Bowl Blitz Previews Thru The New Year and NFL Week 16
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Giants (+3) Packers 17-45 lost
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NFL WEEK 16 PREVIEWS
The big news here is that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers (second concussion of the season) is expected to start in this ultra-important clash at Lambeau Field but you do have to wonder if the NFC North team - playoff spot on the line or not - should go this route now that a quite-capable QB Matt Flynn (251 yards passing with 3 TDs and 1 INT in last Sunday Night's rugged 31-27 loss-but-cover at New England) can go full tilt.
NEW YORK GIANTS (9-5) at GREEN BAY (8-6) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
There's no doubt Flynn is not in Rodgers' league in terms of NFL quarterbacking play but at least Pack boss-man Mike McCarthy knows now what he's getting with Flynn - and who knows if one head knock to the frozen field here will kayo Rodgers for good this 2010 season.
It's a true dilemma for a Packers squad that's lost three of its last four games and is finding ways not to win in recent weeks (see CB Charles Woodson's dropped INT last week at Foxboro, etc.)
On the flip side, the Giants won't be sending any sympathy cards to G-Bay as Tom Coughlin's club comes off one of the worst losses in franchise history - the Giants 38-31 meltdown loss to the Philly Eagles last Sunday has given New York City radio talk show hosts plenty to chew on but the real question now is can the Jints recover in time to save their season?
Note that QB Eli Manning called a player's only meeting earlier in the week - a truly uncharacteristic move for the normally stoic seventh-year pro - but most media folks that talked with Giants players claimed the NFC East team still had a deer-in-the-headlights look to them and there's real worry that the Giants' monstrous special teams problems will somehow sink this club again whether it's mistake-prone P Matt Dodge doing another nasty deed or a kick/punt coverage unit that's been rotten all year long.
Spread Notes - The New York Giants have split their first 14 pointspread verdicts this season but did you know the"G-men" are a dazzling 30-10 away since the start of their 2007 campaign? On the flip side, Green Bay's 8-6 against the odds this season and the Packers are 9-4-1 ATS at Lambeau Field since the start of last season.
NEW YORK JETS (10-4) at CHICAGO (10-4) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Maybe the tabloid folks in NYC spent a bit too much time this week discussing Jets head coach Rex Ryan and his wife's feet - please, we won't even go there! The fact of the matter is the Jets may have some body parts hurting here as WR Santonio Holmes (foot) and QB Mark Sanchez (shoulder) are far from 100 percent these days and now they tackle a second straight rough-and-tumble foe on the road following that 22-17 escape-job win in Pittsburgh - think the Bears are flying high following the aforementioned divisional crown (their first since 2006)?
Chicago's stingy defensive front has its work cut out for 'em here as the Jets allowed only one quarterback sack to Pittsburgh last week (after surrendering six sacks the week before in the 10-6 loss to Miami) and so don't be shocked if Chicago DE Julius Peppers (see 8 sacks) lines up in an array of positions while trying to trick up the Jets here - and that could open up things for blitzing LB Brian Urlacher (3.5 sacks) who delivered some real crunching blows in Monday's easy-as-pie 40-14 win against Minnesota.
Gut feeling here is that the Jets will not even let Chicago's Devin Hester sniff the football as a punt return specialist following that electrifying (and record-setting) 64-yard punt bring-back for a score in that outdoors win in Minnesota earlier this week.
Spread Notes - Chicago is just 7-6-1 against the Las Vegas prices this year and the Bears are a money-losing 7-11-1 spreadwise in non-divisional games since the start of last season. On the flip side, the J-E-T-S are 8-6 against the odds overall this season and a collective 19-14 ATS under second-year boss-man Ryan. P.S., the last time these non-conference foes played was back in 2006 when Chicago blanked NYJ 10-0 as 6 ½-point road favorites.
On Sunday Night, it's ...
MINNESOTA (5-9) at PHILADELPHIA (10-4) - 8:25 p.m. ET, NBC
Okay, so we promise to not even utter the name"Brett Favre" here ... got it! The major plot line here isn't the broken-down quarterback of the Minny Vikings but instead the born-again quarterback on the other team as Michael Vick remains one of the NFL's biggest stories in years.
