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The eight bowl-eligible schools are misleading. It is a solid team that won at both North Carolina and South Carolina, and its lone loss came against a triple-option offense Georgia Southern in windy conditions. The Mountaineers did lose head coach Eliah Drinkwitz to Missouri, but the school promoted offensive line coach Shawn Clark to head coach.
He is not the interim coach, so that bodes well for stability and avoiding potential distractions. It's a big number, but App State was ATS this season when favored by double digits, so the Mountaineers can certainly handle it. I have faith in a blowout, much like we saw in UAB's loss in its conference title game. This season, the Knights are and playing in the Gasparilla Bowl, and they could be in for a letdown.
However, UCF could come out with a vengeance in nearby Tampa and make a statement. UCF has a significant edge on offense, with plenty of explosive playmakers, and the Knights were No. Marshall comes in No. Steele : Most bowls have a split crowd, but Hawai'i will be playing in its home stadium.
Wilson missed four games midseason but has returned to form. Hawai'i lost twice at Boise, including in the Mountain West title game. Hawai'i is straight-up and ATS in this bowl. In its past six regular-season games, Hawai'i averaged yards per game rushing, and the offensive line allowed just 22 sacks on pass attempts. BYU's defense has recorded just 12 sacks. Hawai'i beat two Pac teams at home this season, and BYU is just as a favorite this season.
Kezirian: Who doesn't love betting the Hawai'i Bowl? It is an "island game" pun intended , serving as your lone college football action on Christmas Eve. On that merit alone, it often finds a way into your betting portfolio, but I still think there is value on BYU's offense.
The Hawai'i defense ranks rd out of schools in defensive efficiency. The Warriors played better down the stretch, but I am going to chalk that up to facing weak offenses. This is still a defensive unit that can get torched by BYU. I also think Hawai'i should score and considered the game total over, but I am slightly more confident in isolating BYU's team total.
There is a chance that BYU's physicality could bother Hawai'i, much like we saw Boise State do in the Mountain West title game when the Warriors mustered only 10 points. Steele: Sometimes a bowl game just comes down to motivation, and this one appears to be clear. Miami came off a bad loss to FIU and the next week managed just 57 yards in the second half in a loss to Duke. The Hurricanes are already down multiple players, as two defensive ends and wide receiver Jeff Thomas have announced they will skip the bowl, and more could follow.
Offensive lineman Navaughn Donaldson will also miss the game with an injury. Miami figures to have a handful of fans make the 1,mile trip, while Louisiana Tech fans have a short drive. Louisiana Tech has options on offense, and Skip Holtz is a perfect straight-up in bowl games with the Bulldogs, including a win over Illinois in Play this game in September and I am taking the Hurricanes by a couple TDs, but this game is in Louisiana, and a highly motivated Tech team has a great shot at pulling the upset.
Johnson: This is one of the more mind-boggling spreads to me in bowl season. Anybody that has been doing projections throughout the season knows this number is way too low. Even those that don't do their own numbers recognize this line to be low. So how do you quantify the motivation levels of a Miami team coming off of a disappointing season?
The market seems to believe it is worth roughly six points relative to my projection Miami The Hurricanes dropped six games this season, but five were one-score games and they were dealing with a quarterback shuffle for a good portion of the season. Miami actually beat five bowl teams, and now they go up against a Louisiana Tech squad that faced the st strength of schedule yes, st; there were FCS programs that played tougher competition this year.
The Hurricanes have a few position players on the offensive side of the ball that are questionable, but I'm still getting a defense that ranked No. If they no-show, then so be it. But I'm trusting the numbers and betting the Canes. Steele: Pitt is the stronger team and has a significant edge on defense. Pitt was a power-running team last year and averaged 5. Pitt's defense, led by defensive tackle Jaylen Twyman , has 49 sacks, while the Eagles' defense has only 19 sacks.
For my bowl confidence contest, I am high on Pitt winning this game, but I like Eastern Michigan against the spread. Steele: Mack Brown did a great job in his first year back in Chapel Hill taking over a team that was last season and getting them to a bowl.
North Carolina is an underrated team, as all six losses were by seven points or fewer, and the Tar Heels faced 10 Power 5 teams and Appalachian State Temple faced just two Power 5 teams. I give a slight edge on defense to Temple but a large edge on offense to North Carolina. While the Tar Heels average yards above their opponent's average, Temple's offense averages 26 yards per game fewer than opponents allow. The clincher is Brown is in bowl games and Rod Carey is Steele: Michigan State enters this game needing a win to avoid a losing season.
