The college bowl season offers more opportunities for betting than your fickle heart may know what to do with. But just because you’ve never heard of the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl, it doesn’t mean you should stay away from it. Let SportsBettingDime be your guide through all of bowl season, especially the really obscure ones!
Today, we look at…
Camping World Independence Bowl (Dec. 26, 2016)
Vanderbilt vs NC State (-4, 44 o/u)
Started back in 1976 – the United States’ bicentennial year – the Independence Bowl is named after the country’s favorite thing (maybe third-favorite, after midnight sales and deep-fried desserts). Over the years, it’s gone through a few different conference tie-ins, but has recently settled on a matchup between two mediocre teams from the SEC and ACC. The game is always held at the aptly named Independence Stadium in Shreveport, Louisiana.
For a bowl game with such history behind it, the Independence Bowl has never really had much luck in the sponsorship department. In the past, it’s been named after companies that sold duck calls, weed killer, pond-scum fuel, and one that’s just a straight-up pyramid scheme. By comparison, a place that sells RV accessories ain’t bad.
Vanderbilt Commodores (6-6, 3-5 SEC)
The Commodores secured their first bowl game under head coach Derek Mason in the final week of the season, with an upset over in-state rival no. 17 Tennessee. It was an odd win for defensive-minded Vandy, surrendering the second-most points in a game all season, but still topping the Volunteers 45-34.
Defensively, Vanderbilt finished the season 27th in the nation in points allowed per game (22.6), but it was big days from running back Ralph Webb that sparked the Commodores to two straight conference wins to close the year. Webb finished fourth in the SEC in rushing yards and led Vanderbilt with 12 touchdowns. Beyond him, there was little doing on this offense all year. The team finished the year 110th in scoring, averaging just 23.5 points an outing. Maybe you can chalk some of those numbers up to playing tough SEC competition, but even still, QB Kyle Shurmur (son of Minnesota Vikings coach Pat Shurmur) is not leading a terrifying attack. (So he and his dad have that in common.)
Scouts coming to watch Vandy in this game will likely be there to see one man: first team All-SEC linebacker Zach Cunningham. Leading the conference in tackles, Cunningham is a first-round talent and the heart of this defense.
Vanderbilt went 7-5 against the spread this year, including a feisty 6-3 as an underdog. The Commodores have also won three of their last four bowl appearances, including a 38-24 win over NC State in the 2012 Music City Bowl.
NC State Wolfpack (6-6, 3-5 ACC)
Also needing a win in the final week against an in-state rival to gain bowl eligibility, North Carolina State knocked off North Carolina, 28-21. The win set the Wolfpack up for their sixth bowl game in seven seasons, but it probably shouldn’t have been that close. NC State blew golden opportunities to upset Clemson and Florida State during the year, ultimately needing to sneak in on the final day.
NC State has a stout defense of its own, ranked 33rd in the nation in points allowed. Led by defensive end Bradley Chubb and his 20 tackles-for-loss (including nine sacks), the Wolfpack’s D doesn’t have a large margin of error, as the offense is ranked 88th in scoring (25.8). The offense is also pretty careless with the football, matching the defense’s 19 takeaways on the year with 19 giveaways of their own. They do have some big-play ability on that side of the ball though, led by quarterback Ryan Finley and running back Matthew Dayes.
The Wolfpack tied with Miami as the best bet in the ACC, finishing the year 8-4 against the number, including a 5-2 record as a favorite. NC State has also won six of its last nine bowl games.
Neither team is set up to dominate this game from start to finish. Both teams had tiny point differentials on the year (NC State +31; Vanderbilt +11) and rely on their defense to dictate the game. Each one has the ability to generate takeaways, but only Vanderbilt’s offense seems capable of protecting the football.
In true Independence Bowl fashion, this game is set up to be tight (12 of the last 17 games were decided by a touchdown or less). In a knock-down, drag-em-out type of defensive struggle, I like the team getting more than a field goal. Plus, if you believe in the conference superiority thing, the SEC is 40-21 against the ACC in bowl games.
Photo Credit: Jerome Carpenter (Flickr)[https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/]
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