Last week's dazzling fourth-quarter performance against the Giants - some 215 offensive yards by Vick in the game's final seven-plus minutes alone - had every NFL fan wondering if they've seen anything like that and so now Vick (2,755 yards passing with 20 TDs and 5 INTs to go along with 613 rushing yards and 8 scores) will look to wave more magic against a Vikes defense that's basically shut it down ... or hadn't you realized that Minnesota has allowed 27-or-more points on six different occasions this year?
By the way, if Philly head coach Andy Reid doesn't finish either #1 or #2 in this year's Coach of the Year balloting than we'll demand a recount!
Spread Notes - Philadelphia is a dead-even but vig-losing 7-7 spreadwise this season and the Eagles have covered 16 of their last 25 home games while dating back to late in the '08 season. Meanwhile, Minnesota is a dreadful 4-9-1 spreadwise this season after going an electric 11-6-1 ATS a year ago. The Vikes are an awful 0-6-1 ATS as underdogs this year and 1-9-1 against the juice as pups dating back to late in the 2008 season.
On Monday Night, it's ...
NEW ORLEANS (10-4) at ATLANTA (12-2) - 8:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
The history books say that the Atlanta Falcons have not won a divisional crown since 2004 - and they also say that last year's #1 NFC Playoff seed (the New Orleans Saints) won it all while operating from that lofty perch.
In short, the Falcs may not be guaranteed a Super Bowl 45 win quite yet but a"W" here means an NFC South title and clinching the aforementioned top conference seed and no NFL visiting side has won inside the Georgia Dome this year. In fact, the Saints - who have won five of their seven away games this year - can clinch a playoff spot with a win here or one next week against Tampa Bay and you can fully expect head coach Sean Payton's crew to sport a take-no-prisoners attitude in this clash with QB Drew Brees having thrown for 1,256 yards with 13 TDs and just 1 INT in his last four appearances on Monday Night Football.
Two quick-hitter items to watch here:
Saints PK Garrett Hartley boomed a 47-yard FG in last week's 30-24 loss to 2-point fav Baltimore and the post-season hero a year ago appears to"be back" after an early-to-mid-season slump - the Falcons have won a few games this year with PK Matt Bryant made FGs but the script could get flipped here;
Finally, Atlanta QB Matt Ryan (3,321 yards passing with 25 TDs and 9 INTs) has won 15 straight games inside the Georgia Dome and he's 19-1 SU (straightup) overall in this building but the Saints defense - with that extra day to prep under wiz Gregg Williams - could well throw some different looks at Ryan here and bringing corner blitzes figures to be on the N'Orleans menu.
Spread Notes - Atlanta is 10-4 versus the vig overall this season and that includes the current snazzy six-game spread winning streak that started way back on Nov. 11th with a 26-21 win/cover against 2-point pup Baltimore. Note the Falcons have compiled a 7-3 ATS mark in divisional duels dating back to the start of last season. Meanwhile, New Orleans is 5-8-1 spreadwise this season and the Saints have failed to cover seven of their last 10 NFC South duels dating back to the start of last year.
THE COLLEGE FOOTBALL BOWL REPORT
On Sunday, Dec. 26th it's ...
LITTLE CAESAR'S PIZZA BOWL - at Detroit, MI
FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (6-6) vs. TOLEDO (8-4) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's just say that - in one sense - nobody deserved a bowl game more than the FIU Golden Panthers who played road games this year at Texas A&M, Maryland and Pittsburgh (that was back-to-back-to-back early in the season) and so Mario Cristobal's crew gets to dance into Motown where RBs Darriet Perry and Darrian Mallary (a combined 1,376 yards rushing with 16 TDs) look to spark the Sun Belt Conference squad. P.S., Toledo's won eight of its last 10 bowl games but the Rockets haven't gone bowling since 2005 (a 45-13 win back then against UTEP in the GMAC Bowl). Toledo surged down the stretch winning five of its final six regular-season games - the lone loss was a 35-point setback against Northern Illinois.
Pizza Bowl Spread Note - The former Motor City Bowl has seen underdog sides string together back-to-back-to-back pointspread wins the past three years including outright triumphs by 3-point dog Marshall over Ohio and 7-point pup Florida Atlantic over Central Michigan the past two seasons.
On Monday, Dec. 27th, it's ...
