2017 Alamo Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions: Stanford vs. TCU
Stanford Cardinal vs. TCU Horned Frogs, Thursday Dec. 28, 9 p.m. ET
College Football Predictions: Alamo Bowl Odds and Picks
The Alamo Bowl this year is really the bowl of coaching stability. Both TCU's Gary Patterson and Stanford's David Shaw could have any job they want in college, and both could find a role in the NFL, too - but they don't even flirt with other possibilities. Patterson has been at TCU since 1998, and if he hasn't left yet then he'll almost certainly retire there. Shaw is only 45, so he'll move elsewhere at some point - likely to the NFL - but he sure doesn't seem to be in any hurry. It's comforting to see this combination of stability and competence on display after the craziness and lack of loyalty on display this and every season. Oh, and it should be a good game to boot.
Alamo Bowl Betting Storylines
One interesting storyline here is obviously Stanford running back Bryce Love, the Heisman runner-up this year. He is a junior who could head to the NFL next year. Many expected him to, but as more time has passed without any indication there is a sense growing that he could come back next year. Whether he returns or not, the clear fact is that he is a force here. Behind a stellar offensive line he averaged a gaudy 8.3 yards per touch this year, and he eclipsed 100 yards in all but two games - one of which he missed due to injury. He has had issues with a bum ankle this year, but the month off should have him at full strength in this one. And he'll have to be given the challenge he faces here. TCU again has a potent defense, and that strength is particularly evident against the run. They rank fourth nationally, allowing just 99.8 yards per game, and they allowed less than 100 yards per game five different times.
The only team that really took advantage of the Horned Frogs on the ground was Oklahoma. Rodney Anderson carried 23 times for 151 yards and two scores, and Baker Mayfield ran for 50 more yards. The difference, though, is that TCU couldn't worry about shutting down the run against Oklahoma because if they did the Sooners would just torch them through the air even more than they did. Stanford doesn't have that advantage. QB K.J. Costello helms a passing offense that doesn't scare anyone, and TCU would love to focus on the run and force the Cardinal to try to win this one through the air. Costello is much better than Keller Chryst through the air, and the team has been much more effective passing under him. He doesn't make a lot of mistakes. But he also doesn't take a lot of risks, and he is a long way from explosive. If the choice comes between focusing on Love or focusing on Costello on defense then it's an easy decision. Where it gets interesting in this chess match, though, is that Stanford knows that TCU will focus on stopping the run. They also know that TCU is not great against the pass - they rank 73rd nationally. If they can find a way to maximize their passing game, and push the run off the forefront, they could do some damage. In other words, while what we really want to see here is a great running back against a great run defense, what we could easily see most of is an ordinary passing game against an ordinary pass defense. Bowl season can be weird.
Alamo Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with the spread at just short of the key number of three, with TCU favored by 2.5 points. A small majority of bets have been on the Horned Frogs, but not enough to move that number in early action. The total opened at 47.5 and has crept up to 49 .
Stanford is 8-1 ATS in their last nine games in December and 5-1 ATS in their last six on a neutral site. They are 6-2 ATS in their last eight bowl games. They have gone "under" the total in seven of their last nine overall but "over" in six of their last seven neutral-site games. TCU is an ugly 2-5 ATS in their last seven nonconference games and an uglier 2-6 ATS in their last eight bowl games. They are 2-9 ATS in their last 11 neutral-site games. They have gone under the total in seven of their last eight in December.
Stanford vs. TCU Alamo Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
This is a weird game. I don't respect the Pac-12 at all this year, and Stanford really doesn't do anything particularly well aside from Love's running. Yet in their last four they have beaten Washington as a seven-point underdog, beaten Notre Dame as an underdog, and covered against USC in a narrow loss. They are a potent underdog, and they are again one here. TCU is a fine team, but they also aren't exciting in most aspects of their game. And the Horned Frogs have been lousy for bettors in bowl games the last decade. Stanford is the pick.
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