Betting the Bowls: Pre New Year’s Edition

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Christmas is behind us and we’ve slugged enough egg nog to tolerate our families through another holiday season. With New Year’s still a few days away we’re left with a healthy slate of bowl games to bet before 2012 comes to an end.  We can claim that the non BCS bowls hold as much intrigue as reruns of Seinfeld, but it’s stll our right to bet them as receklessly as we so choose. Having a gameplan and a few angles to make wise choices is of the utmost importance.

Rather than break down the X’s and O’s trying to explain how Team A will be able to exploit the 3-4 defense of team B with advanced scouting, it makes more sense to focus on the important factors. Think of this as a Cliff’s Notes version where I’ve done all the heavy lifting to blend the key factors into an easy to digest little package.  I mean let’s be realistic, everyone has holiday toys to put together and poor clothing choices to return so the thought of investing 5-6 hours into handicapping teams you didn’t care about from September to November seems foolish. To save your precious holiday time, each game carries a 1-5 watchability rating with 5 the can’t miss buttchugging press conference video and 1 representing Titans vs Jets type Monday night football intrigue.

Special thanks to Marc Lawrence for sharing bowl histories and trends

Little Caesars Bowl

Where: Ford Field – Detroit, Michigan

Who: Central Michigan (6-6 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs Western Kentucky (7-5 SU, 7-4 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened WKU -6 and 60, Current WKU -6 and 57

Who they’re betting: 64% Western Kentucky

Trend: Western Kentucky is 21-5-1 ATS L27 games vs sub .600 opposition

What bettors need to know: WKU makes their first ever bowl appearance but do so without their program mastermind Willie Taggart. These teams combined to go 1-8 straight up against other bowl eligible teams with that lone victory coming from the Hilltoppers at Arkansas St. Central Michigan will be without 2 of their top 3 WR who were suspended for violation of team rules (combined production 67 catches, 1,120 receiving yards).

Why to watch: There aren’t many reasons considering CMU is among the worst in terms of yards per game differential vs other bowlers at -128.  WKU limped to the finish going 2-4 their last 6 losing all 4 of those games as a favorite. Let’s just say Coach Petrino will be watching his new team finish their improbable season before turning towards the future.

Watchability: 1 (Titans vs Jaguars)

The Bet: Western Kentucky -6 (only for the action)

Military Bowl

Where: RFK Stadium – Washington, DC

Who: Bowling Green (8-4 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs San Jose St (10-2 SU, 9-2 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened SJSU -7 and 47, Current SJSU -7 and 43.5

Who they’re betting: 53% Bowling Green

Trend: Teams entering their bowl Pre New Year’s Day 3-0 straight up and against the number their last 3 are 10-25 ATS since 1980.

What bettors need to know: Another bowl game and another team without their head coach in San Jose State. The Spartans have one of the nation’s most efficient passers in David Fales (170.91) who led them to 6 straight wins to close out the regular season. Bowling Green is 10-1 to the under this season and held 3 of their last 4 opponents to season lows in total yardage. The Falcons rank 10th nationally in points per game defense limiting their opponents to 16.5. Against fellow bowlers, SJSU was +13 in yardage differential while Bowling Green was -43.

Why to watch: One of the nation’s more unheralded offenses in SJSU (29th in PPG) takes on the afore mentioned underrated BG defense. The first 4 Military Bowls have seen the favorite go 3-1 ATS and the last 2 years saw point totals surpass 70. De’Leon Eskridge and Noel Grigsby are dangerous playmakers for the Spartans and will pose a stiff challenge for Bowling Green

Watchability: 2.5 (The Replacements).

The Bet: San Jose State -7

Belk Bowl

Where: Bank of America Stadium – Charlotte, North Carolina

Who: Cincinnati (9-3 SU, 7-2-1 ATS) vs Duke (6-6 SU, 5-6 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened Cincinnati -9 and 60, Current Cincinnati -7 and 60

Who they’re betting: 51% Duke

Trend: ACC Bowl Teams off back to back straight up and against the spread losses entering bowls are 9-2 ATS since 1990.

