Dave’s Free Play, Friday 12/27/13

  • December 27, 2013

If you’re ever looking for additional entertainment while viewing almost any sports event, make sure and follow the action on Twitter. Last night’s Poinsettia Bowl between Utah State and Northern Illinois was a classic example of how quickly bettors make up their minds and then immediately arrive at a radically different conclusion as the game unfolds.

Northern Illinois dominated the first half of this bowl game, although they were only able to head to the locker room with a 7-6 lead at the break. But you’d have thought the eventual Huskies romp was going to occur based on the verbal annihilation of the Aggies that was taking place at halftime. This correlated with the actual betting action, as the money poured in on NIU pick ’em for the second half.

If you checked back about an hour or so later, Twitterverse had done the ultimate 180. Northern Illinois got pretty well demolished for the second 30 in this football game, and by the bitter end, the Huskies were getting absolutely trashed as a miserable team that was ridiculously overrated.

Arriving at any conclusion regarding any team off one game, or in this case one half of a game is not the best way to analyze the overall abilities of said squad. But the overreaction involving Northern Illinois was hardly an aberration. This type of thing happens all the time. It’s probably the most common mistake made by most sports bettors. A big part of the reason most people lose is that they base opinions on the last thing they saw. Actually, that’s not just bettors. In fact, the majority of the talking heads on TV, particularly those who actually played the game, do this all the time.

As for Northern Illinois, they were never a Top 25 team this season. The fact they were ranked speaks volumes about how clueless so many of the poll voters really are. The Huskies were a good football team, borderline Top 50. But they were in a terrible spot last night. Rather than carrying a perfect slate into a big spotlight BCS Bowl, they were up against a low visibility MWC entry in a midweek night game. Moreover, they were facing a team that’s a little better than they are, and Utah State was also bent on atoning for a terrible showing in their conference title game. That’s not exactly a recipe for success and NIU basically lived down to expectations in this loss.

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My roll continued with winners on both Pittsburgh and Utah State for a 2-0 sweep. Those were my only plays for the evening, although in retrospect I guess I talked myself out of a winner when I backed off playing the Spurs in the NBA.

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The Trailblazers ended up winning by four in overtime as the free play for Thursday, so chalk that up as a fortunate push. 7-0-1 on the last eight comps, and I like the chances of tonight’s free bowl play getting the job done.

12/27 06:30 PM  CF   (221) WASHINGTON (222) BYU

Take: (222) BYU +3.5

Two radically different sets of circumstances will be in play tonight as Washington squares off against BYU in the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco. I see those as the keys to finding the winner in this duel.

The game itself is really unusual from a visual standpoint. It’s played in a baseball stadium and due to the configurations at AT&T both teams share the same sideline. It’s a very weird look. That has nothing to do with the analysis of the game, but it makes for some strange camera shots for those of us watching on television.

Let’s move on the actual matchup. Washington grades out as the slightly superior team, but it’s hardly a landslide. Just based solely on the talent, I’d favor the Huskies by roughly 2-3 points.

I see the intangibles being vital here, and that’s where I swing to the BYU side. These have been a very turbulent last few weeks for the Huskies. Their head coach said so long to Seattle and moved to a new job in the same conference. The defensive line coach is under investigation for what appear to be some serious rules violations. He’s denying the charges, but it’s nevertheless not an ideal scenario. Plus, I’m just not sure how excited the Huskies are about this game.

BYU needs to win this game to push themselves forward in terms of their national perception. The Cougars are an independent entry, and that simply makes their bowl games more important. That’s especially true based on Bronco Mendenhall’s stated desire to push BYU into the national title picture moving forward. The Cougars lost two major national spotlight games this season to Wisconsin and Notre Dame, and were actually really bad in the defeat at South Bend. They need to step up and deliver here, as an 8-5 campaign and bowl game loss is not what I’d consider a positive season.

Mendenhall has been a very good bowl coach, and I also feel as though Steve Sarkisian’s expertise with the offense will be missed against the various schemes the Huskies will see from that BYU defense. The entire BYU staff’s focus is on this game, with all nine assistants slated to remain in Provo next season. Plus, Washington can be run on and that’s what the Cougars like to do best.

If this were a regular season game, I doubt very much I’d have any involvement. But the bowls are all about finding the team that probably wants it more and has less distractions. I definitely believe BYU has the advantage on those counts, so I’m lining up with the Cougars plus the points tonight.