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Thursday's Bowl Notes

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Sportsbook.ag Thursday Bowl Odds

BOWLING GREEN FALCONS (8-4) vs. SAN JOSE STATE SPARTANS (10-2)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: San Jose State -7.5 & 44.5
Opening Line & Total: Spartans -8 & 47

Two surging teams look to cap off strong seasons when No. 24 San Jose State meets Bowling Green in the Military Bowl on Thursday afternoon in the nation's capital.

Both teams enter this game red-hot with Bowling Green going 7-1 (SU and ATS) in the past eight contests and San Jose State winning six in a row SU (5-1 ATS). The Falcons haven't won a bowl since 2004, while the Spartans have played in just one bowl since 1990, a win over New Mexico in 2006. DT Chris Jones (12.5 sacks, 3rd in nation) leads a BGSU defense ranked in the nation's top-10 in both scoring (15.8 PPG, 9th) and yardage (290 YPG, 7th). San Jose State is 6-0 ATS (5-1 SU) away from home, outscoring these teams 35 to 16 on average. QB David Fales is 3rd in FBS in passing efficiency with 9.3 YPA, 31 TD and 9 INT. Like San Jose, the Falcons have also been great in non-home games, going 5-2 ATS and allowing just 17.4 PPG and 298 total YPG. Average rushing teams (140 to 190 rush YPG) against a poor rushing team (100 to 140 rush YPG), after allowing 2 or less rushing YPC in its last game are a stellar 48-18 ATS (73%) over the past five seasons.

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The Falcons are a below-average offensive team (374 total YPG, 86th in FBS), but they do have an experienced signal-caller in junior Matt Schilz who has 13 TD passes (but also 8 INT) over his past eight games. His favorite target has been freshman WR Chris Gallon, who leads the team in catches (47), yards (647) and TD (six) this year. Gallon caught 10 passes for 213 yards and 2 TDs two games ago against Kent State. Anthon Samuel is a capable running back (88 rush YPG), but he has failed to reach 70 rushing yards in six of his 11 games this season. In the most recent game versus Buffalo, Samuel was held to minus-four yards on nine carries. Bowling Green has many playmakers on defense besides Jones. LBs Gabe Martin (69 tackles, 8.5 TFL), Dwayne Woods (60 tackles, 7.5 TFL) and Paul Swan (60 tackles, 6 TFL) have all been strong in the middle of the field, and have helped create the 14 forced turnovers in the past six games.

Mike MacIntyre did an amazing job with San Jose State this year, especially considering he went 1-12 in his first year in 2010 with the school. But MacIntyre will not be guiding his team to a hopeful 11th victory for the first time since 1939, as he took the head job at Colorado. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer will be the interim coach for this contest, and he will lean on WAC Defensive Player of the Year DL Travis Johnson (12 sacks, 19.5 Tackles for Loss). Fales has the offensive side under control, throwing for 3,798 yards (7th in nation) and a conference-best 31 TD passes this season. His favorite targets have been WRs Noel Grigsby (1,173 rec. yds, 9 TD) and Chandler Jones (618 rec. yds, 10 TD), and senior TE Ryan Otten (706 rec. yds, 4 TD). With the 11th-best passing offense in the nation (328 YPG), the Spartans aren't too adept at running the football (124 YPG, 104th in FBS). But they do have De'Leon Eskridge (83 rush YPG, 3rd in WAC) who is coming off a monster 217-yard, 3-TD effort in the last game, a 52-43 victory over Louisiana Tech.

CINCINNATI BEARCATS (9-3) vs. DUKE BLUE DEVILS (6-6)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Cincinnati -9.5 & 60.5
Opening Line & Total: Bearcats -8 & 58

Duke is making its first postseason appearance since 1995 and seeking its first bowl victory since 1961 when it stays within North Carolina to face Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl on Thursday night.

Despite the favorable draw, the Blue Devils have allowed 42+ points in each of their past four games, all resulting in SU and ATS defeats. Cincinnati has a much richer bowl history, winning four straight non-BCS bowls, all since 2004, including a 31-24 Liberty Bowl win over Vanderbilt last year. The Bearcats have also been playing much better recently, winning four of five (SU and ATS) since November began, and allowing just 14.2 PPG during this stretch. They won't have head coach Butch Jones on the sidelines after he left for Tennessee, so Cincinnati will be led by defensive line coach Steve Stripling on Thursday. The Blue Devils beat up on some horrible teams early in the year (FIU, Memphis, Wake Forest and Virginia who combined for a 16-32 record), but down the stretch they were a nightmare, losing 48-7 to Florida State, 56-20 to Clemson, 42-24 to Georgia Tech and 52-45 at home to Miami. The Bearcats are better than these past two opponents, and they also beat Virginia Tech 27-24 on a neutral field this season, just two weeks prior to the Hokies pounding Duke 41-20. While Cincy is 13-3 ATS in non-home games after allowing 17 points or less in two straight games since 1992, the Blue Devils are 0-7 ATS in non-home games played on a grass field in the past two seasons, losing these games by an average score of 43 to 17.

