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College Football Bowl Preview Part 2: Sizing Up the Big 6 Bowls 3

Posted on December 30, 2015 by Jim Hurley
The health of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook could be a big factor in their Cotton Bowl game against Alabama.

The health of Michigan State quarterback Connor Cook could be a big factor in their Cotton Bowl game against Alabama.

The biggest college football games of the season are here! The six major bowl games will run on December 31-January 1, with the two biggest—the Playoff semifinals situated within the New Year’s Eve schedule. Whether you wager or simply want to watch, our job is to have you ready.

With that in mind, we’ve compiled the “Tale of The Tape”, a concise snapshot of all six games. It’s not comprehensive—if you actually plan to bet, this is a starting point not a finishing point. But it will provide the framework for an enjoyable (and profitable, if you’re so inclined) run of watching games.

Our tale of the tape includes…

*The basics of W-L record and most importantly, strength of schedule. The latter has to be a significant factor in how you weigh every other piece of data. Some of us rely on complex computer models to do it, others just keep it in the back of their mind. Just make sure you keep it in mind.

*Each team’s national ranking on offense and defense, as measured by points allowed.

*The basic stats of each team’s quarterback—their completion percentage, yards-per-attempt and TD/INT ratio.

*A notable player on the team besides the quarterback—usually an elite running back or defensive playmaker, and occasionally a wide receiver.

Now let’s dive into the games, in sequential order…

December 31: Peach Bowl—Florida State (-7) Houston (Noon ET, ESPN)
Houston: 12-1 (Schedule ranks 99th)
Offense: 10th
Defense: 23rd
QB: Greg Ward Jr: 68% 8.5 YPA, 16/5 and also ran for over 1,000 yards)
Notable: Linebackers Elandon Roberts & Steven Taylor combined for 33 tackles for loss

Florida State: 10-2 (56th)
Offense: 41st
Defense: 5th
QB: Sean Maguire: 62%, 7.8 YPA, 11/3
Notable: Running back Dalvin Cook rushed for 1,658 yards (7.9 yards per carry)

Comment: It will be Maguire at quarterback for Florida State, with Everett Golson not making the trip to Atlanta. The balance of Houston both offensively and defensively gives them a shot at an upset, but the concern is that the offense is so heavily reliant on Ward that the excellent FSU defense may be position to dominate the football game.

December 31: Orange Bowl—Oklahoma (-3) Clemson (4 PM ET, ESPN)
Clemson: 13-0 (39th)
Offense: 15th
Defense: 19th
QB: DeShaun Watson: 70%, 8.5 YPA, 30/11
Notable: Defensive ends Shaq Lawson & Kevin Dodd have combined for 37 tackles for loss and 18 sacks

Oklahoma: 11-1 (27th)
Offense: 1st
Defense: 24th
QB: Baker Mayfield: 69%, 9.6 YPA, 35/5
Notable: Samaje Perine rushed for 1,291 yards at 6.1 per carry

Comment: Those talented Clemson defensive ends need to win their battles or it will be long day for the Tiger secondary given how hot Mayfield is. The bigger area of concern for betting Oklahoma is the question of how much those dazzling offensive numbers are a product of playing in the wide-open Big 12 and the tendency of high-stakes bowl games to be a bit more conservative.

December 31: Cotton Bowl–Alabama (-8.5) Michigan State (8 PM ET, ESPN)
Alabama: 12-1 (17th)
Offense: 31st
Defense: 3rd
QB: Jake Coker: 66%, 7.4 YPA, 17/8
Notable: Heisman Trophy winning RB Derrick Henry ran for 1,986 yards

Michigan State: 12-1 (5th)
Offense: 45th
Defense: 22nd
QB: Connor Cook: 57%, 7.9 YPA, 24/5
Notable: Wide receiver Aaron Burbridge caught 79 passes for over 1,200 yards

Comment: The health of Cook’s shoulder is the overriding factor in this game. When healthy, he is by far the superior quarterback. When banged up, as he has been at the end of this season, he’s statistically inferior to Coker. Note that if you wager this game make sure to shop prices. The line of 8.5 can also go as high as 10 depending on the sportsbook. Read the rest of this entry →

College Football Classic Rewind:OU Stymies ‘Noles to Win National Championship 37

Posted on September 14, 2011 by A.J. Foss

The 2001 Orange Bowl was the designated national championship game for the 2000 season and it featured a team that was expected to be in the game and another team that was not expected to be there.

Ever since Barry Switzer resigned as head coach following the 1988 season, the Sooners went 61-50-1 in the next 10 seasons and played in only three bowl games.

After the 1998 season, Oklahoma hired Florida defensive coordinator Bob Stoops, who had helped the Gators win the 1996 national championship, in hopes of restoring the Sooners to prominence.

Stoops went 7-5 in his first season as head coach but things took off in 2000 as the Sooners went undefeated thanks to a high-powered offense led by quarterback Josh Heupel, who finished second in the running for the Heisman Trophy and a defense that allowed under 16 points per game on average during the season.

Despite being 12-0 and #1 entering the title game, the Sooners were 10 ½ point underdogs to their opponent, the Florida State Seminoles.

