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2008 BOWL GAME KEY RELEASES
Truthfully folks, this is one of the worst Bowl seasons in recent memory as far as the quality of the games and the matchups of interest. Or, perhaps I'm just getting old? Or maybe it's both of those reasons? Just seems to me as though there are a number garbage games. Perhaps it's just a sign of the times. Can't we just go back to the days when they just played games on New Yeas Eve and New Years Day? Heck, now they drag it out until January 8th with garbage games like Uconn vs. Buffalo taking place after the 1st of the year!
At any rate, we've come up with 6 games rated 3*, and 1 game with a 1* rating to end our College Football Key Releases for the year. On the year our Key Releases on all official plays rated 2* and higher stand at 22-22. It's usually our college plays that do well but this year it's our NFL plays that stand at 5-2 with the playoffs still in front of us. Certainly .500 isn't where we want to end the year, so we're hoping for a strong finish here with these bowl games and then the NFL playoffs.
Whatever we do here the rest of the way, we'll live to fight another day, which hopefully serves as a lesson within itself to our visitors. Managing your money is just as important as the handicapping. No one is ever going to win every year. We don't win every year but we do in many more years than we lose. By properly managing our bankroll, by not trying to play catch up and by taking one day at a time we allow ourselves to hang in there to take advantage of the next hot streak when it comes along and it WILL come along. Hopefully that hot streak starts now!
1* Minnesota +9.5 over Kansas - You still might be able to grab +10 on this one. This is just a small play on a Minnesota team looking to bounce back from a season ending walloping at the hands of Iowa. It wasn't all bad for the Gophers this year though. They spent a good deal of time at the top of a very important list in football at any level. Turnover margin. They finished the year #12 in the nation in that category and to give you an idea how important the category is, the #1 and #2 teams in the category are Oklahoma and Florida. So #12 not too shabby when you consider the team at the bottom of the chart, at #119 is Washington State. Kansas finished the year +3 in this category to Minny's +12.
Turnovers aren't the only reason we like the Gophers here. There just seems to be plenty of room for the Gophers to get on the board and keep it close. Kansas has given up buckets of points this year and not just to the Big 12 elite. South Florida scored 37, Iowa State scored 33 and Nebraska scored 45. Look for Minnesota to come up with a few key turnovers and make this a tight one with the outcome in doubt as we head into the 4th quarter. We'll grab the points here and look for Minny to end it's season with their heads held high.
3* Vanderbilt +3.5 over Boston College - Our love affair with Vanderbilt will finally come to an end on New Years Eve Day as we back Vanderbilt for the 6th time this year. Whether or not our affair was worth it all hinges on the outcome of this game. We stand at 3-2 on the year in our selections on Vandy so a win here and we end at 4-2 or a loss and it's 3-3. We think it will be a win and here's why.
Often times one bowl team can have an emotional edge over it's opponent based strictly on one team being thrilled to death to be in a particular game while the other could care less. Now, we don't think that's exactly the case here but certainly Boston College is no stranger to Bowl games and had their sights set a little higher than New Years Eve. Vanderbilt on the other hand, might as well be playing in the Super Bowl. This game is absolutely huge for the Vanderbilt program. They are in a bowl game for the first time in decades but the season won't be complete unless they finish the year with a winning record. a win here and Vandy finishes up the year 7-6. For BC, after losing the ACC title game 30-12 to Va Tech a win over Vandy would hardly be a consolation.
Vanderbilt has done a fine job at keeping opposing offenses, with the exception of Florida, in check. This game figures to be more of a defensive battle making the +3.5 loom all the more large here. With the talent level fairly even in this one we're looking for the emotion of this being the most successful Vanderbilt team in decades as well as the chance to finish above .500 to be the deciding factors that put Vandy over the top.
3* Iowa -3.5 over South Carolina - Sure you'll hear how the Big 10 was down this year and how they are playing an SEC team and how South Carolina had a big team meeting recently to get hyped up for the bowl game, but sometimes you just have to look at a game and take the team that the numbers say is the better of the two. Oh, and while the Big 10 may be down, the SEC wasn't exactly "up" this year.
South Carolina was a team that turned the ball over way too often this year. They finished the year at 101 out of 119 on the turnover margin chart which places them among the worst in the entire nation at -9 while Iowa was in the top 30 at +6. Honestly folks, that stat alone is enough to warrant a play on a Bowl game but there's more. Iowa's yards per point numbers were fantastic. Rounding off, they finished the year with a 12 on offense and a 22 on defense for a +10 margin while South Carolina struggled offensively with a 14.5 and was below average defensively with a 14. Also note that South Carolina had a defensive number in road games of 11 which is atrocious. Iowa also managed to knock off Penn State this year while South Carolina failed against every big time opponent they faced.
3* Penn State +10 over USC - 10 was widely available until it moved across the board. If the 10 doesn't appear again, go ahead and buy it. We still like the game at + 9 however. For that matter, anyone who likes Penn State here should like them to win it straight up making the points a bonus, which we think will be the case. We're well aware of the Big 10 shortcomings and the "weak" schedule arguments, and hey, we've seen the Big 10 get blown out in Rose Bowls and National Title games recently just like everybody else.
