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Talent Columns

Riley’s Ramblings: The Loss At Alabama Is Not The End Of The World

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As much as losing to Alabama hurts, it is not the end of the world for the Auburn Basketball team. Wednesday night’s game against the Crimson Tide was complete with terrible ball control, atrocious shooting, poor shot selection at times, and uncharacteristic missed free throws when they mattered most. It’s always bad to lose to Alabama, but Auburn (and their fan base) need to stop dwelling on the loss against Alabama and get ready for a home affair against another rival- Georgia.

 

I understand that the Tigers’ 14 game winning streak being snapped by Alabama will hurt their confidence, but this Auburn team is still a top 25 team and has what it takes to beat a solid Georgia team. First, Auburn needs to work on a few things before Saturday night’s game. Auburn shot under 40% from the field (under 35% from behind the three point line) in Tuscaloosa and a lot of misses in that percentage came from bad shot selection.

 

Another thing that was hard to watch on Wednesday was poor ball control by Auburn. Last week against Ole Miss, Auburn also had a tough take securing the ball as they committed seven turnovers in the first half alone. Luckily, they were able to put together a great second half shooting the ball to erase the 10 point deficit they had at halftime. Against Alabama, it seemed to last the entire game. Auburn finished the game with a whopping 14 turnovers, four of them by Mustapha Heron and three of them by Bryce Brown. Turnovers were a key point in the loss because in case you aren’t aware, turnovers kill momentum. The last complaint from Wednesday’s loss by most Auburn fans was missing free throws. This is extremely uncharacteristic from an Auburn team whose starters are averaging 79.8% from the stripe. With under two and a half minutes Auburn went 6-12 from the line (50%). Just some of those points would have changed the game drastically for the Tigers.

 

That’s a lot of complaining just to say that Auburn needs to get their fundamentals down before the game on Saturday night at Auburn Arena (5:00 tip on SEC Network), especially turnovers and free throws. Fans need to keep in mind that losses are bound to happen in basketball and fundamentals are bound to fall apart with a team that’s nearly completely made up of underclassmen. Once the Tigers’ learn from their mistakes in Tuscaloosa, their talent will take over against Georgia. My key for the game against the Bulldogs will be getting sophomore Mustapha Heron back on track. Heron is an extremely talented shooter that just went 2-7 from the field with five points and four rebounds on Wednesday night. Heron needs to focus on ball security and taking good shots. I see him having a huge bounce back and putting up double digits on Saturday night.

 

Riley Hubbard
ESPN 106.7
rhubbard@aunetwork.com

 

Blackerby Breakdown: Auburn Basketball keeps the excitement alive

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On this edition of the Blackerby Breakdown, we look at some exciting plays from Auburn Basketball’s big win last weekend against Mississippi State.

Malik Dunbar with the slam

Any ally-oop needs a solid lob pass and Dunbar received the ball from Bryce Brown. Dunbar showed his athleticism at the junior college ranks before his time at Auburn. His first few games wearing orange and blue were slow but Tiger fans are starting to see more exciting plays like this one.

Mustapha Heron attacks the rim

While Heron has been able to capitalize on his jump shot at times this year, his strength is attacking the basket. We see this here. His ability to use his right hand to lay in the reverse layup may look like an easy finishing move but for Heron, a left-handed wing, shows another instance where his versatility makes this team better.

 

Jared Harper seals the game

Harper has gained and earned the respect of Auburn fans this season. With his poise and leadership, many see him as the glue that is holding this Auburn basketball team together. He did not have a great night from the floor against Mississippi State but he made the smart play here. He shows his patience and maturity on this play and the easy two points late in the game extended Auburn’s lead to be too much to overcome for Mississippi State.

 

Painter’s Points: Hardwood Iron Bowl

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Auburn basketball is on a tear right now. With the nation’s longest win streak, Auburn has won games even on its off nights. Except for their lone loss to Temple, Auburn has looked sharp much of the season without, arguably, two of their best players: Austin Wiley and Danjel Purifoy. While that’s not new news, Auburn did learn recently Wiley has been declared ineligible for the 2017-2018 season. The NCAA ruled Wiley will be eligible during the 2018-2019 season if he chooses to return to Auburn.

