Cokin’s Corner, Wednesday 12/28/16
The dogs are running wild in the bowl games this season, including a perfect 4-0 against the spread on Tuesday. The only favorite to win outright was Army, and truth be told, the Cadets did almost everything they could to lose a game they probably should have taken without much trouble. Here are some quick thoughts on what took place yesterday and why.
Army led North Texas 24-7 and it likely would have been more had the Cadet coaching staff not started chasing deuces after a missed extra point on the team’s first touchdown. That is a terrible strategy, plain and simple, and it nearly cost Army the game. The Cadets also suffered a major malfunction late in the first half triggered by a first down delay of game penalty. Later in the game, well positioned to put the game away, Army fumbled a punt and handed North Texas a gift touchdown in the process. Long story short, this was the only game won by the favorite all day long and as it went to overtime, it sure wasn’t easy.
The other three games were dominated by the underdogs. I’ll start with Wake Forest upsetting Temple. The Owls hit a big play to go up 7-0 and this apparently convinced the interim coaching staff that Temple was a throwing team. This game turned out to be a classic case of a team getting away from its personality and it cost them. The Owls also were playing the safeties up from the outset, basically daring Wake Forest to throw on them. They did, and with quite a bit of success until the Demon Deacons lost their QB1 to an injury. Temple was not excited to be facing a non-marquee opponent in the very same location where they’d just won the AAC title game, and it showed all day long.
Minnesota was supposed to be the distracted team in the Holiday Bowl. The Golden Gophers had several suspensions which led to a well-publicized temporary boycott, and their focus was highly in question coming into this game. Instead, it was Washington State that lacked any semblance of intensity in a remarkably dull effort. I really think Wazzu thought they had this game won before it started and bad things happen to teams with that mindset. By the way, this was an absolutely horrible football game, as it’s not like Minnesota was sensational in the win.
Baylor and Boise State turned out to be somewhat the same situation as what we saw in the previous game. Baylor arrived in Phoenix with a lame duck coaching staff and a six-game losing streak. Boise State showed up flat as a pancake and made countless mistakes on both offense and defense in what turned out to be a runaway Baylor victory. There was a terrible roughing the punter call that went against the Broncos and really seemed to impact them as Baylor capitalized with a TD just a few plays later. But this was a miserable overall showing by Boise State and there isn’t any question Baylor was clearly the right side.
I’ll be interested to see what the betting reaction is on today’s quartet of bowls. Bettors love to hop on hot trends and with the dogs being beyond hot right now, the books might see lots of money line underdog action today. Personally, I don’t care much about short term trends and I’ll be playing the games based on the matchups, as I always do in college football. We’ll see how it plays out.
I already posted my 1.5x play on the Texas Bowl that gets played tonight. Dig through the archived posts if you missed it. Meanwhile, here’s a college basketball game I like somewhat for this evening.
763 BOISE STATE at 764 UTAH STATE
Take: 763 BOISE STATE -1
I’ve got some decent ammunition to support a call on Boise State tonight as the Broncos open their Mountain West schedule with a visit to Logan against Utah State.
From a statistical standpoint, Boise State has a slight edge in the head to head comparisons in the categories I give the most weight to. It’s by no means a landslide, but there’s an advantage on the Broncos side. It’s also worth noting that Boise State has compiled those numbers against a mildly tougher strength of schedule than the Aggies. That SOS is something I believe has value in assessing what has taken place for teams prior to the onset of conference play.
The other variable I paid some heed to here is what I’ll call the Duryea factor. It’s too early to issue a stamp of disapproval on Utah State head coach Tim Duryea, as this is only his second season at the helm of the Aggies. But I think it’s worth noting that Utah State fared very poorly last season in close conference games. They were only 1-6 in games decided by six points (two possessions) or less.
There are two schools of thought as far as that record is concerned. One is that there will be a progression to the norm, that the team will have better luck in coin flip games moving forward. But the other is that it’s in close games that go to the wire where coaching really comes into play. I tend to lean toward the latter argument myself.
That said, Duryea is going to have to prove to me he can guide his team to the win column in games that go to the wire. I can definitely see that being the case tonight as there’s really not a great deal to separate these two squads. Bottom line is I trust Broncos head coach Leon Rice more than Duryea at this point if this one is close at the finish line. That means I’m siding with Boise State to get away with the win and cover tonight.