Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Bowl Preview Part I

"And I think I think too much..."

Alright, one of the best times of the year is upon us. It's bowl season, and this year, there are thirty two of them, all of which I will eventually be previewing. When the bowls started growing at an exponential rate a few years ago, I initially didn't like that idea. I thought it kind of dilluted the meaningfulness of the college regular season. All a team has to do is finish a game or more above .500 in a major conference, and they almost automatically get a bowl bid. But now that I look at it, there will be football on basically every day from now until January 8th. That's two straight weeks, including multiple games towards the end of this year and beginning of the next year. So if you think about it like this, it's fantastic. Always something to look forward to. For instance, take the first game, the San Diego Union County Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl should be an interesting matchup, featuring TCU and Northern Illinois. Ok, so the names are ridiculous, I totally agree with you. However, I believe I have a solution to all of this. Each bowl can only have a maximum of two words before "bowl," like Las Vegas Bowl and Motor City Bowl are ok, but Pioneer Pure Vision Las Vegas and Bell Helicopter Armed Forces. If a company wishes to sponsor the bowl, they absolutely can, but the bowl will be pronounced as the something-something bowl, presented by someone. I don't know, I think if the names weren't so obnoxious, people wouldn't be all up in arms all the time about so many bowl games.

But before I get into the bowl breakdowns, a few thoughts on some of this past week's events:

'Melo went bezerk on Saturday, started shoving people, then eventually landed a punch on Mardy Collins. Being that he is my namesake, I have to say that I don't approve of what Anthony did. First of all, I understand the initial shoving involved, because Collins' foul was horrendous. There is no need to make that hard of a foul when you're down by 19 with a minute and a half left. However, when he sucker-punched Collins, I found it to be very cowardly of Anthony, which is extremely unusual considering his usual laid back attitude. The way he "hit and ran" on that play was a very immasculine move. It's a very unfortunate situation, and it's been reported that Anthony could receive anywhere from an 8 to 10 game suspension. This is a fantasy basketball disaster for me, and kind of a dark day for the 'Melo fellowship.

***UPDATE: 'Melo has been suspended 15 games...more ouch.

If you or anyone you know has any association with Chicago DE Tank Johnson, may I suggest you take a leave of absence from any occupation you may have and leave wherever you're at right now for a couple of months. Just two days after having his house raided, with the authorities finding six unregistered guns in Johnson's possession, his bodyguard was shot to death outside a Chicago-area night club. Oh by the way, his bodyguard was charged with "cannabis" possession at the same time Johnson's home was searched. Does anyone really still call it cannabis? Seriously, unless you're referring to the rapper, or as a question to ask someone if you're in the mood to bust something, I think weed or marijuana is probably an accepted term. Also, what does Tank Johnson need a bodyguard for? The guy has been clocked at 6'3, 300 pounds. Seriously, unless he's involved with something real illegal, which is a very real possibility, this guy did not need a bodyguard when he went out, so something is definitely up there.

Ok, bowl predictions. As I do for the NFL, I will show the spread and predict the games accordingly, but I will also say who I think will win straight up. I admit, this is gonna be tough, considering I haven't seen many of these teams in action. I'll do the best I can though, and hopefully pull a winning record. Seriously, I don't have very high expectations. So, here we go, Part I, which will cover the games through Christmas Eve...

Poinsetta Bowl (12/18, 8:00, Deuce): TCU (-11.5) over Northern Illinois. One of the few players you're going to recognize in this game will be Garrett Wolfe, the stud running back of Northern Illinois. Wolfe was a preseason Heisman candidate, and finished the year with 1,900 yards rushing. However, Wolfe and the rest of the NIU offense will have their hands full against the Horned Frogs' D, which was ranked 9th in total defense, 8th in rushing defense, and 6th in points allowed. The Huskies will try to get a passing game established to take pressure off of Wolfe, so look for newly-appointed starting QB Dan Nicholson to try and spread out the Frogs so Wolfe can get running lanes establisehed. Unfortunately, I can't see this happening for the Huskies because TCU is on a tear, winning its last 5 and going 6-1 ATS in their last seven. Also, surprisingly, TCU has a more potent rushing offense than Northern Illinois (194.3 to 180.2), and with the Huskies giving up 357 yards, I think TCU will be able to come away with this one. However, I do think it will be low scoring, which means that TCU will have a tough time covering, but I still see them winning by around two to three TDs.

