Thursday’s Tips: FSU vs. Notre Dame, Baylor vs. Washington

Published on Dec. 29 at 7:50 a.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

There are a pair of bowl games to wager on Thursday, beginning with the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando. That’s where Florida State (8-4 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) will take on Notre Dame at 5:30 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

Most books are listing the Seminoles as 3 ½-point favorites with the total in the 46-47 range. Gamblers can take Notre Dame (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) on the money line for a plus-145 return (risk $100 to win $145).

Jimbo Fisher’s team closed the regular season by winning six of its last seven games, going 5-2 ATS in the process. FSU won a 21-7 decision at Florida as a three-point road favorite in its last outing on Nov. 26. The ‘Noles intercepted four UF passes, including a pick-six by Terrance Parks that put the game on ice early in the fourth quarter.

After starting the season 0-2 with a pair of heartbreaking defeats, Notre Dame won eight of nine games before losing 28-14 at Stanford in the regular-season finale. The Irish failed to hook up its backers as seven-point underdogs against the Cardinal.

Tommy Rees was yanked at Stanford for his ineffective play. Rees completed just 6-of-13 passes for 60 yards with an interception. For the season, Rees, who took the starting job from Dayne Crist in September, has connected on 65.9-percent of his throws for 2,708 yards with a 19/12 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

Andrew Hendrix relieved Rees at Stanford, completing 11-of-24 passes for 192 yards with one TD pass and one interception. Nevertheless, Rees will be back in the starting lineup Thursday.

FSU had grandiose goals for the 2011 campaign, but those were shot by three straight losses from Sept. 17 to Oct. 8. The ‘Noles lost a 23-13 decision at home to Oklahoma and then fell 35-30 at Clemson the following week with starting QB E.J. Manuel injured.

Manuel returned in Week 5 at Wake Forest, but the Demon Deacons captured a 35-30 upset victory as 10 ½-point home underdogs. Manuel had an up-and-down year, throwing for 2,417 yards with a 16/8 TD-INT ratio and four rushing TDs.

Injuries have prevented FSU from establishing a go-to RB this year. Chris Thompson and Jermaine Thomaas went down with season-enders and true freshman Devonta Freeman tallied a team-high 531 rushing yards and eight TDs with a 5.0 yards-per-carry average.

Another freshman developed into FSU’s best wide receiver, as Rashad Greene hauled in 33 receptions for 497 yards and six TDs.

FSU has been a single-digit favorite just once this year in its aforementioned win at The Swamp. Meanwhile, Notre Dame failed to cover in its lone underdog spot at Stanford.

Dating back to 1993, FSU has won three of five head-to-head meetings against Notre Dame. However, the Irish are 4-1 ATS in those five encounters.

The second game of Thursday’s doubleheader will pit Baylor (9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) against Washington at the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio.

Robert Griffin III won the Heisman Trophy thanks to his brilliant play all season, particularly during a five-game winning streak to close the regular season. ‘RG3’ had a slew of Heisman moments in leading the Bears to a 45-38 upset win over Oklahoma that ended the Sooners’ national-title hopes.

Griffin threw a pair of TD passes and ran for two more scores in a 48-24 blowout win over Texas in the regular-season finale. For the season, RG3 has completed 72.4-percent of his passes for 3,998 yards with a 36/6 TD-INT ratio. He’s also rushed for 655 yards and nine TDs.

RG3’s favorite target is All-Big-12 selection Kendall Wright, who finished the regular season with 101 receptions for 1,572 yards and 13 TDs. RB Terrance Ganaway rushed for a team-high 1,338 yards and 16 TDs.

Baylor’s defense is an issue, however. The Bears are surrendering 35.7 points per game, but they fortunately score at a 43.5 PPG clip.

Most books have installed Baylor as a 9 ½-point favorite with a total of 79. Washington (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) is plus-280 on the money line (risk $100 to win $280).

Art Briles’s team has posted a 2-1 spread record in three games as a single-digit ‘chalk.’ As for the Huskies, they went 2-3 versus the number in five games as underdogs.

Washington sophomore QB Keith Price did a solid job replacing Jake Locker, who was a four-year starter before getting drafted by the Titans. Price threw 29 passes compared to 11 interceptions in his first year as the starter.

UW junior RB Chris Polk eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark again in 2011, rushing for 1,341 and 11 TDs. Polk also had 29 catches for 324 yards and four TDs.

The ‘over’ is 9-1-1 overall for Baylor. The ‘over’ went 6-5-1 overall for UW, but the ‘under’ is on a 3-1 run in its last four outings.

Kickoff is scheduled for 9:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–FSU has been to 30 straight bowl games, the nation’s longest active streak.

–Both of Baylor’s starting cornerbacks, Chance Casey and Tyler Stephenson are ‘questionable’ with ankle injuries.

–What is the job that Boise State head coach Chris Petersen will eventually leave Idaho for? Maybe, just maybe, there isn’t one.

–Virginia second-year head coach Mike London has the school in its first bowl game since 2007. The Cavaliers will face Auburn as three-point underdogs in the Chik-Fil-A Bowl at the Ga. Dome in Atlanta on New Year’s Eve. London is committed to UVA’s future and is proving as much by donating $225,000 of his own money to help fund a new practice facility for the program.

–Man, I’ve had a rough bowl season so far and Toledo joined Utah St. yesterday as two of my toughest beats to date. The Rockets prevailed over Air Force by a 42-41 count but failed to cover the spread as three-point favorites. The Falcons scored touchdowns on three different fourth-down plays. Furthermore, their last score came on fourth down and was the third fourth-down conversion of the last-gasp drive. But scoring and tying the game still kept Toledo backers in decent shape UNTIL Air Force faked the PAT and was stopped. Obviously, if the Falcons kick the extra point and tie, Toledo backers still had a chance at a win or push in regulation or the extra session. Alas, it was not to be and gamblers on Air Force and the ‘over’ cashed winners in the Military Bowl.

–Texas dropped California 21-10 as a three-point favorite in last night’s Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The 31 combined points easily stayed ‘under’ the 48-point tally.

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