INDEPENDENCE BOWL - at Shreveport, LA
GEORGIA TECH (6-6) vs. AIR FORCE (8-4) - 5 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's great to see all three service academy teams reach post-season bowl games - note that Army has a Dec. 30th date with SMU - and here the AF Fly Boys could be playing this tilt in record time as there could be 95 rushes/5 percent passes here but the real key to this clash might be who can chuck it successfully and Air Force QB Tim Jefferson (1,342 yards passing with 10 TDs) has a way of flipping the field when opposing defenses least expect it. Note that Tech does not expect QB Josh Nesbitt (broken arm) to go here but the ACC gang admits there is a possibility he could be "cleared" by kickoff. Look for 25-plus carries by Georgia Tech RB Anthony Allen who averaged 138.3 yards a game via the ground route while rolling up 1,225 yards and 6 scores. The nation's top two rushing teams will play this one in a hurry - trust us!
Independence Bowl Spread Note - Betting Favorites have won/covered each of the last four Indy Bowls with Oklahoma, Alabama, Louisiana Tech and Georgia all netting spread "W's" here since 2006.
On Tuesday, Dec. 28th, it's ...
CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL - at Orlando, FL
N.C. STATE (8-4) vs. WEST VIRGINIA (9-3) - 6:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here's a really intriguing bowl matchup with a little twist to it - folks now know that West Virginia boss-man Bill Stewart will be exiting stage left following the completion of the 2011 season (he never really was the right choice just because he engineered that Fiesta Bowl upset win against Oklahoma back in the 2007 season) while N.C. State slinger Russell Wilson (an ACC-best 3,288 yards passing with 26 TDs and 14 INTs) also could be calling it a gridiron career with the Major-League Baseball world beckoning to him. Note that the 'Pack has not won a post-season bowl game since 2005 - a 14-0 triumph over South Florida in the Car Care Bowl -- while West Virginia's actually enjoying a neat recent bowl run with four wins in the Mountaineers' last five post-season tilts. If WVU is gonna nab this one - and the 'Neers are 3-point favorites at press time - than they better find a way to get the ball into tiny RB Noel Devine's hands after he rushed for 886 yards this year.
Champs Sports Bowl Spread Note - Dogs have notched spread wins in four of the last five Champs Sports Bowl games including last year's 20-14 win by Wisconsin over 3 ½-point fav Miami.
INSIGHT BOWL - at Tempe, AZ
MISSOURI (10-2) vs. IOWA (7-5) - 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
You have to excuse the Mizzou Tigers: They think - and to a man - that they deserved better than a late December bowl tilt in the desert as Gary Pinkel's crew wanted a January bowl game but didn't get it and now we'll see if this Big 12 squad slumps its shoulders or rises to the occasion. Note that Missouri's jetted up from a 1-point favorite to a 3-point choice at press time although that mainly has to do with the fact Iowa RB Adam Robinson (concussion) may not play here at Sun Devil Stadium. Missouri QB Blaine Gabbert (2,752 yards passing with 15 TDs and 7 INTs) will play even though he's experienced his share of ankle/leg ailments this season but a player-to-watch for these Tigers is wide-out T.J. Moe (77 receptions for 893 yards and 6 TDs) who started fast this year and then slowed a bit - he could be "due" for a monster game here. Note that Iowa absolutely staggered to the 2010 regular-season finish line with back-to-back-to-back losses versus Northwestern, Ohio State and Minnesota - by a combined 10 points - and now veteran QB Ricky Stanzi tries to turn the beat around against a Missouri defense that held seven foes to 14 points or less this year.
Insight Bowl Spread Note - Go back the past 13 years and you'll find that underdogs have cleaned up here with a tidy 9-4 ATS mark that includes outright wins by Iowa State (+ 1 ½) over Minnesota last year and California (+ 3) over Virginia Tech back in 2003.
On Wednesday, Dec. 29th, it's...
EAGLE BANK BOWL - at Washington, D.C.
EAST CAROLINA (6-6) vs. MARYLAND (8-4) - 2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
The big news here is all about the big guy: Maryland's messy divorce with 10-year head coach Ralph Friedgen made national headlines but now the rotund sideline boss gets one more crack at a "W" here in down-the-block D.C. and this one figures to come down to whether or not QB Danny O'Brien gets into any sort of working rhythm here. O'Brien (2,257 yards passing with 21 TDs and 6 INTs) has improved as the season wore on but some bad red-zone reads here could be a problem - hey, remember that East Carolina has yielded 76 and 62 points in late-year games and keep in mind this is Ruffin McNeill's second bowl game in a row (he coached up Texas Tech last year to an Alamo Bowl win/cover against short-handed Michigan State).
