Saturday, December 21
SMU (-3) over FAU – 3u
This is a home game for the Owls, but I’m not sure that’s the most positive thing for this situation. Yes, FAU rolled in this game a couple of years ago, but SMU is worlds better than the crappy Akron team that showed up in Boca Raton two years ago and were 23-point dogs.
That was an exciting time for FAU then. It was the end of Lane Kiffin’s first year when they effortlessly ran through the C-USA. They won again this year, but now Joey Freshwater is out the door and Glenn Spencer takes over as interim. The players wanted Spencer to get the head job full-time, but the admin went with Willie Taggart. The rest of the staff are likely more worried about their next job.
Part of the fun of bowl season is going on a trip and the Owls don’t get that luxury. What they do get is a 10-2 SMU team from a much stronger conference coming in excited about a week of Boca living. The Mustangs have more talent across the board and put up more efficient numbers than FAU this year, despite playing a SOS that was 40 spots higher, according to Sagarin.
Thursday, December 26
EMU (+11) over Pitt – 2u
EMU +365 – 0.5u
This has to be a disappointing outcome for Pitt. Last year they won the Coastal, got to go to the Sun Bowl, and were once again playing for a Coastal title just a few weeks ago. They lost it and also missed out on the (rumored) opportunity to play in the Pinstripe Bowl in NYC against Michigan State.
Instead they get a trip to beautiful Detroit. They still get a matchup with the green-and-white from Michigan, but it’s the MAC version. I’d imagined they could be more enthused.
Meanwhile, the EMU fanbase should come out in full force for this one. It’s a 36-minute drive across I-94 from their campus in Ypsilanti to Ford Field. The Eagles haven’t won a bowl game since 1987 and now they’ve got their chance against a Power 5 school.
And it wouldn’t be their first P5 win of the season, as they won at Illinois 34-31 back in September. I make fun of Chris Creighton’s teams obsession with playing one-score games, but it’s pretty nice to bet on when they’re catching double-digits against a team that didn’t play a hard schedule and their biggest win was still only 10 points.
Friday, December 27
Wake (+4.5) over Michigan State – 1u
Wake +155 – 0.5u
Everything about the state of MSU’s program is concerning right now and I’ll continue to bet against it. There’s injuries to both sides, but most of the key guys for Wake are expected to go, except for Sage Surratt, who we already knew was going to be missing.
It’s a smaller play because Wake hasn’t been the most consistent team, but I’ll take that over a MSU’s consistently poor play the second half of the season. The Spartans had to beat helpless Maryland at home in the season finale just to become bowl eligible and it almost looked as if they didn’t want to, eking out a 19-16 victory over the 3-9 Terps.
I think if there’s one thing you can depend on it’s Wake’s ability to throw the ball in this game. The weather looks like it’s going to be pretty clear in 40-ish degree weather.
Oklahoma State (+7) over Texas A&M – 2u
OSU +220 – 0.5u
Our first game with big “sitting out for the NFL Draft” implications and it’s double-positive for the Pokes. Chuba Hubbard says he’s gonna play and if that’s not good enough, the Aggies best defender — DT Justin Madubuike — is going to sit out. Madubuike is essential in both phases of the game. He’s led the team with 22 TFL the past couple of years and also led the team in sacks this year.
A&M played a pretty tough schedule, but I think it’s made them a bit overrated. Your typical power rankings will say they played five Top 10 teams this year, and I don’t really disagree with that. They went 0-5 and lost by an average of 18 points. Other than that, there’s not much to the resume. Outside of Kyle Field, their two performances were a 7-point win at 4-8 Ole Miss and a 4-point win on a neutral field against 2-10 Arkansas.
USC (+2) over Iowa – 2u
USC +110 – 0.5u
Fair warning, I’m like -12u on Iowa games this year. Nate Stanley is my mortal enemy and I’d like to see him go out in flames for all of the headaches he’s caused me this year.
But for some analysis outside of personal vendettas: I think the Iowa secondary is going to have problems with all of the USC receivers that have elected to play in the bowl game.
