TicketCity Bowl – Northwestern Wildcats (7-5 SU 3-9 ATS) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5 SU 5-6-1 ATS) Cotton Bowl, Dallas TX 12:00 PM ET, January 1, 2011 on ESPNU
by Jason Green, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: NW +9.5/TT -9.5
Over/Under Total: 60.5
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The Northwestern Wildcats are trying to win their first bowl game since 1949, but if they play in this bowl game like they did at the end of the season they will have to wait another year. After jumping out of the gates winning their first 5 games they lost 5 of their last 7 games including getting crushed in their last 2. Crushed may be a little kind, as in their last 2 games they gave up a combined 118 points and 70 in their season finale.
Unlike Northwestern, the Texas Tech Red Raiders ended the season well winning 3 of their last 4 and their last 2. Neither the N.W. or T.T. have a very good defense, but can Northwestern score with their big gun out? Wildcats’ QB Dan Persa was an All Big 10 selection, but he was lost to a season-ending injury in the 3rd to last game of the season.
In their last games of the season Northwestern was embarrassed losing 70-23 to Wisconsin and Texas Tech beat Houston 35-20.
This inaugural TicketCity Bowl is being held in Dallas and since the Red Raiders are from the Lone Star State they will have the home field advantage in this game.
With Persa out freshman QB Evan Watkins will get the start under center and in the last 2 games of the season he did not play well passing for only 258 yards with 1 TD and 4 INT. On top of having an inexperienced QB the Wildcats’ offensive line was not a good unit this season allowing 3.3 sacks per game. The Red Raiders have a decent pass rushing ranking 58th in the nation with 24 sacks on the season and they will come after Watkins and be successful doing it.
Watkins and WR Jeremy Ebert (59 rec 919 yards 8 TD), who led the big 12 in receiving yards, will put up some good numbers against a Tech passing defense that ranked dead last in the nation this season. However, Watkins will feel the pressure and get picked off a couple of times.
Persa was Northwestern’s 2nd leading rusher and their leading rusher is Mike Trumpy, who is questionable for this game with a wrist injury. You want more bad news for the Wildcats? 3rd leading rusher Arby Fields will not play after deciding to transfer. However, in their blowout loss to the Badgers they did rush for 161 yards. Watkins and RB Stephen Simmons will be facing a Red Raiders rushing D that ranks 67th in the nation, but they will not rack up big yards.
The Red Raiders are led by their passing offense, which ranks 8th in the nation. QB Taylor Potts (3,357 yards 31 TD 9 INT) had a great season and ended it on fire with 7 TD and only 1 pick in his last 2 games. He has a couple of big play receivers in Lyle Leong (64 rec 808 yards 17 TD) and Detron Lewis (79 rec 803 yards 6 TD). Potts will tear apart the Wildcats and their 85th ranked passing defense.
While the Red Raiders only rank 82nd in rushing yards per game RB’s Baron Batch (805 yards 5 TD) and Eric Stephens (542 yards 5 TD) will each play well facing a Northwestern rushing D that only ranks 92nd in the nation and gave up a whopping 848 rushing yards and 10 TD in their last 2 games.
Northwestern is 5-7 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games and 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games as an underdog. Texas Tech is 4-3 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite and 5-2 ATS in their last 7 games as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points.
Jason’s Pick to Cover the Spread: I’d be guessing if I made a pick on this game. The Wildcats are simply missing too many integral parts to make a call on this one. The line reflects this of course, but I’m still not comfortable with making a pick so I’m recommending a pass here. If forced to make a pick for a lunch money bet, I’d probably take the points here with NW.