Chik-fil-A Bowl features Auburn vs. Virginia

Auburn's Onterio McCalebb must step up against Virginia in the Chik-fil-A Bowl.

It may be a long way from the national championship days of yesteryear for the Auburn Tigers (7-5, 4-4 SEC), however tonight’s Chik-fil-A Bowl match-up against Virginia (8-4, 5-3 ACC) should be a great one for College Football fans, as Auburn seeks its 5th consecutive bowl victory while the Virginia Cavaliers look for their first bowl victory in 6 years.

Virginia has certainly improved over a rough 4-8 season in the 2010-11 campaign, finishing 8-4 despite a rocky finish capped by a 38-0 drubbing by the hands of in-state rival Virginia Tech. Winning 4 of their last 5 games, the Cavaliers have been exceptional this season at keeping their offense moving, getting solid play from starting quarterback Michael Rocco (%60.3 completion rate, 2359 yards, 11 TDs, 11 INTs), and hedging on a good ground game featuring a tandem of hard-running backs. Perry Jones (176 carries, 883 yards, 5 TDs) and Kevin Parks (141 carries, 661 yards, 8 TDs) have been the backbone of the Virginia offense, helping to put down 165 yards/game on the ground, and have been instrumental in helping the Cavs to generate north of 20 first downs per game, which will be a key factor in tonight’s game after a shut-out loss to Va. Tech that saw them frustrated in every possession. While Virginia does have a capable crop of receivers to help balance the offensive load with guys like top receiver Kris Burd (60 catches, 810 yards, 1 TD), deep threat Tim Smith (33 catches, 565 yards, 3 TDs), the offense starts and stops with the rushing attack and Perry Jones, who along with a solid year on the ground, also has 41 catches for 416 yards and 3 TDs through the air. Getting him to find success on both fronts will be important for the Cavaliers tonight, especially against an Auburn defense that ranks near the bottom of the SEC, allowing 29.3 points/game and gives up 405 total yards/game. With Virginia looking to have a bounce back game after getting blown out in the final contest of the year, this may be the opportunity they are looking for against an Auburn side that is nothing but a shadow of its former national title-holding self.

For Auburn, there is plenty of concern coming into tonight’s match-up, especially with lead running back Michael Dyer (242 carries, 1242 yards, 10 TDs) suspended for the contest due to a violation of team rules. Without Dyer in the line-up, the Tigers offense will likely turn to Onterio McCalebb, who has actually been quite effective in the run and pass game (102 carries, 532 yards, 4 TDs; 30 catches 291 yards, 1 receiving TD). Averaging 5.2 yards/carry, McCalebb will be the key focus of the Tigers offense, tasked with breaking through a pretty good Virginia defense that is allowing only 128 rushing yards per game and 3.7 yards/carry. With an absolutely terrible passing game that is putting up just 153 yards per contest (106th in the FBS), Auburn can’t really hold onto hopes that their befuddled quarterback line-up will be able to carry them through tonight’s game, as it’s still unclear who’ll even start tonight’s match-up. Clint Moseley looks to be the go-to guy heading in, as he took over for Barry Trotter down the stretch of the season and has been decent (%62.5 completion, 1009 yards, 5:3 TD to INT ratio), but it’s still startling how little offense for the Tigers is derived from the passing game. The Tigers have dialed up 492 rushing plays to just 269 passing plays; that offensive balance has to even out a bit tonight if Auburn is to stand a chance at competing against a pretty good Virginia defense that has something to prove coming off a blowout loss at the end of the regular season. With just two receivers over 30 catches this season, Auburn needs to get good short yardage production out of their tight end and endzone target Philip Lutzenkirchen (24 catches, 238 yards, 7 TDs), and find a way to connect to deep threat Emory Blake (30 catches, 505 yards, 5 TDs). Without finding a way to get production in the absence of Michael Dyer, Auburn’s hopes of getting enough offense to contend with what their defense gives up may simply be wishful thinking.

For Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, tonight’s battle is going to be a tough test for one of the best coaches in College Football. With both coordinators leaving town, (offensive coordinator Gus Malzahn is at least finishing the season, defensive coordinator Ted Roof is already gone to coach Arkansas State), Chizik will have his hands full juggling the double duty of head coach and defensive coordinator. However, his presence around the defense might not actually be a bad thing, considering the Tigers really can’t get too much worse in that department. Defense has to be key for Auburn’s chances at success tonight. They know offensive production will already come at a premium without their leading rusher and a credible passing game, so the biggest step-up in performance must come from the Tigers defensive line, and shutting down Perry Jones must be tops on the list. If Jones is allowed to be a major presence in both the running and passing games, it’ll be a long day for the Auburn defense. Virginia’s offensive line is quite good, allowing just 15 sacks on the year and playing all 5 starters for each of the 12 games this seasson, however, if Auburn’s defensive line can take a page from Virginia Tech, who limited Jones and the Hoos running backs to just 30 yards on 26 carries, Auburn could balance this game out quite well. While it won’t be realistic to expect Auburn to completely shut down the Cavs as the Hokies did, keeping Virginia under 100 yards rushing on the night would go a long way in giving the Tigers a chance to stay competitive.

Virginia on the defensive end simply has to do a good job of limiting a break-out performance by running back Onterio McCalebb, and keep the Auburn quarterback (whomever it may be) frustrated by bringing the pressure. Auburn is going to have to run to win, so the Cavs will need to focus on clogging the lanes, and forcing the Tigers to go to their air, where they aren’t nearly as comfortable. Seeing a continuation of their strong red zone form is a must as well; allowing just 31 scoring plays on the year (21 TDs, 10 field goals) to rank 6th nationally, the Cavs will be up against a pretty productive red zone offense from Auburn, which has converted 31 red zone trips into 19 touchdowns. Holding a few Auburn drives to field goals will certainly be essential to Virginia’s bottom line, especially because Tigers touchdowns come fairly infrequently (they are ranked 82nd in the FBS with just 24.3 points/game).

Betting Lines for Auburn vs. Virginia at Oddsmaker Sportsbook

This game has a lot of people see-sawing on picking the winner, with many citing Auburn’s poor defense and loss of lead running back Michael Dyer as a cause for taking Virginia tonight. However, the bookmakers seem to disagree with that analysis, and give Auburn -145 odds as a favorite tonight on the money line at Oddsmaker Sportsbook, while Virginia comes in as a +125 underdog. That’s certainly appealing for Virginia pickers, as is the favorable +3 against the spread at -110 odds for the Cavs, if you’d like a little cushion with your underdog wager. Virginia certainly has a good shot at winning tonight’s game, and it’ll be a tough pick to take Auburn and hope they can hold on against the spread (-3, -110 odds) or straight up, but with Auburn fully accustomed to big games under the national spotlight and Virginia not having a single starter who’s made a postseason appearance, the Tigers might just have enough confidence and familiarity in big games to give them a distinct advantage in this match-up. For the final look at the betting lines in tonight’s game, the 49 points for the over/under looks to be a bit high with two relatively mediocre offenses. Despite Auburn’s terrible defense against top opponents, I think they’ll step up to the plate against a slow moving Cavs offense, and keep this game under 49 in a close contest.