The pass defense looks pretty good on the surface for the Hawkeyes, but they haven’t really played that many good passing teams. They’ve only played three teams in the Top 40 of the country in passing yards per game: Iowa State, Purdue, and Minnesota. ISU threw for 323 at 9.3 YPA, Purdue threw for 327 for 6.5 YPA (with a backup QB), and Minnesota threw for 368 at 9.4 YPA.
Full disclosure: Iowa went 3-0 in those games, but they were all by less than a touchdown and I think it’s fair to say that they were especially fortunate in the ISU and Minny games. I’m not sure they can survive again in a near road game against the Trojans in San Diego.
Wazzu (+3) over Air Force – 2u
Wazzu +130 – 0.5u
We return to the wonderful world of the Cheez-It Bowl, which gave us the greatest game in the history of football last year. Four quarters and an overtime, nine interceptions and 17 combined points. It was fantastic theater.
I don’t totally get why Air Force is favored in this one. They went 10-2 compared to Wazzu’s 6-6, but their best win was…Colorado, who doesn’t power rate in the top half of the FBS. They beat the Buffs in OT a week after they had a dramatic win over an overrated Nebraska team. Meanwhile, Wazzu rolled Colorado by 31 a few weeks later.
AFA has the ability to keep things close by controlling the TOP and running out the clock, but Wazzu is in the same ballpark as the only two teams the Falcons have lost to this year, both by double digits.
I’m not here to disparage the troops, but Air Force is 1-8 against Power 5/ND schools since 2007. That’s how little they face this type of competition. Less than once a year and the only win is this year over a team that finished on a 2-6 slide.
Saturday, December 28
Memphis (+7) over Penn State – 1u
Memphis +230 – 0.5u
I might’ve been the world’s biggest Penn State supporter this year that wasn’t a Nittany Lion fan at heart — and it paid handsomely — but I recognize their offensive flaws. They’ve been cycling through RBs in a mediocre running game and Sean Clifford’s been unhealthy after an up-and-down season.
I’m not fully bought in to the “motivation is the biggest factor of bowl season” mantra, but there might be something to be said for this New Year’s Six game that the Group of 5 gets to play in. They’re 3-2 SU and 4-1 ATS, with the only loss coming by a half point. They were also 3-1 SU in the three years before that in BCS games.
The play on this was downgraded because Mike Norvell is no longer involved, but Memphis had a great staff overall.
The only game PSU covered in the last four games of the season was a back door-ish cover against OSU when they were getting buried, but got back in to the game on a series of flukish fumbles.
Oklahoma (+14) over LSU – 1u
I’m not sure that Oklahoma really has a chance to win this game, but there’s a similar thought process here as there was when I picked OU to cover against Bama last year. Once again, people are just dismissing the Sooners like they’re a walkover for the #1 seed.
And once again they have the explosiveness to make even a blowout look close when times get tough. OU is the perfect team to rack up points when it doesn’t seem like it matters. The Alabama game was a good example last year and the K-State game this year was perfect. They damn near won the KSU game just piling on garbage points.
LSU’s defense has looked better in recent weeks, but I’m not convinced they’re the real deal. They’ve faced one explosive offense this year – Alabama – and gave up 41. They also faced a decent offense in Texas and gave up 38. Other than that, it’s been a parade of mediocre. They still managed to give up 37 to Ole Miss and 38 to Vandy, two teams who combined to go 3-13 in the SEC.
Oklahoma’s offense isn’t as potent as years past, but they still average 40+ and Jalen Hurts’s dual-threat ability provides a facet LSU hasn’t seen very much this season.
The Sooner D still isn’t great, but better than in their past couple of appearances in the playoffs and CeeDee Lamb still gives them the best offensive playmaker in the game.
Clemson (-2) over Ohio State – 4u
Sometimes you have to put your money where your mouth is and this is one of those times. There’s no stone-cold facts that make this a great bet, but I just watch the two teams and believe in Clemson more.
I don’t have any numbers at the ready that support this, but whenever I watch OSU, I feel more-and-more convinced that if a team can get to Justin Fields and get him out of rhythm, they can beat OSU.
