Hello all you gambling degenerates! Are you looking for shoddy analysis and false hope in a game that just HAS to be a 10-unit play during the period immediately before and after the Christmas holiday? Well, look no further, as I am here to provide that false hope and tell you that Vegas built all those pretty buildings with expensive power bills on other people that couldn't beat the house. Now, it's our time. Over the next few days, we're going to take the house.
Breakdowns after the jump and any statistics mentioned can be found at the NCAA's Official Website. Also, I updated the lines via Covers.com, which moves right along with Vegas. The most current lines were up as of this morning, and have moved somewhat since the bowl games were first announced, which may lead to some discrepancy from this post until the day of the game.
Above all else, if you have any sense about you, DON'T BET ON IT!
MAACO Las Vegas Bowl (Dec. 22, 8:00PM EST, ESPN), Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Boise State Broncos (-13.5):
Well, this game has "money" written all over it doesn't it? Boise State should feel disrespected after being ranked 7th in the next to last BCS Standings, but somehow slipping to a before Christmas bowl game. Boise State should score at will versus Arizona State, who started strong out of the gate (6-2) and then lost their remaining four games, which includes the likes of UCLA (they're bad), Arizona (they're terrible), and Washington State (they're TURRIBLE).
Here's what's impressive, though. Arizona State averages only 30 yards less per game than Boise State, but has 21 less TDs on the season than the Broncos. Boise State is the 9th best offense in the country, to Arizona State's 26th. The truth is that both squads move the ball rather effectively with their capable quarterbacks, but it's Boise that does more in the points department when it matters. It's defense that kills the Sun Devils, as they have the 88th best in the NCAA, compared to Boise State, which is at 16th. Even more interesting is that they aren't that different in touchdowns allowed. Boise State has given up 30 on the season and Arizona State has only given up 38. That's not that much difference, especially when you look at some of the offenses the Sun Devils have faced in Pac-12 play. Did I also mention that they (ASU) beat USC (the real one in California)?
For all the flack that the BCS has caught for less-than-stellar big bowl offerings, some of the non-BCS games are great match ups and this one is no different. Arizona State fired coach Dennis Erickson after the season and just hired former Pitt coach Todd Graham. Will the Sun Devils be looking to get things started for 2012 by closing out 2011 with a huge upset?
It's definitely possible. Arizona State has much more to prove here than Boise State, and you can't tell me Boise State is still looking for respect. The team that has much more to play for is the one that has Vontaze Burfict on defense, and guess what, that ain't Boise State. Burfict is an absolute terror for opposing teams as well as his own, as he tends to draw personal fouls like his last name was "Suh."
I'm taking Arizona State and the points, but I still think Boise State wins. They're too good of a team to lose to a team that lost their way like Arizona State, plus, the Sun Devils have a tendency to shoot themselves in the foot in the second half of games. Boise continues to get stronger in the second half and BSU head coach Chris Petersen is going to out-coach the guy across from him most of the time, especially if that guy has the label "interim" in his title. However, 13.5 points is a lot to give up figuring this ASU team could be loaded if they found the right guy at the helm.
Pick: Arizona State +13.5
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24, 8:00PM EST, ESPN), Nevada Wolfpack vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles (-6.5)
What a story Southern Miss has been this year. The Golden Eagles experienced a run that you know had to have alumnus Brett Favre wanting to come out of retirement and don his old jersey. That, or he was frantically reaching for his cell phone to send some excited pictures to head coach Larry Fedora.
Nevada, on the other hand, didn't have the year they had last year. Last year, the Wolfpack was the spoiler team to Boise State's run at the championship, thanks to BSU's kicker doing what BSU kickers usually do. That game single-handedly helped 2010 Wolfpack QB Colin Kaepernick get drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the second round. However, 2011 was an entirely different story, as they went 7-5 and their only close loss against BCS-worthy competition came at the hands of Texas Tech. They beat the teams they were supposed to beat in a terrible WAC Conference, but also didn't win the games where they had a better-than-a-puncher's chance, like against Louisiana Tech and Utah State. They do have one defensive standout in Brett Roy, a defensive tackle named to SI.com's All-America team, the only player from a non-BCS conference to receive that honor. So they have that going for them, which is nice.
Southern Miss, on the other hand, is a very good football team. They're not very popular in Conference USA circles after beating Houston handily and costing the entire conference millions in BCS revenue, but that kind of will to win despite the desire to throw the game for cash benefit has to mean something. They went 10-2 in the regular season, with ugly losses against Marshall and UAB. I say ugly not because the score was lopsided, they only lost by a combined nine points in those games, but because Southern Miss should not have lost to either of those teams. Larry Fedora, the man who guided Southern Miss this year to 11 wins total (including the conference championship) was recently hired away to UNC, but is staying on to coach the Golden Eagles in the bowl game, citing that he wants that 12th win for the school and for the players who worked so hard to get to where they're at.
Even though Southern Miss' defense is ranked higher than Nevada's (31st to 66th, respectively), it's interesting to note that Nevada's opponents ran nearly 200 less plays from scrimmage than Southern Miss' over the season. What that means is that Southern Miss' defense had trouble getting off the field sooner than the Wolfpack's. Keep that in mind, as the offensive stats I'm about to show you will prove that defense will ultimately be what wins this game.
Offensively, these teams are nearly identical. Nevada boasts the 5th ranked offense in the nation, with 964 plays from scrimmage and 51 total TDs. Southern Miss has the 13th ranked offense in the nation, with 960 plays from scrimmage and 60 total TDs. Sure, there are eight teams in between these two offenses in the rankings, but Nevada only ran four (FOUR!) more plays from scrimmage than the Golden Eagles throughout the year. The real difference is the ability to score and Southern Miss found the end zone nine more times throughout the year than the Wolfpack.
