Let’s go bowling!

Dec 16, 2003 3:15 AM

College football bettors have a chance for redemption as teams enter the "second season" of play. With 28 college bowl games, there are 56 of 117 Division 1A teams playing in a bowl of one kind or another.

Of course, with a field so large, there are probably plenty of teams, as well as numerous match-ups, that don’t really belong here.

Nonetheless, when the sports books hang a point spread, bettors heed the call of the wild.

With that in mind, let’s take a thumbnail look at the entire spectrum of bowl games, beginning with tonight’s (Tuesday) match-up.

Keep in mind that GamingToday will provide more in-depth analysis and predictions as we proceed through the college bowl season.

New Orleans Bowl

N. Texas vs. Memphis —4½ : North Texas dominated opponents in the Sun Belt Conference, but had trouble outside league play with decisive losses to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Air Force. Memphis has an outstanding quarterback in Danny Wimprine, who should lead the Tigers to a solid win over the Eagles.

GMAC Bowl

Louisville vs. Miami-Ohio —13 : Miami has the country’s best quarterback, Ben Roesthlisberger, at least from an NFL prospect standpoint. He throws for more than 300 yards a game, helping the Redhawks outscore opponents, 42-18, on average. That should be enough to easily defeat the Cardinals, who were inconsistent most of the season.

Tangerine Bowl

Kansas vs. NC State —12 : The Jayhawks piled up enough early season wins to qualify for their first bowl since 1995. But they never beat a really quality opponent, except for Missouri, who they caught at home. The Wolf Pack have a prolific offense led by quarterback Philip Rivers, who should be able to riddle the Kansas defense in a fairly easy victory.

Forth Worth Bowl

TCU vs. Boise St. —10 : Boise St. got off to a slow start, but in the second half of the season was blowing out opponents by 20- and 30-point margins. In may not be that bad against the Horned Frogs, but Boise’s dynamic offense led by quarterback Ryan Dinwiddie should be up to the task in a 14-point victory.

Las Vegas Bowl

New Mexico vs. Oregon St. —3 : The Beavers have the better offense with prolific running back Steven Jackson leading the way, but the Lobos have a tough defense that allowed only 80 yards rushing per game. New Mexico probably wants this game more than Oregon State, after losing its last two bowl games to Pac 10 teams. Thus taking the points in a tight game is in order.

Hawaii Bowl

Houston vs. Hawaii —10 : This should be a high scoring contest as both offenses averaged more than 30 points/game. While Hawaii has piled up the points at home, its soft defense has allowed opponents to score as well. This game should feature two teams trading scores virtually at will. Thus, expect Houston to score enough to stay within the number.

Motor City Bowl

Northwestern vs. Bowling Green —8 : Northwestern "sneaked" into the bowl picture with a .500 record while Bowling Green was knocked out of the MAC championship by a hot Miami-Ohio squad. Nonetheless, the Falcons matched up well against Big 10 teams — they beat Purdue and lost at Ohio State by only a touchdown. They should handle the Wildcats in this spot.

Insight Bowl

California vs. Virginia Tech —3 : The Hokies stumbled down the stretch, losing four of its last six, although one of their wins was a blowout over Miami. The Hokies’ defense was most vulnerable, allowing more than 30 points in losses to Pittsburgh, Boston College and Virginia. Cal, which owns a win over USC, should have enough firepower to keep this one close and possible squeak out a tight victory.

Continental Tire Bowl

Virginia — 2½ vs. Pittsburgh : There’s little to separate these two teams, which appear to be equally matched. Both squads rely heavily on their passing attacks, but Pitt should have an edge with their standout wide receive Larry Fitzgerald, who should come up with some amazing catches in a narrow victory for the Panthers.

Alamo Bowl

Michigan St. vs. Nebraska —3 : Michigan State cruised through the early part of its season, then ran into a wall versus the Big 10’s big guns, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin. The Nebraska defense should be able to slow down the Spartan attack, which relies too heavily on quarterback Jeff Smoker. However, the anemic Husker attack will keep this one close, so taking the points is the play.

Houston Bowl

Navy vs. Texas Tech —13 : It was a miracle season for Navy, which accomplished virtually all of its goals, though they fell woefully sort against Notre Dame. The Middies will find the going tough against a prolific Texas Tech attack, which averaged 42 points and nearly 600 yards of total offense per game. Although Navy will play hard, they won’t be able to stop the Red Raiders’ relentless passing attack.

Holiday Bowl

Washington St. vs. Texas NL : The status of Cougar quarterback Jason Gesser has delayed posting a line. If Gesser plays, give the edge to Washington State, which at one point, was at the top of the Pac 10. Texas has one of the Big 12’s better offenses, but they’ve faired poorly against sophisticated West Coast offenses such as the Cougars. Washington State should be getting points; take them.

Silicon Valley Bowl

Fresno St. vs. UCLA —4 : It was a disappointing season for both teams. Especially for UCLA under new coach Karl Dorrell, who did very little to show his hiring was justified. In fact, he seems to have taken the UCLA offense several steps backwards. Nevertheless, there should be enough quality Bruin athletes to eke out a tight win over the hapless Bulldogs.

