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What's with all the bowl blowouts?

Jeff Fogle  
VSiN City newsletter

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The late, smart money bet against Josh Allen and Wyoming, but he came through in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
© USA Today Sports Images

VSiN City’s bonus weekend coverage through the bowls continues Saturday with some thoughts on “point of attack” analysis, plus Friday stats and Saturday point spreads. Bonus basketball includes another big night for the Big 12. Let’s get to it!

Bowl Handicapping: Checking on “point of attack” analysis
If you purchased our special “VSiN Bowl Guide,” you know that VSiN City supplied an article focusing on the point of attack. We gathered how often each offense ran the ball during the regular season (rush percentage). And then how each defense ranked in rushing yards allowed per game. 

To this point, the obvious overriding factor in determining bowl results has been TURNOVERS. We’ve seen some huge numbers. North Texas set the tone by losing the ball five times in the bowl opener against Troy. Later, SMU would lose the ball six times in a blowout loss to Louisiana Tech. Bookending the sloppy start, Central Michigan lost the ball EIGHT times in the most recent game, Friday’s bowl on the blue turf in Boise. 

Turnovers are tangentially connected to an inability to run the ball because offenses who CAN’T run are forced to use riskier approaches through the air (leading to interceptions, fumbles on sacks, and fumbles in the open field after catches). We’re not suggesting that it’s easy for analysts to “predict” turnovers. But early evidence is suggesting that knowing the best rush defenses might position you to at least anticipate high turnover counts. 

Here’s a list of what’s happened so far in this regard in games involving defenses that ranked in the top 50 in rushing-yards-allowed-per-game. Be aware that offenses strive for perfection…generally accept one giveaway per game on average…but know two giveaways or more are unacceptable. 

North Texas had 5 turnovers, Troy was #14 against the run
W. Kentucky had 5 turnovers, Georgia State was #46 against the run
Oregon had 4 turnovers, Boise State was #20 against the run
Boise State had 3 turnovers, Oregon was #26 against the run
Arkansas St. had 3 turnovers, M. Tennessee was #34 against the run
M. Tennessee had 3 turnovers, Arkansas St. was #35 against the run
Marshall had 2 turnovers, Colorado St. was #19 against the run
UAB had 0 turnovers, Ohio was #10 against the run

That’s a total of 25 turnovers, or 3.1 per game. Only UAB managed to avoid giveaways, and they got routed anyway. The eight offenses facing top 50 rush defenses went 3-5 ATS, which is 1-3 ATS if you throw out the games where they paired up (Oregon played Boise State, Arkansas State played Middle Tennessee). 

Perhaps it’s more important that “favorites” went 0-3 ATS. Those were Oregon, Arkansas State, and Western Kentucky. If we mentally combine the possibilities that a multi-week layoff before the postseason causes rustiness, AND facing a top 50 rush defense forces that rusty offense to use a risky approach, we could be looking at a potential trigger for turnover issues from favorites that can be exploited for profit.  

We’ll keep an eye on this as the bowl season progresses. You can get the “point of attack” data for all remaining games by purchasing the Bowl Guide for just $19.99. The bulk of the schedule is still ahead of us, including all the marquee matchups. Comprehensive stat and trend data, plus picks from our VSiN experts. Stuff your own stocking (digitally speaking) by clicking right here to order. Or, purchase Point Spread Weekly through the Super Bowl for $49.99, and the Bowl Guide is automatically included. 

College Bowls: Ohio and Wyoming extend blowout barrage
Fans hoping for a 2017 bowl bonanza would have been better off just watching re-runs of “Bonanza.” Two more boring blowouts Friday as the first week of action came to a close. Eight double-digit decisions in the first 10 games, including the last five. Actually, the winners of the last five won scoreboard 207-36. The sponsors of those should all be allowed make-goods on New Year’s Day. 

Let’s run Friday’s numbers from the Bahamas and Boise in kickoff order. Maybe there are some handicapping lessons in there that will help you find edges in today’s tripleheader. 

Ohio (-6) 41, Alabama-Birmingham 6
Yards-per-Play: UAB 5.0, Ohio 8.5
Total Yardage: UAB 353, Ohio 459
Third Down Pct: UAB 20%, Ohio 28%
Turnovers: UAB 0, Ohio 0
Rushing Yards: UAB 99, Ohio 249
Passing Stats: UAB 24-45-0-254, Ohio 14-22-0-210
TD Drive Lengths: UAB no TDs, Ohio 75-76-74-63-25-68

Classic example of one team moving the ball easily to find the end zone, while the other moved in the middle of the field and never could. If you look only at total yardage (and even third downs and turnovers), it seems closer than the scoreboard. But, yards-per-play, rushing yardage, and length of TD drives better describe Ohio’s dominance (7.8 to 4.0 on yards-per-carry). 