Duke senior QB Sean Renfree has put together his best collegiate season with 2,755 passing yards (250 YPG), 18 TD and 8 INT. He's also coming off a career-game in the regular season finale, throwing for 432 yards, 4 TD and 0 INT in a narrow 52-45 home loss to Miami. This included a 99-yard TD pass to Jamison Crowder, the same player whose 5-yard TD grab against rival North Carolina in the final minute on Oct. 20 made the team bowl eligible. Crowder leads the team with 85 receiving YPG (3rd in ACC), while senior WR Conner Vernon averages a team-best 6.3 catches per game (4th in ACC) for the Blue Devils' 32nd-ranked passing offense (278 YPG). With this strong air attack, they don't run the football very often, gaining just 119 YPG (107th in FBS) on 3.6 YPC. Freshman RB Jela Duncan leads the team with a modest 516 rushing yards and 4 TD, failing to reach 90 rushing yards in any game this year. Despite the pass-heavy offense, they have one turnover or less in seven of their past eight games. Duke's defense still needs a lot of work, allowing 49.5 PPG and 593 total YPG during its four-game skid. For the season, the Blue Devils rank 106th in the nation in total defense (462 YPG) and 105th in FBS in scoring defense (35.0 PPG).

Cincinnati senior QB Brendon Kay has been solid since replacing Munchie Legaux, throwing for 8.5 YPA, 6 TD and 2 INT. He was 19-of-29 for 245 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT in the last game, a 34-17 win over UConn on Dec. 1. Senior TE Travis Kelce (team-high 599 rec. yds) caught both touchdowns that day and also threw a TD pass to Kay on a trick play. But this is far from a gimmick offense, as the Bearcats mostly revolve around senior RB George Winn whose 100 rushing yards per game ranks 2nd in the Big East. Winn has gained at least 70 yards on the ground in 11 of 12 games this season, and has scored 12 touchdowns, including 3 TD over the past two games. In addition to its tremendous 17.2 PPG allowed (12th in nation), Cincinnati also ranks 18th in passing efficiency defense with 14 interceptions and just 11 TD passes allowed. The return game is also strong as its 25.5 yards per kick return ranks 11th-best in the country.

BAYLOR BEARS (7-5) vs. UCLA BRUINS (9-4)

Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: UCLA -3 & 82.5
Opening Line & Total: Bruins -1 & 78

Two high-powered offenses showcase their stuff on Thursday night when pass-happy Baylor clashes with run-oriented UCLA in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego.

Baylor brings a five-game ATS win streak (4-1 SU) into this game, while UCLA has lost two straight, both to Stanford. The Bears lead the nation with 579 total YPG thanks to QB Nick Florence (FBS-best 388 total YPG) and WR Terrance Williams (FBS-leading 147 receiving YPG). The Bruins prefer to pound the football with RB Johnathan Franklin (131 rush YPG, 8th in FBS), who just rumbled for 194 yards and 2 TD versus Stanford's top-ranked run defense. Baylor had 67 points in last year's Alamo Bowl, marking its first bowl win since 1992. The Bruins have lost five of their past seven bowls, dropping a 20-14 decision to Illinois in last year's Fight Hunger Bowl. Although both teams boast impressive offenses, UCLA clearly has the better defense in this game, allowing 410 total YPG compared to Baylor's 514 total YPG allowed (2nd-worst in nation). The Bruins have also been much better out of conference, going 3-0 ATS -- including a win over Nebraska -- while the Bears are just 1-2 ATS in non-Big 12 games. Baylor is historically a poor underdog play too, going 66-92 ATS (41.8%) when getting points since 1992.

Florence has thrown for 4,121 yards, 31 TD and just 13 INT this season, as he has been able to throw at least 2 TD in 10 of 12 games, and play INT-free football in four of the past five contests. He has also rushed for a touchdown in eight of his past nine games, including five in a row. Despite Williams leading the nation with a school-record 1,764 receiving yards, his production has tailed off considerably late in the season. After five straight 135-yard performances, he has less than 100 yards in three of his past four contests, and of his dozen TD grabs on the season, only three have come in the past six games. But the Bears don't put up 44.1 PPG (5th in nation) solely because of their passing game. Lache Seastrunk has been outstanding in the past three games, rushing for 499 yards (166 YPG) on 54 carries (9.2 YPC). This includes a whopping 178 yards on 16 attempts in Baylor's regular season finale, a 41-34 win over Oklahoma State. The defensive problems abound for the Bears who allow the 2nd-most yards (514 YPG), 3rd-most passing yards (323 YPG), and 7th-most points (38.2 PPG) in the nation. Much of this stems from a non-existent pass rush with 1.1 sacks per game (T-8th fewest in FBS) and 3.8 Tackles For Loss per game (3rd-fewest in nation). The one positive for Baylor is that it creates turnovers, piling up 15 takeaways during a six-game, multi-turnover streak.

Before suffering back-to-back losses against Stanford's elite defense, UCLA had averaged 42.8 PPG over a five-game win streak. Franklin has rushed for more than 100 yards in nine of 13 games this year, surpassing 160 yards in four of his past six contests. This has put him atop the school's all-time rushing list with 4,369 career yards. The Bruins are not just a one-dimensional ground game though, as freshman QB Brett Hundley has thrown for 3,411 yards (262 YPG), 26 TD and 11 INT this season. The 26 TD were second most in the history of the school, and in the past seven games, he has thrown for 13 TD and just 4 INT, while rushing for five scores. Many of these touchdown passes have gone to TE Joseph Fauria, who has scored in nine different games this year, totaling 11 touchdowns on his 41 receptions (for 578 yards). Junior WR Shaquelle Evans leads the team with 53 catches and 795 receiving yards, but has gone six straight games without finding the end zone. The one problem offensively is that the Bruins have taken the third-most sacks in the nation, suffering 3.5 sacks per game. But the line is much more impressive on the defensive end, as the D-Line has been responsible for most of the team's 43 sacks this year (T-4th in FBS). Junior LB Anthony Barr leads the nation with 13.5 sacks to accompany his 74 tackles and 20.5 Tackles For Loss. Sophomore LB Eric Kendricks is a tackling machine with 137 stops (5th in FBS).

  
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