Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012 | 2 a.m.
You might be a degenerate gambler if all you want for Christmas is to cash a few tickets on bowl games.
Consider Talking Points guilty. The six bowl games in the next seven days are important every year in deciding whether a bettor will be chasing losses into the first marquee matchups of the postseason or looking to build on an already healthy bankroll.
Let’s jump right into the next week’s worth of bowls with brief analysis and picks on every game.
San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: BYU -3.5 vs. San Diego State; over/under: 48.5
5 p.m. Thursday, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego
It’s yet another sign that college football’s postseason procedure is dated when bowl games can’t even muster unique matchups. These familiar foes faced off for 13 consecutive years until 2010, when BYU bailed on the Mountain West Conference. The Cougars went 11-2 in those matchups and 9-4 against the spread. They appear to match up well against the Aztecs again. The Aztecs lean on a run-first attack, with sophomore Adam Muema and senior Walter Kazee starring in the backfield, but the Cougars rank second in the nation in rushing defense. Four of BYU’s five losses this season came by less than a touchdown. Six of its seven victories were by at least 20 points.
Pick: BYU -3.5
Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg: Ball State +7 vs. Central Florida; over/under: 61.5
4:30 p.m. Friday, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Don’t take a MAC team in a bowl game unless it’s absolutely necessary. It’s a rule I foolishly broke and solemnly regret in the first post. Last season was the first time the MAC had posted a winning bowl record against-the-record in five years at 3-2. After Toledo’s blowout loss to Utah State last Saturday, the MAC is now 5-15-1 against-the-spread in bowls the last five years. Even though Ball State won six straight games, covering in five of them, to end the season, it has never won a bowl game. The Knights are better in all facets and available at somewhat of a discount after sports books posted them as high as -8 in this game.
Pick: UCF -7
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: East Carolina +5.5 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette; over/under: 66
9:00 a.m. Saturday, Superdome in New Orleans
One team lost by 23 points at home to Arkansas State and gave up an average of 283 passing years per game. The other team fell by 28 points at home to Navy and opponents averaged 271 passing yards per game. No, neither the Ragin’ Cajuns nor the Pirates are going to feel like comfortable bets. Louisiana-Lafayette’s offense is producing at a higher clip as it has posted at least 30 points in three of the last four games — the only exception was against No. 3 Florida where the team nearly pulled off the Upset of the Year — behind quarterback Terrence Broadway. But East Carolina holds a slight edge on offense and should keep it close throughout.
Pick: East Carolina +5.5
MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Washington +5.5 vs. No. 19 Boise State; over/under: 61.5
12:30 pm. Saturday, Sam Boyd Stadium
This is one of those situations where waiting until right before the game to make the picks for the blog proves hurtful. Washington opened as high as +7.5, which would have been one of this bowl season’s best bets. But the money flow corrected the market by two points, which seems like a much more reasonable spread. Boise State’s numbers are far superior to Washington’s, but the Broncos faced a weaker schedule. None of their wins are as impressive as the Huskies triumphs over Stanford and Oregon State. Additionally, Washington should have a major motivational edge. The Huskies are thrilled to be in this game whereas the Broncos are indifferent about their third straight trip to the same bowl.
Pick: Washington +5.5
Sheraton Hawaii Bowl: SMU +12.5 vs. Fresno State; over/under: 59
5:00 p.m. Monday, Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii
Good luck assembling a list of less-deserving bowl teams than the Mustangs. SMU’s only decent win came against Tulsa, which happened in the last week of the season when the Golden Hurricane had nothing to play for with their Conference USA division title locked up. Fresno State, on the other hand, went 11-1 against the spread and won a share of the Mountain West Conference title in coach Tim DeRuyter’s first year. Bulldogs quarterback Derek Carr should throw all over a team that lost to such stalwarts as Tulane and Rice. But SMU went 4-2 against the number down the stretch once it started tailoring game plans for relatively underrated running back Zach Line instead of for vastly overrated quarterback Garrett Gilbert. The spread looks a tad too high. On the bright side, I won’t have to back a team this poor for the rest of the bowl season.
Pick: SMU +12.5
Little Caesars Bowl: Western Kentucky -5.5 vs. Central Michigan; over/under: 58.5
4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Ford Field in Detroit
Wait, did I make it sound like SMU was the worst team to make a bowl game in 2012? Sorry, just forgot about the Chippewas. Central Michigan rides into its first postseason berth in three years with six wins against teams that went a combined 15-56 on the season. The only possible reason for backing Central Michigan would be a play against Western Kentucky with its coaching upheaval. Willie Taggart left to take the job at South Florida, and a circus ensued when Western Kentucky inked Bobby Petrino. Defensive coordinator Lance Guidry takes the interim coaching post for the Hilltoppers here. Backing a bowl team with an interim coach is usually a losing proposition, but Guidry is experienced in the situation as he led Miami (Ohio) to a 35-21 victory over Middle Tennessee two years ago in the GoDaddy.com Bowl. And, really, Central Michigan is that bad.
Pick: Western Kentucky -5.5
Bowl record: 1-1