Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, December 28, 2011 at 9:03 AM
Go ahead and put down the glass of egg nog for a moment.
It's time to turn on the big-screen TV and settle in for a whole lot of College Football Bowl action as there are still a bunch of big December bowl games on the docket and in today's Jim Sez we bring you all the Thursday/Friday games
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Wednesday's Bowl Games...
MILITARY BOWL - at Washington, D.C.
TOLEDO (8-4) vs. AIR FORCE (7-5) - 4:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Hey, did you realize that the AF Falcons are the one-and-only service academy team still standing here at bowl times (Army and Navy didn't make it to the bowl party this year)? The Colorado Springs-based club won four of its final five regular-season games SU (straight-up) to land a fifth consecutive bowl berth and here keep an eye trained on RB Asher Clark who rushed for 1,096 yards this year while averaging an eye-popping 7.3 yards a carry.
Toledo has its own star power with WR/KR Eric Page ready/willing/able to bust open a game at a moment's notice. Page - who caught 112 passes and scored 10 receiving TDs - has deceptive speed but the Air Force game plan here has to be crowd him at the line of scrimmage or risk having him humiliate your entire secondary.
Spread Notes - Air Force is 5-7 spreadwise overall this season (the second straight season with that spread mark) but the Fly Boys have covered seven of their last 11 games when in the point-grabbing role. Toledo is 7-5 against the Las Vegas price tags this season and note the Rockets are just 3-6 ATS in non-league affairs the past two years.
HOLIDAY BOWL - at San Diego, CA
TEXAS (7-5) vs. CALIFORNIA (7-5) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
All you really need to know about these BCS conference teams is that they didn't get to a bigger/better bowl (and should have) and they each lost late-season games to archrivals as Texas was obliterated by Heisman Trophy-winning QB Robert Griffin III in a 48-24 loss in Waco back on Dec. 3rd while Cal came up shy in a rainy/muddy 31-28 loss-but-cover against Stanford back on Nov. 19th. So, this is one of those pre-January bowl games where the winner feels as if it can "salvage" its season and so expect guns blazing on both sides (note the "totals" price is only 48 points at press time ... hmm).
Texas figures to allow both of its kid QBs to get snaps here but count on Case McCoy (team-high 1,034 yards passing) to see more minutes providing he doesn't turn it over while David Ash will also get some play time but Texas boss-man Mack Brown will have less patience with the latter than he has with the former. Got it?
California's lefty QB Zach Maynard ran hot-and-cold this year and so the game plan for Jeff Tedford's team figures to include lots of inside draws/traps for speedy RB Isi Sofele (1,266 yards rushing this year and a solid 141 yards-per-game average in the team's final four regular-season tilts).
Spread Notes - Texas is a dead-even but vig-losing 6-6 against the prices this year and note the 'Horns are 3-6 ATS in bowl tilts the past 10 years. California, meanwhile, is 7-5 ATS overall this season and the Golden Bears ride a four-game spread winning streak into this clash (and remember that Cal hasn't covered five in a row since way back in the '06 season).
THE THURSDAY/FRIDAY COLLEGE BOWL LINEUP
On Thursday, it's...
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL -at Orlando, FL
FLORIDA STATE (8-4) vs. NOTRE DAME (8-4) -5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Naturally, much is being made of the fact that Florida State and Notre Dame played some major marquee matchups "back in the day" including that famed #1 versus #2 tussle in November 1993 (a 31-24 home win back then for the #2 Irish... remember?) but the here-and-now suggests neither of these high-profile programs was happy with their 2011 seasons and do keep in mind that Florida State started off the year ranked #6 in the opening Associated Press Top 25 poll while Notre Dame was ranked #16. Hmmm.
If Notre Dame is gonna cop a second straight bowl win (see Spread Notes below) than the QB Tommy Rees-to-WR Michael Floyd combo must click. Floyd nabbed 95 balls worth 1,106 yards and 8 TDs this year but will Rees have time to set-and-throw here?
On the flip side, FSU's playing in a nation-high 30th consecutive bowl game and quarterback EJ Manuel (2,417 yards passing with 16 TDs and 8 INTs) can't panic in the pocket.
Spread Notes -Florida State has split its dozen pointspread verdicts thus far in the 2011 season but did you know the Seminoles have covered their last seven consecutive post-season bowl games while dating back to the 2004 season? Meanwhile, the ND Fighting Irish is a composite 11-11-3 ATS (against the spread) under second-year head coach Brian Kelly and that includes last year's 33-17 Sun Bowl victory against 2 ½-point favorite Miami.
ALAMO BOWL -at San Antonio, TX
WASHINGTON (7-5) vs. BAYLOR (9-3) -9 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's always exciting when the Heisman Trophy winner is playing in a post-season bowl game and can you actually have found a more exciting player in the nation going back the past 15 or 20 years than Baylor's do-everything QB Robert Griffin III -a/k/a "RG3"?
Griffin's numbers only tell part of his 2011 story: He wound up setting 46 different school records along the way and Griffin III enters this clash with 3,998 yards passing with 36 TDs and just 6 INTs and remember he also rushed it for 644 yards and 9 scores. If Baylor is gonna exit the Griffin Era with a win (and, no, he won't be coming back to school next year even though he has one year of eligibility left) than he'll need his defense to step up and consider the Bears have yielded 48, 55, 59 and 42 points in four games this season.
Washington's upset hopes rest with its young star QB Keith Price who rifled a single-season school record 29 touchdown passes this year but if the Huskies wish to chew some clock and keep Griffin III on the sidelines than potent Dawgs RB Chris Polk (1,341 yards rushing with 11 TDs) must move the chains at every opportunity.
