The Pi-Rate Ratings

December 18, 2007

PiRate Early Bowl Previews (Poinsettia through Holiday)

Early Bowl Game Match-ups

Disclaimer: I am giving advice on pointspreads totally as an act of fun.  I do not personally wager money on these games, and I do not advocate you doing so either.  It’s just a game like Monopoly to me.

It’s time for the not-so-exciting bowl season.  Over the next two weeks, there will be more than two dozen games that mean little or nothing to all but the fans of the particular schools playing in the games.  Because “NCAA playoffs would hurt the bowls,” you get the pleasure (factitiously) of getting Alabama and Colorado face off in a bowl.  Neither team has a winning record.  The Cotton Bowl, which has seen numerous national champions appear in Dallas over the years, gets a battle of runner-ups who will not matter in the final championship picture.  If the bowls were used for the playoffs, the Cotton Bowl might have an important quarterfinal round game featuring the eventual National Champion.  What if LSU and Southern Cal played in the Cotton Bowl instead of Arkansas and Missouri?  I dare say FOX Sports would get a much higher rating for the game, and AT&T, as the sponsor, would receive a bigger return on their investment.

Here is a breakdown of these early bowls.  The one prediction I can make with absolute certitude is that I won’t spend a minute watching or listening to these games.  I’ll be reading an interesting trio of books and listening to shortwave radio over the holidays.  

Point spreads and totals are those listed as of 10:00 AM ET Monday, December 17, 2007

Times given are Eastern Standard Tome Zone

Thursday, December 20-9:00 PM ESPN

Poinsettia Bowl-San Diego

Utah 8-4  vs.  Navy 8-4

Vegas: Utah by 8   

PiRate: Utah by 18

Mean: Utah 34  Navy 24

Utah run offense vs. Navy run defense: Utah should be able to run all day against the Midshipmen rush defense.  175-200 yards

Utah pass offense vs. Navy pass defense: Utah should enjoy one of their best if not their best passing games of the season.  65-70% completions for 200-250 yards

Navy run offense vs. Utah run defense: Navy will not rush for their average against the Utes.  250-275 yards

Navy pass offense vs. Utah pass defense: Navy will top 100 yards passing in this game because they will be forced to pass more than they normally do.  50-55% completions for 125-150 yards

Special Teams: Navy has a slight advantage here, but both teams are sound in special teams play.

Intangibles: Navy coach Paul Johnson has fled to Georgia Tech, and this will be the first game for new coach Ken Niumatalolo.  Navy must travel more than 2,700 miles across three time zones (not as important during the bowls because they will have time to acclimate to the opposite coast and long flight).

Predicted Score: Utah 35  Navy 17

Friday, December 21-8:00 PM ESPN2

New Orleans Bowl

Memphis  7-5  vs.  Florida Atlantic  7-5

Vegas: Florida Atlantic by 3

PiRate: Florida Atlantic by 8

Mean: Florida Atlantic 34  Memphis 29

Memphis run offense vs. FAU run defense: Memphis should have a typical to slightly better than average night running the ball.  150-175 yards

Memphis pass offense vs. FAU pass defense: The Tigers should exceed their average:  55-60% completions for 325 to 350 yards

FAU run offense vs. Memphis run defense: Memphis has trouble stopping the run, and FAU should continue that trend.  150-175 yards

FAU pass offense vs. Memphis pass defense: FAU should enjoy a typical night through the air.  55-60% completions for 275-300 yards

Special Teams: Neither team is special here.  The game shouldn’t be decided here unless someone fumbles a return.

Intangibles: Both teams come into this bowl playing their best ball.  FAU finished the season on a roll winning four of six including a title-clinching victory at Troy.  Memphis won five of their last six games after it appeared as though Coach Tommy West was going to lose his job.  Memphis lost at home to Middle Tennessee by two touchdowns, while FAU beat them by 13 points.

Predicted Score:  Florida Atlantic 31  Memphis 23

Saturday, December 22-1:00 PM ESPN2

Papa John’s Bowl-Birmingham, AL

Cincinnati  9-3  vs.  Southern Mississippi  7-5

Vegas: Cincinnati by 11

PiRate: Cincinnati by 20

Mean: Cincinnati 35  Southern Miss. 19

Cincinnati run offense vs. Southern Miss. run defense: Cincinnati should run for a little less than their average.  Southern Miss., while not a great defender against the run should pick up a couple of sacks to lower the rushing total.  125-150 yards

Cincinnati pass offense vs. Southern Miss. pass defense: Cincinnati should top their passing average, possibly by quite a bit.  65-70% completions for 325-350 yards

Southern Miss. run offense vs. Cincinnati run defense: Southern Miss. will finish with fewer than their average rushing yards.  Cincinnati will pick up multiple quarterback sacks to further lower this number.  100-125 yards

Southern Miss. pass offense vs. Cincinnati pass defense: Southern Miss should enjoy one of their better passing performances of the season, but they will be forced to pass the ball 5-10 plays more than normal.  55-60% completions for 225-250 yards

Special Teams: Cincinnati has a slight advantage, but Southern Miss. is quite strong in this department.  Excellent punt units should force many possessions to begin inside the offensive 20 yard lines.

