For Iowa Hawkeyes, everything starts with one of the top defenses in all of college football. A deep and talented front seven stars Adrian Clayborn at defensive tackle and Pat Angerer and Jeremiah Hunter at linebacker. The group was one of the country’s best all season, as they ranked 10 th in scoring defense and 11 th in total defense, while allowing just 164 yards passing a game.
Offensively, the Hawkeyes will never score a ton of points, but were efficient throughout the year. And truthfully, they should be even better in this bowl game, thanks to a healthy Ricky Stanzi. Stanzi, who was on his way to a potential All-Big 10 performance this year, got hurt in the Hawkeyes second to last game of the season, with Iowa ultimately losing the two games he missed, against Northwestern and Ohio State. He should be back though, and the Hawkeyes can use him, as he threw for 2100 yards and 15 touchdowns on the year. A very, very important note however is that he also threw 14 interceptions in the 10 ½ games he played in this year.
As for Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets offense, well they are simply one of the most efficient running teams in college football. They are led by running back Jonathan Dwyer and quarterback Josh Nesbitt, a backfield that combined for a staggering 2000 yards and 32 touchdowns on the year. Although the Yellow Jackets prefer not to throw the ball often, they do have a very capable wide receiver in Demaryius “Bebe,” Thomas. Thomas, a junior, had just 46 catches on the year, but finished second in the FBS with an average of 25 yards per catch.
On defense, the Yellow Jackets have struggled as of late, allowing 27 or more points in four of their last five games.
Despite those defensive struggles, I still expect the Yellow Jackets to win this game. But, considering that three of Georgia Tech’s last four games were decided by six points or less, I’m not sure that they can cover the bowl game betting odds in this one.
The Yellow Jackets are a team that seems to always play close, but always find ways to win games. Because of it, I like Iowa to cover the betting odds, while Georgia Tech should win the Orange Bowl straight up.
Aaron’s Pick: Iowa +4
The Cowboys have ended their December curse, winning back-to-back road games over the Saints and Redskins to earn themselves a spot in the playoffs. Now they have even more at stake Sunday, which is winning the NFC East title by beating the Philadelphia Eagles. Not only can they win the NFC East, but with a little help they could earn the #2 seed and a first-round bye. Dallas remembers getting hammered 44-6 by the Eagles in their regular season finale last year in Philly, which knocked them out of the playoffs. The Cowboys would love nothing more than to return the favor this time around, and they are treating this as a playoff game. Eagles center Jamaal Jackson’s streak of 71 consecutive starts will come to an end due to a torn ACL suffered in last Sunday’s 30-27 win over Denver. That leaves former right guard Nick Cole snapping the ball to McNabb, and his poor timing in that process led to one bad exchange and a false start penalty in their 30-27 win over the Broncos last week. Without Jackson, Jay Ratliff will require a double-team inside while DeMarcus Ware and Anthony Spencer wreak havoc on the outside. Donovan McNabb was pressured the entire game in their 16-20 loss to Dallas earlier this season, going 16-of-30 passing for 208 yards with 2 interceptions. He’ll face even more pressure this time around with a banged-up line, which will be the difference in the game. Tony Romo had a 67.9 passer rating last December but he’s been playing a lot better down the stretch this season, posting a 106.7 rating in the last five games. During that span, he’s completed 67.2 percent of his throws for 1,548 yards with nine touchdowns and one interception. Romoe has proven he can handle the pressure of the big game, and he’ll have time to pick apart the Eagles’ defense Sunday while McNabb will not have the same luxury. Take Dallas and lay the points.
The tragic memory of deceased teammate, Jasper Howard, will be hanging over the Huskies as they hit the gridiron of Legion Field to battle the South Carolina Gamecocks. Sometimes that kind of motivation is enough to push a fringe team over the edge, but finding seams against the Gamecocks will be almost impossible. South Carolina prides itself on defense and has endured a season filled with tough, SEC-caliber opponents. Handling the Huskies should be an easy feat for them.
