Friday Bowl Action
December 28, 2012
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OHIO BOBCATS (8-4) vs. LOUISIANA-MONROE WARHAWKS (8-4)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: UL-Monroe -7 & 60.5
Opening Line & Total: Warhawks -7 & 60
Louisiana-Monroe makes its first postseason appearance in Friday's Independence Bowl in Shreveport, LA when it faces a slumping Ohio team.
Ohio has dropped four of its five games, including three in a row, while ULM enters this game with two straight victories. The Warhawks have played four overtime games this year, including wins versus Arkansas and at Western Kentucky, which just played in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. UL-Monroe QB Kolton Browning has 297 total YPG of offense while throwing for 27 TD and just 7 INT this season. The Bobcats are just 1-5 ATS in non-home games, but also have an excellent quarterback in Tyler Tettleton (16 pass TD, 3 INT) who completed 19-of-26 passes for 220 yards, 2 TD and 0 INT, while rushing for the game-winning TD with 13 seconds left to win last year's Famous Idaho Potato Bowl over Utah State, 24-23. The Bobcats are playing in their fourth straight bowl, and this experience is truly invaluable, especially for Tettleton who rose to the occasion last year when he capped off a game-winning 61-yard TD drive with two minutes to play. The Warhawks are not a team that historically performs well after a long layoff, going 3-10 ATS (23%) when playing with two weeks or more of rest since 1992. Although Ohio's offense has gone south, it should have little problems moving the football on a ULM team that has given up 40+ points four times this year, including three of the past six games to Sun Belt teams.
Tettleton hasn't been great during his team's three-game slide, throwing for just 6.1 yards per pass attempt with only one of his 101 throws resulting in a touchdown. His team has just 15.7 PPG during the skid, a far cry from the 35.6 PPG over the first nine games this year. However, Tettleton has thrown just three picks all season despite airing out the football 345 times. His favorite receiver by a wide margin is Donte Foster, who has more than double the amount of receiving yards (629) than any teammate (Bakari Bussey 313 yards). Foster also has 7 TD catches with the next highest Bobcats players tallying just three scores. Tettleton's rushing numbers (210 yds, 4 TD) have dropped considerably from last year (666 yds, 10 TD), but a lot of that has to do with the emergence of junior RB Beau Blankenship who ranks 9th in the nation with 125 rushing YPG. He has rushed for more than 100 yards in eight of his 12 games, piling up 312 yards on 50 carries (6.2 YPC) and 3 TD in the past two games alone. He was also decent in last year's Humanitarian Bowl win, gaining 47 yards on 11 carries. Ohio's defense doesn't have a lot of standout statistics, giving up 25.7 PPG (52nd in nation), 395 total YPG (63rd in FBS) and tallying only 1.7 sacks per game (T-79th in nation). The Bobcats have surrendered 80 points and 965 total yards in their past two losses at Ball State and at Kent State.
Browning certainly has had some huge outputs this year (seven 250-yard passing games), and after missing the majority of his team's two losses to start November with a foot injury, he came back with 542 passing yards and 6 total TD in the past two games. Senior WR Brent Leonard (97 catches, 7th in nation) has become the top receiving threat for the Warhawks, piling up 55 receptions for 619 yards (124 per game) and 7 TD over his past five games. Browning also leads the Warhawks in rushing yards with 441. Defensively, ULM loves to go after the football, forcing at least one turnover in every game, and 2+ turnovers in nine of 12 contests, tallying 15 interceptions on the year. That helps combat a defense allowing 272 YPG through the air (107th in nation) and 407 total YPG (73rd in FBS).
RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS (9-3) vs. VIRGINIA TECH HOKIES (6-6)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Virginia Tech -2 & 41
Opening Line & Total: Hokies -2 & 41.5
Former Big East rivals meet for the first time in a decade when Rutgers and Virginia Tech square off Friday in Orlando for the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Virginia Tech dominated this series from 1993 to 2003, scoring 30+ points in each of 11 straight wins by a combined score of 511 to 189 (47 to 17 average score). Rutgers has the better record this year though, starting the season 9-1 before dropping the final two games. Virginia Tech needed a two-game win streak to end the year (both ATS losses) with a bowl berth, but still finished 3-9 ATS overall, including 0-6 ATS (1-5 SU) in non-home games. Rutgers has won five straight bowls, all since 2006, by an average margin of 18.0 PPG. This ties Mississippi State for the longest active bowl winning streak in the nation. And while the Knights have this trend working for them -- 17-6 ATS (74%) in non-home games after two straight ATS losses since 1992 -- Virginia Tech is a dreadful 3-13 ATS (19%) after an SU win.
Rutgers QB Gary Nova has not thrown the football well over the past five games, completing 81-of-147 passes (55%) for 1,063 yards (7.2 YPA), 7 TD and 12 INT. However, Nova has been strong away from home this year, throwing for 397 yards and 5 TD at Arkansas, and tossing 4 TD passes at Temple. Nova relies mostly on three receivers who all rank in the top-20 in yardage in the Big East. Brandon Coleman's 663 yards rank sixth in the conference and he also has 10 TD grabs. Mark Harrison (560 rec. yds, 6 TD) and Tim Wright (438 rec. yds, 2 TD) rank 11th and 19th, respectively, in Big East receiving yards. The rushing workload is given almost entirely to two backs, Jawan Jamison (242 carries) and Savon Huggins (101 carries), as Nova is the only other Rutgers player with more than 10 carries this season. Jamison started the year with five straight games of 110+ rushing yards, but finished with five straight sub-100-yard efforts. He has clearly been affected by an ankle injury, but the long layoff should have him close to 100 percent for this game. The Knights have been sacked just eight times all season (tied for fifth-fewest in FBS). Defensively, Rutgers is incredibly stingy, giving up only 14.3 PPG (5th in nation) and 321 total YPG (14th in FBS). Although the Knights don't pile up the sacks (1.8 per game, 75th in nation), they do rank 19th in the country in Tackles For Loss (7.1 per game). Senior LB Khaseem Greene was named the Big East Defensive Player of the Year with team-best totals in tackles (125), forced fumbles (6) and sacks (5.5).
