A tripleheader of bowl game action on ESPN starts at 1:00 Eastern Saturday, pitting North Carolina against West Virginia in the Car Care Bowl. Immediately following will be two schools who are regular bowlers in Wisconsin and Florida State, meeting in the Champs Sports Bowl from Orlando. The nitecap takes us to the city by the bay in San Francisco, with California having to travel a short distance to take on Miami-Florida in the Emerald Bowl. Thus far favorites are 4-4 against the spread and the total is 4-3-1 Over.
Meineke Car Care Bowl – North Carolina vs West Virginia
Back in late October, this was more likely to be a Gator Bowl matchup then pre-New Year’s Day encounter. Both teams lost in November as favorites twice, lowering their postseason options to Charlotte. From a travel aspect, this might work out just fine and be a good matchup. West Virginia (8-4, 4-7 ATS) has the dynamic running game led by Pat White, at 217.2 yards per game. White is statistically the greatest running quarterback of all-time. Big problem for Mountaineers is 3-12 ATS mark away from home vs. ACC foes.
North Carolina (8-4, 6-5 ATS) lived on turnovers all season, but only came up with three in last three games, losing twice. The offense never possessed the ball well and the defense was on the field almost 33 minutes per game. Quarterback T.J. Yates missed half the year with a broken ankle and played well to close the season in win over Duke. Coach Butch Davis teams are 6-0 ATS after no-cover in two out of three affairs.
Why to Watch and Wager
Many in Morgantown are having reservations if Bill Stewart was really the right man to lead this West Virginia football program. The Mountaineers are better on both sides of the ball, but have to play like it, which has too frequently not been the case this season. Running backs Noel Devine and Jock Sanders can scoot with just a small opening and this no-name defense was ninth in the country in points allowed at 15.9 points per game. If the ‘Teers running game does better a little better then normal, they are 36-10 ATS when they rush for 5.5 or more yards per attempt.
North Carolina’s young team needs to hit a few big plays to build confidence and shake West Virginia up. Getting the ball to receiver Hakeem Nicks is the way to do this. The Tar Heels have talent in the defensive line and if they come to play could cause West Virginia problems. North Carolina must match yards with the Mountaineers since they are 7-18 ATS when they are out-gained by their opponents by 100-150 yards.
North Carolina is 12-13 and 9-6-1 ATS in bowls, with West Virginia 12-16 and desultory 6-12-1 ATS, including 0-4 against the number as favorites. The ACC has won and covered five of the six Car Care bowls with the Big East 1-4 SU and ATS.
Bookmaker.com Line – West Virginia -2.5, 46
Champs Sports Bowl -Wisconsin vs Florida State
This matchup is a game for the ages. Bobby Bowden is 79 and Badgers coach Bret Bielema is 38. Wisconsin (7-5, 5-6 ATS), despite winning last three contests was a season long disappointment. A phlegmatic offense was followed by a defense that lost focus in the middle of the year. A shocking loss at Michigan after leading 19-0 set the table for four consecutive defeats and they later managed to blow winnable contest at Michigan State. Cal –Poly missing three extra points in Madison, kept the Badgers from being .500 team. They are 0-8 ATS vs. teams outscoring opponents by 10 or more points per game on the season.
Florida State (8-4, 5-5 ATS) showed signs of returning to the top of the ACC, but made 10 turnovers in last three losses to chuck that to the side. The Seminoles did make a number of improvements this season however. Florida State had a running game that finished in the top 25 percent in the country at 180.4 yards per game. Signal caller Christian Ponder energized the team early, but did not do much past the halfway point of the season. The defense started to look like previous models finishing 14th in total defense, even with Florida hanging 45 points on them. Coach Bowden teams are 19-9 ATS after a game with a turnover margin of -2 or worse.
Why to Watch and Wager
Wisconsin is 6-3 ATS as bowl underdog and will attack the Noles run defense which was exploited in November for 192.6 yards per game. The Badgers for the season averaged 204.9 yards per game and will need quarterback Dustin Sherer to keep his wits about him and find tight end Garrett Graham to help move the chains.
The Seminoles are noteworthy bowl participant with 18-10-1 ATS record and will have speed edge. The Wisconsin offensive line has problems with speed rushers and Florida State has a slew of them, which led them to sixth in the nation in sacks with 36 on the year and second in tackles for loss. On offense, the Noles have to be patient and take what’s given, since the Badgers will likely wear down as they often have this season in the second half.
After a number of blowouts, the underdog is 3-0 ATS the last three years of this seven year old bowl contest.
Bookmaker.com Line – Florida State -6, 52
Emerald Bowl -California vs Miami-FL
Miami didn’t finish as strongly as they would have liked with two losses, and a tired Hurricanes defense ran out of gas, costing backers three spread shortfalls. Miami (7-5, 5-6 ATS) is just 1-9 ATS off one or more straight Overs, nonetheless, coach Randy Shannon is thankful for the extra practice time with his young squad. One element that rears its ugly head every bowl season is suspensions, with one team usually being hit harder than most. Thus far Miami is the clubhouse leader, with five players now suspended. How the team reacts early will set the tone.
In spite of a revolving door under center, California (9-3 ATS) won eight games this season, finishing with a flourish by clobbering Stanford and Washington. The Bears are 8-0 ATS off a home win by 17 points or more since 2006, but one 1-4 SU away from Berkeley this season. This should be a good game to showcase running back Jahvid Best, who was second only to Missouri’s Jeremy Maclin in all-purpose yards. The Bears also installed a new 3-4 defense and they embraced it like honey, finishing in the top 15 in the county in sacks and turnover margin. Cal is 8-2 ATS this season when favored.
Why to Watch and Wager
Miami has only played at home once since the end of October and this is a home game of sorts for Cal being 10 miles awhile. This is the Hurricanes first visit west in seven years and will have to have the running game working with Javarris James and Kraig Cooper working, considering how poor the passing game has been all season. The Canes are just 4-12 ATS after the first month of the season over the last two seasons, but were 4-2 ATS as visitors this year. Miami is 18-13 all-time in bowls and will be an underdog for just the fourth time in 24 lined games.
California has a defense good enough to stifle the Miami offense and possibly create turnovers leading to points. Best is the Bears best offensive weapon and whoever the starting quarterback is for Jeff Tedford has to play within the confines of the offense. Cal is 11-1 ATS as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points over the last three seasons. California is 9-8-1 in bowl matchups with 5-5 ATS record.
The Emerald Bowl has been a rather dull event, but having California will add some like. The favorite is just 1-4 ATS in six year history.
Bookmaker.com Line – California -10, 50.5