What bettors need to know: The Blue Devils finished the season with 4 straight losses with their closest margin of defeat being 7 points in the season finale against Miami. Duke was dead last among all 70 bowl teams in yardage differential against other bowlers at -212. They’re also the only bowl team with a post Christmas game that allows their opponent over 200 yards per game on the ground. Cincinnati was favored by a touchdown or more 1 time since October 6th, covering 14 against USF on November 23.

Why to watch: For as proficient as Duke basketball has been in the postseason, the football program isn’t in the same galaxy. Duke will make their first bowl appearance since ’94 and attempt to win their first postseason game since 1960.  Cincinnati is another team that enters their bowl without a head coach since Butch Jones departed for Knoxville this offseason. Teams that struggle down the stretch and catch points typically see a bowl as a second season, expect an inspired effort from Coach Cutcliffe’s senior laden group.

Watchability: 2 (Week 17 Titans vs Jaguars)

The Bet: Duke +7 (Best Bet)

Holiday Bowl

Where: Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, California

Who: Baylor (7-5 SU, 8-3 ATS) vs UCLA (9-4 SU, 8-5 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened UCLA -1 and 80, Current UCLA -1 and 81

Who they’re betting: 57% UCLA

Trend: Art Briles is 18-4 against the spread off a double digit against the spread win.

What bettors need to know: Baylor won 4 of their last 5 and covered their last 5 games entering the postseason. Coach Briles’ bunch knocked Kansas St from the ranks of the unbeaten 52-24 as 12 pt underdogs.  Baylor is 7-3 ATS against fellow bowlers but UCLA is no slouch either going 6-2 against their 8 bowl opponents.  Bears average 578 yards of offense however rank 122nd in the FBS (ahead of only La Tech and West Virginia) in pass defense. Baylor is also 8th in the country in plays per point which contributed to their 44.1 PPG, 3rd best nationally.

Why to watch: Bettors know all about Baylor’s prolific offense but its the man under center for UCLA that deserves fanfare. Brett Hundley is an unheralded dual threat quarterback who combined for 35 Bruin touchdowns this season. Say what you will about Art Briles, he flat out coaches up his offensive talent. While Nick Florence didn’t have anyone in Waco forgetting RG3, his 4100 passing yards was a nice consolation prize. The scorebaord operator better have his 5 hour energy ready because this game could go well past the witching hour on the east coast.

Watchability: 4.5 (Die Hard Trilogy)

The Bet: UCLA -1 (Best Bet)

Independence Bowl

Where: Independence Stadium – Shreveport, Louisiana

Who: Ohio (8-4 SU, 3-8 ATS) vs La Monroe (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened La Monroe -6.5 and 61, Current La Monroe -7.5 and 60

Who they’re betting: 70% La Monroe

Trend: Dogs in the Independence Bowl are 0-6 ATS last 6 tries. MAC Bowlers off loss of > 7 are 0-10 ATS.

What bettors need to know: This game would have set up great for viewers if it was played week 2 after Ohio upset Penn State and ULM knocked off Arkansas. Kolton Browning should be back to 100% after battling some injuries earlier in the year under center for the Warhawks. Ohio finished the season burning money compiling a 1-8 ATS record as opposing defenses appeared to figure out their read option offense led by 2 Norman, Oklahoma products Tyler Tettleton (QB) and Beau Blankenship (RB).

Why to watch: There isn’t a whole lot to get excited about in this game where we’ll see another installment of MAC vs SunBelt. Louisiana Tech against ULM would have made for a much more exciting bowl game had Tech not declined the invitation because of behind the scenes athletic department drama.

Watchability: 1 (Mighty Ducks 3)

The Bet: UL Monroe -7.5 (only if your degeneracy requires it)

Russell Athletic Bowl

Where: Citrus Bowl Stadium – Orlando, Florida

Who: Rutgers (9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs Virginia Tech (6-6 SU, 3-8 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened Virginia Tech -2 and 41.5, Current Virginia Tech -2.5, 41

Who they’re betting: 59% Rutgers

Trend: Big East teams are 6-15 ATS vs ACC opposition in bowl games

What bettors need to know: This is a game that won’t come with a ton of big plays. Both teams average less than 400 yards per game on offense and combined to produce 8 games where they didn’t score 20 pts. Neither team finished the year strong in the ATS department either as Rutgers failed to cover their last 2 while Virginia Tech went 1-4 ATS. Virginia Tech and Rutgers rank 83 and 93 respectively in points per game.

