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17 Dec 2010

SDA: 2010-11 Bowl Spectacular Part I

by Bill Connelly, Brian Fremeau, and Robert Weintraub

Like A Christmas Story marathons, stress, B.C. Clark's Anniversary Sale, and Major League Baseball's winter meetings, bowl season arrives in mid-December whether you like it or not. No matter your views on bowl games -- waste of time and money, wonderful tradition, or anything in between -- the SDA is ready to tell you everything you need to know about the 35 upcoming matchups.

We may not have determined bowl pairings the cool way, drawing from bowls like UEFA, but each of the games played throughout the next three weeks has some interesting storylines, from BYU-UTEP to Auburn-Oregon.

The festivities kick off with a trifecta of intriguing semi-intriguing mid-major showcases. We hop from Albuquerque to Boise to New Orleans, then it's on to a game a night for most of the next week. Your television shows are on reruns anyway, right?

Previews

New Mexico Bowl: BYU -12 vs. UTEP (Saturday, December 18, 2 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When BYU
Has the Ball...
When UTEP
Has the Ball...
Category BYU
(6-6)
UTEP
(6-6)
BYU
Off
UTEP
Def
BYU
Def
UTEP
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 63 106 97 118 31 83
2010 FEI Rk 76 94 101 111 50 74
2010 S&P+ Rk 48 112 87 118 20 102
2010 FPA Rk 28 18
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 64 120 29 94
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 97 109 15 99
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 86 117 38 104
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
59.0% Run
(66th)
56.0% Run
(85th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 82 72 15 92
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
35.2% Run
(47th)
31.6% Run
(75th)

Things were looking awfully bleak for the Cougars midway through the season. BYU had lost five of its first seven games of the year, all by multiple scores, and was struggling mightily on offense. The running game took some time to develop in the absence of Harvey Unga this season, but the combination of JJ Di Luigi, Bryan Kariya and Joshua Quezada helped drive BYU to a strong finish and bowl eligibility. It also helped that they faced the weakest part of their schedule during the stretch, knocking of the dregs of the Mountain West before battling rival Utah in a one-point loss to finish the year. UTEP skidded throughout October and November after a strong start but faced its toughest competition at the end of the year. The Miners simply had trouble stopping anyone defensively. In terms of opponent-adjusted defensive FEI, they had one better-than-average effort all year, holding SMU out of the end zone for most of the day on November 6. The Miners' Marlon McClure is a dangerous return man and will have the opportunity to flip field position, an advantage he helped create in several UTEP games this year.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Ohio PK vs. Troy (Saturday, December 18, 9 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Ohio
Has the Ball...
When Troy
Has the Ball...
Category Ohio
(8-4)
Troy
(7-5)
Ohio
Off
Troy
Def
Ohio
Def
Troy
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 85 80 81 82 74 68
2010 FEI Rk 80 72 88 56 60 49
2010 S&P+ Rk 88 82 72 87 95 69
2010 FPA Rk 104 65
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 70 106 99 72
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 63 76 90 62
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 67 103 112 64
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
72.2% Run
(11th)
53.6% Run
(96th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 63 39 109 67
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
39.8% Run
(23rd)
23.7% Run
(110th)

Bobcats coach Frank Solich is still looking for his first bowl win since coming to (the other) Athens. The high-powered passing combo of quarterback Boo Jackson and wide receiver Terrence McRae will try to make it happen. The two seniors set school records for touchdown productivity, and they will be a handful for the Troy defense. The Trojans didn't stop many teams this season, giving up 31 points per game, although Jeff Massaquoi led the Sun Belt with 17.5 tackles for loss, with teammate Mario Addison not far behind with 14. Quarterback Corey Robinson makes the attack go, leading the conference in touchdown passes and yards. But he also led the Sun Belt in interceptions, and his mistakes were a key reason for Troy's mediocre 7-5 record. Nevertheless, this is the fifth straight year that Troy has won at least a share of the conference title, a feat only power schools USC, Alabama, FSU, Ohio State, and BYU can match.

