Sunday, December 19, 2010

College Betting Notes From Las Vegas - The Maaco Las Vegas Bowl

By Micah Roberts

Thanks to a few missed kicks, late season brain freezes and the injustice of the BCS system, the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl will have it’s best match-up ever pitting No. 10 Boise State (11-1) against No. 20 Utah (10-2). Not only does Wednesday’s night game at Sam Boyd Silver Bowl have the best combined records to be playing in Las Vegas, but it also is one the most intriguing competitive bowls of the season.

The only problem this west coast college football fan can see with the match-up is that they are playing each other rather than showing the SEC, Big-10, ACC or Big East that they can beat most of their teams. It’s almost like last season when they put TCU and Boise State in a closet as undefeated teams to play each other and essentially prove nothing to the east coast bias.

After Utah got whacked by TCU, when both were undefeated, they fell asleep at Notre Dame in an emotional downer stemming from the TCU game. However, the Utes bounced back with two gritty wins against San Diego State and BYU to close out the year. They come into this game having won their last nine straight bowl games, with two of those wins coming in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Boise State holds a 4-2 all-time edge against Utah and have won the last three -- the last coming in 2006, a 36-3 win. The Broncos have out-stated their opponents in 11 of their 12 games. While their offense has been impressive, their defense often gets overlooked. Western Athletic Conference team or not, allowing 13.6 a game and 259 yards a game, both good for fourth in the nation, is pretty impressive stuff.

Both teams have been successful against the point spread this season (Utah 7-4-1, BSU 8-4), but the public is sure to side with the Broncos after being severely let down by Utah against Notre Dame. A great trend to follow over the last few years has been to take the points in any game before New Year’s day when getting eight points or more. I can make a case for Washington, Tulsa and Army in that situation, but it’s hard to go against Boise State.

When thinking of Las Vegas, most think of heat, but the Vegas Bowl is usually pretty awful weather with cold, nasty winds. The extended forecast calls for possible showers at about 57 degrees which could be a good reason to consider under 61 points.

The best possible scenario -- coming from a homer Mountain West supporter -- is to send Utah to the Pac-10 with a bad loss and have it come from the conference’s new entry, Boise State. Even though it may not be talked about as a big deal by the coaches or players, their new conference affiliation for next season will be in the back of all their minds and pride will play a role.
I’ll take Boise State to win 35-16.

Hawaii and San Diego State are essentially playing home games for their bowls this week, but in the case of San Diego State, their fans rarely show up when playing at home. Maybe playing in their first bowl game since 1998 will get them fired up, or, maybe not, seeing how the fans witnessed three bowl losses in a row dating back to 1969.

Navy has the advantage of playing in front of a crowd that will flock to the stadium thanks to being in the backyard of the west coast’s largest Naval facility. Navy is also going for the second straight 10 win season which would be a first in academy history. Look for Midshipmen QB Ricky Dobbs to give the Aztecs fits with their triple option attack. I’ll take a shot with both underdogs in Tulsa and Navy.

College Hoops
Just when we thought UCSB’s improbable win as a 16-point underdog at No. 22 UNLV would be the upset of the week, a 4-7 Illinois-Chicago team upends No. 14 Illinois as a 17-point dog. Upsets like that are why we all love college basketball so much. There are only five players on the court and all it takes is for one hot hand to create some momentum for an underdog and have the favored team feeling some doubt which in turn ruins their confidence. In each case with UNLV and Illinois, their opponents took it to them and took away their confidence. Illinois shot only 32% from the field in their loss, a percentage that any team would be hard pressed to win with against anyone.

One week after praising the exploits of Tennessee for their extraordinary play despite the cloud over their program, they fall to Oakland and Charlotte as 12-point favorites in each. By the way, how is it that Vols coach Bruce Pearl is still on the sidelines despite his infractions when Michigan State’s Tom Izzo gets suspended one game for a minor infraction?

Central Florida is sure to be ranked this week after beating Miami giving them three wins against Florida colleges this season. Sophomore Marcus Jordan has doubled his scoring average this season to 16 points-per-game while shooting 49% from the field and 41% behind the arch. Up next for the undefeated Knights is Massachusetts and Furman. Their look ahead game is January 26 at Memphis.

The game of the week has Georgetown (10-1) visiting Memphis (8-1) where the Tigers are 7-0 at home this season. The Hoyas are currently ranked No. 1 in the RPI ratings because of their strength of schedule and opponents they have beat thus far. From a local stand point, UNLV (10-2) gets a major test to see where their psyche currently is when they travel to Kansas State (9-2) Tuesday night. Fortunately for the Rebels, the game will be played in Kansas City and not the on campus site in Manhattan. Unfortunately for the Rebels, they’ll be facing an angry talented team that was upended Saturday by Florida 57-44.

A team to keep an eye and find possible value in the next few weeks in Michigan (9-2). After a narrow loss to Syracuse and then UTEP on successive days, the Wolverine have ripped off six straight wins against the likes of Clemson, Utah and the suddenly potent Oakland squad. The Wolverines finished 7-11 in Big-10 play last season and 15-17 overall. Their Big-10 schedule begins next week with a home date against No. 17 Purdue and they should be getting points.

The kids get the holiday weekend off leaving action just through this Thursday. Have a great holiday season!

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