Submitted by Jim Hurley on Thursday, December 29, 2011 at 6:22 PM
We continue our series of bowl previews today with a look at the three remaining Friday games (please check our archives for the Thursday report if you'd like the numbers in Tulsa-BYU, which was an early Friday kickoff). Today we'll crunch some numbers in the Pinstripe, Music City, and Insight Bowls that go Friday afternoon and evening, along with Saturday's earliest kick in Houston matching Texas A&M and Northwestern in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
We'll be back early Saturday to finish out the New Year's Eve card. Sunday will be devoted to the NFL, with stat previews for the two biggest games of the day...Baltimore-Cleveland and Dallas-NY Giants. It's back to the colleges in the Monday edition of the NOTEBOOK for the annual New Year's Bowl games. We'll try to get that posted by midday Sunday here at this website because there are some early kickoffs on January 2nd.
Again, the earliest Friday kickoff was presented in our Thursday report for everyone's preparation convenience. We pick up the previews a trip to Yankee Stadium for a rare outdoor Northern bowl game.
PINSTRIPE BOWL (Bronx, NY)
RUTGERS (8-4) VS. IOWA STATE (6-6)
Vegas Line: Rutgers by 1, total of 44.5
Market Moves: Rutgers opened at -2, but the line has been slowly shrinking, possibly because of the good showings by Big 12 schools in early action (Missouri and Texas both impressed). There hasn't been much interest in the total. There may have been concern here about weather issues...and professional wagerers wanted to wait until conditions were pinned down before making an investment.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Iowa State: 2nd
Our initial skepticism about the Big 12 strength of schedules in Jeff Sagarin's USA Today computer ratings is starting to drift away. Because of publication deadlines, we're writing this before Baylor-Washington. If Baylor continued the winning and covering trend started by Missouri and Texas...then you should give Iowa State a big edge in this stat. If Baylor didn't impress, Iowa State at least has a small edge here.
Rutgers: 100th (47th passing, 115th rushing)
Iowa State: 56th (74th passing, 35th rushing)
Iowa State had the much better offense against the much tougher schedule, so they grade out significantly better on this side of the ball. There are a couple of true threats on the Rutgers offense in terms of breaking off big plays. But, on the whole, the Scarlet Knights' offense was abysmal this year.
Rutgers: 12th (11th passing, 56th rushing)
Iowa State: 99th (73rd passing, 99th rushing)
Rutgers would look to get a lot back when you move to defense...but their edge decreases once you factor in strength of schedule. Rutgers was 77 spots better in the defensive rankings, but played a schedule that was 69 spots softer. It could turn out that these defenses are close to even...meaning Iowa State would impress you on this side of the ball if they got to play the Rutgers schedule...while Rutgers would fall off the map if they had to face a bunch of explosive teams like Oklahoma State, Oklahoma, and Baylor.
ADDING IT ALL UP: We haven't yet mentioned the "home field" conditions favoring Rutgers. This isn't a home game of course, because it's being played in Yankee Stadium. But, Rutgers did play Army there this year...and their New Jersey home isn't all that far away from the Bronx. They will have a clear home crowd edge. And, familiarity with the playing surface could be VITAL because the turf was an absolute joke in the Army game. Huge clods kept coming up with the barest of weight being put on them. If we see a re-run of THAT, then Iowa State may take a long time to adjust. If cold conditions have made it more of a rock hard surface...then Iowa State's experience in faster paced games could help them. We'll be working closely with our on-site sources to make sure you get the right side or total. Our New York sources are as good as gold.
MUSIC CITY BOWL (Nashville, TN)
WAKE FOREST (6-6) VS. MISSISSIPPI STATE (6-6)
Vegas Line: Mississippi State by 6.5, total of 48
Market Moves: These lines have been fairly solid the whole way. There are occasional outliers that go up to Mississippi State -7...but those typically get bet right back down to -6.5. The smart money generally prefers the dog here, and would really jump in if the public drove the line on the favorite up to a touchdown. The total is kind of jitter-bugging from 47.5 to 48.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Wake Forest: 54th
Mississippi State: 23rd
No surprise here that the SEC team would earn the nod over an ACC team. We'll have to make allowances for that as we work through the stat rankings.
Wake Forest: 76th (37th passing, 96th rushing)
Mississippi State: 87th (92nd passing, 46th rushing)
Both were disappointments on this side of the ball...particularly Miss. State. Of course, if you have to face the defenses of LSU and Alabama in your regular season schedule...you're going to rank poorly here! If there was a stat for "strength of schedule of opposing defenses," the Bulldogs would grade out well. With that in mind, we'll give them the edge on this side of the ball even though Wake Forest was 11 slots ahead of them in the raw numbers.
Wake Forest: 74th (72nd passing, 69th rushing)
Mississippi State: 41st (23rd passing, 65th rushing)
Big edge here for the SEC favorite after you adjust for schedule. They were already way ahead anyway...and that's with the bulk of their schedule coming in the toughest conference in the land!
