Happy Bowl Season! While the ‘Cats aren’t bowling this time around, that doesn’t mean you can’t get involved. Sports gambling is now legal in Illinois (and several other states across the U.S.), so you can easily have some skin in the game if you choose to.
We will be honest: it’s been an up and down bowl season for our handicappers, who have collectively gone under .500 against the spread this year. As a matter of fact, one of our pickers (ahem, Matt Albert) didn’t even get his picks in this morning. At 17-14-0, Avery will ride out the final chapter of a four-year bowl picking journey on his own for now, and we will update later once Matt wakes up and shakes off his New Year’s Day Scaries. As always, if you choose to, please bet responsibly!
Please note that all picks were submitted before kickoff of any contests.
Arkansas (-2.5) vs. Penn State
Zimmerman: Penn State is dealing with several opt-outs in this contest, and that’s been reflected in the spread on this game moving from the Nitanny Lions as 4.5-point favorites to 2.5-point underdogs. That’s the reality of the modern bowl season, and it makes for difficult evaluations of how a team can perform. If everyone was playing in this game, I easily would have taken PSU against the original spread it was given, so with an extra six points of cushion, I’ll remain on the Big Ten’s side.
Pick: Penn State +2.5
Notre Dame (-2) vs. Oklahoma State
Zimmerman: This line strikes me as a huge overcorrection based on the Cowboys’ brutal performance in the Big 12 Championship Game. They possess one of the best defenses in the country, and I’m not really sure where the Fighting Irish are going to get scores. Look for Oklahoma State to grind out a low-scoring affair and ride it to victory.
Pick: Oklahoma State +2
Kentucky (-3) vs. Iowa
Zimmerman: This is another situation where I feel like we have an overcorrection coming from two sides. Iowa was absolutely dismantled by a quality Michigan team in its last game while Kentucky obliterated a fairly poor Louisville team. The type of physicality that Iowa will bring will be a lot for Kentucky, but the Wildcats have an abudance of speed, starting with quarterback Will Levis. This strikes me as a complete toss-up, so I’ll take the free three points that Iowa is getting.
Pick: Iowa +3
Ohio State (-4) vs. Utah
Zimmerman: Four points is the perfect line in this spot. Missing some key opt-outs such as Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Haskell Garrett will put Ryan Day in a tricky spot, but there’s still plenty of talent on that OSU sideline. Utah is an incredibly physical team, and this could turn in to a really fascinating game, but I’ll trust the overall roster talent that exists for the Buckeyes.
Pick: Ohio State -4
Ole Miss (-1) vs. Baylor
Zimmerman: I was really impressed with what I saw from this Baylor defense throughout the year. It’s capable of creating a lot of havoc, and I think it’ll be able to limit a potent Ole Miss offense. If their offense is just remotely there, I like the Bears’ chances of winning a physical affair.
Pick: Baylor +1
Kansas State (-4) vs. LSU
Zimmerman: Man, we’re going to give an LSU team as talented on paper as this four points? We saw what happened against UCF a couple years back when LSU had opt-outs and was able to put together a quality performance, and I think we’ll see that again. Right?
Pick: LSU +4