One of Auburn’s biggest games of the season takes place Wednesday, Jan. 17, when the Tigers travel to Tuscaloosa for 2018’s first edition of the ‘Iron Bowl’ on the hardwood.

  • Auburn swept Alabama in basketball last year for the first time since 2009
  • Alabama Head Coach Avery Johnson said Auburn can stop wearing the ‘4-14’ shirts – “They’re the hottest team, not just in the SEC, but in the country. Now we know they are better than a 4-14 team.”
  • No team in the nation has a winning streak longer than Auburn’s – Alabama can change that
  • Auburn basketball leads the SEC in scoring and is averaging its most points in 26 years (per James Crepea of Al.com)
  • Auburn also leads the conference in free throw shooting at 77 percent
  • In the 2016-2017 season, Auburn finished 12th in the SEC from the charity stripe; shooting 67 percent from the free-throw line
  • Auburn basketball hasn’t been to the NCAA Tournament since 2003
  • Auburn basketball hasn’t been to the NIT since 2009
  • The Tigers are No. 7 in the latest NCAA RPI
  • Alabama needs a quality win; a home game against a top-10 RPI school would help this bubble team’s chances at making ‘The Dance’
  • This will be the first time Auburn has been ranked in the AP Poll since it faced Alabama Feb. 22, 2000
  • Collin Sexton is expected to be an NBA lottery draft pick – Auburn’s best defensive guard; Bryce Brown will be tasked with slowing Sexton down
  • Auburn, No. 17, is the highest ranked SEC team with Kentucky and Tennessee behind them at No. 18 and No. 21, respectively

Blackerby Breakdown: Auburn’s 2018 Running Back Situation

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With the departure of Kerryon Johnson and Kam Pettway due to both teams declaring for the NFL Draft, Auburn fans are questioning the running back position going into 2018. While there are not a lot of returning production for the position, Gus Malzahn has shown that the position will be fine in 2018.

This chart shows Auburn’s successes with runners in Malzahn’s system since he arrived in 2009 as Auburn’s coordinator. During the 2012 season, he stepped away to coach Arkansas State. He returned in 2013.

Year Name Position Attempts Yards
2017 Kerryon Johnson RB 285 1,391
2016 Kamryn Pettway RB 209 1,224
2015 Peyton Barber RB 238 1,017
2014 Cameron Artis-Payne RB 303 1,608
2013 Tre Mason RB 317 1,816
2013 Nick Marshall QB 172 1,068
2012 Tre Mason RB 171 1,002
2011 Michael Dyer RB 242 1,242
2010 Cam Newton QB 264 1,473
2010 Michael Dyer RB 182 1,093
2009 Ben Tate RB 263 1,362

Auburn has been as consistent as any regarding finding players to run the football. They’ve had 11 1,000-yard rushers since 2009.

Auburn will take some talent with them into the offseason. Here’s a list of the guys that will fight for chances to carry the football this fall.

Kam Martin, 5’10”, 185.

Martin, a sophomore, is one of the fastest payers on Auburn’s squad. He received 74 carries for 453 yards. He scored 2 touchdowns on the ground. While Martin’s size and skillset screams that he could be effective catching the football out of the backfield, its been rumored that he continues to struggle to catch the ball in practice.

Devan Barrett, 6’0”, 185.

Barrett’s true freshman campaign resulted in a frustratingly small workload. He ran the ball 14 times for 79 yards. The former 4-star back was inserted in packages that resulted in him catching the football. He recorded 10 catches. Barrett is my favorite to be the lead back for Auburn in 2018. I expect him to gain some size during his first collegiate offseason.

Malik Miller, 5’11”, 225

Miller lacks burst that Auburn fans would like to see but has the size that is easier to trust between the tackles. Miller was the back that was called upon after Johnson got injured in the SEC Championship. Though I think he has the least amount of talent, I think the fact that he was the guy that was subbed in carries some weight in how the staff feels about him.

JaTarvious Whitlow, 6’0”, 216.

Whitlow was a last minute addition on National Signing day last year. The local kid was a touchdown machine as LaFayette’s quarterback. He fought through an injury during fall camp and was redshirted. It was assumed he was going to play wide receiver at the college level but he has reportedly impressed coaches during the bowl practices last month.

