Military Bowl: Virginia vs. Navy (-1, O/U 51.5), 1:30 PM, ESPN:
Virginia and Navy had very similar trajectories this season. In October, Navy was 5-0 and Virginia was 5-1, but both ended their seasons skidding down the stretch and finished it off with brutal losses against their respective rivals.
Virginia’s break was longer than Navy’s, but both teams must’ve appreciated the deep breath they were able to take the past 2 weeks. A bowl game allows for players and coaches to reset and start a new season per se. I believe looking too much into how a team played at the end of the season will give you false hope when predicting a bowl game. The time off provides the opportunity for a total reset.
This game looks to be a defensive battle. Both Navy and Virginia rank in the bottom 30 in S&P+ offense, while their defenses are top-40. Navy, of course, likes to run the ball, but Virginia’s 47th ranked rush defense is no pushover. Bronco Mendenhall, Virginia’s coach, came from BYU, so he has faced the triple-option multiple times throughout his career. Virginia even beat Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack earlier this year, even though they allowed 36 points.
Virginia will try to beat Navy through the air. The Midshipmen’s secondary ranks 101st overall and 112th in success rate. Although Virginia’s adjusted run rate is the 6th lowest in the country, they don’t find that much success through the air (62nd overall and 83rd in success rate). I’ve liked Kurt Benkert all year, but he’ll have to come to play in this game. You have no excuse but to put up 250+ yards and 2 TDs+ on this Midshipmen pass defense.
I lean Virginia here, but don’t forget this is a home game for Navy. I have doubted military academies before when it comes to situations most teams would be sluggish in and it hasn’t gone well, so you won’t find me betting against the Midshipmen here. This is a toss-up between two solid teams with great head coaches.
Lean: Virginia -1
Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (-5.5, O/U 62), 5:15 PM, ESPN:
Whoever performs better, Oklahoma State’s offense or Virginia Tech’s defense, will win this game. It’s the number four offense against the number four defense. Will Virginia Tech stars Tremaine Edmunds and Adonis Alexander be able to stop Mason Rudolph and James Washington?
I will never write a blog and disrespect Bud Foster’s lunch pail defense. That’s like going against the Corleone family, it’s just something you never do. You think I would ever support a Deadspin article? Absolutely not. I’d never go against the family, I’m not trying to be like Fredo. But here’s the thing about VT’s defense this year, they haven’t been great defending against explosive plays ya’ll. They rank 114th in IsoPPP, 126th in passing IsoPPP, 93rd in standard down IsoPPP, and 121st in passing down IsoPPP. Oklahoma State ranks 5th, 9th, 8th, and 6th in those same categories when Mason Rudolph is on the field. You could call that a matchup disadvantage, folks.
I haven’t even mentioned that Mason Rudolph can do this:
Oklahoma State’s overall defensive ranking puts them 70th in the country, but they are top-40 against the run and pass. Virginia Tech hasn’t scored over 24 points since October with their 98th ranked offense. RB Travon McMillian and WR Cam Phillips, the two top weapons for freshman QB Josh Jackson, will be out for this one. You see how Oklahoma State can expose the Virginia Tech’s defense, but how is Virginia Tech going to keep up? The total is sitting at 62, so Vegas is expecting a bunch of points, but will Virginia Tech be able to get more than 24? I’m going to bet they can’t.
Pick: Oklahoma State -5.5
Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU (-3, O/U 48.5), 9:oo PM, ESPN:
REMEMBER THE ALAMO BOWL!
It’s funny, this game is very similar to the one before it on ESPN. TCU has a great defense, but it is boom or bust and struggles against explosive offenses. They rank 2nd last in defensive IsoPPP. Stanford, on the other hand, ranks 8th in IsoPPP. Bryce Love may struggle to get going against the 3rd ranked rushing defense, but he will have his opportunity to break one or two for a big gain. It will also help Love that Stanford’s offense took a turn for the better when KJ Costello replaced Keller Chryst at QB. His play against Washington and Notre Dame were particularly impressive. With Chryst in at QB, teams could zero in strictly on Love, while now they must account for Costello.
The previous paragraph may lead you to think I will be going with Stanford in this one, but I can’t seem to pull the trigger. Although TCU’s struggle against explosiveness is apparent, I wonder how much that has to do with facing high paced, no-huddle Big 12 teams. Stanford is nowhere near Big 12 speed, as they actually rank 128th in pace. Maybe Stanford’s huddle up approach will allow their defense to get set and limit explosive plays. The game itself will also be played in San Antonio and the stadium, I’m guessing, is going to be 80-90% TCU fans. The place is going to get loud as it’s a dome, so this will pretty much be a home game for TCU.
All that being said, I’m leaning Stanford.
Lean: Stanford +3
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl: Michigan State (-2, O/U 46.5) vs. Washington State, 9:00 PM, FOX:
Mike Leach needs to be preserved. We need to find the greatest scientists in the world and put their nerd brains together to figure out a way to make sure Mike Leach stays on this earth for the next 3-4 generation to know:
While the scientists are at it, Wazzu wouldn’t mind figuring out why his teams stink in bowl games. In his time at Washington State, Mike Leach has just one postseason victory. Last year’s performance against Minnesota was downright embarrassing. The good news for his Cougars is they are back in the same exact bowl and have a chance for redemption. Will it come against a Michigan State team?
One of Mike D’Antonio’s greatest accomplishments was churning out a very good Michigan State team this year. The 9-3 Spartans opened this game as a 4.5 point underdog, but thanks to an almost touchdown line movement, they will enter this game as favorites. Everybody and their grandmother are on Michigan State in this one. It’s not the worst bet in the world, but you sure have to wonder where Sparty’s head is at. Michigan State was very surprised that they wound up in this bowl game, instead of the Outback Bowl:
Another question for Michigan State is whether or not they’ll be able to stop the uptempo Wazzu Cougs? We all saw what happened to them when OSU ran no-huddle on them.
There are too many factors in this one. Washington State has had a bunch of locker room drama the past two weeks (player thrown off team/asked for release) and that’s not even mentioning how their coach almost left for Tennessee a few weeks ago. Both teams could have 75% focus in this one. Take the over if you want to bet the game. There will be a lot more plays than most games that feature a total of 46.5.
Lord knows what happens in this one, I’m just hoping for a good Mike Leach mid-game interview.
Lean: Over 46.5
Official #JackieGambling Picks:
2017 Season: 62-47-1, 56.9%
Bowl Season: 4-4 (Leans: 3-7)
Oklahoma State -5.5