning Saturday, if the Irish’s losing streak continues through that road trip (and it will if Kyle Mcalrney doesn’t break out of his shooting slump), they will be 12-10 overall, 3-7 in the Big East. The league is bucking for a record amount of bids, but you have to wonder if a 17-13 team with a losing league mark would net an invite. Before last night's loss, the latest projections had the Irish as a #10 seed. Here’s hoping the Irish keep losing.
So, Oklahoma St may have played itself out of the field, while Notre Dame has devolved and played itself onto the Bubble. What will tonight’s action bring?
Purdue at Wisconsin. Line Wisco -1
The Boilers have rebounded from an 0-2 start in league play. If they can nab another road win tonight, they could find themselves in the driver's seat for league honors. The Badgers, not so much. Losers of four in a row, Wisconsin needs this win. One Badger observed has called it the most important game in years for the program. While I won’t go that far, one has to wonder about the Badgers future resume if they don’t right the ship. As of now, road wins against Virginia Tech and Michigan are the best they have to offer. If the Badgers can't put together a winning record in conference play, that resume won’t do the trick. Heading into the night, Wisconsin is just an 11-seed in the latest ESPN projections.
This is a swing game with Big 10 title and NCAA bubble implications. I will go as far as saying it’s the most important game for Wisconsin this season to date. Odds makers have installed the Badgers as an unranked favorite over a ranked team. I find that system hard to pass up, so I might put a little coin on the Badgers.
Boston College at Maryland. Line, Maryland -4
Neither team has an NCAA tournament resume despite the fact that each have nabbed an impressive win against a team currently in the top-10. Those wins have been washed away by bad losses.
Doesn't the loser tonight get pushed so far back in the line that it would take a major run over the final month of the season just to be a legit bubble team? I think so.
How in the world are the Terps going to respond after that curb stomping at the hands of Duke on Saturday? Fans are now expecting Maryland to miss the Big Dance for the fourth time in five seasons. The local press is looking fondly at 'could-have-been' Terps who are playing for other schools. Things dont look so good for Gary Williams right now and a home loss tonight will only ratchet up the pressure.
Northeastern at VCU. Line, VCU -6.5
This is worth tuning in just to watch VCU's little guy Eric Maynor in action. What? You dont remember him? Maybe this will jog your memory. The kid has been one of my favorite players to watch for a couple of years. The game tonight is on EPSNU at 9 pm.
More notably, first place in the Colonial is on the line as both teams come in sporting 8-1 records. The CAA had been a three team race, but both the Rams and Huskies have beaten George Mason in recent days, leaving these two tied for first. Its a classic case of VCU's offense vs Norhteastrn's defense.
Michigan fans may remember Northeastern. The Wolverines clubbed them by 20 points in the second game of the season. Nobody put much thought in to it then, but that game is slowly, but surely, turning into a quality win for UM.
Northeastern sits at #60 in the latest RPI projections. Much is made of a team's record vs the RPI's top 50, so a win tonight might push NE into that range. There's always talk af the CAA netting two bifds into the field, but a head to head win over NE could come in handy if there's debate about UM come Selection Sunday. A run to the CAA title for Northeastern will only boost UM's resume. Best case scenario for UM boosters would be a stirring and dominant run on behalf of Northeastern en route to the CAA regular season title. We all should be pulling for them tonight.
Utah at BYU. Line, BYU -3
The Mountain West is an interesting league as it could get anywhere from 1 to 3 bids into the field. BYU and Utah are two clubs who hope to be in that mix. In Lunardi's latest field projections, BYU is a #12 seed and among the final four teams included. Utah, meanwhile, is among the first four teams cut from the field. The implications for the next round of mock brackets is pretty clear.
For Utah, its not too early to call this a must win game.
Color me skeptical about the Utes chances this evening. Utah was outclassed in road losses at SDSU and UNLV, and I expect the same to happen tonight. BYU is a short 3-point favorite and I'll roll with the Mormon Cagers tonight.
Its a small slate of games tonight, but as you can see, there's plenty going on as it relates to the Bubble that Michigan will be sitting on all winter long. We'll be enjoying the games, but also likely wagering on Wisconsin, BYU and Baylor -1 over Texas.....like the Badger game, that one too is an unranked favorite over a ranked team.
Big game tonight.....well, they are all big as the program tries to navigate the league schedule and cobble enough wins to get into the NCAAs.
This is a game they must win. IU might win 2 league games this year and a loss--even on the road--to this year's Hoosier outfit might just cancel out one of Michigan's prime wins on it resume.
According to Vegas, UM is a 7-point road favorite.
