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Saturday, December 30

   by Larry Ness - 12/30/2006

Three of Friday's bowl games saw the two teams combine for over 1,000 yards of total offense and the recent trend of high scoring games continued. Only Maryland's 24-7 win over Purdue was a low scoring game and three of the five games went over. That makes seven overs in the last nine bowl games, after this year's bowl season opened with seven of the first eight games going under.

Underdogs struck back Friday, as four of the five covered. Favorites had opened 9-3 ATS but now stand at 10-7, after 17 bowl games. For the first time this bowl season, we saw the pointspread come into play. After 13 games in which either the favorite won and covered or the underdog won outright, two games saw favorites win but not cover on Friday.

In the Sun Bowl, Oregon State (a 3 1/2 point choice) trailed Missouri 38-24 midway through the fourth quarter but pulled within seven points with just over six minutes left and then scored another TD with just 23 seconds remaining. Instead of kicking the tying extra-point and sending the game to OT, OSU went for the two-point conversion and the win. Missouri bettors breathed a sigh of relief, while OSU bettors most likely sat in disbelief.

The Insight Bowl featured Minnesota vs Texas Tech and the Red Raiders pulled off the greatest comeback in bowl history. Texas Tech trailed 38-7 midway through the third quarter but scored the game's final 31 points, the last three coming on a 53-yard FG with no time remaining in regulation. Tech then won it 44-41 in OT, but never came close to covering as an eight-point choice.

Minnesota is one of seven 6-6 teams in this year's bowl season. Two of them, Okla St and Alabama played each other (Independence Bowl), while the three that have played have gone 1-2 SU but 2-1 ATS. Another of those 6-6 teams is in action on Saturday, as Iowa will meet Texas in the Alamo Bowl (4:30 ET). One could argue that Iowa is the worst of this year's bowl teams, as the Hawkeyes have gone a mind-boggling 1-10 ATS in 2006! As for Texas, after playing in (and winning) two straight Rose Bowls (capturing the national title with its win LY), the Longhorns can hardly be expected to be too excited with this matchup.

Saturday's bowl schedule opens with Navy taking on Boston College in the Meinke Car Bowl (1:00 ET). BC will take a six-game bowl winning streak into this game (also 6-0 ATS), tying them with Utah for the longest active streak. The Peach Bowl (7:30 ET) features a pair of bowl regulars, as Va Tech (in its 14th straight bowl) will meet Georgia (in its 10th straight bowl). Tech is just 6-7 in its previous 13 bowl appearances, while Georgia has gone 7-2 the previous nine years.

Updating the conference records through Friday's games, the Big East and WAC are both 2-0, the MWC is 3-1 and both the ACC and SEC are 2-1.The Big-10 is off to an 0-2 start after Purdue and Minnesota lost yesterday but its got nothing on Conference-USA which sits at 0-4 SU and ATS, after Houston's 44-36 loss to South Carolina in the Liberty Bowl.

NFL Week 17

The Giants and Redskins open the NFL's final weekend of the regular season tonight in Washington at 8:00 ET. Amazingly, going into the year's final week, 20 NFL teams still have Super Bowl aspirations. Nine teams have already clinched postseason berths and 11 more are in the running for the remaining three spots. It's the most teams still 'alive' in the season's final week, since the 1970 merger.

The Giants are one of five NFC teams at 7-8 and despite the fact that they've lost six of their last seven games, the Giants are virtually assured a playoff berth if they beat the Redskins. Interestingly, all five of the 7-8 teams are on the road, so while it's unlikely, it's not inconceivable (anyone remember that phrase from The Princess Bride?), that all five teams could finish the year at 7-9.

If so, one of those 'lucky' 7-9 teams would become the first team to qualify for the NFL's postseason with a losing record in league history (not counting the strike-shortened 1982 season when 16 teams made the playoffs, including the 4-5 Browns and the 4-5 Lions).

I'll have much more on NFL Week 17 in Sunday's notes.

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