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December-30-2009,
Three New Year's Day Bowl Predictions...By Jay Graziani

Penn State minus 2 over LSU

Penn State's success relies almost entirely on turnovers. In Daryll Clark's 21 career wins, he has 39 touchdowns and only 9 interceptions. In his 4 career losses, he has 3 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. He will be facing an LSU defense that has averaged just 1.48 takeaways per game since their national championship team two years ago, and has allowed 393.8 yards a game in their last four regular season games. Being in a New Year's Day game against a tough SEC opponent, Penn State would be wise to rely on their elusive running backs Evan Royster and Stefon Greene, then eventually open up the passing game with a ball control offense. Limiting Clark's turnovers should be their top priority, and as the numbers show, is a key determinant of Penn State's success. On top of that fact, LSU ranks only 108th in the nation in total offense with 309.7 yards per game and 25.5 points per game, and will most likely be without their running back Charles Scott. They'll be facing a Penn State defense ranked fourth in the nation, which allows only 11.8 points and 277.1 yards per game. The SEC and the Big Ten are very different, but Penn State's defense doesn't differ much from that of Alabama's powerhouse squad, who held LSU to only 13 points and under 100 rushing yards. LSU's offense ranks worse than Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State, all teams Penn State has played against. For this reason I also like the under (44), but won't go as far as to recommend it.

Trends: Anyone who reads this article will quickly rush to the judgment that this is an SEC team facing an overrated Big Ten team (and that the Big Ten never wins big bowl games), but the story goes much deeper than that. Penn State comes into this Capital One Bowl 26-13-2 in bowl games all time, including winnning 3 of their last 4. Their lone loss in the past four years was to a USC team that many believed to be the best team in the nation. Since 1970, when Penn State has ten or more wins in a season, they hold a 15-3 record in bowl games, averaging 8.9 more points per game than their opponent. They are 16-7 in all bowl games since 1980, but only 1-3 all time in the Capital One bowl. Penn State won their only game vs. LSU, 16-9, back in the 1974 Orange Bowl. Intangibles: Penn State comes into this game being considered soft and underachieving, and will look to make a statement game against an SEC team. Their two losses involve an Iowa game in poor conditions and decided largely by a blocked punt and a crushing defeat to a streaky Ohio State team. LSU lost only to Florida, Alabama, and Ole Miss, but had wins by 8 points or less against the likes of Washington, Mississippi State, Louisiana Tech, and Arkansas. LSU looked terrible against Ole Miss in the infamous "clock management" game, and are being overrated just due to the fact that they're in the SEC.

Bottom Line: Penn State was in consideration for a BCS bowl game because of how well their fans travel, and they will have the majority of the crowd on their side in Florida. Royster, Sean Lee, Navarro Bowman, and Daryll Clark are all expected to enter the NFL in 2010, so this game means a lot in terms of when they might get drafted. I expect a full effort from both sides, but the combination of Penn State's fourth ranked defense, LSU's 108th ranked offense, and the fact that Penn State yearns for a chance to prove itself makes Penn State the pick.

Penn State 26, LSU 16

Ohio State plus 4 over Oregon

This Oregon team seems very overrated coming off a huge overtime victory against Oregon State, who later got killed by BYU 44 to 20 in the MAACO bowl. Ohio State's offense is streaky, but they came on strong after their loss to Purdue in the second half of the season, scoring 38, 45, 24, 27, and 21 points leading up to this game. Oregon's defense is ranked 52nd in the nation, and should get carved up by a talented and hot Ohio State team. Oregon has been putting up tons of points as well, but has not faced a defensive line as strong as Ohio State's this year. Terrelle Pryor recently revealed a partially torn knee ligament, but admits he feels sharper after some sluggish practices. After he endured an ankle injury against New Mexico State on October 31, Pryor looked comfortable suiting up in high implication conference games against Penn State and Iowa. Pryor successfully led the Ohio State offense in scoring 24 and 27 points in those contests, respectively, against two of the top ten defenses in the nation.

Ohio State 30, Oregon 24

West Virginia minus 2 ½ over Florida State

West Virginia's offense: 65th
West Virginia's defense: 26th
FSU's offense: 40th
FSU's defense: 98th
West Virginia's laying a short number here due to the sentiment of this being the final game of Bobby Bowden's storied coaching career. Both teams have had similar results on offense, but West Virginia's defense trumps FSU's. Florida State will be extremely motivated, but West Virginia doesn't want Bobby Bowden to take the attention away from a solid 9-3 season. Let's not forget FSU is a .500 football team. If I'm wrong and Florida State's adrenaline drives them to victory, I'll take it on the chin and be okay with the happy ending for Bobby Bowden, but statistically these teams aren't as close as the line suggests.

West Virgina 38, FSU 20

Bonus New Year's Eve Pick: Stanford plus 10 over Oklahoma

Stanford offense: 10th Stanford defense: 65th Oklahoma offense: 30th Oklahoma defense: 7th

This line is a little high for a team without its starting quarterback. Bob Stoops is amazing at making gold out of dirt, but this task might be beyond anything he can muster. Oklahoma has an amazing defense, but Stanford should ride Toby Gerhardt, eating up the clock in the process, and at the very least keep this a respectable contest.

Stanford 17, Oklahoma 24

12-30-09
Jay Graziani
MajorWager.com
graziani@majorwager.com

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