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September 2, 2014

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Bowl Pick’em Against The Spread Entry 4

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AP Photo/John F. Rhodes

Members of the TCU football team reach in to touch the “Iron Skillet,” their prize for beating SMU in an NCAA college football game on Saturday, Sept. 29, 2012, in Dallas. TCU won 24-16.

On the second and third days after Christmas, my sports book gave to me three bad beats and two humbling blowouts.

The last bowl pick’em entry went down as the lowest point since the start of this series three years ago. The results wiped away a promising start from the last two weeks.

It all began when a botched fumble call allowed San Jose State to beat Bowling Green 29-20 and cover the 7.5-point spread. The outcome appeared to clinch the title of worst beat this bowl season — until the next game.

Duke was five yards away from beating Cincinnati outright as a 9-point underdog when it lost a fumble with 1:20 to go at the goal line. The Bearcats proceeded to not only score on an 83-yard touchdown pass, but also return an interception for a touchdown with 14 seconds left to win 48-34 and improbably cover the pricey spread.

Rutgers blew a game in overtime that they dominated through three quarters the next day. Taking those three losses was hard enough, but being completely wrong on two others was just as painful and certainly more embarrassing.

UCLA and Louisiana-Monroe, two of Talking Points’ other picks, lost by a combined 55 points for the biggest blowouts of bowl season.

On the upside, things can’t get much worse. Five games go down Saturday. I won’t catch much of the action with UFC 155 conflicting, so here are some rapid-fire thoughts and picks on the card.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Rice +2.5 vs. Air Force; over/under: 62

8:45 a.m. Saturday, Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas

Rice improved as the season progressed, winning its last four in a row and covering in three of them, while Air Force got worse with four straight non-covers and seven of eight losing contests against the spread after a 2-2 start.

Pick: Rice +2.5

New Era Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia -4 vs. Syracuse; over/under: 72

12:15 Saturday, Yankee Stadium in New York

Watch out for Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib, who could improve his NFL Draft stock by outdueling more highly regarded Geno Smith.

Pick: Syracuse +4

Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl: Navy +14 vs. Arizona State; over/under: 53.5

1:00 Saturday, AT&T Park in San Francisco

Double-digit underdogs are off to a 3-1 against the spread start this bowl season. The heavy favorites move closer to .500 when Arizona State’s underrated defensive front halts the bland Midshipmen attack.

Pick: Arizona State -14

Valero Alamo Bowl: Texas +3.5 vs. Oregon State; over/under: 56.5

3:45 Saturday, Alamo Bowl in San Antonio

Bettors are lining up heavily on the favorite, as sports books have seen as much as 75 percent of the money come in on the Beavers. That’s alarming enough before considering the Longhorns are playing nearly 2,200 miles closer to home.

Pick: Texas +3.5

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU -2.5 vs. Michigan State; over/under: 40

7:15 Saturday, Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

Five of the under-performing Spartans six losses — a 17-point setback to No. 1 Notre Dame is the only outlier — came by a combined 13 points. In a matchup this competitive poised to feature defense, it’s worth taking points wherever available.

Pick: Michigan State +2.5

Bowl record: 6-8

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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