Monday Bowl Games

Monday Bowl Games

Total six-pack: Picking the New Year’s Eve over-under
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Though Monday’s sextet of bowl games doesn’t pack the punch of the Jan. 1 lineup, it’s still a full day’s worth of games.

A quick rundown of the six New Year’s Eve games from a total’s point of view, appears below.

Air Force vs. California (54½ points)

The California Golden Bears maxed out at 23 points in the second half of the season, and their paltry outputs weren’t solely against Pac-10 powerhouses. The Bears averaged just 18.7 points against the Pac-10’s three sub-.500 schools during that run.

The Air Force Falcons played five bowl-bound teams this season and eclipsed the 20-point mark just once.

California quarterback Nate Longshore and receiver DeSean Jackson will suit up despite injuries.  Longshore is still bothered by a chipped bone in his ankle, while Jackson was nearly invisible in the Bears’ offense late in the season.

Pick: Under 54½

Fresno State vs. Georgia Tech (54 points)

New Year’s Eve in Boise won’t be snowy, but it won’t be warm, either. The temperature is expected to reach a high of 30 degrees. Given that both the Fresno State Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets are run-dominant teams, even in warm weather, don’t expect Monday’s battle to become an aerial battle.

The key to betting the total here is the run defense. Fresno State started the season by allowing bundles of ground yardage, but settled down as the season progressed. Georgia Tech’s defense, under the tutelage of blitz-master Jon Tenuta, practically lives in opposing backfields.

Pick: Under 54

Oregon vs. South Florida (52½ points)

The South Florida Bulls didn’t bother with kicking drills at one mid-week practice as the El Paso wind topped 40 mph and dropped the temperature below freezing. However, the weather for Monday’s Sun Bowl will be much milder, both in terms of temperature and wind.

USF played under the total just once in its eight outings. The school’s four November games had an average total of 69.8 points.

Oregon’s offense has been crippled without Dennis Dixon at quarterback. However, South Florida proved its defense can allow a bundle of points to teams with sub-par quarterbacks during its season finale at Pittsburgh.

Pick: Over 52½

Florida State vs. Kentucky (58 points)

The Florida State Seminoles suspended 36 players for Monday’s game against the Kentucky Wildcats. The defense was the hardest hit and that’s not a good thing with Kentucky’s Andre Woodson lining up under center.  Keenan Burton, Kentucky’s top wide receiver, has been upgraded to questionable.

Three things concern me about betting the over in the Music City Bowl.  Kentucky scored less than 25 points per game (excluding overtime points) during its final seven games.  FSU hasn’t scored 30 points since early September. The 10-to-15 mph winds that are forecast might be just enough to disrupt the kicking game.

Pick: Under 58

Indiana vs. Oklahoma State (69 points)

Both the Indiana Hoosiers and Oklahoma State Cowboys were more likely to play under the total this year than over. That was especially the case late in the season when Indiana closed out its campaign with four consecutive under games and Oklahoma State ended with a pair of its own.

Both schools take pride in their offensive firepower and, to be blunt, don’t have the defenses to match up.

The last two Insight Bowls were both 85-point affairs that played comfortably above totals set in the 60s. It’s tough to call for a 70-point game, but the circumstances at Sun Devil Stadium are enough for me to do so.

Pick: Over 69

Auburn vs. Clemson (46½ points)


Last year’s matchup in the Georgia Dome between Georgia and Virginia Tech was given the lowest total of the entire bowl season at 37½ points. The 31-24 final score made a mockery of that number.

The Auburn Tigers and Clemson Tigers both have enough speed to turn the final game of 2007 into a track meet on the turf in Atlanta. Auburn’s anemic offense will be helped by Clemson’s defensive suspensions. Clemson doesn’t need much help putting points on the board, though I admit I might be suffering flashbacks to the ACC Tigers’ 70-14 win over Central Michigan in mid-October.

Pick: Over 46½

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College cram session: New Year’s Eve bowl games
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It’s finally here!  The part of bowl season we all love the most. There are too many games for a single TV to handle, and your betting account is busier than a New Year’s Eve nightclub. 

There are a half-dozen bowl games scheduled on Dec. 31. That’s the most one-day college football action we’ve seen since the first weekend of December. So, some last-minute betting notes to reacquaint you with the teams taking the field appear below

Air Force vs. California

Teams can’t win without talent, and the California Golden Bears bring a lot of that to this year’s Armed Forces Bowl. But the Air Force Falcons prove that stamina and desire might be superior qualities for bettors to consider.