This was the only real “rush defense mismatch” exposed in the first week of matchups in that Bowl Guide “point of attack” article we referenced earlier. Ohio was great against the run this season, UAB not so much. Ohio didn’t even need any cheap points from turnovers to run away and hide. 

Wyoming (-2.5) 37, Central Michigan 14
Yards-per-Play: Central Michigan 5.2, Wyoming 4.5
Total Yardage: Central Michigan 364, Wyoming 275
Third Down Pct: Central Michigan 25%, Wyoming 40%
Turnovers: Central Michigan 8 (!!), Wyoming 0
Rushing Yards: Central Michigan 18, Wyoming 121
Passing Stats: Central Michigan 26-43-4-346, Wyoming 11-19-0-154
TD Drive Lengths: Central Michigan 85-65, Wyoming 46-24-65

Smart money hit Central Michigan hard in the hours leading to kickoff. The line had been above the key number of three since news broke that Josh Allen would be able to play quarterback for Wyoming. Those skeptical of Allen bet big Friday. The stats suggest that wasn’t a horrible call. But, EIGHT turnovers?! Wyoming had a short field in the first half, then added a fumble return touchdown in the second. Again, a high turnover count was linked to the inability to run the ball…though Wyoming wasn’t expected to be that stingy here. 

Did Allen improve his draft stock. Desperate to hype something, ESPN’s coverage said “YES” all afternoon…even though he’s already projected to go very high because of his size…and completing 11 passes isn’t a superstar performance. If you watched, you heard the comparisons to Ben Roethlisberger.

Final College Season
Roethlisberger: 9.1 yards-per-attempt, 37 TD passes, 10 interceptions
Allen: 6.7 yards-per-attempt, 16 TD passes, 6 interceptions

Not all big, strong guys are Ben Roethlisberger. But all bowls are ads for something, including hyped draft picks. 

Saturday’s Bowl Point Spreads
South Florida is -3/66 against Texas Tech in the Birmingham Bowl
San Diego State is -6.5/45.5 vs. Army in the Armed Forces Bowl
Toledo is -6.5/61 vs. Appalachian State in the Dollar General Bowl

Be sure you watch VSiN programming online, or listen to Sirius Channel 204 throughout the day for market updates and handicapping analysis. 

Friday College Basketball: Oklahoma and Texas win big for the Big 12, more blemishes for the Big 10 
If you’ve only been casually following college basketball as football winds down, you’ve probably heard rumors that the Big 12 is going to be loaded this year. Another reminder of that Friday night as Oklahoma and Texas won with double digit covers in games nationally televised by ESPN2.

#17 Oklahoma (-10) 104, Northwestern 78 
Two-Point Pct: Northwestern 57%, Oklahoma 62%
Three Pointers: Northwestern 8/28, Oklahoma 17/28
Free Throws: Northwestern 12/19, Oklahoma 21/27
Rebounds: Northwestern 32, Oklahoma 32
Turnovers: Northwestern 14, Oklahoma 13
Kenpom/Sagarin/BPI Rankings: Northwestern 54-42-40, Oklahoma 16-21-31

Oklahoma made 14 treys in the first half on the way to a 68-38 lead. OU basketball is very much modeled on the Golden State Warriors this season. The Sooners play the fastest pace of any major conference team according to the data at kenpom.com. Freshman phenom Trae Young plays the role of Steph Curry. Tonight, Young (who leads the nation in scoring and assists because of OU’s fast pace) scored 31 points and dished out 12 assists. 

OU might have scored 120 if they hadn’t called off the dogs with a big second half lead. Northwestern’s early season nadir was the latest high-profile loss for the Big 10. You’ll recall the league got waxed in the Big 10-ACC challenge. The Wildcats were only momentarily competitive here. Hopefully the guys who do ESPN’s BPI rankings were thinking “oops” with those rankings of OU at #31 and Northwestern at #40. 

Oklahoma us now 3-2 ATS at lines of -12 or better (0-4 ATS at spreads of 20 or more because they don’t seem interested in embarrassing cupcakes). It would be 4-1 ATS if not for a blown double-digit lead away from home against USC. One of the covers was an outright win at Wichita State. Northwestern falls to 4-7 ATS on the season. (Note that Penn State of the Big 10 lost to Rider 71-70 as a 15-point favorite Friday night). 

