The three weeks of brilliance that is the bowl season gets underway this afternoon with the first of 34 games. There aren’t that many games that look like they could be massive blowouts, but the very first game out of the gate – the New Mexico Bowl between Fresno State and Wyoming certainly does. Here’s a look at the two games that get us started today:
New Mexico Bowl
Wyoming (+11.5) vs. Fresno State
4:30 pm ET
Wyoming definitely fits into the ‘just happy to be here’ category. They hadn’t been in a bowl for five years, so going 6-6 and reaching one in the first year under Dave Christensen is a very nice step forward. The problem, though, isthat this team just isn’t very good. They are near the bottom of the pack both offensively and defensively, and it’s not at all hard to make the argument that they are the worst of all the bowl teams. One glaring problem they have is that they are particularly lousy against the run. That’s a problem because Fresno State’s Ryan Mathews was second in the entire country in rushing yards – he’s a running beast. Fresno State is going to be able to dominate every aspect ofthis game if they have the desire to. I won’t typically be making picks as I discuss games through the bowl season, but it certainly isn’t hard to figure out why the betting action is tilted heavily both to the Bulldogs and over 55. The only problem with the over is that Fresno State will likely have to do most of the work for themselves because Wyoming has a bad habit of getting shut out.
St. Petersburg Bowl
Rutgers (-2.5) vs. Central Florida
8:00 pm ET
At first glance UCF is in a very good spot here – they are playing just 100 miles from home so they should have lots of fans in the stands. New Jerseyians (is that a word?) are always happy to escape the weather to head to Florida, though, and Rutgers has 11 players from Florida, so it would be possible to overestimate the advantage this gives Central Florida. What this really comes down to in my mind is one player – Rutgers QB Tom Savage. He’s not the most accurate player in the country, and he can get flustered under pressure. Unfortunately for him, UCF has Bruce Miller and Jarvis Geathers – two of the top ten in the country for sacks, and two ferocious pass rushers. Savage is going to get hurried and chased all game. If he can keep his composure in the face of that then Rutgers stands a pretty good chance. They certainly have faced better competition in conference play this year. If Savage starts to panic, though, then the offense will go with him and this one will get ugly.