Oklahoma State Slightly Favored by Public Bettors in Independence Bowl

Team Page: Oklahoma State :: Alabama

58% of Bets Placed on OK State -2 | Matchup | CFB Picks
Alabama backed into its NCAA-leading 54th bowl appearance with the minimum six wins, but that wasn't enough for coach Mike Shula to come along.

The Crimson Tide take the field for the first time without their fired coach when they meet Oklahoma State in the Independence Bowl on Dec. 28 in Shreveport, La.

Oddsmakers have made Ohlahoma State -2 point spread favorites (College Football Odds)

for Thursday's game, the over/under has been set at 51 total points (View CFB Sports Books).

Alabama became bowl eligible with a 38-3 win over Florida International on Oct. 28, but hasn't won a game since. The Crimson Tide dropped their final three contests to Mississippi State, LSU and Auburn, resulting in a 6-6 record and Shula's firing on Nov. 26.

Shula went 26-23 over four seasons, but was a combined 0-8 against SEC Western Division rivals LSU and Auburn. The former NFL assistant coach had received a new six-year contract in May worth $1.55 million per year after a 10-2 season in 2005, capped by a 13-10 win over Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl.

Shula's departure has Alabama looking for its fourth head coach since 2000, but so far there's been little interest in heading up one of college football's most storied programs.

The Crimson Tide expressed interest in South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban of the Miami Dolphins, but neither wanted to leave his current job. Alabama most recently offered a reported six-year, $12 million contract to West Virginia coach Rich Rodriguez, but he turned down the offer Dec. 8 in favor of a new deal with the Mountaineers.

It's unclear who the Tide will focus on next, but for now defensive coordinator Joe Kines is the interim head coach and athletic director Mal Moore remains undeterred.

``I want to remind everyone of what I said at the outset of this process: My only objective is to get the best person available to lead the Alabama football program,'' Moore said in a written statement. ``I remain determined to bring to our program a proven head coach with impressive credentials.''

Alabama has some impressive history in postseason play, winning six national championships and boasting more bowl wins than any other school in NCAA history with a 30-20-3 record. The Tide are making their third straight bowl appearance, and Kines said it's proving to be a good distraction from the coaching search.

``I've been so proud of them,'' Kines said. ``They're really trying to concentrate on this bowl game. I'm really glad we've got this: It's a godsend. We can come to work everyday instead of just mulling around. It probably would have been a problem if that had been the case.''

Alabama experienced another setback in preparing for its bowl appearance when freshman second-string quarterback Jimmy Barnes tore his ACL in his left knee, which will require surgery. That leaves the Tide without a suitable backup for starter John Parker Wilson.

Wilson has needed little help this season, however, as he threw for a school-record 2,539 yards and 16 touchdowns. The sophomore also set school records with seven straight 200-yard games to start the season, and nine overall.

His favorite target has been DJ Hall, who became Alabama's second wide receiver to surpass 1,000 yards, totaling 1,014 in 11 games. The junior also set school marks with five consecutive 100-yard contests and seven overall, but will need to bounce back from a season-low 15 yards in the final loss to Auburn.

Alabama and Oklahoma State are meeting for the first time, but both are making their second appearances in the Independence Bowl. The Tide beat Iowa State 14-13 in 2001, while the Cowboys lost 33-16 to Texas A&M in 1981 under Jimmy Johnson's tutelage.

Oklahoma State made three consecutive bowl appearances from 2002-04, but came away with just one victory, a 33-23 win over Southern Miss in the 2002 Houston Bowl.

After a 4-7 record last season, Oklahoma State is back playing in its fourth bowl game in five seasons for the first time since it played five in a six-season span from 1983-1988. The Cowboys went 3-5 in the Big 12 this season, but one of those victories - a 42-32 win over Kansas on Oct. 14 - proved key.

Oklahoma State was the conference's last bowl-eligible team to earn a berth after finishing at 6-6, but the Jayhawks missed the postseason after posting the same mark. The Cowboys also pulled off a 41-29 victory over then-No. 20 Nebraska on Oct. 28 and outgained then-No. 13 Oklahoma 362-315 in the regular-season finale, but lost 27-21.

``We made a lot of strides in all areas with our football program,'' second-year Cowboys coach Mike Gundy said. ``We're not satisfied with being 6-6.''

Sophomore quarterback Bobby Reid posted a 151.9 passer rating this season - second-best in the Big 12 - throwing for 2,054 yards and 23 touchdowns along with 10 interceptions.

Junior Adarius Bowman has been the Cowboys' leading receiver with 57 catches for 1,131 yards and 11 TDs, including a 300-yard, four-touchdown effort in the win over Kansas. Fellow junior Dantrell Savage leads the ground game, with 708 yards and seven touchdowns in 10 games this season.

The Cowboys are motivated to boost their 10-6 all-time bowl record.

``We are going to go down there and try to win the game,'' Reid said. ``This is what it is all about. We want to go and have fun, but once the whistle blows it will be time to get down to business and play ball.''

by: Anthony White - theSpread.com - Email Us

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