Bowl Picks: 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl
[lead align=”default”]The slightly more important bowl games start to appear with the coming this week of the 2016 Russell Athletic Bowl.[/lead]
In this Big 12 vs. ACC contest, the West Virginia Mountaineers meet the Miami Hurricanes. WVU is the highest-ranked team to play in their bowl so far, with the Mountaineers coming in at number 16.
West Virginia had a great year in the Big 12, going 10-2 and contending as they entered the final few weeks. Their only two defeats came against Oklahoma State and Oklahoma, the Bedlam teams that finished top two. Oklahoma, of course, won the Big 12 while the Pokes came second. WVU earned a hard-fought third place in their conference, but it wasn’t a great year for the league. Only the Sooners, Cowboys, and Mountaineers are ranked, and just four teams have a winning record right now.
Miami is in their first year under Mark Richt, and to call them streaky would be an understatement. Win four, lose four, win four is the precise trajectory of their season. His quarterback, Brad Kaaya, was fine this year, and he got better as the season progressed.
2016 Russell Athletic Bowl: Team Backgrounds
West Virginia Mountaineers
Big 12 Conference
10-2 (7-2 Big 12)
35th bowl appearance in school history (15-19)
Best win: vs. Kansas State, 17-16 on October 1
Worst loss: at Oklahoma, 56-28 on November 19
One stat: Defense allowed 46.5 ppg against the Oklahoma schools, and 18.8 ppg against everyone else
Atlantic Coast Conference
8-4 (5-3 ACC)
38th bowl appearance in school history (18-19)
Best win: vs. Pittsburgh, 51-28 on November 5
Worst loss: at Virginia Tech, 37-16 on October 20
One stat: Have not won a bowl game since 2006 (six straight losses)
2016 Russell Athletic Bowl: The Edge
West Virginia is the 10-2 ranked team, but Miami is the favorite. Go figure. The sports books do like Kaaya and his ability to put points on the board, as well they should. WVU’s quarterback, Skyler Howard, hasn’t been bad per se, but the numbers aren’t as flashy.
Where the game might be won is on defense, and Miami’s is better. The Big 12 isn’t known nowadays for low-scoring battles, that’s for sure. WVU did fine against teams not from Oklahoma, but Miami can score. That could be worth a slight edge.
2016 Russell Athletic Bowl: Pick
[header text=”Through 12-26-16 Bowls ATS” subtext=”43-53-2″]
[alert heading=”Miami (-2.5) vs. West Virginia” type=”alert-info” block=”false” close=”false”]Miami -2.5[/alert]