Happy Bowl Season! While the ‘Cats aren’t bowling this time around, that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. With sports gambling now legal in Illinois (and several other states across the U.S.), you can easily have some skin in the game if you choose to.
The first three games of bowl play were not friendly to our senior handicappers, as Avery and Matt were only right on one of their combined six predictions. Still, they’re back with insights for a second round of bowl games. If you choose to, please bet responsibly!
Records (pending further results)
Oregon State (-7) vs. Utah State
Zimmerman: In the inaugural LA Bowl, it feels like an appropriate line has been set. Oregon State’s 7-5 Pac-12 record is somewhat equivalent to Utah State’s 10-3 Mountain West title season. The Beavers are nearly 30 positions better in SP+, but this Aggies team has shown all year that it has the execution to excel in tight games, winning four one-score games and losing none. At the same time, OSU is about 50 positions ahead of Utah State when looking at The Action Network’s power ratings, and there’s a clear disparity in terms of raw talent between the teams. As I said earlier, this is probably a solid line, but I’ll go with the more talented team that hasn’t played in a bowl game since 2013 to cover.
Pick: Oregon State -7
Albert: Don’t let records deceive you here. While Oregon State has had a bit of a mixed season, its talent level is high, so I am expecting a strong performance from the Beavers. I’m expecting the Beavs to feed their star back, BJ Baylor, and if their defense can find a way to limit Deven Thompkins, I am expecting a safe win (and possibly the lowest bowl score yet).
Pick: Oregon State -7
New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana (-4) vs. Marshall
Zimmerman: A much more confusing line comes in the form of Louisiana –4. In fact, this line opened at 6.5 before being pushed down to this number, and that’s curious to me. Maybe it’s the SP+ or power ratings that have Marshall ranked close to or higher than Louisiana (or the coaching transition away from Billy Napier), but this is a team that won 12 games. Though Louisiana had a two-game differential in actual wins versus second-order wins, there’s no denying the solid nature of this squad. Marshall is a very average team, so I have no choice but to back the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Pick: Louisiana -4
Albert: This pick is an absolute no brainer for me. I don’t know how the line has it this close, because I am all over the Ragin’ Cajuns in this one. I’m expecting their defense to swallow up the Thundering Herd and score just enough points to pull away. ULL has held its opponents to 18 points per game all season while scoring an average of 31. I trust its defense to limit the Marshall offense, which should prove decisive.
Pick: Louisiana -4
Myrtle Beach Bowl
Tulsa (-9) vs. Old Dominion
Zimmerman: If you watch this game — a Monday, 2:30 p.m. contest between 6-6 Tulsa of the AAC and 6-6 Old Dominion of C-USA — you are a true fan of bowl season and you have my full respect. Again, on paper this appears to be a well-placed line, but ODU may have some of the most unimpressive wins in the FBS. Getting to bowl season by beating squads like Charlotte, FIU and Hampton doesn’t warrant respect from Vegas, and the Monarchs aren’t getting it. As they won three in-a-row to get to this point, I’ll go with the Golden Hurricanes to dominate.
Pick: Tulsa -9
Albert: Godspeed to those who watch this. To me, this game just screams “don’t overthink the talent disparity,” and so I will volunteer the duck test as an example. If it looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it is a duck. If Tulsa looks like the better team and has the better players, it will cover the spread. I’m anticipating a VERY decisive Tulsa win.
Pick: Tulsa -9
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Wyoming (-3.5) vs. Kent State
Zimmerman: Wyoming’s 6-6 record reflects the year it had, and while Kent State had 1+ more actual wins than second-order wins, it’s deserving of its bowl game berth. While the Golden Flashes’ 7-6 record isn’t that impressive, a MAC Championship appearance isn’t bad, and they’ll have a chance to put a nice bow on the season with a postseason victory. In the end, though, I believe the value lies with the pseudo-home side.
Pick: Wyoming -3.5
Albert: Coming off a decisive loss in the MAC Championship, I’m expecting Kent State to bounce back. I haven’t been impressed by either aspect of the Wyoming offensive game, and while it’s clear they have been able to put up points, I expect Kent State to be able to fix its defensive holes and attack the Wyoming secondary en route to a cover.
Pick: Kent State +3.5
Miami Beach Bowl
UTSA (-1.5) vs. San Diego State
Zimmerman: I absolutely love the Aztecs in this spot. On one side of the field, you have a team that is coming off of an upset conference championship victory over Western Kentucky after a season that contained five one-score wins. UTSA led the nation in actual win versus second-order win differential, meaning it was one of the most fortunate teams in college football this year. That statistical success is very Fitz-like to an extent, and you can’t discredit the Roadrunners for winning close games, but it does bode well for value on a solid SDSU team. Sell, sell, sell on the Meep-Meeps and look for the Aztecs to take advantage of an excellent underdog position.
Pick: SDSU +1.5
Albert I’m honestly puzzled as to why SDSU are underdogs. Punt God Matt Araiza and his Aztecs will win decisively, and the only reason the Roadrunners are regarded as highly as they are is because of times they were able to squeak out wins undeservedly. I’m not trying to frame their ability to win as a downside — I think that they are a fine team — but their record doesn’t depict their true talent level, and SDSU will prove that in South Florida on Tuesday.
Pick: SDSU straight up at +110 odds
Armed Forces Bowl
Army (-3.5) vs. Missouri
Zimmerman: Is this even a question? Fading Army after a disappointing loss in its most important game of the season against Navy is a task for only the most courageous bettors. While it may be the wise play on paper, I’m going to enjoy watching Army play sound, efficient triple option football. Maybe the Black Knights get gashed at times, but so be it. There’s only one side to take.
Pick: Army -3.5
Albert: Every single year I pick Army. No question as to who I’m taking here.
Pick: Army -3.5
Frisco Football Classic
Miami-Ohio (-3) vs. North Texas
Zimmerman: The Mean Green handed UTSA its first and only loss of the year in the last week of the regular season, but that Thanksgiving weekend upset doesn’t reflect the actual quality (or lack thereof) that North Texas has. Heck, the Mean Green only qualified for this game by winning that one, and Miami won’t be an easy opponent to break down. The Redhawks had approximately 2.5 less actual wins than the far less important wins of the second-order variety. That’s a great indication that Miami could be undervalued here. I’ll try to sell high again on a team that is fortunate to be in the postseason.
Pick: Miami-Ohio -3
Albert: RIDE MEAN GREEN. I think this team is more talented than their record indicates. It should end up being a really exciting game between two high-powered offenses. I’d take the over before I’d pick either team, but still, I’m taking the Mean Green in this one.
Pick: North Texas +3