The PiRates Look At The Bowls II


Posted Dec 26, 2006


For the first time in NCAA Division 1-A history, every team that posted a winning record received a bowl invitation. The Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders were the last at-large team with a winning record, and the Motor City Bowl invited them out of necessity. The only other at-large team with a winning record was Northern Illinois. The Poinsettia Bowl chose them ahead of MTSU.

Note: P6TR is the new experimental Pick 6 Technical Rating.  When 6 particular computer rankings agree on the winning team, these computers have been correct 94% of the time, 85% when the official spread is less than 10 points.  None of the six individually pick the winner more than 78% of the time.

 

The Middle Bowl Games

A.k.a. “Bowl Week”

                       

Motor City Bowl (Detroit)

Tuesday, December 26 @ 7:30 PM EST

ESPN

Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (7-5) vs. Central Michigan Chippewas (9-4)

PiRate Predicts: CMU 27  MTSU 14

P6TR: Central Michigan

 

The last time MTSU went to a bowl, it was still a tiny teachers’ college in the little town of Murfreesboro.  Now, MTSU is the largest university in the state of Tennessee, and Murfreesboro has become Nashville’s Marietta, Georgia.  The Blue Raiders can consider themselves big time as they have received an at-large bowl bid.

 

Central Michigan has a small connection to the Middle Tennessee area as well.  Former Vanderbilt University Athletics Director (prior to his becoming the commissioner of the Southeastern Conference) Roy Kramer established the Chippewas as a small college power in the early and mid-1970’s.  For CMU, it’s their first bowl since 1994 and second since becoming a Division I-A team.

 

The Chippewas suffered a major loss since they won the Mid American Conference Championship Game: head coach Brian Kelly left and took the vacant Cincinnati job.

 

The PiRate ratings do not account for all unique intangibles that pop up after the regular season, so it cannot remove any points from CMU for losing their coach (if points need to be deducted). 

 

This game’s outcome should be decided between the CMU passing attack and the MTSU secondary.  I don’t think the Blue Raiders can stop the potent combination of quarterback Dan LeFevour to receiver Bryan Anderson.  Give this one to the Chippewas.

 

Emerald Bowl (San Francisco)

Wednesday, December 27 @ 8 PM EST

ESPN

Florida State Seminoles (6-6) vs. UCLA Bruins (7-5)

PiRate Predicts: UCLA 20  Florida State 7

P6TR: UCLA

 

This game looks like a battle of pass rushers against passers.  Neither team should smell 100 rushing yards in this one, but the passing games should both top 200 yards. 

 

The Bruins’ stop troops ended the season looking like a defense from the Red Sanders’ era.  The way they handled Oregon State, Arizona State, and Southern Cal might make one think they could have competed favorably in a 64-team NCAA basketball-like football playoff.

 

Bobby Bowden has suffered through a losing season before, including one at Florida State, but nobody under the age of 30 has ever witnessed it.  After this game, they just may have.  Go with the sons of Westwood, as the Bruins close the season impressively.  

 

Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA)

Thursday, December 28 @ 4:30 PM EST

ESPN

Oklahoma State Cowboys (6-6) vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (6-6)

PiRate Predicts: Oklahoma State 20  Alabama 13

P6TR: None (Split decision 3-3)

 

Alabama is in a catch-22 situation here.  Nobody  in Tideland wants to be in this bowl game, but with a new coach coming in and the likelihood that some rebuilding will have to be done, this could be the last bowl game for a couple of years.

 

Oklahoma State rebuilt quickly.  Coach Mike Gundy returned his alma mater to a bowl game in just two years after Les Miles left Stillwater for LSU.

 

This is one of those contrast games.  OSU has an excellent, balanced offense that gains more than 200 yards rushing and more than 200 yards passing per game.  Alabama has a tough defense that limits opponents to less than 300 total yards per game.

 

Even though T. Boone Pickens and Garth Brooks may pass up a trip to Shreveport, I think the rest of the Oklahoma State nation is hungry and wants to be there.  I cannot say that for the Tide.  I predict OSU will win a rather dull and low-scoring game.  The Tide fans will have their fun a few days later when Nick Saban becomes their next coach.  That is if he doesn’t decide against it at the eleventh hour. 

 

Texas Bowl (Houston)

Thursday, December 28 @ 8 PM EST

The NFL Network

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (10-2) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-5)

PiRate Predicts: Rutgers 30  Kansas State 23

P6TR: Rutgers

 

I’m going against my PiRates here.  I don’t think Rutgers has any desire to show up in this game.  They were so close to a BCS bowl bid, and they ended up having to play in Houston in a game that 99% of the country won’t be able to see.  It’s almost as bad as the LSU Tigers of 1969, who were overlooked for a bowl after finishing 9-1 and watching Notre Dame steal their bid. 

 

Kansas State fans can sympathize with the University of New Jersey.  The 1998 Wildcats were the nation’s runaway number one team prior to the Big 12 Title game, and after they were upset by Texas A&M, they dropped all the way to the Alamo Bowl, where they went through the motions in another loss.

