2008 Gator Bowl Preview and Pick: Virginia Cavaliers vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Virginia Cavaliers (9-3) +5.5, 60 O/U vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders
(8-4) -5.5, 60 O/U, Municipal Stadium, Jacksonville, Florida, 1 PM
Eastern, Tuesday January 1st

by Badger of Predictem.com

Virginia and Texas Tech, two teams that werent expected by most
people to be playing in a New Years Day bowl game when the season
started, will be doing just that when they faceoff in the Gator Bowl
on January 1st.

Virginia actually had a chance at going to the ACC Championship game,
but those hopes died when they lost to in-state rival Virginia Tech,
33-21, on November 24th.

Texas Tech finished the season with the fifth-best record in the Big
12 Conference, which apparently is good enough these days to get you
into a New Years Day bowl. The Red Raiders huge 34-27 upset of
Oklahoma in their final game of the season on November 17th weighed
heavily in the decision by the Gator Bowl selection committee.

Oddsmakers opened this game with Texas Tech as a 5.5-point favorite,
with a 60 total.

One thing Texas Tech does bring to this game is offense. The Red
Raiders feature the No. 1 ranked passing offense in the country with
a 475.6 yards per game average. Their 536.2 yards per game average is
2nd overall, and the 41.8 points per game average is 6th in the land.
Quarterback Graham Harrell threw for over 5,000 yards this season
(5,298) and he has one of the nations most dangerous receivers,
Michael Crabtree (1,861 yds., 21 TDs), as his primary target.

Virginia is a smoke-n-mirrors team on offense, as their 101st overall
ranking in total yards would indicate (328.7 per game). Quarterback
Jameel Sewell threw for over 2,000 yards on the season, but he was
inaccurate (58 comp%) and locks on the primary receiver too often
(11TDs, 9 INTs). Their leading rusher on the season, Cedric Peerman,
broke is ankle back in October and the Cavaliers have yet to find an
adequate replacement. One thing is for sure, if the Cavs only score
their average for the season (24.1 87th), its just not going to be
enough to topple the high-flying Red Raiders.

Its the defensive side of the ball that has hurt Texas Tech this
season. They allow 25.8 points per game (52nd), but that is deceiving
because they were gouged badly in all four of their losses this
season (gave up 49 to Oklahoma State; 41 to Missouri; 31 to Colorado;
59 to Texas). Overall the rank 51st in yardage allowed (367.1 ypg),
but they give up nearly as much on the ground (171 - 79th) as they do
in the air (196.1 18th). All that practice versus the pass in
practice shows in their numbers run-vs.-pass.

On the contrary, Virginias defense is the strength of the team. The
20th ranked unit overall (325.1 ypg) is also pretty stingy when it
gets down in the red zone (18.8 points per game 15th). You can
guarantee that All-American defensive end Chris Long will have his
ears pinned back all day, trying to get to Harrell and disrupt the
timing.

This will be the first meeting between these two schools on the
gridiron.

Neither team has been worth much as a sports bettor this season, as
Texas Tech went 6-5 ATS while Virginia was 5-7 ATS in 2007. Tech did
cover in two of their last three, but failed to cover in all four of
their losses this season. Virginia also struggled down the stretch,
covering the number in just one of their last 4 games and 2 times in
their last seven games of 2007.

Surprisingly, Texas Tech and their chuck-n-duck offense rarely went
over the total. Tech went over in just four of their games this
season (4-7), and only once in the final seven weeks of the season.
Virginia was 5-6-1 versus the total this season. The under is 11-5-1
in their last 17 games overall though.

The spread and the total have yet to move since the numbers opened in
Las Vegas. There are a few offshore sportsbooks that have raised them
up to Texas Tech -6 and 60.5, but the large majority of books are
still waiting for action on this game if they get any action at all.(lol)

Badgers Pick: This is one of the hardest games of the bowl season
for me to pick, simply because I didnt see Texas Tech play at all
this season. I never like to pick a team if I havent actually seen
them. That said, everyone I talk to raves about the Red Raiders
offense. And they are coming off of a huge momentum game with their
upset of Oklahoma (who would likely be playing for the title if not
for Tech). Go with Texas Tech minus the points in this game.