Winning Points Newsletter COLLEGE BOWLS

Winning Points Newsletter

NEW ORLEANS BOWL (December 20 at Lafayette, LA)


It has not been a secret that big underdogs have covered the spread at a solid clip in early bowl games over the last couple of decades, and it is a logic that should continue to hold up. These lines will always have to be set high because the betting public can not be induced to take the worst of the worst when it comes to bowl teams, and that will allow us to continually play against big favorites that are not all that interested in being here. And that is the crux of why these games work; a team that is laying double figures in a game like this one is obviously a team that was good enough to have had more serious targets for the season. But there is a catch this time – Southern Miss simply is not all that good. The Golden Eagles are a mediocre 6-5, including just 1-5 against bowl opponents, and whereas they have been known for a dominating defense and a strong running game in the Jeff Bowers area, those ingredients are missing this time. The ground game? 105th in the nation. They were 77th in rushing defense, 75th in pass efficiency defense, and 78th in total defense. So in a season that began with the distractions of Hurricane Katrina, there is absolutely nothing special about a trip to Lafayette for a disappointing team. Meanwhile the Indians get a rare chance to show case their program, and while admittedly they do not bring a lot of talent to the table, they do bring effort. Effort is enough in this price range. SOUTHERN MISS 31-21.

GMAC BOWL (December 21 at Mobile, AL)

TOLEDO over U.T.E.P. by 6

Sometimes what might appear to be a minor bowl is actually a major affair for one of the teams involved, and that is certainly the case for Toledo in this one. First, senior QB Bruce Gradkowski finally gets to play in a bowl game, and to showcase his talents to the NFL scouts. Second, the reason why this is his first bowl game is also the reason why Tom Amstutz and the rest of their program have plenty to prove. They were in the Motor City Bowl with Gradkowski sidelined by injury LY, and it was a 39-10 debacle vs. Connecticut that has left them with egg on their face. Here it is time to wipe it off, and they are in a great matchup to do just that. While Gradkowski is admittedly the heart and soul of the Rocket offense, this season there has been a much improved ground game, and it has led to one of the best balanced attacks that we have ever record – how about 221.6 per game on the ground, and 223.6 through the air? And because they have the ability to attack in so many different ways, they do not have to take risks – in seven of 11 games they had either one turnover or none. That matters here. Let’s first match them up against a U.T.E.P. defense that was very soft against the run, but kept that hidden because the Miners faced only three bowl opponents, and mostly passing teams. And while Toledo takes such great care of the football, Mike Price’s offense coughed it up an alarming 32 times in 10 lined games. Better balance and better fundamentals rule this one. TOLEDO 33-27.

LAS VEGAS BOWL (December 22 at Las Vegas, NV)


Like Toledo in the GMAC Bowl, California is another team that has some bad post-season memories to erase – they never did figure out the Texas Tech passing playbook in losing to the Red Raiders 45-31 in the Holiday Bowl LY. Now they get a unique opportunity for redemption. It just so happens that the new Brigham Young offensive coordinator this season is Robert Anae, who was one of the offensive assistants with Texas Tech before coming over. Anae has slowly been putting in some of those very same tactics that make Tech so successful, and it was a reason why the Cougars were able to turn things around this season – the offense fits the skills of QB John Beck very well. But in this one that just helps to inspire Cal even more, and a solid group of athletes in the Bear secondary (had more interceptions, 13, than TD passes allowed, 11) is more than capable of stepping up to the task. Let’s also note that it was not necessarily a case of being unable to stop Tech in LY’s bowl loss; it was a case of a team being snubbed by the BCS just not bringing the right intensity to the table. In seeing so many wide open passing attacks in the Pac 10 they will be more than ready to make stops here, especially since the Cougar weapons are not all that imposing. They played two non-conference bowl opponents this season, falling by 17 at home to Boston College and by 26 at Notre Dame, and that tells us much more about them than those wins in the lousy Mountain West. CALIFORNIA 34-23.

POINSETTIA BOWL (December 22 at San Diego, CA)


The Midshipmen may be as far from campus as just about any bowl team this year, but there might not be a stronger following for anyone. This was simply a great fit for this bowl in their inaugural, with San Diego hosting more members of the Navy than any city in the United States. That makes this a special affair for Paul Johnson and his team, and we expect them to play very well in this environment. And why not, LY they ventured to San Francisco for a similar matchup against a middle of the road Mountain West team, and drubbed New Mexico 34-19. But there is a different between that game and this one. The Lobos brought a staunch rush defense to the table, and appeared to have a chance to match up to Johnson’s playbook. They could not. This time around it is an awful Colorado State rush defense, one that allowed 2,207 yards at an alarming 4.8 per carry this season, and there is little that Sonny Lubick can do in the down time before this game to make that any better. Lubick’s over-rated program did not go bowling in LY’s 4-7 disaster, and the two previous appearances they lost on the field by a combined 28 to Boston College and T.C.U. in minor bowls, and to the pointspread by 33. They are only here because no one else in the Mountain West qualified, and it took a 75 yard punt return for a TD with 1:09 left in their final game against U.N.L.V. to escape 31-27. When you can not close out a weak team (they were -15 over the Rebels) on your own field in a key game, you do not belong here. NAVY 34-28.

FORT WORTH BOWL (December 23 at Fort Worth, TX)


Even settings in which quality is lacking (like the fact that Kansas got here because of home non-conference wins vs. Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State, while Houston needed a home win vs. Sam Houston State) can provide some interesting matchups in the “game within the gameâ€Â


posted by gotservices

Dec. 13 2005 3:05pm

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