Our Pick To Win:

I’m going Auburn in this contest, and here’s why: Virginia, though having a defensive advantage and a better running back, is going to be nervous heading into tonight’s game, and will be up against a team with great history in bowl games, and an outstanding head coach that knows what it takes to beat the best teams in the nation. Auburn’s defense isn’t so bad if you take away the games in which they played Top 25 teams with great offenses, of which Virginia is neither. In their last 5 wins, Auburn allowed just 14.4 points per game, and their big losses this season came at #15 Clemson, at #1 LSU, at #10 Arkansas, at #15 Georgia and at home to #2 Alabama. That’s an absolute helluva schedule for any team to win, let alone a young Auburn squad, and I think it masks the potential Auburn has in a game like this one against an up and coming program that hasn’t proven itself on the national stage this season. With that in mind, Auburn finds a way to win a scrappy, low-scoring game tonight on the back of a better all-around game plan from Gene Chizik. Virginia will likely be leading at some point in this game, and should have lots of good talking points to carry over into next season, but the Tigers will prevail on a clutch turnover or two, and walk out of the Chik-fil-A Bowl with a 24-21 win.

New Year’s Eve Rings in With More College Bowls, College Basketball

It’s the final day of 2011, and we here at CasinoReview wish you a very Happy New Years, and hope that your last venture into the betting lines this year at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed will be a positive and profitable one to take you into 2012! With so much action lined up for top sports betting on Saturday, we’ll jump into a host of College Bowl games to start out the sportsbook action, and also turn to the top games on a full day of NCAA College Basketball, as a boon of 78 games is set to take place with 13 games featuring Top 25 teams. Without hesitation, I’m headed to Oddsmaker Sportsbook for today’s wagers, as Oddsmaker is one of the most consistent and easy sports betting websites we’ve encountered over the years. Looking at the options for Bowl games today, there’s a crop of afternoon showdowns worth a look at including Georgia Tech vs. Utah for the Sun Bowl, Illinois vs. UCLA in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl, as well as Cincinnati taking on Vanderbilt in the Liberty Bowl and the clash of the day pitting Virginia and Auburn in yet another ACC vs. SEC throwdown. No matter which way you wager on one or a few of these games, make sure to drop your wagers at one of the best online sportsbooks like Oddsmaker today, and be sure your money is placed in a safe, secure, and retrievable location.

For College Hoops on Saturday, there’s one top match-up already underway between #4 Louisville and #3 Kentucky, but plenty more great looks are lined up for sports betting on NCAA Basketball, so lets take a quick look at the top options in play this afternoon. First, check out #12 Georgetown hosting a very strong starting Providence team, in what should be a tight game down to the wire. Next check out Nebraska hosting #17 Michigan State, and a game with upset potential as #19 Creighton heads to face Wichita State. #23 Harvard also gets a tough challenge at home as they host 10-3 Saint Joseph’s, but without a doubt the late game to watch out for is the showdown between #2 Ohio State and #15 Indiana. Fresh off their first tough loss of the year, the Hoosiers will look to knock off yet another Top 5 team on home court, but should find plenty of difficultly doing so with the Jared Sullinger-led Buckeyes in the house. With two hot-shooting teams in action tonight, this game could very well break the over/under mark at 140, and I’ll be looking to OSU to cover the 5 points on the spread at Oddsmaker for tonight’s featured game.

Moving along into NBA Basketball action for a few more choice sportsbook betting options, first find the Los Angeles Lakers looking for a third straight win after starting 0-2, as they play host to the Denver Nuggets. The hot-starting Indiana Pacers look for their 4th win on the season as they take on the winless Detroit Pistons, who are continuing to struggle without a big scoring presence in the line-up. Look also to great wagering possibilities as the 4-0 Oklahoma City Thunder takes on Phoenix at home and should pick up yet another win with dominant offense, and I’ll also back Atlanta to stay undefeated as they travel towards a match-up with the Houston Rockets, and have a more well-rounded team that should be able to keep the Rockets in check, especially as Houston plays its third game in a row this evening and could suffer from fatigue. Lastly for online sports betting today, take a gander at the bevy of games in NHL Hockey, as 12 contests get set for puck drop and at least a few match-ups could be favorable for betting on sports at Oddsmaker Sportsbook. Look out for an exciting West Coast battle between the Vancouver Canucks and the Los Angeles Kings, the surging New Jersey Devils play host to the Pittsburgh Penguins, and the Boston Bruins square off against the Dallas Stars looking for an 8th straight victory for the hottest club in the NHL. No matter where your sports allegiances lie, there’s no doubt you’ll be able to find some great sports betting choices at Oddsmaker Sportsbook, or any one of the best online sportsbooks listed here on our website, and make sure to keep locked into the betting lines for upcoming games in the final week of NFL Football set to take off tomorrow morning!

UFC 141 Heavyweight Main Event: Brock Lesnar vs. Alistair Overeem

The Ultimate Fighting Championship concludes another great season of bouts with another great heavyweight match-up for Friday night as UFC 141 from Las Vegas, Nevada finds former UFC Heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar (5-2) getting set for a return to the octagon against the awaiting former Strikeforce Heavyweight champion, Alistair Overeem (35-11). With plenty of question marks around each of the fighters heading into a key bout that will give the winner a shot at Heavyweight title-holder Junior Dos Santos, let’s take a look at tonight’s exciting match-up, and spot our best picks for sports betting at one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here.

Brock Lesnar looked to be well on his way towards being the top fighter in UFC/MMA, before a string of medical issues and the loss of his Heavyweight title belt to Cain Velasquez in October of last year led many to question whether the UFC’s brightest star could return to fighting at the same level as before, if at all. Suffering through mononucleosis as well as two cases of diverticulitis (in short layman’s terms, a nasty condition whereby one’s intestinal walls become split, and the bad stuff goes into the stomach area) Lesnar hasn’t been the same man powerful wrestling force as he was before, and there’s outstanding concern that the massive 6’3″, 265 lb behemoth will continue to be reluctant to take heavyweight-caliber hits in a match-up like the one tonight against a capable striker and kickboxer. While Lesnar’s future remains uncertain past tonight’s fight, the bottom line for this match with Overeem remains that Lesnar, when in form, is one of the most athletic, aggressive, and punishing brute fighters to step into the octagon. Drawing on his wrestling skills first and foremost (which include being an NCAA champion, with a 106-5 record overall during college), Brock Lesnar is not as much of a stand-up type of fighter, but if he can get an opponent down on the canvas, few have the defensive capabilities to prevent a submission hold or TKO from deciding a fight. In a five-round bout (usually reserved for title bouts) that goes into late rounds, Lesnar may find it difficult to contend with a stand-up, striking fighter like Overeem so getting this fight to the ground quickly will be essential for a Lesnar win. However, judging by words from both fighters, nobody expects this to end in a decision; from the horse’s mouth, Lesnar summed up what we can expect tonight but stating, “This is a heavyweight fight that we’re both going in to finish. I don’t foresee it going five rounds.”

For Alistair Overeem, there’s questions about doping, and questions about the quality of competition in his 45 MMA bouts over his career, but there’s little question that with a background in kickboxing, muy thay and jiu-jitsu as well as his massive 6’5″, 265 pound physique, Overeem will be a solid competitor against Lesnar in this heavyweight match-up. Overeem must take heed to avoid getting caught up in a wrestling scrap with Lesnar, who will likely try to come out quick and wrap Overeem up, and would do well to keep the fight upright and try to work on breaking down Lesnar’s lower body. While Lesnar is all steel up top, he comes into this fight looking rather top heavy like a body builder, and Overeem could find an advantage by taking the legs out from under his opponent, slowing him down and making him more susceptible to quick strikes. Mixing his style of attack up against Brock Lesnar is key, considering that Lesnar, while a good wrestler, is still developing his striking abilities after just 7 bouts in UFC competition and his skills around adjusting to fighters with wide-ranging attacking methods isn’t fully polished. Overeem should know that his advantage in this fight lies with staying upright, and working in carefully targeted attacks. There’s plenty of force behind Overeem’s strikes, but it’ll be his ability to stay away from Lesnar getting a body on him and putting him on the mat that may really define the bottom line for this fight; An upright Overeem who lands a few key heavy blows will find success, whereas an Overeem down on the canvas locked up in a wrestling match will quickly turn the favor to Lesnar.