Why to watch: It’s always fun to watch Frank Beamer teams and hope for big special teams plays. The real question is which QB makes the big mistakes since Gary Nova and Logan Thomas combined to throw 29 interceptions this season but only 39 touchdowns.

Watchability: 1.5 (Saved by the Bell: The New Class)

The Bet: Virginia Tech -2.5

Meineke Car Care Bowl

Where: Reliant Stadium – Houston, Texas

Who: Minnesota (6-6 SU, 4-7 ATS) vs Texas Tech (7-5 SU, 5-6 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened Texas Tech -13 and 56.5, Current Texas Tech -13 and 57

Who they’re betting: 64% Texas Tech

Trend: Bowl teams on a 5 game ATS losing streak are 10-2 ATS

What bettors need to know: Texas Tech has no coach. I mean yes, Kingsbury has accepted the job but Tuberville walked out on these kids during a recruiting dinner.  The trend says TTU fits into a nice situational spot but rarely do you see teams that failed to cover 5 straight games enter the postseason as double digit favorites. The last win for Tech by this margin came back in early October against West Virginia. Minnesota was 2-5 against the spread when playing teams that made the postseason. In terms of yards per game allowed, the Gophers actually rate better statistically than the side hailing from Lubbock

Why to watch: Nothing gets the blood flowing like a 6-6 Big Ten team going into the heart of Texas to take on a Big XII team that could care less about being in the game.  Jerry Kill should seize the opportunity to help his young team make strides for the future in what should be a more competitive game than people think.

Watchability: 2 (Mr Deeds)

The Bet: Minnesota +13 with a sprinkle on the money line.

Armed Forces Bowl

Where: Amon Carter Stadium – Fort Worth, Texas

Who: Air Force (6-6 SU, 3-8 ATS) vs Rice (6-6 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened Pk and 60.5, Current Air Force -2 and 61.5

Who they’re betting: 70% Air Force

Trend: Military teams are 25-10 ATS as bowlers since 1980.

What bettors need to know: Both teams will run the ball a ton.  They each rank in the top 10 nationally in rushing attempts per game. Rice gave up over 40 points in a game 4x this year, a feat air force only accomplished once despite a -13 turnover margin.

Why to watch: I’m still struggling to come up with something, get back to me on this.

Watchability: 2 (ESPN Classic Army / Navy replays)

The Bet: Air Force -2 (because I have to pick a side)

Fight Hunger Bowl

Where: AT&T Park – San Francisco, California

Who: Navy (8-4 SU, 3-8 ATS) vs Arizona St (7-5 SU, 6-4-1 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened ASU -14.5 and 56, Current ASU -14.5 and 56

Who they’re betting: 73% Navy

Trend: Navy is 7-3 ATS their last 10 bowl games

What bettors need to know: Navy’s only win over a team with a winning record came against East Carolina.  Arizona St defensively allows 172 YPG on the ground but only 178 YPG through the air.  This will be the 3rd team in 3 years Todd Graham has taken to a bowl game, only problem was he didn’t stay around long enough to coach the last 2.

Why to watch: Contrasting styles with a high octane brand of football for the Sun Devils against a plodding option offense intent on grinding down the clock.

Watchability: 2.5 (A 2011 episode of Saturday Night Live)

The Bet: Navy +14.5

Pinstripe Bowl

Where: Yankee Stadium – Bronx, New York

Who: West Virginia (7-5 SU, 5-6 ATS) vs Syracuse (7-5 SU, 6-5 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened WVU -3.5 and 73.5, Curretn WVU -3.5 and 73.5

Who they’re betting: 70% West Virginia

Trend: Favorite is 0-7 ATS the L7 Mountaineer bowl games.

What bettors need to know: Ryan Nassib and Geno Smith are both NFL caliber passers. Each boast a strong arm and will get a chance to showcase their talents at the next level. Syracuse beat WVU each of the last 2 years when they both resided in the Big East: 49-23 in 2011 and 19-14 in 2010.  West Virginia ranks dead last in pass defense allowing their opponents to throw for 346.6 yards per game.