IU is going through a similar situation to what Michigan football did this fall. They are completely rebuilding. Michigan football had the largest proportion of yards gained by freshmen in all of CFB because of the attrition that followed 2007. IU is in the same boat. Their top returning player scored a total of 28 points last year. Their second most experienced returning player logged a grand total of 11 minutes all of last season. Among all D-1 schools, IU ranks second in both points per game and minutes played by freshmen.
Tom Crean has done a great job of recruiting. He has a top-10 class ready to set foot on the Bloomington campus for next season. This season? He has a nice core of freshmen and first time contributors, most of whom, however, would only be solid role players on your typical IU basketball team. Doesn't that all sound familiar?
The results on the court have been similar too. UM trudged to its worst season in years in the first year of this transition. Indiana comes in at 5-8 and this longtime Big 10 hoops observer wonders just who exactly this club going to beat in league play. The program is headed towards an historically unprecedented awful record. IU was the last Big 10 team to go undefeated in league play. They may be the first team ever to go 0-18 in league play. So, IU is also channeling their inner Detroit Lions.
And, like the UM fanbase, Hoosier fans have found themselves arguing over what is the worst, more embarrassing loss in program history. While UM fans debate Appy St vs. Toledo, IU fans have their own compelling back and forth relative to terrible losses. The contenders? In this corner, there is a 14-point loss to Northeastern (you may recall UM whipping NE by 20 or so to open the season) in which the Hoosiers tallied their feweat points ever at Assembly Hall. In the other corner, is a wire to wire lose, albeit closer, to mighty, mighty Lipscomb. I don’t know, I guess I would go with Lipscomb as the worse loss. NE is in the notable Colonial Conference and may be a contender in that league. Lipscomb is an also ran in the Big South. Actually, I don’t think there is a right answer on this one. Both losses are shameful to the IU faithful.
Typically Indiana fans are discussing the quest for the Big 10 title and seeding prospects for the tournament. This winter, they’re debating moral victoriesand the likelihood of an 0-18 record. My favorite is the guy who considers Saturday’s Iowa game a win because the Hoosiers covered the 14-point spread. I think he’s my long lost brother.
In addition to the Michigan game, there are two other intriguing games going on tonight. The best part about UM's rise this year back into the basketball discussion is that it makes the whole landscape of college hoops relevant again to our fanbase. Each night this winter, there will be games that will impact the bubble, seedings and regional placement for the NCAA field. Instead of that world being foreign to us, now those games directly impact our program progress. Its way to early to talk bubble and seeding, but that does not mean things are not in focus enough to give us an indication of which scores elsewhere in the country impact Michigan.
Tonight, ESPN has a great doubleheader. Davidson plays at Duke at 7 pm. The Stephon Curry show performs at venerable Cameron Indoor Stadium. That is must see viewing. Davidson is a 13-point dog tonight, but they have covered the spread virtually every time when catching points the last two seasons when matched up with a BCS school. I think they keep it close.
The other contest is Gonzaga at Tennessee. These schools have already played, with Gonzaga winning in the Old Spice Classic over Thanksgiving Weekend. The Zags are in a free fall, having lost four of five and dropped out of the national polls. The Vols are 3-point favorites. I expect the Vols to keep Gonzaga’s tumble going. The upshot of the Zags troubles for Michigan is simple. The WCC earned three bids last year, but with none of those schools looking good right now, I don’t think any of them are certain to get an at large. The more bids available, the better for a program like Michigan trying to get back into the dance after a decade long absence.
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.
Happy New Year, everyone. I hope everyone had a safe and fun night. Lets have a Go Blue 2009!!!
Actually, i'd settle for a turniquet to stop the bleeding. The last two days have been dim for the Bowl Chronicles as its hemorraged for a loss of 4.2 units. Thats a little more than half the profits we had won during bowl season vanishing under the weight of bad picks (I'm looking at you BC and Minny!!). Thats not the way we had hoped 2008 would end.
We're soldiering on with today's games knowing that with a change in the calendar also comes with a chance of strategy. We've been chirping all along that our main focus is taking the underdog in the post Christmas December games. Those puppies ended up 9-6 ATS since the 25th. When January rolls around, the favorites have a tendency to strike back. Over the last nine bowl seasons, January favorites are 48-26-1 ATS (7-4 last year). We've been pointing people to live dogs for much of the last week, however, dont be surprised to see us eating some chalk as the remainder of the bowl season plays out.