Betting Lines for UFC 141: Lesnar vs. Overeem

We’re featuring the Intertops Sportsbook for betting lines on tonight’s UFC 141 Main Event, and checking the straight up bets on this bout we find Alistair Overeem as the slight favorite, getting -150 odds to win while Lesnar comes in as a +120 underdog. With -170 odds on the fight to be under 1.5 rounds, bookmakers are also predicting (alongside the fighters) that this match-up will be finished early, with someone gaining a knock-out or submission in the first two rounds. With both fighters knowing they need to put their best foot forward early, look out for a first round KO or submission to be the bottom line for tonight’s fight, with a move to the canvas shifting the advantage to Lesnar, and an upright fight working to favor Overeem’s style. If you’re looking for even more betting props on this match-up, turn also to the Bovada Sportsbook for a few good betting lines, as Bovada also includes props on either fighter completing 1, 2 or 4 rounds, winning by decision or the fight finishing in a draw. Make note that if you’re set on picking Lesnar tonight, Bovada has slightly better odds (+130) for the underdog, which could pay off well on a hefty wagering amount.

Our Pick to Win:

As far as an all-around fighter goes, Alistair Overeem is a well-conditioned, well-trained fighter that should be big enough to handle the load that Brock Lesnar brings to the ring. His striking ability kickboxing background and relative lack of injury/health concerns certainly make him a good pick for this bout tonight against Lesnar, who faces many questions about his health, willingness to take big shots, or simply whether he’ll even continue fighting in the UFC after tonight. Nonetheless, this is a big match-up that should bring the best from both fighters, with all the questions being left outside the ring. Lesnar is huge and skilled at overwhelming opponents early; Overeem prefers to chip away with heavy strikes and keep the fight upright. I fully expect Lesnar to avoid tip-toeing around this fight and go straight for the kill from the start, while I expect Overeem to look for a first counter to Lesnar’s advances to give him a shot at a big connecting strike. I also very much like Lesnar being the underdog in this fight, as Overeem seems overly confident of a win from his pre-fight comments, and the lack of hype around Lesnar should have him mentally balanced and poised to overcome his doubters. Let’s not forget that while Lesnar doesn’t have deep experience in these big match-ups, his caliber of competition is much higher that Alistair Overeem’s has been, and at this weight level, Lesnar could easily bully Overeem around, as he’s not as used to carrying so much weight around, or facing such a bull of an opponent. Bottom line, I’m taking Lesnar to silence some critics tonight, and earn himself a shot at Junior Dos Santos ahead as he forces Overeem into submission in the early going of the second round.

Insight Bowl Features #14 Oklahoma Sooners vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

Oklahoma will need a big game from Landry Jones and his supporting cast to overcome Iowa in the Insight Bowl.

With a pre-season #1 ranking under their belt, few would expect the Oklahoma Sooners (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) to end up playing in the Insight Bowl against the Iowa Hawkeyes (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten), however for football fans looking to catch the best pre-BCS bowl games ahead of New Year’s day, tonight’s match-up between two storied football programs should be an exciting game to watch and wager on at one of the top reviewed online sportsbookstoday.

Oklahoma has suffered a couple of critical injuries to star players this season which certainly didn’t help them in their hopes of possibly playing in the BCS Fiesta Bowl this season, instead of their current spot in the Insight Bowl. Losing lead running back Dominique Whaley to a broken ankle in Week 6 definitely hurt the Sooners chances when faced with big offenses like Baylor and Oklahoma State (who accounted for 2 losses in 3 games to end the season), but perhaps even more detrimental to OU’s hopes was the loss of the NCAA’s all-time leader in receptions, Ryan Broyles, who fell out of action before the final three games of the season due to a torn ACL. That has really shaken the confidence of starting quarterback Landry Jones (%63.1 completion rate, 4302 yards, 28 TDs), who didn’t throw a single TD pass in the final three weeks of play without Broyles. Throwing 5 interceptions in 3 weeks as OU dropped 2 of their last three, Jones and the Sooners will be at a further loss without wideout Jaz Reynolds, tailback Brandon Williams, and fullback Aaron Ripkowski available for tonight’s game, and could find themselves in trouble against Iowa if they’re unable to generate much offense against a decent Iowa defensive unit. Thus, the first key for Oklahoma tonight is to find a way to get comfortable on offense, without their top players in the lineup. Landry Jones simply has to find his confidence again, and getting step-up play from a few relative unknowns. Oklahoma has to start with doing what they do best; throw the football early and often (they’re 4th in the nation at 365.1 passing yards/game), get opponents back on their heels, and then with a lead, pound the rock on the ground.

For the Iowa Hawkeyes tonight, being able to put the ball on the ground is going to be a huge question mark, especially with the loss of leading rusher Marcus Coker (281 carries, 1384 yards, 15 TDs), due to a recent suspension. Finding a way to fill the void left by a running back who accounts for 35 percent of Iowa’s offensive plays and 36 percent of the team’s touchdowns will be no easy task, considering that no one left in the Hawkeyes running game has more than 18 touches or 79 yards on the ground (freshman De’Andre Hall’s totals). With Iowa not all that big in the running game anyways (76th in the FBS with 142 yards/game), someone, either Hall, or Jordan Canzeri, has to step up in a big way. That’s a lot to ask for a couple of freshmen with little experience in big games (or any games at all at the College level), but Iowa simply can’t expect to contend going one-dimensional on offense leaning on the passing game. Oklahoma may have its issues with Landry Jones right now and a depleted offense, but allowing the Sooners’ defense to focus on the passing game alone won’t help Iowa out at all. Thus, for Iowa, getting a sleeper performance from somewhere unexpected is essential for the Hawkeyes staying in balance against an Oklahoma team that will find ways to put up points using both the run and the pass.

Defense is another critical area of this ballgame, especially with many new faces filling in on both offensive sides, and both teams relatively limited in their offensive options. For Iowa, getting to Landry Jones is a must. Without Ryan Broyles and Jaz Reynolds in the passing game, the Hawkeyes defensive backs can focus in on Kenny Stills (58 catches, 818 yards, 8 TDs) who has been decent downfield, but is nowhere near as dangerous without the presence of Broyles in the lineup. Senior tight end James Hanna (25 catches, 363 yards, 2 TDs) should see more balls tonight as well, but if Iowa can blanket these two key pass catchers for most of the game, Landry Jones will be much more susceptible to pressure that causes mistakes, as he’s not as comfortable throwing to the rest of the OU pass-catching group. With Oklahoma needing to get their passing game back in order first and foremost, it’ll be critical to the Hawkeye’s cause to get plenty of pressure on Jones tonight. A comfortable Jones in the pocket throwing with plenty of time will result in Iowa getting burned frequently downfield, but a pressured Jones moving out of the pocket could set up a few interception chances, which could help to sway the advantage in the game towards Iowa. Take note that in each game that the Sooners have lost this year, they’ve faltered on the turnover margin (-2 to Texas Tech, -3 to Baylor, -4 to Oklahoma State), so Iowa would do themselves well to rush Jones often, and try to take advantage of the OU ball carriers who are filling in for injured starters.