Asa Martin, 5’11”, 200

Martin shocked many when he chose Auburn over Alabama. After he chose the Tigers, the top back in the state of Alabama was all in of the Tigers. He attended most of Auburn’s home games and was an early enrollee so he could be a part of the team as early as possible. Martin has the most upside out of all of Auburn’s 2018 backs. Malzahn has hesitated to give freshmen a lot of touches, Martin may be used in a backup role early in his career but his talent may make it hard to keep him off of the field.

Running the Point: Promised land in sight for Auburn basketball

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The promised land is in sight. A realm of brackets, bubbles, glass slippers and madness is the end destination of Auburn’s journey. The NCAA Tournament was a fairy tale to Auburn fans. It was a legend for a program that hadn’t seen its glory in 15 years. Lost in the annals of their memories, basketball was forgotten.

 

Then, there was a team shrouded in mystery that embarked on their own quest to make a fairy tale a reality. Early in their travels, they gained wisdom from an owl, vanquished a blazing dragon, conquered blue raiders and sped past racers. Growing in strength and unity, they bested tenacious huskies, razorbacks and volunteers. In doing so, they have made quite the name for themselves. They have college basketball’s attention, and the best of the Southeastern Conference awaits them.

 

This is the beginning of an Auburn basketball renaissance. With victories over two top 25 opponents and the third-longest winning streak in the country at 12, there is no shortage of excitement around the Auburn basketball program. At 14-1, Auburn has been the most consistent team in the SEC in a year where the league is deep but also turbulent.

 

Tennessee and Arkansas were early SEC tests for a team that was largely unproven at the end of the non-conference schedule in the eyes of the college basketball community. Auburn handled those teams with relative ease and it is hard to find fault with how they are playing at the moment.

 

In games against Tennessee and Arkansas, there were fleeting moments where we saw a sneak peak of Auburn when they are at their best. At other times, Auburn was playing well, but not at their highest efficiency.

 

Auburn is capable of more, but they are also capable of less. How will Auburn respond when their winning streak is broken? It’s possible they succumb to the blustery nature of the SEC. It’s also possible that they stay the course and join 67 other teams for a seat at the table of the NCAA Tournament.

 

Auburn’s journey is far from over, but what once seemed like a fairy tale can now be reality.

Riley’s Ramblings: Auburn Basketball Proves They Can Compete With The Best Of The SEC

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The Auburn Basketball program is quickly making a name for itself after defeating (23) Tennessee in Knoxville on Tuesday night for the first time since 1998. After the scandal this program went through in the offseason that resulted in two of their projected starters being benched, it’s incredible to see them be so successful. Many Auburn fans even feel that the win at Tennessee should push Auburn into the top 25.

(Video Courtesy: ESPNU)

Even after a successful 12-1 record in non-conference play, there were still doubts about how well the Tigers would fare in their tough SEC schedule. The SEC looks pretty strong this year with four teams in the AP Top 25, but Auburn showed that they are ready for the challenge on Tuesday night. The win should also give Auburn and their fans confidence going into a battle at Auburn Arena against (22) Arkansas on Saturday night. (5:00 tip on ESPNU)

 

Jared Harper has been the brightest star for the Tigers so far this season and has shown more maturity and looks like a better shooter than last season. Harper is averaging an impressive 12.6 points per game, a team-best 5.4 assists per game, and shooting 42.6% from behind the three point line. Everything Harper shoots seems to go down, especially in close games like his three three-pointers in the final four minutes of the Murray State game.

 

Auburn is playing extremely well as a team and the Tigers’ young players are lighting the court on fire. Anfernee McLamore has 47 blocks this season which is seventh best in Division one basketball and shooting 59% from the field, and Auburn as a team is averaging 42.3 rebounds a game which is ninth in division one basketball. Auburn had 22 offensive rebounds on Tuesday night against Tennessee and those second chances were huge in getting the win.

 

All of the New Year’s Six Bowls are in the books, even though only three ended up being entertaining games. Auburn got embarrassed by UCF in the Peach Bowl, especially at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Following the loss, a lot of fans questioned how excited Auburn really was to be in the Peach Bowl against a non-power five opponent. Personally, I think that UCF was much more excited to be there than Auburn (they treated it as a National Championship as it turns out) and that played a big role in their win.