The Bears went 1-6 straight-up (SU) and 0-7 against the spread (ATS) in their final seven games. Air Force went 6-1 SU and 7-0 ATS over the same stretch, despite obvious recruiting challenges.

The Falcons are in shape and proud of their conditioning regimen. They also attribute their physical fitness and overall toughness to their success in the second half of games. They have outscored opponents 185-104 after the intermission this year.

“That fourth quarter is a time when our toughness comes out a little bit,” receivers coach Mike Thiessen told the Colorado Springs Gazette. “There’s no measurement for that. There’s not a height, a weight, a size, a bench press, nothing that measures what’s inside that gut.

“If we can get into that second and third quarter and start to get into a rhythm and get to that fourth quarter and it is close, I’ll take us against a lot of teams in the country.”

Fresno State vs. Georgia Tech

The Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho could be the site of a WAC payday at the expense of an ACC school for a second straight year.

Monday marks Georgia Tech’s only game under Jon Tenuta as head coach. It would be one thing if the Tech head coaching position was still open and the popular defensive coordinator was a candidate for the job. Since former Navy man Paul Johnson was hired to replace Chan Gailey, however, Tenuta becomes the very definition of a lame-duck coach.

In fact, he could be headed to LSU to join Les Miles shortly after the Jackets face the Fresno State Bulldogs.

One can compare Georgia Tech’s situation to last year’s Miami Hurricanes team that also voyaged to Boise with a lame-duck head coach. Though Miami beat the Nevada Wolf Pack, it failed to cover the spread.

Fresno State, renowned as a giant-killer, brings a far more positive attitude to Boise than Tech.  A headline in Friday’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution read: “Humanitarian Bowl humiliating for Jackets.”

Those are the words of a columnist, not a player. However, it’s hard to avoid the suspicion that Georgia Tech isn’t thrilled to be in Idaho.

Oregon vs. South Florida

The Oregon Ducks are staying quiet about which redshirt freshman quarterback - Justin Roper or Cody Kempt - will take more snaps during Monday afternoon’s Sun Bowl in El Paso. One thing the Ducks can’t keep secret is that running back Jonathan Stewart is going to be busy.

Oregon’s offense was woeful after quarterback Dennis Dixon injured his knee late in the season. The Ducks posted 31 points in their season-ending loss to Oregon State only because Stewart took on the heaviest workload of his career by running for 163 yards on 39 carries. Stewart might have to post similar numbers for the Ducks to topple the favored South Florida Bulls.

USF has had mixed results against elite running backs. The Bulls were the only team to hold Central Florida’s Kevin Smith under 100 rushing yards this year.  They also limited West Virginia’s Steve Slaton to 55 yards on 13 carries. But Ray Rice racked up 181 yards on 39 carries when Rutgers upset USF in Week 8.

Florida State vs. Kentucky

Not much to report from the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn. What’s that? The Florida State Seminoles suspended 36 players for this game? How’d I miss that?

The Kentucky Wildcats know all about the FSU suspensions. Now the Kentucky coaches are reiterating to the players that Monday’s game is far from a foregone conclusion, no matter how little depth the Seminoles have on the sideline.

But the Wildcats might have a hard time getting motivated to repeat last year’s Music City Bowl success. That trip to Nashville was Kentucky’s first of the decade. Head coach Rich Brooks had his team excited about making a rare postseason appearance. This year’s Wildcats tumbled from a top-10 perch in the polls to end up in the exact same bowl.

The novelty is gone for Kentucky, as is its underdog status. The Wildcats were 11 ½-point underdogs to Clemson last year and walked away with an 8-point win. Thanks to the Florida State suspensions, Kentucky assumes the role of heavy favorite.

Indiana vs. Oklahoma State

The Oklahoma State Cowboys arrive at their reputation as an offensive juggernaut honestly. They averaged 33.4 points per game this year and 35.2 in 2006. However, the Cowboys’ offense could look a little different at Monday’s Insight Bowl against the Indiana Hoosiers.

Former offensive coordinator Larry Fedora, who was hired as Southern Mississippi’s head coach, is already in Hattiesburg compiling a coaching staff. Fedora was the play-caller in OSU’s no-huddle attack. Head coach Mike Gundy admits that play-calling on Monday will be a group effort, not a one-man job.

