2009 Holiday Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Jay Horne - 12/24/2009
No. 20 Arizona Wildcats (8-4) vs. No. 22 Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-4)
Date: Dec. 30
Location: Qualcomm Stadium San Diego, California
Spread: Arizona -1.5, 40 total
The Nebraska Cornhuskers displayed a valiant effort to upset the Texas Longhorns in the Big 12 Championship Game, but Hunter Lawrence nailed a 46 yard field goal as time expired to crush the Cornhuskers and deny them a trip to the Fiesta Bowl. Instead of a trip to Arizona, the Cornhuskers will now meet up with the Arizona Wildcats in the Holiday Bowl in an annual meeting between Big 12 and Pac-10 schools.
The Wildcats recorded their best regular season in the Mike Stoops era at 8-4 this year while also contending for the Pac-10 Championship before losing back-to-back games to California and Oregon. However, Arizona rallied back to end the season, winning their final two games including a 21-17 victory over USC in the season finale. The Wildcats now make just their second bowl appearance in the past decade after defeating BYU last year in the Las Vegas Bowl.
The Big 12 holds the slight advantage over the Pac-10 with a 7-5 mark in Holiday Bowl history. However, the Oregon Ducks took down Oklahoma State, 42-31, last year and Arizona will seek the first back-to-back victories by any Pac-10 schools in the bowl games 31-year-old history.
Both Nebraska and Arizona have very familiar traits as they enter the showdown against one another. Nebraska was just a field goal away from capturing the Big 12 Championship and at one time Arizona felt like they could win the Pac-10 Championship. The Cornhuskers have reached the nine-win mark for the third time in the last four years. However, this is just Bo Pelini's second season in Lincoln and Cornhusker fans feel they are on the verge of becoming a national power. Despite a solid outing against Texas in the Big 12 Championship Game, a loss to Arizona could question if the program is really headed back into the national spotlight.
Arizona is also expecting big things in the future. The Wildcats have slowly but surely progressed behind Coach Stoops and have the chance to finish the season with nine wins, which would be the most since the 1998 season. Actually, just the emergence of Arizona in the Pac-10 should have Wildcats faithful excited. However, the true excitement comes from the youth on the team, primarily around the offense. The bulk of the offense is composed of sophomores and the Wildcats could build a lot of momentum around their young football team with another postseason victory.
Big 12 teams are normally praised for their high-power offenses, but the majority of the credit for the Cornhuskers success this season can be given to their defense. Nebraska ranked second nationally, holding opponents to just 11.23 points per game. Heisman Trophy Finalist DT Ndamukong Suh leads a defensive front that wreaks havoc in opposing backfields and a unit that ranked third in the nation averaging 3.23 sacks per game. The Cornhuskers defense will be the primary obstacle for Arizona capturing their fourth straight bowl victory. The Wildcats have averaged just less than 30 points per game this season and are led by QB Nic Foles, who played the final two games of the season with a broken non-throwing hand. Foles has had time to heal the injury and should be fine come game time, but it will be interesting to see how he plays under heavy pressure from the Nebraska defense.
On the Cornhuskers offensive side of the ball, there has to be concern. Nebraska is not a very explosive offense and they cannot afford to get into any type of shootout with the Wildcats. Of course they will rely on the defense to prevent that scenario, but the offense will have to do their part by running the football. Tailback Roy Helu Jr. is a huge part of the Cornhuskers offense and has racked up 1,139 yards with nine touchdowns this season. QB Zac Lee has been pretty inconsistent this year, hence the three interceptions in the Championship Game. Therefore, the offense will look for Helu Jr to carry the workload against the Wildcats defense. However, Arizona's defense has stacked up fairly well against the run, ranking 22nd in rush defense and holding opponents to just 112 yards per game. The key here will be the number of attempts the Arizona offense gets against the Cornhuskers defense and that number will be in direct relation to how much success Nebraska has running the football.
Also, an interesting area of the game to watch will be the special teams, which are rarely mentioned in most previews. However, special teams could play a bigger factor here than most would expect. Wildcats sophomore WR William Wright leads the Pac-10 with an extremely impressive 19.2 yards per punt return average. Also, Travis Cobb has averaged 26 yards per kick return for the Wildcats as both return teams rank in the nation's Top 10. If Arizona has trouble moving the ball, a special teams play could provide the spark they need.
Line Value and Holiday Bowl Odds
The game opened with the lines dead even listed as a "pick em" contest. However, betting lines have shifted rather consistently and each shift has been in favor of Arizona. Current lines have Arizona listed as 1.5-point favorites, but it could be even more by game time. However, early betting action shows that 60 percent of the betting public has sided with the Cornhuskers. The total opened at 41, but slowly come down to its current mark of 40.
Holiday Bowl Predictions
The Cornhuskers defense should be able to play well against the Arizona offensive front. Arizona's offense slacked off in scoring during the latter part of the year even though the defense started playing well. I think both those trends will continue and scoring is low yet again. Take the 'under' 41.
Most Recent College Bowl Game Picks
- College Basketball Betting
- BCS Championship Odds and Predictions
- Orange Bowl Odds and Predictions
- Sugar Bowl Odds and Predictions
- Chick-Fil-A Bowl Odds and Predictions
- Capital One Bowl Odds and Predictions
- Outback Bowl Odds and Predictions
- Papa Johns Bowl Odds and Predictions
- Gator Bowl Odds and Predictions
- Sun Bowl Odds and Predictions