Whether you believe Oklahoma or Clemson benefitted the most, at least one of those schools, along with their respective conferences, owes the Bowling Green Falcons a little love this holiday season. After all, the Falcons have already played the role of Secret Santa to the Sooners or the Tigers.
Much of the nation will have forgotten how Dave Clawson's crew helped shape this year's BCS Bowl lineup, and ESPN's announcers will no doubt remind the audience of just how a second team from the Big 12 or ACC made it to their BCS Bowl payout.
The opening spread was -5.5 in favor of the Falcons, and we're already seeing some 6's on the college football odds board.
It's the fourth time Pitt and BGSU have met on the gridiron, all three of the previous meetings taking place in the last 14 years. The Panthers won and covered the first two as favorites of around a touchdown, but the Falcons grabbed the win and cash in the most recent clash. Getting 14 on the road in Iron City, Bowling Green rallied from a 14-zip deficit for a 27-17 triumph in both teams' 2008 season opener.
Panthers Eager To Avoid 3rd-Straight Losing Season
Paul Chryst is taking the Panthers to the second straight bowl on his watch, and sixth straight postseason game overall, the last three having been at the BBVA Compass Bowl. Pittsburgh (6-6 straight up, 4-8 against the spread) lost that bowl rather handily the last two years, to Ole Miss and SMU, to finish those seasons with 6-7 marks.
The Panthers reach Motown having dropped four of their last six games to finish sixth in the ACC's Coastal Division, their first campaign in the conference. Pitt reached bowl eligibility by the skin of its teeth, a 17-16 win at Syracuse on Nov. 23 to get that sixth victory.
A big part of Pitt's pedestrian record during the regular season was a rather mediocre offense. Ho-hum is probably the best way to describe the unit led by senior QB Tom Savage. Isaac Bennett and James Conner combined to rush for more than 1,360 yards, and freshman Tyler Boyd just got over the 1,000 yard receiving mark, but it remains an unspectacular offense.
That offense could be missing a couple of key pieces for this game. Devin Street, second on the team with 54 catches and 854 receiving yards, has an elbow injury and is listed as questionable, as is starting left tackle Adam Bisnowaty who missed the final two games with a bad back.
Falcons Close Season On High Note
Bowling Green got off to a 5-1 start to the season, and 3-0 in conference, but a setback at home to Toledo in late October appeared to put the Falcons (10-3 SU, 10-3 ATS) in a precarious position. They turned on the afterburners from that point on, however, winning and covering their last five capped by the 47-27 upset of previously unbeaten Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship. That derailed any hopes the Huskies had of a second straight BCS Bowl game, helping either Oklahoma or Clemson into the mix.
Clawson and his staff have put together a very well-balanced team, ranking in the top 10 in total defense and fifth in fewest points allowed while the offense finished top 30 in yards and scoring.Sophomore Matt Johnson has a solid offensive line in front of him, and one of the top running backs behind him in Travis Greene. A sophomore himself, Greene rushed for 1,555 yards (10th in nation), reaching the 100-yard mark in each of BGSU's five victories to finish the season.
There are rumors that Clawson will interview this week for the Wake Forest job, so the Falcons could be facing the task of reshuffling the staff before taking on Pitt. That could deflect the spread away from Bowling Green a bit so it's worth keeping an eye on, as are injury updates for Pitt.
The uncertainty surrounding Clawson concerns me; nonetheless, I'm going to get my free college football bowl picks rolling with a play on Bowling Green.
My pick: Bowling Green -5.5
Reg. Season: 31-15 (+14.5)