College Football Locks for Week 2 of the Bowl Season
With 10 bowl games on tap from Dec. 22 to Dec. 28, being ready for the holidays involves more than just tying bows and stuffing turkeys.
Indeed, friend, put down that roll of tape and unhand that festive tinsel—it’s time for you to gird your loins for Week 2 of the 2012-13 bowl season.
The following slideshow does its small part in preparing you for your destiny with the flat screen and boldly provides five locks for the 10 games that begin with the New Orleans Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 22 and end with the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Friday, Dec. 28.
It’s a pick-and-mix worthy of stuffing in your holiday sock.
As a note, the odds presented in this slideshow are via the rolling daily lines provided by ESPN.com.
Washington +5.5 in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas
When: Saturday, Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, Nev.
In what may be one of the best early bowl games, Boise State and Washington will square off in Las Vegas with teams that are eerily similar.
Both the Broncos and Huskies came into 2012 with young squads (Boise State much more so) and managed to win games this season with big defense and just enough offense.
Though Boise State’s overall stats trump those of Washington’s, don’t forget that these two teams very literally played in two different leagues this season.
Indeed, the Huskies toppled Stanford early in the year and then lost to foes such as Oregon, USC and Arizona, while Boise State beat BYU and Fresno State and lost to Michigan State and San Diego State.
This game figures to be a close, hard-fought battle between two well-coached teams, and regardless of whether or not the Broncos can actually win, the 5.5 points is too generous an offering for the Pac-12’s Washington.
Take the Huskies and the points.
Update (Dec. 22): Washington lost by just two points to Boise State, 28-26.
Fresno State -12.5 in the Hawaii Bowl
When: Monday, Dec. 24, 8 p.m. EST, ESPN
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
Of the 31 remaining bowl games, only five currently have a wider spread than does the Hawaii Bowl, featuring Fresno State and SMU, and that is with good reason.
The Bulldogs are favored by 12.5 over the Mustangs, and when you start playing a simple game of comparative stats, it’s fairly easy to see why.
First, you’ve got Fresno State’s No. 12-ranked passing offense taking it to SMU’s No. 106-ranked pass defense.
Flipping around to the other side of the ball, it’s a Mustang O that has struggled to score 30 points per game this season that will be trying to score points on a Bulldog defense that has held foes under 23 points per game.
Finally, keep in mind that SMU’s 6-6 mark in 2012 includes losses to Rice and Tulane, and that 9-3 Fresno State’s only defeats came to Oregon, C-USA champion Tulsa and Boise State.
Saying take Fresno State minus almost two touchdowns may seem a bit risky, but if the numbers prove correct, the Hawaii Bowl could be a blowout.
Bowling Green +7 in the Military Bowl
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 3 p.m. EST, ESPN
Where: RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.
Hidden somewhere in the deep treasure trove that is the 2012 MAC football offering, Bowling Green has very quietly posted its best season since winning eight regular-season games in 2007.
What makes Bowling Green and a touchdown a lock-worthy pick in the Military Bowl is the Falcons' stifling D.
Bowling Green finished its 2012 campaign ranked No. 9 nationally in scoring D, No. 14 vs. the run and No. 7 vs. the pass.
That’s a serious little piece of defensive business.
It all matches up quite provocatively with San Jose State’s high-flying offense that ranks No. 11 nationally in passing yards and No. 26 in points for.
Add in a Bowling Green O that has been average at best vs. a commendable SJSU D, and you have a cocktail that shakes out with a very low score.
This game should be close, and flying way under the radar are the Falcons, who have the kind of defensive firepower to actually knock off No. 24-ranked San Jose State and provide yet another astonishing victory for the MAC.
Either way, Bowling Green plus-seven is a solid pick, and worthy of a lock because its defense will keep it close.
Cincinnati -7 in the Belk Bowl
When: Thursday, Dec. 27, 6:30 p.m. EST, ESPN
Where: Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.
Though many a college football zealot, myself included, would love to see Duke win its first bowl game since edging Arkansas in the 1961 Cotton Bowl, 2012 might not be that year.
The reason why the Bearcats' minus-seven points in the Belk Bowl is a worthy pick begins with Duke’s D and ends with Cincinnati’s.
Unfortunately, the Blue Devils have one of the poorest defenses in the FBS, a claim that can be substantiated by pointing out that Duke ranks No. 104 nationally in scoring defense, No. 103 vs. the run and No. 97 vs. the pass.
This unit may make the Bearcats (No. 48 in scoring) seem like they have suddenly morphed into the Baylor Bears on offense.
Turning around to the other side of the ball, Duke has managed to score 31.3 points per game this season (No. 45 nationally), but in the battle of the Belk, it will be tasked with ringing up the scoreboard on a UC unit that has allowed a mere 17.2 points per game (No. 12).
Either way you slice it, it doesn’t look good for the Blue Devils, and Cincinnati is very lockable even at minus a full touchdown.
Minnesota +13 in the Meineke Car Care Bowl
When: Friday, Dec. 28, 9 p.m. EST, ESPN
Where: Reliant Stadium, Houston, Texas
In what is perhaps the boldest of our lock picks for Week 2 of the bowling season, it's Minnesota plus-13 vs. Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. What’s intriguing about this game is that the Golden Gophers' one glaringly obvious statistical strength matches up very well with that of Texas Tech.
Indeed, it's Minnesota’s No. 11-ranked pass defense trying to shut down the Red Raider’s No. 2-ranked pass offense.
Of course, this all should be qualified by saying that the Golden Gophers didn’t necessarily earn this high mark by facing a slew of pass-happy foes in the Big Ten.
Either way, and regardless of the fact that Minnesota’s impotent offense might finally provide Texas Tech’s defense with an opponent that it can shut down, the question here is simple: Is 13 points too many?
The Red Raiders have beaten BCS foes by a narrow margin in 2012—a fact that can be illustrated by pointing out that they played in overtime three times this season (they were 2-1 in these games).
This includes a triple-overtime 56-53 win over TCU in October.
It’s not so much the feeling that Texas Tech is walking into a buzz saw vs. Minnesota, but rather the sneaking sensation that 13 points is way too much confidence for a team that has lost big and won close games in 2012.
Tech should win, but maybe not by 13 points, especially given the Gophers' pass D.