2010 Alamo Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 12/22/2009
2010 Alamo Bowl
Texas Tech (-8, 60.5) vs. Michigan State
Saturday, January 2, 9 pm
The Alamo Bowl has been in existence as long as I have been out of high school - it was first played in 1993 in the Alamodome in San Antonio, and has been played there every year since. Things will be a little unfamiliar his time around, though - this is the first time that the traditional December bowl has been played in January. Neither of these teams have had much luck in this game, with three losses between them. Texas Tech lost to Iowa in both 1996 and 2001, and Michigan State was dropped by Nebraska in 2003.
These teams aren't exactly natural rivals. In fact, this will be the first time that they have played. The Big Ten and the Big 12 tend to play fairly different types of games as well, so there won't be a lot of familiarity for either team to grab on to.
The biggest issue here is what the mindset of the Spartans will be. They have had an exceptionally rough time since the end of the regular season. A campus brawl on Nov. 22 has caused all sorts of chaos. Two players have been dismissed from the team thanks to their actions in the brawl, nine more have been suspended for the bowl game, and nine of the players are facing criminal charges. The biggest area where they face issues is at wide receiver where they have lost six players. Two of those players were redshirted, but the other four were expected to play. That has obviously affected the depth chart significantly. Two receivers on the depth chart have never been listed on the chart before. Given all the turmoil it's hard to know if the Spartans will use the situation as a cause for motivation, or if they'll just use it as an excuse to quit.
Texas Tech was supposed to be rebuilding this year, so the chance to win nine games for the third straight year will be strong motivation. Mike Leach has already won five bowls games with the Red Raiders, so he has no trouble preparing his squad. The only real concern is if the players come into the game feeling overconfident because of Michigan State's problems.
I could call this part of the discussions mismatches instead of matchups, because this one could get ugly. Texas Tech has, as always, an explosive offense, and it is driven mostly through the air. They were second in the country in passing yards, and in the Top 10 in points scored. Injuries forced them to use three different quarterbacks during the season, so they aren't reliant on just one player, either.
That offense is a challenge for any team, but it could be a special problem for the Spartans. Michigan State's Achilles heel is their pass defense. It is, in a word, brutal. They are ranked 103rd in the country in the category, and secured the fewest interceptions in the country. To compound their issues, Chris Rucker, their best cover corner, is among the players suspended. Michigan State needs to pull off a bit of a miracle to find a way to keep this one close. Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones is probably the best player in the game, and he'll need to have an epic game in this one for the Spartans to have a chance.
Michigan State's passing offense isn't of the caliber of Texas Tech, but it was the best the Big Ten had to offer this year. The Spartans are also, by a wide margin, the better running team in this game. QB Kirk Cousins is a potentially explosive player, though he will obviously be hampered by the loss of his receivers. He'll need to show profound leadership in this one.
Line Value and Alamo Bowl Odds
Not surprisingly, the public is all over the Red Raiders. Almost 80 percent of bets have gone their way. The line movement is no surprise given the action. It opened at seven, and quickly rose from that key number. It's widely available at eight now, and is showing signs of moving to 8.5. The total opened at 61, and has since dropped to 60.5. At first glance that might seem odd given the explosiveness of the Red Raiders, but they actually have only gone 'over' four times in 11 tries this year, so the public has a habit of overestimating their offensive capabilities.
Alamo Bowl Predictions
I don't like the thought of laying eight points in a bowl game, but I don't see how to avoid it here. Texas Tech will be motivated, and they have a very solid matchup for them - almost ideal. Michigan State is in turmoil and is out-manned, and even at full strength they would have issues here. I am nervous about the fact that this one seems almost too straightforward, but I just can't be contrary in this case.
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