Thursday, Dec. 27, 2012 | 9 a.m.
Entering a rapid stretch of 21 games in five days, bowl season is a quarter of the way complete.
Talking Points is right on pace with our winning percentage from last year at 62 percent picking every game. It’s about to get tougher, however, as the next six games, specifically, presented several challenges.
Find picks and brief analysis of the next two days worth of games below.
Military Bowl: San Jose State -7.5 vs. Bowling Green; over/under: 44
Noon Thursday, RFK Memorial Stadium in Washington D.C.
Despite these two teams’ reputations as perennial doormats, there’s nothing snarky to say about this matchup. Both teams are deserving of postseason berths after putting together two of the best seasons in school history. But San Jose State lost coach Mike MacIntyre, who already shipped off to Colorado, and will miss that direction going against one of the top 10 defenses in the country.
Pick: Bowling Green +7.5
Belk Bowl: Cincinnati -9.5 vs. Duke; over/under: 60
3:30 Thursday, Bank Of America Stadium in Charlotte
Cincinnati has brought in as many coaches as tourists in recent years. Including three interim coaches, seven different men have led the Bearcats since 2006. Defensive assistant Steve Stripling holds the post as interim coach here before Tommy Tuberville takes over. The Blue Devils should hold a sizable motivation advantage with their first bowl appearance in 17 years behind school record-shattering quarterback Sean Renfree.
Pick: Duke +9.5
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl: Baylor +3 vs. UCLA; over/under: 82
6:45 Thursday, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego
It’s a dilemma between taking the better team at an inflated price or an improving squad at an attractive discount. The Bruins opened and stayed at -1 until the last couple days, when the line shot up two points. Despite the move, it hasn’t passed any key numbers. As long as the spread doesn’t get to UCLA -3.5, backing one of this year’s best new coaches, Jim Mora, and one of the nation’s best running backs, Jonathan Franklin, seems advisable.
Pick: UCLA -3
AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl: Ohio +7 vs. Louisiana-Monroe; over/under: 60
11:00 a.m. Friday, Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La.
The Independence Bowl was already dealt one bad beat. Not enough SEC teams were bowl-eligible to fill the conference’s renewed tie-in with the Independence Bowl. That couldn’t have helped ticket sales. Luckily, the good folks in Shreveport were able to grab the Warhawks from nearby Monroe to help somewhat ease the sting. Teams playing this close to home in bowl games this year are 2-0. It’s an offensively small sample size, but we’ve been on the wrong side in both and have no interest in backing Ohio, which covered only once in its final nine lined games.
Pick: Louisiana-Monroe -7
Russell Athletic Bowl: Rutgers +2 vs. Virginia Tech; over/under: 41
2:30 Friday, Citrus Bowl in Orlando
Caught a few television pundits, for some inexplicable reason, declaring Virginia Tech a better-prepared bowl team than Rutgers. Truth is, the Hokies are 5-8 straight-up in bowl games since the turn of the century and 4-8-1 against the spread. The Scarlet Knights have only made it to the postseason six times in that span, but they’ve covered every time and only lost once. Sure, it’s Kyle Flood’s first year at the helm, but he was on all those staffs under former coach Greg Schiano. Rutgers strength is stopping the run, which is the only thing Virginia Tech’s offense can do. The Hokies are perennially overvalued lately, as evidenced by their 7-19 against the spread record the last two seasons.
Pick: Rutgers +2
Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Minnesota +13 vs. Texas Tech; over/under: 55.5
6:00 Friday, Reliant Stadium in Houston
Earlier in the year, the Red Raiders appeared several lengths better than the Golden Gophers. No longer. Texas Tech stumbled down the stretch with a 1-5 record and not covering in any of those games. It also loses coach Tommy Tuberville for this contest, who accepted the coaching job at Cincinnati. Minnesota quarterback/all-purpose threat MarQueis Gray returns at 100 percent for the first time since the third game of the season. There’s no hiding that the Gophers are dreadful. But so is Texas Tech, which bettors are stampeding with support. Sports books will heavily root for the underdog, which is usually reason enough to give that side a look.
Pick: Minnesota +13
Bowl record: 5-3