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!
Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl (Atlanta, GA)
North Carolina A&T (-7.5) vs Alcorn State
Reason to watch: To kick off the bowl season the SWAC and MEAC champions meet under the bright lights of the Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Historically this bowl has always been a nail-bitter and the final scores have all been within a touchdown. Tarik Cohen starred in the inaugural bowl for North Carolina A&T four years ago, and the current 9-2 Aggies hope their 1,000-yard back Marquell Cartwright can be the next Celebration Bowl star. The 9-3 Alcorn State Braves feature a backfield that has combined for 2,127 yards and 21 touchdowns in De’Shawn Waller and Noah Johnson. If you watch this game on December 15th, be sure that in a few years you’ll see some of these same running backs playing on Sunday.
Pat’s Pick: History repeats itself, and while the Aggies likely win, this will be another close game with Alcorn State covering at +7.5.
New Mexico Bowl (Albuquerque, NM)
North Texas vs Utah State (-9.5)
Reason to watch: Utah State moves on from departed head coach Matt Wells quickly here, as he leaves behind an explosive offense headed by quarterback Jordan Love. With 28 touchdowns and 3,208 yards on the season, expect Love to move the ball quick and make for an exciting scoreboard duel with the Mean Green’s signal caller Mason Fine, who leads the 11th best passing offense in the country.
Pat’s Pick: North Texas gives up 246 yards per game, 88th in the FBS. Not a good stat against a passer like Love. 9.5 is a lot of points to give away in a shootout, but I still expect Utah State to pull away at the end. Utah State wins this by two scores, -9.5 is no problem.
AutoNation Cure Bowl (Orlando, FL)
Tulane (-3) vs Louisiana-Lafayette
Reason to watch: It took a touchdown and 2-point conversion in the final minute of the last regular season game to get Tulane into a bowl, but here they are in the Cure Bowl against the 7-6 Rajun Cajuns. Tulane will feature Darius Bradwell, a junior who accumulated 1,000-yards and 9 touchdowns this year while the Rajun Cajuns counter with a future Sunday running back, Trey Ragas, a sophomore who had seven 100-yard games this season. Louisiana-Lafayette is coming off a loss to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt title game
Pat’s Pick: Tulane gives up too many big plays and will dig themselves in a hole they just can’t climb out of. Louisiana is 9-4 against the spread this season, and although they should win this outright, it never hurts to have a 3-point crutch.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl (Las Vegas, NV)
#21 Fresno State (-4.5) vs Arizona State
Reason to watch: Herm Edwards is back, and in his first season back on the sidelines he has Arizona State in a bowl game against the 21st ranked Bulldogs of Fresno State. Edwards surprised everyone with a win over then ranked Michigan State, Utah and USC, and capped off a memorable fall with a 1-point win over the rival Wildcats from the University of Arizona. Eno Benjamin is a solid pro prospect in his backfield, but he will need the best game of the season against the 2nd best defense in the country, one that allows less than 14-points per game. The ‘Dogs are riding high coming off an overtime conference win on the road at Boise State, and will carry that momentum into the Las Vegas Bowl. Quarterback Marcus McMaryion is a stud passer who accumulated over 3,500 yards this season.
Pat’s Pick: Fresno State can score, putting up more than 30 points in 7 games this season, and they can be a real pain-in-the-ass on defense, surrendering less than 21 points in all but one game. This is an easy bet, take the Bulldogs giving -4.5 as they win this by a touchdown or two.
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, AL)
Georgia Southern (-1) vs Eastern Michigan
Reason to watch: Georgia Southern ended the season strong, outscoring their last two opponents by a combined score of 76-31, and they did it on the ground with 685 rushing yards. Wesley Fields is a career 3,000-yard back and will be playing in his 47th and final game for the Eagles. His offensive line is big, and they can move the line of scrimmage with ease to open running lanes for him. Eastern Michigan won their last 3 games and defensive lineman Maxx Crosby is a big reason why. The first team All-Mac member led the conference in sacks for the second year in a row and he will be a headache for the Eagles to game plan against.
Pat’s Pick: Georgia Southern was 2-10 last season and has a chance to go 10-3 this year. It will be a storybook ending as they complete the improbable season and win this game outright by at least a field goal. Feel comfortable giving a lone point on the line and take Georgia Southern.
