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December 20, 2014

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Bowl Pick’em Against the Spread Entry 6

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ASSOCIATED PRESS

Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota passes the ball downfield in the first half of a game against Arkansas State. Oregon went on to 57-34.

Casual bettors love loading up on BCS bowl games.

It’s assumed the thrill of having money on the most important games draws wagering from fans who wouldn't normally place bets, causing the handle to rocket at local sports books at this time of year. But there might be another reason.

The public’s infatuation with taking favorites has served it well in BCS bowl games. Bettors are off to a 2-0 start this year, as Wisconsin and Florida State beat the closing point spread in the Rose and Orange bowls, respectively.

A favorite needs to cover in only one of the remaining three BCS bowl games to ensure a third straight year of teams laying points posting a winning record.

Dating to the 2006-07 season, when the BCS National Championship Game came into being, favorites are 18-13 against the spread in BCS games.

Perhaps most interesting is the success of teams favored by more than a touchdown. They are 8-3 against the spread. Now that we’ve pointed out something we can contradict immediately, let’s get to the picks.

The next three games of bowl season are below.

Allstate Sugar Bowl: Louisville +14.5 vs. Florida; over/under: 48

5:30 Wednesday, Superdome in New Orleans

Click to enlarge photo

Florida's Mike Gillislee runs with the ball for a 38-yard touchdown against Bowling Green during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, in Gainesville, Fla.

The Gators went 1-4 against the spread as double-digit favorites this season. It’s a small sample size, but not a meaningless statistic. It’s just how Florida plays. The Gators have arguably the best defense in the nation, but a mediocre offense. This is a vow of confidence that Louisville head coach Charlie Strong, former defensive coordinator at Florida, will creatively find a way to slow Gators running back Mike Gilislee and force quarterback Jeff Driskel to win the game. Driskel’s capable of a victory, but not a blowout.

Pick: Louisville +14.5

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oregon -9 vs. Kansas State; over/under: 76

5:30 Thursday, University of Phoenix Stadium in Phoenix

Oregon’s biggest games — including three of its last four bowls and this year’s showdown with Stanford — tend to go well under the total. But this could easily turn into a shootout. And, despite what the line indicates, Kansas State can keep up with Oregon. The Wildcats played stiffer competition this season, facing nine bowl-eligible teams to the Ducks' seven. Even with that in mind, Oregon’s stats only slightly edge Kansas State’s for the season. This line looks out of whack, which is nothing new for Kansas State as it went 9-2-1 against the spread this year.

Pick: Kansas State +9

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Texas A&M -3.5 vs. Oklahoma; over/under: 72.5

5 p.m. Friday, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas

The Sooners and Aggies face off for the 18th straight year. For the first time since 1999, Oklahoma enters as underdogs. But is Texas A&M really the superior team? Take away the stronger finish from the Aggies, and these teams look remarkably equal. Heisman winners had often struggled in bowl games until the last three years. Look for the Sooners to slow Johnny Manziel enough for a victory.

Pick: Oklahoma +3.5

Bowl record: 15-12-2

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

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