Happy Holidays! As 2012 draws to a close, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the bowls. You shouldn’t be bowled-out, either, as they build to the crescendo that is the Notre Dame/Alabama showdown for the national title.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL GAMES
Little Caesar’s (Wed.)
Western Kentucky (7-5) got here with a strong offense (28.8 ppg) behind senior QB Kawaun Jakes (21 TDs, 11 INTs) and power back Antonio Andrews (1,609 yards). They started 6-2 despite playing a pair of SEC teams on the road, losing to Alabama (35-0) but beating Kentucky, 32-31 in OT. WKU decided to go for the two-point conversion in OT and the win, so expect the unexpected. The Hilltoppers are on a 21-7 ATS run.
Central Michigan (6-6) is on an 8-24 ATS slide. The Chippewas are 8-20 ATS in their last 28 games on field turf. Central Michigan got here with a strong passing attack behind senior QB Ryan Radcliff (20 TDs, 9 INTs), averaging 243 yards per and 29.3 points. They have a power back in Zurlon Tipton (1,391 yds), who averages over 6 yards per carry. The defense, though, allows 33.3 ppg. The OVER is 20-7-2 against a team with a winning record.
A pair of dynamite offense meet as Baylor (7-5) takes on UCLA (9-4). Baylor replaced Robert Griffin the III with QB Nick Florence (31 TDs, 13 INTs, 531 yards rushing) and averaged 44 points, 353 yards passing and 225.5 yards rushing! That passing attack is third in the nation, anchored by senior WR Terrance Williams (1,764 yds). The defense, though, allows 38.2 ppg (117th in the nation). They needed to win their last three games, including a 52-24 rout of No. 1 K-State. Baylor is on a 21-5-1 run OVER the total. UCLA is on a 6-0 run OVER the total with an explosive offense for first-year Coach Jim Mora, averaging 35 points, 271 yards passing, 203 rushing behind freshman QB Brett Hundley (26 TDs, 11 INTs) and senior RB Johnathan Franklin (1,700 yds, 6.3 ypc). Their defense will be tested against the Bears, who are No. 1 in total offense nationally, averaging 578.8 yards per game.
Car Care Bowl (Fri.)
There aren’t many teams that lose 6 of their final 8 games and still go bowling but Minnesota (6-6) did. The offense ranks 114 in the nation because starter MarQueis Gray was injured in the third game, QB Max Shortell didn’t work out, so freshman QB Philip Nelson (6 TDs, 7 INTs) is running the offense. Nelson’s top target junior A.J. Barker (577 yards) quit the team in November after a beef with Coach Jerry Kill. The Golden Gophers are on a 2-6 ATS run, as well as a 9-4-1 UNDER run.
Speaking of changes, Texas Tech (7-5) loses Head Coach Tommy Tuberville, who just jumped to Cincinnati, so offensive line coach Chris Thomsen will lead the Red Raiders. The Tech offense is second in the nation in passing yards at 361.9 yards per game, No. 12 in total yards at 501.4 per game and averaging 37.8 points behind senior QB Seth Doege (38 TDs, 14 INTs). The defense allows 31.8 points and 171 yards a game on the ground. The Red Raiders are 46-22-1 ATS following a loss.
Pinstripe Bowl (Sat)
An outdoor b-b-b-b-bowl game from frigid Yankee Stadium finds a pair of teams that love to throw the football. West Virginia (7-5) lost 5 in a row after a 5-0 start. They are No. 6 in the nation in passing behind senior QB Gino Smith (40 TDs, 6 INTs), averaging 340.9 yards passing and 41.6 ppg. But as good as the offense is, the defense is awful allowing 38.1 ppg. The OVER is 6-2 in the Mountaineers last 8 bowls and 11-5 OVER against a team with a winning record.
Syracuse (7-5) can also throw the pigskin behind QB Ryan Nassib (24 TDs, 9 INTs). The Orange are No. 21 in the nation in passing (301.6), scoring 29.3 points per game and on a 5-0-1 OVER run. It will be their second appearance in the bowl, having defeated the Kansas State Wildcats, 36-34, in the inaugural Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium in 2010. The underdog is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings between these teams.
Sun Bowl (Mon.)
USC was a preseason No. 1 but has lost 4 of 5 to end up here. They can pass the football, but hope senior QB Matt Barkley (36 TDs, 15 INTs) will be medically cleared to play, otherwise freshman QB Max Wittek (2 TDs, 2 INTs) will step in again. The Trojans are 17-8 ATS following a loss.
A suspect USC defense will have to deal with Georgia Tech’s running attack, No. 4 in the nation with 312.5 yards and 34.5 points per game. The Yellow Jackets are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 bowls.
Jim Feist, author and leader in sports information for over 40 years, hosts TV’s Proline as well as running National Sports Services since 1975. Reach him at [email protected]