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Monday, 30 December 2019

College Football Bowl Picks 2019 Part Two (December 30-January 6)

The first half of the Bowl Season is in the books for the 2019 College Football season and we have got the National Championship Game that most would have wanted when the two Tigers, LSU and Clemson, meet in New Orleans in two weeks time.

That is no disrespect to the Ohio State Buckeyes who were very unfortunate with a couple of calls in their narrow loss to Clemson, but the defending Champions looking for a third title in four years versus the best team from the SEC in 2019 looks a top match up. Joe Burrow vs Trevor Lawrence could be a potential contest in the NFL PlayOffs in years to come with both expected to be the Number 1 Overall Pick in the Draft in 2020 and 2021 respectively and I am very much looking forward to that big game on Monday 13th January.

In this thread I am going to cover the Bowl Games which will complete the post-season and I will have a separate post for the National Championship Game which is played a few days after the final Bowl Game of this part of the season.

Monday 30th December
Western Michigan Broncos vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers Pick: At this time of the Bowl season there are some very big games put together, although some of those lose their lustre when players decide they would rather save their bodies for the NFL Draft. On paper this might not be one of the Bowl Games that will grab a lot of headlines, but for the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and Western Michigan Broncos it is all that matters.

Both teams didn't quite have enough to reach their respective Conference Championship Games, but reaching a Bowl is a big achievement. The Hilltoppers in particular have bounced back from a disappointing 2018 to move from a 3-9 record to an 8-4 one in Tyson Helton's first year as the Head Coach in Bowling Green.

It is back to back winning seasons for Tim Lester as Head Coach of Western Michigan, but he will be looking for a Bowl win this time around having seen his team blown out by the BYU Cougars in 2018. That dropped the Broncos to 7-6 that season, but Lester will be keen to keep the positive trend going with this team having finished with six wins in 2017 and then seven wins in 2018.

At 7-5 the Broncos can reach eight wins for the first time under the Head Coach having been a very strong team under PJ Fleck before he took over as the top man in Minnesota. Western Michigan did lose their last regular season game which stopped some of the momentum they had been building, while the Hilltoppers have won three in a row.

It may be the reason they are favoured to win this Bowl Game, but I do think the underdog with the points could be the right play.

Both teams look like they can strike a balance Offensively which should see them move the chains through strong running attacks, but the Broncos Secondary has perhaps made one or two bigger plays of late which suggests they could stall a drive or two.

Realistically both teams should have enough ability to run the ball and it could come down to which of the teams makes the fewer mistakes. Even then I do think getting more than a Field Goal worth of points with the Western Michigan Broncos looks like being too many to ignore with the game potentially coming down to which of the teams holds the ball last to determine the winner.

This may not be the game that most will be tuning into this week, but that's not the point and taking the underdog to cover looks the right play.

Illinois Fighting Illini vs California Golden Bears Pick: Lovie Smith was under some pressure going into his fourth year as the Head Coach of the Illinois Fighting Illini, and they looked way too short of winning enough games to become Bowl eligible this season when losing to Eastern Michigan. However the Fighting Illini have shown some heart to put some upsets on the board on their way to a 7-5 record and that means a first winning season since 2011.

The school have been speaking about the importance of playing in this Bowl and what is can do for Illinois going forward so there should be plenty of motivation in the ranks of a team who have not played in a Bowl since 2014.

Illinois are taking on the California Golden Bears who have produced seven wins for the second season in a row under Justin Wilcox. A 4-0 start to the season had some dreaming of much bigger things than the opening to the 2019 year, but California dropped five of six in the middle of the year and only bounced back with two wins at the end of the regular season to match the seven wins earned in 2018.

There has only been one season since 2010 that California have won at least eight games so there is plenty on the line for them as well as Illinois. The strong Defensive performances have been the foundation of the success for the Golden Bears in 2019, but they have perhaps lacked something Offensively which has prevented them from having a much stronger record.

The Golden Bears should be able to have a bit more success Offensively in this one if the Fighting Illini have not been able to sort out some of the issues on the Defensive Line. In the last three games Illinois gave up far too many big gains on the ground and being able to control the clock should put the Golden Bears in a strong position.

There is a bit more experience from the Quarter Back position compared with last season, but California have not been consistent throwing the ball. They will have to run to make sure they are in front of the chains and at least giving their Defensive unit strong field positions to work with.

Running the ball is going to be far from easy for the Fighting Illini and that has to be a concern for the team. However they could have better success throwing the ball compared with the Golden Bears whose Secondary ended the regular season by giving up some big yards through the air.

Brandon Peters could be back for Illinois at Quarter Back which would be a huge boost for a team looking to take advantage of any issues California continue to have in the Secondary. He missed the final regular season game, but should be out of concussion protocol in time for the Bowl Game which means a lot to the development of the Fighting Illini to take into the 2020 season.

