BOWL SEASON YTD : 8-7, +0.6 Dimes
We’re thirsty for more stacks after a strong finish to the day yesterday, winning the last 3 in a row. Very strong plays today should build stacks for the weekend. Let’s go!
BIRMINGHAM BOWL – Birmingham, AL
2:00 / ESPN : #25 USF (8-4,10-2) vs. South Carolina (5-7,6-6) – USF -10.5, 60.5
USF has the #1 most explosive offense in the nation and #2 offense when it comes to finishing drives inside the opponents 40. They have not been held below 30 all season, including their only two losses against Florida State and Temple. Willie Taggert has obviously moved on to Oregon so they will have that to deal with in preparation of this game. This offense starts with the dynamic JR Quinton Flowers. Flowers has over 2,500 yards passing to go along with a 22/6 ratio and 62% completions. The major problem when facing USF is Flowers taking off from the pocket, as he leads this team in rushing with over 1,500 rushing yards and 15 TD’s on 9.2 YPC!! They also have a very talented back in Marlon Mack who has gone for over 1,100 yards and 15 TD’s on 7.1 ypc. Needless to say, it is extremely hard to slow down this offense, no matter who is on the field.
South Carolina was looking like they were headed to a long offseason early on with a 2-4 start but they surprisingly turned it around to finish 4-2, including wins over Tennessee and Missouri. The spark came at QB when they inserted FR gunslinger Jake Bentley. While Bentley provided a much needed spark to this anemic offense, they have still really struggled against stronger defenses, only putting up 7 pts each against Florida and Clemson down the stretch. USF does not qualify as a stronger defense. They have been torched by just about everyone all season long so South Carolina should be able to put some drives together and they will have to if they want to stay in this game. They have tried to establish the run with another couple of Freshman but have not had much consistency along the way. They’re going to need some sort of balance here in order to move the ball with regularity but I expect them to pick things up with the 15 extra bowl practices with Muschamp and these Freshman skill players, combined with the porous USF defense.
This looks like a mismatch on paper, just look at the line on this one. USF has the most explosive offense in the nation. South Carolina usually struggles to get to 20. USF has been able to run on everyone but South Carolina has the superior athletes on their Defensive Line and should limit the yards somewhat. The biggest key to this game is the departure of Taggert paired with the extra two weeks of practices for Muschamp and the youngsters from South Carolina. The Gamecocks will be fired up to be here with all kinds of hope for a bright future under Muschamp, while USF may be a little down with the loss of their leader and a lowly bowl game in Birmingham. I like South Carolina to keep this one close and there is also no way I am taking a big favorite the rest of this bowl season considering the results thus far.
BET : South Carolina +10.5 — 2 Dimes
BELK BOWL – Charlotte, NC
5:30 / ESPN : Arkansas (5-7,7-5) vs. #18 Virginia Tech (7-6,9-4) – VT -7, 61
Arkansas has been so up and down this year, which can be seen with alternating wins and losses for the past 10 games after starting 3-0. They’ve had some big wins @TCU, Ole Miss, Florida, and @Mississippi St. Up until the season finale against Missouri, all of their losses could easily be excused considering they came against A&M, Bama, @Auburn, and LSU. The offense has been able to move the ball and put up points on just about everyone, including Alabama, with only one or two exceptions (Auburn, LSU). Rawleigh Williams has been a constant in the running game with over 1,300 yards and 12 TD’s (5.7ypc), along with the future, Devwah Whaley also throwing in 600 yards on 5.7 ypc. Austin Allen has shown flashes of brilliance but also makes too many really bad decisions and head scratching picks. Allen will have to spread it around to keep up in this one but he has done a pretty nice job of doing so with Morgan, Hatcher, Sprinkle, and Cornelius all coming away with 30+ catches on the year. For Arkansas to win this game they need to establish the run early and pound away all game, true Bielema style. This will open everything up and keep the ultra aggressive Bud Foster defense off balance.
Virginia Tech has been dominant at times this year with blowouts of solid ACC foes in UNC and Miami. The running game has been very subpar for VT all season and they have actually leaned much more on the passing game with Jerod Evans. Evans has been a true dual threat with over 3,300 passing yards, 27/7 ratio, 64% completions, 900+ rushing yards and 10 rushing scores. They also have a couple big time receivers in Isaiah Ford (73-1,038-7) and Cam Phillips (70-868-5), along with do it all TE Bucky Hodges (43-640-7).
The matchup nightmare here comes with the Hokies front 7. They have been extremely disruptive and figure to cause some problems for the Hogs early on. 100 tfl in 13 games is impressive and will definitely throw a curveball in the Arkansas gameplan. The Hogs only have 48 tfl on the season so you can see how impressive this Hokie front is but I think Austin Allen will settle in and this thing could turn into a shootout. The Arkansas defense has been absolutely smoked several times this year and very well could be in this game with a plethora of weapons on the Hokies offense. Toby Baker has been awesome this year averaging around 45 yards a punt and that will be huge in this game if the Arkansas offense stalls because they will want to force this explosive VT offense to go the length of the field. Lean towards the over but I like this thing to stay close throughout. Take the points.
BET : Arkansas +7 — 2 Dimes
ALAMO BOWL – San Antonio, TX
9:00 / ESPN : #13 Oklahoma St. (7-5,9-3) vs. #11 Colorado (10-3,10-3) – Colorado -3, 62.5
Colorado boasts a blowout of a good Colorado St team, and wins @Stanford and at home against Wazzu and Utah. The only losses came @Michigan, @USC, and vs Washington in the Pac 12 Championship, 2 of which with a banged up Sefo Liufau. Liufau has been absolutely awesome this year with 2,100 passing yards and 600 rushing yards despite being banged up all year. They’ve run the ball well occasionally with Phillip Lindsay but it’s really been all the weapons in the passing game that have carried this team for much of the year. Devin Ross, Shay Fields, Bryce Bobo, and Jay MacIntyre all have over 30 catches, with Fields being one of the best deep threats in the nation.
Oklahoma St. has been led by Mason Rudolph with over 3,700 yards and a 25/4 ratio on the year. They’ve run the ball just enough to find some semblance of balance but, much like Colorado, Rudolph will be looking to get it to his playmakers on the perimeter. McCleskey, Seales, and Lacy all boast at least 30 catches but James Washington is the big play guy here with 62 catches for 1,185 yards and 9 scores on 19.1 YPC!!
The difference in this game that should be a thriller is the Colorado defense, who has been great this year at bringing pressure in the backfield and leaving their highly talented corners to make plays. Awuzie and Tedric Thompson have been able to make plays all year for this aggressive Buffaloes defense and the pressure combined with the playmakers in the secondary will give Rudolph all kinds of problems. On the flip side, this Cowboys defense can be trampled so expect CU to establish the run early to get Liufau and the passing game in favorable down and distances to be able to do pretty much anything they want throughout. Go big on the Buffaloes.
BET : Colorado -3 — 3 Dimes