uDrove Humanitarian Bowl: Northern Illinois -3 vs. Fresno State (Saturday, December 18, 5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When N. Illinois
Has the Ball...
When Fresno St.
Has the Ball...
Category NIU
(10-3)
Fres. St.
(8-4)
NIU
Off
Fres. St.
Def
NIU
Def
Fres. St.
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 48 68 31 54 67 80
2010 FEI Rk 41 77 30 76 67 80
2010 S&P+ Rk 62 58 41 43 71 77
2010 FPA Rk 12 55
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 28 77 79 88
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 57 22 67 58
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 45 40 87 80
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
73.3% Run
(10th)
63.2% Run
(42nd)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 22 86 58 62
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
42.1% Run
(15th)
37.0% Run
(36th)

In one of the biggest upsets of the year, Northern Illinois was toppled by 18.5-point underdog Miami (Ohio) in the MAC championship game, spoiling a dominant nine-game winning streak and an otherwise undefeated conference schedule. Only a few days later, head coach Jerry Kill had been poached by the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Perhaps a bowl trip to Boise will take the sting off that one-two punch? Huskies quarterback Chandler Harnish had a solid year with his arm and feet, and senior running back Chad Spann chipped in 1,293 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground, second in the nation in scoring among running backs behind Oregon's LaMichael James. Fresno State lost to the best teams it faced -- WAC leaders Boise State, Nevada and Hawaii -- and took care of business against nearly everyone else, despite its terrible -10 turnover margin. Senior quarterback Ryan Coburn saved his best for last in the finale against Illinois, throwing for nearly 12 yards per attempt and three touchdowns. Bulldogs kicker Kevin Goessling had a strong finish as well, connecting on all five attempts in consecutive squeaker victories over Idaho and Illinois.

Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl St. Petersburg: Southern Miss +3 vs. Louisville (Tuesday, December 21, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When So. Miss
Has the Ball...
When Louisville
Has the Ball...
Category So. Miss
(8-4)
Louisville
(6-6)
So. Miss
Off
Louisville
Def
So. Miss
Def
Louisville
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 59 41 66 44 56 39
2010 FEI Rk 54 34 61 41 65 53
2010 S&P+ Rk 66 45 75 55 53 37
2010 FPA Rk 19 23
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 54 78 58 29
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 84 35 54 50
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 83 60 76 47
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
58.7% Run
(71st)
64.8% Run
(38th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 77 26 30 41
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
37.5% Run
(33rd)
34.6% Run
(54th)

In games decided by a single score this year, Louisville went 1-5. It's the kind of stat that usually indicates a team may be better than its record indicates, and the Cardinals hope to find themselves evening that ledger over time under head coach Charlie Strong. The Big East wasn't much of a powerhouse, but Louisville had to scratch and claw its way to a 3-4 record in league play -- even after beating down eventual league champ Connecticut 26-0. The offense blasted out of the gate against Rutgers in the final game to clinch bowl eligibility. They'll face a Southern Miss defense in the bowl game that is weaker than most everyone they've faced to date, but an offense that can put a lot of pressure on a team to keep up. The Golden Eagles averaged almost 38 points per game, 46 per game over the last three weeks. Quarterback Austin Davis led the way in those three games, throwing for 928 yards and eight touchdowns. Southern Miss also knocked off a league champion, Central Florida.

Maaco Bowl Las Vegas: No. 19 Utah +16 vs. No. 10 Boise State (Wednesday, December 22, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Utah
Has the Ball...
When Boise State
Has the Ball...
Category Utah
(10-2)
Boise St.
(11-1)
Utah
Off
Boise St.
Def
Utah
Def
Boise St.
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 38 2 53 3 33 8
2010 FEI Rk 48 11 69 20 35 16
2010 S&P+ Rk 32 1 30 1 29 2
2010 FPA Rk 36 6
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 59 3 1 25
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 23 2 80 2
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 19 2 32 4
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
60.4% Run
(55th)
60.3% Run
(56th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 56 7 70 21
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
27.2% Run
(96th)
33.3% Run
(61st)