Why to watch: This game could come down to which team has the ball last. Don’t be surprised if West Virginia goes through the motions here as each of their primary offensive weapons could be looking ahead to the NFL. Anyone whose a fan of defense try to avert your eyes, it won’t be an exhibition in covering the deep ball or tackling.

Watchability: 4.5 (Patriots vs 49ers)

The Bet: Syracuse +3.5 (Best Bet)

Alamo Bowl

Where: Alamodome – San Antonio, Texas

Who: Oregon St (9-3 SU, 7-4 ATS) vs Texas (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened Oregon St -1.5 and 56.5, Current Oregon St -2 and 57

Who they’re betting: 66% Oregon St

Trend: Bowl favorites who won less than 3 games the previous year are 9-19 ATS since 1981.

What bettors need to know: The Horns allowed just under 200 rushing yards a game (4.8 ypc), both Longhorn worsts during the Mack Brown regime. Oregon St had two QB’s get reps late in the season and have elected to go with Cody Vaz as their starter against Texas. After starting the season 6-0, Oregon St alternated wins and losses down the stretch en route to a 5-3 ATS mark against other bowl teams.

Why to watch: What has become of the once vaunted Texas program? Since losing to Alabama in the national title the burnt orange have struggled to find consistency at QB and on the defensive side of the ball. Mike Riley is one of the best coaches who does more with less every year in Corvallis but continues to operate in the shadows of that other program in Eugene.

Watchability: 3 (30/30 on Bo Jackson)

The Bet: Texas +2 and Under 57

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Where: Sun Devil Stadium – Tempe, Arizona

Who: TCU (7-5 SU, 4-7 ATS) vs Michigan St (6-6 SU, 4-8 ATS)

Line and Total: TCU opened -2 and 43, Current TCU -2.5 and 40.5

Who they’re betting: 70% TCU

Trend: TCU 0-4 ATS last 4 bowl games

What bettors need to know:  Michigan State held 6 opponents to their season low in yardage or 2nd lowest production. These two teams have combined to go 16-6-1 to the under, relying on stout run defenses to keep them in games. Neither team is extremely efficient when it comes to their yard per point metric on offense: TCU ranekd 66th while Michigan St was a dreadful 111th nationally.

Why to watch: Two defenses playing some of the best football in the nation down the stretch that got lost in the shuffle because of their offensive counterparts. There are plenty of defenders on both sides who will be making an impact on Sundays.

Watchability: 3.5 (Boardwalk Empire)

The Bet: Michgan St +2.5

Music City Bowl

Where: LP Field – Nashville, Tennessee

Who: NC State (7-5 SU, 4-6-1 ATS) vs Vanderbilt (8-4 SU, 7-4 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened Vanderbilt -6.5 and 51.5, Current Vanderbilt -7 and 52

Who they’re betting: 82% Venderbilt

Trend: Vanderbilt is 2-10 straight up against teams that have reached the postseason the last 2 years

What bettors need to know: NC State was on a 6-0 SU and ATS run under coach O’Brien before he was let go at the end of the regular season.  The Wolfpack boast a pro style QB in Mike Glennon who will challenge a Vanderbilt defense that was stout against the pass all year. The only time Vandy was favored over a team with a winning record in 2012 was at Northwestern, a game they lost as 3 pt chalk 23-13 so bettor beware laying 7 with the Commodores in an unfamiliar role.

Why to watch: James Franklin is calling this the biggest game in school history but the bigger question is hwow will Vanderbilt respond with a target on their back.

Watchability: 2.5 (Ted: The Movie)

The Bet: Under 52

Sun Bowl

Where: Sun Bowl Stadium – El Paso, Texas

Who: Georgia Tech (6-7 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs USC (7-5 SU, 3-9 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened USC -10 and 66, Current USC -9.5 and 64

Who they’re betting: 57% USC

Trend: Bowl teams off a loss are 11-28 ATS when returning to the same bowl as the previous year.