For Oklahoma on defense in tonight’s match-up, making Iowa one-sided is crucial, as is winning the turnover battle. The Sooners need to set a precedence against the run, shutting down an opportunities that are presented at the line of scrimmage, so that they can work on rushing the passing game led by a capable Iowa quarterback in James Vandenberg (%59.4 completion rate, 2806 yards, 23 TDs to 6 INTs) who doesn’t give up the ball often. Getting a big rush at Vandenberg, who is supported at wide out by Marvin McNutt (78 catches, 1269 yards, 12 TDs and Keenan Davis (45 catches, 637 yards, 4 TDs), will be a key area of focus for OU, and its equally important for the Sooners to find a way to generate a few takeaways. A glaring stat in the turnover game once again for Oklahoma; OU generated just 1 turnover in 3 losses, but pulled down 24 turnovers in 9 wins. While it’s fortunate for the Sooners that Iowa is not very adept at forcing mistakes (getting just 3 INTs in their last 6 games played), Oklahoma has to be opportunistic on defense and force some bad decisions, and follow through with capitalizing on those created turnovers. The Sooners give up plenty of points (22.8 on the season, 29.7 over their last 6 contests), and lots of yards (449 total yards allowed during that same final stretch), so with that in mind they simply have to win the turnover battle to secure a victory tonight.

Betting Lines for #14 Oklahoma vs. Iowa at Sportsbetting Sportsbook

Looking over the online betting options at the Sportsbetting Sportsbook today, we find Oklahoma as a heavy favorite to win on the money line, pulling down -600 odds to win while Iowa sits at +450 odds to secure an underdog victory. With both teams missing key stars for tonight’s match-up, the first expectation for the bottom line will be a lower over/under total, indicated by the 57 points given (-110 odds either way) for this game. After being thoroughly blown out on the over/under line for Baylor vs. Washington (not expecting THAT bad of defense), I’m going to put my money where my mouth is once again, and hedge on the under wager once more. With two leading rushers out (one per side), and Oklahoma missing a slew of starters and back-ups, this game will take a little while to generate some offense, which may make for a reduce points total that barely beats out the over/under to the low side. For the last look for betting on this Oklahoma vs. Iowa match-up, the spread seems awfully high in favor of Oklahoma (13.5 point favorites at -105 odds), considering they are without Dominique Whaley and Ryan Broyles, but as Iowa is missing 35 percent of their offense with running back Marcus Coker out and will struggle to be diverse in play calling, a solid Sooners finish to the year could find them up by two TDs at the final whistle without much effort.

Our Pick to Win:

Oklahoma is definitely another team that one could say will experience a let-down game in a lesser bowl than they expected to be in, but that discounts the deep traditions that OU has and the excellent coaching abilities of Bob Stoops to get his team ready for a bowl game under the national spotlight. The Sooners simply will not allow themselves to be booted out of the AP Top 25 with a loss against Iowa. Though the Hawkeyes have been good recently in bowl games, and have experience on this particular stage in Tempe, the loss of their leading rusher means the loss of the game tonight. They won’t find enough offense to stack up to OU’s ability to move the football against them, and while the game could be tight heading into half, come the 3rd and 4th quarters, Iowa will be faltering on defense allowing Landry Jones to make a few key game-changing strikes downfield. The Sooners cap off a frustrating season with a final win, and beat the Hawkeyes 35-17.

Good Crop of College Bowl Games, NBA, NHL Action Leads Sportsbook Bets

For the final few days of 2011, it’s all about the NCAA College Bowl season, as four more games grace the betting lines of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here , and if you haven’t picked your favorite sportsbook yet, or haven’t gotten to experience wagering on the College Bowls, follow me this afternoon to the best sportsbook around, at the Sportsbetting Sportsbook for all the fun and excitement that betting on College Football brings. The Sportsbetting Sportsbook has to be considered one of the premiere online sportsbook on the web, offering sports fans years of experience in the industry as well as one of the most usable, well-constructed websites you’ll find. Looking to action across NCAA and NBA hoops as well, find plenty of great wagering options on professional and collegiate basketball match-ups on Friday, as well as options for NHL hockey later on in the evening. Hopefully you’re lucky enough to have the last few days of the year off from work, as with more bowl games coming daily, the NBA season tipping off, and with the NFL Football campaign wrapping up regular season play, online sportsbook betting rarely gets as good as it is right now!

Breaking down the action on this fine day of sports betting, there are some tight games that will make for tough decisions in NCAA College Football Bowl Games, as once again the match-ups become much more balanced as the bowl games progress. Though we’re already into today’s first bowl between Tulsa and BYU in the Armed Forces bowl, spot the next available Bowl game set up today between the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and the Iowa State Cyclones in the Pinstripe Bowl from Yankee Stadium, which should be a great match-up between two tough teams. Though Iowa State is 6-6 this year, they’ve without a doubt played one of the toughest schedules in all of College Football, playing 7 ranked teams and drawing 5 of their last six games against squads ranked 20th or better in the nation. Though getting beat up in a few of those match-ups, Iowa State has proven to be a tough competitor, and against a Rutgers team having one of the better years in recent school history, this should be a fantastic game to watch and wager on. Next up for sports betting, check out another solid showdown in the Music City Bowl as Mississippi State and Wake Forest battle out an SEC vs. ACC match-up. While both stand at 6-6 records coming in and both barely bowl eligible, the MSU Bulldogs should have a firm upper hand in this contest, as all their losses on the year have come against ranked opponents, and they’ve got the better defense on their side. I don’t expect big scoring in this match-up, but it’ll be a fun contest worth taking MSU to cover the 6.5 points against the spread behind a solid performance of the Bulldog’s lead running back Vick Ballard. Lastly tonight, the #14 Oklahoma Sooners face a tough challenge from Iowa in the Insight Bowl, where the Hawkeyes showed last year they are more than capable of beating ranked teams (as they beat #14 Missouri in an upset in Tempe). Though Iowa comes in with 3 straight bowl wins and plenty of confidence against a Sooners team that struggled down the stretch, the Oklahoma passing game led by Landry Jones may simply be too much for Iowa tonight, and should result in a win for the Sooners, who are big 13.5 point favorites coming in.

With action in full swing in NBA and College Basketball as well today, find plenty of opportunities for betting on sports on the hard court, as 11 games in the NBA help to ramp up the action on an already exciting 2011-12 campaign, and 4 games featuring Top 25 teams get underway in NCAA hoops as well. For the pros, look for the most exciting contest to feature the new-look Los Angeles Clippers vs. the Chicago Bulls, but also check out good match-ups for betting on sports as the Memphis Grizzlies seek their first win at home this year against Houston, the Atlanta Hawks seem set to make it 3 in a row to start the year as they host the New Jersey Nets, and the Miami Heat shouldn’t have much trouble getting to 4-0 as they head to Minnesota to take on the T-Wolves. For College Hoops, there’s a small slew of lopsided match-ups featuring Top 25 teams including #5 Duke at home against Western Michigan, #8 Missouri vs. Old Dominion, undefeated Murray State against E. Illinois, and #24 Virginia set to wipe out the winless Towson Tigers. Finish off another jam-packed day of online sports betting with a look at the 5 games set for NHL Hockey, and you’ve got a well-rounded grouping of contests to make a couple well-picked wagers on! Wishing you a very Happy New Years a little bit early, we hope you continue to find great success when betting on sports at the top online sportsbooks found on our website, and here’s to a few more betting wins before 2011 closes the books!

