December 27, 2014 Louisville, KY. (Analyzed Sports)
Warr Zone Bowl Picks Part 2
The 2nd week of bowl games begins this Saturday and kicks off an impressive string of 14 games in 5 days. These bowls transition from the games involving programs just happy to be at a bowl game to the big-boy bowls involving the serious programs expecting to be in contention. Just a reminder that the team with the number in parentheses behind them is favored by that many points.
Military Bowl: Cincinnati (-2.5) vs Virginia Tech
This year did not go as planned for Frank Beamer after their upset of Ohio State at The Shoe in Columbus. Va Tech had to beat rival Virginia to become bowl eligible on the final weekend of the season. The defense was not the problem this year as they ranked 17th in total defense. The offense is where the problem lied. QB Michael Brewer was effective at times (see previously mentioned Ohio State game) but also could not help overcome the glut of injuries sustained throughout the year. The best example of this was the game against Wake Forest that ended at 0-0 at the end of regulation.
On the other hand, Cincinnati has come into this game on a roll as they have won 7 straight and are 6-0-1 against the spread in the last 7. They are led by former Notre Dame QB Gunner Kiel (also committed to IU and LSU before committing to the golden domers) who threw for 3,1010 yards to go along with 30 TDs. The offense ranked 13th nationally but benefited from a soft AAC conference schedule.
Look for Cincinnati to continue Beamer’s struggles against the spread the last 4 years and hand the Hokies another loss on this devastating year. I cannot see Va Tech being able to keep up with the Cincy offense no matter how impressive their defense can be.
Cincinnati 28,Virginia Tech 20
Sun Bowl: Arizona State (-7.5) vs Duke
They should rename this bowl to the “Devil Bowl” as it pits the Arizona State Sun Devils against the Duke Blue Devils. ASU had Final Four aspirations with a few weeks left in the season before they lost at Oregon State and rival Arizona. Duke is making history this year as they are bowling for the 3rd consecutive year for the first time in the program’s history.
Inconsistent QB play fro Taylor Kelly and Mike Bercovici has not helped the offense remain consistent this year. RB DJ Foster led the rushing attack with 1,043 yards and 9 TDs but also contributed 646 yards receiving and 3 TDs. The star for this team is, potential NFL 1st round draft, Jaelen Strong. He led the team with 1,062 yards and 10 TDs which is terrific considering he missed a game and the inconsistent QBs he had all year.
The Blue Devils are led by dual-threat QB Anthony Boone who became a little more protective with the ball this year as he almost cut his interceptions in half from last year (7 this year compared to 13 last year). He has a great receiving to throw to in Jamison Crowder, who caught 78 passes for 942 yards and 6 TDs. The rushing attack was a bit more balanced as they had 4 guys rush from 346 yards to 590 yards.
I expect the Sun Devils to extend Duke’s streak of years without winning a bowl game to 55 years as they will be able to show enough flashes on offense and defense to pull out the closer than expected game.
Arizona State 34, Duke 31
Independence Bowl: Miami (FL) (-3.5) vs South Carolina
This match-up could have been envisioned earlier in the year as a potential bowl game but I’m not sure either of these programs would have expected it to be this bowl game. Neither team is happy with how the season ended as Miami lost their last 2 games by double digits after they blew a potential win against Florida State. South Carolina ended the year by getting blown out by rival Clemson in what was already a disappointing season that began with them being ranked in the top 10 (so much for preseason rankings).
Miami is led by RB Duke Johnson who set the school’s all-time rushing record en route to running for 1,520 yards. Freshman QB Brad Kaaya (2,962 yards and 25 TDs) grew as the year went along but he will also be without one of his top pass-catchers in TE Clive Wolford (lead the team with 44 catches and 7 TDs). The Hurricane defense struggled late in the year and gave up 24.3 PPG, but they were also 14th nationally in total yards.
South Carolina will be led by QB Dylan Thompson (3,280 yards and 24 TDs), RB Mike Davis (927 yards and 9 TDs) and WR Pharoah Cooper (60 catches and 8 TDs). The Gamecocks struggled mightily on defense as they gave up 31.2 PPG and allowed a mind-numbing 5.4 YPC. That should have been expected as they had to replace a lot of talent from last year’s defense, including #1 overall pick in Jadeveon Clowney.
Look for USC to open things up for Dylan Thompson and Mike Davis to take advantage of a vulnerable Miami team playing for their coach’s job (rumblings are not getting softer after disappointing season). Steve Spurrier likes the underdog role and will have a few tricks up his sleeve.
South Carolina 30, Miami (FL) 27
Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College (-2.5) vs Penn State
This should be a fairly low-scoring affair compared to other bowl games we will see. Both teams have struggled on offense at different times this year.
