Tony Salinas: A Strong Taste of Texas Throughout Bowl Feast
TCU, Baylor, Texas, and more teams from my old stomping grounds in the Lone Star State will be taking the field very soon as the major bowl barrage starts to hit hyper-speed. I've lived in Las Vegas for many years now, but, my roots are in TEXAS. You can be sure that TONY SALINAS will be looking to have major releases when...
Texas A&M plays West Virginia Monday in the Liberty Bowl
Texas plays Arkansas Monday Night in the Texas Bowl
TCU plays Mississippi Wednesday in the Peach Bowl
Baylor plays Michigan State Thursday in the Cotton Bowl
Houston plays Pittsburgh Friday in the Armed Forces Bowl
I can't tell you here in a free web article who I'll be picking in those games. I need to protect that information for my clients. And, as I write this...there's still time for new developments to make headlines in the games that start midweek and later. We've already had a line move in that A&M/West Virginia game because a quarterback couldn't pass the concussion test. There's always a chance a starter will be suspended in a few days in one of the other games. Nobody's had time yet to break curfew in Atlanta, Dallas, or Forth Worth!
I did want to share a few thoughts about those five Texas teams that might influences your own decision-making...
Texas A&M ended up as one of the most overrated teams in the nation this season with a 4-8 record against the spread. Amongst those taking the field in the second week of bowl action, only Florida State was worse at 3-9 ATS. Others at 4-8 ATS were Auburn and UCLA. The Aggies had problems on both sides of the ball. The defense was horrible again, and only has 12 takeaways all season (exactly one per game!). The offense wasn't consistent enough to outscore what its defense was allowing. They did catch a break when West Virginia had to lock in its backup quarterback. Will the Aggies be fired up for this relatively minor bowl...and a matchup against a Big 12 team...after facing so many SEC studs during the season?
I generally like what I'm seeing with the Horns this year under new head coach Charlie Strong. The defense is definitely playing with intensity (allowing only 4.7 yards-per-play this year while taking the ball away 22 times). The offense was overmatched because they didn't have a quality quarterback. Strong needs a playmaker at that position, which we saw at Louisville. I'll have to consider the "defensive dog" here in prime recruiting ground in Houston against an SEC team that may come in flat after overachieving during the season. Arkansas went 9-3 ATS...but may not be as fired up for this game as they were when facing the SEC powers. Motivation matters so much in the bowls. Is the Under worth some thought? Texas is 4-8 to the Under this season, but oddsmakers have posted a very low number for a bowl game.
Handicappers will have to determine for both TCU here, and Baylor in the next game, whether or not the Big 12 co-champs are going to be flat or fired up. Each believes they deserved to be in the Final Four. That could put a chip on their shoulder, or take fire out of their belly. TCU has a very tough draw here with Ole Miss. I personally had both of these teams better than Florida State in my Power Ratings, though I understand why an undefeated team was granted a tournament berth. TCU made bettors a lot of money this season with a 10-2 ATS record. Ole Miss wasn't bad themselves at 7-4-1 ATS. To me, the key will be whether or not TCU can move the ball against that fantastic Rebels defense. Ole Miss only allowed 4.6 yards-per-play this season in a strong conference. Ole Miss's games were also 2-9 to the Under, which suggests that defense determines their games.
Baylor draws Michigan State, which could be very bad news because the Bears seem to get the worst of it whenever they're playing physical teams who can push them off the point of attack. That happened in last year's bowl against Central Florida...and that UCF team isn't anywhere near as good as this Michigan State squad is. Baylor fans better hope that the Bears learned from that experience. You can't just show up for a bowl game and assume the other team is going to lay down. Michigan State does have trouble playing from behind though. You saw that vs. Ohio State and Oregon during the season. This one could really blow up in either direction. The fact that MSU was 9-3 to the Over this season may have be thinking about a total in this one.
ARMED FORCES BOWL
Houston comes up in conversations whenever there's talk of the Big 12 expanding back to 12 teams. Most of the league doesn't want the Cougars because of UH's lesser academic programs, and because the Big 12 wants to spread the "footprint" further outside the state. Making Houston a Big 12 team hinders recruiting for the established programs too. Still, it's a short list of possible choices, and the Cougars could make a better case for themselves with a bowl win over Pittsburgh. This Cougars defense went relatively unrecognized in media coverage this year...even though they only allowed 4.8 yards-per-play and had 30 takeaways! TONY SALINAS loves hard hitting defenses! I definitely want to see how other ACC teams do the next few days before deciding how I'll handle a game involving Pittsburgh. From Monday through Thursday, Clemson, Louisville, Maryland, Georgia Tech, and Florida State will all take the field before Pitt does.
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