UConn wasn’t able to use the motivation of Howard’s death affectively, pilling up three-straight losses after the funeral of their corner-back. The bulk of the workload in the Huskies offense comes from the tailback tandem of Todman and Dixon, who totaled 2,119 yards on the ground with 27 touchdowns between them. Shutting those studs down will be the a key for the rush defense of the Gamecocks that allow 137.0 yards per game.
Despite the ups and downs of their emotionally draining season, the Huskies showed serious resolve in a comeback victory against the South Florida Bulls 29-27 which gave them a three-game winning streak. In the past five games overall they’re 3-2 SU/ATS and are 6-2 ATS in their last 8 games overall.
The Gamecocks have been lost in the mad shuffle of the SEC. They managed to decimate Clemson 34-17 in their season finale, ending a three-game losing skid and giving them a 2-0 ATS record to finish the season. Quarterback Stephen Garcia tallied 2,733 yards and 17 touchdowns in his sophomore year and showed that, at times, he can seriously carry this team. Garcia ended the season with a favorable quarterback rating of 124.54.
The key to betting this bowl game properly is noting how efficiently the Gamecocks were able to contain C.J. Spiller of Clemson. They held one of college’s all-time great running-backs to just 18-yards on 9 carries and though the one-two punch of Todman-Dixon will be formidable, it certainly won’t test Spurrier’s ability to craft stingy defenses.
This line has dropped inexplicably by almost three-points and I say that you take advantage of it. Garcia may be just a sophomore, but he’ll be able to manage an effective gameplan. I’ll take an SEC team that had a winning record over UConn any day…especially with a great sports betting line.
Furious Free Pick: South Carolina -4.5 (UNDER)
Lions, Tigers and the Citrus Bowl…oh my! When the pollsters and voters handed the Capitol One Bowl to Penn State and LSU, it was a dream come true for many college football fans. These are two marquee teams and though no titles little prestige will be awarded to the winner, respect will be paid one way or another. Two teams predicated on defense with offenses that can keep the chains churning promises a great way to kick of your New Year’s Day afternoon. The question for Joe Paterno is whether he can outsmart Les Miles in the Capital One Bowl. Of course, that may not be too hard to do.
The Tigers entered infamy after they lost to Arkansas thanks to some blatant miscommunication and mismanagement on the part of Les Miles. It was probably one of the funniest blunders to watch in 2009, with Miles streaming up and down the sidelines trying to figure out what to do. However all will be forgiven by the LSU betting backers if he can figure out a way to continue his post season prominence. LSU has won each of its last four bowl games by an average of 28.5 points per game.
Penn State may be “linebacker university”, but LSU is a turnover machine. They have generated 37 turnovers in their last 25 games. The problem is that LSU’s quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, is known to put up interceptions in big moments. The fact that some dissension between him and Miles might be undermining the trust between the two will give Penn State all they need to victimize Les Miles’ offense.
The Lions give up just 183.2 passing yards per game, 93.9 rush yards and just 11.8 points. In fact, across the board on offense and defense, Penn State beats LSU in every important statistical category.
Quarterback Darryl Clark of Penn State has been making all sorts of noise as a leader and a playmaker this season. With 2,797 yards and 23 touchdowns, along with 10 picks, Clark has proven he can be a force in the pocket. Of course, consistency will have to be proven in 2010, but for now Clark realizes that his performances in big games will determine his value in the NFL. That kind of maturity, and a pocketed win over the esteemed program from LSU, will go a long way in securing Clark’s place amongst the best in the country.
The defense in Penn State will be the key against LSU, however. I expect points to come for the Lions, but the Tigers will have all sorts of trouble with a trio of strong linebackers backing the defense of Penn State. The fact that running back Charles Scott is iffy with an injury makes me even less convinced that LSU will keep its rousing bowl performance streak intact.
Penn State is on the verge of BCS glory in the next two years. It will happen eventually, but it starts by defeating the LSU Tigers and getting a marquee victory under the belts to cap a 10-2 SU season.
Furious Free Pick: Penn Sate -2.5 (UNDER)