Valero Alamo Bowl: #16 Baylor Bears Take on the Washington Huskies

Robert Griffin III leads a Baylor offensive assault against Washington in the Alama Bowl.

Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III seeks to cap off a Heisman Trophy-winning campaign by giving the #16 ranked Baylor Bears (9-3, 6-3 Big 12) their first bowl victory in 20 years, provided they can get past a Washington Huskies (7-5, 5-4 Pac-12) team that is already familiar with being an underdog in bowl games. For tonight’s Valero Alamo Bowl from San Antonio, Texas however, Baylor may simply have too many advantages for Washington to deal with, and it all starts with the record-setting offense led by one of the top quarterbacks in College Football.

If there is one thing Baylor knows how to do this year, it’s score touchdowns. RG3, as Robert Griffin III has come to be known as, has rewritten just about every record book at Baylor on his way to leading the Bears to their first bowl game since 1992. Setting a whopping 46 school records during his 3-year stint at Baylor, RG3 leads a Bears offense that is scoring 43.5 points per game, and during a 5-game winning stretch to end the season accumulated 46.4 points and an insane 587 yards of total offense per game against their unfortunate opponents. Though RG3 is by all accounts the heart and soul of the Baylor team, generating 36 touchdowns to only 6 interceptions, throwing from 3998 yards with a 72.4 percent completion rate AND rushing for 644 yards and 9 TDs, he has the help of a couple of outstanding offensive producers in running back Terrance Ganaway (229 carries, 1347 yards, 16 TDs), and wide out Kendall Wright (101 catches, 1572 yards, 13 TDs), which makes focusing on just RG3 impossible. What’s frightening is that with a Baylor offense averaging 356.2 yards per game through the air, they are also putting down 215 yards/game on the ground, and feature the run much more than they do the pass (391 pass attempts to 524 rushes). That certainly points to the versatility of Griffin, who accounts for an extra 161 rushes to the running game’s bottom line, and something that Baylor has used to its advantage to simply outscore opponents. While Baylor’s defense leaves much to be desired giving up 35.7 points per contest, their overwhelming offense packed with many viable threats on both the ground and through the air makes them one tough assignment for any defense to stack up against.

Baylor’s chances only look better in tonight’s game after considering the poorly-performing young Huskies defense, which has been obliterated by good quarterbacks that are backed up by good running games. Ranking 116th in the FBS allowing 283.8 yards/game against the pass, the outlook for the Huskies seems futile when given the skill set that Robert Griffin III possesses. What’s even more alarming is Washington’s inability to stop the run against high-powered offenses featuring good QBs; even while facing Stanford’s Andrew Luck and USC’s Matt Barkley this season and keeping them relatively in check through the air, the Huskies completely collapsed against the run in those games, allowing 446 yards and 5 TDs to Stanford on the ground (yeah, no typo), and 252 yards and 3 TDs to USC. Even in the scenario that UW is able to frustrate RG3 enough to keep his production down in the 250-300 yard range passing and limit his scoring chances through the air, they’ll still have to deal with Terrance Ganaway, and RG3’s ability to run with the ball, which alone will be tough to contend with. It’s almost an impossible task, but the Huskies simply must find a way to be effective against both the run and the pass if they are to stand any chance at keeping up with the high-powered Baylor offense, which will be playing a virtual home game in San Antonio tonight.

Washington does however have plenty of bright spots in their offensive game, led by quarterback Keith Price (2625 yards, 29 TDs, %67.4 completion rate), which should find success against a shaky Baylor D that has allowed more points per game than all but 11 teams in the FBS. Though the Huskies aren’t blowing anyone away on offense, running back Chris Polk has been a machine (1341 yards, 11 TDs), and could have success against a Baylor defense that is 102nd in the nation allowing almost 200 rushing yards per contest. Watching this guy run is a treat, and on the national stage, expect great things from Polk, who is putting up 112 yards/game this season to rank 16th in the entire nation. In the passing game, Keith Price is going to get plenty of open looks downfield to an array of able receivers, as six pass catchers have more than 25 grabs on the year, and all six of those players have at least 3 touchdowns. However, key for Washington tonight is to sustain drives and keep the ball out of RG3’s hands as much as possible. The Huskies certainly aren’t going to win this game with their defense, but they can keep it close if they can maintain long drives that burn lots of time off the clock. That starts with Chris Polk getting tons of carries, and the Husky offensive line being at their best this year against a Bears defensive front seven which leaves much to be desired for Baylor fans.

Though Baylor undoubtedly has a huge advantage with their offense averaging almost 600 yards per game down the stretch, Washington could do well to focus on limiting Baylor’s production in the red zone, where the Bears do the most damage. There’s no questioning that RG3’s offense is going to find a way to put up massive amounts of yards, but finding a way to shut down big drives near Washington’s end zone is paramount to the Huskies making this game interesting. If Washington can get a few clutch stops against the Bears, and shore up their defense against the run, a big passing performance from Robert Griffin might not end up breaking them. Forcing a few mistakes on defense wouldn’t hurt their cause either, and the Huskies would do well to put as much pressure on Griffin throughout the game as possible, in the hopes of forcing him into making bad decisions. That’s a long shot no doubt with a very accurate quarterback that has only given up 6 interceptions on the year, but it may be their only hope. Put quite simply, if Huskies can’t counteract the run, regardless of what happens against the pass we’ll likely see the game get out of hand quickly, in much the same way it did for them against USC and Stanford, games they lost by 23 and 44 points respectively.

Betting Lines for #16 Baylor vs. Washington at TopBet Sportsbook

It’s no surprise to see Baylor as a heavy favorite coming into tonight’s Alamo Bowl, considering their impressive offense, Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, and their home field advantage playing in Texas tonight. On the money line at TopBet Sportsbook, Baylor gets -365 odds to win while Washington comes in as a +305 underdog, with neither option looking of much use to online sportsbook bettors (unless you’re crazy enough to bankroll the chances of a UW victory tonight). Rather, turn to the points spread, which appears very favorable to Baylor pickers. It’s not really a matter of whether Baylor wins tonight, as their offense is simply too strong for Washington’s to keep up with, and the Huskies D is too vulnerable, but rather by how much. Though the 10 points offered to Washington backers looks appealing, especially with Baylor’s terrible defense on the field, the 10 points set for Baylor to cover looks even more appetizing, considering the way Washington has played against high-powered offenses that can both run and throw their way to victory. Given that both defenses in tonight’s match-up are down in the bottom of the FBS in points allowed and in total yardage, the massive 80.5 points on the over/under isn’t even surprising. However, I personally think that the bookmakers have hedged too much on expecting both teams to put up huge numbers tonight. With the Huskies failing to generate more than 21 points on offense in their last 4 losses, even a big game from Baylor might not be enough to push the game total over the lofty 80.5 mark (which is the highest we’ve seen yet in bowl games). While it’ll be close, I don’t see Washington’s offense on the field enough tonight to help push past such a high points total in this game.

Our Pick to Win:

As a life-long Husky fan, I won’t lie in telling you I think this game is going to be close…because it’s not going to be. While Baylor’s defense is not good, their offense is simply too overwhelming to contend with in this match-up, and Washington, while finding plenty of success on offense themselves, won’t be able to hold back the tides in Texas tonight. Also, with the Bears riding into this match-up on the best defensive effort of the season against the Texas Longhorns on December 3rd (giving up 24 points while scoring 48 on a very good Texas D), look for them to parlay that confidence tonight, as they get geared up for their first bowl game in 20 years. While Washington will make a valiant effort with plenty of exciting offense of their own, their inability to stop the run, pass or both will be their undoing in San Antonio. Baylor rolls to victory to cap off arguably their most exciting season in school history, with a 49-27 rout of Washington.