As always, Clemson has a sick pass rush. They get a month of Brent Venables prep and that pass rush should provide some pressure against Fields. As good as Fields can be, if the Tigers can keep him bottled up in the pocket, he’ll miss some throws.
I also love the month of prep for Dabo Swinney, Jeff Scott, and Tony Elliott against the vaunted OSU pass rush and Chase Young. This is a group that has gone 8-2 SU and 9-1 ATS in their last 10 postseason games. I trust them to be the better prepared team against a rookie HC.
Update on late Friday night:
Monday, December 30
Florida (-14) over Virginia – 2u
I don’t know what to say other than Florida is better in about every phase of the game. Bryce Perkins is a great player, but he can’t do it all. Since Kyle Trask has taken over as starting QB, the Gators have beaten every non-Top 5 team by at least 11.
UVA has played two Top 40 teams all year. They were both Top 15 – like Florida – and lost by a combined 60 points.
Tuesday, December 31
Wyoming (-7) over Georgia State – 2u
Wyoming/GSU under 49 – 1u
There are two things overvaluing GSU this season: their win over Tennessee in Week 1 and the fact that many don’t realize that stud QB is still playing for GSU, but he’s playing on a torn ACL and is way less effective without his ability to run.
Ellington ran for 67 YPG pre-torn ACL and four TDs. Since then he has ran for -5 yards and 0 TDs. It’s a big difference in the offense.
Wyoming has its problems offensively, but I expect them to give the ball more to third-string QB Levi Williams more. Sean Chambers got hurt and backup Tyler Vander Waal has gotten the majority of the snaps since then. The problem is that Vander Waal stinks and he’s now making it easier on HC Craig Bohl by entering the transfer portal and giving Bohl the out of playing Williams more. Williams is a dual-threat like Chambers and should be more in-tune with the offense after 15 bowl practices.
It would be a bit of a surprise to me if this game even gets over 40 on the total.
Wednesday, January 1
Alabama (-7) over Michigan – 1u
This is the squarest bet you can find, but it’s just impossible to envision Michigan hanging with the Tide unless five more key players choose to sit out for Alabama. Tyrell Lewis and Trevon Diggs are sitting out for the Tide defense, but I don’t think that’s enough to make a difference. The insane WR corps for Alabama’s offense is still intending to take the field and that’s probably enough.
Minnesota (+7.5) over Auburn – 1u
Minnesota +240 – 0.5u
Auburn’s played the tougher schedule and is probably the better team, but if there’s one weakness to find in these two teams, it’s probably the Auburn passing game. I’m not one to doubt PJ Fleck with a month to motivate his team.
Thursday, January 2
Cincinnati (-7) over BC – 2u
Anthony Brown has been out at QB for months and his replacement has not shown the ability to remotely match his production. Now, AJ Dillon is also sitting out. David Bailey is a good replacement, but he’s gonna have to hold it down, otherwise there’s a big dropoff in his second-string for the bowl game.
BC is also dealing with a substitute teacher as interim HC. Steve Addazio got fired and now the WR coach – with no HC experience – is taking the reigns for the month.
Indiana (+1.5) over Tennessee – 1u
Indiana +115 – 0.5u
The two teams have had fairly similar seasons: they’ve beaten who they’re supposed to beat and lost to who they should. UT hasn’t faced many teams with the ability to throw like IU can and it may be the difference.
Friday, January 3
Ohio (-7.5) over Nevada – 4u
I thought Nevada was butt cheeks before they lost several starters on defense due to suspension. The Wolfpack are the worst 7-5 team I can remember in recent history.
The Bobcats have a 2.0+ YPP margin despite playing a schedule that was nearly 20 spots higher than Nevada. They ended the season on a 118-27 run over the last couple of weeks. They lost to a really good Louisiana team by 20, otherwise their five losses were by an average of 4 PPG.
There’s not a single discernible edge for Nevada in this game.
Ohio is 6-1 ATS their last 7 bowl games.