Archive for January, 2016

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This is just the sixth all-time meeting between these two blue bloods (Ohio State leads 3-2 SU) with the last meeting in the 2005 Fiesta bowl, a 34-20 Buckeye (-4.5) win. Notre Dame has been in the post season every year under head coach Brian Kelly, going 3-2 SU/2-3 ATS, including beating LSU, 31-28 (+8) in last years Music City Bowl. Kelly was 1-2 SU/0-3 ATS in bowls as the head coach at Cincinnati. Ohio State is 2-1 SU/ATS in bowls under head coach Urban Meyer, winning both last year to become the National Champions. Prior to Ohio State, Meyer was 7-1 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at Florida and Utah and he was also the wide receivers coach at Notre Dame from 1996-2000.

Ohio State was expected to repeat as National Champions after returning 14 starters, including three All-American’s! The quarterback play was inconsistent as Cardale Jones and JT Barrett alternated the first seven games and the offense unexpectedly struggled (lost offensive coordinator Tom Herman to Houston). Barrett was named the starter against Rutgers, then was suspended versus Minnesota. He returned to start the last three, but struggled in a downpour in the home loss to Michigan State and workhorse running back Ezekial Elliot was underutilized. Elliot was then given a season high 30 carries in a rout over arch-rival Michigan. The Buckeye’s averaged 429 yards per game, and are No. 7 on defense in the FBS, holding their opponents to 97 yards per game less then they average.

Notre Dame returned 17 starters. Malik Zaire won the starting quarterback job, but suffered a broken ankle and was lost for the year after two games. Redshirt freshman DeShone Kizer has done a solid job in relief. Injuries were the norm for the Fighting Irish and Kelly said that nine starters were lost for the year. Notre Dame lost by two at Clemson despite a 141 yard edge as a defensive holding/pass interference was not called on their two point conversion attempt that would’ve tied the game. They then won six straight and in their regular season finale met Stanford. They lost in Palo Alto by two, allowing the game-winning 45 yard field goal with no time left after taking the lead 30 seconds earlier. They are No. 12 in the FBS, averaging 115 yards per game more then their opponents allow on average.

Notre Dame is just a couple of plays from being undefeated and are 5-1 ATS against bowl teams, outgaining them by 78 yards per game, while Ohio State is 3-5 ATS, but outgained their bowl opponents by 98 yards per game. Urban Meyer is arguably the best big game coach in the nation as he is 9-2 in bowls with three National Titles. The Buckeyes could be in a letdown spot as they expected to be in the playoffs, while Notre Dame is 3-0 as a ‘dog this year. Ohio State is the more talented team and this should be a high scoring game.

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These schools have met twice with Michigan winning the 2002 Outback bowl, 38-30 (-1) and the 2007 Capital One bowl, 41-35 (+11). The Wolverines are back in the post season for the fifth time in the last six years after missing out last year. Their last Citrus bowl appearance was a 45-17 (+3) loss to Tennessee in 2001. Head coach Jim Harbaugh was 1-1 SU/ATS in bowl games while the head coach at Stanford. Florida is bowling for the 24th time in the last 25 years. The Gators beat East Carolina, 28-20 (-7) in Last years Birmingham Bowl, despite being outgained 536-339. Head coach Jim McElwain was 1-0 SU/0-1 ATS as the head coach at Colorado State.

Florida returned just 11 starters and brought in a new head coach with new schemes. Offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier had the same role with Michigan last year. The Gators began the season 6-0 with redshirt freshman quarterback Will Grier and a defense that McElwain claimed reminded him of Alabama when he was there from 2008-2011. Grier was then suspended (failed drug test) before the LSU game and Treon Harris took over. They lost to LSU, but won the rest of their regular season SEC games, despite poor quarterback play. Florida needed overtime to defeat a three win Florida Atlantic squad and then were embarrassed by Florida State before getting thumped in the SEC Championship game. The Gators only averaged 231 yards per game in their last three contests, but are No. 6 in the FBS on defense, holding their opponents to 111 yards per game less then their average.