Champs Sports Bowl pairs #25 Florida State vs. Notre Dame in Classic Match-up

While both the Florida State Seminoles (8-4, 5-3 ACC) and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4, 5-2 home) may be still a ways off their former elite status of years’ gone by, nonetheless tonight’s match-up between two storied College Football programs should be an exciting one to watch in the Champs Sports Bowl from Orlando Florida, and a great opportunity for betting on sports at one of the top online sportsbooks tried, tested, and reviewed here on our website.

For Florida State, a win in tonight’s contest against a big-time rival would help to solidify a fantastic second half of the season after a rocky start to the 2011 campaign. Since losing three straight to fall to a 2-3 start, FSU has rallied behind their outstanding defense to win their last six of seven games, capping off their season with a win over in-state rivals, the Florida Gators. While not exceptionally impressive on the offensive side of the ball, the Seminoles have staked their claim as one of the best defenses in the country, holding opponents to an impressive 15.1 points per game (4th in the FBS), and allowing a stingy 81.8 yards/game to opposing running backs with just 2.3 yards/carry given up. FSU also hasn’t had more than 19 points stacked against them since October 8th, which will certainly bode well for their chances of success against a Notre Dame team featuring a couple of stand-out players on offense. However, despite the valued efforts of the FSU defense this season, the offense leaves much to be desired even though quarterback EJ Manuel (%65.4 completion rate, 2417 yards, 16 TDs to 8 INTs) has been solid behind center. Mustering just 95 yards of total offense against Florida in a 21-7 win that was all due to an opportunistic defensive presence, Florida State must find a way to move the ball against Notre Dame, a team that is no slouch on defense allowing just over 20 points per contest. Featuring a talented back in Devonta Freeman (107 carries, 531 yards, 8 TDs) and a few solid young wide receivers led by freshman Rashad Greene (33 catches, 497 yards, 6 TDs), Florida State needs find a way to spread the wealth around the offense and avoid being too one-sided on offense for long stretches of the contest. Though FSU is fortunate to have a great defense and great special teams, their young offensive line and sluggish offensive production could leave them vulnerable against a Notre Dame team than has a lot of weapons to call on, and can score in a variety of ways.

Notre Dame comes into this match-up with two tandems of impressive offensive weapons at their disposal. First in the running game, lead back Cierre Wood (199 carries, 1042 yards, 9 TDs) is the first Irish back with over 1,000 yards since 2006, and he has an impressive back-up as well in Jonas Gray (114 carries, 791 yards, 12 TDs), who has hurt defenses with his 6.9 yards/carry average. Though Florida State is a lock down defense against the run, Notre Dame will have to generate something on the ground with these two in order to get ahead of FSU tonight, and to help ease pressure off of quarterback Tommy Rees and/or Andrew Hendrix in the passing game. With the Seminoles very good in the pass rush (averaging 3 sacks per contest), and having an advantage in the turnover margin coming into this match-up, it’s essential for Notre Dame to protect the ball, and limit the mistakes made on offense, and get solid play from their offensive line every down of the game. If the Irish can find a way to relieve some pressure on their QBs, the passing game becomes all the more powerful, with top NFL prospect WR Michael Floyd (95 catches, 1106 yards, 8 TDs) and tight end Tyler Eifert (57 catches, 713 yards, 5 TDs) ready to do damage down field. Eifert has to be a key for the Notre Dame offense as well, as he’s a match-up nightmare at 6’6″ and 250 lbs. With plenty of pressure coming from FSU, getting a few dump-offs over the middle to Eifert amidst a surging defensive line and linebacker corps will help to keep the Seminoles in check, and hopefully open up more room to run and more looks at Michael Floyd deep down field as well.

In a game featuring two solid defenses, tonight’s bottom line really comes down to which offense is able to produce in the face of adversity and constant pressure. While FSU clearly owns the advantage on defense, their offensive hang-ups could end up being their downfall, especially with an offensive line that may start 4 freshman, and has been horrible at stopping defensive rushing pressure. For Notre Dame, putting lots of focus on getting to EJ Manuel is critical. If FSU can’t find a passing attack and has to hedge on Devonta Freeman and the running game, they’ll simply be too one-sided and will have to lean on their special teams and defense to pull them through in a low scoring game. For the Irish, they must find a way into the end zone at least a few times against the Seminoles’ elite defense. Getting balls in the hands of their top receivers is crucial, but it will be just as important to make smart plays, stay conservative, and not give the Seminoles turnovers which they can convert into points. 20 points may be all either team can hope for in a low-scoring, defensive-minded match-up, and it could very well come down to whether the Notre Dame offense gives the FSU defense the opportunities to capitalize on mistakes and turn them into points. If Notre Dame wins the turnover battle, they win the ballgame.

Betting Lines for #25 Florida State vs. Notre Dame at TopBet Sportsbook

Florida State has a clear home advantage playing in Orlando, which may be what gives them a slight edge in tonight’s contest, with -170 odds on the money line pointing to the Seminoles as the favored team to win the Champs Sports Bowl. Notre Dame is a good-looking pick-up at +150 odds on the money line, that is of course if you have faith that the Irish can muster a good offensive outing against one of the top defenses in the nation. Against the spread, FSU gets -3.5 points to make up at -100 odds, while Notre Dame gets a 3.5 point cushion to play with at the same odds. I’m honestly surprised to see 47 points as the over/under, especially considering that FSU has held opposing offenses to under 10 points per contest in the last 5 games, and considering what we saw last night in Texas’ shutdown performance over Cal in a 21-10 win (a game which had an even lower points margin at 44). Following the trend from last night, which saw just 10 points scored in the first half, I once again like the under bet on total points as one of the best looking bets for a tightly-contested, low-scoring affair.

Our Pick to Win:

While this is once again a tough match-up to pick an outright winner on, and support for defensive-minded teams got a boost with yesterday’s Holiday Bowl win for Texas, I simply don’t think FSU has enough on offense to contend if Notre Dame turns in a good game with few mistakes. Granted the Irish haven’t been all too good at protecting the ball this season, ranking 117th with -1.08 turnovers per contest, but if they can keep the ball to themselves, I don’t see the Seminoles mustering enough offense to contend with a well-balanced Notre Dame attack, which if it was able to avoid turnovers in Weeks 1 and 2, might be playing in a BCS game this year instead. That might be a tough task to overcome with Notre Dame giving up the ball 26 times this year, but even against FSU’s tight defense, I still like Notre Dame’s chances of overcoming a few mistakes to win the game down the home stretch. Notre Dame takes a tight, exciting match-up for the Champs Sports Bowl over Florida State, with a 24-17 win.

College Bowl Games Top Online Sports Bets on Thursday at TopBet Sportsbook

As we get set to end what has been another outstanding year of fun and excitement in the online sports betting world, the great match-ups and options for betting on sports just keep rolling at the best online sportsbooks reviewed right here, and Thursday starts off with a continuing bounty of great picks to be had on games across a variety of sports. To cash in on all this great sports action today, I’m taking a trip to a new favorite at the TopBet Sportsbook, which will no doubt have all the competitive lines for top sports action from the pair of College Bowl games on tap tonight, to NBA and NCAA Basketball, and even some NHL Hockey. Our most recent addition to the crop of the best reviewed online sportsbooks we’ve chosen after careful consideration and testing, TopBet Sportsbook quickly stands out as one of the top sports betting destinations in the business, proving time and time again to be a new leader in online sports betting with their incredibly easy-to-use interface, great customer service and excellent bonus options. TopBet Sportsbook is a great place to start your foray into sportsbook action if you haven’t chosen a top sportsbook of your own for wagering just yet, and with a mountain of great bets available this afternoon and evening, join us in a trip to this great sports betting website today.

