Friday, December 28, 2012

Bowl Season Predictions, Part 7

Friday is another busy day with three games on tap.

The Independence Bowl from Shreveport, LA airs at 2:00PM. The Ohio University Bobcats (8-4) face the Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks (8-4). 

The Bobcats started the season 7-0 but stumbled in late October and November losing four of their last five games including their last three. Their only victory in that stretch came against 2-10 Eastern Michigan. They do have a strong offense, however. Led by running back Beau Blankenship’s 1500 yards and 11 TDs on the ground and the passing of Tyler Tettleton (62.0% completions rate, 16 TDs and just 3 INTs), the Bobcats’ offense is ranked 41st in the nation overall. On defense, they’re not too shabby either. Ranked 65th overall, they yield 166.4 ypg on the ground and 229.8 ypg passing.

The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks have a pretty good offense, too. They are ranked 34th in the nation overall. However, they depend a great deal on their passing game (296.7 ypg (27th in the nation)) and much less upon their ground game (146 ypg (80th in the nation)).  QB Kolton Browning has a 64.8 % completion rate and has thrown for 2830 yards and 27 touchdowns. He has tossed 7 INTs, however. Browning’s favorite target is wide receiver Brent Leonard who has had 97 catches for 1042 yards and 10 TDs.  Browning also leads the Warhawks in rushing. He’s had 122 carries gaining 441 yards and scored 7 touchdowns on the ground.

Throw in the home-team advantage of playing in their backyard, and you understand why the Warhawks are 7 point favorites. My pick: Louisiana-Monroe


The Russell Athletic Bowl from Orlando, FL at 5:30 PM features the Virginia Tech Hokies (6-6) against the Scarlet Knights of Rutgers (9-3).

The Hokies struggled this year. They had to win their last two games (Boston College and Virginia) in order to become bowl eligible. Their strength has been their defense. Ranked 23rd overall, they yield just 139.7 yards on the ground (34th) and 204.9 ypg via the air (28th). On offense, they are just 66th overall, with 157.8 ypg on the ground (63rd) and 234.1 ypg passing (60th). QB Logan Thomas leads the team in both passing (2783 yards, 17 TDs) and rushing (167 carries for 528 yards and 9 TDs). One problem? Thomas has also thrown 14 interceptions.

Rutgers had a chance to wrap up the Big East title by winning their last two games (Pittsburgh and Louisville). They didn’t do it. As a result, they are co-champs with Cincinnati, Louisville, and Syracuse as all were 5-2 in conference play.  One of the reasons they faltered is their offense. The Scarlet Knights are 96th overall (125.9 ypg rushing (100th) and 215.2 ypg passing (80th). QB Gary Nova struggled with his passing this year but still passed for 2566 yards and 22 TDs. His 15 INTs, however, were the reason for the three losses. Running back Jawane Jamison suffered a sprained ankle late in the season and pretty much disappeared from the offense for the last three games. Still, Jamison gained 1054 yards on 242 carries and back up Savon Huggins filled in well.

So how did Rutgers get to be 9-3 with that weak offense? In a word: Defense.  Khaseem Greene leads that defense. He was named the Big East defensive player of the year for the second consecutive season. Greene made 125 tackles, had 5 1/2 sacks and six forced fumbles. As a unit, they are ranked 14th overall yielding just 105 ypg rushing (11th) and 216.3 ypg passing (37th). Add special teams blocking punts, field goals, and extra points (they lead the nation in that category) and it boils down to the fact that the Scarlet Knights just do not let the other team score very much. In their nine victories (including a 35-26 win over Arkansas) they have allowed just 9.9 points per game.  Add the three defeats and they still ranked sixth nationally in points allowed at 14.3 per game.

Jamison is healthy. Khaseem Greene is healthy. Nova has had a month of practice.  Rutgers is listed as a 2.5 point underdog but they also have the nation’s longest bowl winning streak (6) and a chance to reach 10 victories for the season.

My pick: Rutgers will win this one.


At 9:00 PM we have the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston, TX. The Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6) square off against the Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5).

The Golden Gophers are horrible on offense (108th in the nation) gaining just 146.1 ypg rushing (79th) and 171.4 ypg passing (105th). They are, however, much better on defense. They are 29th overall on the defensive side of the ball yielding 174.3 yards per game rushing (74th) and just 178.5 ypg passing (10th). They were just 2-6 in the Big 10 and scored more than 17 points in those 8 games just once.

The Red Raiders lost their head coach, Tommy Tuberville, to Cincinnati and will be lead in this bowl game by interim coach Chris Thomsen. Former Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury will take over the program. Even should this somehow slow the Red Raisers down, they should have more than enough to defeat Minnesota. The Red Raiders are second in the nation in passing offense gaining 361.9 yards per game. QB Seth Doege completed 70.4% of his passes for 3934 yards and 38 touchdowns. Unfortunately, he also has 14 interceptions. They are 86th in rushing offense (139.5 ypg). On defense, Texas Tech is 21st in the nation against the pass (195.8 ypg) and 71st against the run (171.4 ypg).

Tech’s strong passing game against Minnesota’s pathetic passing defense has resulted in Tech being a 13 point favorite. My pick: Texas Tech

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