Eagle Bank Bowl Spread Note - The chalk has covered the first two games in this brief bowl history with Wake Forest (- 3) and UCLA (- 4 ½) cashing against Navy and Temple, respectively.
TEXAS BOWL - at Houston, TX
ILLINOIS (6-6) vs. BAYLOR (7-5) - 6 p.m. ET, ESPN
No doubt that these "power conference" teams had bigger/better bowl aspirations this year but the Fighting Illini got pushed around on "D" late in the season (see 39.3 ppg average the final month of play) while the Baylor Bears really suffered a major letdown following that emotionally-charged 30-22 win at Texas back in late October. In fact, Art Briles' squad lost back-to-back-to-back games to end regular-season play and now here the Big 12 team will ask thrill-a-minute QB Robert Griffin (3,195 yards passing with 21 TDs and 8 INTs) to perk up an offense that scored more than 30 points in six of the club's first eight games and then never did exceed the 30-point mark in its final four tilts. Hey, watch Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure (1,513 yards rushing with 14 TDs).
Texas Bowl Spread Note - Betting Favorites are a nifty 6-1-1 versus the vig since this bowl game started back in 2002.
ALAMO BOWL - at San Antonio, TX
ARIZONA (7-5) vs. OKLAHOMA STATE (10-2) - 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Here's something you might not have known about the Okie State Cowboys: They covered nine of their 12 regular-season games this year and scored 40-plus points in eight different tilts - and now WR Justin Blackmon (102 receptions for 1,665 yards and 18 TDs) looks to feast against a 'Zona defense that really came apart at the seams late in the year. The U of A Wildcats surrendered 30, 48, 24 and 42 points in their final four regular-season games - all losses! - and now Mike Stoops' squad is looking at this prime-time clash as a way to salvage what was once a promising campaign. Hey, the aforementioned Blackmon is not the only wide-out to watch here as Arizona's Juron Criner (73 catches and 10 TDs) is quite capable of making the Larry Fitzgerald-like acrobatic catches in traffic... you'll see!
Alamo Bowl Spread Note - Underdogs sport a 6-3 spread mark in the last nine Alamo Bowls.
On Thursday, Dec. 30th, it's...
ARMED FORCES BOWL - at Dallas, TX
ARMY (6-6) vs. SMU (7-6) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
A hearty salute goes out to the West Point gang that's made it back to bowl action for the first time since 1996 but there's little question that the Black Knights have their work cut out for 'em here as SMU slinger Kyle Padron (3,526 yards passing with 29 TDs and 12 picks) is a classy quarterback and WR Aldrick Robinson (60 catches and averaging 20.4 ypc with 13 scores) might be the best athlete on the field here in this Lone Star State showdown. P.S., SMU is a rotten 4-14 against the odds as betting favorites since the start of the 2007 season.
Armed Forces Bowl Spread Note - Betting Favorites have notched spread wins in five of the last six games here.
PINSTRIPE BOWL - at The Bronx, NY
SYRACUSE (7-5) vs. KANSAS STATE (7-5) - 3:20 p.m. ET, ESPN
Just what everyone really needed - another cold-weather bowl game! Okay, so this one comes with the neat twist of playing at the new Yankee Stadium but the only reason any Gotham City folks will be here is to root on Syracuse who's back in the bowl wars for the first time since 2004. The Orange better bring more than pop guns for this game as second-year head coach Doug Marrone's club scored just 13, 6 and 7 points in their final three regular-season games and QB Ryan Nassib (2,095 yards passing with 16 TDs and 8 INTs) may be regressing rather than progressing these days.
MUSIC CITY BOWL - at Nashville, TN
NORTH CAROLINA (7-5) vs. TENNESSEE (6-6) - 6:40 p.m. ET, ESPN
It sure didn't look like the 2010 Tennessee Vols were going to get back into the bowl picture but a four-game SU (straightup) and spread winning streak to close out regular-season play catapulted first-year coach Derek Dooley's team into this tilt and now we'll see if Vols' slinger Tyler Bray (1,537 yards passing with 14 TDs and 7 INTs) can baffle a Carolina club that played with suspensions all year long and showed a real lack of depth on "D" late in the year.
