Before this year, Heisman winner Robert Griffi n III actually experienced more losses than wins in his college career. However, right from a season-opening win over TCU to victories over Oklahoma and Texas along with the Heisman hardware, it’s been a season to remember for RG III and his Bears. And we think they’ll remember the Alamo (Bowl)– just not in a good way. We realize that a 5-1 start has dissipated into a 2-4 fi nish in Seattle but the Huskies did turn around a 3-6 disaster in 2010 with four straight victories. And ‘remember’ – one of those was in the Holiday Bowl against a Nebraska team that destroyed them, 56-21, in the regular season. It also appears that HC Steve Sarkisian takes to extra oxygen (5-1 SU and 6-0 ATS with rest) like Hef takes to Viagra, and that should help the Huskies improve to 9-2 SU and ATS in bowl games off a SU and ATS win and 6-1 ATS as dogs of 13 or less points versus Big 12 opposition. And while we’re all aware of the PLAYBOOK yearbook cover jinx (just ask Terrelle Pryor and Joe Paterno), it may actually pale in comparison to the fact that Heismanwinning favorites of 7 or more points are just 1-10 ATS as bowlers. To make matters worse for a Baylor squad seeking its fi rst bowl win since 1992, not only are Big 12 bowl favorites off a win of 8or more points a lifeless 0-9 ATS but they are also 0-7 ATS as bowl chalk of 7 or more points versus PAC 10/12 opposition. Convincing numbers, indeed, but the cherry on top comes from our PLAYBOOK.com database as it notes: .600 or greater pre-New Year’s Day favorites of 7 or more points that allow more than 26 PPG on the season are 0-9 ATS. And thanks to a Bears’ defense (479 DYPG) that has more holes than the Texan one in 1836 – as well as all other bowl teams this season – we have no choice but to grab the points. ‘Remember’ to do the same.
PENN STATE OVER HOUSTON BY 3
Two teams that suffered major season-ending disappointments square off in the Cotton Bowl. Houston blew a BCS mega-payday for both its team and Conference USA thanks to a stunning 49-28 home loss to Southern
Miss in the league title game to land here. Meanwhile, Penn State had to endure not only a 45-7 drubbing at Wisconsin that cost the Lions a berth in the Big Ten’s fi rst conference championship game, but they also had to fi ght through a mortifying sex scandal involving former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky that led to the dismissal of legendary 46-year head coach Joe Paterno. Thus, the question here is: will the press still be fanning the fl ames of the Joe Pa/Sandusky story or will they look past the program’s shared pain to concentrate on the football team’s chances against oncebeaten Houston? As always, we’ll look to our objective database fi rst and it informs us that ‘Bubble Burst’ teams (read: the Cougars) in bowl games are just 10-13 SU and 9-14 ATS, including 1-5 SU and 0-6 ATS if they allow 13 or more PPG and surrendered 40 or more points in a season ending setback (where else are you going to read that?). Add Houston’s discouraging bowl history to the mix – 1-9 SU and 3-7 ATS as bowlers since 1981 – and suddenly QB Case Keenum’s jaw-dropping 45 TD’s and 5,099 passing yards this season don’t guarantee that the Coogs will cover today’s TD spread. Defense is the key as Houston has not faced a stop unit as stifl ing as Penn State’s all year (allowing just 16 PPG). In fact, if we throw out the Lions’ aforementioned blowout by the Badgers, the highest point total given up by PSU’s ‘D’ was 27 points – and that was to No. 2 Alabama. Overall, the Lions’ limited six foes to 10 points or less and will be primed to put some big-time heat on Keenum. Yes, the Cougars rebounded nicely from last year’s losing effort that snapped a fi ve-year bowl skein, and Keenum’s incredible 18,685 career passing yards (over 10 miles) will have many looking Houston’s way. Instead, we see the undervalued Nits grabbing the SU win and the money after a hard-fought, physical contest.Joe Paterno was the only coach to ever win the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar bowls; sadly, he’ll be absent today as his former team looks to cash a winning ‘ticket’ in Dallas.
