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2007 Independence Bowl Preview
by Josh Nagel
Alabama (6-6) vs. Colorado (6-6)
Conference Matchup: SEC vs. Big 12
Date: Dec. 30
Location: Shreveport, La.
Spread: Alabama -3.5
Although any matchup between two 6-6 teams might be hard to get excited about, this one provides some intrigue because of the similarities of the programs and the differences in how they play football. Each could use a win in this bowl as a springboard toward next season and as another step toward returning to the success and glory they used to enjoy. Dan Hawkins and Colorado probably are ahead of schedule in this regard; Nick Saban and Alabama, not so much. Both coaches were hired to resurrect programs that were left in bad shape by their predecessors; Hawkins was left with the remnants of the disastrous scandals that happened at Colorado under Gary Barnett, while Alabama pulled Saban away from the Miami Dolphins after Mike Shula seemed to have the Tide mired in a cycle of mediocrity. That's one tradition Saban has kept alive, at least for now. The Tide got off to a 6-2 start but finished 6-6 after they failed to hold a double-digit lead over LSU, had an inexcusable loss to Louisiana-Monroe, then lost to rival Auburn for the sixth consecutive year. Even so, there were some bright spots, such as a 41-17 win over Tennessee and 41-38 win over Arkansas. But the near-misses against LSU and Georgia were costly, as was the unthinkable home loss to Monroe. Hawkins might have the Buffaloes ahead of schedule, given the sad state of affairs the program faced when he took over just two seasons ago. Colorado's turnaround seemed to get its official start when it upset then-No. 3 Oklahoma in week 3, but the Buffaloes saw a 4-2 start turn into 5-6 after a mid-season slump, and needed a win over rival Nebraska in their final game to become bowl eligible.
Alabama can cover if: the Crimson Tide's physical brand of SEC defense can slow down the potent Colorado offense and muster up some offense of its own. The onus for this falls on quarterback John Parker Wilson, who has largely been a disappointment in his second full year as a starter for the Crimson Tide. His QB rating was 11th out of the 12 starters in the SEC, and he showed a knack for untimely errors and critical turnovers. He had just one touchdown and three interceptions in the Tide's last three losses. However, through its first nine games Alabama averaged 395 yards of offense and 32 points while committing just 11 turnovers. Wilson finished with 2,590 yards, 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; receiver D.J. Hall had a big year with 947 yards and six scores. If the Tide can play mistake-free offense and limit big plays on defense, they have a good chance to avoid their first back-to-back losing seasons in 45 years.
Colorado can cover if: the Buffaloes avoid mistakes from their own inexperienced quarterback, the coach's son, Cody Hawkins. He had the second-worst rating among starters in the Big 12 and his inconsistency cost the Buffaloes in some of their losses. But he showed gradual improvement as the season progressed and the ability to make big plays. He finished with 2,693 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with 15 interceptions. Hugh Charles leads a balanced rushing attack with 989 yards and eight touchdowns, averaging 5.2 yards per carry. The Buffaloes need to shore up their weak pass defense, which is among the worst in the country in yielding 262 yards per game. Colorado will need to get some sustained drives and a few big plays to contend with Alabama's defense, which will probably be tougher than most of the teams it faced in Big 12 play.
General Notes: Alabama is 4-1 ATS in its last five games against Big 12 opponents, but 7-19-1 in last 27 contests as a favorite. The Buffaloes are 2-8 ATS in their last 10 games as an underdog.
Re: Independence Bowl
Colorado Buffaloes (6-6) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6)
In a match-up of two 6-6 teams that have rode through an up and down season, Nick Saban and Dan Hawkins hook up in what should be a hard-fought contest to finish above .500. After a disappointing 2-10 debut year for Dan Hawkins, the young Buffaloes have bought into Hawkins’ aggressive approach and have surprised many by improving their record by four wins, despite playing one of the tougher schedules in the college football. First-year coach Nick Saban brings in his Jekyll and Hyde team, led by star receiver DJ Hall. The Crimson Tide have looked dominant at times, with 41-17 win over #20 Tennessee, but are coming off four consecutive losses including a humiliating loss to Louisiana- Monroe.
