Saturday's Bowl Action


The College Football Bowl Bonanza is just heatin’ up ... here’s what is on the Saturday menu from Fort Worth to Tempe and all parts in between:

ARMED FORCES BOWL – Amon G. Carter Stadium; Fort Worth, TX
AIR FORCE (6-6) vs. RICE (6-6) – 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN

The Air Force Fly Boys didn’t exactly soar into this year’s bowl wars as Troy Calhoun’s crew lost three of its final four regular-season games including a 33-point loss at Fresno State on Thanksgiving weekend but the sixth-year boss-man believes his club will be “refreshed” here and the betting public sure has been taking the Falcons’ side as this game went from an opening line of pick ‘em to having The Force favored by a field goal.

If the country’s second-ranked rushing attack – one that’s averaging a haughty 328.8 yards per game – can get its motor purring early, than it would keep Rice QB Taylor McHargue on the sidelines. Note that McHargue helped Rice average 40½ points per game during the team’s regular-season-ending four-game SU (straight-up) winning streak.

Player-to-watch guy for Air Force is tiny RB Cody Getz who rushed for 1,213 yards and 9 TDs despite missing a pair of games with an ankle injury.

Spread Notes – Air Force is a dreary 3-9 ATS (against the spread) this year but the Falcons have notched spread wins in each of their last three post-season bowl games (versus Toledo, Georgia Tech and Houston). Meanwhile, Rice enters this bowl bash with a tidy 7-4-1 ATS mark this season and that includes upset wins against Kansas, SMU and UTEP. Overall, the Owls are just 8-19 against the odds away since the start of the 2009 campaign.


2011 BYU + 2 Tulsa 24-21
2010 Army + 7½ SMU 16-14
2009 Air Force + 4½ Houston 47-20

FIGHT HUNGER BOWL – AT&T Park; San Francisco, CA
NAVY (8-4) vs. ARIZONA STATE (7-5) – 4 p.m. ET, ESPN

The other service academy team to be bowling this holiday season – the Navy Midshipmen – are happy to be back as last year’s 5-7 season snapped an eight-year bowl run that had featured a Texas Bowl win against Missouri back in 2009 and a Poinsettia Bowl win against Colorado State in ’05 but digging out a win here ain’t gonna be easy as the Middies are 14 ½-point underdogs at last check.

Anchors away?

Arizona State is looking to put the cherry on top of first-year head coach Todd Graham’s season that featured a rollicking come-from-behind 41-34 triumph over archrival Arizona last month. No doubt sophomore QB Taylor Kelly (2,772 yards passing with 25 TDs) has displayed a spread-the-wealth mentality as six Sun Devil pass-catchers have at least 300 receiving yards with TE Chris Coyle (53 catches) a central character here against a smallish Navy defense.

Navy QB Keenan Reynolds rushed for 10 touchdowns this year and must be able to turn the corner here for some “chunk plays” or else Navy will suffer its fifth loss in its last six bowl games.

Spread Notes – Arizona State’s 7-5 versus the vig overall this season and that includes a split of six away games. The Sun Devils also have failed to cover their last four bowl games since 2005. Navy, meanwhile, is a rotten 4-8 spreadwise this season and that includes a current four-game ATS losing streak. The Middies have covered five of their last seven bowl affairs since 2004.


2011 Illinois -3 UCLA 20-14
2010 Nevada -8½ Boston College 20-13
2009 USC -7 Boston College 24-13

PINSTRIPE BOWL – at Yankee Stadium; The Bronx, NY
WEST VIRGINIA (7-5) vs. SYRACUSE (7-5) – 3:15 p.m. ET; espn2

Let’s hope there’s more hitting here inside Yankee Stadium than there was in the American League Championship Series and the AL Divisional Series ... whoa, boy!

One-time Big East Conference rivals West Virginia and Syracuse square off in the “boogeydown” and it’ll be extremely interesting to see if WVU slinger Geno Smith plays like the guy who had a lock on the Heisman Trophy the first five weeks of the season or will he perform like the guy who staggered badly in losses to Texas Tech and Kansas State?

In the end, Smith finished the 2012 regular season with 4,004 yards passing and 40 TDs and keep in mind that last year Smith threw for 407 yards and 6 TDs in that scintillating 70-33 Orange Bowl win against Clemson.

While Smith eyeballs favorite target WR Stedman Bailey (106 receptions and 23 TDs), the Orange better not sleep on RB Andrew Buie who quietly rushed for 817 yards for the ‘Neers who have copped wins in five of their last seven bowl appearances.

Syracuse’s passing game cannot be ignored here either:

The Orange rank 21st in the land while averaging nearly 302 passing yards per game and let’s see if veteran QB Ryan Nassib (3,619 yards passing with 24 TDs and 9 INTs) is on his game here and let’s see if the expected wintry weather conditions in NYC have a real detrimental effect on both teams’ passing games.