R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (New Orleans, LA)
Middle Tennessee vs Appalachian State (-7)
Reason to watch: One of collegiate football’s most successful passers over the last decade, Brent Stockstill, will take his snaps under center in his 44th and final game for Middle Tennessee. The senior is in the top-20 for most passing touchdowns in FBS history and needs just one more score to pass Marcus Mariota on that list. Should he have a 3-touchdown game in the New Orleans Bowl, he would jump over Char Pennington and Tajh Boyd in the record books. Former head Coach of Appalachian State Scott Satterfield is busy cleaning up the mess that is the Louisville Cardinals, and left behind the Mountaineers as a touchdown favorite in this one. Quarterback Zac Thomas made headlines earlier this season when he tossed for 300-yards in an overtime loss to Penn State. The Sun Belt offensive player of the year will lead his team against an average defense that can be beat by the long ball.
Pat’s Pick: Satterfield boarded his plane to Louisville the same weekend the bowls were announced, leaving his team very little time to prepare without him. The Mountaineers miss him in this one as Stockstill and the Raiders go out on top. Take Middle Tennessee getting 7 points and if you feel frisky hit them on the money line too as an underdog.
Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl (Boca Raton, FL)
UAB (-1.5) vs Northern Illinois
Reason to watch: UAB is back, the team who wasn’t even a team two years ago, is bowling in December as the reigning Conference USA champions. 4-years after cutting the program completely, the Blazers won 10-games and will take on a solid Northern Illinois team in the Boca Raton Bowl. To cap off a miraculous season, they will rely on running back Spencer Brown who set a school record with 16 touchdowns this year. Northern Illinois started 1-3 but pulled it together down the stretch, going 7-2 the rest of the way, including a road win against BYU and a last-second win to secure the MAC title against Buffalo. They don’t have a standout star on offense, but they spread the love throughout all their skill players.
Pat’s Pick: UAB wins this bowl game by a field goal or more, and Disney holds auditions to play Blazer’s coach Bill Clark in this made-for-TV movie. Take the Blazers giving a point plus.
DXL Frisco Bowl (Frisco, TX)
San Diego State vs Ohio (-3.5)
Reason to watch: San Diego State was a sexy pick to win the Mountain West this season and when the calendar turned to November, they were sitting at 7-2 with quality wins over Boise State, Arizona State and Eastern Michigan, but a 3-game losing skid to end the season dropped the Aztecs into the DXL Frisco Bowl. Their match to be beat is simple, when they hold opponents to under 21 points, they went 7-0. When they allowed 21 or more, they went 0-5. Ohio will like that blue print to beat the Aztecs, as they averaged 41 points per game. A majority of their success comes on the ground with AJ Ouellette, the Bobcat 5th year senior who averaged 150 yards over the last 5 contests. He also has an impressive average of 10 yards per carry.
Pat’s Pick: This game is all about Ouellette and his final runs as a Bobcat. The Aztecs don’t have the offense to win a shootout, and that is evident here as Ohio cruises to a bowl celebration. Give the points 3.5 points confidently and take Ohio for a nice win.
Bad Boys Mowers Gasparilla Bowl (Tampa, FL)
Marshall (-3) vs South Florida
Reason to watch: Not only will this game be fun to hear the announcers verbally trip over the name of this Bowl game, but it should be a hell of a back and forth match-up. Marshall’s Isaiah Green and USF’s Blake Barnett will capture the headlines of a quarterback duel that likely goes up to the final possession. Green has a strong arm and is not afraid to take chances down the field (as evidence of his ten picks), while much traveled Blake Barnett is a few completions away from a 2,500-yard season. The Alabama and Arizona State transfer has had an up and down season and enters the Gasparilla Bowl with 11 touchdown passes and 11 picks. The Bulls started 7-0 and held a spot in the top 25 rankings, but then went on to lose the final 5 games of the season by giving up an average of 40 points.
Pat’s Pick: Marshall has won their last 6 bowls and they get the offense going early in this one. They have the better defense and will force Barnett into 4th quarter mistakes that cost the Bulls the bowl. Take Marshall -3.
Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl (Nassau, Bahamas)
FIU vs Toledo (-7)
Reason to watch: Congrats to the Panthers and the Rockets because their rewards for a winning season is a trip to the Bahamas. FIU got here with an offense that averaged 35ppg, led by QB James Morgan, who set the Panthers single-season record with 26 touchdown passes. The Panthers have now won 8 games in consecutive seasons, but the University has never won 9 before. That school record is on the line here which will supply plenty of motivation. Toledo counters with an offense that scored more than 50-points 6 times this season. Bryant Koback is a home-run hitting running back that can score from anywhere on the field. He averages 6.5 yards per carry and accumulated 13 scores on the season.
