Friday, Dec. 30
Armed Forces Bowl- BYU vs. Tulsa – 12:00E ESPN
Tulsa lost four games this season to teams that were a combined 33-6 (29-20 ATS). Tulsa’s lone conference loss was to then unbeaten Houston, as quarterback G.J. Kinne polished off a brilliant career in charge of a passing offense. Tulsa isn’t known for defense, but held opponents to 3.4 yards per carry. BYU’s first season as an independent has to be qualified as a success at 9-3 and 8-4 ATS. The Cougars offense was able to be productive in spite of quarterback upheaval. Coach Bronco Mendenhall is a defensive coordinator at heart and his team was No. 21 in total defense. Tulsa is 4-1 ATS in previous bowls.
Pinstripe Bowl – Rutgers vs. Iowa State – 3:20E ESPN
What prevented Rutgers from being a better offensive team all year was the lack of a running game. On six occasions, they rushed for under 100 yards, including four times in single digits (twice negative yards), which directly led to Rutgers finishing 115th in the country. The Rutgers defense allowed only 311 yards per contest. Iowa State made the college football world take notice on Nov. 18 when engineered one of the unlikeliest upsets, by handing Oklahoma State their only loss. The Cyclones are 5-1 ATS with redshirt freshman QB Jared Barnett adding flexibility to their running game. Rutgers is 4-0-1 ATS as a bowler.
Music City Bowl – Wake Forest vs. Mississippi State – 6:40E ESPN
The Demon Deacons were having a splendid 5-2 season, when they nose-dived down the stretch to finish 6-6. Wake Forest players and coaches for that matter are thrilled with the opportunity to rinse that taste out of their mouths and finish with a winning season. The Demon Deacons defensive front wore down was trampled for 220.8 yards the last five games. Coach Dan Mullen is still looking for a quarterback to distinguish himself as none did during the regular season, which is the lead reason why Mississippi State only averaged 5.3 YPP. Seniors Charles Mitchell and Wade Bonner work in the secondary helped build State’s defense that was 23rd against the pass and 19th in points allowed. The SEC is 3-9 ATS in the contest.
Insight Bowl – Iowa vs. Oklahoma – 10:00E ESPN
Head coach Bob Stoops will need all his motivational tricks to fire up his Oklahoma squad that will not be playing in a BCS bowl. Losing Ryan Broyles and RB Dominique Whaley took away the heart of the offense and Landry Jones was unable to elevate his game. The Sooners defense never met expectations all season (37th in points allowed).The Hawkeyes chances of the upset took a gigantic hit with suspension of RB Marcus Coker. This places the game on the shoulders of QB James Vandenberg against Oklahoma’s 83rd-rated pass defense, with Marvin McNutt the preferred target. The underdog is 10-4 ATS in Tempe.
Meineke Car Care Bowl- Texas A&M vs. Northwestern -12:00E ESPN
With 18 returning starters, everything was in place for a special season for Texas A&M, which never happened. On the field, the cup was always half empty. QB Ryan Tannehill wasn’t always on target and too often when he was drops occurred. The defense could create loads of negative plays, but gave up 28.7 PPG. The Wildcats no-huddle offense prefers to dink and dunk and take shots down the field as games progress, which could wear out the vaunted Texas A&M pass rush. Dan Persa is a big-time threat in the passing game, completing 74.2 percent of his passes this season. The Aggies are 0-5 ATS in bowls.
Sun Bowl – Utah vs. Georgia Tech – 2:00E CBS
This was not vintage Utah football this season. In spite of RB John White averaging 117.0 YPG (11th in the nation); the Utes were subpar 82nd in the country rushing the ball at 137 yards. In a match of strength vs. strength, Utah’s No.7 run defense will be challenged all over the field by the Yellow Jackets option offense. Critics point to Georgia Tech’s 6-0 start as being a function of a workable schedule and once the competition picked up, the Jackets posted a 2-4 finish. Georgia Tech players will try and curtail such talk and end their six-game bowl losing streak. The underdog is 18-5 ATS last 23 years.
Liberty Bowl – Cincinnati vs. Vanderbilt – 3:30E ABC
First year coach James Franklin did almost the impossible, saying and carrying out mission to alter the losing culture at Vanderbilt. The Commodores were faster and more physical than any Vandy outfit in years. The ‘Dores defense finished the regular season 19th in total defense and Aaron Rodgers younger brother Jordan improved the offense. Cincinnati’s prospects in this bowl might be improving dramatically as senior QB Zach Collaros has practicing with the first team just five weeks after suffering a broken ankle. For Cincinnati to puncture the Vanderbilt defense, RB Isaiah Pead will need a big game, and he’s skilled at busting long-gainers. The favorite is only 1-7 ATS in Memphis.
Fight Hunger Bowl – UCLA vs. Illinois – 3:30E ESPN
Though both head coaches have been axed, the Fight Hunger Bowl marches on. The collapse of the Illinois offense line led directly to closing the season 0-6, with the offense mustering just 268.6 yards a contest. This affected the confidence of QB Nathan Scheelhasse, who didn’t have time to throw and lanes to run thru. Make sure to catch the Illini’s Whitney Mercilus (14.5 sacks) act. UCLA was 29th overall in the country rushing the pigskin, but that defense! The Bruins enter the postseason ranked 96th nationally in run defense, conceding 191.5 YPG. Seven opponents ran for more than 200 yards. The dog is 5-3 ATS here.
Chick-Fil A Bowl – Virginia vs. Auburn – 7:30E ESPN
The last football game of 2011 will feature the team that still is the defending national champions in Auburn. With just two starters back on defense, Auburn’s stop troops were offensive. The Tigers finished the season ranked 99th in the country in rush defense, 79th in scoring defense and 78th in total defense. Virginia provides the opposition and is playing in first bowl in four years. The Cavaliers wound up 30th in total defense and allowed only 5.1 yards per play. The Cavs offense was as good as competition, moving the ball and scoring on weaker teams, but failing versus stronger squads. The underdog is 17-8-1 ATS in Atlanta.