Sizing up Colorado: Success for Colorado starts up front, as the Buffs start two true freshman offensive linemen in Ryan Miller and Kai Maiava - who will need to make holes for senior tailback Hugh Charles. When the Buffs are able to run, they are a dangerous team. The Buffs are 5-1 when Charles is able to break the 100-yard mark, and will likely try to get the senior back on track to take pressure off their young quarterback. They start redshirt freshman quarterback Cody Hawkins who excels when the play action pass is a true threat. Hawkins threw for 2,693 yards in the regular season, which ranks tied for third most in CU history, and has shown the ability to spread the ball around with six players recording 20+ catches on the season. On defense, Colorado will get All Big-12 cornerback Terrence Wheatley back from a foot injury. Wheatley is a physical shutdown cornerback and will be responsible for covering DJ Hall all game. The pressure starts up front with one of the more underrated tackle duos in George Hypolite and Brandon Nicholas, who along with Butkus award finalist Jordan Dizon will be asked to shut down Terry Grant and the Tide running game. While it will be essential to pressure John Parker Wilson, the key will be the Buffaloes ability to score. On offense, Colorado struggled in its losses, averaging just 15.3 points. In their wins, the Buffaloes scored 39.8. As the season has progressed, Cody Hawkins started to gel with his young receiving core with Scotty McKnight and Josh Smith, who lead the Buffs in receiving yards despite both being freshman first-year starters. In the red-zone Hawkins looks to his tight ends namely, Tyson DeVree who leads CU with six touchdowns receptions.
Sizing Up Alabama: After starting this season 6-2, including victories over a pair of ranked opponents, Crimson Tide fans had their eyes on a possible BCS berth with No. 3 LSU coming to Bryant-Denny Stadium on Nov. 3. But Alabama couldn't hold a 27-17 third-quarter lead, and the 41-34 loss to the Tigers was the first of four straight to end the season. John Parker Wilson was one of the main culprits for the Tide's inconsistency. His quarterback rating of 111.9 was 11th out of the 12 full-time starters in the SEC, and he struggled down the stretch, throwing one touchdown and five interceptions in the last three losses. Senior wide receiver DJ Hall was third in the SEC with 947 receiving yards, after finishing fourth last season. He also caught six touchdowns. It will be interesting to see how Nick Saban tries to attack the aggressive young CU defense, but Saban will have to get leading rusher Terry Grant involved. In Alabama's biggest win of the season over Tennessee, Grant rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown on 26 carries. On defense, the Tide secondary needs to be ready. As a group they have 17 interceptions on the season and face a first-year starter in Cody Hawkins. Hawkins has been up and down all season, but could make a few bad decisions as he has 15 interceptions on the year. Alabama will have to be prepared as the Buffs run a number of different formations and use motion on nearly every play. The key for the Crimson Tide may be to stay at home and contain the Buffs running game, while putting the pressure on first-year starter Cody Hawkins to make the big plays down field.
Who Should Shine: Look for senior tailback Hugh Charles to open some eyes. The senior has breakaway speed and shifty moves coming off of a 169-yard, three touchdown performance against rival Nebraska. Terrence Wheatley will have a lot of incentive to showcase his shutdown ability against DJ Hall, and improve his draft stock in the NFL. Wheatley is a physical corner and has performed well against the opposing teams top receivers highlighted by a three interception performance against Texas Tech and Michael Crabtree. John Parker Wilson will have a chance to regroup against a young aggressive defense that has been prone to giving up the big play. He will need Terry Grant and the running game to produce and his offensive line to give him time to spread the ball around.
The Pick: This looks to be an even match up of two teams in transition. It takes time for young players to learn a new coach’s system and Colorado is one year ahead of Saban and Alabama. Alabama is coming off four straight losses, and Colorado earned a huge win in their comeback against rival Nebraska. The Buffs have started to pick up on Coach Hawkins complex schemes, the numerous offensive formations and constant motion, which should be a true challenge for the Alabama defense. The Colorado Buffaloes will send the Tide to their fifth straight loss with a 27-24 hard-fought victory.
Re: Independence Bowl
COLORADO vs. ALABAMA (Independence)...Hawkins 2-2 SU and vs. line in bowls at Boise, Saban just 3-5 vs. line in bowls with MSU & LSU. Bama just 1-7-1 vs. line last 9 this season, 3-9-2 last 14 against spread on board. Tide also no covers last 5 as chalk TY, 6-17 last 23 on role. Bama also just 1-5 vs. spread last 6 bowls. Tech edge-Colorado, based on Bama negatives.