To wind down the 2011 sports season, we have become accustomed to more and more great action in College Bowl games for betting on sports, and for tonight 2 solid match-ups get set to kick-off as the Alamo Bowl and the Champs Sports Bowl get underway this evening. The earlier bowl game on the day features a classic battle of two former national powerhouses, as Florida State gets set to battle Notre Dame. With the match-up in Orlando, Florida, the Seminoles will undoubtedly have a bit of an upper hand with the crowd in their favor, however with Notre Dame plenty familiar with big-time games under the national spotlight, this game should be a fantastic contest to witness this evening. Florida State enters as a -170 favorite for tonight’s game, behind their outstanding defense that is allowing just over 15 points a game and 81 yards per contest on the ground. Despite lacking a powerful offense, the Seminoles have still managed to score more per game that Notre Dame coming in, and with the better defensive side for FSU, that could be the difference maker in this ballgame in Florida tonight. Looking to the next match-up for College Bowl games today, check out the Alamo Bowl featuring the Washington Huskies and the #15 Baylor Bears, which will be highlighted by the presence of Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, the start of the Baylor offense. While Washington continues to improve their program back to an elite level, they will likely struggle to contain the impressive offense of Baylor, as the UW defense is simply no match for an elite College quarterback like Griffin, especially when he’s backed by what will be a dominant Baylor crowd in San Antonio. Expect a very high scoring affair in the Alamo Bowl this year, which will certainly be a nice change of pace from a likely low-scoring contest between Florida State and Notre Dame earlier in the day.

Without a doubt, we must find a few wagers on NBA and NCAA Hoops this afternoon, and also look for a taste of NHL Hockey action, with a number of good looks for online sports betting at TopBet Sportsbook. First off for the NBA, a couple of hot teams have jumped out of the gates early, and with many teams still struggling to find their form, work in new faces, or simply get up to basketball shape, there are plenty of great opportunities for backing a few select teams that could make strong early season runs. Starting with Oklahoma City vs. Dallas tonight, the Thunder have jumped out to a 3-0 start and will play a Dallas team that is looking sluggish and nothing like the championship team of last year. On home court tonight, OKC is a tough match-up for Dallas, and this could be the night a reigning NBA champion team falls to 0-3 for the first time in 40 years. Make sure to check the betting lines for a great match-up between the Los Angeles Lakers and New York Knicks, as well as two solid teams squaring off as Denver travels to Portland, but also take advantage of a good-looking start for the San Antonio Spurs which should be set to continue against Houston this evening. For NCAA Hoops, a few top match-ups are on the docket as well, so check out match-ups including #10 Florida at Rutgers, Penn State at #16 Michigan and #13 Marquette hosting Vanderbilt to name a few good looking contests. Lastly, with games like the in-state showdown between the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins topping the options for NHL Hockey wagers, even hockey fans can get into the great online sports betting action at TopBet this afternoon and find some quality betting lines worth chasing after. Whatever your wager may be today, find a great place to drop it at one of the top online sportsbooks reviewed here like the one at TopBet Sportsbook, one of the best new additions to the best sportsbooks lined up for you at CasinoReview.

Holiday Bowl Clash Pits California Golden Bears vs. Texas Longhorns

Cal's Isi Sofele must find success against a tough Texas defense in the Holiday Bowl tonight.

The Bridgeport Education Holiday Bowl from San Diego, California kicks off with a great match-up between the Pac-12’s California Golden Bears (7-5, 4-5 Pac-12) and the Big 12’s Texas Longhorns (7-5, 4-5 Big 12). Although both teams enter tonight’s contest with identical conference and overall records, the two teams are about as different as can be once on the field, which should no doubt make for an intriguing showdown for NCAA College Football fans, and online sports betting fanatics alike.

Texas returns to the College bowl scene after their first hiatus in 12 years, suffering through a tough 2010 season and looking to rebound from a rough closing stretch of the 2011 season that has seen the Longhorns drop 3 of their last 4 games (albeit all to quality opponents including then #13 Kansas State, #17 Baylor, and Missouri). The source of Texas’ woes has revolved all year around the passing game, with the combination of freshman David Ash and sophomore Case McCoy struggling to find consistency, and ranking a lowly 85th in the FBS with just 193.6 yards/game through the air. Luckily for Texas, they’ve had some help from a strong rushing game, which is generating a solid 210.4 yards/per game led by the freshman tandem of Malcolm Brown (159 carries, 707 yards, 5 TDs) and Joe Bergeron (69 carries, 454 yards, 5 TDs), but finding a balance with a young group of offensive leaders has been tough, with struggles on the offensive line and inconsistencies in the passing game hurting Texas in games against well-balanced opponents. Luckily for the Longhorns in this match-up, their defense has been playing quite well down the stretch, ranking as the best in the Big 12 and 14th in the nation, allowing 315.3 yards/game. They’ll certainly need their stout rush defense (allowing just 103.7 yards per contest) to step up against Cal’s shifty Isi Sofele, who has rushed for 130+ yards in 3 of his last four starts, but will have to also find a way to limit Cal quarterback Zach Maynard from picking them apart downfield. While Texas has a pair of great young cornerbacks and a solid defensive line in the face of a well-rounded Cal offensive attack, finding a way to keep the Texas offense moving the football in order to take pressure off their defense will be one of the most important factors for the ‘Horns in tonight’s clash.

California on the other hand comes into this contest with plenty of bones to pick, first as they still hold a grudge from being bumped out of the 2004 Rose Bowl due to the lobbying of Texas coach Mack Brown to get the ‘Horns a better ranking (which consequently held the Bears out of the Rose Bowl, which they haven’t been to since 1959), and secondly because Texas has owned Cal historically, winning 4 match-ups all-time dating back to 1970. Though Cal isn’t a team that overwhelms opponents, they utilize a well-balanced offensive attack led by QB Zach Maynard (2802 yards, 17 TDs) and his top receiving target Keenan Allen (89 catches, 1261 yards, 6 TDs) and get good production on the ground via the aforementioned Isi Sofele (232 carries, 1270 yards, 9 TDs). While Cal is slightly hedged slightly towards the run as the basis for their offense (448 rushing plays to 407 passing plays this season), the Bears should look to come out firing downfield, first to try and spread the Texas D as thin as possible, and second to try to open up the running game for Sofele in the face of a very good Texas defensive front seven. One of Cal’s keys to victory tonight lies with how well Zach Maynard can get to his leading receiver Keenan Allen, as its highly likely that the running game is going to find tough going early on at least. If Cal can find ways to pick at Texas’ quality secondary and get Allen lots of catches tonight, the Bears could have a leg up in the face of a shutdown defense that is used to facing high-powered offenses. However, if Cal struggles to find consistency in the passing game (something that has hurt the Bears, as Maynard is throwing at just a 57 percent completion rate), they could find themselves being aggravated by trying to force the ball on the ground against Texas, and in that scenario the Longhorns will have a clear upper hand towards tonight’s bottom line.

