It’s December, which means it’s college football bowl season; a time where the nation’s best meet on the gridiron and go head to head for everything from a national championship to a trophy presented by Cheez-Itz. It’s also a time to visit the local sports book and make some extra money during the holiday season, but to make sure you place the proper wager, I have broken down every game with the reasons why you should tune in to every bowl match-up, as well as how to play the spread.
So good luck, happy holidays and merry winnings!
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl (Dallas, TX)
Boston College vs #25 Boise State (-3)
Reason to watch: Remember when Boston College was 7-2 and hosted Clemson with ESPN’s GameDay? HC Steve Adazzio sure remembers that, but I’m sure he would also like to forget the 3 straight losses that followed. There is no top-25 spot this year for the Eagles and finishing 7-5 in 4th place in the Atlantic Coastal is a far cry from an accomplishment. Adazzio just secured a 2-year extension, but he still may need a win to reignite some excitement on campus at Boston College. AJ Dillon is a superstar halfback who rushed for 1,108 yards and 10 scores and is reason enough to watch any BC game. Boise State won’t be on the blue turf, but they will have the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year, Brett Rypien, who already holds the conference record in passing yards. Boise came very close to a shot at the Fiesta Bowl but will play in this bowl for an 11-win season. Rypien tossed for 30 scores and 3,700 yards and has a chance for just the second 4,000-yard season in Bronco history.
Pat’s Pick: I’ve rode the Eagles all season but will play the smart move here. BC looked bad in 3 of their losses, and Adazzio just lost his offensive coordinator to Bowling Green last week. Combine that with a banged-up AJ Dillion, and factor in the Boise State coach who has won 3 of the 4 bowl since taking over, and the writing is on the wall, and it’s written in bright blue paint. Boise State wins big. Give away 3 points and take the Broncos.
Quick Lane Bowl (Detroit, MI)
Minnesota vs Georgia Tech (-4)
Reason to watch: This is Paul Johnson’s last game as head coach of Georgia Tech, a position he has held for ten seasons. Johnson has the 5th most wins of any active coach in Division 1 and will have his team excited to win one final game for their coach. With this last game not only does Johnson hang up his whistle, but it could also be the end of the option offense, a scheme that has since become prehistoric thanks to the pass happy pro style quarterback systems that most teams are running now. This also will be PJ Flecks first bowl game as head coach in Minnesota, so we have the end and the beginning of two coaches’ journeys. This game may not be as exciting as the storylines, but keep an eye on Tech’s TaQuon Marshall, the option quarterback who has rush for more yards (896) than he has passed (824), and the Golden Gophers’ star receiver Tyler Johnson who will look to cap off his 1,112-yard season with a big night.
Pat’s Pick: I imagine the Yellow Jackets are working extra hard this December for their coach, and I believe that will pay off here. It will be a close game but expect Johnson to have the greatest Gatorade bath of his career. Georgia Tech by a touchdown.
California vs TCU (Even)
Reason to watch: Cal is Pac-12’s worst offense and have had a very poor season rushing the ball. TCU had bright aspirations this season, but mid-way through the year, even a bowl game seemed out of site. Combined, these two teams average 44-points per game, but also allow 44-points on defense. They both went 3-2 since Halloween, but somehow, someway, these types of games when the teams seem to be identical tend to be great to watch. Neither squad really has much to lose here, so expect both teams to throw it all over the field and try some new trick plays. The will both use underclassmen throughout the game as a tryout for next season as well.
Pat’s Pick: California’s defense can be stingy. They held Washington to 10-points and Washington State to 19. If they can force a few turnovers in this one and protect the ball on their own side, they should be able to beat TCU. With no points going either way in this one, take Cal straight up and sit on the edge of your seat.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl (Shreveport, LA)
Temple (-3) vs Duke
Reason to watch: Duke was a great September story, starting 4-0 with wins over Northwestern and Baylor, but then they dropped 3 of their next 4 and Duke football became Duke football again. A promising season ended with back-to-back losses while allowing 94-points. Quarterback Daniel Jones shook off a September collarbone break to put together a solid season where he tossed 2,250 yards and 17 touchdowns. He will be using this game as one final audition for NFL scouts, as Mel Kiper Jr predicts he could be the 1st quarterback taken in the 2019 draft. Temple enters the Independence Bowl without a head coach, as Geoff Collins will be heading down to Georgia Tech following a successful 8-4 season where the Owls finished 2nd in the American Athletic East division. Temple won 6 of their last 7 games with that lone loss coming to UCF in a shootout. They feature a 2,500-yard passer in Anthony Russo and a 1,000 yard back in Ryquell Armstead, but the highlight of this team is when Isaiah Wright gets a kick he can field. He’s returned three for scores this season and others that have didn’t end in 6-points but created highlights anyways.
