By Ryan Mayer
The college football bowl season is upon us. With 40 games spread out over the next two weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline/Bookmaker.eu. Find all our picks here.
Russell Athletic Bowl
#16 West Virginia vs. Miami (FL)
Spread: Miami -3
Spread: It feels a little odd to have one of the top teams in the Big 12 in the role of underdogs against a Miami team that went just 8-4 in Mark Richt’s first year, but that speaks to what Vegas thinks of the Big 12 this season. The conference, as was noted throughout the year, had an off year. Despite that, the Mountaineers were one of the conference’s better teams. They finished 10-2 with their only two losses coming against the league’s top two teams in both Oklahoma schools. Dana Holgorsen’s squad has presented a pretty balanced offensive attack this season averaging 267.4 yards per game through the air and 239.5 on the ground. However, they’ll be going up against a stingy Hurricanes defense that allows its opponents just 18.9 points per game (t-13th), 134.8 yards per game rushing (31st), and 220.4 yards per game through the air (60th). The Hurricanes are particularly effective in allowing opponents to convert just 38.9% of their third down attempts. The Mountaineers average 43.5% on third down conversions, so winning third downs will be crucial.
On the Miami side, Brad Kaaya leads a passing attack that is 27th in the nation (273.5 YPG) and he’s posted a 23-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his senior year. The Mountaineers pass defense has been vulnerable ranking 99th allowing 255.7 yards per game. Hurricanes wide receiver Ahmmon Richards, averaging 18.8 yards per catch, is one to watch for against this secondary. The running game could get going as well as the Mountaineers were gashed by the Sooners for 316 yards and 5 TDs on the ground. Granted, the ‘Canes don’t have a back on par with Samaje Perine or Joe Mixon, but, they could get going with Mark Walton and Joseph Yearby. The ‘Canes defense is the difference for me. Miami -3
Total: These two teams are pretty productive offensively as you’ve probably gathered. However, despite some of the deficiencies defensively for the Mountaineers, they were still one of the top scoring defenses in the country allowing just 23.4 points per game, good for 36th in the country. They’ve given up more than 21 points just three times this season (BYU, Oklahoma, OSU). The ‘Canes have been similarly stingy allowing more than 21 points three times as well (Virginia Tech, Notre Dame, Pitt). I can see this being a one score 30-23, 31-24 type game which would leave us short of the mark. Under 57
Ryan Mayer is an Associate Producer for CBS Local Sports. Ryan lives in NY but comes from Philly and life as a Philly sports fan has made him cynical. Anywhere sports are being discussed, that’s where you’ll find him.