Re: Independence Bowl
Independence Bowl: Colorado Buffaloes vs. Alabama Crimson Tide
- A pair of big-name team with .500 records meet in the Independence Bowl this year. Alabama lost four straight to end the season while Colorado lost three of five as they head December 30 to Independence Stadium in the Independence Bowl.
Oddsmakers currently have the Crimson Tide listed as 3½-point favorites versus the Buffaloes, while the game's total has not yet been posted.
Colorado outscored Nebraska 20-0 in the third quarter of a 65-51 win last time out, covering the 3-point home spread. The 116 points scored were well OVER the posted total of 61.
Cody Hawkins was 17-for-29 for 241 yards and two touchdowns, and Hugh Charles ran 33 times for 169 yards and three majors for the Buffaloes.
Alabama could not solve a tough Auburn defense in a 17-10 loss last time out, falling as 6-point road underdogs. The 27 points scored were UNDER the posted total of 44.5.
John Parker Wilson was 12-for-26 for 113 yards and an interception for the Crimson Tide.
Colorado: 6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS
Alabama: 6-6 SU, 2-8-1 ATS
Colorado most recently:
When playing in December are 5-5
When playing on turf are 5-5
After being outgained are 2-8
When playing outside the conference are 2-8
Alabama most recently:
When playing in December are 2-4
When playing on turf are 5-3
After being outgained are 7-3
When playing outside the conference are 7-3
A few trends to consider:
The total has gone OVER in 6 of Colorado's last 7 games
Colorado is 2-4 ATS in its last 6 games
Colorado is 8-17 SU in its last 25 games
Alabama is 1-4 SU in its last 5 games
Alabama is 1-8-1 ATS in its last 10 games
Re: Independence Bowl
By Brian Edwards
Alabama (6-6 SU, 2-9 ATS) vs. Colorado (6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS)
How they got there:
Alabama was on the cusp of beating LSU and grabbing sole possession of the SEC West lead, but the Crimson Tide couldn’t seal the deal and lost a 41-34 decision. They haven’t tasted victory since Oct. 20, losing four consecutive games down the stretch.
Nick Saban was given the most lucrative contract in college football history to revive the storied Alabama program. However, the Tide lost at home to ULM – as in Louisiana-Monroe – and had to hold off a last-minute rally to beat Houston at Bryant-Denny Stadium.
The loss to ULM was such a downer in Tuscaloosa that Saban had the audacity to compare it to such catastrophic events as Pearl Harbor and 9/11. It was an ignorant attempt to rally the troops that resulted in a sixth straight Iron Bowl defeat to Auburn.
As for CU, it improved by four games in Dan Hawkins' second season in Boulder. The highlight for the Buffaloes was a shocking 27-24 win over Oklahoma as 23-point home underdogs. Following a 2-10 campaign in 2006, Colorado clinched a bowl invite by clubbing Nebraska 65-51 as a three-point 'chalk' in the regular-season finale.
What to expect:
Keep an eye on Alabama's effort early in the game. For such a proud program, bettors have to wonder if the Tide will be enthusiastic about spending a second straight holiday season in Shrevport, LA. 'Bama has been a fade team all season, compiling an abysmal 1-6 spread record in seven games as a favorite.
Although CU twice won outright as a double-digit underdog -- vs. OU and at Texas Tech -- it was only 2-5 ATS in seven games as a 'dog.
These schools have one common foe -- Florida State. The Seminoles went to Boulder in mid-September and captured a 16-6 win. When FSU and Alabama collided in Jacksonville, the 'Noles won a 21-14 decision.
Players to Watch:
The QB play is going to be vital. Cody Hawins, the son of the head coach, threw interceptions galore in the early stages of the season. However, he had a 6/1 touchdown-interception ratio during CU's last four games.
Colorado RB Hugh Charles struggled with injuries early in the year, but he finished the season with 989 yards rushing and eight TDs. Charles averaged 5.3 yards per carry.
