College Football Pick'em New Year's Week

Dumont WalkerSenior Analyst IDecember 29, 2008

All right, let me welcome everyone to the second week of the 2008/08 College Football Bowl season. Let me also take a moment out to welcome you to the second week of our College Bowl Game Pick’em. Last week I posted a 3-2 record against the spread, and I got to admit I am pretty proud of that.

Now let’s take a look at what's coming down the pike in the upcoming week. Let’s begin with the bowl games being played on Tuesday.

Humanitarian Bowl: Maryland vs. Nevada

The Maryland Terrapins are making the trip out west to play on the blue field of Boise State, and you can believe that no one on the Maryland roster is excited about their trip out west.

The Terps have been an up and down team all season, and they have the 7-5 record to prove it. They spent a majority of the year bouncing around the bottom portion of the Top 25. Despite their inconsistency, the Terps did manage to rack up wins against ranked opponents Wake Forest and Cal.

The Maryland offense has gone through two phases during this season. In the early part they were highly explosive and relied on their big play receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey. However, as the season progressed, teams adjusted their coverage to keep up with the speedy receiver, and as a result Maryland struggled to maintain long drives.

The Nevada Wolf Pack are a fun team to watch—that’s just my personal opinion. They run an offensive set that you won’t see very often. It’s called the "pistol," and it’s Chris Ault’s variation on the spread option that has become so common in college football.

The Wolf Pack’s offense is headed by their dual threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick. With him calling the signals and using his legs, Nevada was able to end the season with the second ranked rushing offense in the country. Throw in running back Vai Taua, who accounted for over 1,400 yards on the ground, and you have one high powered offense that is capable of putting up points on anyone.

The question is whether the defense remains strong and keeps their opponents out of the end zone.

The spread is favoring Nevada by two points. After the Wolf Pack's season finale against Louisiana Tech, head coach Chris Ault stated it was a landmark moment for his program. This is good for Nevada, but bad for a Maryland Terrapins program that is anything but excited about traveling to Boise. Look for the Wolf Pack to use their momentum and cover the spread and win the game.

Texas Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Rice

In many ways the Rice Owls are the most improved program that you never heard a thing about this past season. A year ago Rice was 3-9 at this point—now they are 9-3, sporting an intimidating spread attack and looking for just their second 10-win season in school history.

In addition to sporting a school record-breaking spread offense in 2008, the Owls also sported a strong 4-2-5 defense. The Owls defense was aggressive at the point of attack, and they managed to force 29 turnovers and register 22 sacks.

Western Michigan is coming off a great season where they finished with a 9-3 record. On offense, the Broncos were juggernauts in the MAC. Quarterback Tim Heller led the conference in passing, averaging 293 yards a game, and he tossed 34 touchdown passes.

Putting up points has not been a problem for Western Michigan, but keeping teams off the scoreboard has been anything but easy. The defense was so bad at one point this season head coach Bill Cubit actually broke up his defense by replacing several of his starters. It was a move that yielded average results.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect about this year’s Texas Bowl is what Western Michigan went through to get to this game. By finishing in second place in the MAC, Western Michigan were eligible to participate in the Independence Bowl. This would have meant a bigger payout for the Broncos.

However, Western Michigan chose to make the trip to Texas instead, thus clearing the path for Northern Illinois to travel to the Independence Bowl. As a result, the two MAC schools will combine and share their bowl payouts.

The spread on the game favors Rice by three points. Oh, did I mention this game is being playing in Houston in Rice’s back yard? To bottom line it, Rice is ready to make a move in the right direction—that means they step up and win the Texas Bowl and cover the spread.

Holiday Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Oregon

The Holiday Bowl has always been one of my favorite bowl games to watch, mainly because it typically features two good teams from major conferences going head to head in a situation they would rarely if ever be in. This year, the Holiday Bowl is living up to the hype by placing a solid Oregon squad against the high powered Oklahoma State Cowboys. Both teams are ranked within the top 15 nationally.

The Oregon Ducks are one of the highest scoring teams in the country, and they will likely continue that streak when they enter the 2008 Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Jeremiah Masoli took over as the signal caller for the Ducks as the season wound down, and with his dual threat ability, he guided the Ducks to the eighth-ranked offense in the country.

Oregon is also responsible for the fourth ranked rushing attack in the country. This could pose a problem for an Oklahoma State defense that is known to give up points and ranks just 73rd in scoring defense.

The one weakness of the Oregon offense is they struggle in their passing attack. This is kind of ironic considering the Ducks won nine games and never scored less than 30 points in any of those games.

To offset their inability to be effective in the passing game, look for Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly to be very creative in his play calling, with the goal of generating more points and being able to keep up with Oklahoma State.

Mike Gundy has turned Oklahoma State into a powerhouse. It has only been four years since Gundy arrived in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys are a force to be reckoned with. Mike Gundy is responsible for calling plays for one of the highest powered spread attacks in the country. Even in defeat, the Cowboys were able to put up big points with their offense on the field.

Despite improvements on the defensive side of the ball under the coaching of Tim Beckman (now Toledo’s head coach), the Cowboys still give up a lot of points. Lucky for Oklahoma State, the only teams that have been able to stop them are the teams that have been able to outscore them: Oklahoma, Texas Tech, and Texas.

The current spread on this game favors the Oklahoma State Cowboys by three points. More interesting however, could be that the over/under is set at 77 points, and I fully believe these teams will blow that mark away. This will be a game where the last team with the ball and a chance to score will win. That team will be Oklahoma State.