Christmas Cash: A Bettor's Guide to the College Bowl Games

Brian Scott@@mancaveradioshoAnalyst IDecember 19, 2008

With all the prognosticating going on for the upcoming bowl games, I thought it might be fun to handicap these games using the latest information from Las Vegas.  Below you will find each bowl game, the participants, the spread, how the public is betting, and my picks and analysis. 

Remember, you're getting this for free so don't send me hate mail if you lose a few!

All of the following information is updated through the time this article was published:

Dec. 20

EagleBank Bowl

Wake Forest – 3 vs. Navy 

The public is on Wake Forest 57 percent to 43 percent.  The Midshipmen have had some impressive wins with their talented backs and the traditional option offense, but Deacon gunslinger Riley Skinner will wear down the Navy defense in the second half and pull away.  Look for Wake Forest to cover the field goal in this revenge match.

New Mexico Bowl

Colorado State + 3 vs. Fresno State

The public is on Fresno State 67 percent to 33 percent.  Colorado State has some impressive numbers on paper, but their record lacks any impressive wins.  Of Fresno State’s five regular season losses, three of them were by margins of less than three points.  The Bulldogs should cover the chalk comfortably.

magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl

Memphis + 14 vs. South Florida

The public is on South Florida 54 percent to 46 percent.  Matt Grothe is a great dual-threat quarterback; in fact he is also the leading rusher for the Bulls.  But South Florida’s frequent inability to play a full 60 minutes of football makes it hard for me to believe that they will beat Memphis by two touchdowns.  If the line falls to 10, then maybe; but Memphis and 14 is a good value here.

Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl 

BYU + 3 vs. Arizona Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, 8 p.m. ESPN

The public is on BYU 71 percent to 29 percent.  Max Hall has over 3,600 passing yards in the regular season as well as two receivers who hauled in over 1,000 receiving yards apiece. 

Arizona did finish strong by pounding Arizona State, and they held USC to a close game, but it seems that BCS/Pac 10 hubris is more responsible for the Wildcats being the favorites than their performance on the field. 

Don’t forget that BYU knocked off a couple of Pac-10 opponents of their own.  The points are a gift if you’re on the Cougars, and the public is responding in kind.

Dec. 21

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Southern Miss + 4.5 vs. Troy

The public is on Troy 76 percent to 24 percent.  Troy’s spread offense has been wildly successful this year, and it would have picked them up a win at LSU if they had been better conditioned. 

Larry Fedora’s first year at Southern Miss is making most people wonder why Jeff Bower was fired, but the proximity of Hattiesburg to New Orleans made good financial sense to extend this bowl bid to USM.  Troy will cover this chalk with plenty of room to spare.

Dec. 23

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Boise State +2.5 vs. TCU 

The public is on TCU 54 percent to 46 percent.  Usually when an undefeated team is getting points it’s a gift, but 2½ for Boise State is more like a stocking stuffer.  Here I have to disagree with the public and go with the Broncos.  When the line is less than three, I wouldn’t risk a lot, but this will be a close game and I think Boise State wins straight up.

Dec. 24

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii + 1 vs. Notre Dame

The public is on Notre Dame 59 percent to 41 percent.  Vegas isn’t giving much respect to Notre Dame only laying one to Hawaii, but it could be because of their inconsistency.  The Irish showed flashes of a being a decent team this year, but they finished weak. 

Hawaii hasn’t had any impressive wins this year either and is very undisciplined.  Look for the Domers to score a solid win even after the long flight.

Dec. 26

Motor City Bowl

Florida Atlantic + 6 vs. Central Michigan

The public is on Central Michigan 89 percent to 11 percent.  The Chippewas have had a good season on the arm of Dan Lefevour.  With the exception of Georgia, all of their losses have been very close games. 

While the fighting Schnellenbergers of FAU are scrappy for being a new program, and they are in the postseason for the second year in a row, they will simply be outmatched.  Central Michigan covers by at least a touchdown, probably more.

Dec. 27

Meineke Car Care Bowl

West Virginia -1.5 vs. North Carolina

The public is on West Virginia 54 percent to 46 percent.  Both teams are matched pretty evenly as far as their stats and records, but the star power edge has to go to West Virginia. 

Look for a low scoring ground game with a lot of defense.  The quick feet of Pat White and elusiveness of Noel Devine get it done over the Heels and the Mountaineers cover the small chalk.

Champs Sports Bowl

Wisconsin + 6 vs. Florida State

The public is on Florida State 87 percent to 13 percent.  The Badgers are generally very good against the spread, but this year has been the exception.  P.J. Hill has rushed for over 1,000 yards, but he can’t carry the whole team.  The Seminoles have started to find their groove again and will win by at least 10.

