Bowl action comes thick and fast between now and the Discover BCS National Championship Game on Jan. 7. Without further ado, here’s Casino Review’s overview of the latest games on the slate.
Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl
Rice vs. Army
Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, TX
11:45 AM ET
Rice (6-6, 4-4 CUSA) turned a 2-6 start into a trip to the Armed Forces Bowl with a four game winning streak to close out the season. It will be the first time since the 2008 Texas Bowl that the Owls have played in the postseason.
Air Force (6-6, 5-3 MWC) meanwhile closed out the season with three losses from the final four games, and will be looking to improve on last year’s 42-41 loss to Toledo in the Military Bowl. The Falcons are 2-4 over their last six bowl games.
Air Force will look to utilize a running game that averaged 328.8 yards per game, second only to Army. Rice ranked 94th against the run this season, and could be in for a long afternoon. That being said, the Owls averaged close to 200 rushing yards per game this season. With neither side particularly competent against the run, expect this one to be a rugged, not-very-pretty affair.
Odds: Air Force opened as 1½-point favorites, a number that has risen to three. The over/under is 61.
Take: Air Force – The Falcons will pound the football on the ground, whilst snubbing out any kind of aerial assault by the Owls. This one won’t be pretty but take Air Force to cover the spread, something that is out of character this season. Take the total to go under.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
Syracuse vs. West Virginia
Yankee Stadium, The Bronx, NY
3:15 PM ET
Syracuse (7-5, 5-2 Big East) returns to Yankee Stadium for a second Pinstripe Bowl in three years. The Orange defeated Kansas State in the 2010 edition of this game, giving the school three wins from the last four bowl games, and a 13-9-1 all-time record.
West Virginia (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) was responsible for a 70-33 drubbing of Clemson in last year’s Orange Bowl and will be looking to cap a first season in the Big 12 with a sixth bowl win in eight tries.
The two sides renew a Big East rivalry that dates back to 1945. Syracuse holds a 32-27 all-time advantage over the Mountaineers. The Orange was victorious in the last two meetings between the sides, a streak that snapped WVU’s eight-game winning streak.
The Mountaineers averaged 41.6 points per game this season, good enough for seventh in the country. Behind the arm of Geno Smith, WVU amassed 340.9 passing yards per game (6th) and will be a huge threat to a Syracuse defense that struggled against the pass (64th). West Virginia will shrug-off defensive responsibilities in a bid to score more than the opposition.
Odds: West Virginia opened as 3½-point favorites, a number that has risen to four. The over/under has gone from 67 to 73½.
Take: West Virginia – Syracuse is every bit capable of pulling an upset off in this one, but it’s hard to imagine the Orange managing to match points with the Mountaineers. After all, Syracuse averaged less than 30 per game. Take West Virginia to win straight up and against the spread. Take the total to go under though; but only just.
Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Arizona State vs. Navy
AT&T Park, San Francisco, CA
4:00 PM ET
Navy (8-4) scored a 34-19 victory over New Mexico State in the 2004 version of this bowl (then known as the Emerald Bowl) and will look to chalk up another win this year, closing out a season that saw the side run defenses ragged. Winners of seven of the last eight, the Midshipmen may be able to achieve exactly that.
Arizona State (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) began the season 5-1 and looking like a dangerous side, but four straight losses saw the Sun Devils finish third in the Pac-12’s South Division. The team will be looking for its first bowl win since 2005’s Insight Bowl, having lost three straight bowl games.
Navy ranked sixth in the country at running the football, averaging 275.6 yards per game on the ground, compensating for a passing offense that averaged a meager 110.4 yards per game. Only Air Force, New Mexico and Army were less efficient through the air.
Arizona State built its game on offense, averaging 36.4 points per game (21st). Scoring on Navy will be a tough task though, particularly as the Midshipmen like to control the pace.
Odds: Arizona State opened as 14-point favorites, a number that has increased to 14½. The over/under is 56.
Take: Arizona State – A tougher conference schedule will have the Sun Devils ready for Navy, and a more potent offense should trump a solid defense in this one. However, take Navy to cover the spread. Take the total to go under as the Midshipmen slow things down.
Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas vs. Oregon State
Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
6:45 PM ET
In one of the more intriguing matchups you’ll see this Bowl Season, #23 Texas (8-4, 5-4 Big 12) takes on #13 Oregon State (9-3, 6-3 Pac-12) in the Alamo Bowl. Texas won the 2006 edition of this bowl and will look to do likewise on Saturday.
Oregon State opened the season with a six-game win streak, only to fall off the pace with a 3-3 finish. The Beavers will hope to finish off the season in style, with a first bowl trip since 2009. Oregon State lost to BYU in the Las Vegas Bowl that season, breaking a streak of six bowl wins from seven.
Texas has somewhat of a down season relatively speaking, but a win on Saturday would mark a ninth bowl win in 11 games. The Longhorns have defeated the Beavers in both previous meetings (1980, 1987), and will look for an upset victory in San Antonio.
Odds: Oregon State is a narrow favorite, with the spread sneaking upwards from one at opening to 3½. The over/under has gone the other way, falling from 60 to 57½.
Take: Texas – There’s no denying that Oregon State will hold its own against the Longhorns, and on paper at least, are the better side, but with 50 bowl games of experience, including 26 wins, Texas as a school knows how to win this type of game. The side will be hungry for a decent finish to the year too. Take the total to go over in a high-scoring affair.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl
Michigan State vs. TCU
Sun Devil Stadium, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ
10:15 PM ET
Closing out Saturday’s Bowl slate will be Michigan State (6-6, 3-5 Big Ten) and TCU (7-5, 4-5 Big 12) contesting the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Both sides will be making their debut in the game formerly known as the Copper/Insight Bowl.
Michigan State’s season was unquestionably disappointing, with the Spartans barely making it to College Bowl Season. A win over Texas Christian would at least go some way to making up for a rough year.
TCU began the season strong, going 5-1 before slipping off the pace to close the season with four losses from six. The Horned Frogs however have won six of the last seven bowl games, including a 31-24 victory over Louisiana Tech in last year’s Poinsettia Bowl.
Michigan State may have had a poor season, but its defense was something to write home about. The Spartans ranked in the top 10 in passing yards allowed (9th), rushing yards allowed (8th), and points allowed (10th). The team’s struggles came offensively, with the side ranking 109th in points scored (20.3 per game). In order to defeat TCU, that offense will need to supply something.
Odds: This one opened even but TCU has crept to a three-point advantage on the spread. The over/under is 40½, down from 42½ at opening.
Take: Michigan State – Whilst bettors back TCU, the Spartans have a good chance of an upset win, built around its dominant defense. Take the total to go over, just, as both offenses managing to put a respectable amount of points on the board.