The bottom line for both teams in this game however will depend on how good the rushing performances are, as each team has relied on a strong ground attack to pull them through games. While Texas has had struggles this year due to injury at the running back position to both Joe Bergeron and Malcolm Brown, we can expect a healthy backfield in this game to help shoulder the offensive load against a Cal defense that does find itself susceptible to a good run-based offense. Although Cal itself does have a very good QB-receiver duo in Maynard and Allen, that is about as far as the Bears passing game goes depth-wise, with just one other player pulling in more than 25 catches this year (Marvin Jones, 54 catches, 758 yards, 3 TDs). That leaves them leaning on the running game if Texas is able to properly limit Allen from catching balls downfield (a task that the ‘Horns well respected CBs Carrington Byndom and Quandre Diggs will be tasked with), and that will put a lot of pressure on Isi Sofele to come up big against a quick Texas D line and a quality crew of linebackers. If Sofele can generate over 100 yards rushing and keep the Cal offense driving, Texas will inevitably wear down late in the game, and become more open to passing attacks downfield. On the flipside however, if Texas can get their quarterbacks (we don’t really know yet who will see the most play, Ash or McCoy) to hang in there without making too many mistakes, and lean on their talented young rushers to generate first downs, the Longhorns’ very good defense should have enough juice in the tank to keep Cal at bay for the win.

Betting Lines for California vs. Texas at Intertops Sportsbook

With the two teams coming into this match-up headed in very different directions, it’s a tough pick to call who will be the eventual winner in this year’s Holiday Bowl, but you can at least do some research on our website to find the best betting lines for tonight’s contest between Texas and California across a number of the best online sportsbooks reviewed right here. We’re finding the best odds at Intertops Sportsbook today, with Texas favored to win on the money line at -175 odds while Cal underdog pickers get a good option at +155 odds on the money line today. With 3.5 points on the spread given to Cal (-110 odds) this game is being pushed by bookmakers as being relatively well-balanced, and with Texas’ vaunted defense slowing the scoring down, the over/under gets set at 48 points, again with -110 odds going in either direction. Again expecting a tight first half of scoring to give way to more production in the second half, we’re pushing as well for a good looking wager on first half points going under the 24 points allotted, (-105 odds), but with both teams battling it out down the home stretch, we expect to see the total points at 48 just go over slightly with the winner going for about 25-28 points, and the loser very close on the heels.

Our Pick to Win:

I’ve been struggling with this call all week long, flip-flopping back and forth between Cal and Texas, quite simply because I don’t know which Texas team is going to show up tonight. While Cal has the better all around offense, they aren’t of the caliber that beat up badly on Texas this year (Baylor, Oklahoma, Oklahoma State to name a few), and as such Texas should frustrate the Cal offense into making a few bad decisions, and keep them under 30 points scoring this evening. For Texas, it all hinges on whether their quarterbacks can hold it together for 4 quarters, and keep the ball moving enough with their running backs to ease pressure on their defense. While I don’t like wagering on defense in bowl games, as College games can quickly turn on good young defenses that get frustrated by good offenses, I don’t think Cal is quite up to the caliber of play necessary to push the Texas defense into a collapse. Likewise, a healthy and speedy Texas offense could end up doing a lot more damage against a Cal defense that allowed 38 points to Arizona State in the last week of play, and can get burned badly against the run. Consider also Cal’s form overall this year, which while good down the stretch has seen them slip to all opponents carrying a record of better than .500. Texas has played a much, much tougher schedule with a much worse offense, and still has come out the same as Cal record-wise at the end of the season. Looking for Texas to show better form in a national game tonight against Cal, I’m taking Texas to win 28-24 in a close race to the finish that sees the Golden Bears fall just short to a good Texas defensive stand.

Midweek Wagers on Bowl Games, NBA, NCAA Basketball and More

As 2011 quickly comes to a close, we sports fans press on with the final two days of online sports betting, in the hopes of ending the year on a good note, and with hopefully a bit more cash in our online sports betting accounts to start off another year of sportsbook bets with! Getting into the sports contests set on the bettinon Wednesday, fans have grewat options for betting on sports ranging from College Bowl games to NHL Hockey, with plenty of NCAA and NBA basketball in between, and there is really no better time than right now to head down to one of the best online sportsbooks reviewed here, and get in while the gettin’ is good! For me, it’s a trip back to the Intertops Sportsbook, where a proven reputation of excellence as well as great customer support and a great website have sports betting fans coming back time and time again to place wagers on this great site. A staple in the stable of sportsbooks right here, and tried and tested by yours truly for the last 5 years, Intertops Sportsbook is one of the most trusted, highly-regarded, and highest reviewed sportsbooks anywhere.

For betting on sports today, take a look pair of College Bowl games lined up, with couple of good-looking match-ups set to make for exciting online sports betting this evening. The first good look for bowl games today is between Toledo and Air Force in the Military Bowl, with the former team holding a solid 7-1 conference record in MAC play, amounting to an 8-4 overall on the year. While Air Force comes in at 7-5 overall and just 3-4 in the Mountain West conference, they are winners of 4 out of their last 5 contests to close out the regular season, and had a very good showing at then-#5 Boise State in a 37-26 loss. This game should be a great battle as we’ve seen in bowl games already finished this week, but with Toledo’s high-powered offense clicking on all cylinders right now, we’ll look for the Rockets to cover the 3 points against the spread and pick up the bowl win tonight. Moving on to the biggest bowl match-up of the day, turn to the Holiday Bowl down in San Diego, CA, where the California Golden Bears take on the Texas Longhorns. Cal rides in on a hot streak to close out the season, winning 3 of 4 with the lone loss coming in a close 31-28 loss at #9 Stanford, while Texas is struggling to manage a quarterback situation that hasn’t been good all year long. While I picked Texas to win in my College Bowl pool this year, I’m reneging on that prediction with a little more research on the match-up, and with the offensive advantage firmly in Cal’s court behind talented QB Zach Maynard and leading rusher Isi Sofele, who should give Texas’ firm defense trouble. With either David Ash or Case McCoy not looking like a good bet to back for Texas at QB, I’ll take Cal to win tonight as the underdog at +155 odds, with a solid in-state advantage and better confidence coming into this match-up in San Diego.

To finish off the sportsbook betting for today, look to a plethora of great NBA and NCAA Basketball contests on the betting lines at Intertops Sportsbook, as well as a few games in NHL Hockey action to highlight your sports betting experience. For the NBA, look to the Miami Heat to start the season 3-0 with a win over Charlotte tonight, we’ll also chase a solid-starting Atlanta Hawks team with a wager on them to overcome the Washington Wizards at home, and to round off a 3-team parlay today we’ll bank on the Oklahoma City Thunder to move to 3-0 as well as they take on the Memphis Grizzlies in what should be a great rematch from last year’s brilliant 7-game showdown in the Western Conference Semifinals. Checking out some choice sports betting options for NCAA hoops tonight, look for a great match-up between #15 Indiana and #17 Michigan State, #4 Louisville shoots for its best start in school history as they open Big East play at home against the surging #12 Georgetown Hoyas, and #7 Baylor seeks a similar 13-0 start as they get a challenge from their first ranked foe in the scrappy #14 Mississippi State Bulldogs. Last but not least, find a slew of great NHL games on the ice tonight featuring top teams facing off as Vancouver takes on San Jose, Los Angeles faces Chicago, the New York Rangers head into battle against the Washington Capitals and the Minnesota Wild try to break out of a crushing 7-game losing streak with a tough road match-up against Nashville. With these games and more, check out all the best bets today and any day at Intertops, where the action is always hot in the sportsbook, and the excitement makes a bland day great again!