Public likes Seminoles despite big wins by UCLA

Tim Roberts - Writer

Momentum is a key consideration in physics.

Using certain equations, physicists can predict the outcome when two objects are on a collision course.

Football cappers try to do essentially the same thing when two teams are headed for a more metaphorical collision.

Bowl season, however, sees the regular rules of momentum tossed out the window, which might explain the line move for Wednesday night’s Emerald Bowl in San Francisco.

The UCLA Bruins, who won three straight to end the season, including a stunning upset over USC, were 5-point favorites over the Florida State Seminoles for much of December. In recent days, however, the spread has dropped as low as 3 points.

“I just saw that ESPN labeled Florida State as the most disappointing team of the year,” says the line manager at 5Dimes. “I don’t know why people are backing that team.”

The Seminoles are in danger of finishing with the school’s first losing season in three decades but Covers Expert Scott Rickenbach says that while he hasn’t posted a play on the Emerald Bowl yet, there are more attractions to Bobby Bowden’s team than meets the eye.

“I think Florida State is in a favorable situation,” Rickenbach says. “It was an awful year and they lost a big game to end it, but they’re very talented and I think it could turn into a statement game for the Seminoles to assert that they can still beat big schools.”

“UCLA is coming off their biggest game and while I’m sure they’ll be ready to play, there’s such a gap between the regular season and bowl games that a team loses momentum.”

The Seminoles’ rushing offense was the biggest source of concern during the season. They were held under 50 rushing yards on five separate occasions this year. That’s a worrisome stat as they prepare to meet the Pac-10’s top rush defense, led by defensive ends Justin Hickman and Bruce Davis, each of whom had 12 quarterback sacks this year.

“We`ve got to be able to run the ball,” starting quarterback Drew Weatherford told the Palm Beach Post, when asked how to keep the Bruins’ pass rush at bay. “A lot of guys like that just pin their ears back and (rush the quarterback).”

With mobile quarterback Xavier Lee watching from the bench and tailback Antone Smith sidelined, Lorenzo Booker will likely top 15 carries for only the second time this season. But Rickenbach looks beyond the feature back to judge how a ground game will perform.

“No matter who runs the ball for them, Florida State usually has extremely good athletes,” the longtime football capper says. “Whether they involve reverses with receivers or line up in different schemes, they have so much team speed that I think they’ll have some success.”

And as successful as the Bruins were at stopping the run in the tail end of conference play, Rickenbach wonders if they’ve maintained any motivation to play Florida State. If not, then there’s trouble in backing the favored Bruins despite their 7-2 record against the spread to end the season.

“Emotions play such a big part in running the ball,” he explains. “[Christmas Day’s NFL game between] Dallas and Philadelphia is a good example of that, where a team with slightly worse numbers coming into the game dominated battles at the line.

“When the emotion is there on the line, you can make your skilled players look better, even third-string guys.”

The total for Wednesday night’s game is set at 39 points. The game kicks off from AT&T Park at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcast on ESPN.

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