Boise lost out on millions when kicker Kyle Brotzman barely missed a pair of field goals against Nevada. Apparently, the Broncos can make up for the lost dough by playing roulette in the days before the Las Vegas Bowl -- but unfortunately, betting on blue is not an option. The missed kicks were pretty much the only things Boise did wrong in an otherwise excellent season. Quarterback Kellen Moore might have won the Heisman in a Cam-free year. He had a 33-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and he hit on 70 percent of his throws. His stud receivers, Austin Pettis and Titus Young, will run free against a Utah secondary that struggled to stop the pass all season (59th in the nation with 215 yards allowed per game). By contrast, Boise was third in the country in stopping the pass and fourth in points allowed. Boise is headed for the Mountain West conference just as Utah takes off for the greener pastures of the Pac-10. Beating up on the Utes won't make the pain of what might have been go away, but it can sure send a message to the remaining members of the MWC that trouble is a-coming, and it likes to play on blue turf.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy +3 vs. San Diego State (Thursday, December 23, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Navy
Has the Ball...
When San Diego St.
Has the Ball...
Category Navy
(9-3)
SDSU
(8-4)
Navy
Off
SDSU
Def
Navy
Def
SDSU
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 39 53 22 71 60 37
2010 FEI Rk 25 52 8 59 38 26
2010 S&P+ Rk 57 61 39 66 69 42
2010 FPA Rk 76 60
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 36 53 54 78
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 47 82 94 29
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 48 52 80 76
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
88.8% Run
(first)
58.7% Run
(70th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 25 71 52 6
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
56.8% Run
(fourth)
25.9% Run
(101st)

Like TNT, Navy knows drama. The Midshipmen played seven games decided by a touchdown or less in 2010, winning four and losing three. Tough-to-take losses to Maryland and Duke cast a slight pall on what has still been another rock solid season for Ken Niumatalolo and his Middies. They will try to reach 10 wins for the second straight season in the backyard of a resurgent San Diego State squad (or would it just be ... surgent?) next Thursday night. Though runners will get the attention in this one -- the Navy trifecta of quarterback Ricky Dobbs, fullback Alexander Teich and slot back Gee Gee Greene combined for 2,144 yards and 23 touchdowns, while San Diego State freshman Ronnie Hillman ripped off 1,304 yards and 13 touchdowns by his lonesome -- the defensive matchup should be interesting, too. Navy and its 3-4 will try to confuse Hillman and quarterback (and passing downs magician) Ryan Lindley, while San Diego State's patented Rocky Long 3-3-5 will attempt to slow down Dobbs and the option.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: No. 24 Hawaii -12 vs. Tulsa (Friday, December 24, 8 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Hawaii
Has the Ball...
When Tulsa
Has the Ball...
Category Hawaii
(10-3)
Tulsa
(9-3)
Hawaii
Off
Tulsa
Def
Hawaii
Def
Tulsa
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 45 67 28 87 63 41
2010 FEI Rk 57 58 58 90 78 43
2010 S&P+ Rk 36 68 18 79 54 57
2010 FPA Rk 51 34
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 16 55 41 43
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 24 99 66 67
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 21 102 55 63
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
31.8% Run
(120th)
59.1% Run
(65th)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 31 74 76 38
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
21.7% Run
(113th)
30.7% Run
(79th)

Like San Diego State, Hawaii doesn't exactly have to travel very far for this "neutral site" game against the visiting Tulsans. Both programs have treaded water recently; Hawaii went 13-14 in 2008-09, scoring under 350 points both years after the explosive Colt Brennan-June Jones combination left the islands, while Tulsa plummeted to 5-7 in 2009. But both bounced back in 2010, combining for almost 1,000 total points and putting together some high-visibility efforts (Hawaii hung with USC and handed Nevada their only loss, while Tulsa took out Notre Dame). Unless Hawaii's underrated defense has something to say about it, this could be the shootout we've come to enjoy on Christmas Eve. Tulsa's version of the spread incorporates quite a bit of running (as compared to Hawaii's nearly all-pass attack), and they will try to challenge and confuse Hawaii's front seven. The game might swing on turnovers -- Hawaii was plus-16 in turnover margin this season, Tulsa plus-13.

Little Caesars Bowl: Florida International +2.5 vs. Toledo (Sunday, December 26, 8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)

OVERALL When Florida Int'l
Has the Ball...
When Toledo
Has the Ball...
Category FIU
(6-6)
Toledo
(8-4)
FIU
Off
Toledo
Def
FIU
Def
Toledo
Off
2010 F/+ Rk 66 89 58 83 64 84
2010 FEI Rk 56 95 50 101 40 94
2010 S&P+ Rk 71 74 59 63 84 83
2010 FPA Rk 63 60
2010 Rushing S&P+ Rk 53 83 100 95
2010 Passing S&P+ Rk 59 52 77 53
2010 Std. Downs S&P+ Rk 58 78 90 70
Run-Pass Ratio
(Std. Downs)
66.2% Run
(29th)
63.5% Run
(41st)
2010 Pass. Downs S&P+ Rk 57 53 60 73
Run-Pass Ratio
(Pass. Downs)
30.9% Run
(77th)
36.8% Run
(39th)