Outback Bowl, Tampa Bay, 11 am
South Carolina vs Iowa. Lines, Iowa -3.5, O/U 43
This game begins and ends for me with one man: Shonn Greene. Oh yeah, he's back, my favorite breakout player of the 2008 season. Readers may remember me touting the kid all fall as the Iowa Hawkeyes became the biggest profit wheel of my Big 10 Picks diaries. He's primed for a huge game today and he will be the biggest factor in the eventual outcome of this game today.
Both teams come in with physical, athletic defenese. Both are among the best tackling teams I've seen play this year. The difference, however, is the other side of the ball.
The Gamecocks have nothing to lean on. The run game has been inconsistent at best. Its 108th ranked in the nation trying to carve out yards against the 10th ranked rushing defense. When the Cocks go to throw, the results have not been good either. Spurrier still cant settle on a QB and his quick hook after mistakes I feel has ruined the position in Columbia. Stephen Garcia will start, but I would be shocked if The Visor does not pull him for Chriss Smelley at some point in this contest. Hopefully it comes after a 2-pick first half or something. I love the D-Line of Iowa to own the line of scrimmage and make life miserable for whatever QB is back there.
The Iowa defense has held nine foes to less than 20 points this year. Only one team scored more than 23. South Carolina has the 92dn ranked scoring offense. I dont think they get out of the teens in this one.
When Iowa has the ball, it wont be easy either. But, they have that meal ticket to cash in on that South Carolina does not. Shonn Greene has eclipsed the century mark in all 12 games this season. Iowa is very patient with its run game and will hammer all day. Greene will not only get his 100 yards, but expect a couple of back breaking home runs in the second half as it pounds on the Cocks' D. They've scored 30.25 ppg this season, which puts them in the top quarter of the country, and by milking Green to open up the pass for Stanzi, I expect them get to come close to hitting their average mark.
Turnovers will also swing this game to Iowa. South Carolina coughed up 34 turnovers. The QBs have been turnover machines. Iowa had a couple bad turnover games back in September, but otherwise have been one of the best ball security teams in the country. Iowa is 29th in TO margin, South Carolina 102nd. I love those numbers going in Iowa's favor today.
In conclusion, lets go back to Greene. He's gonna go off for another 100, but I dont think USC can even get 100 yards on the ground as a team. Indeed, they only average 98.33 rusing yards per game. Here's a quick thumbnail rule for handicapping the bowls: The running game is important. How important? In the more than 400 bowls played since 1991, the team that has more yards rushing has covered the spread at a 79% clip. And, the team that has more rushing attempts covered at a 75% clip.
I like Iowa to win both of those stats today. They have an identity and will stick to it.
The Pick: Iowa -3...3 Units....I bought this down to 3, costing me $30 in extra juice....Ok, Iowa, you might be the league's best chance to actually win a bowl game. No pressure, or anything. Also, I ignore the Ferentz rumors distracting this team. Inexplicably, Captain Kirk is a hot commodoity each off season. These are rumors the kids at Iowa probably dont even blink at anymore.
Gator Bowl, Jacksonville, 1 pm
Nebraska vs Clemson. Lines, Clemson -1, O/U 55
While we're supposed to start taking favorites now that it is January, we're playing the short dog Nebraska in the annual Gator Bowl. The Huskers come into town with the proverbial explosive Big 12 offensive attack. It's something that Clemson did not see all season in the offensively challenged ACC.
Husker QB Joe Ganz threw for over 3,300 yards, but his season performance was completely overshadowed by all the other QBs in the league. I think he catches Clemson off guard all day long as the Tigers, despite some of their impressive defensive numbers. Nebraska comes to town with the best QB and offense Clemson has seen all year. The only other comparable is to Alabama and we saw how the Tide picked them apart many weeks ago. Nebraska also gets RB Marlon Lucky back from injury which will only make them more balanced and dongerous for Clemson to contain. Oklahoma limited Nebraska to 28 points, but the Huskers scored over 30 points in all their other games this season.
Clemson will get its lick in. The Cornhuskers have been vulnerable on the ground at times this year, giving up 24 rushing scores and have an average y.p.c D. But, I'll take Pellini's chops as a defensive coach to come up with a gameplan to bottle up the James Davis and CJ Spiller show. Pellini will find away to put pressure on Cullen Harper and we'll see just how clear the QB advantage is in this game. Ganz has his offense rolling, but Harper has struggled all year and has as many TD as INTs. I like the Huskers to force more mistakes, especially with their front seven.
Nebraska wants to put a stamp on their season and announce that they'll be factor for next year. They look at the Gator Bowl as unfinished business. Clemson played their tails off to allow their interim head coach Dabo Sweeney to get the fulltime job. That was their goal the back half of the season. That mission was accomplished. They look at this bowl as a reward. My gut tells me this is an intangible edge to Nebraska.