Penn State was happy to have its bowl ban lifted in the middle of this season after the Jerry Sandusky ruling was lessened. The offense was thought to be in good hands with big-armed QB Christian Hackenberg. He started the year strong but has struggled mightily the last 5 games as he is completing just 45% of his passes and has 2 TDs in that same stretch. Much of that blame falls squarely on the OL which has allowed 39 sacks this year.
Boston College comes in led by former Florida QB Tyler Murphy. He offers a dual threat look as he threw for 1,526 yards and ran for another 1,079 while also being responsible for 21 total TDs. BC makes its name on defense where it is 4th in the nation against the run. This should create difficulty for Penn State as they have scored 20 or more points only twice in the last 8 games.
As mentioned earlier, I expect it to be a low-scoring game with BC getting just enough from their QB to overcome Penn State’s tough run defense.
Boston College 24, Penn State 17
Holiday Bowl: USC (-7) vs Nebraska
Talk about 2 programs moving in completely opposite directions since the season ended. Nebraska finally (although not necessarily warranted) fired HC Bo Pelini while USC is riding some momentum they hope will carry them into next year’s Nation Championship picture.
The Huskers start and stop with All-American RB Ameer Abdulah who ran for 1,523 yards and 33 TDs. QB Tommy Armstrong poses a running threat but is not great at throwing the ball as he completed just 51% of his passes for 2,314 yards. The defense was great against the pass (4th in the nation in pass efficiency) but dreadful against the run as they allowed 4.7 YPC which ranked them 78th in the country.
USC, on the other hand, has a potential 2015 Heisman Trophy contender (should he return for his senior season) in QB Cody Kessler (3,505 yards and 36 TDs). He throws to a very deep WR corp (when doesn’t USC have good/great WRs) led by Nelson Agholor who caught 97 balls for 1,223 yards and 11 TDs. As if that is not enough, they have RB Javorius Allen (1,337 yards and 9 TDs) to balance out their offensive attack.
There is just too much offense on the USC side and Nebraska players are still upset about the popular Pelini being let go. I expect USC to use this game as a springboard for next year and come out with way more energy than the Huskers.
USC 38, Nebraska 28
Liberty Bowl: West Virginia (-3.5) vs Texas A&M
This match-up could have been a regular Big 12 game every year but Texas A&M bolted for the SEC before West Virginia became a fixture in the Big 12. These HC have a ties as WVU HC Dana Holgorsen was A&M HC Kevin Sumlin’s Offensive Coordinator at Houston in 08 and 09.
Texas A&M started the year on fire behind QB Kenny Hillm but after his consistency turned south they turned to talented, true frosh QB Kyle Allen. He led the upset at Auburn en route to throwing for 12 TDs on 61% completions this year. The Aggie defense was like Swiss Cheese this year as they gave up 31 PPG to Division 1 opponents.
West Virginia has some uncertainty at QB with Clint Trickett (18/10 TD-to-Int ratio) recovering from a concussion from late in the season. If he is unable to play they will turn to Skyler Howard who adds a running ability to the offesne which Trickett does not. They have a three-headed monster at tailback in Rushel Shell, Wendell Smallwood and Dreamius Smith that combined for 1,855 yards and 14 TDs.
Whichever QB WVU chooses should be able to move the ball on the porous Aggie defense which struggled to create turnovers and get to the QB all year. I like Kyle Allen but not enough to warrant picking them over the Mountaineers. The “over” is also an intriguing bet for this one as well.
West Virginia 42, Texas A&M 34
Russell Athletic Bowl: Oklahoma (-3) vs Clemson
Both teams could be without their starting QB for the game as both Trevor Knight of Oklahoma (neck) and Deshaun Watson (knee) are still iffy. This is advantage Oklahoma as they have the more capable backup to help lead the offense.
If Watson were healthy and playing this would be one of the bets bowl games of the season but without him the Tiger offense is rather bland behind QB Cole Stoudt who had a terrible TD/Int ratio of 6/10. Clemson will have to rely on their top-flight defense which has given up 17.6 PPG. Their defensive leader is ACC Defensive Player of the Year Vic Beasley who had 11 sacks on the year.
Knight looks more likely to play which gives them one of the best QB (Knight), RB (Samaje Perine) and WR (Sterling Shepard) in the country. Perine broke the single game rushing record (427 yards) one week after Wisconsin’s RB Melvin Gordon broke Ladanian Tomlinson’s record. He rushed for 1.579 yards and 21 TDs on the year. Meanwhile, Shepard was one of the best WR in the country as he hauled in 50 catches for 957 yards and 5 TDs in just 8 games.
Watson’s injury greatly reduces Clemson’s chances and I just don’t see how their offense can keep up with the talented trio of Oklahoma. Their defense is good but not good enough to keep Oklahoma from getting the necessary points to win this one.