Florida State was the defending national champion and were perhaps the most dominant team during the 2000 season.

The offense, led by Heisman Trophy winner Chris Weinke, averaged 42.4 points per game while the defense held opponents to an average of 10.3 points per game as the Seminoles won at least 10 games for the fourteenth consecutive season, all under the direction of head coach Bobby Bowden.

Despite their dominance, most experts believed that the Seminoles should not be in the title game because they lost one game, a 27-24 nail-biter to arch-rival Miami, who also finished the season with one loss and believed by most experts to play opposite Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl.

However when the BCS final rankings were released, FSU was ranked ahead of Miami, and it was the ‘Noles who got a chance to win back-to-back national titles.

While they were heavily favored, the Seminoles faced two issues as they entered their title tilt with the Sooners.

Offensive coordinator Mark Richt had accepted the head coaching job at the University of Georgia, perhaps distracting him from constructing a good game plan against the Sooner defense, and wide receiver Snoop Minnis, Weinke’s best target, had been ruled academically ineligible and had to sit out the game.

These two issues looked to cause problems for the Florida State offense, but It certainly did not look like that the Seminoles offense would have such trouble as Weinke connected with Atrews Bell for a 35-yard gain on the first play of the game. Read the rest of this entry →

Fun in the Sun: History of the Super Bowl in Miami 2

Posted on February 06, 2010 by Chris Kent
The upset of the Jets over the Colts is among the great Super Bowl moments that have occured in Miami.

The upset of the Jets over the Colts is among the great Super Bowl moments that have occurred in Miami.

Sunday will mark the tenth time the Super Bowl has been played in the City of Miami and like most of the other nine you can expect lots of excitement and fireworks between the Indianapolis Colts and New Orleans Saints.

Billed as a shootout between two high scoring offenses, Super Bowl XLIV matches two teams capable of scoring lots of points and a pair of marquee quarterbacks at the height of their success. Both teams finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 in several offensive categories including points, points per-game, total passing yards, passing yards per-game, and total yards per-game. New Orleans was first in points (510), point per-game (31.9), and total yards per-game (403.8). The Saints also ranked fourth in both total passing yards (4,355) and passing yards per-game (272.2). On the other side, the Colts ranked seventh in both points scored (416) and points per-game (26.0). Indianapolis also ranked second in the league in both total passing yards (4,515) and passing yards per-game (282.2) while placing ninth in total yards per-game (363.1). While these are gaudy numbers, they only address one side of the ball.

There is something else called defense and with it a saying that, “Defense wins Championships.” So what do the defenses have to offer in this one? If you are the Colts, you hopefully have Dwight Freeney at defensive end. However, the torn ligaments in his right ankle that he suffered in the AFC Championship game against the Jets make him virtually a game time decision. Freeney teams with Robert Mathis to give the Colts bookend tackles that can pressure the quarterback. If Freeney is limited by the injury or can’t play at all, Indianapolis will turn to eight-year veteran Raheem Brock. Linebackers Clint Session and Gary Brackett will have to shoulder more of the tackling load. The Colts secondary could be tested more if the absence of Freeney leads to more time for Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees in the pocket. Read the rest of this entry →

Iowa Hawkeyes Ready For The Yellow Jackets Sting 1

Posted on December 28, 2009 by JA Allen
Iowa vs. Minnesota

The Iowa Hawkeyes hope to be lifting another trophy following the Orange Bowl.

Bowl season is upon us. In fact, some bowls have already taken place. Have you noticed yet?

I would assume not, because, at this point, most of the bowls played possessed little meaning for the noisy majority.

This does not detract from the devotion of those assembled in respective stadiums cheering on their home teams or those sitting raptly in front of television screens watching the action unfold in high definition on ESPN.

The bowl, regardless of stature, has meaning and consequence for the teams playing because it represents the culmination of a season of hard-fought victories—an award of merit allowing the team a chance to display its strengths during this postseason contest and hopefully to come away with a victory.

For teams playing in the higher ranking bowls scheduled later in bowl season, much more significance is attributed to the victory or the loss for individual programs and even conferences. Tangibles like TV ratings and likely exposure, recruiting and year-end rankings await the verdict—thumbs up or down.

What does it take to win a bowl game after a season of tests and close calls? On one hand it is complex because the preparation for the game is filled with disadvantages and distractions. But once a team settles its priorities, the rest comes naturally.

Then it becomes fairly simple. A team either has more talent, belief, and leadership to win or it does not. Read the rest of this entry →

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    • Billy Kilmer: Hard-Nosed Quarterback
      September 2, 2018 | 7:32 pm
      Kilmer

      Billy Kilmer

      The Sports Then and Now Vintage Athlete of the Month began his NFL career as an athletic running quarterback, but he endured a near fatal car accident to completely change his game during a career that spanned nearly two decades.

      Anyone who is familiar with former NFL quarterback Billy Kilmer probably remembers him as the portly, un-athletic, but very tough quarterback for the Washington Redskins in the 1970s. However, during his first two NFL seasons, Kilmer was primarily used as a running quarterback and running back for the San Francisco 49ers.

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