Music City Bowl Spread Note - Underdogs have covered five of the last six Music City Bowls including outright wins by SEC members Vanderbilt (2008) and Kentucky ('06) .
HOLIDAY BOWL - at San Diego, CA
WASHINGTON (6-6) vs. NEBRASKA (10-3) - 10 p.m. ET, ESPN
It's a shame that more focus has been placed on hot-head Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini than on the pure-and-simple fact that the Cornhuskers "are back". The Big 12 team has posted back-to-back double-digit win seasons and this year's defense - without NFL high draft pick Ndamukong Suh - still managed to hold eight foes to 17 points or less this year. One team that exceeded that point total was the Washington Huskies who fell 56-21 to Big Red back in Seattle on Sept. 18th and so this is a rather rare rematch game in the bowls but you wonder if Huskies slinger Jake Locker (2,209 yards passing with 17 TDs and 9 INTs) can get the engine purred up against a cat-quick defense that never takes a down off.
Holiday Bowl Spread Note - Believe it or not, Betting Favs have covered each of the last four Holiday Bowls including Nebraska's 33-0 romp over 2 ½-point pup Arizona last year.
On Friday, Dec. 31st, it's...
MEINKE CAR CARE BOWL - at Charlotte, NC
SOUTH FLORIDA (7-5) vs. CLEMSON (6-6) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPN
Beep, beep. This Car Care Bowl has given fans back-to-back heart-stoppers (see Pittsburgh's 19-17 win against North Carolina last year and West Virginia's 31-30 triumph over North Carolina in 2008) and we could get a dramatic finish here should South Florida's erratic offense have one of its better days. Note the Bulls were held to 16 points or less in five games this season and here QB P.J. Daniels (leg) must be able to move the chains with some big third-down runs.
Clemson has failed to cover 10 of its last 16 games dating back to the middle of last year and the only way these Tigers cover here is if oft-injured RB Andre Ellington (10 rushing TDs) gives 'em an early-game jump start here - hey, you don't want to be counting on Clemson QBs Kyle Parker and/or Tajh Boyd to save the day now, right?
Car Care Bowl Spread Note - Favs and Dogs have split the first eight Car Care Bowls with Big East teams a bumbling 1-4 spreadwise the past five years.
SUN BOWL - at El Paso, TX
NOTRE DAME (7-5) vs. MIAMI (7-5) - 2 p.m. ET, CBS
Maybe this isn't exactly the late 1980s/early 1990s but count us among the folks who love this matchup just based on tradition and history. Throw into the mix the fact that Notre Dame finished fast with three consecutive wins/covers following that dreadful 28-27 home loss to Tulsa and here WR Michael Floyd (73 receptions and 10 TDs) will look to make some noise against a Miami defense that hasn't been overly physical in recent games.
Now than the ACC school ejected fourth-year head coach Randy Shannon - former Temple boss Al Golden will assume total command after this bowl clash - the 'Canes know someone is watching over their shoulder pads.
Sun Bowl Spread Note - Underdogs are a resounding 15-4 vig-wise in the past 20 Sun Bowls (note pick 'em game in 1994) and that includes last year's 31-27 non-cover win by Oklahoma over 10-point pup Stanford.
LIBERTY BOWL - at Memphis, TN
CENTRAL FLORIDA (10-3) vs. GEORGIA (6-6) - 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
There's major rumblings that this could be the final game for Georgia Dawgs boss-man Mark Richt who is leading his SEC gang into its 10th bowl game in as many years but odds are he'll stay put - wouldn't Georgia have axed him by now to get on with recruiting? One thing the Georgia faithful loves about it's present and future is snazzy QB Aaron Murray (2,851 yards passing with 24 TDs and 6 INTs) who must be considered a real-live candidate for the 2011 Heisman Trophy. If Murray can hook up here multiple times with wide-out A.J. Green (49 receptions despite being suspended for the first four games this season) than the UCF Knights could be staring at a fourth straight bowl loss since 2005.
Liberty Bowl Spread Note - Did you know that underdogs have won three of the last five Liberty Bowls in outright fashion? Tulsa (2005), Mississippi State ('07) and Kentucky ('09) all copped outright wins in recent years.
