Mountain West Moving Front and Center in Bowls
Wayne Root: Mountain West Moving Front and Center in Bowls
The Mountain West Conference is followed much more closely in Las Vegas than it is in the rest of the country. UNLV and Nevada are both in that league. When they play a "late night" game for those of you on the East Coast, it's prime time here. TV coverage...newspaper coverage...and betting interest all combine to make that the second biggest "local" league behind the Pac 12.
This year, the Mountain West earned EIGHT bowl bids! No, the league wasn't really THAT good. But, there are so many minor bowl games now that anyone becoming bowl eligible is going to get a shot. Amazingly, two Mountain West teams are paired against each other next week. You can be sure that all of those games will draw at least some action to Nevada windows before the marquee part of the postseason schedule gets rolling.
So, far, the Mountain West is 1-1 straight up, but 2-0 against the spread.
*New Mexico (+8.5 or +9) only lost by eight points Saturday in a 45-37 scoring fest with Arizona. New Mexico actually won total yardage 508-503, but their defense couldn't keep Arizona out of the end zone. The dog was my only bowl release so far involving the Mountain West. I was proud to see New Mexico win stats (particularly 58% to 22% on third down conversions). Typical "value" dog cashing a bowl ticket.
*San Jose State (-1) dominated Georgia State Saturday evening 27-16. They allowed just 231 total yards, 23 rushing yards, and 1 of 10 on third down conversion tries in an impressive showing. Many professional wagerers were on Georgia State there because it was such a short trip for them. Good sign for the Mountain West that one of its teams could fly cross-country and earn a double-digit cover. This one was a pass for me.
TUESDAY: Utah State vs. Akron in the Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise
WEDNESDAY: Boise State vs. Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego
THURSDAY: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu
TUESDAY DECEMBER 29: Air Force vs. California in the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth
TUESDAY DECEMBER 29: Nevada vs. Colorado State (both from the Mountain West) in the Arizona Bowl in Tucson
Handicapping the league is going to be tricky in my view. There weren't really any great teams this season. Boise State has fallen way back, though is still favored by more than a TD over Northern Illinois this Wednesday night. San Diego State won the league title in a tough tussle with Air Force. The best in the league are probably only around #50 to #60 nationally. Other bowl qualifiers were down around #100 in most respected computer ratings. All that means...
*Turnovers (often at bad times)
*Uncertainty late in close games (if there are any)
*The danger of being bulldozed by an opponent that's really clicking
San Jose State beating Georgia State doesn't tell you anything about what might happen when Air Force has to face high powered California!
As THE KING OF UNDERDOGS, I'm naturally looking for potential upsets in these games. Let's take a look at the lines.
Utah State is -6.5 vs. Akron
Boise State is -8.5 vs. Northern Illinois
San Diego State is -1.5. vs. Cincinnati
Air Force is +7 vs. California
Colorado State is -3 vs. Nevada
Only two dogs down there at the bottom (Air Force and Nevada). I'll be reading media reports about Cal very closely. That team was hoping for something a lot better than the Armed Forces Bowl. If you take a bad attitude into a meeting with Air Force, you're going to get run over by their option attack. So...Air Force will be in play for me IF I'm hearing that Cal isn't excited about this bowl.
Generally, though, calling for upsets here will involve fading Mountain West teams. I don't want to tip my hand too much. For now...it seems fairly likely that's going to happen at least once! You'll have to sign up for service to learn more.
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Back with you in a couple of days to talk more sports. Later this week I'll preview that huge Patriots/Jets game in the NFL...as we continue to watch both New York teams try to sneak into the playoff brackets. The Jets will need some help!
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