 

Kansas State returns to a bowl for the first time in three years.  The Wildcats parlayed a huge upset win over Texas to bowl eligibility.  My personal belief is that KSU will beat Rutgers in higher scoring game than expected.

 

Holiday Bowl (San Diego)

Thursday, December 28 @ 8 PM EST

ESPN

California Golden Bears (9-3) vs. Texas A&M Aggies (9-3)

PiRate Predicts: Cal 31  A&M 31 and going to overtime (tossup)

P6TR: None (Cal picked in 4 of the 6)

 

Normally, when a team is playing in a bowl game in their home state, I throw in a point or two or three for home field advantage.  However, Berkeley, California, is almost as far away from San Diego as Columbus, Ohio, is from New York City.  I wouldn’t give Ohio State any advantage for playing a bowl game in Yankee Stadium.

 

This should be an interesting, high scoring game, but I am going with the better passing team.  I think Cal will stop the A&M ground attack enough to force the Aggies to pass the ball; that’s not going to get the job done without A&M’s potent ground game clicking.  Cal’s offense may not set the woods on fire in this game, but I expect the Bears to score a few more points than A&M.

 

Music City Bowl (Nashville)

Friday, December 29 @ 1 PM EST

ESPN

Kentucky Wildcats (7-5) vs. Clemson Tigers (8-4)

PiRate Predicts: Clemson 35  Kentucky 27

P6TR: Clemson

 

This contest kicks off a day of five bowl games.  While it became a sellout soon after the teams were announced for this game, I don’t expect too many television viewers to stick with it after the next game starts.

 

This could be one of the more interesting bowl games, but I fear it could become a mismatch rather early in the day.  Kentucky gives up almost 460 total yards per game, and Clemson’s offense is more than strong enough to score 35-50 points against the Wildcats.

 

It’s been a great run for the Blue Mist this year, but Clemson hasn’t been too far from being a BCS bowl team.  This looks like a possible blowout game.

 

Sun Bowl (El Paso, TX)

Friday, December 29 @ 2 PM EST

CBS

Missouri Tigers (8-4) vs. Oregon State Beavers (9-4)

PiRate Predicts: Oregon State 27  Missouri 23

P6TR: None (OSU picked in four)

 

This is the first big three television network bowl game.  CBS has televised the Sun Bowl for many years.  That beautiful southwestern landscape with the mountains behind the stadium gives this game some appeal even when the match-up is a dud.  So, with this year’s game being a potentially close, exciting match-up, it is a can’t miss bowl.

 

Since the pairings were announced, I have flip-flopped more than once in my opinion of how this game will turn out.  The PiRates say the Beavers are a little better, but I am starting to have my doubts.  I think Missouri is going to be ready to play, and, for the moment, I am going with the Tigers to emerge with a close victory.  By tomorrow, I may change my mind again.  So, what I’m really saying is this bowl game is a hold in stock parlance.

 

Liberty Bowl (Memphis)

Friday, December 29 @ 4:30 PM EST

ESPN

Houston Cougars (10-3) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (7-5)

PiRate Predicts: South Carolina 34  Houston 24

P6TR: None (Both teams picked in 3)

 

I was personally shocked when I saw my computer spit out the Gamecocks as a 10-point pick in this game.  After the way Houston dominated teams down the stretch, I would have thought this game would be a tossup. 

 

The Cougars haven’t played nearly as tough of a schedule as Carolina, but their stats are mighty impressive.  Houston can move the ball and score points even against one of the top six Southeastern Conference teams.

 

Steve Spurrier might be worth an extra touchdown in a bowl game, but even so, I don’t think South Carolina is going to win by double digits, and I’m not 100% sold on predicting the Gamecocks to win this game.  I give USC about a 55% chance of winning, and that means they should be favored by no more than a field goal.

 

 

Insight Bowl (Phoenix)

Friday, December 29 @ 7:30 PM EST

The NFL Network

Minnesota Golden Gophers (6-6) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5)

PiRate Predicts: Texas Tech 35  Minnesota 31

P6TR: None (Texas Tech picked in 4 of 6)

 

This game could be decided by which team has the ball with two minutes to go.  Texas Tech is a little better on paper, but Minnesota was improving weekly as October was torn off the calendar in favor of November. 

 

Texas Tech coach Mike Leach and Minnesota coach Glen Mason are two first-rate leaders of men.  Both will have their teams ready to play, and that should make for an enjoyable game.  I’m going with the Red Raiders by a narrow margin.

 

Champs Sports Bowl (Orlando)

Friday, December 29 @ 8 PM EST

ESPN

Purdue Boilermakers (8-5) vs. Maryland Terrapins (8-4)

PiRate Predicts: Purdue 23  Maryland 17

P6TR: None (Purdue picked in 4 of 6)

 

Maryland may have been the toughest team for computers to figure out this year.  The Terps kept winning ugly over all comers.  They beat the good and bad teams by a field goal to a touchdown every week before getting drilled a couple times late in the season.