Spread Notes – West Virginia is 5-7 spreadwise overall this season but did you know the Mountaineers have covered their last three games in a row (versus fellow Big 12 foes Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma) or that WVU is a money-torching 3-7 against the odds at bowl time the past 10 years? Syracuse, on the other hand, is 6-6 juice-wise this 2012 season and the Orange has covered just four of its last dozen away games while dating back to the start of last year. Hey, the only bowl game the Orange has been involved in since 2005 was the 2010 debut edition of the Pinstripe Bowl (see chart below).


2011 Rutgers +1½ Iowa State 27-13
2010 Syracuse Pick ‘Em Kansas State 36-34

ALAMO BOWL – at Alamodome; San Antonio, TX
#23 TEXAS (8-4) vs. #13 OREGON STATE (9-3) – 6:45 p.m. ET, ESPN

As you can see, both of these power conference clubs are ranked in the BCS Top 25 standings and – you may wish to note – the Oregon State Beavers are the highest-ranked team in the land that’s not playing either a New Year’s Eve or January bowl game.

Not bad for a team that last year registered a shaky 3-9 SU season!

No question that head coach Mike Riley’s club was well on its way to a monster season in 2012 following that 6-and-oh start but the Corvallis kids came back to earth a bit with losses to Washington, Stanford and Oregon and now here look for Cody Vaz to start at quarterback for the Pac-12 team after original starter Sean Mannion aired four INTs in the 48-24 loss to the rival Oregon Ducks. Vaz battled a high ankle sprain injury this year and so keep tabs on him when he runs the ball because he may not be able to cut with 100 percent effectiveness.

The Texas gang has its own QB dilemma as 15th-year head coach Mack Brown recently announced that David Ash (17 TDs and 7 INTs) will get the start here over Case McCoy who got the starting nod in the Longhorns’ 20-13 Thanksgiving Night loss to TCU.

Note that one-time co-offensive coordinator Major Applewhite will be the play-caller here for Texas after he had shared those duties this year with Bryan Harsin who recently accepted the job as the next Arkansas State head coach.

Spread Notes – Oregon State registered a rock-solid 8-4 ATS mark this past regular season and that included rollicking road wins at UCLA, Arizona and BYU. Note that the OSU Beavers have covered four of their last six bowl tilts with their last cover coming in that not-so-thrilling 3-0 Sun Bowl triumph over Pittsburgh back in 2008. Texas, meanwhile, is 5-7 against the odds this season and that makes the Longhorns a collective 20-27-1 ATS the past four years ... ugh! In bowl action, Texas is just 4-5 vig-wise the past 10 years.


2011 Baylor -8 Washington 67-56
2010 Oklahoma State -4½ Arizona 36-10
2009 Texas Tech -9 Michigan State 41-31

BUFFALO WILD WINGS BOWL – at Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ
TCU (7-5) vs. MICHIGAN STATE (6-6) – 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN

You’ve no doubt been hearing all month long about how all six Big 10 teams that are participating in these bowls games are underdogs – and here the Michigan State Spartans are a 3-point dog but note the Spartans did cover both their games this year when swallowing up points (a 12-10 loss-but-cover affair at 8 ½-point fav Michigan and a 16-13 overtime win at 4 ½-point favorite Wisconsin).

If gang green is gonna cash here than a Spartans defense that ranks fourth in the country overall (8th versus the rush; 9th versus the pass) must step and a secondary starring All-Big 10 first-teamers Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard must have answers when TCU frosh QB Trevone Boykin looks to go “vertical”.

Boykin – who subbed in for Casey Pachall after the latter withdrew from school to deal with personal issues – did throw for 15 TDs in part-time duty plus he added 380 rushing yards and so this time-tested Michigan State defense that held eight foes below 20 points must show up.

Spread Notes – TCU is 5-7 against the Las Vegas prices this year and that marks the third consecutive season the Horned Frogs will finish with a ½00-or-worse spread record. Note that TCU also has failed to cover its last four consecutive bowl games these past four years including last year’s 31-24 non-cover win against 9 ½-point pup Louisiana Tech in the Poinsettia Bowl ... remember? Michigan State enters this clash with an ugly 4-8 ATS mark that includes three-of-four spread losses away. Note that Sparty is just 2-3 spreadwise in five bowl games under sixth-year head coach Mark Dantonio.


2011 Oklahoma -13½ Iowa 31-14
2010 Iowa +2½ Missouri 27-24
2009 Iowa State +1½ Minnesota 14-13

Your attention, please ...

Jim Hurley and his Network of Handicappers and Bloggers will light it up with the NFL Week 17 card this coming Sunday plus get all the NBA and NCAA Basketball Winners each and every day too – and make you’re all aboard right now with America’s #1 Handicapper to cash in big with all the College Football Bowl Games that roll on all week long with Three (3) Bowl Games on Friday and another Five (5) here set for Saturday. So don’t you get left out in the cold!

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