Alabama junior QB John Parker Wilson was enjoying an excellent season until late in the fourth quarter of the loss to LSU. In fact, Wilson had a 6/1 TD-INT ratio combined against LSU and a win over Tennessee the previous week. Since then, he has only one TD pass and five interceptions, including a pick-six that was costly on the last play of the first half in the loss at Mississippi State.
This is a pivotal game for Wilson in terms of winning back the trust and respect of both his head coach and the Crimson Tide faithful. After all, he is only 12-13 in 25 career starts.
Wilson will be looking to get the ball to senior WR D.J. Hall early and often. Hall is the school's all-time leader in receptions and receiving yards.
The last time Saban coached in a bowl game, Iowa QB Drew Tate connected on a Hail Mary pass to lift the Hawkeyes past LSU. The last time Dan Hawkins coached in a bowl game, Boise State nearly pulled off an improbable comeback before losing 27-21 to Boston College on the blue carpet.
This is the first meeting between 'Bama and CU since the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl, where the Tide collected a 30-25 win in a pick 'em affair. They also played in the 1969 Liberty Bowl with the Buffs winning 47-33.
Back to the 'storied-program' thing, Alabama hold the national record for bowl appearances (54) and bowl victories (30).
Alabama lost 34-31 to Oklahoma State in last year's Independence Bowl. The Cowboys covered the number as two-point favorites.
Inside the Line: Alabama -3.5, 51
Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the number at 3 1/2, and there's been no movement whatsoever.
Expert Opinion: - Jorge Gonzalez
“I think Alabama is a team with more talent and speed than Colorado," Gonzalez said. "But Saban's kids seemed to quit down the stretch. That was just a terrible loss to Louisiana-Monroe at home. Are you kidding me?
"Colorado had nice wins over Texas Tech and Oklahoma, so you know this team can play with the big boys when QB Cody Hawkins doesn't make mistakes," Gonzalez added.
Re: Independence Bowl
Alabama (6-6) vs. Colorado (6-6)
GAME NOTES: The Alabama Crimson Tide of the SEC and the Colorado Buffaloes of the Big 12 will do battle in the Independence Bowl on December 30th in Shreveport, Louisiana. Alabama owns a 6-6 record under first-year head coach Nick Saban, including a 4-4 mark in league games. The Crimson Tide opened the season with three straight wins and were 6-2 at one point, but four straight losses down the stretch, all by seven or fewer points, prevented the program from contending for the SEC title or a at least a more prestigious bowl berth. Still, Alabama is making its NCAA-record 55th bowl appearance, and considering that the Independence Bowl is the only game that will take place on December 30th, a national television audience will be watching. The Tide is set to play in its fourth consecutive bowl game, and it is no stranger to the Independence Bowl, as the squad lost to Oklahoma State by a 34-31 final in this game a year ago. It is ironic to note that Alabama is set to face a Big 12 team in a bowl game for the third consecutive season. As for Colorado, it also owns a 6-6 overall record that includes a 4-4 mark against Big 12 competition. The one word that can best describe the Buffaloes is inconsistent, as the team shocked the nation by beating Oklahoma but also lost to Missouri by 45 points. Keep in mind that Missouri lost to Oklahoma twice this season. Colorado has never participated in the Independence Bowl, and the team is 12-15 all-time in bowl games. Three of the last four appearances have resulted in defeat, including a 19-10 setback in the 2005 Champs Sports Bowl, the program's most recent bowl game. Colorado and Alabama have met on two previous occasions, both of which were bowl games. The Buffs beat the Tide in the 1969 Liberty Bowl, and 'Bama returned the favor with a victory in the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl.
Alabama is a mediocre offensive team that is scoring 26.8 ppg while gaining 372.6 total ypg. The Tide is posting 4.0 ypc on the ground and 10.9 yards per pass completion, numbers that can also be considered average. The man calling the signals for Alabama is quarterback John Parker Wilson, who has completed 54.9 percent of his passes for 2,590 yards and 15 touchdowns against 11 interceptions. Wilson has also run for five scores despite the fact that he isn't much of a threat on the ground. Clearly, the most dangerous receiver on the roster is DJ Hall, as the speedster has made 63 catches for 947 yards and six touchdowns. A threat to go the distance on every touch, Hall will likely see two defenders focused on him in this bowl game. The Alabama ground attack is spearheaded by Terry Grant, who has rushed for 891 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 4.9 ypc this season.
