Attack of the bowls

Attack of the bowls

Attack of the bowls

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The end of 2007 is just around the corner, which means the prime bowl matchups will be here before we know it. Six games on New Year's Eve and a half-dozen more the following day highlight the closing of one year and the beginning of the next. When preparing for the onslaught of betting opportunities, one must attack the situation by concentrating on the games that present the highest likelihood of winning.

It's very easy getting caught up in the excitement of having action on every contest, but that's not the smartest way of increasing the bankroll. There are a few contests that bettors should just sit back and watch rather than trying to pick the right side, and I will express the reasons why in the coming paragraphs.

The Music City Bowl is the best example, primarily since some sportsbooks might not even have a line on this game. Florida State has been all over the news the past couple of weeks for all the wrong reasons. The Seminoles head to Nashville with half of their squad back home in Tallahassee due to an academic cheating scandal.

Another case in point is the Sun Bowl. The Oregon Ducks are still without their MVP quarterback, Dennis Dixon, and will most likely look to fourth- string QB Justin Roper to lead them vs. South Florida. It was Roper who engineered three TD drives in the double overtime loss to Oregon State, but he's a far cry from Dixon.

Oregon would have been a shoo-in for the BCS Championship if Dixon hadn't been hurt, but it's hard to look past the recent three-game losing streak. The Ducks could get blown away by South Florida, but then again, the Bulls might be too overconfident knowing they'll be facing a team without its leader. With that in mind, it's hard to be certain how this one will end up, particularly when giving a touchdown if one were to side with South Florida.

Perhaps the least favorable contest to wager on comes on New Year's Day, as Missouri and Arkansas do battle in the Cotton Bowl. Arkansas was embroiled in a huge coaching mess as Houston Nutt left to go to Ole Miss earlier in the month and former Louisville head man Bobby Petrino resigned from his post with the Falcons to take over the position.

It's true the Razorbacks ended the regular season as one of the hotter teams in the country, winning five of their last six including a "W" over LSU, but will the coaching change be too much of a distraction?

On the other side, the Tigers have to be steamed playing in the Cotton Bowl instead of a BCS bowl game, especially after the team they beat to win the Big 12's North Division (Kansas) ended up in the Orange Bowl.

With both scenarios front and center, it would be wise to just watch the talents of Darren McFadden and Chase Daniel rather than placing hard-earned money in jeopardy.


At first glance, the Armed Forces Bowl looks to be another one that fits the mold of a non-wager game. California has lost six of its last seven games and most gamblers are taking heed of that fact and siding with Air Force. Cal opened as a 5.5-point favorite, but a lot of folks have been packing onto the Falcons bandwagon of late, which has dropped the line two full points.

Who would have thought at the beginning of the season that the Golden Bears would face Air Force in a bowl game and be favored by a shade over a field goal? If this game took place in early September at a neutral site, Jeff Tedford's club would have been giving over two touchdowns. Oh how the mighty have fallen.

Air Force is looking for its fourth consecutive victory, something the team from Colorado Springs hasn't seen since 2003. First year head coach Troy Calhoun also has his club in its first bowl game in five years.

Those wagering on the Falcons are doing so with the feeling that California has no interest in this game. Why would the Bears care about the Armed Forces Bowl when they had their sights on the Rose Bowl or the BCS Championship game after defeating Oregon back on September 29?

After all, Air Force has all the momentum, but if one closely inspects the Falcons schedule, they'll spot an interesting little nugget. Despite a 6-1 record in the last seven games, the combined record of the six teams Air Force has defeated is 16-52.

The Falcons do have wins over Utah and TCU from back in September. However, the Utes played without their starting quarterback and running back, while the Horned Frogs missed two field goals, turned the ball over twice in the red zone, and still led by 14 early in the fourth quarter.

There's no getting around how dreadful California has played since beating the Ducks at the end of September. No one could have expected the Golden Bears to lose six of their last seven, but at least the losses came to teams with a combined regular season mark of 40-31. The Bears would also like to finish above the .500 mark, and a win over Air Force would give them a 7-6 record.

Go with California minus the points.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl presents another opportunity, as Clemson is a slight 2.5- point favorite over Auburn. Both clubs have had very good seasons and are fairly evenly matched. However, the Auburn Tigers have had fantastic bowl success of late winning four of their last five, as well as defeating Clemson 21-17 in this game back in 1997.

On the other hand, the Clemson Tigers are 3-7 in their last 10 bowl games, including a 1-4 mark in their last five vs. SEC teams. They also needed a last-second field goal to get the victory over another Southeastern Conference club (South Carolina) in their last regular season game.

Auburn has lost just twice since the middle of September, and the setbacks came against two of the top four teams in the land - LSU and Georgia. In addition, the recent hire of Troy offensive coordinator Tony Franklin will help out an offense that averaged only 328 yards per game, good for 101st in the country.

Take Auburn plus the points.

New Year's Day presents two more plays in the Outback and Rose Bowls. Wisconsin and Tennessee hook up down in Tampa, where Penn State defeated the Volunteers, 20-10, in last year's Outback matchup. It was the Vols' fifth loss in their last seven bowl games, and they have also dropped two in a row as a favorite.

Tennessee is a slight favorite in this one over Wisconsin, a team that has won nine of its last 12 postseason contests. Going from Barry Alvarez to Bret Bielema didn't prevent the Badgers from picking up another "W" they held off Arkansas, 17-14, in last season's Capital One Bowl.

This year didn't go quite as planned for Wisconsin, but the club still won four of its last five, averaging 34 points per game in the process. Even if P.J. Hill doesn't suit up, the Badgers will be able to eat up chunks of yards against a Tennessee defense that allowed a whopping 28 points per game, the most in Knoxville in well over a decade.

For the Volunteers to win, Erik Ainge has to have the game of his life, which will be difficult since Wisconsin's defensive strength is against the pass. The Badgers finished third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Michigan allowing 211 yards per game.

Take the Badgers to get the outright win.

USC was expected to be in the BCS Championship before the season begun, as the Trojans were the heavy 5-2 choice to reach the title game. They ended up losing two games, one to Oregon and the other to Stanford as a 40-point favorite in the biggest shocker of the season.

Southern Cal's defense, though, was spectacular all season long, allowing only 79 rushing yards per game, good for fourth best in the country. Nonetheless, the Trojans had enormous trouble with Oregon, a team that runs a similar offense to Ron Zook's Illinois squad. In addition, USC also had some difficulty with the Washington Huskies, defeating them by only three points. The Trojans' two toughest games, besides the one to the Cardinal, came against the aforementioned Ducks and Huskies, who just happened to finish one-two in the Pac-10 in rushing, an area where Illinois excels.

The Fighting Illini were one of college football's biggest surprises going from two wins in '06 to 9-3 this year with a spot in the Rose Bowl. Knowledgeable football fans knew this team was headed for an above .500 season, but not too many would have expected a Rose Bowl berth.

The spread offense will definitely give USC problems, and the defense, which gave up over 22 points just twice since September 1, will be able to keep the Trojans from reaching paydirt on a consistent basis.

Take the Illini to cover the highly inflated spread.

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