Looking For The Big Bowl Upsets

One of the intriguing aspects of the college football bowl season is the potential for upsets.

Why does the relative talent and regular season records so often seem not to matter in the post-season? There are several factors.

First, the layoff is considerable. Bowl games played in January mean that teams have had five or six weeks off, making it practically a new season. Some teams and coaching staffs do better than others at maintaining focus and ramping up intensity.

Then there’s the disappointment factor. This occurs when a team is selected for a bowl that is way beneath that program’s goals for the season, or when the opponent is deemed unworthy. Either of those situations can work against producing a winning effort. Take the Fresno State/SMU matchup at last week’s Sheraton Hawaii Bowl. Fresno finished 9-3 and has several high NFL draft prospects on its roster. SMU needed to upset Conference USA champion Tulsa in its final game to finish 6-6 and become bowl eligible. Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr has huge passing numbers and is projected to enjoy a long and productive NFL career. SMU signal-caller Garrett Gilbert is a University of Texas castoff who runs better than he throws, and will have a successful career – as an insurance broker or sales rep. Fresno State was a 12.5 point favorite. SMU was thrilled to be in Hawaii for Christmas and played like it. Fresno State couldn’t run the ball with Robbie Rouse, and Carr should have hired a bodyguard to protect him from SMU defensive end Margus Hunt, who tortured Carr the entire game. SMU blew out Fresno State 43- 10, covering the spread by a mere 45.5 points.

So, when you look ahead to this week’s bowls and you want to wager lunch with a co-worker, take a close look at the double-digit underdogs. Purdue is a 16.5-point dog to Oklahoma State in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. These teams have had five weeks off, and don’t be surprised if Purdue hangs with the Cowboys.

The Orange Bowl pits highly touted Florida State against Northern Illinois, a 13-point dog. You can almost hear the Seminole players going, “Really? Seriously?” And FSU still may be what-iffing about the loss to Florida and gloating about the ACC championship. The points look good here.

The Sugar Bowl features powerhouse Florida as a one-point favorite over Louisville. Florida believes it’s as good as anyone in the country, so why should they have to play Louisville? Oh, well, at least there’s Bourbon Street.

Louisville will be jacked. Coach Strong is staying put and their quarterback is a handful. Look out, Gators.

And finally, the national championship with Alabama favored by 10 over Notre Dame. Everywhere a Crimson Tide player turns he is being congratulated on back-to-back championships as if the game is already over. Which lets Notre Dame stew for six weeks in the land of disrespect, nurturing the underdog mentality. The Tide is very good, but if the Irish score first, Alabama won’t have to worry just about covering, because the Irish will be, as they say in Las Vegas, a live dog.