Monday, December 31, 2012
College Bowl Upsets
Northwestern over Miss State by 3
While digging around in the college bowl archives, we came across this factoid: in 1975 there were only 11 bowl games played, and one of them was the Gator Bowl. This season’s version of one of the longest-running
bowl contests actually delivers what we think a bowl should be all about– a game between two evenly-matched teams who seldom meet on the playing fi eld. And since one of today’s participants belongs to the SEC,
they automatically assume the role of favorite here. We beg to disagree. Not only did Pat Fitzgerald’s Wildcats post just their 2nd 10-win season in school history, they also scorched the pointspread with a 10-1 ATS
effort (a far cry from NU’s 14-22 ATS mark over the previous three campaigns). Fitzgerald, who is amazingly the 2nd-longest tenured Big Ten head coach behind Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, is also itching to end his program’s 63-year winless bowl drought (last victory came in 1949 Rose Bowl). Both of today’s opponents struggled ‘In The Stats’ versus fellow bowl teams this season as the Bulldogs were -194 net YPG compared to the Wildcats -108 net YPG. However, Northwestern lands on the wrong side of Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen’s opponent performance ‘cut-line’ while at Starkville: he’s gone 28-3 SU and 18-9 ATS against sub .750 foes, but a woeful 1-18 SU and 5-14 ATS versus .750 or better adversaries. And despite Mullen leading his Bulldogs to an 8-win season and third straight bowl appearance, MSU notched a 0-4 SUATS and ITS mark versus fellow bowlers this year. With Big Ten bowlers now 10-4 ATS against an SEC foe off a SUATS loss and the Wildcats owning a 5-1 ATS record against winning opponents in 2012, we can’t pass up a quality dog like Northwestern here. It doesn’t happen often in the animal world but this looks like one of those occasions where the Cats actually get the better of the Dogs.
Northern Illionois over Florida State by 1
Most times, bowl games are all about motivation – which team wants it more or has something to prove. Well, the Huskies show up in Miami tonight with PLENTY to prove. Let’s start with reaction to the BCS Selection Show when Northern Illinois was selected over several highprofile teams to play in the Orange Bowl. “I love MAC football, but to put them in the BCS is an absolute JOKE to the rest of those teams that are more deserving,” said ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit. “I can’t believe we’re even having this discussion.” The oddsmakers agreed, initially installing Florida State as a 15-point favorite, the 2nd-highest spread in this year’s bowl lineup. Hey, we think the real systematic failure is not the inclusion of Northern Illinois but the fact that Georgia Tech, had they won the ACC title game over FSU, would be playing in this game with a 7-6 record! It’s true that the Seminoles destroy bowl foes if they enter off a loss to Florida (11-1-1 SU and 10-2-1 ATS) but what we should really be focusing on is current head coach Jimbo ‘I think the BCS is retarded’ Fisher and his 2-5 SU and 1-6ATS failure against .800 or better opponents. Yes, FSU’s athletic defense held seven foes to season-low yards this year but they’ll have to be on their game to stop NIU QB Jordan Lynch, who led the nation in rushing with 1,733 yards. Our database doesn’t consider a pick on the Huskies as being far-fetched, noting that: bowl teams off a conference championship game win with a win percentage of .923 or better are 10-0 ATS since
1980 when facing an opponent that allows 14 > PPG – winning every game STRAIGHT-UP. The lean machine also warns us to beware of a MAC attack as all MAC bowl teams off a win are 9-2 ATS against .60 or better opponents off a win while greater-than .666 MAC bowlers (like NIU) off a win are an eye-popping 11-1 SU and 10-1-1 ATS. With 24 players from South Florida on the roster, FSU will should feel right at home in Sun Life Stadium but that won’t over come the fact that the Seminoles’ stats slipped -64 net YPG during the second half of the season while the Huskies improved +73 net YPG over the same span. Call it poetic justice: NIU’s most famous grad is Dan Castellaneta – the voice of Homer Simpson – so don’t be surprised when the cameras close in on Jimbo Fisher during the waning moments and he delivers the DOH!!! heard round the college football world after the Seminoles fall. Look out South Beach – here come the Sled Dogs!
Oklahoma over Texas A&M by 4
These two teams know one another from A&M’s days in the Big 12 so the feeling here is Big Game Bob has a message to deliver with the Aggies bolting out of the B12 in favor of the SEC. But let’s face it – with a new
coaching staff led by Kevin Sumlin, Texas A&M far exceeded expectations in its fi rst season in the nation’s toughest conference. The Aggies’ only two losses in 2012 came at the hands of SEC foes Florida (by 3 points) and LSU (by 5 points) and A&M provided its fans with a pair of memorable achievements. First, when they strode into Tuscaloosa back in November 10 and dominated No. 1 Alabama, rolling to a 20-0 lead and then hanging on for the monumental 29-24 upset. The second, of course, occurred not quite three weeks ago when Aggies QB Johnny Manziel became the fi rst freshman player ever to walk away with the Heisman Trophy. Seldom do the Sooners arrive at a BCS bowl while being competely overlooked but that feels like the case here: A&M off a wildly successful campaign playing before a Texas-heavy crowd at Cowboys Stadium against an Oklahoma squad whose 10-2 effort was widely viewed as disappointing. Now the real question becomes can A&M maintain its season-long momentum after a lengthy layoff? We say no… not against the Sooners. Oklahoma has won 10 of the last 12 battles between these two SU and was favored in every one of those contests. With OU taking points here, our database informs us that HC Bob Stoops is a no-nonsense 10-2 ATS as a dog off back-to-back wins. He’s also logged a 22-6 SU and 19-9 ITS mark versus bowlers over the past three seasons. But the big negative for the Aggies here is the dreaded ‘Heisman Jinx.’ Heisman Trophy winning bowl squads are just 6-20 ATS vs greater than .667 foes, including a mind-boggling 1-11 ATS versus an opponent off consecutive wins. Postseason play has also not been kind to A&M as its win over Northwestern in last year’s Meineke Bowl snapped an ugly 0-5 SUATS bowl losing streak. Johnny Football may get all the press before this game but look for more the more experienced Landry Jones, and all of his
achievements, to win today’s quarterback duel before heading off to the NFL. Okies bag their fi fth win this season in the Lone Star State.
Marc Lawrence can also be found at Playbook.com - One Click Handicapping