2009 Emerald Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 12/21/2009
Oh, how the mighty have fallen.
USC (8-4) will take on Boston College (8-4) in the 2009 Emerald Bowl, held at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 26. The game, which was formerly called the San Francisco Bowl, will take place at AT&T Park, the home of the San Francisco 49ers. The Trojans are currently an 8.0-point favorite and the total for this game rests at 43.5.
This will be the first time in eight years that the USC Trojans have not played in a BCS bowl game. The four losses are the most that USC has suffered in nearly a decade and they enter this game on the outside of the Top 25 for the first time in more than eight seasons. As a result, instead of competing for a national championship the Trojans are competing for airtime on the same day that Ohio and Marshall battle in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl.
USC has been one of the worst bets in all of college football this season while posting a 3-9 record against the spread. They enter the Emerald Bowl as outright losers of three of their last five games and in the midst of a 1-6 ATS slide.
For Boston College this bowl game provides the opportunity for them to come in and earn the scalp of one of the marquee college football programs of the last decade. This is the 11th straight bowl appearance for the Eagles and they have been one of the best bowl performers in the country over the last decade. They have won eight of their last nine bowl games outright, with last year's 16-14 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl snapping an eight-game winning streak.
The Eagles have actually been one of the real surprise teams in the ACC this season and I am really shocked that they even made it to a bowl game. With significant injuries, an inexperienced offense, and a coaching turnover all pockmarking their offseason I had this B.C. team pegged as one to fade throughout the season. However, 2009 turned out to be yet another instance where the Boys from Chestnut Hill proved everyone wrong.
The Pac-10 representative has won this game over an ACC team in each of the past two bowl seasons. Last year California beat Miami, 24-17, but didn't cover the 10-point spread. In 2007 Oregon State vanquished Maryland, 21-14, and did manage to cover the four-point line.
Here is a look at several key components to the 2009 Emerald Bowl:
I have pretty much covered this. The motivational edge has to go to Boston College and I think that USC will have a hard time getting up for this game. The Eagles are always a great underdog and this could be another vintage B.C. upset.
The counterargument to that is valid, however. USC is still playing in its backyard and won't want to head down to San Francisco and be embarrassed by a rather down Boston College team. This game is the Trojans' last chance to take a positive away from an otherwise disappointing season and because they come into this game with little expectations coach Pete Carroll should have his team ready to play one of its best games of the year.
Neither team has been very effective offensively this year, with Boston College ranked No. 98 in the nation in yards per game (324.9) and No. 71 in points scored (25.8) and USC only slightly better at No. 58 in offense (385.1 ypg) and No. 64 in points scored (26.7).
The primary culprits for these stagnant attacks have been inexperience at the quarterback position. Freshman Matt Barkley has been all over the place for the Trojans this year and hasn't topped 206 yards passing in a game in nearly two months. Boston College's freshman signal caller, David Shinskie, has been only moderately better, completing just 53 percent of his passes for the season with 14 touchdowns nearly negated by 13 interceptions.
Boston College does boast the better defense heading into this game and they want to turn this bowl into a slugfest. Running game and defense: those are the foundation of what the Eagles do. B.C. is No. 23 in the country in total defense and is an outstanding No. 18 in scoring defense, surrendering just 19.4 points per outing.
USC's defense wasn't able to overcome the loss of an amazing collection of talent in last April's NFL Draft. And in 12 months the Trojans unit went from being hailed as the top defense in the school's illustrious history to the scapegoat for a season gone awry.
That said, the numbers suggest that USC's D has been pretty good this year. They are just No. 43 in yards allowed per game but they aren't far off B.C.'s pace in points allowed, with USC"s 20.4 per game surrendered coming in at No. 23 in the nation.
Line Value and 2009 Emerald Bowl Odds
This game qualifies as a reverse line movement. Over 60 percent of all wagers in this game have come in on USC, yet the spread in this game has dropped from an LVSC open of USC -9.0 on Dec. 8 to the current spread of 8.0 or even 7.5 at certain books. That tells me that the squares are all on the Trojans while more of the "sharp" money is coming in on the Eagles.
Boston College has been a great underdog while covering its last four bowl games as a puppy. They are also 13-3 ATS as an underdog of less than a touchdown and a stellar 16-7 ATS as an underdog in all games. This is a program that is used to defying expectations and it really is tough to bet against them when they are catching points.
USC is a stellar 24-8 ATS in their last 32 nonconference games and Carroll is a proven commodity when it comes to bowl preparation. He is 6-1 ATS in his last seven bowl games and 5-1 ATS in USC's last six bowl games as a favorite.
2009 EMERALD BOWL PREDICTIONS
I never thought that backing USC would be "going against the grain" but as this number falls I'm starting to like the value that the Trojans present, especially if the spread continues to fall and you can get them -7.0. This team is playing close to home and they really are significantly better than a down Boston College team. If you look at whom B.C. has played and beaten and then compare that to who USC has played and beaten this year it's not even close and the Trojans have a huge edge.
That said, I have been a bit off on the Eagles all year. They really have outperformed both most prognosticators' projections and mine for them this season. This could be just another opportunity for them to spike it in the face of their detractors and tally another big-money score for their loyal backers.
The bottom line here is that these are two pretty weak offenses and two teams that aren't nearly as talented or capable as the names on the front of the jersey suggest. Neither team can be trusted for a big payday here nor would I wouldn't classify this as a high-value situation. Both teams have been exceptional bowl performers so it's disappointing that they are matched up against one other. But at the end of these days one of these teams will have another ATS notch in its belt while the other slumps away from a down year.
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