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Late December: The Best Time For Bowling

   by Jim Feist - 12/28/2013

As 2013 draws to a close, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the bowls. You shouldn't be bowled-out, either, as the bowls slowly build to the crescendo that is the Auburn/Florida State showdown.

Hawaii Bowl (Tues, Dec. 24): A pair of teams with great passing offenses that slumped down the stretch. Boise State (8-4 SU/6-6 ATS) is 2-4 SU/3-3 ATS away from home and the Broncos will be playing their first game under interim coach Bob Gregory. Senior QB Joe Southwick (12 TDs, 5 INTs) is back from an October ankle injury while soph RB Jay Ajayi (1,328 yds, 5.9 ypc) is a powerful back.
Boise State’s 91st ranked pass defense that gave up 460 yards and four touchdowns through the air to Fresno State, which is a concern against a pass-happy Oregon State (6-6 SU/6-6 ATS) offense. The Beavers average 34.5 points, 382 yds passing (No. 3 in the nation) behind junior QB Sean Mannion (36 TDs, 14 INTs, 4,403 yds, 66%) and junior WR Brandin Cooks (1,670 yds, 13.9 ypc, 15 TDs). Mike Riley’s team started 6-1, then folded, losing the last 5. The Beavers are 11-6-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and the underdogs are on a 6-2 ATS Hawaii Bowl run.

Little Caesar’s Bowl (Thurs., Dec. 26): Pitt (6-6 SU, 4-7-1 ATS) didn’t exactly tear it up to make this bowl indoors at Ford Field, on a 2-4 SU/2-3-1 ATS run. They were outscored for the season and rank 112th in rushing. The offense has senior QB Tom Savage (21 TDs, 9 INTs) and a pair of talented targets in Tyler Boyd and Devin Street. Pitt is on a 7-2 run under the total. The Panthers have wins over Notre Dame and Duke.
Bowling Green (10-3) is riding high after its big upset of undefeated Northern Illinois in the MAC title game, 47-27. This team ranks 5th in the nation in points allowed (14.8 ppg) and has plenty of offensive punch averaging 35.4 points and over 206 yards rushing and passing, led by sophomore QB Matt Johnson (23 TDs, 7 INTs). However, they lose their head coach as Dave Clawson, off to Wake Forest.

Fight Hunger Bowl (Fri., Dec. 27): Offense against defense! Washington (8-4) is another team in a bowl with a head coaching change, with Steve Sarkasian jumping back to USC. This is one of the best offensive teams in the country, led by senior quarterback Keith Price (20 TDs, 5 INTs), averaging 38.5 points, 243 yards rushing and 271 yards passing. He’s got the Pac-12’s leading rusher, Bishop Sankey (1,775 yards, 5.8 ypc) to help him. BYU (8-4) scored plenty of points (31.3 ppg) but did it on the ground, 10th in the nation in rushing with 274.6 yards per game, 74th in passing. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Uani’ Unga lead a terrific Cougar defense that allows 21.3 points per contest.

Wild Wings Bowl (Sat., Dec. 28): Michigan (7-5) squeezed into a bowl despite a 5-0 start, losing 5 of its final 7 games. They put it all on the line against Ohio State in a thrilling 42-41 loss in the finale, but the offense went mostly cold down the stretch scoring 6, 13, 27 and 21 in the previous four. Michigan is on a 4-1 run under the total. This offense finished 100th in the nation in rushing. The Wolverines have a flair for the dramatic: In addition to the Ohio State thriller, they played a pair of multiple overtime games (2 and 4 OTs), and five other games decided by 4 points or less.
By contrast, Kansas State (7-5) began the season 2-4 before winning five out of its last six games, on a 6-2 ATS run. Bill Snyder’s team has great balanced averaging 33.4 points, 220.8 yards passing and 180 yards rushing behind QBs Jake Waters and Dan Sams, while RB John Hubert (968 yards) averages 5.3 yards per carry. Kansas State has lost its last five bowl games.

Alamo Bowl (Mon., Dec. 30): Texas (8-4) and Oregon (12-2) clash, a pair of teams that had huge expectations this fall and came up short. Mack Brown felt the heat all season, starting and finishing 1-2 sandwiched around a 6-game win streak. The Longhorns did not fare well when stepping up, getting blown out by Ole Miss (44-23), Oklahoma State (38-13) and Baylor (30-10). Texas is riding a 12-1 SU streak in its past 13 bowl games. Oregon is third in the nation in points (46.8 ppg), averaging 294.7 yards passing and 278 yards rushing, but the Ducks lost steam after a late season lost to rival Stanford, going 2-2 SU, 0-4 ATS. The favorites are 4-1 ATS in the past 5 Alamo Bowls and the under is 6-2 in Oregon’s last eight bowl games.

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