Opponents are posting 21.8 ppg and 341.2 total ypg against Alabama, as the team's defense has been solid in most games this year. In fact, only twice did the Tide surrender more than 26 points in a game, and those two shaky performances came against LSU and Arkansas, two of the better offensive teams in the nation. Stopping the run has been an area of strength for Alabama, as it is yielding just 3.5 yards per carry. The pass defense hasn't been as impressive, however, as the club has permitted 12.3 yards per completion and 17 touchdowns through the air. On a positive note, the Tide has come up with 17 interceptions. Opponents are making good on nearly 40 percent of their third down conversion attempts against Alabama, a stat that could stand some improvement. Rashad Johnson is the top tackler for the Tide with 81 total stops, but he has registered six interceptions as well. Wallace Gilberry has been one of the top defensive linemen in the nation, as he has recorded 22 TFLs, nine of which have been sacks.
Cody Hawkins has taken almost every snap for Colorado this season, and the signal caller finished with 424 pass attempts in 12 games, an average of over 35 attempts per contest. Hawkins has completed a modest 56.4 percent of his throws for 2,693 yards with 19 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. While he has also run for three touchdowns, Hawkins finished the campaign with negative rushing yards, proof that he isn't much of a threat on the ground. Colorado leaves the rushing duties to tailback Hugh Charles, who has posted 989 yards and eight touchdowns while averaging 5.3 yards per carry. As for the receivers, Scotty McKnight is tops with 43 catches and 488 yards, while Tyson DeVree checks in with six receiving touchdowns. Colorado, which is averaging 377.0 total ypg, has scored fewer points in the fourth quarter than in any of the other three frames.
The Colorado defense has been strong at times this season, as the team shut out Miami-Ohio and limited Florida State to just 16 points. Perhaps most impressive was an October 20th game against Kansas when the Buffs held the explosive Jayhawks to 19 points. Unfortunately, the defensive unit also looked helpless at times, as Colorado yielded 47 points to mediocre Kansas State, 55 points to Missouri and 51 points to Nebraska. Without question, the best defensive player on the team is Jordon Dizon, who is made 160 total tackles, including 11 TFLs. A Butkus Award finalist and the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year, Dizon has almost twice as many tackles as any other player on his team. The Buffaloes are allowing 389.4 total ypg, and they have been better against the run than the pass.
Colorado and Alabama have the same overall and league records, and they appear to be evenly matched. Expect this game to be close from start to finish, and give a narrow edge to the Tide.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Alabama 27, Colorado 24
Re: Independence Bowl
INDEPENDENCE BOWL (at Shreveport, La.)
Colorado (6-6 SU and ATS) vs. Alabama (6-6, 2-8-1 ATS)
In a battle of teams whose records define mediocrity, Colorado heads south to take on the Crimson Tide in the only bowl game matching a pair of 6-6 teams.
Colorado comes into the contest on a positive note, at least offensively, having rung up a 65-51 victory over Nebraska as a three-point home chalk on Nov. 23 to cap the regular season. The Buffaloes, who went 2-10 in 2006, actually lost the yardage battle to Nebraska, 610-518, but they forced three INTs and recovered three fumbles to win the turnover battle, 6-0. The Buffs halted an 0-2 SU and ATS skid with the victory.
Alabama finished coach Nick Saban’s first regular season on an 0-4 SU and ATS slide, including a 17-10 loss at archrival Auburn as a six-point underdog on Nov. 24 – a week after tumbling to unheralded Louisiana-Monroe 21-14 as a 24-point home chalk. Against Auburn, the Tide finished with just 225 total yards and three turnovers.
The Buffaloes are making their 28th bowl appearance, most recently losing to Clemson 19-10 in the 2005 Champ Sports Bowl as a 10½-point chalk. They are on a 7-3 SU and 8-2 ATS run in bowl games, while second-year coach Dan Hawkins is 2-2 SU and ATS in bowls, all with Boise State.
The Crimson Tide are making an NCAA record 55th bowl appearance and their fourth consecutive postseason trip. This is their second straight appearance in the Independence Bowl following last year’s 34-31 loss to Oklahoma State as a two-point underdog. That dropped the Tide to 1-5 ATS in their last six bowl games, and Saban is just 3-5 ATS in the postseason in previous stops at LSU and Michigan State.
