Three games today, and they honestly should be close affairs. Alabama fans will want to tune in to catch Duke for sure in Shreveport — the Blue Devils are Alabama’s opener next season (I KNOW, SO YOU DON’T HAVE TO TELL ME HOW BAD THE SCHEDULE IS.)
12:30 PM ESPN
Duke (7-5) + 3.5 vs. Temple (8-4)
The midmajors have had an up and down record thus far. The MWC is 2-1 (with one cancellation and one to play), the MAC is 1-4 so far, the Sun Belt and CUSA are batting near .500. But, by far, the stinker has been the AAC: The American is 1-3 entering today’s play, and went 0-1 against the lone P5 foe they’ve played: A really pedestrian 6-6 Wake team.
The road does not get easier today for the wanna’ be 6th Power Conference. Temple has a solid running game and a defense that is opportunistic, if not occasionally vulnerable in the passing game. They are favored in Flavor Country today against the Blue Devils, a respectable 7-5 in the ACC Coastal. Ignore the five conference losses, Duke has picked up some really solid wins this year: over No. 21 Army, at No. 22 Northwestern, and a bludgeoning of Miami in Coral Gables. They’re just the better team too. I expect the ACC to take it on the chin this postseason, but today won’t be that day. The wrong team is favored: the better club and better coach are in blue.
Miami (7-5) -2 vs. Wisconsin (8-4)
This has been a lost season for Mark Richt’s team, and a lot of that blame can be placed on the quarterbacking. Heavens know, the ‘Canes defense did more than enough to win the soft Coastal division — at least if you looked at the raw stats. Where the Hurricanes struggled was against power running teams: UVA, GT, LSU, etc.
NBD, they face one of the nation’s very best ground games today, and one that won’t try to get too fancy. The Badgers likewise had a disappointing season, dropping a home game to BYU and then underperforming in the Big 10. Neither team comes into this tossup trending either direction. But, in the gross overcast 40ish-degree climate of New York, I think the weather acclimation and power running of Wisco overtakes the raw athletic advantage of Miami. The wrong team is probably favored here too.
6-6 Baylor vs. 6-6 Vanderbilt -4.5
Whaddya’ know? The SEC finally makes an appearance in a bowl game and it is a supremely winnable one. The Commodores come into this on a bit of a hot streak, having won three of four and been very competitive in the ones it lost down the stretch. Vandy’s last three losses have been by 10 to No. 14 Florida, 7 to No. 11 Kentucky, and 5 to No. 24 Missouri.
Matt Rhule is trying to turn around the cesspit that is Baylor football. But, it’s just not a good team. The Bears have been walloped by the good teams they faced this season and been in too many close games against marginal ones. That said, they have generally won those contests against bad teams, and that’s more than BU did a year ago. Don’t let the season-ending Baylor momentum fool you — Vandy did more down the stretch against better foes. Kyle Shurmur’s last game, against that secondary which is B12-atrocious-but-not-Oklahoma-bad, should be one to celebrate for the nerds. Take the ‘Dores by a touchdown or so.