 

The SEC will receive their 11th national championship since the BCS era began in 1998 on Monday night in Atlanta, helping prove the case that the SEC is the best conference in college football. Georgia surprised a lot of people with their offensive performance in the Rose Bowl against Oklahoma on Monday led by Jake Fromm, Sony Michel, Nick Chubb. Fromm, who’s ability to pass in big games was doubted before the game, went 20 for 29 passing with 210 yards and a touchdown. Sony Michel and Nick Chubb combined for 326 yards and five touchdowns in the double overtime victory, but it will be very tough to duplicate that performance against Alabama’s stellar defensive line. I see Alabama winning in a close game.

 

Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7

rhubbard@aunetwork.com

PECK’S PICKS BOWL EXTRAVAGANZA (PART TWO)

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Bowl season is in full swing. The football has been good(?), the stadiums have been practically empty, and the games have been meaningless.

If you’d rather watch college football than do literally anything else, these games are for you.

Let’s dive back in!

Florida State (-15) vs Southern Miss in the Independence Bowl: Florida State’s season officially comes to an end, months after it unofficially came to an end in the season opener against Alabama. Southern Miss gets to play David against FSU’s Goliath, except Goliath in this case has already lost six mostly one-sided fights. Speaking of which, did Goliath know that weapons were allowed? PECK’S PICK: FSU -15

Iowa (-3) vs Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College won five of its last six, including a throttling of the aforementioned Seminoles, while Iowa blew out Ohio State and very nearly beat both Penn State and Michigan State. This game seems like a toss-up and that’s reflected in the line, but I like the way the Eagles run the ball. PECK’S PICK: BOSTON COLLEGE +3
Arizona (-3) vs Purdue in the Foster Farms Bowl: When Rich Rodriguez has a quarterback who can run his offense effectively, he can make beautiful music. Khalil Tate’s numbers were unreal this season, and he’s reason enough to watch a game. PECK’S PICK: ARIZONA -3

Missouri (-1.5) vs Texas in the Texas Bowl: Missouri looked lifeless after the first month of the season, but pulled itself off the canvas and found a way to rack up eye-popping statistics as it tore through most of the SEC East down the stretch. Both teams will struggle on defense, and it should come down to whoever has the ball last. PECK’S PICK: MISSOURI -1.5

Navy (-1) vs Virginia in the Military Bowl: Navy is playing on its home field and Virginia isn’t too far away, so this game might actually have people in attendance. Navy’s tricky offense should be able to outscore Virginia, although UVA’s quarterback (the ridiculously named Kurt Benkert) could get hot and lead the Cavaliers to victory. PECK’S PICK: NAVY -1

Oklahoma State (-5) vs Virginia Tech in the Camping World Bowl: OSU features one of the best offenses in college football, but Virginia Tech’s defense is as salty as ever and the Hokies can score plenty of points, too. I’m picking VT, because I can’t stand Mike Gundy, a coach who routinely gets killed by his archrival every year and draws attention to himself by scolding reporters and sporting a silly haircut. PECK’S PICK: VT -5

TCU (-3) vs Stanford in the Alamo Bowl: Two perennially tough teams led by exemplary coaches will collide in San Antonio. TCU is very talented, but I don’t trust quarterback Kenny Hill against a disciplined defense (too many of his passes miss their mark by a wide margin) and it will be very difficult for TCU to stop hard-charging Stanford running back Bryce Love. PECK’S PICK STANFORD +3
Michigan State (-1.5) vs Washington State in the Holiday Bowl: When I’m torn, I tend to pick the team with the superior quarterback, and Luke Falk has been phenomenal throughout his career for the Huskies. PECK’S PICK: WASHINGTON STATE +1.5

Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M in the Belk Bowl: A&M will be coached by substitute teacher Jeff Banks, and it’s understandable that its players will lack motivation before Jimbo Fisher’s regime officially begins. Wake Forest has been one of the surprises of the ACC, and could contend for the conference before Dave Clawson’s work is finished. PECK’S PICK: WAKE FOREST -3

NC State (-6.5) vs Arizona State in the Sun Bowl: Fired ASU coach Todd Graham will coach his team one final time in bowl season’s most awkward situation. NC State appears to be better, but maybe Graham’s presence will provide ample motivation for his team. PECK’S PICK: ARIZONA STATE +6.5

