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.