Ah, bowl season. No matter how much the College Football Playoff tries to devour the spotlight, there is something spectacular about these televised, bonafide football scrimmages.
This year, of course, is different in many ways. More than 15 bowl games have already been canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic and teams opting out, and there will likely be more in the days and weeks ahead.
But there will be games—and there will be a playoff—and Locks of the Week will cover the entire thing.
After a 3-5 week to close out the regular season, we enter the bowl season with an overall record of 44-46. Yuck.
Near the end of the year, we were leaking oil. A fresh start and a fresh slate of bowl games is an opportunity to deliver excellence with a clean slate of matchups.
With an assortment of games across a handful of weeks, here is the plan.
Locks of the Week will be broken up into (at least) two parts. To get started, we are choosing bowls between December 24 and December 30. Next week, we will expand our horizons to include New Year's Eve, the College Football Playoff and beyond.
The past in the past. The future is opportunity. With that delightfully corny bit of commentary, let's dive in. Here are the bowl selections (part one), using point spreads provided by DraftKings.
Hawaii vs. Houston (Over 60.5)
First, let us celebrate the return of college football to Christmas Eve. Its absence last season was noteworthy, and it feels good knowing that CFB is commandeering this space once again.
(The only bummer is that it's an afternoon game, but we'll take what we can get.)
It's also fitting that Hawaii will be featured given its football history on December 24. Only it's not the Hawaii Bowl; it's the New Mexico Bowl. And the game won't be played in New Mexico; it will be played in Frisco, Texas.
I like points, largely because I like both of these offenses. Houston hasn't played much of late because of COVID-19 cancellations, but I don't foresee that as an issue. Hawaii's offense is also good enough to score enough to help us reach the total.
The outcome might not be all that close, although that's no concern of ours.
Houston 45, Hawaii 24. Over.
Buffalo (-3.5) vs. Marshall
Oh, let the holiday theme continue. This game will be played on Christmas, giving you a college football game to curl up to in the afternoon.
At the moment, Marshall looks a bit broken. An impressive start to 2020 culminated with back-to-back losses against Rice and UAB. The 20-0 defeat against Rice was noteworthy largely because Marshall was a 24-point favorite.
Buffalo comes into this game licking its wounds as well. The Bulls were upset in their conference championship game as a 12-point favorite by Ball State. The potent rushing combo of Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks Jr. was finally slowed some, although I look at this as a blip more than anything else. The Thundering Herd certainly can play defense. But against the nation's No. 1 rushing attack, they will be tested.
My biggest reason for taking the Bulls? I just don't trust Marshall on offense right now.
Even if they slow down Buffalo, I'm not sure the Thundering Herd have the necessary juice necessary to win or cover.
Miami (+2) vs. Oklahoma State
The last time we saw Miami, it allowed North Carolina to score 62 points and rush for an astonishing 554 yards. As bad as it sounds, it looked even worse.
That's a strange place to start when it comes to picking a team that was just walloped, but I am all about transparency.
With that said, I see a bounce back for the Hurricanes in the Cheez-It Bowl. This is all but likely D'Eriq King's final game at the collegiate level, and I expect him to deliver in this final showcase.
Outside of its final game against Baylor, Oklahoma State was leaking oil down the stretch (much like my picks). While the Pokes are plenty talented to keep this game close—and I do believe this will ultimately end being up a close game—I just feel Miami is far more explosive.
Although Hurricanes defensive ends Jaelan Phillips and Quincy Roche have opted out, the defense will be better. I mean, it can't get much worse. There will still be plenty of points, though.
Miami 35, Oklahoma State 31. (Might as well take the over, too.)
Louisiana (-14) vs. UTSA
It's one of the larger point spreads of the bowl season, but that doesn't scare me. In fact, it speaks volumes to the size of the mismatch I think we have been served.
I really like Louisiana in the First Responder Bowl, and I think this game has the makings of a blowout.
Assuming the Ragin' Cajuns are up for the opponent—and that is a concern in a game like this—this could be lopsided.
That is not a knock on UTSA. The Roadrunners had a fine season and won their last three games. I just think Louisiana is an elite Group of Five opponent, and its 9-1 record says plenty. As does closing out the season by covering and winning the last three games.
This game won't generate a ton of buzz on the day after Christmas, but do yourself a favor and enjoy Louisiana if you haven't this year.
Fun team. Great season. It should culminate with a big win.
Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina (Over 59.5)
There will be points. That much I know. And the Cure Bowl has the makings of an absolute classic.
Liberty and Coastal Carolina were originally supposed to face one another on December 5, but a COVID-19 in Liberty's program forced Coastal Carolina to pivot to a game against BYU instead.
But it appears as though we're getting this matchup after all, which is a good thing.
Grabbing the baton from Louisiana are two of the best Group of Five programs in all of college football. Fun offenses led by two head coaches that will continue to draw interest from other programs this year and beyond.
While this has no impact on the total, I just want to highlight how good both of these teams have been against the spread. Coastal Carolina is 8-2-1 ATS; Liberty is 8-2 ATS. For those who have backed these teams all season, it's paid off.
I am banking on quarterbacks Malik Willis and Grayson McCall leading the charge. That was certainly the case all season, and I see that trend continuing.
Coastal Carolina wins, but it will not come easy. And along the way, expect lots of points.
Other Plays on the Card
Wisconsin (-6.5) vs. Wake Forest
It's been a weird, frustrating year for the Badgers. It began with a bang, but a COVID-19 outbreak halted that momentum, and then came the losses. I think we see the best, cleanest Wisconsin effort of the season and a double-digit win. Also, this is the Duke's Mayo Bowl. You have to bet it.
Oklahoma (+3) vs. Florida
I wonder how much the last few games have taken out of Florida. The losses against LSU and Alabama were vastly different, but there's certainly a weight to them both. Losing star tight end Kyle Pitts to the NFL draft doesn't help, either. Sooners outright in the Cotton Bowl.
Adam Kramer covers college football for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @KegsnEggs. Lines accurate as of 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.
If you or someone you know has a gambling problem, crisis counseling and referral services can be accessed by calling 1-800-GAMBLER (1-800-426-2537) (IL).
Gambling problem? Call 1-800-GAMBLER (NJ/WV/PA), 1-800-9-WITH-IT (IN), 1-800-522-4700 (CO), 1-800-BETS OFF (IA), or call or text the TN REDLINE: 800-889-9789 (TN).
21+. NJ/PA/WV/IN/IA/CO/IL/TN only. In partnership with Meadows Racetrack & Casino. Eligibility restrictions apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.