Friday, December 18, 2009

2009 Bowl Previews: Part I

Today's first installment of the 2009 Bowl Preview has the two least interesting bowls, plus one early bowl that we need to preview before kickoff on Saturday.

#34: New Mexico Bowl
Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Wyoming Cowboys (25.6 Competitive-Quality Rating)
Justin: The 106th-ranked Cowboys are far and away the weakest of the bowl-eligible teams.  One of only six FBS teams with offensive efficiencies in the single digits (9.8 PPH), the Cowboys' only saving grace is a halfway-decent defense that only gives up 17.8 PPH; this compares favorably to (27) Stanford (18.2 PPH) and (39) Houston.  Unfortunately for the Cowboys, the (58) Bulldogs are almost the definition of an average FBS team, sporting an efficiency of 21.1 PPH on both sides of the ball.  Wyoming may be able to slow down the Fresno State offense, but won't put up many points in return.  TFG says Fresno State 31, Wyoming 24 with 83.5% confidence.
Eddie:  (45) Fresno State has an efficient offense but is prone to defensive letdowns and turnovers.  Lucky for them, (79) Wyoming has no business being in a bowl game of any kind after getting shut out three times this year and being absolutely woeful on both sides of the ball against teams with over 0.500 strength.  RBA says Fresno State over Wyoming, 31-20, with 61.6% confidence.

#33: Hawaii Bowl
Nevada Wolfpack vs. SMU Mustangs (38.9 CQR)
Eddie:  (30) Nevada and (67) SMU provide an interesting matchup between the nation's leading rushing offense and June Jones's latest passing extravaganza.  Nevada has a dominant offense that should put up around 21.4 PPH, as opposed to SMU's 16.6 PPH.  SMU doesn't get completely blown out because Nevada likes to shoot themselves in the foot with turnovers and penalties, but Nevada wins this one, 35-27, with 57.6% confidence.
Justin: The 45th-ranked Wolfpack started the season on a rough note, racking up three quick losses to BCS competition.  From there they righted the ship, reeling off eight straight victories behind an explosive offense that averages 23.7 PPH.  In their season closer they gave Boise State a good game before falling, 44-33.  (91) SMU, on the other hand, is the second-weakest team to go bowling.  Their adjusted efficiency margin of -7.5 PPH -- thanks to a weak defense that allows 24.2 PPH -- does not spell "competitive opponent".  TFG predicts Nevada prevailing with a final score of 38-31 on 81.0% odds of winning.

#18: St. Petersburg Bowl
UCF Knights vs Rutgers Scarlet Knights (58.7 CQR)
(NOTE: This bowl is scheduled for December 19th so we needed to publish our preview today.  This type of scheduling-driven out-of-order ranking will happen a few times.)
Justin: It's the battle of the Knights, as the 38th-ranked Scarlet Knights take on the 54th-ranked UCF Knights.  This actually looks to be one of the more competitive bowl games, with the favored Rutgers squad only having a 60.6% chance of winning.  Both defenses are reasonably good, allowing around 15 PPH.  The difference between the two is entirely in their offense: Rutgers averages 18.1 PPH and UCF averages 15.7 PPH.  UCF will need to find a way to bring the Scarlet Knights down to their own level if they want to win.  TFG prediction: Rutgers 27, UCF 24.
Eddie:  (47) Central Florida and (43) Rutgers are a near match on paper, expecting 14.2 PPH each.  The distinguishing factor in this game is UCF's tendency to turn the ball over 0.3 times more per game.  This game is effectively a coin flip with 53.3 confidence.  RBA says Rutgers by a hair, 22-21.