Happy New Year! With the advent of 2009 (doesn’t the turn of the century seem like it wasn’t that long ago) the Cotton Bowl opted out for a date for tomorrow, helping out all of us that had a little too much fun and stayed up a little too late last night. On paper at least, we appear to have three games that have possibilities of being close. The old-school belief is now when the favorites start coming in with regularity in bowl contests, let’s see if the New Year starts out that way.
Outback Bowl – Iowa vs South Carolina
More than one eyebrow was raised when this contest was announced to start the New Year’s Day bowl festivities. This makes this a more compelling meeting for each, looking to erase doubts. Iowa started 3-3, with three defeats by nine points. The Hawkeyes put it together, culminating in an upset of Penn State. After 55-0 drubbing of Minnesota, Iowa is 17-5 ATS after a game committing no turnovers. The vaunted South Carolina defense caved in for 87 points in last two losses, with zero help from offense. With Iowa solid defensively, surprisingly the Gamecocks are 5-1 ATS vs teams who give up 14 or less PPG. The Hawkeyes are meager 2-6 ATS as bowl favorite, with USC marginally better 2-4 ATS as dog.
Why to Watch and Wager
Steve Spurrier is very aware his team has faded down the stretch the last two years. In fact losing the last couple of games have become common place in Columbia, having done so six of the last seven seasons. Spurrier, seldom the positive sort, has taken a more positive approach since losing to Clemson and wants his players to enjoy the moment and end the season on upbeat note. It might not be that easy for the Gamecocks who are 3-7-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 2-6-1 ATS as an underdog. Iowa has won five of last six with ball-hawking defense that is +8 in turnover margin during this streak. Running back Shonn Greene has led the Hawkeyes offense and they have gotten just enough out the passing game to average 30.2 points per game. Iowa is 12-4 ATS as a favorite of 3.5-10.0. In the Outback Bowl, the favorite is 14-6 against the spread with Big Ten 4-2 ATS.
Bookmaker.com Line – Iowa -3.5, 43
Capital One Bowl- Michigan State vs Georgia
Michigan State (9-3, 6-6 ATS) is playing in a New Year’s Day bowl for the first time in nine seasons as they believe they are on the right track to make this annual event. The Spartans were waxed 49-18 by Penn State in their finale, but that’s nothing new and coach Mark Dantonio teams are 9-1 ATS after a loss by 17 or more points. Possibly Georgia (9-3, 3-6-2 ATS) could have lived up to the preseason hype of number one if they could have fielded the team they thought they had in July, but injuries took care of any dreams. Coach Mark Richt teams traditionally have been good away from home, 15-6 ATS playing against a team with 75 percent or higher win percentage. The Bulldogs are good 15-11 ATS in bowls (7-3 ATS L10), with Spartans 5-4 ATS as underdogs.
Why to Watch and Wager
For Georgia, it’s about getting the running game going against Michigan State. In the Bulldogs three losses, Knowshon Moreno was held under the century mark. The coaches have also reviewed the run defense, which allowed 226.4 yards per game in last five encounters, including distressing 409 to Georgia. The Bulldogs are 1-5-1 ATS as favorites in last seven outings. Michigan State assuredly will test that Georgia front with Javon Ringer, who finished third nationally in rushing at 132.5 yards per game and tied for second in touchdowns with 21. Quarterback Brian Hoyer needs to play well for the Spartans to pull the upset and Michigan State is 10-4 ATS vs. teams with winning records. This bowl has been recently dominated by the Big Ten with five covers in six games, with the only loser being in overtime. In fact, the Big Ten has a streak of four consecutive outright upsets in Orlando.
Bookmaker.com Line – Georgia -7.5, 55
Gator Bowl – Clemson vs Nebraska
Clemson University rewarded Dabo Swinney with head coaching position, for making the best of difficult situation and guiding the Tigers (7-5, 4-6 ATS) to three wins to close the season. Clemson finally lived up to preseason hype, with defense that was ranked 15th overall. They will be called on again against high-powered Nebraska offense that scores 36.2 points per game. The Cornhuskers (8-4, 6-6 ATS) made strides to return to past glories with eight wins this season. Nebraska is a ball-hog on offense, holding it for over 33 minutes a game. The Huskers out-played Colorado in final home game, yet is 0-7 ATS after out-gaining foe by 125 or more total yards. Oddly, Nebraska is 15-15 ATS in bowls. The ACC is 7-0 ATS in this bowl, though Clemson was the last loser in 2001 game.
Why to Watch and Wager
After a tumultuous season, Clemson can still cap the year with a New Year’s Day triumph. The Tigers are making their ninth Gator Bowl appearance and have the same number of functioning weapons they had to start the season. Quarterback Cullen Harper and the backfield of James Davis and C.J. Spiller were all swallowed up by ineffective offensive line, until gaining confidence late in year, which allowed them to win four of five. It should be noted, Clemson averaged just 16.8 points per game away from home compared to 25.5 overall. The Tigers are only 2-7 ATS vs. a team with a winning record. Nebraska returns to bowl game after one year absence and plays in this bowl for the first time ever. Senior quarterback Joe Ganz was among the plethora of fine signal callers in the Big 12. The Cornhuskers won five of last six and averaged 38 points per game in last three. Even in winning, Nebraska average better than two turnovers a game and is 2-10 ATS after one or more consecutive straight up wins. The favorite has cashed in nine of last 12 Gator Bowls.
Bookmaker.com Line – Clemson -2, 56