Emerald Bowl

Miami + 8 vs. California

The public is on California 71 percent to 29 percent.  Miami’s starting quarterback, Robert Marve, has been declared academically ineligible to play in the Emerald Bowl.  This will leave it up to the Hurricane defense to keep them in the game. 

Look for Cal running back Jahvid Best to have a big game against Miami’s struggling rush defense and carry the Bears to a big win.

Dec. 28

Independence Bowl

Northern Illinois -1 vs. Louisiana Tech

The public is on Louisiana Tech 70 percent to 30 percent.  Northern Illinois won just two games last season, but new head coach Jerry Kill has them in a bowl game in his first year at the helm. 

But this will be a home game for Louisiana Tech, and running back Daniel Porter will keep the chains moving for the Bulldogs.  Tech will win by a touchdown or more.

Dec. 29 Bowl

NC State +7 vs. Rutgers

The public is on Rutgers 53 percent to 47 percent.  For two teams that didn’t look like they were going anywhere near the postseason in October, they both finished strong and find themselves facing each other in a bowl game. 

NC State has shown that they can step up in big games (they’ve knocked off three ranked teams), but the experience of fifth-year Rutgers quarterback Mike Teel may be too much for the Wolfpack defense.  A close game makes this a head-scratcher, but if the line falls to -6.5 or below take Rutgers to win by a TD.

Valero Alamo Bowl

Missouri -12.5 vs. Northwestern

The public is on Missouri 71 percent to 29 percent.  A weak finish has made this a disappointing year for Heisman hopeful Chase Daniel, but that didn’t stop him from putting up over 4,000 passing yards in the regular season. 

Northwestern has been a pleasant surprise in a very weak Big 10 conference, but this will be the Chase Daniel show.  This is a lot of chalk to lay in the postseason, but Daniel is playing for the NFL scouts now and will win by at least two touchdowns.

Dec. 30

Roady's Humanitarian Bowl

Maryland +2 vs. Nevada 

The public is on Maryland 64 percent to 36 percent.  If you’re wondering why an ACC team is an underdog to a WAC team, you must not have seen a Nevada game this year. 

Dual-threat quarterback Colin Kaepernick is as exciting to watch as any QB in college football.  He also has two different running backs with over 1,000 yards rushing a piece in addition to over 1,000 yards receiving for WR Marko Mitchell. 

Maryland is no slouch, though, having beaten four ranked teams this season.  If the Terrapin defense can stop the multiple weapons of the Wolfpack, it will be a close game.  This is a coin toss, but I’ll go against the public and say that Nevada covers the deuce. 

Texas Bowl

Rice -2.5 vs. Western Michigan

The public is on Rice 76 percent to 24 percent.  The public is no doubt reacting to the stellar play of Rice quarterback Chase Clement.  But they should realize that Western Michigan quarterback Tim Hiller has almost identical numbers.  It will come down to the supporting cast and the defenses. 

Rice has two wide receivers with over 1,200 yards apiece while WMU’s passing defense was one of the worst in the nation going into the final stretch of the season.  Rice also has momentum having won their last six games.  This will ultimately be a home game for Rice and they’ll get it done, easily covering the deuce and a half.

Pacific Life Holiday Bowl

Oklahoma State -3 vs. Oregon

The public is on Oklahoma State 60 percent to 40 percent.  The Ducks finished strong winning their last three regular season games, but they lacked a real signature win this year. 

Oklahoma State, on the other hand, was a victim of circumstance having to play in the ridiculously talented Big 12.  Oregon will put up a respectable fight, but the Cowboys will ride on the saddles of Zac Robinson and Kendall Hunter and bring home the bacon.

Dec. 31

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl

Houston -3.5 vs. Air Force

The public is on Houston 74 percent to 26 percent.  This rematch will pin Air Force against one of the top offenses in the nation.  Houston quarterback Case Keenum has passed for over 4,700 yards this season despite running back Bryce Beal going for over 1,000 by himself. 

Air Force clipped the Cougars by a field goal when they met earlier this year, but the edge has to go to Houston this go-round, and they win by at least a touchdown.

Brut Sun Bowl

Oregon State -2.5 vs. Pittsburgh

The public is on Oregon State 52 percent to 48 percent.  Everybody remembers the impressive play of Jaquizz Rodgers in the Beavers' huge win over USC.  But upset-minded Dave Wannstedt and his Pittsburgh Panthers are bringing their own ground game with LeSean McCoy. 

This will be a close game that will come down to the rushing defenses and coaching.  Going along these lines I have to buck the public and take the “Fighting Wannstaches” in an upset.

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl

Boston College -3.5 vs. Vanderbilt

The public is on Boston College 74 percent to 26 percent.  After starting off 5-0, the Commodores only won one game in the rest of the season.  Contrast that with Boston College, who won their last four of the regular season only to get pounded at the Virginia Tech rematch in the ACC Championship game. 

