The Holy War/Las Vegas Bowl- BYU vs Utah(Pick against spread 12-19)

The Las Vegas Bowl brings an early renewal to the Holy War.  The Brigham Young University Cougars and Utah Utes, annual rivalry was suppose to take a two year break after the Utes 20-13 victory in 2013. Thanks to the Las Vegas Bowl, the rivalry will pick up again earlier than expected.

Seven weeks into the season, Utah appeared to be a legit college football playoff contender, the Utes then suffered a 42-24 loss at USC, and finished the season by dropping two of their last three games overall, and last three against the spread.

The Utah defense has led the way in the majority of the Utes victories this season. The Utah rushing game has been the strength of the offense, while the passing game led by quarterback Travis Wilson has been underwhelming at times.

BYU comes into the game riding a two game winning streak with explosive offensive performances against Fresno State and Utah State.

BYU is in a unique spot with head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who has led the team since 2005, coaching the Cougars in this bowl game, despite the fact that he has already been hired as the new head coach of Virginia.

If there is one bowl game that I talked myself out of based on my first impression, it is this one. Currently 90% of the betting public has picked Utah against the spread. Utah however is 1-5 against the spread in its last six games. BYU was 8-4 against the spread this season, 3-1 as an underdog.

Anything can happen in the Holy War, and both of these teams are very evenly matched in talent.

Despite seeing this game as a toss up, I am going with the BYU Cougars +3 , who I believe will  break their four game losing streak to Utah, sending coach Mendenhall out a winner.

(BYU 27 Utah 21)

Bet Sports Strong Rating “C”

 

***Bet Sports Strong Ratings***

A-Bet with confidence

B-Strong lean, but bet with caution

C-Slight lean, enjoy the game but be careful with your money

D-Prediction but not a good feel either way

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New Mexico Bowl-Arizona vs. New Mexico (Pick against spread 12-19)

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The New Mexico Bowl will essentially be a home game for the New Mexico Lobos when the Arizona Wildcats come to Albuquerque.

Motivation will be high for the Lobos, head coach Bob Davie has rejuvenated the program and has led New Mexico to its first bowl game and winning season since 1997. Unlike the Lobos, who are having the programs best season since most of their players were in diapers, 2015 has been a disappointment for the Wildcats. After a 10 win, 2014 campaign that led to a birth in the Fiesta Bowl, Arizona barley finished bowl eligible at 6-6. This game will feature New Mexico’s run happy offensive attack against Arizona whose offense is extremely well balanced.

Overall, with the home field advantage and programs lack of recent success, Bob Davie should have no issue getting his players up for this game. While Arizona may not share the same excitement, their players know that head coach Rich Rodriguez is with them for what appears to be the long haul. The Wildcats quarterback Anu Solomon is expected to play after missing the last two games with a concussion.

Despite the intangibles, the Wildcats are the more talented team. I don’t advise wagering on too many bowl games, and this game is no lock either way. I feel that Arizona wins, but I would not feel comfortable going against New Mexico +9, as a home underdog.

(Arizona 38 New Mexico 30)                                                                

Bet Sports Strong Rating “C”

 

***Bet Sports Strong Ratings***

A-Bet with confidence

B-Strong lean, but bet with caution

C-Slight lean, enjoy the game but be careful with your money

D-Prediction but not a good feel either way

 

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Celebration Bowl-Alcorn State vs North Carolina A&T (Preview 12-19)

The College Football bowl season kicks off with the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl.

Motivation for both the SWAC Champion Alcorn State Braves and MEAC Champion North Carolina A&T Aggies, will be high.  Both teams compete in conferences that receive very little national attention. This game will allow both teams to showcase their talents in the national spotlight with an afternoon kickoff at the Georgia Dome on ABC.

players750x341N.C A&T comes in ranked 5th in the FCS in scoring defense allowing only 15 points per game, and this includes a 53-14 loss to ACC runner-up North Carolina early in the season. The Aggies rushing defense ranks as well as any team in the FCS, allowing only 84 yards a game. On offense the Aggies are heavily led by their ground game and MEAC offensive player of the year, running back Tarik Cohen. Riding Cohen will be a key to success for the Aggies who rank only 112 of 123 FCS teams in passing offense.

The Alcorn State defense is solid, but the Braves come in as more of an offensive juggernaut, averaging 40 points per game. The Braves also primarily look to the ground first, averaging 309 rushing yards a game, which led the SWAC. Since rebounding from a 69-6 week one loss at Georgia Tech, the Braves have had very little trouble scoring this season.

