Now we’re getting into the meaty bowl games, all leading up to the big finish of Texas vs. Alabama. Let’s take a look at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, and, of course, the Texas Bowl on New Year’s Eve (go Mizzou!)
The Rose Bowl has Ohio State as a 4-point underdog to Oregon. Don’t let Ohio State’s somewhat bumpy record fool you. The Buckeyes can play with anybody in D1 still and have a lot of pride as an organization. They’ll still want to go out and prove themselves even if they’re not playing for a national title. This is such a great matchup in and of itself – No. 8 vs. No. 7, doesn’t get more evenly matched than that. Ohio State 10-2 (7-1) on the year, and Oregon right with them at 10-2 (8-1). Orgeon’s weapon is Masoli, a double threat on offense with 15 passing touchdowns and 12 rushing ones himself – only two off the team leader in rushing touchdowns. If Ohio State’s defense can find a way to contain him early and disrupt their routine, they’ll have a good chance to pull ahead before halftime. Ohio State has done much of their scoring through the air this year behind Pryor’s arm, and have built themselves as a strong defensive presence. I like their chances in the emotional contest, and give them the edge to upset in this one.
Also on New Year’s Day is Cincinnati vs. your favorite could-woulda-shoulda team Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Florida remains a strong 12.5-point favorite despite Urban Meyer’s best attempts to distract his team from its immediate goal. Sure, health comes first, but what’s with the timing? Anyway, Florida knows they’re the better team – playing as a big fish in a small pond in this one – and that’s the dangerous part that worries me as a gambler. I don’t think they consciously underestimated Alabama, but sometimes when you’re on top for so long you can’t help but take certain things for granted. Can the Bearcats (undefeated this year, mind you, at 12-0, 7-0) take advantage of what might be another chip in the Gators’ armor of unrivaled focus and domination? Possibly, but unlikely. Florida is too talented, and Tebow has too much pride to drop two in a row to finish his career. But will the Gators cover the line? I believe they will. We’re only talking 2 touchdowns here, and Cincy has shown throughout the year when facing ranked opponents they do two things. 1) Give up a lot of points and 2) only win by a few. That might work against West Virginia, but if your defense isn’t having the game of its life, Florida will destroy you. Bet on it.
And the Texas Bowl showcases Navy as a 6.5-point underdog on New Year’s Eve against Missouri. The 8-4, 4-4 Tigers were such a NCAA betting strategy enigma this year, showing flashes of greatness only to falter when they needed momentum the most. A sign of positive things to come? Who knows. But MU does have 3 nice wins to finish the year, and is no doubt happy to be playing in a bowl game. Navy has a similar record at 9-4, and the similarities don’t stop there – both teams put up about the same points and point differential with their opponents, and play the same type of up and down ball. With that much in common, it’s difficult to predict, so I’m recommend either staying away from the line, or taking a chance on Navy upsetting, as that’s a generous line they’re giving Missouri.