The ACC is 3-5 SU in bowls this season. Now one of their middle of the pack squads faces off with an explosive offense from the best league in the land. I'll take my chances with Nebraska.
The Pick: Nebraska +1, 2 Units; Over, 55 1 Unit.....Clemson is always unreliable in the big spots. And, I just dont think they're ready for a game thats played in the 30s. Nebraska kills them today with their balance. There's also a clear edge in the field goal kicking department for Nebraska. In a coin flip, I'll take that edge to the bank. Although, I dont think we'll need it. Huskers roll 41-28.
Capital One Bowl, Orlando, 1pm
Michigan St vs Georgia. Lines, UGA -10, O/U 57
By all accounts, UGA should wallop Sparty today. The stadium in Orlando will be nothing but a woodshed. I'd take the Bulldogs in a heartbeat had the line stayed at -7. I could see myself buying down a hook and laying that chalk.
But, I am always hesitant when the public backs a team and that has what has been going on the day. This line was 7.5 24 hours ago. It was at 9 this morning and we approach 30 minutes to kick, it has mushroomed further up to -10.
One thing I have noticed this bowl season is when the public lines up on a team, driving the line hard in one direction, the public has lost their respective shirts. Since Christmas, the public has lined up with WVA, Cal, Missou, BC, and Pitt. Those were all losers. The public did win with Florida St and Kansas. All seven of those games saw more than a one point line shift in the final 24 hours before kickoff.
I hate betting with the public.
Am I really going to put cash on Sparty? Hey, they are 20-15 ATS as a dog away from home over the last decade.
Ok, I'll say it: Ohio St, Penn St and Iowa all have better defenses than Georgia. I think that will allow MSU to have a bit more success on offense today than they did earlier in the season in those league showdowns. I think MSU can get into the high 20s today.
Georgia has had turnover issues this season. I like MSU's big play back 7 especially Greg Jones and Otis Wiley. Stafford is a heady pro prospect, but I dont think he throws the best ball and MSU can get a key turnover or two.
You have to wonder if MSU has the full attention of the Bulldogs today. It might take them until the second half to take Sparty seriously. By then, it will be a dogfight.
The Big 10 has won four straight Capital One bowls......and, in these two early SEC/Big 10 showdowns, the SEC is just 2-7 ATS as a favorite, with one cover by the hook and the other in OT. Interesting.
The Pick: MSU +10, 1 Unit; Over 57, 1 Unit.......ok, I guess I'm not playing the favorites after all. Or, ignoring the Totals. My gut is telling me its ie to fade the public. I also think we'll see some fireworks. Remember, all the teams UGA faced this season with top notch running backs really ran all over them. Bulldogs win this one 38-30.
Rose Bowl, Pasadena, 5pm
Penn St vs USC. Lines, USC -10, O/U 45
Alright, I'm killed on Overs, so I am changing horses.
Give me some of today's under in the Granddaddy. I dont see either defenses giving up ground in this one. USC, despite their glitz, has had problems this year against better defenses forging an offensive identity. And, we all know about USC's D. There one of history's greatest, at least statistically, and Penn St is not going to show up and score a bunch of touchdowns.
I see this game playing out like the Rose Bowl did exactly two years ago today. Dont forget UM-USC was tied at 3 at the break. We could see a repeat of that in thise. Both teams will feel each other out and will look to land physical blows and play power football during the first half. Both teams will play conservative and field position.
I like both defenses to limit the number of big plays throughout the game. There will not be quick scores.
Unlike the aforementioned 2007 Rose Bowl, I dont think USC has the firepower to just turn it up a couple of notches coming out of the half the way they exposed Michigan. Penn St is more solid in the back four and USC is not as explosive out wide. Thats a big difference in the matchup.
Penn St will hang in this one the whole way through. USC wins, but in a tight, defensive slugfest.
The Pick: Penn St +10, 1 Unit; Under 45, 1 Unit.....i really dont see either team creeping to far past the 20s, if at all. 21-13 sounds like a likely score
Orange Bowl, Miami, 820pm
Cincy vs VT. Lines, Cincy -2, O/U 42
I feel so stupid taking those underdogs from the Big 10. Yuck.
In Brian Kelly I trust. VT has a pedestrian offense and when they do throw expect the Cincy secondary with Mike Mickens to create turnovers. I've played Cincy quite a bit during their march the second half of the season. I think they're the better team tonight.
The Pick: Cincy -2, 2 Units.....about time to follow my on words and get on the favorite train. It could have been so easy to win cash today, but I refused to follow the rule I have been talking about. I be with stoopid.