Logan Thomas is in the midst of a terrible season, ranking 84th in the nation in passing efficiency, a huge drop-off from his 50th ranking in this category in 2011. He's thrown for 2,783 yards on 390 attempts (7.1 YPA) with 17 TD and 14 INT, throwing multiple picks in five different games. Thomas relies mostly on two senior wide receivers, Marcus Davis (891 rec. yds, 8th in ACC) and Corey Fuller (769 rec. yds, 11th in ACC). In last year's 23-20 Sugar Bowl loss to Michigan, Thomas completed 19-of-28 passes for 214 yards, 0 TD and 1 INT, while rushing for 53 yards and 1 TD. He has done a nice job rushing the football this year too with a team-high 528 yards and 9 TD coming in nine different games. Tech's defense has been erratic this year, holding four teams to 17 points or less, but allowing 27+ points in six games. However, the Hokies allow just 345 total YPG (24th in FBS) and put great pressure on the quarterback with an ACC-best 2.7 sacks per game and 7.3 Tackles For Loss per game (14th in FBS).
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS (6-6) vs. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (7-5)
Sportsbook.ag Line & Total: Texas Tech -13.5 & 55.5
Opening Line & Total: Red Raiders -13 & 57
Two teams look to end their seasons on a high note when Minnesota and Texas Tech square off in Friday's Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston.
Both teams slump into this game as Minnesota is just 2-6 (SU and ATS) in its past eight contests, while Texas Tech has lost four of five (0-5 ATS), allowing 46.2 PPG during this span. The Gophers were just 1-4 ATS in non-home games this year, managing only 17.4 PPG. The Red Raiders rank second in the nation in passing offense (362 YPG), but have allowed 52+ points in each of their past four games outside of Lubbock. Minnesota has lost four straight bowl games, but three defeats were by three points or less. Texas Tech is playing in its fourth straight bowl game taking place in Texas. With head coach Tommy Tuberville leaving for Cincinnati, offensive line coach Chris Thomsen will lead the Red Raiders on Friday. Texas Tech allowed 31+ points in all five of its consecutive ATS losses. History shows that teams after being beaten by the spread by 35+ points total in their past three games facing an opponent going Under the Total by 28+ points in their past three games are just 23-43 ATS (35%) in the past five seasons. Minnesota doesn't have the offensive firepower like many of these Big 12 opponents, but the Gophers are good enough to keep this final margin within 10 points. They lost three of their past four bowls by a field goal or less, and the Red Raiders just lost their head coach on Dec. 8 when Tommy Tuberville bolted for Cincinnati.
Minnesota's offense is a mess, and freshman QB Philip Nelson has provided little solace since he took over for Max Shortell. Nelson has thrown more INT (7) than TD (6) this year, and has been just dreadful in the past two games, completing 18-of-46 passes (39%) for 120 yards (2.6 YPA), 0 TD and 5 INT in losses to Nebraska and Michigan State. It hasn't helped the offense that leading receiver A.J. Barker quit the team in November, citing mistreatment by head coach Jerry Kill. Sophomore RB Donnell Kirkwood is the team's most effective offensive player with 849 rushing yards and 5 TD this year, but he has also struggled in these past two contests, gaining just 30 yards on 17 carries. The Gophers defense continues to carry this team, allowing just 353 total YPG (29th in nation) and 23.9 PPG (38th in FBS) this season. They are particularly sharp in their passing defense (179 YPG, 11th in nation), and they will certainly be tested by Texas Tech's high-octane passing attack. The Gophers have forced multiple turnovers in half of their games this season, including three in a row.
Seth Doege is in the midst of another monster season, ranking 9th in the nation in total offense (331 YPG) and 14th in passing efficiency (7.9 YPA, 38 TD, 14 INT). He has thrown at least three touchdown passes seven times this year with outputs of 5, 6, 6, and 7 TD in a triple-overtime win at TCU. Doege has never played in a bowl game before, and he has not been as crisp in his past two games with more INT (five) than TD passes (four). The Red Raiders have a pair of 900-yard receivers in Eric Ward (75 rec., 974 yds, 11 TD) and Darrin Moore (81 rec., 948 yds, 13 TD), who has a whopping 21 catches for 326 yards and 3 TD in the past two games. Sophomore RB Kenny Williams (779 rush yds, 5.7 YPC) is the top rusher in Lubbock, but he has surpassed 15 carries just once all season. Turnovers have been a huge problem for Texas Tech, more particularly on the defensive side of the ball, where the school has forced the third-fewest turnovers in FBS this season with 10. But the Red Raiders have a paltry 1.3 sacks per game (T-105th in nation), which is why they have surrendered 31.8 PPG (92nd in FBS). Yardage-wise they are not too shabby though, allowing just 367 total YPG (2nd in Big 12) and 196 passing YPG (best in conference).
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