This game is all about stamina. The team that can get off the field on third down will win, and looking at the competition faced, there's no doubt in my mind that the Southern Miss offense can extend enough drives against the Wolfpack defense to keep the Golden Eagles' defense fresh. Sure, the statistics say that Southern Miss stays on the field longer than the Wolfpack's, but when you look at pure competition, there really is no competition, as Southern Miss has the better team, the better resume, and has done it on a bigger stage. Even with the Golden Eagles defense dealing with nearly 200 more plays from scrimmage than the Wolfpack, you have to figure that the level of competition faced has a lot to do with that. On top of that, the Golden Eagles defense absolutely held Houston's offense in check, and both teams played Louisiana Tech, which handily beat the Wolfpack, but lost to the Golden Eagles. The most important statistic in football is wins, and Southern Miss has more of them against better competition than Nevada, plain and simple.
I'm picking the Southern Eagles to not only cover, but win big in this one. They just have much more to play for, and have done it on bigger stages than this one. Out of all the games listed in this preview, I feel most confident about this one.
Pick: Southern Miss -6.5
The Deuce jumps into bowl season the day after Christmas with an absolutely RIVETING matchup with the newest SEC member going against the football program that Butch Davis HOLTZ'd on his way out. When I say "RIVETING," I mean "not at all" and when I say "HOLTZ'd" I mean "covered in impending NCAA sanctions."
The truly interesting matchup here is which North Carolina squad is going to show up? They beat the teams they should have, but they have arguably as much talent on the roster as other ACC members and lost to the likes of Georgia Tech, Miami, and even NC State (??!!??). Mizzou (RAH!) on the other hand, beat the teams they were supposed to beat and played close games against the likes of Baylor, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and even beat a struggling Texas.
The defenses are relatively the same, because even though UNC is ranked 40th and Missouri is ranked 60th, Missouri only allowed three more touchdowns the entire season (36) than did North Carolina (33). Offense is where the bread is buttered, as the Tigers have the 12th best offense in the nation, running nearly 150 more plays for almost 100 extra yards per game than the 51st-ranked Tar Heels, over the course of the season.
Unless Roy Williams starts coaching the Tar Heel football team, UNC fans won't travel and Missouri's coach not only loves winning, but celebrating as well. Look for the Tigers to cover and probably win by eight points or more.
Pick: Missouri Tigers -3.5
Little Caesar's Bowl (Dec. 27, 4:30 PM EST, ESPN), Wester Michigan Broncos vs. Purdue Boilermakers (-1)
Raise your hand if you knew Purdue had enough wins to make a bowl game this year. On top of that, raise your hand if you knew that Western Michigan's mascot was the Bronco. Yeah, not a lot of hands. Thought so.
If there's ever a pick I'm going to totally mail in, it's this one. Western Michigan's offense is nearly 60 spots better than Purdue's (22nd to 79th), but can you really read anything into that since Purdue plays in the B1G Ten and Western Michigan plays in the (frantically looks it up) MAC? Make no mistake, I love a little MACtion as much as the next guy, but Ohio and Ohio State don't have much in common other than the O-H and I-O. Western Michigan had a weather delay create the mercy rule in their loss to Michigan and lost a close one to Illinois, but we consider that a blowout since Illinois was under the rule of the Zookster at the time.
Purdue, on the other hand, beat Illinois but absolutely got throttled by every other member of the B1G Ten that was of any consequence. What does that mean? I honestly, don't know.
So, instead of looking at statistics and really reading into that, let's just flip a coin. It landed on heads, and since a boilermaker is the front of a locomotive, we'll assume that's the head and so we'll take Purdue minus the points. Besides, even if Purdue doesn't cover or win, we all know the real losers are anyone who doesn't take advantage of Little Caesar's $5 Hot-and-Ready Pizzas, a true modern-day gem.
Pick: Purdue -1
Belk Bowl (Dec. 28, 8:00 PM EST, ESPN), Louisville Cardinals (pk) vs. North Carolina State Wolfpack (pk)
I have a ton of respect for Charlie Strong. I think he should've been a head coach long before he got the job at Louisville, but nonetheless, I think the job he has done there with average talent has been great. On the other hand, I remember when Tom O'Brien left Boston College for NC State and everyone claimed it to be a great hire. Years after the fact, it appears that NC State was really just a pseudonym for "Can't win without Phillip Rivers" as well as "We shouldn't have let Russell Shepard leave."
NC State is a bit of a mystery. They lose against Florida State and Wake Forest, but beat Virginia and Clemson. Louisville is kind of the same story. They lose to teams like FIU and Marshall (who just played each other in the worst game ever, aka the Beef O' Brady's Bowl), but beat teams like West Virginia. In a case like this, I think you have two teams who rise (or fall) to the level of opponent they play. Both of them struggle in games they should dominate, but have upset some contenders along the way.
Neither of them have an offense ranked higher than 90 in the NCAA statistics, but they're not bad at all on defense. Louisville is ranked 23rd in that category, while NC State is ranked 39th. What does that all mean? Nothing really, other than you should also take the UNDER in this game if it's available.
In my opinion, this is about a program that has stalled out (NC State) versus a program that's on the rise (Louisville). Charlie Strong's group finished the season winning five of their last six, but NC State won four of their last six, so both teams are a little hot going into this game. I'll go with Louisville to win this straight up, with young talent that's looking to compete for a Conference USA Championship next year, while NC State will still be waiting for a sport, any sport, of theirs to compete in the ACC.
That should do it for this round of Don't Bet On It! By all means, if you lose your mortgage payment, don't blame me. I'm just a guy on the internet, or better yet, Bob Costas' worst nightmare.
Until next time kids.