ADDING IT ALL UP: On paper, you could make a case that Mississippi State should be a bigger favorite than they are. It's worth remembering though that this is a team that won a New Year's Bowl last year by a million points, then thought they had a good chance to compete in the SEC West this season. A 6-6 regular season record and playing the Music City Bowl is a BIG step down from those expectations. If the juices aren't flowing, then the math doesn't matter. Understanding motivation is the key to picking bowls played on December 30th and 31st. We'll be working with our sources to get the right read on Mississippi State.
INSIGHT BOWL (Tempe, AZ)
IOWA (7-5) VS. OKLAHOMA (9-3)
Vegas Line: Oklahoma by 13.5, total of 57.5
Market Moves: Early openers were up around 15 or 16 for Oklahoma, so the smart money has spoken very emphatically on the underdog. It's interesting that a move down to a key number of 14 didn't inspire a favorite buy back. In fact, the line kept coming down! Strong support for a double digit underdog against a possibly disinterested favorite. The total has come down a tick from the 58 that was available for awhile in many places.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
One way you know that the Big 12 was great this year is that we keep talking about their strength of schedule! Did the whole conference earn bowl bids?! Iowa played a decent schedule, and should be battle-tested enough not to be intimidated here. They may be surprised by Oklahoma's speed though at the skill positions...even if the Sooners are missing some talent due to injuries.
Iowa: 70th (57th passing, 76th rushing)
Oklahoma: 4th (4th passing, 48th rushing)
We would think that ALL OF YOU would have anticipated this...Oklahoma grading out much better than Iowa on offense. There's a big edge that gets even bigger when you adjust for strength of schedule.
Iowa: 67th (69th passing, 64th rushing)
Oklahoma: 61st (83rd passing, 49th rushing)
The offenses grade out even in raw numbers...but then you have to adjust for strength of schedule, and the fact that Oklahoma plays fast break football. This Sooner's group can sure look ugly when they're not at peak focus (as Texas Tech will attest). But, they have the athletes to play better than this ranking.
ADDING IT ALL UP: Another game where motivation means a lot. Oklahoma thought they had a chance to play for the BCS Championship. But, an inexplicable home loss to Texas Tech, a bad finish at Baylor, then a virtual no-show vs. Oklahoma State has knocked them all the way down to the Insight Bowl. We wouldn't be shocked if this game missed the Vegas spread by more than two touchdowns in either direction. Oklahoma could lose. They could have the full-game spread covered by halftime in an eventual rout.
MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL (Houston, TX; goes early Saturday)
TEXAS A&M (6-6) VS. NORTHWESTERN (6-6)
Vegas Line: Texas A&M by 10, total of 68
Market Moves: We've been sitting on A&M -10 for a long time. A few places had -9.5 for a bit, but the money moved the line back to a critical number. The total opened at 65, and has gradually been rising every since. Most of the projected bowl shootouts have gone Over...so there's no reason for Over bettors to get discouraged as of press time.
STRENGTH OF SCHEDULE
Texas A&M: 3rd
We'll try not to sound like a broken record...but, here's the latest game where we have to mention the Big 12's strength of schedule...AND the fact that the favorite may not be fired up! By the time you're betting this game Saturday morning, you'll have a fuller read on the Big 12 based on results from Baylor, Iowa State, and Oklahoma. You'll also have seen Iowa. Note that Purdue won and covered for the Big Ten against Western Michigan...but they came close to losing that game.
Texas A&M: 7th (17th passing, 20th rushing)
Northwestern: 32nd (35th passing, 36th rushing)
Two good offenses here, though the Aggies were way too front heavy this season in terms of scoring a lot of points in the first half and not nearly enough in the second half. Great balance from the Aggies too. Of course, it's hard to be more balanced than Northwestern given those rankings! Big edge on paper to Texas A&M because of their strength of schedule boost.
Texas A&M: 65th (113th passing, 13th rushing)
Northwestern: 81st (62nd passing, 89th rushing)
Northwestern could have big problems at the point of attack given their rushing and overall defensive rankings. The Aggies don't particularly shine here...but they were caught in some fast-break football games vs. up tempo Big 12 teams. They aren't as bad as those numbers would suggest once you adjust for schedule and tempo. The math on both sides of the ball makes it clear why the Aggies are a double digit favorite.
ADDING IT ALL UP: This is just a horrible motivational spot for the Aggies. They were expecting much bigger things this year. They just lost a rivalry game to hated Texas in the final seconds. They're heading to the SEC next year (remember that Nebraska no-showed its final Big 12 bowl vs. Washington last year before moving to the Big 10). And, this game is being held in Houston...which is great for selling tickets but isn't going to get any of the players excited because College Station isn't all that far from Houston. It's not a bowl that's going to excite the players. Oh, did we mention that the head coach was fired after the Texas game and the players took it personally?
Again, we'll be working closely with our sources to get a read on the Aggies mindset. If this is "the first day of their SEC experience," then the talent could show up at full speed and win a blowout. If the players have already mentally thrown in the towel on the 2011 season and the Big 12 era...then we have a replay of Nebraska-Washington from last year.
There's clearly some BIG PLAY potential Friday and early Saturday based on the talent on the field and the intangibles in play. We may some big blowouts...we may see some big upsets...but you're definitely going to see BIG MONEY if you sign up for JIM HURLEY'S FRIDAY ALL DAY BOWL BLITZ!
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