While Vandy had a much tougher schedule to contend with, the Eagles have been playing like a more cohesive unit.  Look for the home team Vandy to keep it close until the fourth quarter, but then BC takes over and wins by a touchdown.

Insight Bowl

Kansas -9 vs. Minnesota

The public is on Kansas 68 percent to 32 percent.  Jayhawk gunslinger Todd Reesing might be one of the most unsung quarterback talents in the country.  But that could be that there were four Heisman hopefuls in his own conference. 

Still, Kansas didn’t have the magic they had in 2007, but they finished strong with a signature win over Missouri.  Minnesota, on the other hand, fell apart in the home stretch, losing their last four games.  The Golden Gophers are a solid team, but the public is right—Kansas wins this one going away.

Chick-fil-A (Peach) Bowl

LSU +3 vs. Georgia Tech

The public is on Georgia Tech 71 percent to 29 percent.  The public is no doubt knee-jerk reacting to Georgia Tech’s stunning upset of Georgia in the season finale. 

What they don’t realize is that Georgia’s defense was designed to cover a spread offense, not a triple option.  LSU is the opposite.  While the Tiger defense has struggled this year, they have performed their best against the rush.  Also, the portion of the public betting on the money line (straight up win) is taking LSU 97 percent to 3 percent. 

Now, personally I never bet on LSU…too emotional.  Georgia Tech is overconfident after their final two big wins, but LSU has had time to rest and regroup and will silence Tech’s home crowd in the Georgia Dome.

Jan. 1

Outback Bowl

South Carolina +3 vs. Iowa

The public is on Iowa 57 percent to 43 percent.  A strong start and a stronger finish is the best way to describe Iowa’s season.  South Carolina, on the other hand, has been a good team with poor consistency. 

When the two teams meet it will match the 11th- and 12th-ranked defenses in the nation.  On paper, Iowa should win, but a low-scoring match will make this a tough call.  If the Ol’ Ball Coach digs into his bag of tricks he could stop Iowa’s train from rolling.  But Iowa has more talent and offensive weapons.  To be safe, I would bet the under.

Capital One Bowl

Georgia -7.5 vs. Michigan State

The public is on Georgia 82 percent to 18 percent.  This is the highest payout of the non-BCS bowls, but the Georgia Bulldogs can’t help but wish they were heading farther down the highway to Miami.

Michigan State is watching plenty of tape, and they hope standout running back Javon Ringer can torment the Georgia defense the same way Georgia Tech did.  But the Bulldogs have plenty of tools on their belt, included NFL Matthew Stafford at QB and the always-exciting Knowshon Moreno in the backfield.  A great matchup but Georgia takes over in the second half and covers.

Konica Minolta Gator

Clemson -2.5 vs. Nebraska

The public is on Nebraska 52 percent to 48 percent.  First-year head coach Bo Pelini has turned the Huskers around while the Clemson program is in a bit of disarray. 

Tigers coach Tommy Bowden was fired (or resigned, depends on who you ask) earlier this season after it was clear he had lost the confidence of his team and the University.  Clemson still has plenty of talent, but they lack leadership.  Look for Pelini and Nebraska to pull the upset and win by a touchdown.

Rose Bowl

Penn State +9 vs. USC

The Rose Bowl continues to be one of the major stalwarts between college football and a playoff system, so here we go with another boring PAC-10 vs. Big 10 barn burner (yawn).  Joe Paterno continues to defy the odds of critics and life expectancy and has fielded another great Nittany Lion team this year. 

USC was picked to cruise through their easy schedule and land in the title game, but whoops, there goes Oregon State!  USC’s defense will keep Penn State out the end zone long enough to wear them down. And easily win the annual USC Bowl, again.

FedEx Orange Bowl

Cincinnati -2 vs. Virginia Tech

The public is on Virginia Tech 60 percent to 40 percent.  This BCS Bowl will match one the hottest coaches in college football against one the most respected coaches in college football. 

Cincinnati finished strong winning their final six games and clinching the Big East Championship.  Virginia Tech struggled a bit down the stretch but finished with a convincing win over Boston College to win the ACC. 

This Hokie team is experienced in big bowl games and will throw an all-out air and ground assault led by Tyrod Taylor.  Cincinnati is a good team but will find themselves outmatched and out coached.  The Hokies pull the upset.

Jan. 2

AT&T Cotton Bowl

Ole Miss +5 vs. Texas Tech

The public is on Texas Tech 71 percent to 29 percent.  In his first year at Ole Miss, Houston Nutt has put the Rebels back on the map and back in a bowl game for the first time since Eli Manning graduated. 