 

Purdue began the year looking like they could give up 35-40 points per game this season.  The Boilermakers improved a little, but they still yielded well over 400 yards per game.  Here’s the thing: can Maryland take advantage of the Purdue defensive liability?  I don’t think so.  This will be a game the Boilermakers win ugly.

 

Meineke Car Care Bowl (Charlotte)

Saturday, December 30 @ 1 PM EST

ESPN 2

Boston College Eagles (9-3) vs. Navy Midshipmen (9-3)

PiRate Predicts: Boston College 28  Navy 23

P6TR: Boston College

 

Normally, when one of the service academies plays a good team in a bowl game, they score some points, but give up even more.  Navy has won bowl games the last two years, but the competition those years were not in the same class with Boston College’s 2006 edition.  Even with the loss of coach Tom O’Brien to North Carolina State, I think the Eagles are a bit too strong for the Middies.

 

Navy leads the nation with 327.4 rushing yards per game, while Boston College limits opponents to just over 90 rushing yards per game.  BC will not shut Navy’s running game down, as a lot of that 90 yards allowed can be attributed to quarterback sacks.  Look for Navy to run for about 225-240 yards in this game, but that won’t be enough to outscore BC.  The Eagles will pass the ball for more than 250 yards and score at least four touchdowns; that will be enough to win by five to eight points.

 

Alamo Bowl (San Antonio)

Saturday, December 30 @ 4:30 PM EST

ESPN

Texas Longhorns (9-3) vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (6-6)

PiRate Predicts: Texas 27  Iowa 14

P6TR: Texas

 

Davy Crockett, Jim Bowie, and company may have had a better chance of winning in San Antonio than Iowa will have this year.  This game looks like a major mismatch, but never count out a Kirk Ferentz-coached team.  The Hawkeyes could keep this game close well into the second half.

 

Texas has a clear advantage on both sides of the interior line, and when a team can dominate the line of scrimmage, they will win 90-99% of the time.  Go with the Longhorns, who will be playing just down the road from Austin.

 

By the way, evidence exists that Davy Crockett did not die in battle at the Alamo.  Experts believe he was captured and executed soon after by General Santa Anna’s men.  The Mexicans probably didn’t even know who they captured at the time.

 

Chick-Fil-A Bowl (Atlanta)

Saturday, December 30 @ 8 PM EST

ESPN

Virginia Tech Hokies (10-2) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (8-4)

PiRate Predicts: Virginia Tech 17  Georgia 10

P6TR: Va. Tech

 

This is the first of what I consider the major bowls.  Virginia Tech is probably better than three or maybe four of the BCS teams.  Will the Hokie players get up for this game knowing they deserved a better fate?

 

Georgia is going to have a tough time scoring in this game if VT shows up ready to play.  The Bulldogs could be held to about 75-80 yards on the ground and less than 200 through the air.  That means they will have trouble getting into double figures on their side of the scoreboard.

 

Virginia Tech’s offense is actually weaker than Georgia’s but their defense and special teams contribute to the scoring load in most games.  One punt or kick block, one fumble return, or one interception return in this game could provide the Hokies with the winning margin.  The chances of VT setting up at least one score with their defense or special teams are better than 50-50, and I look for the Hokies to win because of that score.

 

MPC Computers Bowl (Boise, ID)

Sunday, December 31 @ 7:30 PM EST

ESPN

Nevada Wolf Pack (8-4) vs. Miami-FL Hurricanes (6-6)

PiRate Predicts: Nevada 24  Miami 23

P6TR: Miami

 

Who was the genius who decided to not only hold this game on New Year’s Eve, but to hold it on a Sunday night?  How many people want to spend the last couple hours before New Year’s outdoors in frigid Boise, Idaho or indoors watching it on the tube?  My guess is if someone’s driver’s license shows them hailing from Dade County, Florida, they will not be traveling almost 3,000 miles to watch the 6-6 Hurricanes play on the blue field (it could very easily be a white field by game time).  With Boise State’s fans heading to Arizona for the Fiesta Bowl, Bronco Stadium could look similar to Olympic Stadium in Montreal during baseball season.

 

Except for the season-ending upset victory over Boston College, Miami never fired this year.  This is a team that barely survived against 0-12 Duke.  It cost Coach Larry Coker his job.  He will team up with new coach and current defensive coordinator Randy Shannon, and I think his players will try to send him out a winner.

 

Nevada runs the Pistol offense.  Quarterback Jeff Rowe aligns halfway back from where a shotgun quarterback would stand.  It allows the Wolf Pack to run many plays the shotgun offense cannot pull off, while also giving Rowe an extra half-second of protection on passing plays.  For the second consecutive season, Nevada has used the Pistol to post eight regular season wins and earn a bowl bid.  Last year, the Pack edged Central Florida in the most exciting bowl game of the year.  I don’t expect nearly as much excitement in this game.

 

Miami’s defense should remove most of the bullets from the Pistol, while Nevada should be a little more generous when the ‘Canes have the ball.

 

The PiRates actually think Nevada will pull out a squeaker in this one, while the Pick Six Technical Rating computers say Miami will emerge victorious.  I could vote to break the tie, but why bother?  Who back East will be watching by 10:30 PM?



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