College Bowl Previews
THE COLLEGE BOWL REPORT
On Wednesday, it's ...
PINSTRIPE BOWL - Yankee Stadium - The Bronx, NY
PITTSBURGH (8-4) vs. NORTHWESTERN (6-6) - 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
There's been plenty of high-wire act games for the Pittsburgh Panthers this season - five games were decided by 3 points or less and don't be shocked if this one at The House that Jeter Built gets you a spine-tingling finish. All eyes on Pittsburgh RB James Conner (1,060 yards rushing and 16 TDs this year) who shook off cancer and knee surgery to be one of the real gridiron stars of the season but what'll give when he goes up against a N'western defense that allows only 136 ground yards per game (a decent 31st in the nation)?
Spread Note - Pittsburgh is a money-blowing 8-17-1 against the odds as betting favorites the past four years.
RUSSELL ATHLETIC BOWL - Camping World Stadium - Orlando, Fla
MIAMI (10-2) vs. WEST VIRGINIA (8-4) - 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Believe it or not, "The U" has not won a bowl game in 10 years and the know-it-all Las Vegas oddsmakers have the Hurricanes favored by just 2.5 points here - will prodigal son head coach Mark Richt have the answers against a West Virginia team that spreads the aerial wealth behind QB Skyler Howard (26 TD passes)? If Miami's soph RB Mark Walton cracks the century mark here, advantage 'Canes!
Spread Note - Miami has covered eight of its 12 games this year including a current four-game ATS winning streak.
FOSTER FARMS BOWL - Levi's Stadium - Santa Clara, CA
INDIANA (6-6) vs. UTAH (8-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET, Fox
Wacky matchup got a little wackier when Indiana dismissed hard-driving head coach Kevin Wilson back on Dec. 1st and defensive coordinator Tom Allen steps into the interim head coaching role here - but the Big 10 Hoosiers (a full TD underdog) ain't getting anything accomplished unless QB Richard Lagow (18 TD strikes) has time to chuck it against a Utes defense that stars pass-rushing fiend DE Hunter Dimick who had 14.5 of Utah's eye-popping 40 sacks this year.
Spread Note - Utah's covered five of its last six bowls since 2008.
On Thursday, it's ...
BIRMINGHAM BOWL - Legion Field - Birmingham, AL
SOUTH FLORIDA (10-2) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA (6-6) - 2 p.m. ET, ESPN
The coaching merry-go-round hit the USF Bulls where Willie Taggart's gone to Oregon and Charlie Strong is set to take over following this bowl (WR coach T.J. Weist handles the head man duties here) but what you need to watch for is this dynamic USF backfield starring QB Quentin Flowers (22 TD passes, 15 TD runs) and RB Marlon Mack who owns 20 games of plus 100 yards rushing in his career.
Spread Note - South Carolina's just 6-9 ATS (against the spread) as underdogs the past two years.
BELK BOWL - Bank of America Stadium - Charlotte, NC
#22 VIRGINIA TECH (9-4) vs. ARKANSAS (7-5) - 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Year One in the Justin Fuente Era went just fine: The V-Tech Hokies made it to the ACC Championship Game and QB Jerod Evans (3,303 yards passing and 27 TDs) improved on a weekly basis but the real question here may be how Tech's defense handles the slam-bang running attack of the 7-point underdog Hogs starring Rawleigh Williams III (1,326 yards rushing and 12 TDs). Hmm, why is this price as high as it is?
Spread Note - Virginia Tech's 7-15-1 versus the vig when playing non-ACC foes the past six years.
ALAMO BOWL - Alamodome - San Antonio, TX
#10 COLORADO (10-3) vs. #12 OKLAHOMA STATE (9-3) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Two former Big 12 rivals duke it out indoors in the great state of Texas and here's the big question we're asking: Does Colorado want to put a cherry on top of its great comeback season (see 4-9 a year ago) ... or do the Buffaloes feel content with what they've already accomplished? Oklahoma State QB Mason Rudolph (3,777 yards passing, 25 TDs, 4 INTs) may be the country's best slinger we never hear about!
Spread Note - Colorado has cranked out a 10-3 pointspread mark thus far in this 2016 season including covers against fellow bowl teams Michigan, USC and Washington State.
On Friday, it's ...
LIBERTY BOWL - Liberty Bowl - Memphis, TN
TCU (6-6) vs. GEORGIA (7-5) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
The Las Vegas smart guys have this one as a Pick 'Em ... but will the "other" Smart guys - as in Georgia's first-year head coach Kirby Smart - have their way here? No doubt Georgia was terribly inconsistent this season and that'll happen with a first-year slinger as Jacob Eason (2,266 yards passing with 14 TDs, 8 INTs) here must avoid red-zone woes ... or else.
Spread Note - The Georgia Dawgs are a rock-solid 7-3 ATS in bowl games the past 10 years.
#18 STANFORD (9-3) vs. NORTH CAROLINA (8-4) - 2 p.m. ET, CBS
All the ranting and raving about Stanford RB Christian McCaffrey sitting out this bowl game to "get ready" for NFL life has dominated the conversation but let's remind you that it also has effected the pointspread as the Cardinal dropped from a 4-point fav to minus 2.5 points. North Carolina QB Mitch Trubisky (3,468 yards passing, 28 TDs, 4 INTs) already is being discussed as the top quarterback for the draft class of 2017 - even though he's yet to declare!
Spread Note - Stanford is 10-3 vig-wise away since the start of last season.
MUSIC CITY BOWL
NEBRASKA (9-3) vs. #21 TENNESSEE (8-4) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Sorry, we're not having any of this Tennessee talk that this was a successful year - remember the Volunteers entered this season at #9 and didn't even come close to making it into the SEC Championship Game. Maybe this becomes a "feel-good" win but consider the 'Huskers have loads of issues and the nation's 90th-best passing attack won't help if/when Tennessee gets ahead here. Watch for Vols QB Joshua Dobbs (2,655 yards passing with 26 TDs).
Spread Note - Tennessee's 7-3-1 ATS away since the start of the '15 season.
SOUTH ALABAMA (6-6) vs. AIR FORCE (9-3) - 5:30 p.m. ET
Not quite sure why this one has a "place at the table" among late December bowls but the AF Fly Boys look to end the year on a six-game winning streak and they will cover this two-TD price providing this top five ground attack gets five-plus yards a pop.
Spread Note - Air Force is a dismal 1-5 against the odds this year when laying a double-digit price.
ORANGE BOWL - Hard Rock Stadium - Miami Gardens, FL
#6 MICHIGAN (10-2) vs. #11 FLORIDA STATE (9-3) - 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
All signs point to a rock 'em/sock 'em showdown in this year's Orange Bowl but inquiring minds want to know: Are the Michigan Wolverines "over" their disappointment at not being included in this year's four-team playoff field ... and can Florida State RB Dalvin Cook (1,620 yards rushing and 18 TDs) show that he's deserving of being a top 15 pick in next spring's NFL Draft? Cook - unlike the aforementioned McCaffrey of Stanford and LSU's Leonard Fournette - is playing in his team's bowl game but we hope he knows it won't be easy going against a Michigan "D" that allows just 3.1 yards per enemy rush. If the maize-and-blue are gonna cover this 6.5-point price, than QB Wilson Speight cannot be the turnover machine he was in that end-of-season 30-27 loss-but-cover at Ohio State.
Spread Notes - Michigan is just an ordinary 13-12 against the numbers under second-year head coach Jim Harbaugh while Florida State enters this prime-time affair at 7-3 ATS in its last 10 bowl tilts but note the 'Noles have failed to cover their last three bowls in a row.