Just like last year, the Spartans have a solid defense that allows only yards per game, but they have struggled to run the ball 3. Wake opened the year , but wide receiver Scotty Washington missed the past four games, wide receiver Sage Surratt missed the past three and the Demon Deacons lost three of their last four.
Surratt is out, and both Washington and quarterback Jamie Newman are questionable. Wake Forest was ranked only 83rd on defense, allowing foes 19 yards per game above their season average. Michigan State took on the tougher schedule, but I can't trust that offense getting over a field goal.
Dave Clawson is a perfect straight-up in bowls at Wake. Anyone who read this column during the regular season knows I faded Sparty as often as possible. I had high expectations for this team and actually played their season win total over but jumped ship early once their offensive ineptitude crystallized. The Spartans rank th in the nation in yards per play and 78th in offensive efficiency.
I also think Wake Forest's style will serve as an advantage. The Demon Deacons averaged Of course, all of this is contingent on Newman. The star quarterback is questionable with a right leg injury but is currently listed as the starter on the depth chart. I am optimistic he plays.
Johnson: Wake Forest quarterback Jamie Newman is expected to start, but he's still technically questionable for the game. He has more upside than backup Sam Hartman , but Hartman has plenty of games under his belt and started the majority of the games last season. The Demon Deacons finished the season averaging eight yards per pass attempt and rank 16th in passing success rate.
I don't put much into the coaching matchup in this particular game because I'm still a Mark Dantonio believer, but the tone surrounding the Michigan State program as of late certainly isn't a positive one, and Dave Clawson has led Wake Forest to three straight bowl wins.
I'm fine with seeing a fourth or at the very least a close game that gets us a cover. Isaiah Spiller has done well to fill a void at running back yards rushing , and quarterback Kellen Mond is a dangerous dual-threat player. Despite facing three of the top offenses in the country, the Aggies' defense held opponents to 78 yards per game below their season average. Oklahoma State has an average defense and is led on offense by Chuba Hubbard , the nation's leading rusher.
Quarterback Spencer Sanders missed the final two games, and the Cowboys' offense averaged just yards and 18 points per game over that span. There is a chance Sanders could return, but the Cowboys will be without top receiver Tylan Wallace , who was lost for the year after Week 8. The Aggies are in Houston for this, so they should have a solid crowd edge and use this as a springboard for Steele: I find it challenging to pick a side in this game, so I will focus on the total.
Iowa has been an under team most of the year and has held opponents to 81 yards per game below their season average. Only three quarterbacks Iowa has faced this year rank in the top 20 in pass efficiency, and those teams averaged yards vs. Iowa, while the other nine foes put up yards per game. The Trojans averaged They have an elite wide receiver corps and put up 30 points against a tough Utah team.
USC's defense, however, has been plagued by injury and is allowing opponents 13 yards above their season average while giving up 34 points per game the last four games. Basically, if you add up a team's postgame win expectancy figures, you end up with an expected win total. For some teams, expected and actual win totals can differ drastically, which suggests that regression to the mean is coming at some point.
Said regression probably isn't going to start in bowls, though. This trend applies to Iowa-USC, among a few others. Iowa's second-order win total was 7. USC's win total eight , meanwhile, was slightly below its projected 8. So let's ride with Iowa here and see what happens. Kezirian: This comes down to the eye test, and simply put, the Trojans have far superior talent. While I have been impressed with Iowa at times this season, the Hawkeyes still have too many limitations for my liking.
I don't see a scenario where they keep up with USC's speed on offense. The Trojans ranked 14th in the nation with 6. USC ranks 12th in the nation in offensive efficiency, and now has had a few more weeks to groom true freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis. He took over midseason and seemingly has improved every single game.
Additionally, USC figures to have avoided significant distractions with its coaching staff. The university decided to bring back head coach Clay Helton, and offensive coordinator Graham Harrell is also returning after flirting with Texas and other suitors. He is a major reason for Slovis' development, and overall the situation bodes well for USC in this bowl game.
