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.
After a rough start, our handicappers have collectively battled their way back to a combined .500 record against the spread of 12-12-0. Now, as we approach Christmas and near the end of the year, the bowl circuit will really start to heat up. As always, if you choose to, please bet responsibly!
Records (pending further results)
Florida (-7) vs. UCF
Zimmerman: This is the first game in which I find myself really evaluating what type of motivation there is for each team. UCF will undoubtedly be fired up with a chance to beat one of the premier in-state programs that exists in Florida, but it’s not like the Gators won’t be eyeing a chance to close out an admittedly tough season on a strong note. Though Florida will be without a few key players, the Gators hold a significant talent edge. The Knights should lack the ability to match the athleticism that Florida has, and I think this bodes really well for Florida’s interim staff.
Pick: Florida -7
Albert: I love the Gasparilla Bowl. Do I know what a Gasparilla is? Of course not. But I love a bowl game with character much more than I love this absolutely terrible Florida team. Not to bully Florida football unnecessarily, but I would say that the Gasparilla Bowl is actually too good for this awful football team. More as a matter of principle and intentional disrespect, I am picking UCF — not for being the better team, but out of a hatred for Florida.
Pick: UCF +7
Memphis (-8.5) vs. Hawaii
Zimmerman: After opening around five, this line has skyrocketed nearly 2x up to a spread of 8.5, and I’m not entirely sure why that’s the case. Hawaii has covered in two of its last three Hawaii Bowl appearances, all coming since 2016, and the Rainbow Warriors are not too far off the pace of an above-average Memphis team. At 6-7, Hawaii has compiled a season that is not dissimilar from Memphis, and the Tigers have to come into an environment that will be heavily favorable for Hawaii. Look for the Rainbow Warriors to make this a close contest.
Pick: Hawaii +8.5
Albert: There seems to be a pretty strong consensus among college football fans about this game. While bowl season is incredibly unpredictable, Memphis has played talented teams closely before, and while Hawaii has not struggled to put points up before, its inability to score against SDSU (admittedly a talented team) and UNLV worries me.
Pick: (Reluctantly) Memphis -9.5
Georgia State (-6) vs. Ball State
Zimmerman: Another game in which the line has moved significantly towards the favorite since opening, this Camellia Bowl features two more teams that squeaked into bowl contention. Yet again, I feel as though the underdog is getting far too many points. Ball State isn’t a solid team, but much like the Hawaii Bowl, favored Georgia State isn’t either. With the teams occupying spots 80 and 102 in SP+, respectively, is there really enough evidence to suggest that that the Panthers will come out and rock a Ball State team that beat three bowl-eligible teams? I don’t think so.
Pick: Ball State +6
Albert: I have been really impressed with the Panthers’ play against high-tier competition. Their performances against Coastal Carolina and Louisiana are better wins than anything on Ball State’s resume this season. I would say that the Cards have bullied bad teams, but honestly, they haven’t even done that. As such, I ride with the favorites.
Pick: Georgia State -6
Quick Lane Bowl
Western Michigan (-7) vs. Nevada
Zimmerman: This is a fascinating spot for a bettor. Nevada opened as favorites in this contest, but everything changed when quarterback Carson Strong declared for the NFL Draft and announced he wouldn’t be playing. In both SP+ and The Action Network’s Power Ratings, the Wolf Pack is given a near 20-spot edge. Is Strong worth nine points? That’s what WMU backers have to hope, and I’m not sure any college quarterback in the nation deserves that type of credit. Strong is a great player, but the nine point swing is a lot, and I’m comfortable going with Nevada because of that.
Pick: Nevada +7
Albert: From one mediocre MAC team to another, we move on to Western Michigan, which sat at the bottom of the MAC West. Now my understanding of the MAC West is that it’s somewhat similar to the Big Ten East (home to many bowl-worthy powerhouses). But I don’t care about the division’s pedigree, nor do I care about how bad Nevada may be without its starting QB. There is no way you can pick a team that finished last in its division to win a bowl, let alone cover a seven-point spread.
Pick: Nevada +7
Boston College (-3) vs. East Carolina
Zimmerman: This is an evenly matched football game across the field. While I anticipate the over may be a more decent play than any selection against the spread, that’s not the spirit of this series. For some reason, we’ve only taken sides ATS for four years, and that won’t stop now! The return of Phil Jurkovec towards the end of the year allowed BC to qualify for the postseason, and the QB is quite talented. I believe that this Eagles team just has a touch higher pedigree, and I’m going to ride them to find a close cover in this matchup.
Pick: Boston College -3
Albert: For all the talk about Jurkovec, I, for one, am impressed by the numbers produced by ECU quarterback Holton Ahlers. While the Pirates didn’t face the most difficult schedule for most of the season, they have made it through two challenging tests, taking Houston to overtime and holding a lead over Cincinnati at the end of the first quarter. Obviously, the Pirates didn’t pull off upsets on either occasion, but I don’t think BC will play to the level of either referenced team, and I am taking ECU against the spread (and outright, for that matter, too).
Pick: East Carolina +3