"I'm not trying to tell you we're going to make group play calls,” Gundy told reporters earlier this month. “I'm just trying to tell you we're not sure yet exactly how we're going to do it. Until mid-December, nobody has been in the room together. We've all been recruiting. We're just now getting in there and trying to figure out what we want to do."

One advantage the Cowboys will now have is the return of receiver Adarius Bowman, who missed the last two games. The preseason All-American will suit up Monday, looking for his 20th receiving touchdown in just his 24th game.

Auburn vs. Clemson

As is the case with many postseason games, academic suspensions will play a factor in the Chick-fil-A Bowl. The ACC’s Clemson Tigers have been much harder hit than the Auburn Tigers, their SEC namesakes.

Clemson lost starting linebackers Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie, as well as starting offensive tackle Christian Capote. Watkins and Billie ranked first and third, respectively, in tackles. Their absence increased the load on fellow linebacker Cortney Vincent, who was fifth in tackles. But Vincent’s DUI arrest on Dec. 9 leaves his status up in the air.

Clemson head coach Tommy Bowden said on Friday that Vincent’s status for the Chick-fil-A Bowl hasn’t been determined. But, he’s been practicing with the first-team defense all along.

Auburn’s offense needs all the help it can muster. The SEC Tigers didn’t score 25 points against a single Football Bowl Subdivision opponent in the second half.

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Today's bowl games

A look at the matchups in the Armed Forces, Sun, Humanitarian, Music City, Insight and Chick-fil-A:


ARMED FORCES BOWL

* Who: California (6-6, tied seventh Pac-10) vs. Air Force (9-3, second Mountain West)

* Where, when: Fort Worth, 9:30 a.m., ESPN.

* Story line: California never seemed to recover from a loss to Oregon State that cost the Bears a chance at the No. 1 ranking. They lost six of their last seven games and, despite prolific offensive weapons, averaged only 19 points after the Oregon State loss, dragging the season average down to 28.3. Speedy slot back Chad Hall leads an Air Force option offense that was second in the nation in rushing with 298.5 yards a game. The Falcons' defense gives up more than 350 yards a game.

* Top players: Justin Forsett (RB, California, Sr.), Nate Longshore (QB, California, Jr.), Chad Hall (WR, Air Force, Sr.), Carson Bird (DB, Air Force, Sr.).


SUN BOWL

* Who: South Florida (9-3, tied third Big East) vs. Oregon (8-4, tied fourth Pac-10).

* Where, when: El Paso, 11 a.m., CBS.

* Story line: Both these teams were ranked No. 2 in the nation at some point this season before sliding out of the top 25. Oregon's slide coincided with the season-ending knee injury to quarterback Dennis Dixon. The Ducks lost three consecutive games to end the season and averaged only 18.3 points after averaging 42.7 in their first nine. South Florida had a three-game losing streak in the middle of the season. The Bulls rely on an opportunistic defense that forced a nation-leading 18 fumbles.

* Top players: George Selvie (DL, South Florida, So.), Matt Grothe (QB, South Florida, So.), Jonathan Stewart (RB, Oregon, Jr.), Nick Reed (DL, Oregon, Jr.).


HUMANITARIAN BOWL

* Who: Fresno State (8-4, third WAC) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5, third ACC Coastal).

* Where, when: Boise, Idaho, 11 a.m., ESPN2.

* Story line: Georgia Tech has a staunch defense that gives up only 310.3 yards a game and 100.2 on the ground, but the one-dimensional offense relies too much on the run game and ranks No. 102 in passing. Fresno State is the opposite, with an offense that's generating 406.9 yards a game, but a defense that gives up 409.8. The Bulldogs excel on special teams.

* Top players: Tashard Choice (RB, Georgia Tech, Sr.), Vance Walker (DL, Georgia Tech, Jr.), Ryan Mathews (RB, Fresno State, Fr.), Clifton Smith (PR, Fresno State, Sr.).


MUSIC CITY BOWL

* Who: Florida State (7-5, fourth ACC Coastal) vs. Kentucky (7-5, tied fourth SEC East).

* Where, when: Nashville, 1 p.m., ESPN.

* Story line: The Florida State cheating scandal has become the story of this game because the Seminoles will be short some 36 players after many of them were caught cheating in a class. That will leave the team without about 19 players who were expected to play in this game. The high-octane Wildcats average 438.6 yards and 36.7 points, so they have the ability to wear down the Seminoles. Kentucky enters on a slide, however, having lost four of five games since an upset over Louisiana State.