Spread Notes -Baylor covered seven of its 11 on-the-board games this season and the Bears are a collective 9-3 versus the vig as betting favorites since the start of 2010. Note that Washington stunned the bowl world last year with its 19-7 win against 13 ½-point favorite Nebraska and overall the Huskies are a modest 21-16 ATS overall the past three years.
On Friday, it's...
ARMED FORCES BOWL -At Dallas, TX
BYU (9-3) vs. TULSA (8-4) -12 p.m. ET, ESPN
In case you were wondering, these one-time WAC rivals have not played one another since early in the 2007 season -a rollicking 55-47 win/cover by 6 ½-point home favorite Tulsa. Now, wouldn't a game with 100-plus points be a really nice way of getting this late December bowl weekend started?
BYU quarterback Riley Nelson has recovered from mid-November lung/rib injuries and keep in mind he threw for a career-best 363 yards and three TDs in a relief role in the Cougars' 41-20 win against 8-point home dog Hawaii back on Dec. 3rd.
On the flip side, Tulsa slinger E.J. Kinne (2,876 yards passing with 25 TDs and 12 INTs) can also tuck it and run but it says here the key to this game for the Golden Hurricane is how do RBs Ja'Terian Douglas and Trey Watts fare here after combining for 1,727 yards rushing this season. Stay tuned.
Spread Notes -BYU rides a sizzling six-game pointspread winning streak into this bowl clash in the Lone Star State and the Coogs are an electric 15-5 odds-wise overall since the middle of last year (folks, that's a .750 winning rate). Meanwhile, Tulsa is 15-9 ATS overall since the start of 2010 and the Golden Hurricane is 10-3 vig-wise away these past two years (a .769 winning percentage).
PINSTRIPE BOWL -at The Bronx, NY
RUTGERS (8-4) vs. IOWA STATE (6-6) -3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
Play ball! The bowl season rolls on in Yankee Stadium where the team most responsible for there being an Alabama-LSU rematch in the BCS Championship Game takes center stage... yes, that would be the Iowa State Cyclones who shocked Oklahoma State on the night of Nov. 18th.
Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads was gushing on New York city sports talk radio last week regarding this bowl tilt and now we shall see whether the Big 12 guys can slow down Rutgers mega-star WR Mohamed Sanu (109 receptions and 7 TDs) who likely needs to get his hands on the ball 15-to-20 times here in order for the Big East "hosts" to win this game in "The House That Derek Jeter Built".
Spread Notes -Rutgers rolled up a tidy 8-4 against-the-odds mark this past regular season and the Scarlet Knights are a nifty 4-1 versus the vig in bowl games since 2005 and that includes bowl covers against Arizona State and Kansas State. Iowa State's on a three-game pointspread winning streak while heading into this clash and the giant-killing Cyclones are 7-3 versus the vig as dogs this year.
MUSIC CITY BOWL -at Nashville, TN
MISS STATE (6-6) vs. WAKE FOREST (6-6) -6:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
If you are counting up the college teams that thought at season's start they'd be playing in a January bowl game and are not, than don't forget these Miss State Bulldogs who began the year at #20 in the aforementioned AP poll and yet staggered through a .500 season.
Worse yet, head coach Dan Mullen -a supposed hot property when talk centers on the Penn State head-coaching gig -never did allow his offense to blossom as RB Vick Ballard rushed for a quiet 1,009 yards while the slip-shod quarterbacking spot accounted for 17 TDs and 11 INTs but Mullen often times didn't "trust" QB Chris Relf at crunch time.
Now, M-State looks to bag a third bowl win in the past five years but standing in the way is Wake Forest WR Chris Givens who snared 74 receptions worth 1,276 yards and 9 TDs this year. Don't be surprised if Givens runs a few reverses here too and winds up getting 20 touches -he's the key if WF wants to pull to upset here.
Spread Notes -Miss State rallied to cover five of its final six regular-season games this year (that's after starting off 1-5 ATS) and note the Bulldogs are a solid 6-3 against the odds when playing non-SEC folks since late in the 2009 season. Wake Forest has covered three-of-four bowl games in the Jim Grobe Era and the Demon Deacons are 40-29-2 ATS overall as pups since Grobe arrived on the Winston-Salem scene back in 2001.
INSIGHT BOWL -at Tempe, AZ
IOWA (7-5) vs. OKLAHOMA (9-3) -10 p.m. ET, ESPN
This marks the fourth time in the past six years that the Oklahoma Sooners wound up playing in a bowl game in the state of Arizona -but this ain't the bowl game in the cactus state that Bob Stoops' crew wanted (see Fiesta Bowl, of course) but that's what happens when your overrated team gets beat by four-TD underdog Texas Tech and than six weeks later gets summarily clubbed in the head 44-10 by rival Oklahoma State.
Maybe the Sooners can apply some salve on their wounds here against overmatched (and undersized) Iowa.
Hey, it'll be interesting to see how Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (4,302 yards passing with 28 TDs and 14 INTs) attacks a Hawkeyes defense that ranked dead-last in the Big 10 against the pass (and had just three INTs in the team's final six games).
Spread Notes -Oklahoma has lost its last three in a row to Mr. Vig while heading into this bowl game in the desert and note the OU Sooners are a collective 3-7 against the odds in all bowl games while dating back the past 10 years... ugh! Iowa has failed to cover three-of-four games as underdog sides this season but the Hawkeyes are 14-7-1 ATS as pups while dating back to the start of the 2007 campaign.
NOTE: More Bowl Previews in the next Jim Sez as we preview the Five (5) New Year's Eve games and -don't forget -we'll have the entire NFL Week 17 line-up in our Friday column!