2008 Sun Bowl: South Florida Bulls vs. Oregon Ducks Preview and Pick

Oregon Ducks (8-4) +6, 52 O/U vs. South Florida Bulls (9-3) -6, 52
O/U, Sun Bowl Stadium, El Paso, Texas, 2 PM Eastern, Monday

by Badger of Predictem.com

This years Sun Bowl could easily be renamed the What-coulda-Been
Bowl, as both South Florida and Oregon tumbled out of BCS contention
after sitting on the top at midseason.

South Florida was the No. 2-ranked team in the land at the beginning
of October. One month later the Bulls had lost three games in a row
(to Rutgers, Connecticut and Cincinnati) to fall out of the top-25
entirely. They did finish out the year winning three straight as
well, including a 48-37 victory over Pittsburgh in their finale
November 24th.

Oregons fall from grace happened later in the season (mid-November),
but it too struck in the form of a three-game losing streak to close
out the season. Once the Ducks lost heisman-hopeful QB Dennis Dixon
they became a very beatable team, losing to Arizona and UCLA before
dropping a 38-31 overtime killer to rival Oregon State on December 1st.

Oddsmakers opened this game with South Florida as a 6.5-point
favorite, with a 51 total.

South Floridas offense has been hitting on all cylinders during the
three-game streak to finish the year, averaging 48 points per game
(35.8 ppg overall 19th). Bulls quarterback Matt Grothe leads a
balanced attack (average 228.5 passing/193.1 rushing) that finished
the season ranked 39th overall. Grothe will throw the ball up for
grabs when pressured (13 TDs, 12 INTs), so the Bulls will look for
running back Mike Ford (637 yds., 12 TDs) to carry more of the load.

Since losing Dixon the Ducks offense has gone south, literally. Brady
Leaf, Justin Roper and Cody Kempt have all taken turns at QB, without
a whole lot of success (only 18.3 points per game w/o Dixon vs.
36.7 ppg for the season). Jonathan Stewart is a solid running back
(1,469 yds., 11 TDs), but hes facing a stacked line of scrimmage
without a legit QB running the show. Dont expect the Ducks to even
approach their season average of 462.1 yards per game (13th).

South Florida has an unspectacular, but very steady defense. The
front seven are hard to penetrate on the ground (112 ypg 17th), and
the secondary is opportunistic (22 interceptions 3rd in NCAA) but
has been exposed at times and is the reason the Bulls slip to 22nd
overall allowing 326.8 yards per game. They also allowed 20.7 points
per game for the year, good for 24th overall.

Oregons defense played strong at the start of the season, but wore
down late in the season and ended 62nd overall allowing 386.8 yards
per game. The Ducks had a hard time stopping the pass in the pass-
happy Pac-10 Conference (250.3 ypg 88th), and get scored on a rate
of 23.8 points per game (39th).

These two schools have never faced each other on the gridiron.

Oregon took bettors on a great ride this year, finishing the season
8-4 ATS overall, but a winless 0-3 ATS since the Dixon injury. The
Ducks were a good under play this year too, going 5-7 overall and
four of their last five games.

South Florida was also a good bet this season, covering often to the
tune of a 7-4 ATS record. The Bulls are 14-6 ATS in their last 20
games overall, so their betting trends are favorable for the cover.
The Bulls also go over the total often, going 6-1-1 in the final
eight weeks of 2007.

The line hasnt moved much since it opened, with South Florida
continuing to be considered the 6-point favorite. The total has gone
up a point from 51 to 52 at most offshore sportsbooks. Oregon is a
+200 on the moneyline, with South Florida as a -240 favorite on the

Badgers Pick: Even with Oregons troubles on offense, I think the
over of 52 is the best bet on this game. Even if South Florida scores
near their average (35ppg) and Oregon does the same (18 ppg since the
injury), it still goes over. Oregon has some pride and something to
prove, so I see a few razzle-dazzle plays added after the season that
keep this game close. But if youre looking to take a side, go with
South Florida minus the points.