TCU 27, Northern Illinois 10

Las Vegas Bowl (12/21, 8:00, ESPN): BYU (-3) over Oregon. This is going to be high scoring from all indications. BYU has long been known for its pass offense (Young, McMahon, Detmer), and this year is no exception, ranking 4th in the country. The Ducks counter with a above-average pass D (30th in the country). However, when BYU has the ball, they should try and run on the Ducks, even though they were ranked 119th in rush offense. Oregon is woeful against the run, giving up 146.6 yards a game, good for 138th in the country. If BYU can have even a moderate running game, it should loosen up Oregon's secondary. When Oregon has the ball, they are extremely dangerous. The Ducks bring a very balanced attack into this game, with the 29th best run offense and 34th in pass offense, which totals to the 10th best offense in the land, and with BYU's 99th best defense, including a feeble pass defense, ranking 170th, Oregon will get its fair share of points. The reason I like BYU is that they play well in shootouts, being as that is the style of play in the Mountain West Conference. Couple that with the Ducks three-game skid, and I like the Cougars. Again, a lot of points.

BYU 48, Oregon 38

New Orleans Bowl (12/22, 8:00, Deuce): Troy (+4.5) over Rice. Now if anyone knows anything about either of these teams, they have far too much time on their hands. I've done a little research though, so I'm going to try and help you guys out as far as trends and what to watch for. Rice's defense is dreadful. Take a look: Rice has the 230th ranked defense, 222nd against the run, 202nd against the pass. They allow 32.6 points a gamea (224th) and give up 417.7 total yards. They have been able to get by with their offense, whose 27.8 points per game lands them 58th in the nation. They have won their last five heading into this one, all of which they won ATS as well. However, when you look over their last 25, Rice is 8-17 over their last 25 contests, so this seems to be a bit of a resurgence for Rice, who plays in C-USA. They have knocked off Tulsa and East Carolina, both of whom play in the conference and are bowl bound, so they do have some credentials in this matchup. Troy plays out of the Sun Belt Conference. They are 6-1 in their last seven while going 4-1 ATS in their last five. A big win for the Trojans came against Middle Tennessee St. two games ago, knocking the eventual conference winners off on the road 21-20. I believe Troy will provide their fair share of offense, and will be able to slow down the Owls enough to beat them straight up.

Troy 28, Rice 21

PapaJohns.Com Bowl (12/23, 1:00, Deuce): South Florida (-4.5) over East Carolina. I got two words for you. Skip Holtz. With Holtz coaching the Pirates, this was a fairly easy decision for me. For a more statistical approach, consider the following: The Pirates have a good pass offense, with 230.1 yards a game, but, the Bulls counter with a defense surrendering only 176.6 pass yards a game, 73rd in the land. The Bulls, overall, have a very good defense, while the Pirates, not surprisingly, do not. Come on people, just because it's a different team, did you honjestly expect Skip Holtz to change? Not a chance. South Florida...big time.

South Florida 38, East Carolina 14

New Mexico Bowl (12/23, 4:30, ESPN): San Jose St. (+3.5) over New Mexico. Ok, I know what you're thinking. New Mexico, New Mexico bowl, slam dunk right? Not so fast (damn it I did a Corso line, I promised I would only do that when I was drunk). The Spartans played BCS-bound Boise St. and only lost by a field goal. This fact alone is good enough for me to pick San Jose St. New Mexico finished with a 6-6 record, but is 4-2 in their last six and 5-1 ATS. San Jose St. has a good enough defense and good enough offense to bring a good fight to the Lobos. The Spartans have won four of their last five, with their one loss coming on the road at the hands of Hawaii, the proverbial black hole for visiting teams. Also, I recall Boise St. losing on their home blue turf to BC last year, so I really don't see anyway you can justify the Lobos having any kind of advantage.

San Jose St. 23, New Mexico 16

Armed Forces Bowl (12/23, 8:00, ESPN): Utah (-1.5) over Tulsa. All the key stats indicate Tulsa has the upper hand in this one, but you have to recognize how well a team is playing when they make their way into a bowl game. Tulsa had lost three games in a row before knocking off Tulane in their final game. Utah has won three of their last four, with their loss being a two-pointer against BYU. The win streak includes a win at Air Force, which has always been a tough place to play. Expect Utah's balanced attack on offense to be too much for the Golden Hurricanes to handle. This will be a close game, but I like the Utes.

Utah 35, Tulsa 31

Hawaii Bowl (12/24, 8:00, ESPN): Hawaii (-7) over Arizona St. Ok, remember what I said about the whole home field advantage thing in regards to New Mexico. Well, this is completely different. Hawaii is in their own element when they play at home. True, their last game was a loss to Oregon St. at home, who is also a Pac-10 member along with the Sun Devils. Here's the thing about that game against the Beavers: Hawaii had a -2 turnover margin. The Rainbows will be looking to air it out against ASU, and look for them to have a lot of success right off the bat, putting the Devils away quickly.

Hawaii 49, Arizona St. 38

Stay tuned for the next installment. Also, I will try and get the NFL predictions up before the holidays. So, to you and yours, happy holidays. I'm telling everyone one key word...relax. Let the weight off of your shoulders and forget about everything. The Christmas Eve matchup between the Pats and the Jags should be a doosy. Take care now. Peace.


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