Music City Bowl

Wisconsin vs. Auburn —3 : This is a nice match-up of two teams that like to run the football. In fact, it’s a nice showcase for the Badgers’ Anthony Davis and the Tigers’ Cadillac Williams. The Tigers have the much better defense, however, so we’ll give the nod to Auburn in a tight, hard-fought game.

Sun Bowl

Minnesota —3 vs. Oregon : Minnesota will look to run the ball against the Beavers. They average nearly 300 yards/game on the ground and should be able to move against the Oregon defense. The Beavers will find some success through the air, but not enough to hold off the Gophers in a narrow win.

Liberty Bowl

Utah — 2½ vs. Southern Miss : Two good defensive squads should keep this game close. The difference could be decided by the turnover battle (Utah is +8 in turnover margin). Utah also has the better running game, which could be enough for them to pull out a short, four-point victory.

Independence Bowl

Missouri vs. Arkansas —3: The home-road dichotomy could come into play here, as Missouri played well at home but had troubles in road contests. Arkansas should exploit that with its dynamic rushing attack that sets up its passing game. It make take three quarters, but the Razorbacks should put the Tigers away in a touchdown victory.

San Francisco Bowl

Boston College vs. Colorado St. NL : Boston College had a tough season in the Big East conference, where they lost to Syracuse, Miami, West Virginia and Pitt, but pulled out a win against Virginia Tech. Colorado State played in a much weaker Mountain West Conference, so expect the BC Eagles to be better battle-tested, and behind their strong running attack, should handle the Rams.

Outback Bowl

Iowa vs. Florida —4 : Even though Iowa was "down" from last season’s squad, the Hawkeyes have one of the Big 10’s best defenses, which allowed only 16 points per game. Florida brings a wide open attack to the table and should be able to spread the field on Iowa and make some big plays. Iowa will keep it close for awhile with its running game, but the Gators prevail by at least a TD.

Gator Bowl

West Virginia vs. Maryland —4 : The Mountaineers lost to Maryland (34-7) in the early part of the season, but this is payback time. Since that loss, West Virginia beat Virginia Tech, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and Boston College, and lost at the buzzer to Miami on the road. Take the points with West Virginia, who should get a narrow victory here.

Capital One Bowl

Purdue vs. Georgia —3 : Two hard-nosed, defensive teams should make this a low-scoring, closely-contested affair. Both teams run the ball well, though Purdue may have a slight edge in the passing game. That may be enough to tip the scales toward the Boilermakers, who could pull of the mild upset.

Rose Bowl

Michigan vs. USC —7 : You have to wonder whether ”˜SC is "down" having been unfairly left out of the BCS title game. Either way, Michigan is playing great football and has enough weapons with Chris Perry at running back and John Navarre passing to keep this one close. There’s even an outside chance the Wolverines could pull the upset.

Orange Bowl

Florida St. —1 vs. Miami-Florida : It’s hard to say why these two teams are playing again. Miami won the regular season match-up, but proved very fallible following that Oct. 11 win. The Seminoles also proved to be human in an unexpected road loss to Clemson, and an overtime win over NC State. In this spot, let’s back the Seminoles who should exact some revenge over their hated rivals.

Cotton Bowl

Oklahoma St. vs. Mississippi —2 : Talk about high-octane offense, this game has it all. Both teams should score into the high 30’s and the ball should be flying all over the field. Mississippi’s Eli Manning might have something to prove after losing the Heisman to Oklahoma’s Jason White. The Cowboys, however, have a more balanced attack, and the Mannings (Archie, Peyton and now Eli) have never been known for winning the BIG game.

Peach Bowl

Clemson vs. Tennessee —6 : The Tigers probably saved coach Tommy Bowden’s job with an unlikely win over Florida State. Tennessee improved in the season’s second half and should be keyed up for a big effort here. Without his dad to "give" him a gift victory, Bowden goes out a two-touchdown loser to a superior Tennessee squad.

Fiesta Bowl

Kansas St. —7 vs. Ohio St .: One win does not a season make. Nevertheless, everyone is crowning Kansas State as world-beaters because they knocked off Oklahoma. Indeed, they played a great game, but it was only one game, and doesn’t erase their lackluster efforts earlier. The Buckeyes were knocked down to size by Michigan, but will rebound here, and could even pull off the upset.

Humanitarian Bowl

Tulsa vs. Georgia Tech —8 : If ever there were a "who cares?" bowl game, this is it. Moreover, including these two teams in the post season is a stretch at best. However, where there’s a line, there’s a bet, so let’s take the points with an improved Tulsa team that managed to average 32 points a game this year. If they come anywhere near that, they’ll cover the line, if not win outright.

Sugar Bowl

LSU vs. Oklahoma —6 : The BCS title game is a fraud as far as the national championship is concerned, since it doesn’t even pair the top two teams in the country. Instead, let’s call this the Redemption Bowl, as the Sooners try to prove that their loss to Kansas State was a fluke. While Oklahoma seemed flat against K-State, they’ll find a tough opponent in LSU, who are playing great football right now. In a high-scoring contest (bet the total over 48), give the nod to LSU, which has more experience in pulling out close contests, something Oklahoma never had to do all season.