Michigan had a home-run hire in Harbaugh and had 15 returning starters from  a 5-7 team. The players bought into Harbaugh’s intense antics. They lost their opener at Utah, but gained respect with their physical play. At 5-1 they were hosting eventual Big Ten Champion Michigan State and appeared to have the game won, but lost when their punter mishandled a last second snap and they lost a game they never trailed a second of in regulation. They then won four straight, but were embarrassed in “The Game” against arch-rival Ohio State. They are No. 4 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 116 yards per game less then their average.

Gainesville is only 112 miles away from this venue, but the Michigan faithful will travel well. Both teams feature average offenses, but top ten defenses. The Wolverines are better on special teams and Harbaugh has more experience as a head coach in big games. Since the loss of Senior nose tackle Ryan Glasgow, Michigan has given up over 300 yards rushing against Indiana and Ohio State. This should be a low scoring game.

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This is the playoff semifinal. These schools are meeting for the fifth time, the third time in a bowl. Clemson embarrassed Oklahoma in last years Russell Athletic Bowl, 40-6 (+5). This is the eight straight bowl game for the Tigers under head coach Dabo Swinney and they’re 4-3 SU/ATS. Oklahoma has been bowling all 17 years under head coach Bob Stoops and are 8-8 SU/6-10 ATS in those.

When the Sooners enter the season under the radar and not ranked in the pre-season Top ten, watch out. The last two times that happened, they won a National Championship in one and finished No. 6 in the other. They returned thirteen starters and brought in new offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley to install the “Air Raid” offense and Texas Tech transfer quarterback Baker Mayfield has thrived. They started the season 4-0, but then were stunned in the “Red River Rivalry” as a 16.5 point favorite, losing 24-17 . Oklahoma then won seven straight, including back-to-back-to-back wins over the Big 12 elite of Baylor, TCU, and Oregon State, and arguably are playing the best football of any team. Oklahoma is No. 15 in the FBS, averaging 111 yards per game more then their foes allow on a average and are #5 in the FBS, allowing 115 yards per game less then their foes average.

Clemson returned just three starters on defense and quarterback Deshaun Watson was coming off an ACL injury. They survived a close home game against Notre Dame, winning by two despite being minus 141 yards and then weren’t challenged again until their home game against Florida State, which they passed with flying colors. After that win, the Tigers no longer needed style points, so they won the rest of their regular season games without having to dominate. Clemson beat North Carolina in the ACC Title game, getting some help from the referees when a phantom offside penalty was called on the onside kick. They are No. 4 in the FBS, averaging 160 yards per game more then their foes allow on average and No. 9 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 101 yards per game less then they average. Watson finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting and is a true dual threat option.

Oklahoma’s offense has been on fire since the loss to Texas, as they are averaging 300 rushing yards per game and 293 passing yards per game! The Sooners are a bit of an unknown still, as they beat their strongest conference opponents all without their starting quarterbacks. Clemson should feel disrespected as a ‘dog in this game, despite being ranked No. 1, but Oklahoma typically does well in revenge games under Stoops.

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This is the Playoff semi-final. Alabama won the only prior meeting, 49-7 (-8) in the 2010 Capital One Bowl. The Crimson Tide were in a similar spot last year as they were nearly a double-digit favorite against Ohio State and lost, 42-35 (-8). Head coach Nick Saban is is 5-3 SU/ATS in bowls at Alabama and was 4-5 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at LSU and Michigan State (first meeting against Sparty). Michigan State is bowling for the ninth straight season. They beat Baylor, 42-41 (+2.5) in last year’s Cotton Bowl and head coach Mark Dantonio is 6-4 SU/ATS in bowls.