Northwestern (-7.5) vs Kentucky in the Music City Bowl: Northwestern won nine games??? PECK’S PICK: NORTHWESTERN -7.5

Utah State (-4) vs New Mexico State in the Arizona Bowl: Next! PECK’S PICK: UTAH STATE -4

Ohio State (-6) vs USC in the Cotton Bowl: Now THIS is a bowl game. A pair of talented teams who very narrowly missed out on the College Football Playoff collide. USC quarterback Sam Darnold has the ability to take a game over, but Ohio State’s superior ability on both sides of the ball should be enough to give them a victory in a close, high-scoring game. PECK’S PICK: OHIO STATE -6

Louisville (-6) vs Mississippi State in the TaxSlayer Bowl: If State had injured quarterback Nick Fitzgerald, this game would feature the best quarterback duel of any game on the board. Unfortunately, Fitzgerald injured his leg in the Ole Miss game (and then watched his coach head off to Gainesville). Lamar Jackson remains a sensation, so MSU will have to play its best game of the season to win without Fitzgerald. PECK’S PICK: LOUISVILLE -6

Memphis (-3.5) vs Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl: Iowa State stunned the Big 12 with victories over Oklahoma and TCU, but lost three of its last four and now faces an explosive Memphis offense playing on its home field. PECK’S PICK: MEMPHIS -3.5

Penn State (-4) vs Washington in the Fiesta Bowl: One of the best matchups on the board, these will be two trendy preseason picks for next season’s College Football Playoff. Washington features a balanced offensive attack and an experienced quarterback in Jake Browning, but Penn State’s Saquon Barkley was one of the nation’s best running backs and should be able to shoulder the load and carry his team to victory. PECK’S PICK: PENN STATE -4

Wisconsin (-6) vs Miami in the Orange Bowl: This is another fantastic matchup, as two more teams that narrowly missed the College Football Playoff will square off. If Miami’s opportunistic defense can force Wisconsin into uncharacteristic mistakes, the Hurricanes could find a way to give its hometown fans a victory, but I’ve got too many questions about their offense to pick them. PECK’S PICK: WISCONSIN -6

Michigan (-8) vs South Carolina in the Outback Bowl: These are two more teams who will be trendy picks in 2018, as Jake Bentley looks to take the next step and become the SEC’s top quarterback while Michigan’s roster looks loaded. I still don’t trust Michigan’s offense, so look for South Carolina to pull off the upset in a low-scoring affair. PECK’S PICK: S. CAROLINA +8

LSU (-3) vs Notre Dame in the Citrus Bowl: The wheels came off Notre Dame’s offense in the final month of the season, and an aggressive LSU defense is a bad matchup for them. There are reasons to believe LSU will be better next year than they were this year, and a solid performance against the Irish will continue their positive momentum. PECK’S PICK: LSU -3

Georgia (-2) vs Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl: If Georgia’s defense keeps Oklahoma bottled up, the Bulldogs could find themselves playing for the national championship in front of a partisan crowd in Atlanta. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done because the Sooners can score points in bunches. The game will fall on the shoulders of OU quarterback Baker Mayfield, and I think he’ll make too many mistakes. PECK’S PICK: GEORGIA -2

Alabama (-3) vs Clemson in the Sugar Bowl: I swore off picking against Clemson earlier this season, but Nick Saban’s teams are lethal when he’s allowed extra time to prepare for an opponent. Alabama’s offensive line struggled in November and faces its toughest test of the season against a Clemson front seven loaded with future NFL players looking to chase down Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts. PECK’S PICK: CLEMSON +3

Auburn (-9.5) vs UCF in the Peach Bowl: This game features two wildly entertaining offenses. UCF has more to gain, as they look to finish an undefeated season; Auburn wants to build momentum for next year and gain a rare eleventh victory in a single season. AU has a big edge on defense, so they should be able to handle UCF if they play as well as they did throughout most of the season. PECK’S PICK: AUBURN -9.5

Come back next week for a recap of the Auburn/UCF game and a National Championship prediction! Enjoy the games!