Intangibles: Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower has been let go, and the Eagles have hired Oklahoma State offensive coordinator Larry Fedora as his replacement.  Bower will coach this game.  Southern Miss fans have not been buying tickets to this game in large numbers, while Cincinnati is close to selling out their allotment.  Expect a Bearcat domination in the stands.

Cincinnati felt it was snubbed by the Meineke Car Care Bowl, and the players could either come out with a chip on their shoulders or not show up ready to play due to indifference.  I predict Cinti will be ready to make a statement, and this game will be a mismatch.

Predicted Score: Cincinnati 34  Southern Mississippi 14

Saturday, December 22-4:30 PM  ESPN

New Mexico Bowl-Albuquerque

New Mexico 8-4  vs. Nevada  6-6

Vegas:  New Mexico by 3

PiRate: New Mexico by 5

Mean:  New Mexico 31  Nevada 26

New Mexico run offense vs. Nevada run defense: Nevada has a weak run defense, but New Mexico isn’t the type of team that can exploit that weakness for much.  150-175 yards

New Mexico pass offense vs. Nevada pass defense: Nevada should meet or slightly exceed their average.  60-65% completions for 225-250 yards

Nevada run offense vs. New Mexico run defense: Nevada has one of the better running attacks in the nation, but I expect the Wolfpack to fail to reach their norm in this game.  175-200 yards

Nevada pass offense vs. New Mexico pass defense: Nevada’s pistol offense hasn’t fired as accurately this season as they did in 2005 and 2006.  New Mexico has a better than average pass defense.  50-55% completions for 225-250 yards

Special Teams: edge to New Mexico.  The Lobos punting game is superior to Nevada on both sides.  The difference is enough to move the spread one point in New Mexico’s favor.

Intangibles:  New Mexico gets three points for home field advantage.  However, New Mexico is 0-5 in bowl games in the last 15 years.

Nevada quarterback Colin Kaepernick is a freshman who became the starter in the middle of the season.  The extra four weeks of practice should be key in this game, because Kaepernick has the potential to be a better quarterback than Colt Brennan by the time he leaves Reno.

Predicted Score: New Mexico 31  Nevada 26

Saturday, December 22-8:00 PM  ESPN

Las Vegas Bowl

U C L A  6-6  vs. Brigham Young  10-2

Vegas: B Y U by 6

PiRate: U C L A by 1

Mean: B Y U 26  UCLA 22

UCLA run offense vs. BYU run defense: UCLA’s running game was better with quarterback Ben Olson in the game, solely because defenses couldn’t bring an extra player to the line of scrimmage.  Even with Olson ready for the bowl, the Bruins will find the going tough against BYU’s defense.  Throw in a sack or two, and UCLA should have a tough time.  75-100 yards

UCLA pass offense vs. BYU pass defense: If Olson plays the entire game, the Bruins can easily top the passing yardage they produced against BYU in September.  If Olson cannot go the distance or plays well below his capacity due to pain, then UCLA could be held down to where they were the first time they played BYU.  55-60% completions for 175-200 yards.

BYU run offense vs. UCLA run defense: BYU had a difficult time moving the ball against the Bruins run defense in the September game.  I look for the Cougars to perform more efficiently this time around, but they won’t break loose for a big night.  125-150 yards

BYU pass offense vs. UCLA pass defense:  BYU threw it 53 times and picked up 391 passing yards in the earlier game, but I don’t foresee a repeat-mainly due to an improved running performance 55-60% completions for 250-275 yards

Special Teams: UCLA has the advantage here.  The Bruins are strong in all special teams play and can create points with these units.

Intangibles: UCLA coach Karl Dorrell was fired and will not coach in the bowl.  Interim Coach DeWayne Walker will handle the head coaching duties.  Rick Neuheisel, Norm Chow, or someone else could be named head coach before game night, creating diversions amongst the players.

Whenever two college teams play for the second time in the same season, the loser usually finishes with a better score.  BYU lost 27-17 in September, so it is highly likely that they will either win or lose by less than 10 points.

BYU finished the season on a nine-game winning streak, whereas UCLA struggled to finish the season.  Sometimes, a team that struggled to finish the regular season regroups in the postseason and plays their best game of the year.