Pat’s Pick: Toledo’s defense is bad. 110th in the country bad and they give up 430 yards per game. You can’t give 7 points on the books with a defense like that. Give me FIU +7 in the Bahamas.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise, ID)
Western Michigan vs BYU (-12)
Reason to watch: Don’t watch this one if you are looking for a defensive battle as there will be lots of points in this one. The Broncos from Western Michigan feature a pair of star running backs in LeVante Bellamy and Jamauri Bogan who have accounted for 1,874 yards and 21 touchdowns. The BYU Cougars were up and down this season and finished with an even 6-6 record. Freshman Zach Wilson took over as the starter a month ago and sparked the offense. He doesn’t commit many turnovers but will be forced to make big plays as their running game tends to disappear.
Pat’s Pick: The Broncos +12 is a solid bet. They might even win this outright.
Jared Birmingham Bowl (Birmingham, AL)
Memphis (-6) vs Wake Forest
Reason to watch: Memphis Running back Darrell Henderson is the reason you must tune in. The future NFL stud has racked up a nation’s best 2,332 all-purpose yards, and if he were playing in a Power-5 conference, he would be in New York for the Heisman presentation. He rushed for more than 130 yards in 9 games and passed the 200-yard mark 4 times. He has also scored in all but 1 game this year. Wake Forest had a real up and down year, but they enter the bowl season coming off a 59-7 win against Duke. Sophomore receiver Greg Dortch is the real deal, pulling in 1,078 yards and 8 touchdowns this season and is one of the most exciting pass catchers in football.
Pat’s Pick: Wake Forest tends to let things get out of hand defensively, and this is the case in the Jared Birmingham Bowl. Darrell Henderson will have a historical day and break the bowl record for rush yards (150), rushing touchdowns (3) and longest run from scrimmage (60). Memphis by at least a touchdown here, so feel just fine giving up 6 points.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Fort Worth, TX)
Houston vs Army (-3)
Reason to watch: Houston Defensive lineman Ed Oliver would be reason enough to watch this game, but he isn’t playing as he is getting ready for the NFL draft and quarterback E’riq King is injured, so he won’t be playing either. Offensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio was recently fired from the Cougars staff, so he won’t be present either. So why will you watch this game with so many missing pieces for Houston? Army’s triple option, that’s why. The Black Knights are at the top of the country in time of possession, red zone scoring and rushing yards. Going up against a defense without their star, or their coordinator, is going to be fun for Army’s Kelvin Hopkins Jr and Darnell Woolfolk. These two combined for over 1,600 yards and 24 touchdowns. Fun fact, Army’s top receiver, Jordan Asberry has just 9 catches.
Pick: Army’s defense is solid. They allow less than 18 points per game and held the country’s best scoring offense, Oklahoma, to just 28. The Knights get it done here by more than a field goal, so take Army, give the points, and watch as they control the clock and secure your payout.
Dollar General Bowl (Mobile, AL)
Buffalo (-3) vs Troy
Reason to watch: Buffalo was a MAC contender this year and put together a solid 10-win season on the shoulders of quarterback Tyree Jackson. He threw for almost 3,000-yards and 27 touchdowns and led a unit that put up over 35 points per game. The Troy Trojans will aim to win their 10th game of the season and will need a big night from BJ Smith on the ground to achieve that. In the 5 games this junior rushed for over 100-yard, the Trojans went 4-1.
Pat’s Pick: This should be a close game, and Buffalo is better suited to win a tight one. Give me the Bulls -3.
SoFi Hawai’i Bowl (Honolulu)
Louisiana Tech vs Hawaii (-1.5)
Reason to watch: Hawaii’s Cole McDonald had a sophomore campaign that landed him top-5 in the nation with 3,790 passing yards, and top-7 with 35 touchdowns. He is just 210 yards away from a 4,000 season. The Rainbow Warriors had a gritty year, winning two games in overtime (including a 5OT thriller against SJSU), and had it not been for a 4-game losing skid in October, they would have been right in the mix for the Mountain West crown. Louisiana Tech is not nearly as solid offensively as Hawaii, but defensively they can change the game. This season they allowed just 23 points per game and lineman Jaylon Ferguson led the nation with 15 sacks.
Pat’s Pick: Defensive rarely wins bowl games, and thus is the case here as Hawaii wins a home bowl game by a few scores. Giving 1.5 points is nothing for the Rainbow Warriors here.
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