But the feeling here is that the USC schedule, as impressive as the results were, has been equally "weak" this year. Sure, their signature win was a blowout over Big 10 representative Ohio State but you can also point to their loss to Oregon State, who Penn State beat 45-14 a couple of weeks prior. Both teams sit towards the top of the turnover standings as well as their yards per points differential.
The feeling here is that Penn State will have some success where it counts. Up front on both sides of the ball. They'll be able to put pressure on USC QB Mark Sanchez and they'll be able get the ball moving on the ground with that offensive line leading the way. USC has the greater potential to blow open a game with big plays which is always a concern, but we think Paterno (23-10 in Bowl Games) and company find a way to make a game of this and quite possibly pull an upset. This is a matchup between two very well coached teams with talent on both sides of the ball. We'd prefer +10 but still a play at +9.
Utah-Alabama - NO PLAY - We were strongly considering a play on Utah here. But then we recalled our own advice. Advice we preach over and over again throughout any given football season: Don't back a team just because you think they can hang within a number. Which is exactly what we would be doing if we played Utah here as we don't feel they are anywhere near as talented as Alabama. If there's an edge for Utah it's in their emotional state heading into this one when compared to Alabama's. It's David vs. Goliath. Utah wants to prove it's worthy of being here. That it can compete with the big boys. One might suggest Alabama is disappointed they aren't playing for a National Title and therefore, won't show up with a big effort here. After all, they had Florida all but beaten before they let that game slip away and now they have to get excited about playing a Mountain West team?
But Bama holds all the edges here. Remember last year when Hawaii took on Georgia? Remember the result? The MWC plays a much different style of football of course, but at the end of the day, games are still won up front which is where Alabama figures to dominate this game and do as they please. Utah has had a fantastic year but staying undefeated wasn't easy. They had narrow escapes over Air Force, Michigan, Oregon State, New Mexico and TCU. Alabama would blow most of those teams off the field.
Utah has a chance for sure. 12-0 is 12-0. It's no easy task. They know how to win football games. A trick play or two, an early lead, hey anything can happen. But based strictly on the x's and o's, if Alabama comes to play, they should win this one and likely by more than the number. We're just not willing to take a chance on Utah in hopes they can hang. We're not willing to attempt to predict whether Bama shows up to play. We have to assume they will show up and give 110% in which case, going against them is too risky. Yes, Utah can hang within this spot, but we don't think they can win and we don't make it a practice to back teams we don't think can win straight up. Should be fun to watch though!
3* Ohio State +8.5 over Texas - We missed the boat on this one as far as getting a good number as this game opened up at 10.5. But Ohio State is still the play here. They have so much to prove after falling flat in National Title games. They lost twice this year, to USC and Penn State, no shame there and before you start pointing towards a weak schedule and the Big 10, etc. etc., take a closer look at the Texas dance card. I'd look at Oklahoma State and Texas Tech when trying to make a case for Ohio State who is clearly as good as either of those two.
All the talk about schedules, who played tougher opponents and so on can get tiring. When you play a college football schedule of 12 games and you're Ohio State or Texas, in the end, the numbers have to mean something. In the case of Ohio State, they sit at #5 in the land in turnover margin at +15. Texas is +3. Their yards per point numbers are 12 on offense and 21 on defense. Spectacular. Texas equally impressive with an 11 and an 18. Texas had a little more success offensively while Ohio State had a little more success on the defensive side of the ball.
But again, the numbers are the numbers. Without nit picking which conference is tougher, the fact remains that these are two very good football teams that have impressed over a 12 game schedule. They both recruit from the best talent in the nation. They have played twice in recent years with Texas winning a close one by 3 in 2005 and Ohio State winning 24-7 in 2006. That simply shows that Ohio State and Texas are on the same level as far as the ability to recruit talent which bolsters our case for the dog here. We'll take Ohio State here +8.5 or more in a game they can certainly win. Playing this one strictly by our numbers. Ohio State is the play.
3* Florida -3 over Oklahoma - We hope to find the time to be able to give this one a bigger write up. No guarantee with the NFL playoffs now here and hoops starting to take over. In this spot, due to time constraints, we'll be very brief and to the point. This one should be a dandy. Our play boils down to the Florida defense. Both teams obviously put up some spectacular numbers offensively but it's the Florida defense that should be the difference here. Other than a game we have no answer for, the loss to Ole Miss, Florida has held everyone to 21 points or less. Oklahoma has give up 21 points or more 9 times this year! Before you use the argument that Oklahoma was so far ahead in many games that they gave up garbage points, take a look at Florida's schedule. They too, blew teams out, but still held teams to less than 21 in every game but one.
I also keep coming back to the Texas-Oklahoma game. As I sat their watching that game earlier this year, I remarked to myself that there was no way I was watching a National Champion in either team. So, I'm sticking to my guns here. Florida is as good offensively as Oklahoma. They are better defensively. Simple as that. We'll break it down more if we have the time.
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