Friday, December 18, 2009

Vindy's 2009-10 Bowl Predictions: The Early Games


WASHINGTON, District of Columbia (BBC)...Shortly after telling Oprah Winfrey that the achievements of his first eleven months in office were worthy of “a solid B-plus”, the president responded to the talk show diva’s query about what marks he would give the Vegas Vindicator’s efforts over the same period by noting “a passable C-minus”. While the Commander-in-Chief acknowledged the fab forecaster’s overall profit-netting 54.3% (140-118-2), he pointed out there was “still work to be done on ‘lock of the week’ picks and ‘best bets’. Let’s face it...those babies doubled the national deficit this year.” Chiming in on cue, even First Pooch, Bo, gave the Sin City Soothsayer a “paws-down”. In wrapping up the holiday interview at the White House, Oprah rolled some footage of the classic TV show moment from last January in which Vice President Joe Biden shushed his wife, Jill, after she let it slip that her hubby had been given a choice of placing his wagers with the Weber Kid or with well-known tout Phil Steele under the new administration.

By the way, the above-mentioned, year-old Portugese water dog (who was reportedly named after Michelle Obama’s father [nicknamed Diddley], though we contend he was really named for two-sport star Bo Jackson and/or former Wolverines coach Bo Schembechler) got excited and piddled all over Vindy’s jersey after getting a look at....

(AP rankings; lines of December 18, over/under totals in parentheses)

DEC. 19
NEW MEXICO (@ Albuequerque, N.M.):
Wyoming over Fresno State taking 11 (54 ½):
This one might come down to turnovers and enthusiasm. Fresno’s attack features RB Ryan Matthews, who was second in total rushing yards behind only Heisman runner-up Toby Gerhart. If the Cowpokes get down big early, they’re not built for a major comeback with the nation’s 112th-ranked passing offense. Having said that, FSU allows 28 ppg, while Wyoming allows 27. Wyoming will be happier to be here and playing in its first post-season since 2004 and second since 1992. Bulldogs in 4th straight bowl (1-2 SU/ATS)...FSU West 28 Wyoming 23

ST. PETERSBURG (@ St. Petersburg, FL):
Rutgers over Central Florida giving 2 ½ (44 ):
Fifth straight bowl for the Scarlet Knights, who stumbled into the post-season having fallen in 2 of last 3, including game at Syracuse. The Golden Knights, on the other hand, won 5 of last 6, losing only at Austin. Both teams are nearly identical in rushing stats and both defend the rush well. Rutgers boasts the country’s #18 receiver, Tim Brown, who reels in about 88 yards per game. Rutgers has made a living on turnovers against non-conference teams, with a +16 margin. UCF went 9-2 against the line this year and Coach O’Leary fired up his team this season by showing them film of Muhammad Ali in his glory days. Funny, Vindy showed his forecasting team that same footage, but focused on the champ’s opponents. Anybody remember Howard Cossell’s call of “Down goes Frazier! Down goes Frazier!”?????!!!!...Parkway Paladins 24 UCF 20

DEC. 20
R&L CARRIERS NEW ORLEANS (@ N’awlins, Weeziana):
Southern Miss over Middle Tennessee State giving 3 ½ (58):
Blue Raiders went 9-3 SU/ATS, including nice 6-0 run against the spread to close out the regular season. State owns outright wins over Memphis and Maryland...not top-flight teams in their respective conferences, but still outside the Sun Belt. Golden Eagles lost a shootout at Houston and have won and covered 4 of their last 5 bowls. MTSU held nifty 37-18 edge in sacks against its opponents, but averaged just over 27 minutes/game in time of possession. The extra plays should benefit USM enough to beat the number against pesky Raiders...SoMiss 30 MTSU 24

