International Bowl: Ball State Cardinals (7-5) +10, 60.5 O/U vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
(7-5) -10, 60.5 O/U, Rogers Center, Toronto, Canada, 12 PM Eastern,
by Badger of Predictem.com
Two teams with identical 7-5 records face each other in the second
annual International Bowl Saturday in Toronto, Canada, when the Ball
State Cardinals play the Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
For Ball State, this years birth in the International Bowl will be
their first bowl game in 11 years. The teams quick turnaround has
made Cardinal head coach Brady Hoke into a hot commodity for other
coaching jobs, despite his pledge to stay with the program. The
Cardinals won two straight games to finish the season, beating Toledo
(41-20) and Northern Illinois (27-21) in November to become bowl
eligible for the first time in over a decade.
Rutgers continued their recent quest to become a football school this
season under coach Greg Schiano, who like Hoke has flirted with job
openings at other schools before vowing to stay with his current gig.
This will be the third straight bowl game for Rutgers under Schiano,
a giant leap for a team that hard a hard time just winning less than
five years ago. The Scarlet Knights did struggle down the stretch
however, losing three of their last five games including their season
finale to Louisville, 41-38.
Oddsmakers opened the game with Rutgers as a 9.5-point favorite, with
a total of 59.5.
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Rutgers comes into the game as the favorite mainly because of an
offense that finished the season as the 26th best unit in the nation,
with an average of 437.2 yards per game. Quarterback Mike Teel (2,844
yds., 17 TDs) has improved throughout the season, but still has some
issues with ball protection at times (12 INTs). Running back Ray Rice
is a stud (1,732 yds., 20 TDs) that has taken some of the pressure
off of Teel at times, and the Scarlet Knights also have two 1,000-
yard receivers in Kenny Britt and Tiquan Underwood. With this type of
talent you would expect Rutgers to be better than just 43rd in the
country with an 31.2 points per game average.
Ball State spreads the field on offense and utilizes the skill of
quarterback Nate Davis as much as possible. Davis (3,376 yds., 27
TDs) has a few quality receivers to throw to, but his favorite target
by far is Dante Love (1,229 yds., 9 TDs). The lone weakness for the
Cardinals all season has been at running back, where injuries and
inconsistency has killed the running game. Frank Edmonds has emerged
as the go-to guy for now, but his 526 yards, six TDs and 3.8 yard per
carry average is simply not good enough to take pressure off of Davis
and the Cardinals passing game. Davis is good enough though to still
put points on the board, as the Cardinals average 31.6 per game (41st).
The Scarlet Knights boast the countrys 13th overall defense in the
land (319.5 ypg), but they are exceptionally strong in the secondary
against the pass (160.6 ypg 2nd). The problem for the Knights has
been their run defense however, as they give up nearly as many yards
on the ground (158.9 ypg 63rd) as they do in the air. Their 21.8
points allowed average ended the season as the 28th best mark in the
Ball States defense is a major weakness for the team, especially
against the run where they give up a whopping 196.9 yards per game
(100th). The Cardinals are an undersized, speed defense that has been
exposed on the ground. They do however have a good secondary (18
interceptions this year) that gives the Cardinals the third best
turnover margin in the NCAA. Their 26.3 points allowed average is
good for 55th in the country.
These two schools last played each other in 1989 in a game that ended
in a 31-31 tie (pre-tiebreaker rules). They also have one common
opponent this season in Navy. Ball State needed overtime to beat
Navy, 34-31, one week after Rutgers beat them 41-24.
Ball State was the better team for sports bettors this season,
finishing the year with a 7-4 ATS record. The Cardinals covered the
number on the road at Nebraska and Illinois this season, and are a
strong 11-4 ATS in their last 15 games overall. Surprisingly, one of
the Cardinals best betting trends of late has been the under, as they
have come under the total in five straight games (but 5-6 overall on
Rutgers has been as inconsistent for bettors this season as they have
been on the field, going just 5-6 ATS in 2007. The Knights have
failed to cover in their last two games this season, and in four of
their last five. They are a dead even over/under bet as well,
finishing the season at 5-5-1 versus the total.
The public money has been on Rutgers from the start, as the opening
line has moved up a half point to Rutgers -10 or even -10.5 at some
offshore sportsbooks. The total has also moved upwards a full point
at most books, with it now at 60.5. Ball State is a +350 on the money
line, while Rutgers is a -450 on the moneyline.
Badgers Pick: Its really hard not to like Rutgers in this one. Ray
Rice, one of the best running backs in the land, versus the Ball
State defense that gives up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground.
Mix in a few play-action passes and its hard to see the Cardinals
stopping the Scarlet Knights at all. Plus, the Ball State passing
attack will be facing the Rutgers secondary that ended 2nd in the
NCAA versus the pass. Ball State is overmatched in this one, take
Rutgers minus the points.