This is the only bowl game featuring FCS teams and there is no point spread for this game. This game has no value from a gambling standpoint, but should still be entertaining nevertheless. I look forward to watching these two HBCUs square up on national television.

There is no money that can be wagered on this game in Vegas, but I will give a prediction. The Aggie defense is tough, but I see the advantage at quarterback giving the Braves the edge in this game.

(Alcorn State 24 North Carolina AT&T 20 )

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MAC Championship- Bowling Green vs. Northern Illinois (Pick against the spread 12-4)

On Friday the Bowling Green State Falcons and Northern Illinois Huskies will meet for the third consecutive year in the Mid-American Conference championship game.  The Huskies  have built a bit of a dynasty in the Mid-American conference, as Friday will be their sixth consecutive title game, with the Huskies winning three of the last five years.

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Vegas and everyone loves Bowling Green in this game. The Falcons have the most explosive offense in the MAC, averaging over 44 points per game. BG is led by quarterback Matt Johnson, who comes in with 41:6 touchdown to interceptions ratio.

In 2013, Matt Johnson led Bowling Green to a 47-27 championship victory over a then #16 ranked and undefeated Northern Illinois team.  The Huskies returned the favor last year with a 51-17 victory, but quarterback Matt Johnson did not play in the Falcon defeat due to an injury he suffered the first week of the season.

There are several reasons why I believe Northern Illinois can win this game. First, the Huskies have championship experience and will not back down from the moment.  Despite being a 12.5 point underdog NIU has not suffered a loss by more than 10 points this season, which includes a seven point loss at Ohio State.  NIU has been in big games before and stepped up.

Northern Illinois continues to reach the MAC Championship because it has mastered the formula of betting rival Toledo, a team that dominated the Falcon’s 44-28. Toledo was able to control the game with Bowling Green, behind a strong rushing attack.  Northern Illinois comes in tied with Toledo for first in the MAC averaging 213 rushing yards per game.  Bowling Green is also worst in the conference in penalties committed.  If the Huskies can run the ball and control the clock, while eliminating turnover, then they can win this game.  The Bowling Green secondary has also shown vulnerability this season, ranking 11th in the conference in passing yards allowed per game.

Overall, I do see the Falcon’s winning this game. Bowling Green comes in with a much better passing attack then any of the teams NIU has defeated this season and will test the Huskies secondary. Northern Illinois will have to control the clock behind running back Joel Bouagnon, and consistently match Bowling Green’s firepower with touchdowns of their own to win this game.  With back-up Freshman quarterback Ryan Graham  now running things for NIU, due to the injury of Drew Hare in the Toledo game, I don’t see the Huskies matching Bowling Green’s fire power for 60 minutes.

While Matt Johnson will be the highlighted name coming into this game, the Falcons can run the ball well too.  Running backs Travis Greene and Fred Coppet, give BGSU a nice one-two punch that will keep the NIU defense honest.

I felt that I had to predict this game, but it is not my personal favorite to bet on this weekend.  I like Bowling Green a lot but the 12.5 spread scares me alittle, similar to the 9 point favorite Bowling Green was over Toledo. NIU has proven itself to be the class of the MAC in recent years and can not be counted out. The Huskies are 2-0 as an underdog against the spread this season, while the Falcons are 7-2 as favorites. Not crazy about the large spread in this game but I believe  Bowling Green rolls along -12.5.                                                   

(Bowling Green 41 Northern Illinois 27)

 

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Big Ten Championship Game- Michigan State vs Iowa (Pick against the spread 12-5)

A spot in the college football playoff will be on the line for both Michigan State and Iowa when these two teams collide in Indianapolis Saturday.

On paper the Big Ten Championship game is probably the most evenly balanced match-up of the weekend.  In scoring offense, defense, along with total offense and defense, there isn’t much separating the Spartans and Hawkeyes if you only focus on the numbers. Both Michigan State and Iowa control the ball well and capitalize on their opponents mistakes.  Iowa and Michigan State are tied for first in the Big Ten Conference in turnover margin, and rank second and third respectively in time of possession.

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 The Spartans have been able to find wins this season in the most hopeless place. 

The Michigan State Spartans have won 5 out of their last 6 games against the spread while the Iowa Hawkeyes are 3-3 ATS during that same stretch.

The Spartans do come in as the more battle tested team this season, with wins over Oregon, Penn State and at rivals Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan State who comes in 11-1, however, has not been as impressive in several other games against lesser opponents.  Three point wins over Rutgers, Purdue and a loss at Nebraska, are a few examples of the Spartans playing down to their competition at times.

