Betting College Bowl Games: Clashes of Style
by Trevor Whenham - 12/12/2013
One of the many things that make bowl games so interesting for bettors is that we get to see teams play each other that aren’t natural rivals. It can get dull to handicap the same teams playing each other every year, so this is when things get mixed up. That leads to fun and profit. What makes it particularly interesting is when the teams have clashing styles. Not only do we have to figure out how they will respond to teams they have never seen, but we have to decide how they will handle a style of play very different from their own — and often different from what they are used to.
Here are four bowl games with interesting style clashes.
Poinsettia Bowl, Northern Illinois vs. Utah State
Northern Illinois was very disappointing in their MAC Championship, and they cost themselves a BCS game berth as a result. Thanks to Heisman finalist QB Jordan Lynch, though, the Huskies field the fifth-best offense in the country in terms of total yards and rushing yards, and they are eighth in points scored. It’s a very explosive, diverse and dangerous offense, and it has scored at least 27 points every time out. The Huskies rely heavily on that offense because their defense just isn’t very good — at least not on a consistent basis. The Aggies are almost the opposite team — especially since they lost QB Chuckie Keeton for the season to a leg injury at the start of November. Offensively they are pretty much average — 60th in total yards. Defensively, though, they are committed and effective. They sit seventh in the country in points allowed with just 17.3 per game, and they are Top 10 against the run. They allowed more than 27 points just once — in their opener at Utah. It is two very different approaches to the game, and the challenge is to determine which one will come out on top.
Armed Forces Bowl, Navy vs. Middle Tennessee
Offensive balance is not something every team believes in, and this game is a clear example of that. Middle Tennessee is pretty much the definition of balanced. They have averaged 207.4 yards per game through the air and 207.1 yards per game on the ground. Neither total is particularly impressive, but defenses don’t know what to expect from every snap. Navy, meanwhile, is about as unbalanced as you can get. They sit third in the country in rushing yards per game with 322, but they are 124th out of 125 teams with only 98.9 passing yards per game. They run early, they run often, and they are committed to it absolutely.
Sun Bowl, UCLA vs. Virginia Tech
When Jim Mora Jr. set out to determine what he wanted his team to look like, he obviously was striving for balance on both sides of the ball. He didn’t want to have to rely just on his offense or to need the defense to carry all the weight. Neither side of the ball is particularly spectacular for this team, but both units are solid — well above average in the country — and when you put them together, you have a pretty good team. It makes the team pretty versatile and, at least theoretically, makes them able to respond and adapt to any kind of opponent or tempo to make a game competitive. Virginia Tech is pretty much the opposite of balanced in that way. Offensively, they are inept. They sit 99th in total yards, 96th in points scored and 111th in rushing yards. That should doom them, but what has allowed them to salvage a decent 8-4 record with an offense that should be about 3-9 is an elite defense. They are Top 8 in the country in key stats, and the defensive unit carries this team on its shoulders.
Championship game, Auburn vs. Florida State
This one is less of an overall clash of styles and more of a clashing matchup of teams in one aspect of the game. Auburn has the top running game in the country, averaging 335.7 yards per game. Strength versus strength — my favorite thing to see in a game. Florida State has the top defense in the country by points allowed, and they are elite against the run. One of the teams is going to be unable to have their way in this matchup, and it is very likely to determine how the game turns out.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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