* Top players: Andre Woodson (QB, Kentucky, Sr.), Wesley Woodyard (LB, Kentucky, Sr.), Rafael Little (RB, Kentucky, Sr.), Drew Weatherford (QB, Florida State, Jr.).


INSIGHT BOWL

* Who: Indiana (7-5, tied seventh Big Ten) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6, tied third Big 12 South).

* Where, when: Tempe, Ariz., 3 p.m., NFL Network.

* Story line: Oklahoma State became known for Coach Mike Gundy's news conference tirade, and that overshadowed one of the nation's most explosive offenses. The Cowboys averaged 484.1 yards and those yards were equally balanced between running and passing. Their problems were on defense as they gave up 292.8 yards passing per game to rank 116th in the nation. Indiana, with a winning season for the first time in 12 years, is making a bowl appearance for the first time since 1993.

* Top players: Zac Robinson (QB, Oklahoma State, So.), Dantrell Savage (RB, Oklahoma State, Sr.), Adarius Bowman (WR, Oklahoma State, Sr.), Kellen Lewis (QB, Indiana, So.), James Hardy (WR, Indiana, Jr.).


CHICK-FIL-A BOWL

* Who: Clemson (9-3, tied second ACC Atlantic) vs. Auburn (8-4, second SEC West).

* Where, when: Atlanta, 4:30 p.m., ESPN.

* Story line: Clemson is giving up only 297.1 yards and 18.3 points to rank No. 6 and 10 nationally, respectively, though the unit will be missing starters Nick Watkins and Tramaine Billie, who are academically ineligible. Auburn is giving up 298.3 yards and 16.7 points to rank No. 8 and 6. But Auburn's offense is 101st in the nation with 327 yards a game and the team scored more than 30 points only three times. Clemson has a strong rushing attack that's helped produce 34.2 points a game.

* Top players: Tray Blackmon (LB, Auburn, So.), Chris Evans (LB, Auburn, Jr.), James Davis (RB, Clemson, Jr.), Cullen Harper, (QB, Clemson, Jr.).

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ARMED FORCES BOWL (at Fort Worth, Texas)

Air Force (9-3, 9-2 ATS) vs. California (6-6, 3-9 ATS)


The Falcons make their first bowl appearance since 2002 and face a California squad that lost six of its last seven after climbing to the No.2 spot in the nation early in the season.

Air Force won six of its last seven (7-0 ATS) and scored 30 points or more in six of those contests. In the regular-season finale, the Falcons destroyed San Diego State 55-23 as 13-point home favorites to grab sole possession of second place in the Mountain West Conference, complete their first winning season since 2003 and reach a bowl game in coach Troy Calhoun’s first year on the job.

Cal rose to No. 2 in the country after a 31-24 win at Oregon on Sept. 29, winning outright as a 6½-point underdog. But that’s where the celebrating ended for the Golden Bears, who would lose 31-28 to Oregon State as a 14-point home favorite the very next week, triggering a 1-6 SU and 0-7 ATS plunge. Cal closed the season with three straight defeats, hitting rock bottom in a 20-13 loss at Stanford as 13½-point favorites, the first loss to its crosstown rivals in six years.

Cal is making its fifth straight bowl appearance, going 3-1 SU and 2-2 ATS in the previous four, including a 45-10 rout of Texas A&M as a four-point favorite in last year’s Holiday Bowl.

Air Force’s triple-option ground attack racked up 298.5 yards rushing per game. RB Chad Hall was the MWC Offensive Player of the Year and led the Falcons in rushing (1,415) and receiving (488) yards while scoring 15 total TDs.

Cal QB Nate Longshore began the season red-hot, but suffered an ankle injury mid-season and cooled down the stretch, finishing with 2,530 yards passing, 16 TDs and 13 INTs. The Bears’ defense gave up 26 points a game this season, including 153.8 yards per game on the ground.

The Bears had a plus-11 turnover ratio during their 5-0 start, then lost the turnover battle in each of their final seven contests.

The last time these two faced each other was in 2004, when Cal walloped Air Force 56-14 as a 14-point road favorite.

The chalk is 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in the four previous Armed Forces Bowls.

The over was 5-2 in Air Force’s last seven games overall and is 13-6 the last 19 times the Falcons’ have been an underdog. Conversely, Cal stayed under the total in seven of its final 10 regular-season contests.