A couple of key players are missing in the California Secondary and so Illinois might be able to score enough points to stay competitive against this mark. California have a poor recent record when set as the favourite and when they are playing on neutral field, while Illinois have been a solid underdog and neutral field team to back against the spread.

It might have a feel of a home game for the Golden Bears with the location of this Bowl, but I think the underdog can do enough to stay with California, especially with the healthy number of points being given to them.

Virginia Cavaliers vs Florida Gators Pick: When you are playing in the SEC you know there is very little room for error if you want to make the College Football PlayOff or even making one of the other Big Bowl Games. The Florida Gators have reached the ten win mark for the second season in a row under Head Coach Dan Mullen, but they were not able to win the SEC East and now will be looking to go one better than 2018 by winning an eleventh game in the post-season.

They will play the Virginia Cavaliers in the Orange Bowl in Miami.

The Cavaliers finished as the beaten team in the ACC Championship Game when they were crushed by the Clemson Tigers, but they have secured back to back winning seasons under Bronco Mendenhall. A win in the Bowl Game would actually give Virginia a ten win season, but they have already secured more wins than in the 2018 season to continue their development under a Head Coach with a strong reputation.

This is a very big test for Virginia though and they will appreciate they are facing one of the best teams from the loaded SEC. The Florida Gators have based their successes on a very strong Defensive unit, although one or two key players will be missing as they look to get themselves set to play at the next level.

Even then it will be very difficult for the Cavaliers to move the ball on the ground and that puts pressure on Bryce Perkins at Quarter Back even with his dual-threat ability. Perkins showed in the ACC Championship Game that he can have a big impact even against the better Defensive units in College Football when taking it to the Clemson Tigers, but it won't be easy to keep trying to convert from third and long spots.

One problem in being behind the chains is trying to throw against a very good Secondary, although one or two key players sitting out will help Perkins. The second issue is that the Florida Gators have a pass rush that has been living in the backfield of every opponent they have faced and that is the kind of pressure that can lead to errant throws from any Quarter Back when the pocket begins to collapse all around them.

While I do think Bryce Perkins can have some strong drives, I also think the Florida Defense will be tough to do that against on a consistent basis. With that in mind I feel the Gators can make enough stops to give their Offensive unit a chance to shine and make some of the headlines too.

Like Virginia, Florida may have one or two issues in establishing the run against a decent Cavaliers Defensive Line. They have shown signs of being worn down at the end of the regular season, but the Cavaliers are well rested and they can at least force Kyle Trask to beat them with his arm from the Quarter Back position.

Trask has really sparked the passing game in Florida and will be back to Quarter Back the team in 2020. He had some huge games in the final weeks of the regular season and would have taken note of some of the holes that have been exploited in the Virginia Secondary, especially by Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. Now Florida aren't as good as Clemson and Kyle Trask is not quite Trevor Lawrence, but the Quarter Back can have a solid outing which can put Florida in a position to win and also cover this number.

A Cavaliers pass rush can cause one or two problems for the Gators but this feels like a game in which the SEC team will have the superior support and can pull away. Both Clemson and Notre Dame won by wide enough margins to cover this number and I think the Gators are going to be able to do the same.

MY PICKS: Western Michigan Broncos + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Illinois Fighting Illini + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Florida Gators - 14.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet365 (1 Unit)

Bowl Update: 5-7, - 2.28 Units (12 Units Staked, - 19% Yield)

Week 15: 6-3, + 2.45 Units (9 Units Staked, + 27.22% Yield)
Week 14: 4-5, - 1.22 Units (9 Units Staked, - 13.56% Yield)
Week 13: 4-3, + 0.64 Units (7 Units Staked, + 9.14% Yield)
Week 12: 6-3, + 2.53 Units (9 Units Staked, + 28.11% Yield)
Week 11: 5-3, + 1.55 Units (8 Units Staked, + 19.38% Yield)
Week 10: 4-1, + 2.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 54.60% Yield)
Week 9: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.43% Yield)
Week 8: 4-4-1, - 0.47 Units (9 Units Staked, - 5.22% Yield)
Week 7: 3-3, - 0.24 Units (6 Units Staked, - 4% Yield)
Week 6: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.42% Yield)
Week 5: 6-1, + 4.40 Units (7 Units Staked, + 62.86% Yield)
Week 4: 3-2, + 0.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 14.60% Yield)
Week 3: 3-5, - 2.18 Units (8 Units Staked, - 27.25% Yield)
Week 2: 5-7, - 2.57 Units (12 Units Staked, - 21.42% Yield)
Week 1: 3-2, + 0.67 Units (5 Units Staked, + 13.40% Yield)

Season 2019: 60-52-1, + 2.66 Units (113 Units Staked, + 2.35% Yield)

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