The 2013-14 college bowl season is in full swing, with a number of matchups in the rear-view and a handful of marquee contests on the horizon.
It’s one of the most exciting times of year for bettors, who have one last chance to back these elite programs and try to end the season with a few big wins against the spread.
Let’s take a look at a couple bowl wagers you aren’t going to want to miss out on in the coming weeks.
North Texas (-6.5) over UNLV
This is a bet you aren’t going to want to miss. You have a chance to start out the 2014 gambling year with a huge win by backing the Mean Green, so don’t skip out on the opportunity.
This New Year’s Day showdown between North Texas and UNLV in the Heart of Dallas Bowl is as lopsided as they come. With the favorite spotting less than a touchdown, it is a surefire way to win big.
Using Football Outsiders’ F/+ rankings—which are a way to measure meaningful possession efficiency—you can easily find that North Texas is the better team when it matters most.
The Mean Green finished the season at 8-4 and rank No. 49 in F/+, right in the same vicinity of 8-4 Minnesota and 10-2 Fresno State.
That is in stark contrast of the Rebels, who are found all the way down at No. 95. This ranking puts them in the same company as teams like 2-10 Colorado and 2-10 South Florida.
One reason why the Mean Green are valued so highly is their elite defense. This squad gave up just 18.1 points per game, making it the ninth team in the country at keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.
Which team will cover?
UNLV can’t say the same, as the defense concedes more points than the team have scored this year. The Rebels conceded 31.5 points per game and put up just 31.3, a disparaging stat that should immediately scare potential backers away.
Don’t get lured in by UNLV’s big season-ending win over San Diego State or the blowout against Air Force. This group is mediocre at best and will be exposed in a double-digit loss to North Texas.
Iowa (+7) over LSU
Not many would expect the Hawkeyes to beat the Tigers, but there is definitely a good chance of that happening in the upcoming Outback Bowl on New Year’s Day.
While the SEC has traditionally dominated this matchup against Big Ten foes—winning 11 of the last 18 matchups and three of the last four—things could be different in 2014.
The Hawkeyes are happy to be back in a bowl after failing to finish over .500 last year. They finished the 2013 campaign on a high note, winning three-straight and four of the last five.
While Iowa never managed to knock out a ranked opponent this year, it did score solid victories over Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa State and Northwestern.
Give the defense credit, as it ranks No. 7 overall in the nation and No. 11 in scoring defense, conceding just 18.8 points per game to the opposition.
Considering LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will be out due to a brutal knee injury suffered in the season finale against Arkansas, the Tigers will definitely struggle to put points on the board.
The Tigers have also lost three of their lost four bowl appearances and can’t seem to get it done in the postseason. Iowa is a much better playoff program lately, having gone 6-2 in the last eight bowl appearances.
It’s definitely going to be a slugfest and not the blowout that many expect when they see LSU vs. Iowa on paper. Expect the Hawkeyes to certainly cover the spread and possibly even pull the upset in this Outback Bowl showdown.