ATS ADVANTAGE: AIR FORCE


SUN BOWL (at El Paso, Texas)

Oregon (8-4 SU and ATS) vs. (23) South Florida (9-3, 7-4 ATS)


Two of several college football teams to implode the week after climbing to No. 2 in the national polls square off today as the Ducks take on South Florida in the Sun Bowl.

Both squads reached No. 2 in the rankings and then proceeded to go on three-game losing streaks. South Florida’s dream season ended in a 30-27 loss at Rutgers on Oct. 18 as a two-point road favorite, while Oregon’s national title hopes went down the tubes in a 34-24 setback at Arizona as a 10½-point road chalk on Nov. 15. The loss to Arizona was costly in more ways than one for Oregon, which saw starting QB and Heisman Trophy candidate Dennis Dixon go down with a season-ending ACL injury in the first half.

South Florida had scored upset wins over Auburn and West Virginia to reach No. 2 when the loss to Rutgers ignited a three-game losing skid. However, the Bulls pulled out of their tailspin to win and cover in their final three contests against Big East rivals Syracuse (41-10 as a 16½-point road favorite), Louisville (55-17 as a nine-point home chalk) and Pitt (48-37 as a nine-point road choice).

Following the upset loss at Arizona, Oregon stumbled at UCLA 16-0 as a two-point favorite, then closed the regular season with a 38-31 double-overtime home loss to Oregon State as a one-point chalk.

The Bulls are in a bowl game for the third time in the 10-year history of the program, with all three appearances coming in the last three years. USF scored its first postseason victory in last year’s Papajohns.com Bowl, beating East Carolina 24-7 as a five-point favorite.

Mike Bellotti’s Oregon squad is 4-6 SU (5-5 ATS) in postseason games. However, in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl, the Ducks showed no effort in a 38-8 loss to BYU as three-point underdogs.

Both teams have excelled in non-conference action lately, with South Florida going 22-11 ATS since 2001 and Oregon going 8-2 ATS since 2004.

The underdog is 10-2 ATS in the last 12 Sun Bowls, including seven outright upsets.

The Ducks averaged just 18.3 points a game in their final three contests after scoring at least 24 in their first nine games. They were averaging almost 500 yards of offense before Dixon’s injury and they are still 12th in the country at 462 yards per contest. Junior RB Jonathan Steward led the Pac-10 in rushing this season with 1,469 yards and scored 10 TDs.

Bulls’ sophomore QB Matt Grothe has thrown for 13 TDs and rushed for 10 more scores while racking up 2,400 yards passing and 832 yards rushing. On the downside, Grothe threw 12 INTs, including four in a loss to Cincinnati and two in a loss at Connecticut.

South Florida fields an athletic, opportunistic defense that allowed just 20.7 points and 327 yards per game, registered 30 sacks and led the nation with 40 forced turnovers.

The over is 8-2 in Oregon’s last 10 non-conference games and 6-1-1 in South Florida’s last eight overall. However, the Ducks closed the season on a 6-2 “under” streak.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OVER


HUMANITARIAN BOWL (at Boise, Idaho)

Fresno State (8-4, 6-5 ATS) vs. Georgia Tech (7-5, 4-6-1 ATS)


The Bulldogs, who came on strong the final two months of the season, meet a Georgia Tech squad that takes the field on the Smurf Turf without a head coach as these two clash in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Fresno State won seven of its final nine games (5-4 ATS), with the only two loses coming to Western Athletic Conference powers Boise State (34-21 as a 2½-point home underdog) and unbeaten Hawaii (37-30 as a 19½-point road ‘dog). The Bulldogs’ offense was the catalyst to the surge, scoring 21 points or more in eight of the final nine games.

Georgia Tech, which placed third in the ACC’s Coastal Division after winning the division title last year, went 5-5 SU in the final 10 games, but just 3-6-1 ATS, including 1-4 ATS down the stretch. In the season finale, the Yellow Jackets fell to archrival Georgia 31-17 as a four-point underdog. The disappointing season led to the firing of head coach Chan Gailey and the hiring of former Navy coach Paul Johnson. Johnson won’t coach this game, with that responsibility falling to defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta.

This is the Bulldogs’ eighth bowl appearance in nine seasons under head coach Pat Hill (3-4 SU, 4-3 ATS in the previous seven). Each of Fresno’s seven bowl games under Hill have been decided by single digits. Also, the Bulldogs are 2-0 SU and ATS against teams from the ACC in bowl games, including a 30-21 win over Georgia Tech in the 2002 Silicon Valley Classic, winning outright as 6 ½-point underdogs. Ironically, that contest was Gailey’s first bowl appearance.

