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Bowls finally get 'serious'

Dec 21, 2004 6:25 AM


The arrival of the Christmas holiday season is significant for football bettors. It signals the advent of the "serious" bowl season. Now through New Year’s Day we’ll see about 27 great match-ups of teams that have earned the right to play in the post season.

We won’t try to review all of them in one gulp. Instead, we’ll spoon-feed a few each week. That way, the victories will taste sweeter as we proceed to the national championship game at the Orange Bowl.

Tuesday, Dec. 21

Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando, FL): It will be Syracuse and its strong ground attack against Georgia Tech’s defense. Syracuse (6-5 SU, 8-3 ATS) certainly played with fire down the stretch to get to this bowl. The Orangemen went 3-1 SU/ATS to end the regular season, winning 42-30 over UConn as a +5 dog, 38-31 over Pitt and stunning Boston College on the road, 43-17 as a +13 dog! The offense is mostly on the ground, averaging 190 yards rushing behind RBs Damien Rhodes and Walter Reyes.

Georgia Tech (6-5 SU, 5-5 ATS) backed into this bowl with season ending losses to Virginia and Georgia. Their strategy is to go to the ground game and play tough defense (7-2 "under" the total). Sophomore QB Reggie Ball (14 TDs, 17 INTs) regressed this season and makes too many poor decisions. If experience means anything, this is the eighth straight bowl game for G-Tech, while it’s the first since 2001 for Syracuse.

Wednesday, Dec. 22

GMAC Bowl (Mobile, AL): You’ll see plenty of passing in this wide-open game. Memphis and QB Danny Wimprine can air it out, with the No. 10 offense in the nation, while Bowling Green averages 336 yards passing. Memphis has outstanding balance, averaging 36 points, 213 yards rushing and 251 passing, with a great talent in junior RB DeAngelo Williams (1,828 rush yards, 21 TDs).

Bowling Green QB Omar Jacobs is the MAC Offensive Player of the Year, throwing for 36 TDs and only three interceptions. It will be interesting to see how Bowling Green responds, too, as their last game was a big disappointment, losing to eventual MAC champion Toledo, 49-41. Memphis is 2-0 ATS as a dog this season, but BG is 6-2 ATS as a favorite.

Thursday, Dec. 23

Fort Worth Bowl (Fort Worth, TX): Marshall has a strong defense (3 ypc allowed) and will be looking to win its fifth consecutive bowl. Marshall beat Louisville 38-15 in 2002, won 64-61 over East Carolina in 2001, beat Cincinnati 25-14 as a +2 dog in 2000, topped BYU 21-3 in 1999, and beat Louisville 48-29 as a +3 dog the year before. The coaching staff seems to get them focused for the bowls, whether they are a favorite or a dog.

Standing in the way is a Cincinnati offense that expects to have star QB Gino Guidugli back from a broken hand. The Bearcats average 28 points and 406 total yards per game. Guidugli leads an air game that averages 222 yards, while RB Rich Hall leads a ground game that is potent (184 yds pg). Do you prefer defense or offensive balance?

Friday, Dec. 24

Hawaii Bowl (Honolulu): Hawaii certainly played hard to get here. The Rainbows needed to win their final three games, including victories over Northwestern (49-41) and Michigan State (41-38) as a home dog each time. Hawaii was 0-4 SU/0-3 ATS on the road where it averaged 17 points, but at home the team is 7-1 SU/6-1 ATS averaging 43 points. Talk about a home field edge!

UAB (7-4) has a fine offense behind QB Darrell Hackney (24 TDs, 7 INTs), but they allowed 257 yards in the air per game. Alabama-Birmingham will see plenty of passes from Hawaii and QB Timmy Chang (34 TDs, 13 INTs, 3,853 yards). These teams are a combined 13-7 "over" the total.

Monday, Dec. 27

MPC Computers Bowl (Boise, ID): Which Fresno State team is going to show up? The one that comes into this game scoring 52, 70, 54 and 62 the last four games and won easily at Washington and Kansas State to open the season? Or the one that stumbled in midseason losses to La Tech and UTEP as 15 and 17-point favorites? Try the former.