After a break to make way for yesterday’s NFL action, bowl action gets underway again today. Four games are on the slate, including the much-anticipated Chick-fil-A Bowl between #8 LSU and #14 Clemson. Here’s Casino Review’s picks for the day.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Vanderbilt vs. North Carolina State
LP Field, Nashville, TN
12:00 PM ET
Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3 SEC) will meet North Carolina State (7-5, 4-4 ACC) for only the second time in history, and the first time since 1946, at noon to contest the Music City Bowl.
The Commodores struggled early this season, posting a 1-3 record to start the year. Seven wins from the remaining eight games has the side rolling into Nashville and confident of knocking off the Wolfpack. For the first time in history the school has booked trips to back-to-back bowl games.
North Carolina State on the other hand closed out the season 2-3, and momentum will be at a premium as it takes the field. A Week 6 win over Florida State – then ranked #3 – will give the side confidence however, as will recent bowl history.
The Wolfpack defeated Louisville in last year’s Belk Bowl, a second straight bowl win, and a fifth win in six bowl games. Vanderbilt lost to Cincinnati in the Liberty Bowl last year, and has lost two of the last three. However, the Commodores did win the 2008 Music City Bowl in their only appearance in the game. North Carolina State makes its bow in the game today.
Odds: Vanderbilt opened as 5½-point favorites, a number that has since increased to 7½. The over/under is 52.
Take: Vanderbilt – The Commodores have a slight advantage on defense, which should prove the difference in this one. A top ten passing defense should have enough to halt the Wolfpack’s 20th ranked passing game, leaving North Carolina State to run the football, something they’ve not managed all season. This will be a close one though. Take Vanderbilt (8-4-0 ATS) to cover the spread though. Take the total to go under.
Hyundai Sun Bowl
Georgia Tech vs. USC
Sun Bowl Stadium, University of Texas-El Paso, El Paso, TX
2:00 PM ET
#1 in the preseason polls with a Heisman trophy favorite, Southern California (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) had a season forget and you can’t help but wonder if Matt Barkley may be second-guessing his decision not to jump to the NFL last season. Barkley will be out in this one, a fact that has had oddsmakers hot under the collar all week.
The Trojans’ disappointing season will be somewhat upgraded with a win in the Sun Bowl, and most expect exactly that against Georgia Tech (6-7, 5-3 ACC).
The Yellow Jackets made it to the ACC Championship Game, but the default trip only came as a result of North Carolina being ineligible, and Miami (FL) making itself ineligible towards the end of the season. In reality, the school did not have a marquee victory on their schedule this season.
The two sides have met three times before, with USC owning a 2-1 advantage. The Trojans have won the past two meetings, including games in 1969 and 1973. However, USC is 0-2 in the Sun Bow, losing in 1990 and 1998, while Georgia Tech has gone 1-1 in Sun Bowl games.
The Yellow Jackets will look to control the game on the ground. The side was fourth in the country at running the football (312.5 YPG). The Trojans preferred to put the ball in the air, averaging 296.9 yards per game (26th). USC has the defensive advantage.
Odds: USC opened as favorites (-9½) but news of Barkley’s absence has seen the spread lower to 7 ½. The over/under has dropped from 66 to 62½.
Take: USC – After the season they’ve had, in many ways you might expect the Trojans to slip up in this game. However, even a depleted and erratic USC side has enough to beat a Georgia Tech side that failed to beat any side that was ranked at any point during the season. Take USC (3-9-0 ATS) to cover the spread, a rarity this season. Take the total to go under.
Autozone Liberty Bowl
Iowa State vs. Tulsa
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN
3:30 PM ET
Iowa State (6-6, 3-6 Big 12) defeated Tulsa (10-3, 7-1 CUSA) on the opening weekend of the season. The Golden Hurricane responded by winning 10 of its 12 remaining games, including the Conference USA championship. The Cyclones meanwhile produced a somewhat ordinary season, although wins over Baylor and TCU deserved merit.
The two sides meet again to close out the season at today’s Liberty Bowl.
Iowa State owns a 2-0 advantage over the Golden Hurricane all-time, including this season’s38-23 victory, but has had less success in bowl games. A 3-8 all-time bowl record includes last year’s Pinstripe Bowl loss to Rutgers and four losses in the last six games.
Tulsa meanwhile has had slightly more postseason success. The school is 8-10 all-time in bowl games. A 24-21 loss to BYU in last year’s Armed Forces Bowl snapped a three-game winning streak, a streak that also included four wins from five.
With 240.2 yards per game, Tulsa ranked just outside the top ten in rushing (11th), and with Iowa State ranked 70th against the run, that marks an advantage for the Golden Hurricane. In fact, the school outranks Iowa State in most categories, although importantly, the Cyclones have conceded fewer points.
Odds: With its superior Big 12 pedigree, Iowa State is favorites, but only just. The Cyclones opened as two-point favorites, a number that has fallen to 1½. The over/under is 51.
Take: Tulsa – The Golden Hurricane looked solid in (the inferior) Conference USA this season, and has a genuine chance of upsetting Iowa State, particularly with the Cyclones’ recent bowl history. Take the total to go over.
Clemson vs. LSU
Georgia Dome, Atlanta, GA
7:30 PM ET
One of the real gems of this bowl season, the Chick-fil-A Bowl will see the high-powered offense of #14 Clemson (10-2, 7-1 ACC) take on the robust defense of #8 LSU (10-2, 6-2 SEC).
Clemson ranked sixth in the country in points scored (42.3 PPG) utilizing an explosive passing game – which averaged 319.9 yards per game (13th) – and a solid running game (198.8 YPG).
LSU may have spluttered on offense but with a defense that ranked in the top 20 in passing yards, rushing yards, and points allowed, the side managed to file a decent season. It may not have been the season most expected, but there’s little arguing this was one of the best defenses on show this year.
The biggest knock against Clemson was its soft schedule. The Tigers did not have a marquee win on the season, losing its biggest games to Florida and South Carolina. LSU meanwhile may have lost to Alabama (just) and Florida, but the side handled South Carolina, Texas A&M, and Mississippi State.
The two schools have met just twice before. LSU scored victories in both the 1996 Peach Bowl and the 1959 Sugar Bowl. The Fighting Tigers will be looking to avenge last year’s 21-0 defeat to Alabama in the National Championship Game. Clemson will be looking to wash away any remnants of last year’s 70-33 drubbing in the Orange Bowl at the hands of West Virginia. That might not be so easy for a side that has dropped five of its last six bowl games.
Odds: LSU opened as three-point favorites, but the spread has subsequently risen to six. The over/under has increased from 57 to 59.
Take: LSU – Defense outlasts offense is this intriguing matchup, as the Fighting Tigers of LSU derail Tajh Boyd and the high-octane Clemson offense. Take LSU to cover the spread too. Take the total to go under.