Michigan State entered this year a legit National Title contender and haven’t disappointed. They got past Oregon, despite being outgained by 104 yards and got a miraculous win at Michigan on a blocked punt returned for a touchdown. They lost at Nebraska on a questionable non-penalized touchdown pass (receiver came back from being out of bounds) with under thirty seconds left. Quarterback Conner Cook was injured in the win over Maryland and missed the Ohio State game. Despite alternating two backups at quarterback, the Spartans beat the defending champs, holding them to just five first downs and 132 total yards (game-winning field goal with no time left). They beat Michigan and Ohio State without leading a single second in regulation. Michigan State beat Iowa in the Big Ten Championship game as they went 82 yards in 22 plays, scoring the game-winning touchdown with 27 seconds left. They are No. 13 in the FBS, allowing 88 yards per game less then their opponents average and their strength is along both lines of scrimmage.

Alabama lost to Ole Miss via a deflected pass, but then steamrolled the rest of their foes in a rare down year for the SEC. Running back Derrick Henry broke Herchel Walkers conference record for most rushing yards in a season and won the Heisman Trophy. They are No. 1 in the FBS, allowing 155 yards per game less then their foes average and held eight of their opponents to either their fewest or second fewest yards.

While Michigan State has one of the top offensive/defensive line combinations in the country, Alabama’s is even better. The Crimson Tide have better talent at every position with the exception of quarterback. Dantonio is 12-1 ATS as a ‘dog, winning nine outright! The Spartans also play their best in big games. Oregon, Michigan, Ohio State, and Iowa combined to average 219 (5.2) rushing yards per game, but Michigan State held them to 81 (2.5), so they matchup well against Henry.

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These schools have met six times previously, with USC winning all of them, but the last meeting was in 1966! This is the fourth straight bowl game for the Trojans and they played in this exact bowl last year, beating Nebraska 45-42 (-7). In their previous three non New Years Day bowl games, USC is 2-1 SU/ATS. Head coach Clay Helton is 1-0 SU/ATS in bowls (interim in 2013). Wisconsin is bowling for the 14th straight season. They beat Auburn 34-31 (+6.5) in last years Outback Bowl, and are 4-2 SU/3-3 ATS in non New Years Day bowl games since 1996. Head coach Paul Chryst was 1-1 SU/ATS in bowls while the head coach at Pittsburgh. 

Despite just returning 11 starters with a new head coach, Wisconsin was expected to win the Big Ten West division. Corey Clement was expected to replace Melvin Gordon, but he’s been banged up. They went 3-1 in the non-conference portion of their schedule with an expected loss to Alabama, then lost their first conference game to eventual West division champion Iowa. The Badgers then won five straight, but were upset at home against Northwestern as a double-digit favorite. They finished the season with a win over Minnesota. Wisconsin held six of their opponents to either their lowest or second lowest yards total and are No. 6 in the FBS allowing 114 yards per game less then their foes average. They have a top notch defense, being superior both against the pass and the run.

USC looked like a National Title contender when the season began as their sanctions ended. At 2-0, they hosted eventual Pac-12 champion Stanford as nearly a double-digit favorite, but lost by 10. After a loss to Washington, head coach Steve Sarkisian was let go for personal reasons and defensive coordinator Clay Helton took over. They then lost to Notre Dame, but after beating Utah, controlled their fate in the South division. The Trojans went 4-1 down the stretch, losing only to Oregon as a ‘dog. USC again lost to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship game. Helton was hired as the permanent head coach, but has let go of five defensive assistants since the end of the regular season.

Wisconsin enters this game plus 110 yards per game and outgained Iowa by 99 yards in their home loss. USC played against 11 bowl teams and were plus 48 yards per game, while the Badgers played just five bowl teams. While Wisconsin does have the defensive edge, USC has an abundance of skill players on offense and it will be interesting to see what side comes out on top.

