Saturday, December 22, 2007

Bowl Appetit

Hawaii Bowl
Boise State -11 East Carolina

Boise State returns to the scene of their last loss, a 39-27 defeat at the hands of the Hawaii Warriors, to try and capture the 6th bowl win in school history. Their opponent, East Carolina, is making their second consecutive bowl appearance under third year coach Skip Holtz.

Boise State did not miss a beat on offense despite losing three-year starting quarterback Jared Zabransky. His replacement, Taylor Tharp, threw 28 touchdowns against just 9 interceptions while directing an offense that averaged 475 yards per game (1oth in the nation). Running back Ian Johnson missed two games, but still had over 1000 yards (1030) on the season. His backup, Jeremy Avery added 603 yards on the ground and averaged 6.48 yards per rush. Sophomore receiver Jeremy Childs became the Broncos first 1000-yard receiver since Tim Killigan in 2003. The Broncos scored at least 30 points in 9 of their 12 games, and only one of their wins were by fewer than 10 points (a 69-67 OT thriller against Nevada).

The Broncos were pretty good on the other side of the ball too. They had 33 sacks (26th in the country), held opponents to a cumulative quarterback rating of 112.34 (24th in the country), and were 21st in the nation in total defense (326 yards per game). These numbers, both offensively and defensively, are inflated by the fact that the Broncos play in the WAC, but the Broncos are still a darn good football team.

East Carolina played a significantly tougher schedule than the Broncos and managed only a 7-5 record. Three of their losses were to BCS conference teams (NC State, West Virginia, and Virginia Tech). Two of those teams are currently ranked in the top 11. East Carolina did manage to beat two bowl teams, Houston and UCF, the latter of which ended up winning Conference USA. East Carolina was significantly outgained on the season (702 yards over 12 games or 58 yards per game), but they scored more points than they allowed (and won more than they lost) thanks to a turnover margin of +14 (6th in the nation). They turned the ball over only 13 times all season (3rd in the nation), while gaining 27 from their opponents (22nd in the nation). The Pirates needed those turnovers because they were already giving up plenty of field position in the return game. They allowed two kickoff and punt returns for touchdowns and finished 112th in the nation in opponent's punt return average and 98th in the country in opponent kickoff return average.

On paper Boise State appears to be the far superior team. However, in the last two postseasons 9 teams have been favored by 10 points or more. Only two of those 9 of those favorites have covered the spread. 6 of the 9 have won straight up. I think that trend will continue. Boise State will win, but East Carolina will cover.

The Pick: East Carolina will cover the 11 point spread.

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