Georgia Tech is one of only six schools to play a bowl game in each of the last 11 years, and the ‘Jackets are third all-time with a 62.9 winning percentage in postseason contests. Last year, All-American WR Calvin Johnson shined against West Virginia in the Gator Bowl, but Georgia Tech came up just short 38-35, covering easily as a 10-point underdog.

Fresno State is just 2-11 ATS in its last 13 against winning teams and 1-4 ATS when an underdog of 3½ to 10 points. However, Georgia Tech is just 1-5-1 ATS in its last seven as a chalk.

The favorite is on a 5-2 ATS roll in this bowl game.

Under Tenuta’s tutelage, Georgia Tech’s defense compiled 47½ sacks and 110½ tackles for losses, second in the country. That defense has also held seven of its 12 opponents to less than 100 yards on the ground.

The Bulldogs, third-place finishers in the WAC, do the bulk of their damage on the ground, averaging 204.7 rushing yards per game. Leading the way for Fresno State’s rushing attack was freshman RB Ryan Mathews, who finished with 866 yards and was the only true freshman in the country with more than 800 yards rushing.

Georgia Tech has its own ground threat in RB Tashard Choice, who led the ACC in rushing for the second straight year with 1,310 yards and 10 TDs and was key to the ‘Jackets averaging 204.1 rushing ypg.

The over is 10-4 in Fresno State’s last 14 games as an underdog, 6-2 in its last eight on artificial turf, 3-0 in the Georgia Tech’s final three games and 5-0 in Tech’s last five bowl contests.

ATS ADVANTAGE: FRESNO STATE


MUSIC CITY (at Nashville)

Florida State (7-5, 5-7 ATS) vs. Kentucky (7-5, 6-5 ATS)


The Seminoles come into the Music City Bowl in Nashville shorthanded following a rash of suspensions, while Kentucky returns to the Music City Bowl for the second straight year, hoping to repeat their performance from 2006.

Florida State suspended 25 scholarship players, 11 with starting experience, for their roles in an academic cheating scandal involving an Internet-based course. DB Patrick Robinson, sixth in the nation with six INTs, along with backup QB Xavier Lee, who lost the starting job in October to senior Drew Weatherford, are two of the bigger names involved in the scandal who will sit this game out.

The Seminoles, who finished fourth in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, lost two of their last three games, falling 45-12 at rival Florida as a 14-point underdog to close the regular season. It marked the third time this season that FSU was held to less than 19 points and the sixth time they scored 21 or fewer.

Kentucky opened the season with five straight wins (4-0 ATS), scoring at least 40 points in all five contests. However, it was pretty much downhill from there, as the Wildcats dropped five of their final seven SU and ATS, though one of the victories was a thrilling 43-37 triple-overtime upset of then-No. 1 LSU, winning as a 16-point home underdog.

Kentucky, which capped the season with consecutive losses to Georgia (24-13 on the road) and Tennessee (52-50 in overtime at home), gave up at least 24 points in each of its final seven games.

This bowl game has been dominated by the underdog, which has won seven of the last eight outright, including Kentucky’s 28-20 upset victory over Clemson as a 10½-point pup in last year’s Music City Bowl. This is just the fourth time in their history that the Wildcats have been to back-to-back bowl games.

The Seminoles are making a record 26th straight bowl appearance under coach Bobby Bowden (18-6-1 SU, 16-8-1 ATS). Last season Florida State upset UCLA 44-27 as 3½-point underdogs in the Emerald Bowl.

The Wildcats put up 36.7 points and 438.6 yards a game but give up a whopping 29.8 points and 390 yards per outing. Senior QB Andre Woodson was a Heisman hopeful early in the season and finished with a 63 percent completion rate, 3,351 passing yards, 36 TDs and 10 INTs.

While Florida State’s offense was wildly inconsistent, the defense was stout for the most part, surrendering just 21.9 points per game and holding the opposition to 121.1 yards on the ground, good for 22nd in the nation in rush defense.

The under is 3-1 in the Wildcats’ last four overall and 5-0 in Florida State’s last five against the SEC. However, the over is 4-1 in FSU’s last five neutral-site contests.

ATS ADVANTAGE: NONE


INSIGHT BOWL (at Tempe, Ariz.)

Indiana (7-5, 7-4 ATS) vs. Oklahoma State (6-6, 5-5-1 ATS)


The Hoosiers return to the postseason for the first time since 1993 and will face an Oklahoma State team in its fifth bowl game in six years when these two square off in the Insight Bowl.