QB Jevan Snead has shown composure in the pocket despite having a supporting cast of virtual nobody’s.  Texas Tech is settling for a Cotton consolation prize instead of a Big 12 or national championship, stifled by Oklahoma. 

Every loss that Ole Miss suffered came against a team with a strong quarterback and conversely, every win came against teams with weak quarterbacks.  Ole Miss has a strong defensive line, but this Red Raider offensive line pushed Texas around, and they will push Ole Miss around. 

Graham Harrell will shred the Rebels' slow cornerbacks and make a statement in Dallas.  The Red Raiders will win by two touchdowns.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Kentucky +3 vs. East Carolina

The public is on East Carolina 66 percent to 34 percent.  ECU started out like a true BCS buster, knocking off two top-20 teams in their first two weeks of the season.  But they ran into some trouble in late September, derailing their BCS dreams. 

The Pirates finished strong, however, and landed in a good bowl game.  Kentucky started strong and finished weak, but they held Alabama and Georgia to close games.  This is a matchup of two teams that leave you guessing which of their personalities will show up in any given game, but I like the size and speed of Kentucky to pull this upset.

Allstate Sugar Bowl

Utah + 10 vs. Alabama

The public is on 88 percent to 12 percent.  I understand that Utah is a good team, but Alabama is a great team. 

For the third year in a row the Sugar Bowl gets stuck with a lopsided matchup that will be over at half time.  Hawaii was undefeated going into last year’s Sugar Bowl against Georgia and got destroyed.  The same fate awaits the Utes when they face Nick Saban and the Crimson Tide this year.  Bama will win by 21.

Jan. 3

International Bowl

Buffalo +4.5 vs. Connecticut

The public is on Connecticut 64 percent to 36 percent.  Turner Gill and the Buffalo Bulls have been a big story this year, and winning six of their last seven and a MAC championship.  UConn started their season 5-0 but lost five of their final seven. 

Buffalo’s Drew Willy has passed for over 3,000 yards and James Starks has rushed for over 1,300 on the ground.  But UConn has the top rusher in the nation Donald Brown, with over 1,800 yards. 

UConn also has a stingy defense that could force Willy to do it all on his own—a position he has been comfortable with.  I see Buffalo keeping it within a field goal or pulling the upset, making the 4½ points a real value.

Jan. 5

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl

Ohio State +8 vs. Texas

The public is on Texas 68 percent to 32 percent.  Texas will have to get over the fact that they were screwed out of a national title appearance and focus on an improved Buckeye squad. 

But the Texas defense will be ready for Terrell Pryor and Beanie Wells.  Colt McCoy and company will put on an air show that will burn the OSU defensive backs much like LSU did last year.  Texas is a national championship caliber team and will deliver another embarrassing postseason loss to the Buckeyes.  Longhorns cover easily.

Jan. 6


Tulsa + 2.5 vs. Ball State

The public is on Ball State 53 percent to 47 percent.  This might be the best matchup of the entire bowl season.  Both teams have incredible offensive numbers due to outstanding quarterbacks and running backs. 

Ball State might have a slight edge by playing more consistent, at least until the Buffalo game.  But Tulsa is going to the GMAC Bowl for their second straight year. 

The departure of Ball State head coach Brady Hoke hasn’t affected the line on this game, but it’s hard to believe that it won’t take an emotional toll on the players.  I think it will be a high-scoring but close game with a lot of lead changes, but Ball State pulls it out by at least a field goal.

Jan. 8

FedEx BCS National Championship Game

Florida -3 vs. Oklahoma

The public is on Florida 53 percent to 47 percent.  This could be the most exciting national championship game since the USC vs. Texas game in 2005(6).  The game has it all—two Heisman Trophy winning quarterbacks, two high-powered offenses, two coaches that will have been to the title game more than once, and two identical records (12-1). 

The injury gods have smiled on Florida more so than Oklahoma, however.  Florida’s Percy Harvin is expected to be healthy enough to play in the title game while Oklahoma’s DeMarco Murray sustained a season-ending injury this week.  This will put more pressure on Sam Bradford to carry the load in the backfield, but his performance in that capacity earned him college football’s top honor in New York City last weekend. 

Tim Tebow has been playing like a warrior since the loss to Ole Miss earlier this season, and his Gators have destroyed everyone in their path since—even beating No. 1 Alabama in the SEC Championship game by 11 points. 

Another high-scoring game, but the mighty SEC and their unmatched speed will win the day.  Florida wins by six and joins LSU as the only teams with two BCS national championships.

I hope this guide helps you pick up a little extra Christmas cash, but if not don’t blame me—gambling is illegal anyway!

I would also like to thank for providing the public wagering data used in this article!

Happy bowling to all, and to all a great offseason!


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