Riley’s Ramblings: Ronald Acuna’s Position Has Opened And Strong Quarterbacks Face Off This Week

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Alex Anthopoulos made his first big move as the Braves General Manager on Sunday, as he sent outfielder Matt Kemp back to the Dodgers for Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir and Charlie Culberson. Since the Braves don’t need a first baseman, Gonzalez was designated for assignment immediately after the trade. Although Kemp was extremely productive for the Braves in 2017, hitting .276 with 19 homers, this is a good trade for Atlanta.

 

This is obviously a big storyline for the Dodgers to get the 2011 MVP runner-up and former face of the franchise back in Los Angeles, but for a Braves team that is in rebuilding, trading a star that is past his prime and approaching his mid-30’s is not a bad move. Kemp is a great player, but Atlanta now has two quality pitchers that will likely be traded at the deadline for prospects (both Kazmir and McCarthy will both become free agents following the 2018 season) and added some infield depth with a 28 year old Charlie Culberson with a bright future.

 

Many in Braves Country believe that this trade was made in part to make room for the guy the Braves want playing right field this year, Ronald Acuna. Acuna is rated as the number six overall prospect by MLB Pipeline and the number one prospect in the Braves farm system. The 20-year old Venezuelan started making headlines last season when he went from A Advanced to Double-A to Triple-A in just one season and posted a .325 average and belted 21 homers between all three leagues last year. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Acuna also was named MVP of the Arizona Fall League in November and appears to be a five-tool prospect.

 

Acuna will definitely receive an invite to Spring Training, but whether or not he’ll make the Opening Day roster like the fan base wants remains to be seen. With Kemp out, the right field position is now open and the table is set for Acuna.

 


 

Bowl season is officially in full swing and I’ve got a pretty embarrassing 3-6 bowl picking record right now. Despite that, I’m still confident that I can turn it around and be the best on the ESPN 106.7 staff… or at least do better than Peck’s Picks. (Click here to view the full 2017-2018 Bowl Schedule):

 

The Birmingham Bowl between Texas Tech and South Florida is probably the biggest toss up of all the bowl games this season. Charlie Strong had a very strong first season with South Florida, leading them to a 9-2 record (6-2 in conference) in the American Athletic Conference with their only losses coming to Houston and UCF. USF quarterback Quinton Flowers is an extremely impressive duel-threat guy that will make a huge impact on this game. He’s thrown for 2600 yards and 21 touchdowns this season and is the team’s leading rusher, running for nearly 1000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Texas Tech also has a quarterback to brag about, Nic Shimonek, who has been lighting it up through the air this season. Shimonek currently has 3547 passing yards which is good enough for 16th in college football and 30 touchdowns which ranks 11th in college football. Texas Tech’s 6-6 record doesn’t look nearly as impressive on paper, and neither does their 3-6 conference record (Big 12). However, these teams are still very evenly matched and will put on a quarterback show too. This one could go either way (USF is just a three point favorite), but I’m going with Charlie Strong and the Bulls (Saturday 11:00 kick on ESPN).

 

Another game this week that is intriguing to me is the Texas Bowl between Texas and Missouri. To put it lightly, Missouri had a comeback season. Missouri started their season 1-5 with losses to South Carolina, Purdue, Auburn, Kentucky, and Georgia. Columbia seemed to be a completely silent football town and Barry Odem was as good as gone as head coach. Following the loss at Georgia, the Tigers went on an incredible 6-0 run including wins over huge SEC East opponents Florida, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Arkansas. Missouri quarterback Drew Lock has played well during this run, and I see his favorite target J’Mon Moore to make big catches in the bowl game. Moore is currently second in the SEC with 1017 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns. I see this one being a close game, and Texas will be helped by the fact that they basically have home field advantage, but I still see the 2.5 point favorite Missouri Tigers taking the Texas Bowl (Wednesday 8:00 kick on ESPN).

 

 

PECK’S PICKS BOWL EXTRAVAGANZA (PART ONE)

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Bowl season is here, and all 288 games will be broadcast right here on ESPN 106.7.

Unless you’re a total degenerate, you probably don’t know very much about most of the teams that will be in action.

Fear not. Partially because I love bowl season, and mostly because I have no desire to do a postmortem of the 2017 SEC Championship (in fact, let’s never speak of that game ever again), this week’s edition of BTG is going to be all about the bowls.

Let’s dive right in.