Indiana coach Terry Hoeppner died of cancer in June and the players used it as motivation to end a streak of 12 straight losing seasons. The Hoosiers won two of their final three (2-1 ATS) to secure it postseason berth, including a 27-24 upset win over Purdue as a 1½-point underdog in the season finale. Indiana, which finished tied for seventh place in the Big Ten, was just 2-4 SU (3-3 ATS) in their final six games, but the offense stepped up late, scoring at least 27 points in five of those six.

The Cowboys got the invite to this game despite losing three of their final four, including a 49-17 drubbing at the hands of rival Oklahoma in the season finale. Oklahoma State had trouble stopping teams, allowing 24 points or more in each of its six losses, including 38 or more in the final three.

The Hoosiers are 3-5 in bowl games since 1987 (4-1 ATS). Indiana hasn’t faced a Big 12 team since 1992.

Oklahoma State, which finished fifth in the Big 12 South, beat Alabama 34-31 in last year’s Independence Bowl, narrowly covering as a two-point favorite. Cowboys’ coach Mike Gundy is 3-0 SU and ATS as a player and coach in bowl games for Oklahoma State, which is playing in its fifth bowl game in six years.

The Cowboys haven’t fared well against Big Ten squads, going just 1-8-1 ATS overall and 0-2 SU and ATS in bowl games.

Indiana’s tandem of QB Kellen Lewis and WR James Hardy connected for 16 TDs as the 6-foot-7 receiver caught scoring passes in 11 of the team’s 12 games. Lewis finished with 2,839 yards passing, 25 TDs and just 10 INTs.

Oklahoma State features a balanced offense that put up 244 rushing yards and 240 passing yards per game. QB Zac Robinson was spot-on most of the season, completing 59.2 percent of his passes for 2,541 yards, 20 TDs and seven INTs.

Neither team plays much defense – Indiana yields 26.8 points and 394 total yards per game; OSU gives up 29.2 points and 446.2 yards per game – and both struggle to stop the run, surrendering more than 150 rushing ypg.

The over is 7-2 the last nine times the Cowboys have been favored and 16-7 the last 23 games the Hoosiers have been underdogs. However, Indiana comes into this one on a 4-0 “under” spurt (2-0 “under” on the road), while Oklahoma State stayed low in its final two games overall and its final four games on the highway.

ATS ADVANTAGE: OKLAHOMA STATE


CHICK-FIL-A BOWL (at Atlanta)

(15) Clemson (9-3, 6-5 ATS) vs. (22) Auburn (8-4, 6-5 ATS)


A rivalry is renewed when Clemson and Auburn square off at the Chick-fil-A Bowl inside the Georgia Dome.

Auburn has dominated Clemson lately, winning 12 straight, and leads the series 32-11-2. The last time these two schools, both situated about 100 miles from Atlanta, met was the 1998 Chick-fil-A Bowl when Auburn scored a 21-17 win, pushing as a four-point favorite.

Clemson, second in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, won five of its last six games (4-2 ATS) and beat rival South Carolina 23-21 on the road in the season finale, coming up just short as a three-point favorite.

This is Clemson’s 30th bowl game (15-14 ATS) and seventh in the Chick-fil-A Bowl (2-4 ATS in the previous six). Under coach Tommy Bowden, Clemson is 3-4 SU (2-5 ATS) in postseason action, including a 28-20 upset loss to Kentucky as a 10½-point favorite in last year’s Music City Bowl.

A 45-20 loss at Georgia in the next-to-last game of the season cost Auburn a shot at the SEC title game, but the Tigers bounced back to beat bitter rival Alabama 17-10 as a six-point chalk in the annual Iron Bowl. Auburn went 6-2 ATS to close the season.

Auburn is making its 34th bowl appearance and ninth straight under Tommy Tuberville (5-3 SU and ATS in the previous eight). Auburn hasn’t been a pup in a bowl game since a 2002 upset of Penn State in the Capital One Bowl.

Clemson is just 3-7 ATS against teams with a winning record.

Auburn is on a 7-1 ATS roll as an underdog, going 2-1 SU and ATS as a pup this season. On the downside, Tuberville’s squad has failed to cash in each of its last five games against the ACC.