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This is the sixth all-time meeting with the last two being in the 1963 Liberty Bowl (MSU won 16-12) and the 1994 Peach Bowl (NCST won 28-24, +6). This bowl has been called the Queen City, Continental Tire, and the Car Care Bowl. North Carolina State played here twice, beating South Florida, 14-0 (-3.5) in 2005 and Louisville, 31-24 (-2) in 2011. They won the St Petersburg Bowl, 34-27 (+2.5) versus Central Florida last year, making head coach Dave Doeren 2-0 SU/ATS in bowls. This is Mississippi State’s sixth straight bowl under head coach Dan Mullen (3-2 SU/2-3 ATS) and lost to Georgia Tech in last years Orange Bowl, 49-34 (-6).

It was going to be tough to match last year’s 10 win season as Mississippi State returned just seven starters, but that did include dynamic quarterback Dak Prescott. They won their opener, then lost by just two against LSU. The Bulldogs then won six of seven with their lone loss at Texas A&M and were ranked a season high No. 20 into their showdown with Alabama. They had a 20-13 first down edge, but lost by 25, then upset Arkansas, but then lost the Egg bowl. Prescott threw for 300+ yards six times, including 508 against Arkansas and leads the team in rushing. They are No. 21 in the FBS, averaging 75 yards per game more then their opponents allow on average. Their defense did lose lockdown cornerback Will Redmond and another defensive back starter late in the year.

Wolf Pack head coach Doeren had his best team since taking over in Raleigh as North Carolina State returned 15 starters from an 8-5 team, including quarterback Jacoby Brissett. They went 4-0 in the non-conference portion of their schedule, but struggled in conference play as not once did they string together back-to-back ACC wins. With the exception of their loss against Louisville, they won every game they were favored in and lost every game they were a ‘dog in. Running back Matthew Dayes was having a great season and was off a 200 yard effort when he injured his foot versus Clemson and was lost for the year. North Carolina State has a solid pass defense, but are average against the run.

Against eight bowl teams, Mississippi State was plus 1.6 yards per game, but North Carolina State was minus 124.2 yards per game against five bowl teams. Look for Prescott to rebound from his poor effort in his final home game as he is too good of a quarterback to struggle at the end of his career. The Wolf Pack will be more excited to play in this bowl game as the Bulldogs had higher aspirations, but due to their lackluster effort in last years bowl and coming off a loss against their rival, Mississippi State will have plenty of motivation.

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These schools have had two previous meetings, with both coming in the 1950’s. This bowl game was initially known as the Texas Bowl from 2006-2010, but changed to the Car Care Bowl before being re-named this year. Texas Tech used a late comeback to beat Minnesota 34-31 (-13) in the Car Care Bowl in 2012 and this is their 17th bowl game in the last 20 years. They’re 10-6 SU/6-10 ATS and head coach Cliff Kingsbury won his only bowl, 37-23 (+14) vs Arizona State in the 2013 Holiday Bowl, the Red Raiders last post season appearance. LSU is making their first appearance here, but this is their 16th straight bowl gm. They’re 6-4 SU/5-5 ATS in bowls under head coach Les Miles and he was 1-2 SU/0-2-1 ATS in bowls while the head coach at Oklahoma State. 

LSU entered this season as a National Title contender and while they fell short, they still won at least eight games for the 16th straight season. Their opener was cancelled due to weather and they were 7-0, but lost their huge showdown with Alabama. Despite poor quarterback play, running back Leonard Fournette was the Heisman frontrunner mid-season. Fournette was shut down against the Tide and the Tigers then lost to Arkansas and Ole Miss and it appeared Miles was going to be let go. They beat Texas A&M in the finale. LSU was held under 100 passing yards four times, but on defense they are No. 16 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 80 yards per game below their season average.