DEC. 22
MAACO LAS VEGAS: (@ Vegas, Baby!)
#16 Oregon State over #15 BYU giving 2 ½ (59):
Almost made OSU the lock of da’ bowls. Possible showcase for senior QB Max Hall, but Coach Mendenhall already made it known earlier in the year that he didn’t want to play in Vegas again. Can’t wait to hear that pre-game motivational talk...”Yo guys...I know what I said, but hey...we’re here again, so...let’s make the best of it, okay?”. Beavers return to the scene of near-crime in which they almost lost to the hometown Rebels. New OSU defense (just three returning starters) settled in nicely late in the season as only the Ducks managed more than 21 points over the last five games. Beavers will hope for improvement over last season’s 3-0 stinker over Pitt. We’ve been lauding Jacquizz Rodgers (20 rushing scores, nearly 115 ypg) and brother James (83 receiving ypg, 9 scores) all season. We’ll do it again here. QB Sean Canfield is no slouch, with 21-6 passing TD to INT ratio, either. Coogs just 2-6-1 ATS in last 9 vs. non-conference teams...Oregon State 34 BYU 24

DEC. 23
#23 Utah over California taking 4 (52 ½):
This isn’t where either team hoped to be in the pre-season when Cal was touting RB Jahvid Best for the Heisman and Utes were coming in off BCS-buster win over Alabama in last year’s Sugar Bowl. Bears have been whacked by the better teams on their slate, though covered 2 of 3 vs. the ranked squads. Sophomore RB Vereen was okay, but not great (10 touchdowns, 69.17 ypg) spelling the injured Best. Utes have plenty of defense and averaged nearly 30 ppg.. Good news for da’ Utes and da’ Bears...both of last year’s Appointment-Setter Bowl contestants went undefeated in 2009 and square-off in the Fiesta this January..Utes 27 Cal 23

DEC. 24
Southern Methodist over Nevada-Reno taking 15 (73 1/2):
Kudos to second-year SMU coach June Jones, who after suffering thru the school’s second straight 1-11 SU season last year, has his Ponies in their first bowl since the NCAA “death penalty” days of the 1980's. Mustangs won 4 of their last 5 to get here and went 4-2 ATS away from home. Reno defeated 8 consecutive opponents before covering-loss at Boise (7-2 ATS in that span). Reno will run early and often, but also has 20 passing touchdowns with just 5 picks. SMU will respond with WR Emmanuel Sanders (101 yards per game), but will have to step-up its pass protection to stay within a couple touchdowns...UNR 41 SMU 30

DEC. 26
Ohio over Marshall giving 2 (49 1/2): LOCK OF DA’ BOWLS.
Herd sports the better running game (139 ypg, 16 touchdowns to Ohio’s 120 ypg and 9 scores), but the Bobcats own the passing edge with a 22-12 ratio and Marshall’s just the 97th best pass defense. Ohio bombed a pretty good Temple team on a neutral site to win the MAC and are dangerous in the kicking-return, bringing four punts back to the house. Might be a low-scoring match since OU is successful from the red zone just 72% of the time and Marshall is just north of 79%. Marshall’s bowling for first time since ‘04, Ohio’s making first post-season trip since ‘06. Bobcats won 9 games (8-4 ATS overall). Herd’s best win of its six came at home vs. SMU. Good turnaround for Ohio team that won just 4 games in 2008...Ohio 27 Marshall 13

MEINEKE CAR CARE (@ Charlotte, NC):
#17 Pittsburgh over North Carolina giving 3 (44 ½):
The only thing the ‘Heels have going here is a 7-0 ATS run vs. ranked teams, but after last season’s 31-30 bowl loss to West Virginia, it’ll be up to the defense to keep UNC in the game (allows less than 17 ppg) vs. Pitt’s Dion Lewis (#3 in rushing yards, #10 in rushing TDs) and WR Jonathan Baldwin (#10 in receiving yards, 90 ypg). Panthers play some D too, allowing just 20 ppg. Like the aforementioned Beavers, Pitt will want a better showing than 2008's post-season “game”...Pitt 23 UNC 16

EMERALD (@ San Francisco, CA):
Boston College over USC taking 9 (43 ½):
This one might be a reach, but Eagles aren’t bad defensively and it’s the first bowl for USC young freshman QB Barkley, topping off a failed season by USC standards. We expect (and so do the linesmakers) a low-scoring game given unimpressive passing games on either side of the field. BC’s Montel Harris provides 113 yards per game on the ground. Trojans will run too, shortening the game and giving the underdog Eagles a chance to cover. BC dropped its first bowl in nine tries last year, losing 16-14 to Vanderbilt. USC, at 3-9 ATS, dodged bullets vs. Ohio State and Notre Dame this season and could easily be 6-6. Eagles have not covered last three bowls, but were giving 5 to 7 in each of those (winning a pair by 1and 3 points before last year’s 2-point loss)...Trojans 20 BC 16

