Bowl season is upon us, and if you’re anything like me, you revel in waking up day after day for a three week stretch knowing that with each sunrise comes another chance to watch and wager on Eastern State University Tech in the Pringles Once You Pop the Fun Dont Stop Bowl. Couple this with an influx of holidays and vacation days, and it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
Even though college bowls are often a punchline due to some obscure, C-level matchups, the optimist looks at the 15 or 20 legitimetly good games, quality matchups of top tier talents that don’t square off in conference play. While I can’t guarantee all of those listed below will be said “quality” matchups, it’s your lucky day, as the Bradford Pear is here to give some pointers of where to invest your loot if you’re lying on the couch on December 26th, looking for some action three minutes before kickoff. Or even worse, behind your computer screen at work, refreshing GameCast repeatedly while 85% of the office is using PTO.
Surgeon General’s Warning – the beauty of the internet is you don’t have to have any sort of qualification to post picks – it’s where you come to shout loudly and hope something sticks against the wall. We’ll since I care so much about you guys, I will give you the bottom line data: I lit the college football world on fire this year to the tune of 95-101, 48.5% – so follow at your own risk. Let’s get to 6-4 or better!
Insight will be an eclectic mix of statistics and random thoughts. Order of picks is solely based on date of game – if there is one thing I have learned, its that I am not good enough at this to decide when to go small on a game and when to load up. Going 3-1 and still coming out even is the WORST.
12/20 – UL Lafayette +1.5 vs Nevada. First game of the bowl season, the New Orleans Bowl kicks off tomorrow at 11 AM. While the shoddiest of the bowls are usually mocked for, along with the funny names and sponsorships, poor attendance, that hasn’t been the case here. In the past three years that the Ragin Cajuns have been the Sun Belt’s representative in this bowl, the attendance has been 42K, 48K, and 54K. Obviously it occurs in ULL’s home state, and the bowl has become a defacto home game in three consecutive New Orleans Bowl victory. I somewhat sweat both teams QBs for no good reason, but sometime its this simple. They’ve won three straight, they’re at home, and they’re getting points? Where do I sign?
12/20 – South Alabama -2.5 vs Bowling Green. The night game on day one of bowl season, the Jaguars have some super fresh helmets. They’ve only been a football program since 2009, and they went 0-5 vs bowl teams this year. Convinced yet? This is partly a play against the MAC, as that conference got embarrassed in bowl season last year, and its also a motivation play. A team that’s only been in FBS for two seasons making it to a bowl? That means something to them, even in the Camellia (LOL) Bowl.
12/23 – San Diego State -2.5 vs Navy. The Poinsettia Bowl is in San Diego, but I’m hesitant to argue home field advantage here after I heard a point made today: SD is a pretty big military city, and around the holidays, the Navy may get a good amount of crowd support here from members of the military home for Christmas. No, I took this one because of a stat I read on Twitter that I can’t find now: The current coach at San Diego State is 10-1 ATS against teams that run the option, which is Navy’s bread and butter. And that’s good enough for me.
12/26 – Central Florida -2 vs NC State. First, NC State stunk when I watched them. That was early in the season, so this isn’t the most informed opinion, but it’s how I feel. I flew Virgin a few weeks ago and watched the ECU v UCF game in its entirety. UCF needed to win to win the AAC, on the road. I took ECU, and UCF absolutely DOMINATED the first three quarters. They ended up blowing the lead and winning on a Hail Mary, which was insane, but ECU and NC State are similar in that they are pass-happy teams. I know you aren’t supposed to base opinions on one game, but the UCF defense was incredibly impressive on the road. Being that it was their last game, and I don’t respect the other side, that made things easy.
12/27 – USC -7 vs Nebraska. USC was highly touted heading into the year, but stumbled a bit. Incredibly quietly, QB Cody Kessler threw 36 TD/4 INT and has a year of eligibility remaining. If he stays, this could be the jumpoff to an offseason full of “USC for National Champs” talk. The game is in San Diego, so they’ll certainly have a better crowd than the Huskers, and I see this front running bunch fully throttling a coachless Nebraska team that really didn’t impress vs any quality team all season.
12/29 – Oklahoma -3.5 vs Clemson. Full disclosure, I will wait as long as I can on this hoping to see a flat 3, and also full disclosure, I think Bob Stoops is overrated. But I can’t describe the difference between freshman QB DeShaun Watson and upperclassman backup Cole Stoudt for Clemson. Watson battled injuries all year and smartly forewent this game to have ACL surgery, giving Stoudt the start. And he is awful. It was as simple as take Clemson if Watson plays, take OU if he doesn’t, its that big of a difference, and Watson isn’t playing. I respect the Clemson defense, namely Vic Beasley, but this QB will be in over his head.
12/30 – LSU/Notre Dame under 52.5. This doesn’t really fly with the tire fire that was ND’s last 7 games – all 7 went over 58 points, but I expect this game to be dictated by the Tigers. On the flipside, since squeaking by Florida on 10/11, the totals of LSU’s games have been 44, 17, 33, 17, and 40. They only scored more than 23 once in those 5 games, so they’ve been struggling to find points and have been winning with defense. Let’s hope it continues.
12/31 – Ole Miss +3.5 vs TCU. First, TCU should struggle to get off the bus after the letdown of not being included in the Final 4. But aside from that, I’d argue that Ole Miss was one of the more screwed teams this year, losing by three in Death Valley and on a goal line fumble vs Auburn before the wheels fell off in a shutout at Arkansas. The first two outcomes were as tight as they come, a break here or there from Ole Miss being 10-0 heading to Fayetteville. The defense is still elite and should flex their muscle against a TCU team who is used to porous Big 12 defenses.
1/1 – Wisconsin/Auburn over 63. The total and spread puts this one at 35-28 Auburn, and I dont think the Tigers should struggle to get there. Wisconsin had a great defense but did it versus a bunch of inferior Big 10 offenses. I dont think they will have the answer for Gus Malzahn’s squad, particularly with their coach fleeing for the hills after a drubbing in the conference title game. Provided the Badgers can chip in 24 or so, this one should get there.
1/2 – Kansas State +1 vs UCLA. UCLA had as Jekyll/Hyde of a season of any major program, and it ended with whatever is the bad one of the two (Hyde?). They got blasted by Stanford at home when all they needed was a win for a Pac 12 title showdown vs Oregon. I dont see them getting up for this game, with their QB already focused on the NFL draft. Give me the point and the better coach and program.
There you have it. Ten bona fide slam dunk winners. If you disagree, best of luck to you. Enjoy your time on the couch boys and girls!