Today's Free Picks for
Posted at 1:30 PM EST and update at 5:50 PM EST.
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl
Howard Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
7:00 PM EST. Before we proceed, please note that we ARE NOT pulling the trigger on this one just yet and will update around dinner time as to whether or not we'll officially be stepping in. We're anticipating a better number but even if we don't get it, there is a very good chance that we'll still step in.
There are lots of storylines surrounding this one but the two you are going to read about the most is that the Huskies played a much tougher schedule than the Blazers and that Huskies HC, Rod Carey is 0-5 in bowl games. Both are true. The thinking is that Carey is too good a coach to keep losing and that his guys will dig down deep this time around in an attempt to remove that stain on his résumé. We’ll certainly concede that NIU played the tougher schedule, as they played non-conference games against Florida State, Utah and Iowa. That’s nice but NIU got smoked in three of those four games, as it lost to FSU 37-19, Iowa, 33-6, Utah 17-6. The final score against the Utes doesn’t look bad but statistically it was, as Utah dominated the game but shot themselves in the foot with 2 red-zone turnovers. Anyone can schedule games against good competition but getting smoked in all three proves what?
NIU’s best win this year came against whom? Ohio? BYU by a score if 7-6? Buffalo in the MAC Championship? Let us remind you that NIU trailed Buffalo 29-6 in that MAC Championship game with Buffalo about to go up 36-6 on the NIU’s two-yard line when it fumbled the ball and NIU recovered. From that point on a minor miracle occured, as NIU would go on to score 24 unanswered in a 30-29 victory that is still hard to believe. Had NIU lost that game, they would have extended a losing streak to three games to end the season. NIU also had narrow victories over EMU (26-23), Ohio (24-21), Ball State 24-16 but NIU was up 17-16 late in the fourth quarter and in the Huskies 36-26 win over Akron, the score was 29-26 midway through the fourth quarter, The NIU Huskies went 5-0 in those games but could just as easily gone 0-5. This is a pedestrian offense on its best day and they are also an undeserving MAC champ.
From #FreeUAB to conference champs, the Blazers have been one of college football's best stories the past two years and we’re suggesting that last year they were just happy to get to a bowl game but this year they’ll be much more focused. UAB was the C-USA Champ and they went 7-1 in the conference and 10-3 overall. However, unlike the Huskies, the Blazers were running over their opposition with convincing wins as opposed to 50/50 narrow victories. Furthermore, the Blazers defense pitched three shutouts this year in an era when that doesn’t seem possible and also held four others to seven points or less. That’s seven of 13 games in which the opposition couldn’t move the chains. The Blazers also beat a very good Tulane squad, 31-24.
When it is all said and done, we’re still looking for value in the number and we have to decide whether the Blazers are being undersold or the Huskies are wrongly billed as the pooch. Frankly, NIU has not impressed all year long with lucky victories and too many bounces going its way. Had the Huskies at least showed some resilience in its losses to “better” competition we could warrant getting behind them but it became a marshmallow against those teams. We should also mention that maybe, just maybe, Rod Carey has no idea how to prepare for these games because not only is he 0-5 in bowl games, he’s 0-5 against the spread after losing by an average of 25 points. UAB is being undersold.
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UAB -1½ -105 (Risking 2.10 units - To Win: 2.00)