Wisconsin over Oregon by 6
Besides the obvious lure of the Alabama-LSU matchup and Stanford taking a shot at No. 3 Oklahoma State, THIS is the game we can’t wait to see: Oregon’s blazing speed pitted against the slug-it-out physical style of the Badgers. With Wisconsin showing up as an underdog for the fi rst time all season, we’d like you to chew on this. Wisky averaged 45 PPG this season (scored 35 or more 11 of 13 games) and Oregon is 1-26 ATS as a favorite in games in which it allows 35 or more points! Just how costly was the Ducks’ 3-point defeat against USC? Last year’s Oregon team played in the BCS title game despite allowing more then 500 yards three times; this year’s squad surrendered more than 500 yards only once. Bret Bielema’s team returns to its second consecutive Rose Bowl (lost last year to TCU) with a superior offense thanks to QB Russell Wilson, whose elusive scrambling and pinpoint accuracy perfectly complement the battering-ram rushing attack led by RB Monte Ball. But let’s not overlook the Badgers’ defense, holding foes to just 17 PPG while making opposing offenses travel a whopping 17.2 yards to score a single point. More good news for Bucky: the dog in Badgers’ bowl games is 9-3 ATS and if Wisconsin shows up as a bowl dog with a win percentage of .800 or better, they’ve barked their way to a perfect 5-0 ATS mark. Ducks’ coach Chip Kelly does own a stout 16-5 SU and 15-6 ITS effort versus bowlers during his brief tenure at Eugene but the web-footed ones are winless as chalk (0-5 ATS) against the Big Ten since 2001 – and Oregon’s last Rose Bowl win came way back in 1917. Look for QB Wilson to cap his single scintillating season at Madison with a huge going-away present as the Badgers ground the Ducks.
VA TECH over Michigan by 10
While we don’t think the Hokies should be ranked ahead of ACC champ Clemson, we still feel Frank Beamer’s bunch is radically undervalued in this matchup. It’s true that Michigan is on its way back to elite status under the direction of fi rst-year head coach Brady Hoke but Virginia Tech hasn’t exactly dropped out of sight, becoming the only team in college football to record 10 wins in each of the last eight seasons. In defense of Hoke, we’ll let you know that the last Michigan head coach to win 10 games in his fi rst season with the Wolverines was Fielding Yost in 1901! But we’ll remind you once again that bowl favorites with fi rst-year coaches are a notto-be-trusted 11-21-1 ATS. Michigan has really burned the money in today’s role, going 5-14-1 ATS in its last 20 games versus an opponent with a winning record. And though you may counter by noting that the majority of those failures came under the departed Rich Rodriguez, Hoke is just 3-7 SU and ATS versus an opponent off SU favorite loss in his head coaching career. More bad news for the Maize-and-Blue: ACC bowlers off a loss are 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS against the Big Ten since 1997 and, best of all, ACC bowl dogs off a loss are a mind-boggling 14-2 ATS. We hate to invoke the name of Rich Rod again but the truth is the Wolverines have gone 9-20 SU and 6-21-1 ATS from Game Six out over the last four years, including 0-8 SU and 1-6-1 ATS versus greater-than .800 foes. Amazingly, in a 25-year career with Hokies, this is only the second Big Ten adversary that Beamer will have faced (1-0 SU and ATS). In addition, coach Beamer is also the answer to this week’s TRIVIA TEASER on page 3. The clincher comes courtesy of our tireless database: bowlers who lost their conference championship game that allow 17.2 or less PPG are 7-0 ATS when not laying more than 6 points. In a game that pits Hoke against Hokies, we’ll stick with the latter and fade the
SMU over Pittsburgh by 3
Back in the old days, a team received a bowl invitation as a reward for an outstanding season. Not any more. In fact, if we established the criteria that any team must (a) own a winning record overall and (b) own a winning record in its own conference, 21 of the 70 schools that qualifi ed for post-season play this year would NOT have made the cut. One of those teams staying home would be 6-6 Pittsburgh, a program dealing with its third head coaching change in less than a year (Michael Haywood, who replaced Dave Wannstedt, never coached a game before getting canned, and current HC Todd Graham has already accepted the head job at Arizona State for 2012). Thus, DC Keith Patterson will lead the Panthers today before new head coach Paul Chryst moves over from Wisconsin. Similarly, there was some concern in Dallas that SMU coach June Jones was sniffi ng around for a better job but his top option – Texas A&M – went for Houston’s Kevin Sumlin, so JJ will be staying put for the time being. The Mustangs busted out of the stall in 2011 with a 5-1 SU start but quickly headed to the glue factory with an awful 2-4 SU and 0-6 ATS fi nish. However, we think that losing streak brings plenty of value to the 18-returning starter ponies, a team that was embarrassed by Army as 7.5-point chalk in last year’s Armed Forces Bowl. We also unearthed more than a few negative trends for Graham but those get tossed into the trash following the recent coaching carousel high-jinks. SMU hasn’t done well SU against bowlers the last three seasons (5-14) but they’re catching 5-6 points here and our database informs us that the dog is 6-0 SU and ATS of late in Mustangs’ bowl games. That’s enough ammo for us considering the Panthers’ players are likely in a state of emotional turmoil. Jones earns at least one week of his inflated salary by leading his ponies to the upset here.
