The 2013-14 college bowl season kicked off this past Saturday with the first four games of an expansive 35-game schedule that culminates with the BCS title game on Jan. 6. The first four bowls were tight matchups, with the largest spread being 4.5 points. However, as the action really starts to heat up, there are a couple of monster spreads on 5Dimes' current board. The following is a look at the top five point spreads for bowl games starting this Saturday, Dec. 28.
Saturday, Dec. 28: New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers vs. Notre Dame (-14)
Rutgers needed a victory over South Florida in its season finale just to become bowl eligible at 6-6 straight up ("SU"), and it was a costly 4-8 against the spread ("ATS") this year. The Scarlet Knights did cover as double-digit underdogs in losses to Fresno State and Louisville, but they were crushed by Central Florida 41-17 as 19.5-point road underdogs on Nov. 21.
The Fighting Irish went 8-4 SU this season, but they were only slightly better than Rutgers ATS at 5-6-1. They failed to cover in three of four games as a heavy favorite. Even more food for thought in this matchup is their 2-9 record ATS in their last 11 bowl games. The Scarlet Knights are 5-1-1 ATS in their last seven trips to a bowl.
Monday, Dec. 30: Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas vs. Oregon (-14)
Texas failed to cover in three of its final five games this season and has the added burden of playing this contest without its head coach, Mack Brown, who reluctantly stepped down earlier this month. The Longhorns have won an impressive 12 of their last 13 bowl games SU, but that sterling record will be put to the test.
The Ducks were in position to play for the national title as late as early November, but two SU losses down the stretch have relegated them to a secondary bowl instead. They have failed to cover in their last four outings after running their record to 7-1 ATS in their first eight games. The favorite has won four of the last five Alamo Bowls ATS, and given the current state of affairs with Texas, this could be a good trend to ride for this game despite Oregon’s current losing streak ATS.
Tuesday, Dec. 31: Chick-fil-A Bowl: Duke vs. Texas A&M (-13)
Duke is coming off one of its best seasons in school history at 10-3 SU, but what makes you want to grab the points in this matchup is an identical 10-3 record ATS. The Blue Devils will be stepping up in class as opposed to some of the teams they built that gaudy record around, but there is a ton of fight in a team that still thinks it has something to prove.
The Aggies and quarterback Johnny Manziel took a big step backwards this season after last year’s magical run, and they could be falling into the perfect trap in this game. They went 2-6 ATS in their final eight games of the season and come into this contest with a long history of letdowns in bowl games. The ACC has won three of the past four matchups SU against a SEC team in this bowl.
Wednesday, Jan. 1: Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Central Florida vs. Baylor (-16.5)
Central Florida came into the newly-formed AAC this year just looking to be competitive and it went on to run the table with a perfect 8-0 SU mark in conference play. The 11-1 Knights' only SU loss of the season was a 28-25 setback to No. 9 South Carolina as 6.5-point home underdogs. They are averaging 33.2 points per game on offense while holding teams to 19.6 points on defense.
Baylor comes into this year’s Fiesta Bowl with only one SU blemish on its record in what could have been a run all the way to the BCS title game. It went a profitable 9-3 ATS, so there should be a certain level of confidence laying this many points in this matchup. The Bears are 15-4 ATS in their last 19 games as double-digit favorites.
Thursday, Jan. 2: Allstate Sugar Bowl: Oklahoma vs. Alabama (-16)
Oklahoma has just two SU losses on the year and a 7-5 record ATS. It covered in four of its final five games of the season, but the one loss was a 41-12 beatdown at the hands of Baylor as a 16.5-point road underdog. The Sooners bounced back with a huge 33-24 season-ending victory over bitter rival Oklahoma State as 10-point underdogs on the road.
The Crimson Tide’s bid to play for another national title was dashed in a stunning loss to Auburn on a last-second return of a missed field goal. Despite the 11-1 SU (7-5 ATS) mark, you really have to wonder how much that single play has already taken out of this team. While Alabama could come back with a vengeance in this matchup, you have to believe that this game means more to the Sooners. If you remain on the fence as far as choosing a side, you may want to go with a play on the total line, which is set at 51.5 points. The total has stayed “under” in seven of the past 10 Sugar Bowls.