Troy (-7) vs. North Texas in the NEW ORLEANS BOWL: Troy brought back every single player who recorded a yard of offense from last season and the team thrived, finishing 10-2 and winning the Sun Belt. North Texas struggled to slow down FAU last week and they’ll struggle to slow down Troy. PECK’S PICK: TROY -7

Western Kentucky (-6) vs. Georgia State in the CURE BOWL: The Hilltoppers stumbled down the stretch, losing three of their last five games of the season by double-digits, but they’ve got a good quarterback and a ridiculous-looking mascot. PECK’S PICK: WKU -6

Oregon (-7.5) vs Boise State in the LAS VEGAS BOWL: This is one of the most compelling matchups on the slate. Boise won eight of its last nine games, but Oregon’s gigantic quarterback Justin Herbert is hard to stop. Boise’s defense should keep the game close. PECK’S PICK: BOISE +7.5

Colorado State (-5.5) vs Marshall in the NEW MEXICO BOWL: Nothing rewards kids after a grueling season like a mid-December trip to tropical Albuquerque. State’s got a pretty good offense, I know nothing about Marshall, let’s move on. PECK’S PICK: CSU -5.5

Arkansas State (-3.5) vs MTSU in the CAMELIA BOWL: MTSU’s offense heated up towards the end of the season, but Arkansas State has a better situation at quarterback and should find a way to win. PECK’S PICK: ARKANSAS STATE -3.5

Florida Atlantic (-22) vs Akron in the BOCA RATON BOWL: Look for Lane Kiffin to cap off a spectacular first season as the head coach of the Owls with a resounding victory in the team’s hometown. PECK’S PICK: FAU -22

SMU (-5) vs Louisiana Tech in the FRISCO BOWL: Chad Morris just took the Arkansas job, but the components of his high-powered offense will be in place. Louisiana Tech, led by Skip Holtz, should be up to the challenge. PECK’S PICK: LT +5

Temple (-7) vs FIU in the GASPARILLA BOWL: I’m not sure about either school, so I’m taking the team from Florida. PECK’S PICK:  FIU +7

Ohio (-7.5) vs UAB in the BAHAMAS BOWL: Not a bad deal for UAB, right? They went from not playing any football to playing football in the Bahamas. Unfortunately, they’re playing a team that didn’t take two years off. PECK’S PICK: OHIO -7.5

Wyoming (-7.5) vs Central Michigan in the POTATO BOWL: Wyoming QB Josh Allen is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, so go with him I guess? PECK’S PICK: WYOMING -7.5

USF (-2.5) vs Texas Tech in the BIRMINGHAM BOWL: I like USF, even though I’m certain that the Tampa kids don’t appreciate a December trip to Birmingham. I’ve been to Lubbock, so I’m sure Texas Tech gets to appreciate taking a trip anywhere. PECK’S PICK: USF -2.5

San Diego State (-6.5) vs Army in the ARMED FORCES BOWL: Rashad Penny, San Diego State’s star running back, is the player to watch in this game. Army just notched a huge win against Navy, so a letdown against SDSU is understandable. PECK’S PICK: SDSU -6.5

Toledo (-8) vs Appalachian State in the DOLLAR GENERAL BOWL: They should play this game inside an actual Dollar General. PECK’S PICK: TOLEDO -8

Houston (-2) vs Fresno State in the HAWAII BOWL: Fresno State got things rolling once they entered conference play. Seriously, there are so many of these games. PECK’S PICK: FRESNO STATE +2

Utah (-7) vs West Virginia in the HEART OF DALLAS BOWL: Finally, some teams I’ve definitely seen this year. Utah lost a lot of close games this year, while WVU will be without quarterback Will Grier, so I like the Utes in a fun one. PECK’S PICK: UTAH -7

Duke (-5) vs NIU in the QUICK LANE BOWL: As a kid, I remember getting so excited for the Quick Lane Bowl. Truly a tradition unlike any other. Wikipedia tells me it’s played in Detroit. PECK’S PICK: NIU +5

Kansas State (-2.5) vs UCLA in the CACTUS BOWL: This is the one they play on the baseball field in Phoenix. Unfortunately, they no longer cover the field with actual cacti to add a challenge for both teams. PECK’S PICK: UCLA +2.5

Come back next week for PART TWO!