Colorado faced six bowl-caliber teams this season, going 2-4 SU and ATS while being outscored by an average of 29-17 and outgained 346-294. However, one of the wins was a 27-24 stunner of then-No. 3 Oklahoma back in September.
Alabama faced nine bowl-caliber teams this season, going 3-6 SU and 1-7-1 ATS. But the Tide were only outscored by an average of 25-24 and outgained 355-350.
The Buffs are 4-10 ATS (including bowls) as a road pup and are on further negative ATS slumps of 2-9 following a spread-cover, 2-8 catching points, 2-6 following a SU win and 2-5 in December.
Alabama finished the season on a 1-7-1 ATS slide and is 3-9-2 ATS in its last 14 on the board. Furthermore, the Crimson Tide are stuck in spread funks of 6-17 as a favorite (0-5 in the last five), 0-7 following a SU loss and 1-8 after a non-cover. On a positive note, they’re 4-1 ATS in their last five against the Big 12.
The Buffs averaged 377 yards on offense this season (226.4 passing, 150.6 rushing), but they allowed an average of 389.4, including 261.8 passing (103rd in the nation). Colorado averaged 27.6 points per game but allowed 29.4. QB Cody Hawkins, a redshirt freshman and son of the head coach, finished the season with a 56.1 completion percentage for 2,686 yards, 19 TDs and 15 INTs. RB Hugh Charles had 1,002 rushing yards (5.4 per carry) and eight TDs.
The Crimson Tide averaged 372.6 yards on offense (221.9 passing, 150.7 rushing), while allowing 341.3 (212.9 passing, 128.4 rushing). They averaged 26.8 points and allowed 21.8. QB John Parker Wilson completed 54.9 percent of his throws for 2,590 yards, 15 TDs and10 INTs. RB Terry Grant rushed for 891 yards (4.95 per carry) and eight TDs.
The under is 9-1 in Colorado’s last 10 non-conference games and 11-4 in the Buffs’ last 15 as a pup. Also, for Alabama, the under is on runs of 5-0 after a SU loss, 4-1 outside the SEC and 27-13 as a chalk.
ATS ADVANTAGE: ALABAMA and UNDER
Re: Independence Bowl
Betting disaster Alabama favored in Sunday’s sole bowl game
It’s unfair that with so many good bowl games crammed into New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day that the PetroSun Independence Bowl gets the Dec. 30 spotlight to itself.
The Colorado Buffaloes and Alabama Crimson Tide hook up for Sunday’s only bowl game. The 8 p.m. kickoff at Independence Stadium means the only NFL competition on TV is Tennessee-Indianapolis. With the Colts willing to send out a Pop Warner squad in a game that means nothing to them, football fans might have little choice but to watch a pair of 6-6 fallen giants playing for pride in Shreveport, La.
I’ll happily eat my disgusted words if this year’s game repeats either of the last two Independence Bowls. Both of those games entertained. Oklahoma State toppled the Tide 34-31 last year and Missouri edged South Carolina 38-31 the year before.
But neither the Buffs nor the Tide inspire much confidence.
Alabama opened as a 3 ½-point favorite, a number that hasn’t wavered since early December. But it is Alabama that’s drawn the harsher criticism of the two schools after ending the season on a four-game losing streak, including a home upset to Louisiana-Monroe of the Sun Belt Conference. The Tide had been 24-point favorites in that game, but the lost payday was hardly news to regular Bama backers. Nick Saban’s squad ended the season on a 1-9 against the spread (ATS) run.
Saban, the high-priced supposed savior of Alabama football, was powerless as the Tide lost six of their final nine games of the season. Bama wrapped up the sorry campaign with its sixth consecutive Iron Bowl loss to Auburn.
It’s fair to say, then, that of the 64 bowl teams across the nation, none produced less down the stretch than the Tide. But Colorado challenges for a runner-up spot in the sweepstakes of bowl-bound crappiness.
The Buffaloes dropped four of their final six games, three times allowing more than 45 points. Colorado was an equally bad bet down the stretch, going 2-4 ATS in the second half of the season.