Call it the Redemption Bowl. Just over three years ago, Florida International was mired in a miserable 23-game losing streak, known best for an ugly brawl at Miami. Meanwhile, less than two years ago, Toledo was attempting to move on after some ugly gambling allegations. You can't say enough about the job Mario Cristobal (FIU) and Tim Beckman (Toledo) have done in a short time at their respective schools, and their reward for their efforts is ... a trip to Michigan in late December. Regardless, this is a huge moment for Florida International and their faithful, and they've got a team capable of finishing the season with a win. Their ratings have been propped up by some solid showings against BCS teams, and they will try to neutralize a strong Toledo pass attack with ball control and rushing. Backs Darriet Perry and Darrian Mallary (or, as we will now call them, Darrianet Marry) have rushed for 1,376 yards and 16 touchdowns, setting the table for playmaking receiver and return man T.Y. Hilton. If FIU struggles to move the ball, however, the Austin Danton and Eric Page combination could carry Toledo to their ninth win. Page (94 catches, 1,081 yards, eight touchdowns) is a strong candidate for the "Best Receiver You've Never Heard Of" title.

Storylines of the Week

Robert Weintraub: I don't have much to say about these initial bowls, but since I spent the week producing the Chick-Fil-A Bowl preview show in my other life, I thought I'd share with you some of the things that happened in Tallahassee and Columbia as we interviewed the key figures. First of all, the gig involved roughly 15 hours of driving over three days. Set-up time to make the interviews look pretty took about six more hours. Waiting around for the guys to show up frittered away another eight (mostly in Florida). Time actually spent with the Christian Ponders and Marcus Lattimores -- about 10 minutes apiece. Just in case you thought TV production was glamorous. Jimbo Fisher talks so fast it's as if he's trying to jam 20 minutes of material into 10 minutes. Steve Spurrier is very jittery -- as he talks he constantly grips and regrips his hands as he rips Garcia for his errors. EJ Manuel has a deep, rich, sibilant voice -- he'll be a broadcast natural if he chooses to go that route. Ponder's elbow was swathed from wrist to shoulder in bandages, but he insists he'll be ready. He's already thinking about the Senior Bowl, and says the Jags have expressed preliminary interest in picking him. Lattimore says he's a better bowler than he is a football player. I hurt Rodney Hudson's hand by shaking it (OK, he had jammed it in practice). The side door entrance to the FSU dining area under the stadium no longer squeaks, thanks to us and a generous application of 10-W-40. And the Chick-Fil-A gift bags for the players include a $250 gift card to Best Buy, but only $15 for Chick-Fil-A.

Brian Fremeau: Yes, bowl games are notoriously unpredictable and yes, I've certainly had some wild swings in success rate forecasting the bowls with FEI over the years. I torched most friends and family (and my own gut instincts) in confidence pools in 2006 and 2007 running with the FEI projections as my guide, but crashed to earth each of the last two years with the same methodology. It isn't much of a storyline, but I figured I might as well get a plug in for this year's FEI bowl picks sure to go very right or very wrong. Based on total projected win expectations, the sum of the PWE data, I only expect to go 23-12 overall. Ranking the forecasted games confidence-wise 35 to 1 and multiplying each confidence interval by the given PWE percentage, FEI "should" score 467 points out of a possible 630 points in that kind of game this year. It's as good a guess as any, I suppose.