Johnson: My projection for the total in this matchup is USC ranked eighth in offensive success rate fielding one of the best -- if not the best -- wide receiver units in the country. On the other side, Iowa graded out 40th in success rate after adjusting for strength of schedule, which probably surprises people. It's obviously tough going up against Big Ten defenses week after week, but the Hawkeyes were more efficient moving the ball than it appeared.
Their problem was head coach Kirk Ferentz's conservative play-calling and decision-making. Iowa led the nation in field goal attempts per game 2. The Hawkeyes seemingly shut it down and played for the field goal every time they got into the red zone, and I need two hands to count the times I was screaming at the screen when Ferentz kicked on 4th-and-1 this year.
Well, the Iowa offense gets a breath of fresh air seeing a banged-up USC defense that ranked th in success rate. The only defense the Hawkeyes saw that ranked worse this season was Rutgers th. I anticipate the Hawkeyes and Ferentz convert a few more drives into touchdowns in this matchup, and while their defense ranked top in most metrics, they have to go up against an offense that rates better than the majority of teams they faced.
I'll be rooting for points. Steele: When a pure passing team takes on an option team, I usually go with the over, as neither team can imitate the other teams' offense anywhere near the level of what they are facing. This is that type of matchup and has some key numbers that back the over. Washington State has struggled to stop the run, allowing 4. Air Force has a solid defense, but the Achilles' heel is pass defense, where it ranks just No.
The last team with the ball wins. Kezirian: Will Air Force punt? I'm honestly not sure it will. Wazzu has a horrendous defense th in defensive efficiency. It ranks rd in YPP allowed and th in rushing yards allowed per attempt 5. The Falcons should carve up this suspect defense with chunk plays and minimal resistance.
The Cougars have a powerful offense and they could pull off the win, so I feel more comfortable opting for the Air Force team total. Johnson: I won't overthink this one with my projection coming in at The fact that Washington State's rush defense ranks th in adjusted line yards, th in stuffed rate and th in opponent yards per rush now face a nearly unstoppable Falcons option attack is enticing. Air Force's rushing attack ranks No. The same advantage that the Falcons have in the running game the Cougars have through the air on offense.
Their Air Raid led the country in passing against the 46th toughest schedule, and the Falcons' pass defense ranked 77th despite facing a schedule that ranked only 88th. This is a battle of strengths versus weaknesses on both sides of the ball, and it pushed me over the edge with my projection higher anyway. This year I called for a season, and again the Irish performed as I expected.
You could make the argument that this year's squad is just as good as last year's team. Last year the Irish defense held opponents to 66 yards per game below their season average, and this year it is even better at 86 yards per game below.
Notre Dame has averaged 4. Iowa State running back Breece Hall had just 84 yards rushing after five games, but took control of the job and rushed for yards over the final seven contests. Iowa State faced six bowl teams this year and went in those games, with the lone win a two-point victory over Texas.
I expect Notre Dame to win the game, and the line is reasonable around a field goal. The Tigers didn't let me down. Quarterback Brady White was much improved, finishing No. Running back Patrick Taylor, who ran for 1, yards in , missed eight games, but Kenneth Gainwell stepped in and rushed for 1, yards and had yards receiving. Those two are joined by dangerous wide receivers Damonte Coxie and Antonio Gibson. Memphis allowed yards per game in conference play. Head coach James Franklin is in bowl games and will face off against Ryan Silverfield, who had the interim tag removed and will be coaching his first game as Memphis' permanent head coach.
In the four-team playoff history, the Group of 5 team is straight-up in New Year's Six bowl games. In the Cotton Bowl, Wisconsin was a 7-point favorite and won by eight points to cover, and I will call for a similar result here. The Broncos had three MAC losses on the road by just 5. However, the Broncos' defense did allow foes 27 yards per game above their season average despite the presence of MAC defensive player of the year Treshaun Hayward.
WKU had few expectations coming in but went , pulling five upsets along the way, including a rout of Arkansas. WKU's defense held opponents to 61 yards per game below their season average. This game is a toss-up in my power ratings, so I will take the underdog. Steele: Louisville has some breakaway threats on offense in quarterback Micale Cunningham 20 passing TDs, six rushing TDs , running back Javian Hawkins 1, yards rushing and wide receiver Tutu Atwell 1, yards receiving.
The rest of the edges and the matchup favor Mississippi State. The Cardinals' defense allows opponents 56 yards per game above their season average, which is No. Louisville allows 5. Mississippi State did allow opponents 29 yards per game above their season average, but the Bulldogs were forced to suspend numerous defensive players throughout the year, with as many as five starters missing a game.