Dallas over NY Giants by 3
Could NBC have asked for a better way to end the regular season? We’re curious to see which companies will be able to afford the advertising costs that the network will demand for this winner-takeall showdown. Yep, win and in; lose and go home. For starters, you can bet the Lexus your girlfriend just bought you for Christmas –while somehow managing to have the theme music playing in your apartment elevator – that Tony Romo will be at the Dallas helm. And that’s a good thing as Romo is 10-3 SU and 8-4-1 ATS away off a SU loss, including 6-2 SU and 6-1-1 ATS versus a winning foe (4-0 with revenge). And all those negative Cowboys’ numbers in December that we’ve grown accustomed to will not be remembered with the playoffs on the line today – and our AWESOME ANGLE taking center stage. In fact, that 92% proposition on page 2 ties in nicely
to the Giants’ ineptness as division chalk. Not only are the G-Men 2-10 ATS in their last 12 as chalk versus NFC East foes, including 0-5 ATS last fi ve, but they’re 2-6 SU and 1-7 ATS as home favorites versus the division. Tom Couglin’s crew is also 2-9 ATS versus winning opposition off a division game while Coughlin, himself, is 3-6 SU and ATS in LHG’s off a SU win. And when you factor in that the Giants’ eight victories this season have come against teams that are a combined 55-65, you begin to understand why ‘Round Two’ goes to the Cowboys. If this game has half the excitement of the one that took place three short weeks ago, then yes, Faith, we “will be waiting all day for Sunday night.’ Points are optional as New York (Giants), New York (Jets) spend the post-season together.
Houston over Tennessee by 8
According to our NFL PLAYOFF PICTURE chart on page 10, the Titans need to win and the Bengals lose in order to open any possible playoff doors for the Titans – so there fi gures to be a lot of scoreboard watching by Mike Munchak’s minions today. That’s fi ne with us. We love fading ‘must-win’ teams with fattened lines, especially knowing that road teams in season fi nales that are on a 0-3 ATS skein are 1-15 SU and 1-13-2 ATS when facing .600 or greater opposition since 1985! And just because Houston has already clinched a spot in postseason play, they realize that today’s game is still a virtual must-win for them. That’s because only ONE team has ever entered the postseason on a three-game losing streak and gone on to win the Super Bowl (2009 Saints). The Texans know that’s a tall order and with their 5-0 SU and 4-1 ATS record in Last Home Games, they should avoid that scenario with a bounce-back win. Teams that qualify for the playoffs are a stout 22-8-1 ATS in last game situations when playing off back-to-back losses. And if a playoff-bound squad shows up as a home dog in its fi nal regular season contest, they’ve cashed to the tune of 20-7 ATS. Regardless of Houston head coach Gary Kubiak’s decision on who plays and who sits, there are just too many good numbers favoring the hosts to ignore here. Texans git’r done.
Kansas City over Denver by 11
NBC passed on this game in favor of the Cowboys-Giants ‘winner takes all’ battle Sunday night. Regardless, this contest is fi lled with plenty of intrigue as QB Kyle Orton returns to the city that cast him astray in favor of its new savior, Tim Tebow. That matchup in itself is must-see TV, as is the importance of the contest for the Broncos and their prospects of making the playoffs. Simply put ,a win and Denver captures the wild AFC West. They can also cop the crown with an Oakland loss. In order to do so, they will need a dramatic reversal of fortune on this fi eld as they’ve gagged worse than Linda Lovelace as home favorites of late, going 4-22-2 ATS, including 1-18-2 ATS when the ponies own a .500 or greater record. Making matters worse is the Chiefs’ 12-3 SU and ATS log in this series when off a loss and seeking revenge. That and interim coach Romeo Crennel’s 6-2 SU and 7-1 ATS record on the road against opponent’s off back-to-back losses.The clincher, though, is this beauty from our database: NFL teams at home in their fi nal game of season that are one game over .500 are 3-17 ATS when facing division foes. KC and its new chief, Orton, get their revenge behind a tough-as-nails defense that has held three of its last fi ve foes to season-low yards. We love Tim Terrifi c to death…just not today.