Thursday, December 16, 2010

2010 Bowl Previews: Part I

Welcome to the 2010 edition of the Tempo-Free Gridiron Bowl Preview. Much like last year's preview, we'll examine every one of the bowl games this year and give you the Tempo-Free Gridiron and Regression-Based Analysis breakdown of each game, along with the GUGS score for that game (a measure of the quality of the teams and how competitive and high-scoring the game is expected to be based on our projections).  Most games fall in the 40-60 range on the GUGS scale, but with 35 games there are going to be some real clunkers alongside some real barnburners. We'll examine three bowl games per day, with the top two on day 12. With that, we start out countdown with

#35: GoDaddy.Com Bowl (January 6, 2011)
Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt) vs. Miami-Ohio Red Hawks (9-4, 7-1 MAC)
GUGS: 24.5

Justin: We start our countdown with two teams placed firmly in the bottom quarter of the TFG rankings. The 92nd-ranked Blue Raiders sport a 0.500 record, which is impressive considering they have a -6.0 PPH disadvantage against an average FBS opponent. Making things worse, Middle Tennessee plays uptempo ball, meaning they give their opponents plenty of opportunities to score. Shockingly, Miami-Ohio is even worse and clocks in at 96 in the TFG top 120 with nearly a -7.0 PPH disadvantage out of the gate. These are the two worst teams to achieve bowl eligibility, and the bowl managed to snatch them both up. I believe Eddie would call this a pillow fight, as neither team has what could be termed an "offense". The sheer principle of "someone's gotta win" says that Middle Tennessee pulls this one out, but TFG says it's a virtual coin toss at 52.2%. Even the projected closeness of this game can't pull the GUGS rating into the 30s, and that's all you need to know about this game.
Eddie: Yawn.  At first glance, (99) Middle Tennessee looks like it should have a decent defensive outing by holding (100) Miami-Ohio to only 14.5 PPH.  Unfortunately, that's only because the Red Hawks sport a 0.281 expected winning percentage.  The Blue Raiders should only be able to muster 14.2 PPH themselves thanks to a Miami defense that expects to surrender only 12.6 PPH against the 0.241 strength MTSU offense.  This game should be very close in a comedy-of-errors sort of way.  RBA says Miami wins it 25-24 with 55.1% confidence.

#34: Armed Forces Bowl (December 30, 2010)
Army Black Knights (6-6, 0-1 Ind) vs. SMU Mustangs (7-6, 6-2 C-USA)
GUGS: 28.4

Eddie:  (75) SMU and (88) Army may be relatively close in the standings and in the win-loss column, but they produce a pretty unfair matchup.  SMU's offense has been respectable under June Jones at 22.0 +/- 12.4 PPH.  Unfortunately, defense is Army's weakness .  SMU should have a hefty advantage at 17.8 PPH versus Army's 15.4 PPH.  Furthermore, the Mustangs' are consistent on both sides of the ball.  The slow pace keeps this one closer than it should, but SMU should win 28-24 with 59.6% confidence.
Justin: If the first bowl game was uninteresting thanks to poor teams even in the face of a close game, the Armed Forces Bowl suffers from less competition. The 70th-ranked Mustangs take on the (85) Black Knights in a game that will be deliberate and low-scoring; this game won't even break 160 plays. Army and SMU both average around 17.5 PPH on offense, but SMU has nearly a 4.0 PPH advantage on defense. The Mustangs aren't bad, per se -- their offense is better than (29) Clemson's and their defense is better than (50) Georgia Tech's -- but two mediocre parts do not make a strong team. Army actually has the worst defense of any bowl-bound team, so SMU's offense should find it possible to break this game open and take home the victory.

#33: Little Caesars Bowl (December 26, 2010)
Florida International Golden Panthers (6-6, 6-2 Sun Belt) vs. Toledo Rockets (8-4, 7-1 MAC)
GUGS: 31.0

Justin: (89) FIU is another team that's fortunate to be at 6-6, solely by virtue of playing in a weak conference. FIU has a net -6.6 PPH efficiency, compared to (76) Toledo's -3.7 PPH. The Rockets are about 1.5 PPH in the green on both sides of the ball, so this won't be an immovable-rock-versus-unstoppable-force type of game. Expect this game to be a slow tide of Toledo overpowering the Panthers and finally coming out on top. This game won't have much finesse and won't be high-scoring, but expect Toledo to sneak past in the end.
Eddie:  At least this slap fight will happen early in the bowl season.  (91) Florida International has very little going for it, but at least the Golden Panthers are consistent.  Offensively, they rate at 21.5 +/- 14.2 PPH.  Defensively, they surrender 11.1 +/- 16.3 PPH.  Those numbers don't seem particularly spectacular until you contrast them against (92) Toledo's ridiculously inconsistent defense, which surrenders 4.6 +/- 34.7 PPH.  If Toledo performs as expected, they should win 29-28, but with only 54.0% confidence.

Home Visitors Odds Home Visitors Odds
(96)Miami-OH29 (92)Middle Tenn.30 52.2 (99)Miami-OH27 (NA)Middle Tenn.21 55.0
(70)SMU34 (85)Army30 61.9 (NA)SMU31 (87)Army24 59.6
(89)FIU33 (76)Toledo35 58.9 (91)FIU31 (92)Toledo27 54.0