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2007 COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL GAME PREDICTIONS
MARYLAND VS OREGON STATE
At first glance, what stands out here is that you have an Oregon State team that finished the year strong, winning 6 of 7 while Maryland backs into this game, losing 4 of their final 6 games. Both teams had major injuries during the season and both teams had their share of ups and downs with big wins and disappointing losses.
Many point to Oregon States number 2 ranked rush defense as the key to this game. But remember, Boston College has a pretty good defense against the run, and that didn't stop Maryland from hanging 42 points on the board.
Rather than try and analyze this game based on how each team performed at different points during the year, we're going to take the whole body of work, on the road, for each team.
When we break it down using yards per point on the road, we have a Maryland team with a 14 on offense and a very good 17 on defense for a +3 total. Oregon State meanwhile, comes in the game on offense with a 14, but a very poor 12 on defense for a total of -2. The yards per point edge here favors Maryland by 5. The equalizer in this number is strength of schedule. Oregon State played a tougher road schedule than Maryland did, however by our calculations, it wasn't 10 points tougher than Maryland, justifying them being a 5 point chalk here. So we'll take the points here in what has the potential to be a very exciting game in which either team can win. Might be able to get +6 or better by game time.
2* Maryland +5
MEINIKE CAR CARE BOWL
UCONN VS WAKE FOREST
Let's state the obvious first. Wake Forest has played the tougher schedule and performed better against stiffer competition. Uconn was beaten soundly by a couple of very good teams, Cinci and West Virginia. While Wake Forest really only failed to show up once all season, a 44-10 set back to Clemson. Every other game, they either won, or played well enough to have had a shot to win.
Uconn won't be able to escape mention of having played a weak schedule and having caught some breaks from both mother nature and the zebras. There will always be schedule criticism as long as there are names like Maine, Duke, Akron, and Temple on your dance card. Also note that Uconns signature victories this year came at home in bad weather. A three game stretch of Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers were all played at home in driving rain storms.
Uconn has not been a good road team. Their numbers are padded by their home results. Just look at a simple stat like points for and against. At home they outscored opponents 28-18. On the road they were outscored 28-24. Losing 66-21 to West Virginia and 27-3 to Cinci didn't help.
But there are bright spots for Uconn. We still believe Uconn is a fundamentally sound football team. They held 10 of the 12 teams they faced this year to 19 points or less. You don't accomplish that without some talent. Also keep in mind both of these squads made a trip to Duke this year. Uconn came away with a 45-14 win while Wake had to hang on to win a shoot out 41-36.
Finally, motivation is sure to come into play here. Wake Forest is in off winning the ACC a year ago and playing in the Orange Bowl. Make no mistake about it, this game is a disappointment for them. They don't even get to leave their own state to play in this one. Uconn, on the other hand, was picked to finish in the basement in the Big East this year. Certainly no one expected them to contend for BCS bowl game and crack the top 20 in the nation. For Uconn, this season was a big success. A season where they were way ahead of schedule. It's a young team that will have many of it's stars back next year. They would love nothing more than to be able to put one final stamp on this season, and send notice to the rest of the Big East that they'll be a team everyone will have to deal with come next year.
Also note that the last time Uconn took the field, they came away embarrassed to the tune of 66-21. Here's a chance for this team to right that wrong with a big effort. No one wants to to be remembered for a 40 point loss. While it can't be erased, a win here would be the next best thing.
Good ol Dr Bob put out Uconn as a play a week ago, moving this line across the critical number 3. It's hard to recommend making a play on Uconn at anything worse than +3. It currently sits at Wake -2.5 but we expect some 3's to start appearing as the game approaches.
2* Uconn +3 or better
CENTRAL FLORIDA VS MISSISSIPPI STATE
Playing a tough SEC schedule has to count for something here. The SEC is the best conference in college football. When you look at a dance card that has names like Tennessee, Auburn, Alabama, LSU, Kentucky, Arkansas, South Carolina and then throw in names like West Virginia........now that's a tough schedule folks. Yet Miss State still managed to beat a few of these teams, Kentucky, Alabama and Auburn, while holding their own against everyone else with the exception of LSU in the season opener.
To be clear, Miss States 7 win season is much more impressive than Central Florida's 10 win season. Central Florida's claim to fame this year is ALMOST beating Texas. In their other two losses, they weren't even close against South Florida and East Carolina.
When you break the game down using yards per point, you come up with some numbers that are relatively equal for these teams. So, even prior to making an adjustment for schedule strength, you'd have to take a close look at taking the points. Making the schedule strength adjustment seals the deal though, as Miss State played a schedule that is 9 or 10 points tougher. Even if you initially gave Central Florida the slight nod, once you factor in the schedule, you'd have to favor Miss St.
Throw in the motivational edge for Miss St as well. Just being an underdog to Central Florida is motivation enough. But there's also an incentive to finish off the year on a winning note in what has been a very good year for Miss St, a team which hasn't played in a Bowl since the beginning of the decade, and is in off back to back 3 win seasons.
The wrong team may be favored here.
3* Miss St +3
PENN STATE VS TEXAS A&M
A difficult game to gauge due to the coaching changes taking place at Texas A&M. On paper, this game shakes out as Penn State being about 4 to 6 points better than A&M, which puts it right on the number here, which is 5. So with no clear edge statistically, we look to the intangibles, which in this case, would be coaching. Joe Paterno and his staff are in a much better position to be able to put their team in a position to win, than the distracted A&M bunch, who are busy looking for their next gig.
Even with the staff in place, you have to question some of the Texas A&M results from this past year. Sure, they beat Texas. But what happened in Miami against a mediocre Hurricane team? Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas Tech, all dominated this A&M team. You just don't find those kinds of performances when you look at Penn State. Ohio State is the only team that really soundly beat Paterno. Every other game they played was a close one this year which is a direct reflection on the coaching staff.
So, our play here comes down to Paterno and company being more likely to have their team prepared and in a position to win, than the A&M staff who simply has it's thoughts elsewhere.
2* Penn State -5