Oklahoma 30, Clemson 21
Texas Bowl: Arkansas (-6) vs Texas
Old-school football fans remember this as an old Southwestern Conference rivalry. The teams don’t play as often any more but there is still some deep-seated hate between the 2 schools.
Arkansas like to run, run and run the ball some more. Their RB duo of bruiser, Jonathan Williams and speedster, Alex Collins combined for 2,109 yards and 23 TDs. QB Brandon Allen had a great TD/Int ratio of 19/6. Their defense was much improved this year as they allowed 20.3 PPG this year, but they are a bit susceptible to the pass as they ranked 66th in pass efficiency.
Texas went through a lot of turmoil this offseason and early on in the season as Charlie Strong cleared out the bad apples Mack Brown left him. The QB situation was thrown into disarray as David Ash had to quit football after another concussion. Tyrone Swoopes (2,352 yards passing and 298 yards rushing) stepped in and progressed rather well as the season went along. RB duo of Malcolm Brown and Johnathan Grey rushed for a combined 1,311 yards and 13 TDs.
Charlie Strong almost always had his team ready to play for their bowls games as evidenced by his 3-1 record against the spread. I think he will have this team convinced they can use this to help get them going for next year but I don’t trust them enough to pull he upset. It will be closer than the experts think though.
Arkansas 21, Texas 20
Music City Bowl: LSU (-7) vs Notre Dame
Good bowl game in name only as neither team lived up to their lofty preseason expectations. Notre Dame was hit with injuries while LSU could not find stability at QB.
LSU will run and run an run all day long behind true freshman RB Leonard Fournette (891 yards and 8 TDs on only 176 carries) and the trio of Terrance Magee, Kenny Hilliard and Derrel Williams (combined 1,256 yards and 12 TDs). Like I mentioned earlier, the QB position is where the struggles begin. Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris combined for an unimpressive 1,912 yards and 16 TDs. On the other side of the ball, the LSU defense continued the its usual dominant ways by ranking 1st in pass efficiency and 4th in pass yards allowed.
Notre Dame’s season spiraled out of control after the controversial pass interference call at the end of the Florida State game. They come into this game having lost their last 4 games including a whipping by rival USC in the regular season finale. Injuries decimated the Fighting Irish defense but the real struggles came from an unexpected position…QB. Everett Golson’s return was supposed to boost the offense and it looked like he was going to until he turned into a turnover machine (10 Int and 4 lost fumbles the last 6 games). Look for backup QB Malik Zaire to get a look if the turnovers continue for Golson.
I do not see how Notre Dame can stop the rushing attack of LSU with the defensive injuires. LSU is a young team and has a lot to play for next year so look for them to try to use this game as a building block. I suggest giving more than the 7 Vegas is laying on the game.
LSU 27, Notre Dame 17
Belk Bowl: Georgia (-6.5) vs Louisville
A lot of intriguing matchups with this game as UofL DC Todd Grantham faces his for old school one year after he was forced out. Also, Georgia’s impressive running attack will go up against the stout run defense of the Cardinals. Whichever strength can be sustained for the whole game will probably determine the outcome.
Georgia had a Heisman candidate in RB Todd Gurley coming into the season but his season was cut short due to a suspension (accepting money for autographs) and an injury. Freshman Nick Chubb filled in admirably as he ran for 1,281 yards and 12 TDs. QB Hutson Mason waited his time behind Aaron Murray and provided stable production (2,019 yards and a nice TD/Int ratio of 20/4).Georgia’s total defense came in at a respectable 18th in the country against the run and 25th in the country in PPG allowed at 21.3.
Coming into the season if you had to pick the side of the ball that would dominate all year under Bobby Petrino you would have said it would be offense. Not this year with all the QB troubles they have had. The defense was great all year and ranked 19th in PPG allowed at 20.5 while finishing 3rd in rushing defense at 93.7 YPG. The offense was stagnant (by Petrino standards) all year long no matter who the QB was until Devante Parker (35 catches for 735 yards and 5 TDs in only 5 games) returned in the 8th game. The QB situation is still undetermined for this game as Reggie Bonnafon left their regular season finale with a knee injury but was relieved by Kyle Bolin in rather spectacular fashion (381 yards and 3 TDs).
This game will be great as its pits two teams strengths directly against each other. I’m just not sure Georgia will be committed to playing in this game as their players and fans (already selling back thousands of tickets) expect to play in bigger games a few days later. Slight upset in this one as UofL has a bit more to play for at this point in the year.
Louisville 28, Georgia 24
San Francisco Bowl: Stanford (-14) vs Maryland
There is not much to like about this game unless you are a Stanford fan. The game is played about 10 miles from their campus while Maryland has to travel cross-country. This is the largest spread of any of the bowl games and it shows why when you look at all this game has to offer.