Texas (plus 3.5) 66, Alabama 50 
Two-Point Pct: Texas 61%, Alabama 39%
Three Pointers: Texas 7/26, Alabama 3/15
Free Throws: Texas 11/14, Alabama 5/9
Rebounds: Texas 37, Alabama 37
Turnovers: Texas 12, Alabama 12
Kenpom/Sagarin/BPI Rankings: Texas 39-33-44, Alabama 41-50-50

This was in Birmingham rather than Tuscaloosa. You get the sense the market thought it was in Tuscaloosa given the point spread as compared to those computer ratings. Big night for giant Mo Bamba of the Longhorns. He had 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 5 blocked shots while controlling a halfcourt game. The numbers you see above are what a Texas game should look like when he’s playing well. Big edge inside the arc. Though, team rebounding should be better than a tie. 

Texas still can’t shoot three-pointers accurately. Really, the only way to justify their long-range volume is the fact that Bamba is positioned to grab offensive rebounds and get easy put backs. Gotta be better ways to get the big man the ball in close. 

Nice bounce back for Texas after the poor result vs. Tennessee State. Alabama is now 1-5-1 ATS its last seven games. The cover was a respectable 6-point loss at Arizona getting nine. 

Advance Saturday Point Spreads (CBS Sports Classic from New Orleans)
North Carolina is -6.5 on the early line vs. Ohio State
Kentucky is -7 on the early line vs. UCLA

Friday NBA: OKC had to sweat Atlanta, while the shorthanded Rockets dropped their second straight
We have room to recap a couple of NBA games. Oklahoma City looked like it has righted its ship in recent action. Then they were tied with lowly Atlanta with just a few seconds left! 

Oklahoma City (-11.5) 120, Atlanta 117
Two-Point Pct: Atlanta 55%, Oklahoma City 54%
Three Pointers: Atlanta 15/32, Oklahoma City 13/25
Free Throws: Atlanta 14/17, Oklahoma City 19/31
Rebounds: Atlanta 27, Oklahoma City 40
Turnovers: Atlanta 15, Oklahoma City 19

What happened to the great defense OKC had been playing? Nothing you can do about a team draining that many treys. But, 55% inside the arc speaks to a lack of effort. The Thunder did win the battle of the boards handily. Russell Westbrook failed to reach a triple double because he only had seven rebounds. Atlanta wasn’t missing many shots! Still 30 points and 15 assists for Westbrook, including the game-winner on a trey with 1.7 seconds left. Carmelo Anthony was 7 of 12 on treys for OKC. 

Atlanta falls to 7-25 straight up, but is 7-2 ATS its last nine games. Oklahoma City 17-15 straight up, but 11-21 against market prices. How often have YOU been fading Atlanta, but betting OKC this season? 

LA Clippers (plus 12.5) 128, Houston 118
Two-Point Pct: LA Clippers 51%, Houston 50%
Three Pointers: LA Clippers 18/42, Houston 17/40
Free Throws: LA Clippers 24/31, Houston 29/35
Rebounds: LA Clippers 48, Houston 43
Turnovers: LA Clippers 8, Houston 17

Too bad Chris Paul and Blake Griffin weren’t on the floor. Though, this game was plenty exciting without them. James Harden scored 51 points on 28 shots for the Rockets in a losing effort. You can see that defense took a back seat tonight for both teams Austin Rivers of the Clippers had a career high 36 points (on 25 shots). Difference-making category was turnovers. A blowout win there for the visitors.

Second straight loss for the Rockets after that long win streak. Houston is still 15-1 straight up in games started by Chris Paul, as his melding with Harden is going much better than expected. 

That wraps up our Saturday report. We didn’t mention the two NFL games on tap today. Both involve big favorites laying points to opponents with nothing to play for. Matchup analysis takes a back seat to divining the spirit and drive of the underdogs in those situations. As we hit our publication deadline, Baltimore is -13 vs. Indianapolis, while Minnesota is -8.5 at Green Bay. Sharps have been hitting the Packers as a divisional home underdog. Though, that game is now in the “basic strategy” teaser window where professional wagerers will be looking to peg Minnesota -2.5 with other possibilities from Sunday (none are currently in the sweet spot, unfortunately).   

Back with you Sunday to run the numbers from Saturday’s bowl tripleheader and NFL doubleheader, plus those two big college basketball games and any other surprises that pop up. 

If you’re reading today on the home page of our website as you take a break from last second holiday shopping, be aware that you can subscribe ABSOLUTELY FREE to receive VSiN City in your email box every morning

The digital Point Spread Weekly newsletter has two current options:
$19.99 for the Bowl Guide
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Stay on top of sports betting developments by following us on twitter, or by downloading our app. If you have any comments or questions about anything in the VSiN universe, please drop us a note or post your thoughts in the Facebook widget below. 

Let’s hope for some entertaining bowl games!

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