Bill Connelly: It really is amazing how the coaching carousel sneaks up on us every season, isn't it? We spent most of the season wondering if Minnesota's Tim Brewster and Colorado's Dan Hawkins would get the boot, and they did. We thought Miami's Randy Shannon might be in trouble, and he was. We figured Indiana's Bill Lynch and Vanderbilt's Robbie Caldwell probably didn't stand much of a chance when all was said and done, and they didn't. But the drama carried far beyond the predictable. Dave Wannstedt "resigned," and Urban Meyer retired (again). And Florida stole Texas' "coach-in-waiting." And Gus Malzahn all but said yes to Vanderbilt, then didn't. And West Virginia went ahead and decided to make a coaching change next year by bringing in Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Dana Holgorsen but saying current coach Bill Stewart would stick around another year (the quintessential "Leno-Conan" situation). Now, just as things are settling down, we still have some high-profile coordinator positions to fill at Texas and Florida. There could still be a pretty significant shift by the time those positions are filled as well. Every year I am caught off-guard by the amount of drama created by both the domino effect emerging from the predictable coaching changes, and the completely off-the-wall changes that occur beyond what was expected. Granted, there was no Mangino-Leach-Leavitt drama this time around (yet), but still ... it's been entertaining. Unless you are a Vandy fan, anyway.

Picks

The Picks
(* - "Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week")
Visitor Spread Home Rob F/+
BYU -12 UTEP UTEP BYU
Ohio PK Troy Ohio Troy
N. Illinois -3 Fresno St. N. Illinois N. Illinois
So. Miss +3 Louisville Louisville Louisville
Utah +16 Boise St. Boise St.* Boise St.*
Navy +3 San Diego St. Navy Navy
Hawaii -12 Tulsa Hawaii Tulsa
Florida Int'l +2.5 Toledo Toledo Fla. Int'l
Season-long Results
("Fred Edelstein Lock of the Week" record in parentheses)
Week 14 Season Total
Rob: 6-4 (1-0) 70-66-4 (8-6)
F/+: 4-6 (0-1) 67-69-4 (3-11)

Posted by: Bill Connelly on 17 Dec 2010

7 comments, Last at 07 Jan 2011, 1:33am by cfn_ms

Comments

1
by cfn_ms :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 3:05pm

Any chance of doing a traditional 35 to 1 list of confidence picks in addition to the PWE numbers? Ditto for S&P and/or F /+. I'm mulling over putting together a big list of publicly available bowl confidence picksets and would love to be able to add those to the list.

2
by Brian Fremeau :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 3:17pm

Simply by ordering the FEI PWEs from most confident to least confident:
35-Nebraska, 34-Oklahoma, 33-Boise State, 32-Maryland, 31-Illinois, 30-FIU, 29-UNC, 28-NIU, 27-Navy, 26-Oklahoma State, 25-Alabama, 24-Louisville, 23-LSU, 22-Pittsburgh, 21-BYU, 20-Auburn, 19-Miami, 18-Nevada, 17-Florida, 16-Middle Tennessee, 15-Mississippi State, 14-Clemson, 13-Missouri, 12-Georgia, 11-Wisconsin, 10-Air Force, 9-South Carolina, 8-Troy, 7-Arkansas, 6-Army, 5-West Virginia, 4-Hawaii, 3-Virginia Tech, 2-Texas Tech, 1-Syracuse

3
by cfn_ms :: Fri, 12/17/2010 - 10:31pm

Thanks!

7
by cfn_ms :: Fri, 01/07/2011 - 1:33am

At this point, I'm just going to put together a post-bowl review of various confidence picksets. FYI, FEI is doing very well so far, 2nd place (guess who's first ;) ) in the group of:

Compupicks
FEI
Congrove
Phil Steele
Vegas Lines

I can't think of anything else publicly accessible that'd be good to include, but that's a pretty good group of sets to compare I think. Let me know if you can think of anything else that'd be good to include.

4
by Tom Gower :: Sat, 12/18/2010 - 12:03pm

Last week's results: 5-4 (0-1), 63-61-2 (4-9) on the year. I went 0-1 counter-consensus to finish the regular season 16-15 in the category (12-6 on non-locks!), while all Rob-F/+ consensus picks were 4-2 last week to move to 42-41-1 on the year.

BYU, Ohio, Northern Illinois, Louisville, Boise State, San Diego State, Hawaii, and Toledo. San Diego St. is the only counter-consensus pick, so they're my Edelstein lock.

I hate picking bowl games.

5
by jsmith2 :: Sun, 12/19/2010 - 9:13am

Great write-up as always but a quick correction - It's Mids, never Middies. Thanks for all your work this season!

6
by dbostedo :: Sun, 12/19/2010 - 2:11pm

OK, now I'm curious. Is this a constant annoyance for the Midshipmen themselves? Because countless publications and sites refer to them as the "Middies". Even the title of this official US Navy page calls them the Middies.