Independence Bowl (played in Shreveport, Louisiana) on Dec. 27th
Southern Mississippi +15 versus Florida State
At the start of the season, Florida State was looked upon as a National Title contender. Now at season’s end, they look like an average program whose coach has abandoned them for Texas A&M. Most thought Jimbo Fisher would be a “lifer” at Florida State and the move to the Aggies shocked just about everyone, but now the Seminoles must gather the pieces and try to wrap up this forgettable season with a bowl win. During the season, Florida State had a knack for losing to the good teams and beating/barely beating the below-average squads. They racked up three wins in a row to finish off the season, but those blowout wins came against competition like Delaware State, Louisiana-Monroe and Florida. The early injury to quarterback Deondre Francois pretty much de-railed their season early, but gave experience to James Blackman. Blackman’s play this year has been pretty inconsistent throwing 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. He should find some spots to do damage though in this matchup against Southern Miss because the Eagles give up 13 yards a catch which is the second worst in Conference USA.
But defense is not the calling card for Southern Miss. It’s their offense, led by running back Ito Smith who is averaging 5.7 yards a carry and has rushed for over 1300 yards. Although Ito is the focal point, quarterback Kwadra Griggs has done well in keeping his mistakes to a minimum (15 touchdowns and 2 interceptions). Florida State will be without their best defensive players, most notably safety Derwin James – as they are preparing for the NFL draft . . . and also making things a little easier for Griggs and company to work. Florida State is waiting for this season to end, and with a lame-duck coach, the players are already thinking about what their fates will be next season. As for Southern Miss, a win against Florida State does wonders for this program. No matter the current state of the Seminoles.
The Pick: Southern Miss +15
Foster Farms Bowl (played in Santa Clara, California) on Dec. 27th
Purdue +3 versus Arizona
Jobs were saved and life had been reignited into the Arizona Wildcats football program all because of one young man: Khalil Tate. As the team’s quarterback, he ran for over 1300 yards and averages 10 yards a carry. His running back mate J.J. Taylor has added in over 800 rushing yards of his own (6 yards per carry). Arizona finished behind only Army and Navy in total rushing yards this season, but was number one in the country in yards per rush with 6.8. The points total in this game has an over/under at 65.5 – Arizona has only gone under that number twice this year while Purdue did not go over that total once all year.
Purdue is 6-6 but has been playing below-average all year long. They had a three-game skid in the middle of the season, where they played Wisconsin tough but lost, and then added a loss to Rutgers (14-12) and Nebraska (25-24) in back-to-back weeks. They finished the season off strong with a road win in Iowa and the victory over their rival, Indiana. Purdue is very balanced on offense – nothing crazy, but very modest and respectable (4.4 yards per carry; and completing 59% of their passes). This bodes well for the Boilermakers who are playing a very high powered, yet one-dimensional offense in Arizona – but the Arizona Wildcats are just pitiful on defense (hence most of their came totals going over 65.5 points). The Boilermakers have a good run defense that only allows 3.6 yards a rush and because Tate isn’t half the threat throwing the ball as he is running with it – Purdue can bring more help in from their secondary to slow down this rush attack.
The Pick: Purdue +3
Sun Bowl (played in El Paso, Texas) on December 29th
N.C. State -6.5 versus Arizona State
Nobody knows why Arizona State fired head coach Todd Graham who finished the season with a 7-5 record. Graham is a pretty good coach that recruits well and gets the most out of the players he gets, but he was fired and replaced by former ESPN personality and NFL coach, Herm Edwards. Edwards hasn’t coached a football game in nearly 20 years, but here he is, head coach of a college football team. Arizona State, stood in the middle of the Pac-12 this year with 31 points per game, completion percentage of over 61% and averaging more than four yards a carry. The problem for the Sun Devils was on the defensive end where they couldn’t do much to stop the pass or the run and giving up 31 points per game.
N.C. State has been a favorite for “Beating Vegas” the last two years. The Wolfpack are just well coached and do everything on the field above-average, pretty consistently. Quarterback Ryan Finley has thrown for over 3,200 yards this year, but more impressive than that, he has only six interceptions in 450 pass attempts this year. Running back Nyheim Hines rushing for over 1,000 yards this year and has been a very well-kept secret in college football this year. After their bye week, the Wolfpack lost a tough back-to-back stretch at Notre Dame and at home to Clemson (which they had a chance to take the win). They then had another rough two games ahead of them against Boston College and Wake Forest, only beating Boston College in that run. . . The bottom line is, N.C. State isn’t a team that takes anything for granted and they play smart and well-coached football for the entire four quarters. Most of the players on Arizona State only know Herm Edwards as the crazy old guy on ESPN who has some pretty funny sound-bites.
The Pick: N.C. State -6.5
Good Luck and Wager Wisely!