Much like the Spartans, the Hawkeyes have not consistently dominated some of their lesser opponents. Despite a lack of style points at times while facing the nations 62nd toughest schedule, the Hawkeyes come in at 12-0, and have done enough to win every game this season.  Arguably the Hawkeyes best win this season was a 40-10 throbbing of the Northwestern Wildcats on Oct. 17.  Michigan State will be the most talented team that Iowa has faced and present the toughest challenge thus far.

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Iowa will be playing for its first outright Big 10 Championship since 1985. They have shared the title three times since.

 I have not been the biggest supporter this season of Connor Cook, as a top first round NFL draft pick, but he definitely gives the Spartans the edge in this match-up.  Connor Cook and his entire team were firing on all cylinders when the Spartans rolled over Penn State last Saturday in a 55-16 victory. If the same Spartans that showed up against Ohio State and Penn State show up for this game then I see Sparty rolling.

It is worth noting that the underdogs are 4-0 so far in Big Ten Championship history, but I say the trend stops here. Michigan State -3 (buying 1/2 a point here from 3.5), wins and covers.

(Michigan State 28 Iowa 24) -Over Under is 52.5, I am staying away from that, but I am taking the Spartans and the points.

 

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SEC Championship Game-Florida vs Alabama (Pick against the spread 12-5)

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The Southeastern Conference and national dominance of the Alabama Crimson Tide dynasty under Nick Saban began in 2009 with 32-13 victory over the Florida Gators in the conference championship game. Alabama would go on to defeat Texas for the national championship a month later. The victory avenged a 31-20 loss from the 2008 SEC title game, when Alabama fell to the Gators. Florida went on to win the national championship a month later against Oklahoma.

Saturday will be Florida’s first appearance in the SEC Championship since their 2009 lost to Alabama, while Alabama will be playing for its fourth SEC title under Saban.

The Gators come in looking as vulnerable as a 10-2 SEC team can look. The Gators defense has been the team’s strength this season, while the Florida offense has been on a steady downward spiral since the suspension of quarterback Will Grier. In three of the last four games, the Gators offense has been atrocious. The last four games for Florida include a 9-7 win over Vanderbilt, an overtime win over Florida Atlantic-which just finished the season at 3-9, and 27-2 loss to arch-rival Florida State.

Unlike the Gators, the Crimson Tide are rolling.  The Tide are playing for a birth in the college football playoff for the second consecutive year of its existence, and for a chance to win their fourth national title under Nick Saban.

Anything can happen on any given Saturday, but I can’t get how bad the Gators looked in wins over Vanderbilt and Florida Atlantic out of my mind.

The Gators will struggle scoring, and the defense is Florida’s only chance to keep this game from getting out of hand.  Both teams are 7-5 against the spread this year, but Alabama has been much better down the stretch. The  majority of the Gators success against the spread came earlier this season. The Gators are only 1-3 against the spread in their last four games, while Alabama has now covered the spread in four straight games. I look for Alabama to roll over Florida in a big way.

Taking the points and Alabama -17,

(Alabama 31 Florida 6)

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Eastern Michigan at Central Michigan (pick against spread)

The Eastern Michigan Eagles 1-10, are one of the worst football programs in the FCS. You would gave a hard time arguing that any program is worst. The Eagles have only finished .500 once since 1996, with their last winning season coming in 1995 during the Charlie Batch era.

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Central Michigan comes in at a very solid 6-5. The Chippewas, has three loses to nationally ranked teams Oklahoma State, Michigan State and Toledo, to go along with close defeats to Syracuse and Western Michigan.

Central Michigan leads the Mid-American Conference in total defense, so don’t expect too many points from Eastern Michigan.  On offense, Central Michigan will hope to air the ball out with a passing attack that ranks second in the conference.

The only chance I see that the Eagles keep this game close is due to rain in the forecast tomorrow, however the rain is expected to clear up around kick off time.  If this turns into a ground game, one side will be asked to perform out of character. Central Michigan has the worst rushing attack in the MAC by far, averaging only 94 yards on the ground a game.  Unfortunately for the Eagles, their defense may not be strong enough to capitalize on the Chippewas deficiencies running the ball.  If the Chippewas are forced to run, they will be doing so against an Eastern Michigan defense that is allowing 324 rushing yards a game, which is dead last in the nation.

Eastern Michigan does rank number one in the conference for passing defense, however this shows where stats can be deceiving.  When you combine the Eagles inability to stop the run with the fact that they usually lose big, there isn’t much need for opponents to put the ball in the air.

A big point spread and potential rain are the only things keeping this from being a lock.  Despite the records, I expect Central Michigan to be motivated for their rival at home. I’m going in on Central Michigan -24.

(Central Michigan 35 Eastern Michigan 10)

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