Predicted Score: UCLA 24  BYU 23

Sunday, December 23-8:00 PM  ESPN

Hawaii Bowl-Honolulu

Boise State  10-2  vs. East Carolina  7-5

Vegas: Boise State by 10½

PiRate: Boise State by 17

Mean: Boise State 37  East Carolina 25

Boise State run offense vs. East Carolina run defense: Ian Johnson will get his yards, but I suspect ECU will hold Boise under their average.  150-175 yards

Boise State pass offense vs. East Carolina pass defense: Taylor Tharp might have the best performance of the bowl season.  ECU may not mount much of a threat against the Bronco air game.  65-70% completions for 325-350 yards

East Carolina run offense vs. Boise State run defense: Chris Johnson is one of the best running backs you’ve never heard of, but Boise has a tough run defense.  Look for a little less than normal for the Pirates.  150-175 yards

East Carolina pass offense vs. Boise State pass defense: Expect a typical game performance by ECU; neither team is exceptional in this head-to-head battle.  55-60% completions for 200-225 yards

Special Teams: Boise State has a considerable advantage here.  With every exchange of punts, BSU should gain close to 10 yards.  Five punts by both teams could mean a 50-yard advantage, worth one score.

Intangibles: Boise State will be playing their second consecutive game in Honolulu.  The players thought they were going to beat Hawaii and steal their Sugar Bowl bid.  Methinks some of the players will not be focused.  ECU is happy to be there, and I expect them to perform better than expected.  The PiRates officially pick against the Pirates here, but my gut instinct is that ECU will be ready to play and make this game a true battle.

Wednesday, December 26-7:30 PM  ESPN

Motor City Bowl-Detroit

Purdue  7-5  vs. Central Michigan  8-5

Vegas: Purdue by 8½

PiRate: Purdue by 5

Mean: Purdue 35  Central Michigan 30

Purdue run offense vs. Central Michigan run defense: Purdue didn’t run the ball with much authority this year, but they should find some success against the Chippewas.  150-175 yards

Purdue pass offense vs. Central Michigan pass defense: Curtis Painter didn’t have a great year, but he should have a decent game in this one.  CMU isn’t overly strong against the pass.  55-60% completions for 275-300 yards

Central Michigan run offense vs. Purdue run defense: CMU should find limited success against the Boilermaker run defense.  Quarterback Dan Lafevour can gain yards on the ground as well as through the air.  125-150 yards

Central Michigan pass offense vs. Purdue pass defense: I expect Lafevour to have a great game and give his underdog team a chance to win the game.  Purdue had trouble several times this year against pedestrian quarterbacks.  60-65% completions for 275-300 yards

Special Teams: Purdue has a considerable advantage here and can change the game on one big play.

Intangibles: Some of Purdue’s players would rather be home for the holidays rather than play in this game.  CMU is happy to be here, and they will be out for blood. 

There are rumblings in Indiana by Purdue fans who would like to see Coach Joe Tiller replaced.  A bad performance in this game, ala Glen Mason’s Minnesota team last year in their bowl, could be the final nail in the coffin.

Predicted Score: Purdue 35  CMU 30

Thursday, December 27-8:00 PM  ESPN

Holiday Bowl-San Diego

Arizona State  10-2  vs. Texas  9-3

Vegas: Texas by 2½

PiRate: Arizona State by 2

Mean: Arizona State 30  Texas 27   

Arizona State run offense vs. Texas run defense: ASU doesn’t butter its bread with the running attack. Texas’s outstanding run defense will hold the Sun Devils in double digits, but it may not be enough for the ‘Horns to hook’em.

Arizona State pass offense vs. Texas pass defense: If a bowl quarterback finishes with better stats than Boise’s Tharp, it may be ASU’s Rudy Carpenter.  I look for Carpenter to shred the Longhorn secondary.  60-65% completions for 300-325 yards

Texas run offense vs. Arizona State run defense: Jamaal Charles may run for 100 yards, but I expect Texas to be held beneath their average in this one.  150-175 yards

Texas pass offense vs. Arizona State pass defense: Colt McCoy should top 200 yards passing in this game, but I think his percentages will be off a little.  ASU is decent against the pass.  55-60% completions for 200-225 yards

Special Teams: This is basically a wash, as neither team is a power in the special team’s games.

Intangibles: This is the first bowl game of the season where both teams belong to be in a bowl game.  I expect a close, hard-fought game.  Neither team has a significant advantage here.

Predicted Score: Arizona State 30  Texas 28



This Week’s “Picks”


It worked the last two weeks of the regular season, so I will continue to employ the same formula for picking games during the bowls.  So, where the PiRates and Mean both fall on the same side of the spread and the difference is more than 2.5 points, that game will be picked against the spread.  When they both agree on the winner, and the line is 10 points or less, that game will be picked on the money line.  There will be no totals or teasers picked. 


Straight Plays Against the Spread

# 1:  Cincinnati -11 vs. Southern Mississippi

# 2:  Arizona State +2½ vs. Texas

Money Line Picks

# 3:  Utah -295 vs. Navy

# 4:  F A U -140 vs. Memphis

# 5:  New Mexico -140 vs. Nevada

# 6:  Purdue -310 vs. Central Michigan

# 7:  Arizona State +120 vs. Texas

1 Comment

  1. Oh, Thanks! Really amazing. keep working!

    Comment by JoshWink — August 15, 2008 @ 9:24 am

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