Pat’s Pick: Duke has really struggled down the stretch, and while Jones will be auditioning for scouts, the result of the game won’t mean much for him. Temple continues their great season with a win here by more than a field goal.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl (New York, NY)
Miami (-4) vs Wisconsin
Reason to watch: A rematch of last season’s Orange Bowl where Alex Hornibrook dominated the Hurricanes with 258 yards and 4 touchdowns. Can he repeat that magic at Yankee Stadium? It’s been a down season to say the least for Hornibrook who tossed just 1,500 yards and 15 scores to go along with 11 interceptions. Expect a heavy dose of Jonathan Taylor, the nation’s top runner who needs just a few carries to reach 2,000 yards. He has eleven 100-yard games this season and averages 7.1 yards per carry. Miami ended their season on a high note winning in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech and then defeating ACC Coastal Champ Pittsburgh 24-3 in their finale. N’akosi Perry seems to have settled in as the starter, but even in that Pittsburgh win he went just 6 of 24 for 52 yards. Running back Travis Homer will need to play well for a Hurricanes bowl win.
Pick: Wisconsin was a CFP pre-season pick and now they are playing in the Pinstripe Bowl, there really isn’t much to get motivated for, but Jonathan Taylor has dominated games all season with nothing on the line. I’m not sure how the Badgers are getting points, but I’ll take them and sing ‘New York, New York’ as I pick up the winnings.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl (Houston, TX)
Baylor vs Vanderbilt (-4)
Reason to watch: Another quarterback showcasing for scouts, 4-year starter Kyle Shurmur puts on the star helmet one more time for the Vanderbilt Commodores needing just 156 yards for his first 3,000-yard season. He can end his college career on a high note by giving his coach Derek Mason his first bowl victory. The often hot-seated Mason has a 24-37 record in Vandy and gets $2.5 million annually. This may not justify his salary, but it gives his supporters a little more ammunition. Baylor’s stud receiver, and Big-12 Newcomer of the Year, Jalen Hurd will miss this game after having a procedure on his knee this month. The Bears went 4-6 in conference and averaged just 150 yards rushing per game. They also give up 32 points on defense.
Pat’s Pick: The Commodores have hung around in the SEC this season and use that experience for an easy win against a Baylor team who is happy to be getting a swag bag from Academy Sports. Give 4 and take Vanderbilt with confidence.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl (Nashville, TX)
Purdue vs Auburn (-4)
Reason to watch: Purdue can hang their hat on one thing this season, they kept Big-10 rival Ohio State out of the CFP thanks to that 29-point victory back in October. Aside from that night, the Boilermakers didn’t have many other high notes, but somehow finished in a 3-way tie for 2nd place in the West division. The one reason why you need to watch this game is Freshman sensation Rondale Moore. The ultra-fast receiver picked up 100 catches, 1,200 yards and 13 touchdowns in his first campaign and has the potential to be the best receiver in the sport next fall. Auburn is a mess right now and boosters are calling for head coach Gus Malzahn to be fired, even with a $32 million buy-out. The Tigers finished 7-5, but all of those losses were within the SEC. Quarterback Jarrett Stidham is leaving for the NFL but will play in this game. What he won’t have, is his offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey who bailed on Auburn for Kansas. It’s tough times in Auburn right now, and there really aren’t too many teams who need a win in a meaningless game then they do.
Camping World Bowl (Orlando, FL)
#16 West Virginia vs #20 Syracuse (+6)
Reason to watch: Former Big East rivals meet in a game that should have be one hell of an entertaining contest, well, that was until Will Grier announced he is focusing on the NFL draft and will not be playing in the bowl. The Mountaineers play a lot of seniors, and without their leader Grier under center, and with their rivals Texas and Oklahoma playing in New Year’s Six games, does this team care enough about the Camping World Bowl to get up and motivated? Back-up Jack Allison will take the reins having thrown just 10 passes on the season. Syracuse had a hell of a run, finishing 9-3 and averaging 40 points on offense to just 25 on defense. Eric Dungey led the way with 2,500 passing yards for Dini Babers (who should have won the ACC coach of the year). His Orange have a chance for the school’s first 10-win season in 17 years.
Pat’s Pick: How do you give almost a full touchdown here without Grier when he was the entire offense? Syracuse has more to play for and they have a senior quarterback looking to cap off his career in style. Syracuse might even win this outright, but they certainly cover with 6 points.
Valero Alamo Bowl (San Antonio, TX)
#24 Iowa State vs #13 Washington State (-3)
Reason to watch: The players at Washington State thought they should have been playing in one of the big bowls, and they are probably right. They had an outside shot at the CFP but a 13-point loss in a snowy Apple Cup game to Washington not only cost them that opportunity, but also a place in the Pac-12 championship game. Now they find themselves in the Valero Alamo Bowl against Iowa State. The Cougars boast the nation’s top passing offense led by football’s most famous mustache, Gardner Minshew, who threw the ball 613 times for 4,477 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also completed 70% of his passes. The Cyclones finished 8-4 on the season highlighted by a 16-point win over West Virginia in October. Freshman quarterback Brock Purdy had a good season and half back David Montgomery put up his 2nd 1,000-yard season in a row.
Pat’s Pick: Defensively both teams can be tough to score on, and each average just 22 points allowed per game. The difference here is Iowa State can be beat in the air, and you will see plenty of deep balls by Minshew. This could get ugly on the scoreboard, so expect Washington State to put up bunches of touchdowns and win easily.
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