With the BCS Bowl schedule opening with the Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day, we have a special edition of our biggest betting mismatches looking at the five big BCS bowl games, uncovering some of the underlying mismatches to help you get the edge.
Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans (+6.5, 42.5)
Cardinal’s yards per play vs. Spartans’ lack of punch
Stanford’s offense is one of the most efficient in the country, scoring 33.2 points per game and putting up 6.3 yards per play – tied for 18th in the land. The Cardinal anchor their offense with the run and will take advantage of that big hole left in the middle of the MSU defense by Max Bullough’s suspension.
If the Spartans defense buckles, the offense may not have enough to climb out of a hole. Michigan State’s scoring attack was off and on all season. The Green and White appeared to be finding their way in November but then mustered only 14 points in a win over Minnesota. Michigan State averaged only 5.2 yards per play and ranked among the bottom of the Big Ten in big plays.
Central Florida Knights vs. Baylor Bears (-16.5, 70.5)
Knights’ slowed-down offense vs. Bears’ high-octane offense
The Knights best chance of slowing down Baylor’s explosive offense is to keep them off the field at the Fiesta Bowl. Central Florida has a cool and calculated offense, running only 68.3 plays per game and burning through 31:58 of time of possession. Despite that slow-motion pace, UCF still put up 33.2 points per game.
The Bears’ up-tempo attack ranked tops in yards (625.6 yards per game) and points (53.2 points per game) but worked quickly, using up just 27:40 of clock per game – 107th in the FBS. Baylor was dominated in time of possession in its loss to Oklahoma State, with the Pokes control 35:23 of clock. If UCF dictates the pace, that massive spread could be tough to cover.
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Alabama Crimson Tide (-15.5, 51.5)
Sooners’ dual-threat Trevor Knight vs. Crimson Tide’s weakness to running QB
Alabama doesn’t have many chinks in its armor, however, the Tide have been exposed by running quarterbacks this season. They allowed Texas A&M QB Johnny Manziel sprint for 98 yards and watched Auburn QB Nick Marshall put up 99 yards and a score on the ground in the Iron Bowl.
Mike Herndon of AL.com made note of the Tide’s weakness and says Nick Saban is well aware of the damage OU dual-threat Trevor Knight can do. Knight, who is splitting snaps with fellow QB Blake Bell, has rushed for 438 yards – picking up more than seven yards per carry. Knight is nursing a hand injury but is expected to play in the Sugar Bowl.
Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers (+2.5, 69.5)
Buckeyes’ battered defense vs. Tigers’ scoring options
The Buckeyes defense fell apart down the stretch, giving up 75 points in the final two games of the season, including 41 points to rival Michigan. Ohio State’s pass defense was exposed for 451 yards versus the Wolverines and 304 yards versus MSU, and limp into the Orange Bowl with significant injuries in the stop unit, most notably cornerback Bradley Roby.
Clemson’s connection of Tahj Boyd and Sammy Watkins is the best the nation, but the Tigers have plenty of other options on offense. Six-foot-5 WRs Martavis Bryant and Mike Williams are tough covers as is speedy Adam Humphries. Tight end Stanton Seckinger is also an option at 6-foot-4. Including Watkins, who caught 10 TDs, 13 different players caught passes for six points this season.
Auburn Tigers vs. Florida State Seminoles (-8.5, 67.5)
Tigers’ home runs vs. Seminoles’ punt coverage
The Seminoles haven’t punted much this season, kicking the ball away only 36 times – second fewest in the country. Florida State, however, didn’t hold its ground covering those punts, allowing opponents to run back for an average of 18.27 yards – worst in the ACC and third worst in the FBS. Auburn is notorious for its big plays on special teams and can put the FSU Goliath on its heels with a big play on special teams.
The Tigers have one of the most dangerous return threats in college football in Tre Mason. Auburn was second in the SEC in punt returns at 11.76 yards per punt and was fourth in kickoff return yardage at 24.06. The Tigers have a taste for the big plays on offense as well, with eight plays of 50-plus yards, five plays of 60 or more, and four plays for 70-plus yards this season.