Stanford is led by QB Kevin Hogan (2,780 yards and 18 TDs), a trio of RB in Remound Wright, Kelsey Young and Barry Sanders Jr. (combined for 1,192 yards and 8 TDs), WRs Ty Montgomery and David Cajuste (1,114 yards and 7 TDs) and TE Austin Hooper (428 yards and 2 TDs). Their defense was its usual stout self as it ranked 2nd in scoring defense at 16 PPG and 5th in total defense.
Maryland’s offense is run by dual-threat QB CJ Brown (2,083 passing yards and 569 rushing yards). He will get a big bonus as WR Stefon Diggs returns from injury for this game. Their defense was one of the worst in the country as it ranked 98th against the run and 81st in scoring.
I look for Stanford to pound the ball all day long as Maryland has not shown it can stop the run all year long. The “home” field advantage will also lead to a huge victory for the Cardinal.
Stanford 31, Maryland 14
Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: TCU (-3) vs Ole Miss
One of the better games of the bowl season pits 2 teams that had Final Four aspirations at numerous points throughout the year. TCU will be poised to show they belonged in said Final Four and beating a great defensive team in Ole Miss could give them a nice consolation prize.
The Rebels boast one of the best defenses in the country (called the “Landsharks”) as they ranked 1st in the country in surrendering only 13.8 PPG and 13th in total defense at 321.2 YPG. Their offense was not quite as impressive as they are led by enigmatic QB Bo Wallace (3,085 yards and 22 TDs). They lost the biggest weapon in WR LaQuon Treadwell when he broke his leg against Auburn.
TCU has one of the best dual-threat QBs in the country in converted WR Trevone Boykin (3,714 passing yards and 30 TDs to go along with 642 rushing yards and 8 TDs). He was able to lead one of the most potent attacks in the country that averaged 46.8 PPG which was good for 2nd in the country. HC Gary Patterson’s unconventional 4-2-5 defense contributed to their 36 takeaways and +18 turnover margin.
I like Ole Miss’s defense but TCU’s is not that far behind. The difference is the large gap between the two offenses. TCU has the more reliable QB and running game to pull this one out.
TCU 30, Ole Miss 23
Fiesta Bowl: Arizona (-3) vs Boise State
The battle in the desert brings together 2 teams excited to score some points. Boise gets into one of the big 6 bowl games as the highest ranked team from outside the Power 5 conferences.
The Broncos have a senior QB in dual-threat Grant Hedrick (3,387 passing yards and 22 TDs to go along with 563 rushing yards and 8 TDs). The main start on BSU though is RB Jay Ajayi who ran for 1,689 yards and 25 TDs. The Bronco defense is great at getting the ball away from the other team (29 takeaways) and getting to the QB (39 sacks).
The Wildcat attack is run through 2 freshmen who have experienced their ups-and-downs this season. QB Anu Solomon struggled at times this year but put up a respectable 3,478 yards passing and 27 TDs. RB Nick Wilson helped bolster the offense with 1,289 yards and 15 TDs while averaging 5.9 YPC. The best player on the field for either team though might be LB Scooby Wright III who racked up 153 tackles, 28 TFL and 14 sacks.
I like the Wildcats a bit more than most here as their competition this year was considerably better. The extra practices benefit their young players the most and it should be evident when these teams meet up New Years Eve.
Arizona 38, Boise State 31
Orange Bowl: Mississippi State (-7) vs Georgia Tech
Another great matchup on New Years Eve pitting 2 teams who excel at running the ball but in entirely different ways.
Mississippi State goes with their dual-threat QB Dak Prescott who accounted for 41 TDs while passing for 2,996 yards and running for 939 yards. When he hands the ball off he has a big back in Josh Robinson who ran for 1,128 yards and 11 TDs on 6.4 YPC against mainly SEC defenses. The defense, on the other hand, struggled to stop the pass. They gave up an eye-popping 291 YPG in the air which ranked 122nd in the country.
GT runs the triple option but the wrinkle they have added this year is a QB who can throw the ball with competency. QB Justin Thomas (965 rushing yards and 1,594 passing yards) leads an offense averaging 37 PPG and ranked 2nd in the country in rushing yards. The RB duo of Zack Lasky and Synjun Davis combined for 1,545 yards and 15 TDs.
The triple option is tough to stop during the regular season because there is not enough time to prepare for it but in bowl games there is plenty of time to understand the concept. I do think GT offers enough on offense to keep this a competitive game but not enough to exploit MSUs biggest weakness.
Mississippi State 35, Georgia Tech 31
I was originally going to have all the remaining games in part 2 but due to the large number of games and the most important ones coming after next week I decided to run a part 3 for all of those games that will be posted next week. Stay tuned for the updated and I look forward to hearing where I went right and wrong this week!
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