Texas Tech could really only improve after winning just four games last year and returned 17 starters, including their top playmakers on offense. They started 3-0, including an outright upset win at Arkansas (+10.5). In Big 12 play, they won all their games as a favorite and lost all their games as a ‘dog except in the finale, whey they upset Texas. Despite a new defensive coordinator in David Gibbs, they still struggled as they are No. 120 in the FBS, allowing 90 yards per game more then their opponents average on the season. Their offense bailed them out many times as they enter No. 1 in the FBS, averaging 182 yards per game more then their opponents allow on average. Stopping Fournette could be a tall task as they have one of the weakest rush defenses in the nation. 

LSU is much more talented at just about every position with the exception of quarterback. Texas Tech needed to become more balanced offensively and have done that, rushing 438 times this year as opposed to 329 last years. LSU has the much better defense and Fournette should have a field day as the Red Raiders allow 5.9 yards per carry. While Texas Tech is known for their passing attack, LSU has a great secondary and despite the fact that this game is in Texas, LSU is actually 250 miles closer Houston and should have the crowd edge.

 

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This is the first all-time meeting between these schools. The Russell Athletic Bowl has gone by many names in the past (Blockbuster, CarQuest, MicronPC, Tangerine, Champs Sports). North Carolina beat Arkansas in the 1995 CarQuest Bowl here 20-10 (-2) and this is their seventh bowl game in the last eight years, including their third straight. Under head coach Larry Fedora, the Tar Heels are 1-1 SU/ATS and he was 2-2 SU/1-3 ATS in bowls as the head coach at Southern Miss. This will be Baylor’s sixth straight postseason appearance and they’re 2-3 SU/ATS. Head coach Art Briles was also 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS in bowls while the head coach at Houston. 

Baylor entered the season a legit contender for a National title as they returned 18 starters. Quarterback Seth Russell took over with out a hitch and won his first seven starts by 36 points per game, albeit against a soft schedule. Russell was then injured and out for the year (neck) and true freshman Jarrett Stidham took over, but the schedule got tougher. The Bears improved to 8-0, but then lost to Oklahoma. Stidham was then injured and lost of the year (ankle) vs Oklahoma State and they lost their final two, failing to throw for over 100 yards in each game! They lost third string quarterback Chris Johnson to injury against Texas and had to use wide receiver Lynx Hawthorne under center. Baylor did average 325 (4.6) rushing yards per game over their last three contests.

North Carolina was the surprise team in the ACC. Despite 17 returning starters, including 10 on offense, which included quarterback Marquise Williams, there were plenty of questions about the defense. Fortunately, their offense had so much firepower, they were able to win the Coastal Division despite being No. 102 in the FBS, allowing 43 yards per game more then their opponents averaged on the season. The Tar Heels lost their opener to South Carolina, then won 11 straight and were within striking distance of Clemson in the ACC Championship game, but had a bogus offside penalty on an onside kick. They are No. 9 in the FBS, averaging 126 yards per game more then their opponents allow on average. Williams has had another fine season and running back Elijah Hood took over as the featured running back and has seven games with 100+ rushing yards this season.

Baylor is going to enter this game with plenty of motivation after not being able to hold onto a big lead in their bowl game last year and entering this game having lost three of four. Briles is a terrific offensive coach and should have the quarterback position in a much better state. The defenses for both teams are similar stat wise, but Baylor has held their opponents to 56 yards per game below their season average, while North Carolina is allowing their opponents to gain 43 more yards then their season average. Against bowl teams, the Bears were plus 92.5 yards per game, while the Tar Heels were just plus 19.5 yards per game.

 

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This is the ninth meeting between these schools with Cal winning six. The last meeting was in this very bowl, which Cal won 42-36 (-4) in 2007. Cal is bowling for the first time in four years. Head coach Sonny Dykes was 0-1 SU/1-0 ATS in his lone bowl while at Louisiana Tech. This is Air Force’s fifth appearance in this bowl and eighth overall in the last nine years. They’re 1-3 SU/ATS here and 2-1 SU/3-0 ATS in the other, all under head coach Troy Calhoun.

