Florida State Seminoles (13-0 SU, 3-10 ATS) vs. Oregon Ducks (12-1 SU, 9-4 ATS)
Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual–Semifinal
Date and Time: Thursday, January 1, 2015 at 5:00PM EST
Where: Rose Bowl, Pasadena, California
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: FSU +10/ORE -10
Over/Under Total: 71
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In the Rose Bowl, which is also the national-championship semifinal, the unbeaten Florida State Seminoles will take on the 12-1 Oregon Ducks. It is a titanic matchup of two of the nations better teams–the high-powered and peaking Oregon Ducks against the defending champion Seminoles. Whereas Oregon flew into this spot on the heels of some ultra-dominant wins, FSU had to struggle to get here, scratching and clawing to go 13-0.
Florida State is the defending champion and on a roll of 29 straight wins. Its not often you see a team like that as a double-digit underdog, if ever. It is a testament to Oregons dominant form as they finished the season with a handful of blowouts against good teams. And it also speaks to the fact that while Florida State may be 13-0, they never seemed to approach the heights they reached last year. Last season, they rolled over their opponents without mercy. This season saw Florida State needing to stage huge comebacks, while narrowly averting defeat on a number of occasions.
Oregon being favored by such an amount over a defending champion on a 29-game win streak is a reflection of how good they look right now. Since losing their only game of the season, they beat UCLA convincingly on the road, put up 45 points in a rout against a good Stanford defense, routed Utah 51-27 on the road, before the 38-point revenge win over Arizona. And while Oregon was making mincemeat of ranked Pac-12 teams, Florida State was struggling against ACC rift-raft, needing a big comeback to beat NC State, beating Boston College by a FG, and ending the season with narrow wins over Florida and Georgia Tech.
But is it right to get too consumed with the details? When looking at Florida States season, there is certainly a lot of red-flags. But that could distract us from the ever-powerful bottom line. And the bottom line is almost 30 straight wins. Its a national championship with a bunch of guys on the sideline who know how to get the job done. While FSU cannot boast of the glorious single-game triumphs that Oregon can, they still have done something Oregon has yet to show they can do, which is become champions. And with all the great Oregon teams over recent years, this is their first shot at something truly special. They may look like the most powerful team in the nation, but until they thrive in a huge spot, you dont really know until you know.
Heisman winner Marcus Mariota has enjoyed a phenomenal season, with 38 passing touchdowns, 14 rushing touchdowns, and a receiving TD to boot. He has thrown a ridiculously-low two interceptions. And beyond that, he really morphed into a steely-nerved field general that has a lot of people thinking this could be the Ducks year. He leans on another touchdown-machine in RB Royce Freeman and a full cast of talent in the receiving corps. The group is led by Devon Allen and Byron Marshall, but an amazing 12 different players have caught a touchdown pass for the Ducks in 2014. At over 46 per game on average, they are the nations third highest-scoring offense.
While Oregon is exploitable defensively, this is also an area of improvement over the season. The Ducks have not allowed over 19 points in their last three games. Teams have only averaged 22 points against this defense and that includes some pretty good Pac-12 offenses. Things figure to get a little tougher in this game.
Jameis Winston has caught his share of flack this season. His 24 touchdowns and 17 interceptions pales statistically to the 38-2 touchdown/interception ratio of Mariota. But in terms of yardage, hes right up there with Mariota. This offense can still be prolific, though it didnt materialize all that regularly in 2014. In this battle of Heisman-winning quarterbacks, it is Winston who knows what its like to win at this level.
Winston works with a pair of dangerous backs in Karlos Williams and blossoming freshman Dalvin Cook, who closed the season with a bang–321 rushing yards in his last two games. They have a great receiver in Rashad Greene, who has 1306 yards, along with a clutch-playing tight end in Nick OLeary. The FSU defense has been good enough. After all, they are undefeated. While they were leaky on occasion, especially early in games, they always seemed to come up big when the game was at its most critical point.
Its just that Florida State has yet to see a team anything like Oregon. They beat three ranked teams in Notre Dame, Louisville, and Georgia Tech, but none of those teams come close to preparing a team for the onslaught that Oregon is capable of providing. For those thinking the FSU run will come to an end are well within good reason in assuming that. But I think the heart of a champion, along with a boatload of talent and good coaching, will keep Florida State in the game, allowing them to cover the spread.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the Florida State Seminoles plus 10 points.