B/R College Football 2021 Betting Locks with Adam Kramer: Bowl Season Part 1

Adam Kramer@kegsneggsNational College Football Lead WriterDecember 15, 2021

BYU wide receiver Samson Nacua (45) and his teammates celebrate after their NCAA college football game against Idaho State Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021, in Provo, Utah. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
Rick Bowmer/Associated Press

Betting on the bowl season is difficult, and it isn't getting any easier.

Let's not sugarcoat it. Instead, amid the opt-outs, interim coaches and programs in transition, let's embrace all the moving variables and view the next few weeks as a tremendous betting opportunity.

Locks of the Week is simply happy for a fresh start after a rough final week of the season. And because the bowl season is so robust, picks will be coming at you across multiple installments over the next few weeks. 

This week, Part 1 features bowl games that will be played between Friday, December 17, and Tuesday, December 21. That's 11 games to choose from, which is more than enough to pick some winners. 

We'll be delivering installments every week until the season ends.

Let us begin.


Independence Bowl: BYU (-7) vs. UAB

Ashley Landis/Associated Press

I get a sense that I won't be alone on this bet, and I am perfectly fine with that. While I often shy away from a crowd, I have no problem embracing it in the Independence Bowl. 

BYU is good. In fact, the Cougars were one of the best stories of the regular season that no one seems to want to talk about. And although they failed to cover the spread in the final two games, they still managed 10 wins despite playing some quality opponents. 

If you're a Pac-12 team, chances are you lost to BYU.

UAB closed out its season with three wins in four games and four straight covers. Under Bill Clark, who brought the program back from the dead, the Blazers have become consistent and quite good. 

The issue, however, is the difference in talent and speed between these two teams is somewhat significant. And while I love what Clark has done, BYU is a cut above. 

Cougars by double digits.


Frisco Bowl: San Diego State (+2.5) vs. UTSA 

Ashley Landis/Associated Press

Let's address the elephant in the room. The last time we saw San Diego State play football, it did not go well. 

The Aztecs lost 46-13 to Utah State in the Mountain West Championship Game as nearly a touchdown favorite. The offense struggled, the defense didn't have a chance, and even special teams, which has been dominant, was off. 

That changes in the Frisco Bowl against UTSA. The Roadrunners lost just one game this season, which is remarkable. It's worth noting, however, that UTSA covered the spread just once in the last four games.

San Diego State wasn't any better down the stretch against the spread, although Brady Hoke's team ended the year with just two losses. 

The Aztecs defense, in particular, is ripe for a rebound. While this game likely won't feature an abundance of points, San Diego State will finish with more of them.


Boca Raton Bowl: Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky (Over 67.5) 

SAN ANTONIO, TX - DECEMBER 03: Western Kentucky Hilltoppers quarterback Bailey Zappe (4) looks to throw downfield during the football game between the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers and UTSA Roadrunners at the Alamodome on December 3, 2021 in San Antonio, T
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

There is a high probability that this football game gets weird, and it's one of the greatest compliments I can pay it. 

Western Kentucky finished the season with the nation's No. 2-ranked scoring offense. Quarterback Bailey Zappe, who threw for 56 touchdowns and more than 5,500 yards this season, is a big reason why.

The offense can score, and it can score quickly. And although Zach Kittley, the team's former offensive coordinator, is now at Texas Tech, this offense should still be plenty active. 

While Appalachian State totaled just 16 points in its last game against Louisiana, that output is in for a massive boost. Western Kentucky's defense was on the field a lot largely because the offense moves as quickly as it does, and the unit finished 90th in points allowed per game.

I expect this to be a perfect bowl game: competitive, high-scoring, eventful and roughly four hours long. While I lean toward Appalachian State overall, I'll keep my official pick on the over.

Let there be points.


New Orleans Bowl: Marshall (+5.5) vs. Louisiana

Wade Payne/Associated Press

This might be one of the more underrated bowl games on the calendar, and I implore you to dive headfirst into all it has to offer.

Fun fact: Each year, I watch the New Orleans Bowl and wrap presents for my children. It's a tradition of sorts, and I will be invested in this game much like I am each year.

Louisiana, of course, is coming off a sensational 12-1 season and Sun Belt championship. The year was so good that Florida hired former head coach Billy Napier to fill its vacancy. Michael Desormeaux, who was on Napier's staff, was named as his replacement.

Still, this is a disruption. And Marshall, which played much better in the second half of the season, should take advantage. The Thundering Herd won five of the last seven games to close out the year while covering the spread in four of those. 

At 7-5, Marshall certainly had its blips this year. But the team we saw late, with exception to the clunker against Western Kentucky, was a much different group. Expect the Thundering Herd to hang around and keep this one tight enough.


LA Bowl: Oregon State (-7) vs. Utah State 

EUGENE, OR - NOVEMBER 27: Oregon State Beavers TE Luke Musgrave (88) celebrates a touchdown score with Oregon State Beavers OL Nous Keobounnam (69), Oregon State Beavers QB Chance Nolan (10) and Oregon State Beavers TE Teagan Quitoriano (84) during a PAC-
Icon Sportswire/Getty Images

We already know how Utah State's season ended. It was indeed a spectacular performance against San Diego State. It was also a special season overall. The Aggies closed out the year by winning seven of the final eight games. They also covered the spread in six of those contests. 

So, why am I going the other direction in this game? Because Oregon State is both fun and talented, and both of those traits will be on display in this matchup. 

The Beavers' regular season ended with a 38-29 loss to Oregon. Along the way, though, we saw a team that was much improved, which was certainly evident in wins over Utah, Arizona State, USC and Washington. 

Look for similar, balanced output in this game. I respect Utah State's talent and season a great deal, but Oregon State is simply better overall.

The Beavers keep the momentum churning. 

Oregon State 35, Utah State 27.


Other Games on the Card 

BOISE, ID - JANUARY 3: Spuddy Buddy entertains the crowd at the end of second half action between the Nevada Wolf Pack and the Ohio Bobcats at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on January 3, 2020 at Albertsons Stadium in Boise, Idaho. Ohio won the game 30-21.
Loren Orr/Getty Images

New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State (-11.5) vs. UTEP: Fresno State has talent, which the line certainly speaks to. While UTEP enjoyed a hot start, it lost plenty of steam at the end of the year, losing four of the last five. Fresno State, meanwhile, closed with five wins in the last six. Bulldogs roll. 

Cure Bowl: Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois (Over 62.5): It wouldn't be a shock if this ends up being the highest-scoring affair of the games mentioned on the card. I'm looking forward to a fun back-and-forth matchup between two offenses that can really score when they're on. 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Kent State (+3) vs. Wyoming: This feels like a tricky matchup for Wyoming, which has struggled to score points throughout the year. Kent State rallies after a loss to Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game with a mild upset.


Odds via DraftKings and accurate as of Tuesday.

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