DEC. 27
Kentucky over Clemson taking 7 (52 ½): UPSET ALERT.
This will likely feature another pairing of running teams as Clemson and Kentucky rank #16 and #17, respectively against the pass. Kentucky’s scoring defense improved a bit as the season progressed, going from 32-points per game against in Games 2 thru 4 (following opening whitewash of Miami-Ohio) down to 20 ppg-against over the final seven. If the game is close, Tigers will be at major disadvantage given 5 missed PATs and just 68% success on field goals (21 of 31). Tigers lost two close games to Joja’ Tech, but C.J. Spiller can be contained and Clemson is 0-4 ATS in last four bowls, losing the past three outright. Oh what the hell...we’ll call it...Kentucky 27 Clemson 24

DEC. 28
INDEPENDENCE (@ Shreveport, LA):
Georgia over Texas A&M giving 7 (65 1/2):
No faith in this pick since initial gut-reaction was to take A&M and da’ points, but subsequent review resulted in a change toward the favorite. Two of the year’s most-penalized teams take the field here (‘Dawgs tied for 3rd with 99 hankies, Aggies drew 92 flags...good for a 9th-place tie). That fact and Georgia’s proclivity for turnovers (minus-17 overall, though just minus-5 vs. non-conference teams) could allow high-scoring A&M to make this a track meet. But only the win over Texas Tech was significant, given the remaining dubyas were against New Mexico, Utah State, UAB, Iowa State and Baylor... all in College Station. It’s all or nothin’ for TAMU once they cross midfield because the Aggies manage to score less than 77% from the red zone and only 67% on threes. Joja’ fell outta’ the Top 25 following loss to LSU, but won 4 of last 6, including victory over ACC champ Joja’ Tech to regain some momentum. Georgia’s won and covered bowls each of the last 3 years and at least covered 7 of the last 10. The double-digit SU win streak is over, but we like the bowl trend to continue...UGA 37 A&M 27

DEC. 29
EAGLEBANK (@ Washington, DC):
Temple over UCLA taking 4 (46 1/2):
Owls coach, and former JoePa disciple, Al Golden should be up for Coach of Da’ Year honors for giving Temple its first post-season berth since the 1979 Garden State Bowl and a shot at a 10-win season just a year after TU suffered back-to-back 1-11 campaigns. Bruins had an interesting season, wrapping three-game win-streaks around a five-game loss skid. Owls are run-heavy behind RB Bernard Pierce’s 119 yards per game and put up 30.3 on the scoreboard. UCLA finds itself as the #98 scoring team at 21.6 ppg. Temple holds a slight red zone advantage. Bruins are better kicking field goals. Both teams convert less than 37% on 3rd Down. Not many points. That’ll favor the Birds....UCLA 21 Temple 20

CHAMPS SPORTS (@ Orlando, FL):
#14 Miami over #24 Wisconsin giving 3 (58):
We think the offenses will out-play the respective defenses. Badgers prefer the ground game with #9 rusher John Clay. Pelicans will rely on sporadic QB Jacory Harris. Both offenses average better than 410 ypg each. Wisky can record 10 wins for first time since 12-1 record in 2006, but didn’t beat anyone special to get here. UW bowl record isn’t special either... just 3-4 outright, getting smoked by Florida State in ‘08 and losing to Tennessee in ‘07. ‘Canes have taken 4 of last 5 bowls (3-2 ATS). Both excel in time-of-possession. Cheeseheads score from the red zone almost 91% of the time, but Miami could take advantage of Badgers poor special teams, especially the field-goal and kick-coverage units enough to prevail...Miami 34 Wisky 29