CHICK-FIL-A BOWL - at Atlanta, GA
FLORIDA STATE (9-4) vs. SOUTH CAROLINA (9-4) - 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
This one won't quite get you to the brink of midnight in the East but you'll get more pleasure/enjoyment/entertainment here than you will from Ryan Seacrest! If South Carolina is gonna wash away the bad taste the last time the Gamecocks were in this very building - see Auburn 56, South Carolina 17 in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 4th - than RB Marcus Lattimore (1,198 yards rushing with 17 TDs) must be able to navigate lots of rushing yards between the tackles here 'cause running wide on this athletic Seminoles defense ain't gonna be easy.
Chick-Fil-A Bowl Spread Note - This bowl's had a long history of tight fits and so no shocker than underdogs have covered 12 of the last 18 spread verdicts.
On Saturday, Jan. 1st, 2011, it's...
TICKETCITY BOWL - at Dallas, TX
NORTHWESTERN (7-5) vs. TEXAS TECH (7-5) - 12 p.m. ET, ESPNU
Get your New Year started here deep in the heart o'Texas and this one could be a real blast: Note that Texas Tech scored 99 points in its final two games (wins against Weber State and Houston) and QB Taylor Potts (3,357 yards passing with 31 TDs and 9 INTs) could be salivating at the thought of going against a N'western defense that surrendered 70 points in a regular-season finale at Wisconsin. Okay, the Big 10 Wildcats won't have QB Dan Persa here (right Achilles) and so redshirt freshman Evan Watkins is left to run the spread attack here.
OUTBACK BOWL - at Tampa, FL
PENN STATE (7-5) vs. FLORIDA (7-5) - 1 p.m. ET, ABC
Good to see Urban Meyer has begun his next career (see ESPN studio analyst during recent bowl games) and let's just say we're glad all the drama involving this diva coach is over with - maybe incoming boss-man Will Muschamp won't be such a prima donna! Here the Gators will try to give Meyer a going-away present and the strategy for this clash could be a bit different: If Florida was watching closely they saw Michigan State pound out the ground yards in a 28-22 regular-season-ending win at Penn State a few weeks back and so maybe Florida will hand the Nittanies a steady dose of RB Jeffery Demps and friends. On the flip side, Penn State RB Evan Royster (916 yards rushing this year) - the school's all-time rushing king - has to expose the middle of this Florida D-line or else Joe Paterno won't be getting career win #402.
Outback Bowl Spread Note - Favorites are a sporty 13-6 ATS with one pick 'em the past 20 years in this bowl tilt and note Penn State's last appearance here was a 20-10 win over 4-point fav Tennessee back in the 2006 season.
CAPITAL ONE BOWL - at Orlando, FL
MICHIGAN STATE (11-1) vs. ALABAMA (9-3) - 1 p.m. ET, ESPN
Conventional wisdom says the 'Bama Crimson Tide won't be all that juiced up for this game after having won the BCS National Championship tilt a year ago but gotta believe Nick Saban's crew will indeed be all business after blowing that three-TD lead en route to the 28-27 sour-tasting loss to archrival Auburn. If Alabama RB Mark Ingram (816 yards rushing and 11 TDs this year) - the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner never even got mentioned for the award this time around - gets 25-or-more touches here than "Sparty" could be in deep trouble. Note that the 34 days between games for Michigan State allowed QB Kirk Cousins (2,705 yards passing with 20 TDs and 9 INTs) time to rest up some achy joint injuries but he better be feelin' nimble here against Tide DE Marcell Dareus and mates.
Capital One Bowl Spread Note - SEC teams have failed to cover five of the last six Capital One Bowls and that includes last year's mud-soaked 19-17 win by Penn State against 1-point pup LSU.
GATOR BOWL - at Jacksonville, FL
MICHIGAN (7-5) vs. MISS STATE (8-4) - 1:30 p.m. ET, espn2
It's absolutely preposterous that the 2010 Michigan Wolverines are playing in a New Year's Day bowl game... but what are you gonna do? The Big 10 squad skidded to the regular-season finish line on a - get this - eight-game spread losing streak and QB Denard Robinson (2,316 yards passing and 1,643 yards rushing with a combined 30 TDs) may be great but he sure blew a big-time mid-season Heisman Trophy lead in a hurry! Maybe the maize-and-blue can rid themselves of sad-sack coach Rich Rodriguez should they get crushed here - while Miss State has its "mojo" working in the right direction under second-year boss Dan Mullen who here needs LBs Chris White and K.J. Wright to defuse Robinson when he gets out into the open field.
