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Sports news with a Vegas perspective.

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    09/07/2011 10:47 PM
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College Football Saturday Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl Illinois vs UCLA Start Time, Free Pick

The college football bowl season continues on New Year's Eve with the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl as Illinois will be taking on UCLA. The game is scheduled for a 3:30 p.m. start time and will be televised nationally on ESPN. Currently the odds have Illinois favored by 3 points with the total being set at 47 points. In a matchup of two teams that have fired their coaches, the Bruins and Fighting Illini will meet New Year's Eve in San Francisco with hopes that a bowl win can help diminish some of the frustration of painful seasons. 

Free Analysis: With the firing of UCLA’s Rick Neuheisel and Illinois’ Ron Zook, this is a matchup of interim coaches. Offensive coordinator Mike Johnson leads the Bruins, while defensive coordinator Vic Koenning guides the Illini. UCLA has hired Jim Mora Jr. as coach, while Illinois has tabbed Tim Beckman, but neither will be on the sideline. Another storyline has surfaced as 4 Illinois offensive coaches are threatening to boycott the game unless they are retained next year, plus Illinois will be without leading rusher Jason Ford and freshman receiver Jake Kumerow, who are academically ineligible. Talk about two teams with some problems. After a promising six-game winning streak to start the season, Illinois lost its final six games to arrive at a 6-6 record and they became the first team in FBS history to end a season 0-6 after starting 6-0. Their offense started strong as they averaged 34.7 ppg over their first 6 games, but they were able to muster just 11 ppg during their 6 game slide. Nathan Scheelhaase leads this nIllinois offense and he has completed 166-of-261 attempts for 1,971 yards and 12 touchdowns with seven interceptions and he struggled in the second half of the year and has not thrown a touchdown pass in his last three appearances. He did a decent job as a duel threat as he dashed for 514 yards and six touchdowns. A.J. Jenkins is the top offensive weapon for Illinois. The senior wideout was second in the Big Ten and 15th in the nation with 1,196 yards on 84 catches. The strength of the Fighting Illini program is on the defensive side of the ball. Illinois is ranked seventh in the nation in total defense (291.8 yards of total offense allowed per game), 21st in scoring defense (20.1 points allowed per game), and fourth in passing defense (159.1 passing yards allowed per game). The aggressive front is also ranked in the top 10 in the country in sacks and tackles for loss. UCLA ranked third in the Pac-12 in rushing (190.7 yards per game) and was one of only two schools in the conference to have two players run for at least 600 yards. Junior Johnathan Franklin had a team-high 947 yards with five rushing touchdowns, while Derrick Coleman had 726 run yards and a team-best 11 TDs.The Bruins had limited success passing with Kevin Prince throwing for 1,627 yards, 10 touchdowns and seven interceptions, but when the junior put the ball in the air, it was usually in Nelson Rosario's direction. He finished the regular season with 61 catches for 1,106 yards, sixth-most in the Pac-12, for an average of 18.1 yards, ninth-best in the nation. Although UCLA's defense has unimpressive numbers, it has had the misfortune of going up against some of the top offenses in the nation. UCLA ranks 91st overall (424.2 ypg) and 96th in points allowed (32.2 ppg) and they did allow over 500 yards of total offense to USC and Oregon in their last two outings, but held Utah and Colorado under 300 yards of total offense in their games prior. Illinois is 7-9 in postseason play all-time, while UCLA is 14-15-1 all-time in bowl action. 

Free Pick: Both of these teams are a mess and i really feel that it will make for a sluggish bowl game, making the UNDER the play here. Illinois may have grad assistants running their offense today and I can'rt expect too many creative plays from them. No Matter what this Illinois team will look to run the ball at a UCLA defense that has allowed 101.5 ypg on the ground this year (95th). On the other side of the ball a pathetic UCLA passing offense will want no parts of the Illini's 4th ranked passing defense, so I look for them to pound away with their 29th running game (190.7 ypg) vs an Illinois run defense that is 41st in the nation (132.7 ypg). With both teams being a mess and looking to run in this one, and the fact that the last 4 games in this bowl has averaged just 36.5 ppg, i will look for this one to stay well Under the total.   

Movie Texas A&M vs Northwestern Betting
Poor favorite in Texas A&M and Northwestern motivated to win first bowl game under Coach Fitzgerald plus other factors college football bettors need to know about Texas A&M vs Northwestern (Saturday, December 31, 2011) from Pregame.com - Including predictions from Bryan Leonard and analysis from host Marco D'Angelo.