DEC. 30
Bowling Green over Idaho giving 1 ½ (68 ½):
Only five I-A teams have fewer total rushing yards than the Falcons. Idaho, a great story this season, has a decent semblance of a running game at 160 ypg to go with its preferred mode of throwing as well. Idaho’s #113 ranking in pass D might be a bit skewed since they played Boise State, Reno and Fresno, all of whom own a Top 14 passing offense. Birds in second bowl in five years, while the Potato-Heads are in first since 1998. Falcons on 16-5 ATS run away from home and beat the weaker teams convincingly while winning and covering 4 of last 6 to finish the regular season. Defenses in the MAC aren’t great. Defenses in the WAC just aren’t!...BGU 41 Idaho 31

#20 Nebraska over #22 Arizona taking 1 ½ (40):
Huskers have to feel snake-bitten after letting the Texas game (and the accompanying Big 12 crown) get away, much like the Virginia Tech game did early in the year. Big Red will stay mostly on the ground and let its defense do the heavy-lifting against ‘Cats passing attack. Nebraska allowed 11.2 ppg, second behind only Alabama (tempered by three games against the Sun Belt in non-conference play, but still nothing to sneeze at). AZ can run as well at about 162 ypg, but Huskers allow just 2.8 ypc and less than 96 rushing yards/game. Wildcats only 2-3-1 ATS outside of Tucson this year and though 11-3 ATS the last four years against ranked teams, they’re only 4-4 SU over last 8...Children of the Corn 19 ‘Zona 12

DEC. 31 (Uh-oh! These are Thursday games! You’ve been warned!)
Houston over Air Force giving 4 ½ (62 ½):
The irresistible force meets the immovable object in a rematch of last year’s Armed Forces Bowl, won 34-28 by Houston. Cougars are runners-up in total offense to Boise State. Case Keenum takes his big arm (71% completion rate, 43 TD passes and 419 ypg) back to Dallas to face Air Force’s #4 rushing attack. Army and Navy have fewer passing yards than the Pilots...and that’s all folks! Flyboys held TCU to 20 points in Colorado Springs, but UH can play some D too, holding five opponents to the teens or less. Cougars have taken it up a notch since 2008. Air Force hasn’t. Keenum has not one, not two, but three very capable receivers. Tyson Carrier, alone, has as many catches per game as Air Force has throwing attempts per tilt. Should be good amount of points since collectively, these two combine for only 7 punts per game. Unless Aim High can force turnovers (+17 on the season), the result is about the same as last year...Houston 37 USAF 27

BRUT SUN (@ El Paso, TX):
#19 Stanford over Oklahoma taking 8 (56):
Certainly not the spot Oklahoma expected for the post-season, but injuries and tough-luck losses to BYU and Miami derailed any shot at a title. Heisman bridesmaid Toby Gerhart racked up almost 200 more rushing yards in one less game than winner Mark Ingram. Special teams could be Oklahoma’s undoing here as Stanford’s Chris Owusu averages 32.5 yards per kick return. Sooners tallied only 17 rushing scores despite having talented runners in DeMarco Murray and Chris Brown. Trees should keep it close (and would be worth a look for an upset) in their first bowl since 2001. Sooners have been bowl-poison for backers, going 1-5 SU/ATS over last six years...Oklahoma 27 Stanford 24

TEXAS (@ Houston, TX):
Navy over Missouri taking 6 (52 ½):
Middies bumbled their way to a push against Army, who was in the game until a late interception put it outta’ reach. We expect a better performance this time and hopefully the Ensigns have shored-up the kick coverage that gave the Black Knights good position throughout the game. Navy’s third-ranked ground attack produced more than three rushing touchdowns per match this year. They’ll need to continue to grind it out (averaging nearly 33 ½ minutes per game in TOP) because Mizzou can score quickly through the air behind QB Blaine Gabbert (275 ypg, 23 scores, just 7 INT) and his favorite target WR Damario Alexander (137 receiving ypg). Tigers held opponents below 97 rushing yards per game. Navy gave up just 11 touchdown passes while posting 15 interceptions. Sailors are just 2-4 SU in their last 6 bowls, but covered four of ‘em, including losses by 1 and 3 to BC and Utah, respectively before last year’s 10-point defeat to Wake Forest. On the big screen.... players discover the ability to make farm animals faint by gazing intently at them and test their newfound powers on the Middies’ mascot in...”Linemen Who Stare at Goats”...Mizzou 24 Navy 21