On the bright side, the Buffs twice proved this season that they’re capable of upsets. They shocked Oklahoma in Week 5 as a 23-point home underdog. They then knocked off Texas Tech as a 13 ½-point road dog in Week 9. The fact that Colorado followed the win over Texas Tech with a 45-point home loss, however, underlines the Buffaloes’ inconsistency this season.
So neither school comes to Shreveport with momentum. How do we approach the Independence Bowl from a betting standpoint?
Personally, I’m looking for the biggest mismatch between the schools and using that as a starting point. And I really like Alabama’s 3-4 defense against Colorado’s offense.
The Tide staggered after their opening three-game winning streak but their defense was hardly to blame. Alabama’s ‘D’ was downright stingy in SEC play and held each of its final three opponents under 300 total yards of offense.
There are playmakers at every level of the defense, from defensive end Wallace Gilberry through safety Rashad Johnson. More importantly, the Tide have Saban on the sideline.
The highly-touted coach made his name with his perspective on defense. Saban has egg on his face after his shoddy debut season in Tuscaloosa and bettors can count on a solid defensive game plan if Saban wants to keep those hefty paychecks coming. The Buffaloes fared poorly against Kansas State, their only other opponent this year to primarily use a 3-4 defense. Saban will make sure the Tide defense exploits every advantage against an unremarkable Colorado offense.
Alabama has always had the offensive talent to put up points. The wild card is quarterback John Parker Wilson, whose turnovers played a major part in the Tide’s late-season collapse.
But Colorado is unlikely to pressure Wilson like many of his SEC opponents did late in the season. The Buffaloes recorded only 19 sacks this season and George Hypolite, who led the team with six, will play while nursing a sore hamstring.
Cornerback Terrence Wheatley is the Buffaloes’ top NFL prospect and easily paced Colorado with five interceptions. He’ll be in tough, however, against D.J. Hall, who should put up a second consecutive 1,000-yard receiving season. Wheatley took on a trio of 1,000-yard receivers in Big 12 play this year and had his best day against K-State’s Jordy Nelson, who still managed 93 yards in a 47-20 Wildcats win.
So that’s what I’m reduced to – siding with an Alabama team that tied with Kent State as the worst bet in college football this season. But desperate times call for desperate measures. With no other games fighting for my attention, Sunday night is a desperate time indeed.
Re: Independence Bowl
Colorado vs. Alabama in Independence Bowl
* Who: Colorado (6-6, third in Big 12 North) vs. Alabama (6-6, fifth in SEC West).
* Where, when: at Shreveport, La., 5 p.m. PST, ESPN.
* Story line: Alabama is in the Independence Bowl for the second consecutive year, the result of another second-half slide. The Crimson Tide has lost its last four games and has averaged only 12 points a game in the last three. Last year, losing four of his last five and then losing this bowl cost coach Mike Shula his job. Colorado is rebuilding and has been inconsistent. The Buffaloes have victories over Oklahoma and Texas Tech but lost to Iowa State. They rank 101st in the nation in pass defense at 261.8 yards a game and were last in the Big 12 Conference in third-down conversion percentage.
* Key players: Hugh Charles (RB, Colorado, Sr.), Jordon Dizon (LB, Colorado, Sr.), DJ Hall (WR, Alabama, Sr.), Wallace Gilberry (DL, Alabama, Sr.), John Parker Wilson (QB, Alabama, Jr.).
Re: Independence Bowl
Buffaloes look to stem Crimson Tide
The Independence Bowl will take place at Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana this Sunday, pitting the Colorado Buffaloes (6-6) against the Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6) who had a disappointing first season under head coach Nick Saban.
The Buffaloes lost two of their last three games to finish third in the Big 12 North, but that single win was a 65-51 shootout victory at home over Nebraska in the season finale. Quarterback Cody Hawkins and running back Hugh Charles lead an offense that was 72nd in the nation in total offense, as the Buffaloes managed to put up 27.6 points per game. Colorado was a bit better on the defensive side of the ball, coming in 32nd against the run. But they had some problems stopping some teams that like to go the aerial route, as the Buffaloes were 102nd in pass defense.
