Navy firesup bowls

December 18, 2007 3:59 AM
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The first bonanza of bowl games bombards us all week long! Here’s a peak at some of the games, with spread information and match-ups.

Poinsettia Bowl (Thu, Dec. 20): Navy’s Paul Johnson is off to become Georgia Tech’s next football coach, so assistant head coach Ken Niumatalolo takes over. The Middies live on the ground averaging 40 points and 351 rushing yards per game, 5.7 ypc. This Navy defense is poor, allowing 36 points, 172 yards rushing and 265 passing per game. After Navy topped North Texas 74-62, they simplified some defensive schemes. The result was a 35-24 win over Northern Illinois and a 38-3 rout of Army.

Navy is 3-0 ATS the last three years in bowls, losing to Boston College 25-24 last season as a +7 dog. Utah (8-4 SU, 6-4-1 ATS) has a balanced offense and a tough defense. RBs Darrell Mack (1,128 yards) and Ray Stowers lead a powerful ground game while senior QB Brian Johnson (10 TDs, 9 INTs) is back from an early season injury. The Utes defense allowed just 15.6 points per contest. Utah carries a 6-1 SU/ATS run into this bowl and is 4-0 SU/ATS the last four years in bowls.

New Orleans Bowl (Fri., Dec. 21): You have to hand it to Florida Atlantic (7-5) and 73-year-old coach Howard Schnellenberger, with the Owls playing their first bowl game. This is a wide-open passing offense behind QB Rusty Smith (27 TDs, 8 INTs) and soph WR Cortez Gent (1,030 yds), averaging 30 points and 286 yards passing. The Owls won the Sun Belt with a 38-32 upset at Troy in the finale as a +15 dog. The defense (33.8 ppg allowed) has struggled because of injuries, particularly against the run, going 9-3 over the total.

Memphis (7-5 SU, 7-4 ATS) has also been a good "over" team (7-4) behind first-year offensive coordinator Clay Helton. Like Florida Atlantic, the Tigers get it done through the air, averaging 29 points and 304 yards passing (447 total yards per game). Memphis is led by senior QB Martin Hankins (22 TDs, 12 INTs) and 6-4 sophomore WR Duke Calhoun (850 yards). Memphis is on a 5-2 SU/ATS run.

Las Vegas Bowl (Sat., Dec. 22): A rare rematch for a bowl game. Brigham Young lost 27-17 at UCLA on Sept. 8. Despite the defeat, BYU held a huge edge in yards 435-236 and Max Hall passed for 391. UCLA was just 2-of-12 on third down, while BYU was 6-of-16. UCLA (6-6 SU/8-4 ATS) battled injuries all season at QB, and is on a 1-4 SU/ 3-2 ATS skid. The disappointing season cost head coach Karl Dorrell his job. Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker is the Bruins interim coach for this game.

BYU (10-2 SU/8-3 ATS) is averaging a blistering 31 points, 153 yards rushing and 304 passing behind sophomore QB Hall (24 TDs, 12 INTs, 3,617 yards). The starting offensive line averages 312 pounds, helping RB Harvey Unga (1,211 yds, 5.3 ypc). They had a 20-7 win over Arizona and a 17-10 win over red-hot Utah. Revenge for the Cougars?

Hawaii Bowl (Sun., Dec. 23): Two teams a long way from home on the Hawaiian Islands. The East Carolina Pirates (7-5 SU/8-4 ATS) have been impressive under Coach Skip Holtz (Lou’s son), going 25-11 ATS. Holtz has a terrific offensive mind and the Pirates average 30 points, 171 yards rushing, 206 passing. They rotate QBs between sophomore Robert Kass (9 TDs, 4 INTs) and mobile junior Patrick Pinkney (10 TDs, 4 INTs). However, ECU allows 30 points, 146 yards rushing and 290 passing per contest.

Boise State (10-2 SU, 6-5 ATS) has another powerful offense, averaging 42 points, 193 yards rushing (4.7 ypc) and 283 passing. They prefer a balanced attack with senior QB Taylor Tharp (28 TDs, 9 INTs) and junior RB Ian Johnson (1,030 yards, 5.1 ypc). Boise is 8-1 SU/5-4 ATS as a favorite, and 5-2 SU/ATS in its last seven bowl games.

This game is on artificial turf, which Boise has on its home field. East Carolina plays at home on grass.