Gator Bowl Spread Note - Underdogs have swiped spread victories in each of the last four Gator Bowls but this is the first Big 10 vs. SEC showdown here in 20 years (see Michigan's 35-3 win over 11-point dog Ole Miss back in the 1990 season).
ROSE BOWL - at Pasadena, CA
TCU (12-0) vs. WISCONSIN (11-1) - 5 p.m. ET, ABC
This is not your older brother's Rose Bowl - there's no Pac-10 team in the house and even we were surprised to discover that this is Wisky's first berth in this "Granddaddy of Them All" tilt since the 1999 season. The Badgers took no prisoners late in the year while piling up 83, 48 and 70 points in their final three regular-season games and did you know that Wisconsin RBs Montee Ball and frosh James White teamed up for 977 yards rushing and 16 TDs in the team's final three games? Right, who needed Doak Walker Award finalist John Clay! Meanwhile, TCU was the "odd man out" of this year's BCS National Championship Game chase as even a perfect season wasn't good enough to kayo either Oregon or Auburn from the big game on Jan. 10th but, truth be told, the Horned Frogs (7-5 ATS this year) really struggled to get past four-TD dog San Diego State 40-35 back on Nov. 13th and less-than-brilliant wins against Oregon State and SMU didn't help matters and it so happened both of those were nationally-televised affairs. TCU slinger Andy Dalton (2,638 yards passing with 26 TDs and 6 INTs) must steer clear of active defensive tackle J.J. Watts who can be a one-man wrecking crew for Bret Bielema's stop unit.
Rose Bowl Spread Note - In the last 20 years, only five Rose Bowl underdogs have won this game outright but did you know Wisconsin's done it twice (see 21-16 triumph over 7-point fav UCLA back in the 1993 season and later Wisky copped a 38-31 triumph over 9-point fav UCLA to cap the 1998 season.
FIESTA BOWL - at Phoenix, AZ
CONNECTICUT (8-4) vs. OKLAHOMA (11-2) - 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's just say there isn't a whole lot of buzz surrounding this desert duel - the Oklahoma Sooners are a bloated 17-point betting favorite at press time - and the only way UConn hangs around here is if RB Jordan Todman (1,574 yards rushing with 14 TDs) breaks off a couple of 50-plus yard runs. No doubt the Huskies are one of the more anonymous BCS bowl teams in history but it's worth mentioning the Big East champs enter this clash on a tidy five-game spread winning streak while the Sooners cranked out a modest 7-6 ATS mark this year. If the Oklahoma QB Landry Jones (4,289 yards passing with 35 TDs and 11 INTs)-to-WR Ryan Broyles (1,452 yards receiving on 118 grabs) tandem gets heated up, then it could be lights-out early. Hey, UConn, you have the record-setting women's hoops team... you want everything?
Fiesta Bowl Spread Note - Underdogs have ruled the roost lately with a perfect 4-and-oh spread log in recent years and note Big 12 teams have failed to cover its last five appearances in the desert. Ugh!
MERRY CHRISTMAS & HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!! ...THE NFL WEEK 16 MENU IS SERVED - IT'S A HOLIDAY FOOTBALL FEAST AS WE LOOK TO STUFF YOUR STOCKING WITH A HALF-DOZEN KEY GAME PREVIEWS
By Jim Hurley:
It's the penultimate week of the NFL 2010 season and there's four teams that have already been granted their holiday wishes as the New England Patriots, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Atlanta Falcons and the Chicago Bears all have clinched playoff berths with"Da Bears" the first of 'em all to wrap up a divisional crown
There's also seven NFL teams that have secured double-digit win seasons already with two weeks to go - but don't expect anybody to take their foot off the proverbial pedal this Christmas Weekend. For some teams, it's must-win time right now - no ands, ifs or buts about it -- while others really need to sweep their two remaining regular-season games to land a post-season berth.
Heck, Santa Claus isn't the only cat who can crank up his sleigh and hand out nothing but"winners" as a slew of playoff-bound or playoff-hopeful teams are truly in a win-or-else mode as we enter this Christmas Weekend.
And Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will continue to rock-n-roll you this holiday season with nothing but Winners in NFL Week 16 action along with the College Football Bowl Games and the NBA / NCAA Basketball too when you call us daily at our toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you log online right here online.
NOTE: More College Football Bowl Previews in the next edition of Jim Sez.
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