The Crimson Tide ranked fifth in the SEC West, as they dropped their final four games of the regular-season schedule. Quarterback John Parker Wilson heads an offense that was 75th in the country. But it was on defense that the Crimson Tide really shone, as they were tied for 28th in total defense with Rashad Johnson leading an impressive secondary. All six of Alabama’s losses this season came by a margin of eight points or less, so the Crimson Tide are a competitive team especially coming out of the tough SEC. But an inability to close out games hurt Alabama during the season.
The Crimson Tide are listed as 3.5-point favorites in this contest, as they boast a significant edge on defense over the Buffaloes. Also, with the Independence Bowl being played in Louisiana, Alabama fans have far less of a distance to travel than Colorado fans, so the Crimson Tide should have a significant home-field advantage over the Buffaloes. This would be a great day for Wilson and Saban to open up the aerial attack for Alabama.
This will make the first time that these two storied schools have ever met in gridiron action.
Alabama: -3.5 (O/U 51.5)
Re: Independence Bowl
Colorado to face Alabama on Sunday in Independence Bowl
December 29, 2007
SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) -- Colorado is glad to be at the Independence Bowl, or in any postseason game, after winning its final game to become bowl-eligible. Alabama couldn't be faulted for dreaming of much brighter lights until dropping its last four games of the season.
"We were 6-2. We felt like we could accomplish something special," said Alabama wide receiver DJ Hall, whose team is making its second consecutive Independence Bowl appearance. "Things didn't turn out the way we wanted, but everything happens for a reason so we ended up in Shreveport and we're going to make the best of it."
Both teams enter Sunday's game at 6-6. When the contest ends, either the Buffaloes will have consecutive losing seasons for the first time in 22 years or the Tide will have suffered the same fate for the first time since 1957.
"You definitely have some watershed moments. Whoever wins this game has a winning record. That would mean something and it gives you momentum going into the offseason," Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said.
Alabama coach Nick Saban, completing his first year at Tuscaloosa after two years with the Miami Dolphins, said Sunday's game will be a defining moment for each of his players -- though each would have to search themselves for the reason why.
Seniors are adding to an Alabama legacy that boasts 21 Southeastern Conference championships but none since 1999; underclassmen are working to rebuild the storied program.
"Everybody has a different reason for this being a really important game. Nobody benefits unless they play real well," Saban said.
Alabama's offense must find the form that led it to an average of 35 points per game in the first nine games of the season. Over the last three games, which included a loss to Louisiana-Monroe, the Tide averaged 12 points.
"It's certainly going to be a challenge for us to get back on track offensively against their defense and make the kinds of plays and score the kinds of points we did in the first six, seven, eight, nine games of the season," Saban said.
"We certainly practiced ... with a lot more confidence, a lot more swagger" since arriving in Shreveport last week, said Saban, who brought a Michigan State team to the Independence Bowl in 1995 and lost to LSU.
Colorado rebounded from a 2-10 record in 2006 and beat Nebraska to become eligible for a bowl game but doesn't look at reaching the Independence Bowl as a victory in itself.
"It's not really whether you're the favorite or the underdog. I think a person always has to go out and sing their song and do their dance and play their music and do it to the best of their ability," Hawkins said. "I think that's what we always try to get our guys to focus on.
"It's about whether you can maximize yourself every single day. Can you get out of bed and go out and be your best?"
In Colorado's six victories, it averaged 40 points a game and had just six turnovers. In its six losses, it scored 15 points and 17 turnovers. Last year's team had only 16 turnovers but averaged only 16 points.
"For this team to go through what they went through last year and now doing this, it's amazing. It's amazing how fast we're growing and how fast we're progressing," Colorado All-America linebacker Jordon Dizon said.
Offensive tackle Tyler Polumbus said 2007 has been a remarkable year in comparison.
"It's been a real special year to see everyone come together and overcome last year's woes," Polumbus said.
Each team enters the game averaging 150 yards per game rushing and just over 220 yards passing. Hall needs three catches to break the Crimson Tide's season reception record, but Dizon said the Buffaloes' goal is to stop the run first.
Saban said the game will likely come down to big plays and turnovers.
"For them to put 65 points on Nebraska in the last game and have a tremendous win over Oklahoma and Texas Tech on the road, ... it's going to be a real challenge for us to effectively stop their offensive team which has scored a lot of points in some games," he said.
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