Clemson averaged more than 34 points and 413 yards per game this season. QB Cullen Harper was second in the ACC with 2,887 passing yards, while the RB tandem of James Davis and C.J. Spiller combined for more than 1,600 yards and 11 TDs, including a 210-yard game in the finale against South Carolina.

Clemson’s defense was also solid this year, surrendering just 18.3 points and 299 total yards per outing. Only two teams – Virginia Tech (41-23 loss) and Louisiana-Monroe (49-26 win) put up more than 21 points on Clemson all year.

Auburn’s defense was counted on to carry the load this season, holding the opposition to 16.7 points and 298.3 yards per game. Offensively, Auburn put up 24.3 points and 327.8 yards per game and was held to 20 or less six times while scoring exactly 23 points on two other occasions.

The under is 15-5 in Auburn’s last 20 games as an underdog, 6-0 in Auburn’s last six bowl games, 6-0 in Auburn’s last six against the ACC, 11-5 in Clemson’s last 16 non-conference contests and 5-2 in Clemson’s last seven postseason appearances.

ATS ADVANTAGE: UNDER

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Re: Monday Bowl Games

College Football Gameday

The college football bowl season really starts to heat up as the year comes to an end. Here's a look at the half dozen games on the NCAA's schedule for New Year's Eve . .

Armed Forces Bowl: California vs. Air Force, 12:30pm ET

The Golden Bears didn't exactly excel in 2007 - at least not in the second half of the season. California began the year with five straight wins and was climbing the polls, but from there they crashed to just a 6-6 record (3-6 in the Pac-10). They'll now take on Air Force in an attempt to get over the .500 mark. The Falcons finished second in the Mountain West with a 6-2 mark and they went 9-3 overall on the season. California, though, is still pegged as a 3.5-point favorite in this contest, with the total sitting at 54.5.

Humanitarian Bowl: Georgia Tech vs. Fresno State, 2:00pm ET

The Yellow Jackets won't have Chan Gailey on the sidelines for their bowl game - he was fired by the team at the end of the regular season and replaced on an interim basis by defensive coordinator Jon Tenuta. Georgia Tech went 7-5 this season (4-4 in the ACC), and fell out of the Top 25. The Bulldogs ended up in third place in the WAC with a 6-2 mark, and they were 8-4 overall on the season. Fresno State, though, has been pegged as a 6-point underdog in the Humanitarian Bowl, with the total at 54.5 points.

Sun Bowl: South Florida vs. Oregon, 2:00pm ET

The Bulls were ranked as high as No. 2 this season. The Ducks were ranked as high as No. 2 this season. Yet here they are, competing in the Sun Bowl instead of one of the more prestigious postseason contests. South Florida's second-half decline left them at No. 23 in the rankings with a 9-3 record, while 8-4 Oregon had fallen out of the Top 25 altogether by the end of the year. The Ducks won't have QB Dennis Dixon back for this game, and they've been listed as a 6-point underdog. The contest's total is sitting at 52.

Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs. Florida State, 4:00pm ET

The Wildcats didn't have an easy time in the tough Southeastern Conference this season - they went just 3-5 against their rivals, and 7-5 overall. Still, Kentucky has been listed as a 9.5-point favorite in the Music City Bowl, thanks in part to the turmoil surrounding the Florida State program. The Seminoles, who went 4-4 in the ACC and 7-5 overall this season, have around three dozen players suspended for this game because of various rule violations. The total for this game has been listed at 57.5 points.

Insight Bowl: Indiana vs. Oklahoma State, 6:00pm ET

The Hoosiers were tied for the second-worst record in the Big Ten this season at 3-5, but a 7-5 overall mark qualified them for this year's Insight Bowl. They're going to have to win the postseason contest as an underdog, though, as Oklahoma State has been pegged as a 4-point favorite in the game (with the total sitting at 69 points). The Cowboys finished at .500 in both the Big 12 (4-4) and overall (6-6) this season, and they'll be taking on the Hoosiers for the first time since tying 7-7 in Indiana 77 years ago.

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Clemson vs. Auburn, 7:30pm ET

The Chick-fil-A Bowl is the only matchup Monday that features two teams ranked in the Top 25 - Clemson is at No. 15, and Auburn is at No. 22. Clemson had a solid year in the ACC, going 5-3 against conference opponents and 9-3 overall. Auburn also went 5-3 during their conference schedule (the SEC), and they won eight of 12 games overall. These two teams met in this bowl back in 1998, with Auburn coming out on top. This time around Clemson is a 2.5-point favorite, with the game's total pegged at 46.5 points.


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