INSIGHT (@ Tempe, AZ):
Iowa State over Minnesota taking 2 ½ (48):
Best call here is probably “under” the total as the second- and fourth-lowest scoring teams in the nation get paired in this snoozer. Gerbils were shutout twice (though by stalwart defenses of Iowa and Penn State). ISU Cyclowns come in at the 101st-ranked offense, lowest among this season’s bowl participants other than Wyoming. State, at least, has a 9-7 win over Nebraska. Ughhhhhh....ISU 19 Minny 13

CHICK-FIL-A (@ Atlanta, GA):
Tennessee over #12 Virginia Tech taking 5 (49):
We considered Vols on the money line, but Hokies outright win record on Thursday nights is the stuff of legends (16-5, though only 1-1 in only two tries of ‘09)! While both clubs combine to score an average of 62 ppg, the total is a nod to the defenses, which combine to allow just 37 ppg. Both sides will run first and throw as an after-thought. The Lane Kiffin era at Rocky Top got off to a tough start, but Vols did cover against all three ranked opponents and five of last seven on the year (also winning five outright). Hokies have won and covered just 4 of their last 10 post-season trips. A victory gives Tech its sixth consecutive season with at least 10 wins...VT 22 Tennessee 19

Last winter, Washington fessed-up to a secondary recruiting violation by new pigskin coach Steve Sarkisian, who, with Nick Holt, met with two high school seniors at a hair salon and coffee shop in LA (prior to the allowable timeframe). Hey he was just improvising on Army’s “coffee with a soldier” plan, calling his recruiting campaign...“Coffee and a Perm with a Husky”

After learning Joe Montana’s son would play for UDUB, Coach Sarkisian took a few creative liberties with a certain commercial involving “Babe” Ruth, and asked the Hall-of-Fame quarterback’s prodigy, “...You don’t happen to know any kids named ‘Rice’, do ya???!!!”

As Tom Brady and super-model Gisele Bundchen welcome their first child, Vindy flashes back to an episode of the short-lived 1970's animated series Where’s Huddles, in which center Bubba McCoy is incorrectly diagnosed as being in a “family way” and his teammates go outta’ their way to protect him on the field. (Raise yer hand if yer old enough to remember Where’s Huddles!....And if yer not.... Google it!)

The New England Patriots mascot was swept up in a sex-sting operation in Rhode Island earlier this month. Given the Pats’ 8-5 record, we're just happy somebody on the team is scoring! But we just really wanna’ know how Tiger got his hands on the costume to begin with! Hey, looks like New Hampshire’s reviewing a repeal of its adultery laws. Yo Tiger...road trip! (Oh wait...maybe he’d better just fly or “go Amtrak” or something!). Wanna’ take bets on how many of those recently-found 22 million “lost” e-mails from the Bush administration were between Tiger and a bevy of White House interns???!!!

The No Fun League has finally relented on its previous policy and is now permitting airing of Vegas advertisements during game telecasts. But still banned are any images of gambling, gambling products, pics of the Strip or casinos themselves. Hmmmm....let’s see. That would leave just...ummm...cactus, hookers and desert tortoise habitats as viable promos for Sin City!

Vindy’s 2009 Bowl Season Best Bets (thru New Year’s Eve):
Oregon State -2 ½ over BYU, Ohio/Marshall “under” 49, Stanford +8 over Oklahoma

Stay tuned. We’ll be back before ya can finish unwrapping that Zhu Zhu Hamster gift under yer tree with da’ rest of the games, Vin’s thoughts on the BCS Fiesta Bowl conspiracy, his pick for national champion, more “best bets” and, of course,.... more holiday “hash”! Meanwhile, we leave you with one of our host’s favorite holiday-tune stanzas...

“With lotsa’ beer pouring,
And all those teams scoring,
And hot chicks who cheeeeeeeeerrrr...
It’s da’ most wonderbowl tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiimmme
Of...da’ yearrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!”

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