As ESPN likes to say, “It’s the most wonderful time of the year” – and it certainly will be if this year’s 35-game bowl schedule gets off to as rollicking a start as what we witnessed in last season’s New Mexico Bowl.
Arizona edged Nevada, 49-48, in a shootout that saw both teams combine for 1,234 yards of total offense. The Wildcats trailed 45-28 in the 4th quarter before pulling within 6 points with just 46 seconds to play. Then,
after UA recovered an onside kick, QB Matt Scott engineered a 3-play, 51-yard touchdown drive for the game-winning score. Could we see another thriller in Albuquerque today? Considering Washington State’s
aerial attack ranks 4th in the nation (364.5 YPG) and Colorado State averages over 200 YPG both rushing and passing, we say YES. We’ll resist embarking on our annual rant about 6-6 teams getting bowl invitations
and instead congratulate the Cougars on making it to the postseason after suffering 9 straight losing campaigns. WSU’s 2nd-year HC Mike Leach continues to make strides in Pullman, doubling his 3-win total from
2012 as he fi ghts to keep the Cougs competitive in the loaded Pac-12.Colorado State’s Jim McElwain, also in his second year as a head coach, worked similar wonders with his Rams, improving to 7-6 after a 4-8 debut
in 2012. McElwain’s squad is the only team in the nation to boast a 3,000-yard passer in Garrett Grayson and a 1,500-yard runner in Kapri Bibbs (led the nation with 28 rushing TDs). CSU fi nished the regular season on
a strong note, going 5-2 SUATS and ITS (needed 7 wins to get bowling shirts with its 13-game schedule). Even more impressive, the Rams won the stats by +129 net YPG from Game Seven out – while the Cougars lost
the stats by -98 net YPG over the same span. Wazzu QB Connor Halliday is no slouch himself but our reliable database informs us that 6-6 bowlers who allow 31.2 or more PPG are a Grinch-like 1-6 SUATS. The
favorite is also just 2-6 ATS in the Cougars’ last eight bowl games, and Leach himself owns an identical 2-6 ATS mark as bowl chalk. The boys from Fort Collins currently stand 3-0 SUATS as bowlers off a SUATS win
but we can’t ignore the fact that the Rams have not fared well against Pac-12 opposition, going just 2-8 SUATS in their last 10. Despite that lone negative, we still prefer backing an elated underdog with both the
better ‘O’ and ‘D’ against a WSU team that may be content just to be here. Toss in CSU’s familiarity with the venue (Rams play annual series with New Mexico) and it looks like today’s result might be a bit ‘upsetting’ for
Leach and this Cougar cubs. In the fi rst meeting ever between these schools, Colorado State comes out on top. The Clincher from our well-oiled machine: bowl favorites off at least 3 ATS wins with a win percentage of
less than .750 that won 6 or fewer games last season are 2-14 ATS since 1985.
WASHINGTON over DALLAS by 11
This just in… The Dallas Cowboys have changed the name on the back of their starting quarterback’s uniform from ROMO to OH NO! And how could you blame them after watching last week’s 2nd-half meltdown against the Packers? A 26-3 lead at the half went up in smoke in an improbable 37-36 comeback win by Green Bay and with it Dallas’ chances of making the playoffs. Displaying a flair for the catastrophic, Romo was picked late in the game with the lead, gifting the Packers a victory. Even head coach Jason Garret jumped off the Romo bandwagon when he said, “The idea was to run the ball and make them use the clock. Run it, and then if we have to throw it, throw high-percentage passes to keep the clock going and make them use their timeouts.” Ouch. As a result, Dallas is currently the No. 10 seed in the playoff picture. Plus, they are being outgained -106 YPG (the worst in the league) in games during the second half of the season. Adding to their woes is a 1-6 ATS mark of late in this series, including 0-3 ATS the last three games at FedEx Field. The Redskins’ switch to QB Kirk Cousins nearly paid off in a 27-26 loss at Atlanta last week when Mike Shanahan opted to go for two points and the win at the end, a game in which Washington dominated in the stats, 476-
243. We like the move and the fact that the Skins are 5-2 SU and 6-1 ATS in division games when playing off a 1-point exact loss. All of which means no mo Romo for us until the New Year arrives.
Tampa Bay over St. Louis by 4
We learned, and got burned, trying to lay points into Jeff Fisher last week. No siree, the best underdog coach in the loop would have none of it when his Rams knocked off New Orleans as 7-point home dogs. Looking deeper inside the numbers, though, we note that as good as the Fisher King is taking points (90-60-1 ATS), he’s rather lousy laying them (67-74-2 ATS). And to top it off, Fisher is 1-8 ATS in his NFL career as a home favorite of more than 5 points off a SU underdog win. Meanwhile, the Bucs enter looking to avenge a 28-13 loss suffered to St. Louis as 3-point home chalk last season, a game in which the Pirates won the stats, 429-285. And speaking of stat losses, the MIDWEEK ALERT informs us the Rams were outyarded, 454-302, in last week’s surprise win over the Saints. Toss in the Tampa’s tempting 7-1 ATS mark in non-division games after fighting the 49ers and this looks like an ideal spot for Louie to lay an egg. The Clincher: the Rams are 0-17 ATS as favorites versus opponents seeking revenge.
NEW England over Baltimore by 10
To see Tom Brady fail to deliver another patented last-second comeback win last week was almost science fiction. Like reading a comic book throughout his Hall of Fame career, Captain Marvel has come through like no other quarterback in the league in big games. And rest assured, this is a big game. If the playoffs were to start this week, the Pats would have a Bye while the Ravens would be at Cincinnati in a Wild Card game. So a lot is on the line as far as playoff positioning goes for both teams. Meanwhile, the Ravens enter off Monday night’s dramatic win at Detroit thanks to a 61-yard climactic field goal by Justin Tucker (one of 6) to win the game. The Black Crows’ 3-10 ATS mark at home in games after playing under the Monday night-lights does not help their chances. Nor does New England’s 8-0 SU and 7-1 ATS record in road finales. With the MIDWEEK ALERT informing us this is a ‘double-insideout’ affair – the Pats off a stat-win loss and the Ravens off a stat-loss win – coupled with the fact that Baltimore is ‘leaking oil’, having been outgained in each of its last three games (all wins), the points