2010 Sugar Bowl Odds and Predictions
by Robert Ferringo - 12/29/2009
Drama. That’s the theme of this year’s Sugar Bowl.
No. 3 Cincinnati (12-0) and No. 5 Florida (12-1) will lock up at 7:30 p.m. on New Year’s Day to play the 76th Annual Sugar Bowl. The game will be played in the Louisiana Superdome and is one of the five jewels of the BCS Bowl Game crown.
But nearly zero of the drama in this game involves the matchups on the field. Instead, two major coaching stories have come to the forefront and left players, fans, and bettors scratching their heads about how this one will shake out.
First, Brian Kelly decided to abandon his post as Cincinnati’s headman and accept a job as the next coach of Notre Dame. Needless to say, the Bearcat players were not pleased and several clips of players taking shots at Kelly on the way out the door invaded the news cycle in early December.
So one coach down, one to go.
Last week Florida’s Urban Meyer – considered by most as the best coach in all of college football – came out and said that he was stepping down as head of the Gators for “health reasons”. He intimated that the move was in response to the increased pressure that his position holds and that he just didn’t want to deal with the scrutiny any more. He then retracted his resignation and said that he would coach the bowl game
So one coach is gone and the other has one foot out the door. And in the meantime, not a lot of ink has gone to the fact that these are probably the two next-best teams to Alabama and Texas, the schools that will determine the national champion.
And wouldn’t you know it – through seven graphs I haven’t mentioned anything about the players or teams either. So let’s rectify that:
This is a BCS bowl game, so there is no shortage of motivation on either side. But at the same time, both clubs have plenty to play for in terms of wanting to “prove something”.
Cincinnati is playing with an edge after coach Kelly ditched them to head to South Bend. They want to prove the Cincinnati has really arrived on the top tier of the college football scene and earn some sort of redemption – in their own minds – for him bailing. Also, since they are posted as double-digit dogs they have a firm grasp on the Disrespect Card.
Florida will be playing with a ton of pride for their coach, who may be leaving, but also as a swan song for one of the most successful senior classes in SEC history. Just a lot of experienced players on both sides that want to end their careers with a victory.
The marquee matchup here will be with the quarterbacks. Everyone knows about Tebow. But UC’s Tony Pike is a bona fide stud and has the numbers to prove it (26 touchdowns to six interceptions). Pike is the triggerman for the No. 6 offense in the country and the No. 6 passing offense in all of college football. The Bearcats average 39.8 points per game and have been held to less than 40 points just twice in their last six contests.
But those numbers won’t scare the Florida defense. The Gators have possessed one of the best defenses of the last decade over the past two seasons. And in last year’s national title game they absolutely eviscerated the high-powered offense of Oklahoma. Florida is No. 4 this year in total defense, No. 3 in points allowed (11.5 per game) and No. 3 against the pass. They will have 10 of the 11 starters from last year’s title game on the field in the Superdome.
Offensively, Florida has been a disappointment this year. They are No. 12 in total offense and No. 13 in scoring. But in reality those numbers are inflated by a couple big performances against Charleston Southern, Troy and Florida International. Florida topped 30 points in just three of their other 10 games against legit competition and oftentimes it looked like a glorified quarterback sneak with Tebow was their best weapon.
The Gators will get a crack at a Bearcats defense that performed pretty well (No. 49 in total yard and No. 20 in points allowed) despite bringing back just one starter off last year’s Orange Bowl team. Cincinnati’s defense has overachieved and has a load of athletes. But I think that they are a clear weak link in this matchup.
Line Value and Sugar Bowl Odds
This line opened with Florida as a 10.5-point favorite and was immediately bet up to 12.5. The total has snuck up to 57.0 after an open of 55.5.
Florida has been one of the best bets in the country through the Tim Tebow Era. And the Gators have gone an exceptional 20-6 ATS in their last 26 games against a team with a winning record. They are also 20-7 ATS in nonconference games and 4-1 ATS in neutral site games, on top of being 15-6 ATS in their last 21 overall and in their last 21 as a favorite.
That said, there might not be a better bowl bet in the country than a Big East underdog. (Well, maybe a Pac-10 underdog, but I digress). The Big East is always the most underrated football conference in the country and they always show up when they’re catching points. Cincinnati is also a spectacular 10-1-1 ATS as an underdog and clearly relishes the role. That said, they are just 1-6 ATS in their last seven bowl games and ended the season on an 0-4 ATS slide.
2010 Sugar Bowl Predictions
This is, yet again, not exactly a high-value situation. It’s just too easy to throw money down on Florida considering that it’s Tim Tebow’s last game and potentially Urban Meyer’s last game. Florida has been No. 1 in the country for the majority of the last two years and have dominated at the window. They are clearly the public side.
But, being a Big East guy, I know better than to blindly load up against a big underdog from that conference. Also, that entire Urban Meyer situation is just weird. The timing is incredibly odd and the whole situation just rubs me the wrong way. Where is his heart? Where is his head? How has his preparation for this game come along with him already having one foot out the door because he’s so burnt out?
But even with all of those questions, in the end I don’t know if I have the stones to bet against Meyer. He has been so dominant in these big games and has been amazing when given extra time to prep. And on the other side, Cincinnati is at a huge disadvantage without mastermind Kelly organizing the charge. If I had to, I would lean on Florida. But all around this might just be one to stay away from.
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