 

Riley’s Ramblings: 2017-2018 Football Bowl Season Starting With Good Matchups

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Tomorrow at 11:00 CT, the 2017-2018 Bowl Season will officially be upon us. It’s only been two weeks since Conference Championship week, it feels like college football has been away for too long. Even though there are drawbacks of having so many bowls (41 to be exact), it is nice to be able to enjoy the holiday season with college football. The early bowl games don’t get a lot of publicity, but there are some good games on tap for the coming week. Here is my take on four of the nine bowl games set to kick off in the next week: (Click here to view the 2017-2018 full bowl schedule)

 

The bowl season will kick off at Mercades-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday in the Celebration Bowl between Grambling and North Carolina A&T. Both of these teams had great years in their respective conferences, Grambling finished the year 11-1 and North Carolina A&T finished at 11-0. I honestly don’t know a ton about either school, but Grambling’s conference schedule (SWAC) is a little more impressive than North Carolina A&T’s (Mid-Eastern Atlantic) so I’m giving Grambling the edge even though North Carolina A&T is currently a 10 point favorite (11:00 kick on ABC).

 

Saturday’s New Orleans Bowl is featuring a pretty interesting matchup between Troy and North Texas. North Texas’ only losses are to pretty respectable teams, SMU, Iowa, Florida Atlantic, and Florida Atlantic again in the Conference USA Championship Game so they are probably better than their 9-4 record indicates. However I still think Troy wins the game big. The Sun Belt Champions have looked impressive most of the season, especially when they traveled to Baton Rouge and defeated LSU. The South Alabama game was a loss that shouldn’t have happened for the Trojans, but they’ve looked very strong since then and are favored by seven points in this game because of it. (12:00 kick on ESPN 106.7).

 

Here’s a look at how Troy knocked off their rival Arkansas State a couple weeks ago in case you missed it:

 

Las Vagas has a pretty interesting bowl game coming to town on Saturday between Boise State and Oregon. Oregon became a brand name team in the early 2010’s but have really struggled after Marcus Mariota’s departure following the 2014 season. This season has gone a lot better for the Ducks than last year when they went 4-8 and fired Head Coach Mark Helfrich, but they still didn’t have a really impressive win and their first year head coach Willie Tagart just left for the Florida State job. Not having your coach for the bowl game is tough, and Boise State had a pretty impressive year that ended in them winning the Mountain West. The Broncos are also led by their star wide receiver Cedrick Wilson. Wilson currently has 73 receptions for 1290 yards, which is good enough for sixth in college football in receiving yards. He’s without a doubt going to be a tough man for the Ducks secondary to stop and will be a reliable target for Boise State quarterback Brett Rypien. I’m taking Boise State in a close game, but the odds have Oregon as a 7.5 point favorite. (2:30 kick on ABC).

 

Very unfortunate that Florida Atlantic doesn’t get to leave their own stadium for a bowl after the awesome year that they had, but at least they’ll have home field advantage in Tuesday’s Boca Raton Bowl against Akron. Former Auburn Head Coach Terry Bowden is bringing the Zips into Boca Raton to take on a red hot Florida Atlantic. FAU finished the season 10-3 and won the Conference USA Championship. First year Head Coach Lane Kiffin did a great job of turning this team around from their 3-9 season in 2016.

 

FAU quarterback Jason Driskel, brother of former Florida quarterback Jake Driskel, had a phenomenal season thowing for nearly 2000 yards for 13 touchdowns. Kiffin’s star this season is undoubtedly Sophomore running back Devin Singletary. Singletary currently has over 1700 yards and has a nation’s best 30 touchdowns. You read that right, 30 touchdowns. Singletary holds the nationwide lead by six scores over San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny. Akron had a pretty good year as well, especially in conference. They went 6-1 in conference play during the season before losing to Toledo in the MAC Championship. Akron had a fairly impressive year, but I have been extremely impressed with Lane Kiffin’s group this season so I’m picking the whopping 22.5 point favorite Florida Atlantic Owls.

 

Also don’t forget to keep an eye out for former Auburn quarterback John Franklin III, who is now a grad transfer at FAU. You probably saw a highlight of him during the Conference USA Championship Game…

 

Riley Hubbard

ESPN 106.7

rhubbard@aunetwork.com