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The Conscience of Thoroughbred Racing


By Marc Lawrence –

TEMPLE over North Carolina by 6

Coming off a 2-10 season in Chapel Hill, Mack Brown returning
to North Carolina sounded like a really good idea. Realistically,
the Tar Heels playing in any bowl this year was thought of as a
long shot. But Brown immediately brought in a higher standard
of coaching and expectations, and had a bookend start and
finish of 2-0. As a result, North Carolina is back in the postseason
for the first time in three years. UNC brought in freshman QB
Sam Howell and all he did was toss 35 touchdowns (with only
7 interceptions) and lead an offense that scored 31.2 PPG, 14th
nationally in total offense. Defensively, the Heels allowed 24.3
PPG and they held Clemson to its lowest point total of the year
of 21, in the oh-so-close upset that failed. There are still reasons
to have reservations about the Heels, as ACC bowl teams are 0-4
ATS as favorites versus the AAC, and coach Brown is 1-7 ATS as
a bowl favorite of 4-plus points in his last eight tries. Temple
is the underdog in Annapolis and they are quite comfortable
in that role: the Owls were ornery when catching points with
a 5-1 ATS record this season, winning four times outright. The
Temple offense was serviceable at 27.4 PPG (though 4-points
below what their foes allowed on the season). The Owls defense
permitted 23.4 PPG and finished 28th in yards per rush attempt,
10th in yards per pass attempt and No. 4 in Red Zone Defense.
The database warns that the Owls must overcome the fact that
Group 5 bowlers off a win of 15 or more points are 2-4 SU and
0-6 ATS versus Power 5 foes. Still, we like a rested dog with
bite, who relishes catching points and thrives. THE CLINCHER:
Bowl favorites who won five or fewer games last season
are 9-35 ATS if they are coming off consecutive wins, the
last a revenge victory.

Illinois over California by 6

Good lord, the Fighting Illini lost their final two games of the
regular season and STILL made it to a bowl game? The same
Illinois team that started the campaign 9-27 after three years
under head coach Lovie Smith? Following a fairly typical 2-4
start – the wins came over Akron and UConn – we wonder what
the odds would have been for Lovie to even hang onto his job
for another year, much less go bowling for the fi rst time? Cue
a monumental 4-game win streak where the Illini knocked off
the likes of Wisconsin, Purdue and Michigan State, prompting
Smith to proclaim, “We’ve caught them. Teams in our division
that have traditionally been very good, we feel like we’re there
now.” Sure, those words could come back to bite him but Illinois
earned its way here, finishing No. 1 nationally in Defensive
TDs (6) and No. 3 in Turnovers Gained (thanks to 14 fumbles
recovered), while cutting 14 PPG off last year’s 39 PPG scoring
average on defense. It was a roller coaster season for California
due to injuries, especially those to talented QB Chase Garbers for
six weeks, as the Bears won their fi rst four games and reached No.
15 in the national rankings, they dropped four in a row before
fighting back to finish 7-5. Despite closing with road wins over
Stanford and UCLA, Cal went 1-5 ‘In The Stats’ against fellow
bowl teams this season, with an average stat loss of -150 YPG.
More good news for Lovie is the fact that 6-6 bowlers coming
off consecutive losses are 6-3 SU and 7-2 ATS when coming off
two losses-exact. So can the Barry White of college coaching lead
Illinois to its fi rst winning season since 2011? We hand it over
to THE CLINCHER: .500 or fewer bowl dogs are 15-3 ATS
against foes coming off consecutive SUATS wins

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