It’s been a thrilling bowl season so far, but things are just about to really heat up with three more big games kicking off today. Here’s a brief look at each one and as always, the winning point spread picks.
#24 San Jose State Spartans vs. Bowling Green Falcons
The Spartans have made an incredible turnaround in the last couple of years, going from 1-11 in 2010 to 10-2 this season. They’ve built a very efficient and effective passing game that ranks 11th in the nation and contributes to an offense that scores more than 35 points per game. Now they look to finish the season with 11 wins, which would be the first time SJSU has achieved that feat since 1939.
The Falcons have also seen a vast improvement with their program in recent years, finishing second in the MAC conference this season following some tough losing years. The Falcons don’t have the kind of offensive firepower that SJSU is bringing to the table, but they do have one of the nation’s better defenses, as they allowed just 15.8 points per game this season.
Although the WAC is not much stronger, if at all, than the MAC, the fact is Bowling Green hasn’t faced many potent offenses like the one the Spartans feature, so it’s going to be difficult to hold such a big-play team in check for an entire 60 minutes. Also, I don’t think Bowling Green will be able to do enough on offense to keep pace with all the Spartans’ scoring. Take SJSU to cover -7.5 in the win here.
Cincinnati Bearcats 9-3 vs. Duke Blue Devils 6-6
Although Duke finished the season with four straight loses, its program enjoyed the most successful campaign its had since 1994 as the team avoided a losing season for the first time in 17 years. That stretch of time included four winless seasons and a winning percentage below 20, so to even be in the Belk Bowl this year is already a win for the Blue Devils.
However, the fact that they will likely be happy just to be bowling may be troublesome in terms of them earning a win against an experienced bowl opponent like Cincinnati, which had another successful season, going 9-3, 5-2 in the now defunct Big East Conference. The Bearcats should prosper against a defense that allows 35 points per game on average, while taking advantage of a group that hasn’t played on many big stages.
Duke has been a great story this year and it’s nice to see them in a bowl game finally, but the Devils just don’t match-up well here. Expect the Cats to blow the doors off this one and easily cover -9 points in the win.
Baylor Bears 7-5 at #17 UCLA Bruins 9-4
Even after losing RGIII this offseason, the Baylor Bears still managed to finish the season ranked atop the country in total yards per game. Their offense, which scores 44 points per game, carried them much of the season and helped them slay some highly ranked opponents including Kansas State.
The Bruins were a huge surprise this season, as they knocked off USC and won the South division of the Pac-12 with a balanced offensive attack, ranking in the top 30 in both passing and rushing yards. The Bruins should find plenty of room to roam against the Baylor defense, which allowed more than 38 points per contest season, something that got them in trouble, even in games they scored a lot of points in.
This should end up being a fairly high scoring game, but I like UCLA in this one with the multitude of weapons it has on offense against the rather poor defensive unit of Baylor. The Bruins should be able to contain the Bears’ attack enough with its pass rush to get the job done here and cover the -3 point spread today.