Mississippi State is trying to avoid a losing season and has played the tougher schedule. Steele: Illinois is but has been outgained by 90 yards per game this season. The Illini offense averages just 3. The defense allowed Big Ten opponents 70 yards per game above their average. The Illini trailed Michigan at the half, Wisconsin late third quarter and Michigan State in the fourth quarter but rallied for two wins.
Illinois has a plus turnover margin. Cal has some bad stats outgained by 62 yards per game , but there is a caveat. In games quarterback Chase Garbers started and finished, the Golden Bears were straight-up ATS and outgained opponents by 18 yards per game. Cal also has a better defense, with a top-notch secondary and linebacker Evan Weaver , who led the nation in tackles. The Bears have taken on the tougher schedule and figure to have the crowd edge playing in nearby Santa Clara.
Connelly : How much is a late-season hot streak worth to you? Cal won three of its last four games to finish , while Illinois reached bowl eligibility in the mad comeback win over Michigan State and then lost its last two. But neither team really changed all that much.
Cal, meanwhile, was 72nd at the beginning of November and 76th at the end. It's kind of wild, then, that the Golden Bears are nearly touchdown favorites. So let's hope that Vegas is mis-identifying two momentum swings here and, despite the favorite-friendly 6.
The Gators looked stronger on offense once Kyle Trask took over at quarterback, and the defense, which suffered numerous injuries during the year, still held opponents to just total yards per game and has most of its key players back. Virginia allowed just total yards per game over the first eight games, but yielded yards per game over the past five after the secondary was struck by injuries.
Virginia's offense relies on quarterback Bryce Perkins , who is the team's leading rusher and passer. Last year the Gators blasted Michigan in their bowl game. They will be looking to make a statement for next year and have large edges on both sides of the ball.
Florida's last three wins have come by an average of 32 points. Steele: Kentucky was when it lost its starting quarterback but went after Lynn Bowden Jr. Despite defenses knowing the Cats were going to run, UK's top-notch offensive line helped paved the way for yards per game rushing in those seven games. And the Cats' defense held SEC foes to just yards per game. Virginia Tech was coming off a blowout home loss to Duke when it made a quarterback switch to Hendon Hooker.
In his seven starts, the Hokies went and averaged I expected big things from the Tech defense this year, but it was not until it dedicated the Wake Forest game to long-time defensive coordinator Bud Foster that the unit started to play to its potential. In the past four games Tech allowed just yards per game, holding opponents to yards per game below their season average. Foster knows how to stop the option, and I look for the defense to play inspired ball.
Steele: I was initially looking at the over here, but running backs Cam Akers and Eno Benjamin both announced they are leaving early for the draft and sitting this one out. Arizona State will also be without wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk , who opted to prepare for the draft. Florida State quarterback James Blackman had his ups and downs this year but finished the season strong and has a top-notch wide receiver in Tamorrion Terry.
The Seminoles do play hard for interim head coach Odell Haggins, who will be retained by new head coach Mike Norvell. If you are a real fan of college football, once all the bowl matchups are announced, you are absolutely giddy with excitement. For bowl game nuts like yours truly, this is a perfect time of year.
Stupid, right? But thanks to technology, the ability to record and watch later is a blessing on this end. Yes, but probably not what you would think. The methodology is basically the same for oddsmakers at betting websites. What matters is what you know and can find. Because the last two months of any season is 95 percent conference games, it can be easy to fall in love with one you follow closely. Because these are nonconference clashes, you need to find how each team did in the nonconference, understand their strengths and weaknesses, say at quarterback or in the secondary, to have a knowledgeable feel.
Along the same line, when we get deeper in the bowl season, some conferences will have a good or bad postseason, and that can become a valuable tip. Back when we had 25 or fewer bowl games, this was a definite trend to follow. Now with 40 or more bowls, the number of coaches moving on being fired is higher and its overall impact has been diminished. Needless to say, it is never a positive, particularly if the opponent comes in playing their best football of the season. Frankly, this bothers former coaches and former players more than it does a player's teammates.
Not an issue for making college football picks. This is a tricky aspect of betting college games. There is a common assumption that when a team is not playing in the bowl game that they aspired to, they are lacking in motivation. Instead, consider this one part of the equation and match it with another.