Wayne Root: Flat or Fired Up?



I enjoyed putting together that "Flat or Fired up?!" article the other day. And, I believe it really got to the heart of what mattered most in the bowl games played Tuesday and Wednesday. I'm THE KING OF LAS VEGAS because I know what matters most when it comes to picking winners!

Let's do the same thing for the games of Thursday and Friday. I'm confident this will help you isolate some very strong possibilities in these mid-level games where emotions (or the lack of emotions) mean so much. Now, I won't be posting my official client selections in this article. I look at a variety of factors in addition to motivation when coming up with major bowl releases. I can tell you that this process was an important element of the process though.

Continuing now with FLAT OR FIRED UP?! for the Thursday and Friday bowls.


  • Army: It's been a lot time since Army has appeared in a bowl. I would expect a lot of enthusiasm from this group. The only down side is that they could be disappointed about the loss to Navy. They had a real chance to make that a game until key turnovers ruined their shot. As long as they've recovered from that disappointment, they should be fired up.
  • SMU: I think it's very tough for teams to get up for bowl games that are being played on their home field. Hawaii played poorly vs. Tulsa last week. But, San Diego State at least showed that it's possible. There are other potential distractions here, with June Jones being rumored for other coaching jobs (he was interviewed by Maryland). That rarely goes well for bowl teams. I will have to give Army a big edge in motivation, then determine whether they can hang in the game against SMU's potent spread offense. You'll recall that SMU crushed Nevada last year in a bowl.

  • Kansas State: Tough call. K-State is moving in the right direction since bringing Bill Snyder back. But, a trip to play unheralded Syracuse in a baseball stadium may or may not get the Wildcats excited. Though, being in the Big Apple right before New Year's can bring energy to any curmudgeon. I'm going to assume they won't be flat.
  • Syracuse: Syracuse has to be excited about a bowl bid after suffering through so many recent woes. They'll have a home state crowd at Yankee Stadium. I definitely expect a fired up team. As I've mentioned in past articles, you have to be careful asking too much from a team with a bad offense. That motivation has to be channeled into production. Can Syracuse turn their excitement into points?

  • North Carolina: It's been a downer of a year for North Carolina. Many players were suspended before the season even started for off-the-field misdeeds. A program that expected to compete for the ACC crown and high national rankings became an afterthought. Some times, an "us against the world" mentality takes hold and inspires a big bowl performance. Other times, the team barely shows up. I'm reading what I can online about North Carolina's attitude leading into this game. I think it's one of the biggest question marks on the card.
  • Tennessee: Tennessee started building confidence late in the season, and will have a home state crowd in Nashville. I expect a high energy effort from the Volunteers. That means an easy win if North Carolina is just kind of there...but Carolina is probably the better side if both teams are at peak intensity.

  • Washington: It's a surprise that a team as bad as Washington has made it to the Holiday Bowl. The players have to be excited about that. And, revenge is usually a good motivator. This is the only bowl game that's a rematch from the regular season. Washington got obliterated on its home field by Nebraska. I'm not going to put on rose-colored glasses about this team...but they're going to be fired up.
  • Nebraska: The Huskers may have the bleakest scenario of anyone heading into a bowl. They still have the talent to win big anyway. But, they're facing an opponent they've already drilled. They were hoping for a BCS bowl heading into their Big 12 title tilt with Oklahoma. They're heading to the Big 10 next season, and representing the Big 12 in a bowl isn't going to generate any pride. And, they played in the Holiday Bowl last year on this field and crushed Arizona. Literally NO reasons to get the juices flowing. It's a credit to their defensive talent that they're still a big favorite anyway.


  • South Florida: Would a trip to Charlotte inspire you? Hey, it's a great city. But, that's not a place college kids dream of for their bowl trip. Elements of this team didn't seem to be on the same page through the second half of the season. I'm not sure coach Skip Holtz can fix that in few weeks of practices.
  • Clemson: The Tigers have to be disappointed with a trip to Charlotte too. They'll have a lot of orange in the crowd because they're from nearby South Carolina. But, this was a program that hoped to compete for bigger and better things in the 2010 season. I don't see inspiration in the air for either side here.

  • Notre Dame: I think the Irish will be very fired up here. You have to respect how hard they battled through adversity. You know the old-timers love that ND gets another shot at Miami. They've put the Weis years behind them. Wins over USC and Miami to finish off the season would be making quite a statement.
  • Miami of Florida: Hard to be optimistic about the Hurricanes mindset. Randy Shannon was a player's coach, but he got fired after the season. Miami was an early favorite to win their division of the ACC. They faded badly down the stretch. El Paso, Texas? When you live in South Beach, how is THAT going to get you excited. There are a few disappointed ACC teams on the field Thursday and Friday. I'm very interested in seeing how they'll perform. Edge to Notre Dame in the Sun Bowl in terms of motivation. Once again though, handicappers have to consider how a shaky QB will fare against a quality defense. Motivation must be turned into points or it doesn't mean anything.

  • Georgia: I hope you're getting a sense now of how important emotions are going to be in this two-day stretch. We're not talking about games being played in Pasadena, NFL stadiums, or sunny Florida. We're talking about host cities like Nashville, Charlotte, El Paso, and now Memphis. Georgia thought they'd be competing with Florida for the SEC East title. Now they're playing in a state where they're not loved, in a bowl that may not mean anything to them. They have the talent to post a good result. Will they be in the mood to?
  • Central Florida: This team, on the other hand, has every reason to show up big. The CUSA champs get to make a name for themselves against a big time SEC program. They weren't dreaming of Pasadena or a New Year's spot anyway. This is what Central Florida was shooting for. They're going to be ready.

  • South Carolina: Both SC and Florida State in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl lost their conference championship game, and are now settling for a consolation prize. College kids don't often get fired up for consolation prizes. South Carolina made a statement for coach Steve Spurrier by beating Florida in the Swamp. They were overpowered by Auburn. Can they gather themselves for a big effort here?
  • Florida State: The Seminoles should have Christian Ponder back from injury. And, this is Jimbo Fisher's first bowl game as a head coach. That might provide an edge in motivation in my view. If Ponder isn't really physically ready though...errant passes could negate that potential advantage.

There is certainly potential within this group of games for PERFECT PLAY and GAME OF THE YEAR CALIBER releases depending on what else my comprehensive handicapping efforts uncover. You can purchase my top plays here at the website with your credit card. Game day selections go up a few hours before kickoff (which means EARLY with this week's schedule). You can also purchase the full bowl package. If you have any questions, call the office at 1-877-766-8946.

We talked about December 30th and 31st in today's article. I'll be back Saturday morning with more football notes. I can assure you it won't be a FLAT OR FIRED UP?! piece because everyone playing on January 1st should be fired up! I'll have something that will help you make money over the weekend. Thanks it advance for spending NEW YEAR'S with WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!


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