What bettors need to know:  Matt Barkley is still highly questionable at quarterback for USC in this game and my inclination is that redshirt freshman Max Wittek will take the bulk of the snaps.  In his only start this year, Wittek threw for 186 yards against Notre Dame. The NFL caliber WR’s on USC’s roster should have a big day against Tech’s porous pass defense but will the Trojans be focused for a pre New Year’s Bowl game in El Paso? I’m not inclined to think so.

Why to watch: USC had trouble stopping any offense with a pulse and I can’t imagine they will be committed to playing assignment football on the defensive side to slow down the Tech option.

Watchability: 3 (Uncle Verne’s only bowl game)

The Bet: Georgia Tech +9.5

Liberty Bowl

Where: Memorial Stadium – Memphis, Tennessee

Who: Iowa St (6-6 SU, 5-5-1 ATS) vs Tulsa (10-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened Pk and 51, Current Iowa St -1 and 51

Who they’re betting: 57% Iowa St

Trend: Coach Blankenship (Tusa) is 17-2 SU and 12-6 ATS vs teams with winning percentage less than .750.

What bettors need to know: These teams played earlier this year in Ames, a game won by the Cyclones 38-23. In that contest they were +12 in first downs and were +2 in turnover margin.  Tulsa enters as conference USA champions having defeated Central Florida in OT to win the conference title.

Why to watch: No one watched the first time these 2 teams played to start the season, minimal reason to watch them the 2nd time around.

Watchability: 1.5 (WNBA Finals)

The Bet: Iowa St -1

Chick-Fil-A Bowl

Where: Georgia Dome – Atlanta, Georgia

Who: Clemson (10-2 SU, 8-3 ATS) vs LSU (10-2 SU, 5-6 ATS)

Line and Total: Opened LSU -4.5 and 59.5, Current LSU -5 and 59

Who they’re betting: 80% LSU

Trend: ACC Bowl underdogs coming off a loss are 15-3-1 ATS. SEC Teams are 1-5 ATS L3Y vs ACC opposition

What bettors need to know: This is the hidden gem on the entire bowl calendar with Tiger bragging rights on the line.  Clemson has 3 elite game breakers in Ellington, Hopkins, and Watkins that will challenge an LSU defense that looked vulnerable against the pass in their last 3 outings. Clemson averages 200 yards on the ground and 320 yards passing per game giving them tremendous balance. However it is worth noting that the only time this year Clemson was held to less than 26 points came in their season finale against SEC competition.  LSU should benefit immensely from the time off and I fully expect Zach Mettenberger to take the next step forward in his development.  Historically Les Miles has been a bet on coach in bowl games, last year’s national title not withstanding.

Why to watch: Clemson has the most talent at the skill positions LSU has seen all year. Tigers were stuck in mud to close the year at South Carolina but I’ll contend the Gamecocks defense was better than LSU’s down the stretch. This game should be surprisingly high scoring on a fast track in Atlanta.

Watchability: 5 (Erin Andrews vs Samantha Steele mudwrestling match)

The Bet: Over 59


Written by Clay Travis

Clay Travis is the founder of the fastest growing national multimedia platform, OutKick, that produces and distributes engaging content across sports and pop culture to millions of fans across the country. OutKick was created by Travis in 2011 and sold to the Fox Corporation in 2021.

One of the most electrifying and outspoken personalities in the industry, Travis hosts OutKick The Show where he provides his unfiltered opinion on the most compelling headlines throughout sports, culture, and politics. He also makes regular appearances on FOX News Media as a contributor providing analysis on a variety of subjects ranging from sports news to the cultural landscape. Throughout the college football season, Travis is on Big Noon Kickoff for Fox Sports breaking down the game and the latest storylines.

Additionally, Travis serves as a co-host of The Clay Travis and Buck Sexton Show, a three-hour conservative radio talk program syndicated across Premiere Networks radio stations nationwide.

Previously, he launched OutKick The Coverage on Fox Sports Radio that included interviews and listener interactions and was on Fox Sports Bet for four years. Additionally, Travis started an iHeartRadio Original Podcast called Wins & Losses that featured in-depth conversations with the biggest names in sports.

Travis is a graduate of George Washington University as well as Vanderbilt Law School. Based in Nashville, he is the author of Dixieland Delight, On Rocky Top, and Republicans Buy Sneakers Too.