It was going to be tough for Air Force to match last year’s ten win total as they returned just 11 starters and had to break in a new quarterback. Starting quarterback Nate Romine was injured and out for the year (ACL) after two games and then lost three of their next four games. They then won five straight, including back-to-back outright upsets vs Utah State and at Boise. Having the Mountain Division wrapped up, the Falcons lost an opportunity to host the Mountain West Conference championship game when they lost at New Mexico despite being a double-digit favorite. Air Force then lost at San Diego State in the conference title game. They average 453 yards per game, including 322 (5.5) rushing yards per game and are No. 22 in the FBS as they average 72 yards per game more then their foes allow on average. The Falcons do have a below average pass defense, which doesn’t bode well against a quarterback that will likely be starting in the NFL next season. 

Cal was one play away from getting to a bowl last year and entered this year with 17 returning starters. After starting the season 5-0, the schedule turned brutal and they lost four straight against Utah, UCLA, USC, and Oregon. They beat Oregon State to become bowl eligible, but then lost to rival Stanford and then won their finale. Quarterback Jared Goff was named first team Pac-12 and threw for over 300 yards nine times, including twice over 400 with a season high 542 yards and five touchdowns in the finale. The Golden Bears average 524 yards per game and are No. 10 in the FBS averaging 117 yards per game more then their foes allow on average. Defense is a struggle as they are #103 in the FBS allowing 45 yards per game more then their foes average, with their rush defense a main cause. 

This should be a high scoring game as matchups featuring pass happy offenses and triple option offenses usually end that way. Goff should be able to add a few more highlights to his reel and could add another 400 yard passing effort. Air Force scored 35 points versus Utah State and 38 against Boise and both those teams have better defenses then Cal.

 

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This is the 40th all-time meeting between these schools, with the last coming in 2013 when Navy won 24-21 (+5). The Middies are 3-8-1 SU, but 7-5 ATS since 1979. This bowl was previously named the Eagle Bank Bowl and Navy played in the inaugural edition in 2008, losing to Wake Forest, 29-19 (+3). This is their fourth straight bowl appearance and head coach Ken Niumatalolo is 3-4 SU/4-3 ATS in bowls. Pitt is bowling for the eighth straight year (first here). They’ve gone 3-4 SU/ATS in that span and this is head coach Pat Narduzzi’s first bowl game.

Despite a new head coach, Pitt had plenty of talent and returned 15 starters, including all their top playmakers on offense. The main concern was the defense, but with Narduzzi being excellent on that side of the ball, the Panthers held four of their foes to either their lowest or second lowest yards mark and are No. 21 in the FBS, holding their opponents to 69 yards per game less then their average. Things were bleak early as second team All-American running back James Conner was out for the year (knee) in the opener, but redshirt freshman Qadree Ollison filled the void with 207 yards in the opener and had three additional games of 100+ rushing yards. Tennessee transfer quarterback Nate Peterman beat out Chad Voytik early. The best player on offense is clearly wide receiver Tyler Boyd, who’s numbers are down because of constant double and triple teams. They started the season 6-1, but ended 2-3 as the schedule toughened up.

Navy was an Independent for 124 years and had a chance to play for the American Athletic Conference Title in their first season as a conference member. Despite only returning 10 starters, they had quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who set the career rushing touchdown record. The Middies lone loss entering the conference season finale was at Notre Dame, but with a trip to the conference championship on the line, they were outclassed by Houston.

Navy enters with two losses, but those were to teams that have a combined three losses, while Pitt’s losses all came to bowl teams in Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Iowa. When Pitt played another triple option team in Georgia Tech earlier this season, they gave up 376 rushing yards, but still won and got experience against that type of system and now have three weeks to prepare for this game. Navy should come in sharper as they played Army just over two weeks ago and with this game being in Annapolis, it’s Reynolds final home game.