Saturday, Dec. 22, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Four of the five power conferences begin their bowl seasons over the next week. Expectations couldn’t be much different between them.
Over/under conference bowl win totals are readily available offshore, and they range from a high of 7.5 wins for the SEC to a low of 2.5 for the Big 12. In fairness, the SEC has 11 teams bowling over the next 10 days in contrast to the Big 12’s seven, but the divide remains stark.
The Big Ten went a power-conference-best 7-1 in bowl games last year, and again has eight teams participating in the postseason. Its over/under stands at 4.5, same as the ACC, which fields 10 bowl teams.
The Pac-12 is off to an 0-1 start with six teams left to attempt to top its total of 3.5 wins.
Talking Points will pass on the props, though continue to monitor the results, and get back to picking all the games.
Check below for picks on the next 10 bowls, spanning the next week. The blog’s current record on the season stands at 359-333-14 — including 40-30-1 on plays — and 4-6 on bowl games. Lines are the best currently available on the chosen side in Las Vegas.
Jared Birmingham Bowl at 9 a.m. Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.: Memphis minus-3.5 vs. Wake Forest, over/under: 73.5. The Tigers are one of seven teams in the nation averaging 7 yards per play or better, so even if they’re affected by running back Darrell Henderson sitting out, it shouldn’t be severe enough to slow their efficiency drastically. Don’t overpay to back Wake Forest, as this line would have been higher before it blasted Duke 59-7 as 9.5-point underdogs for its best performance of the year to close the regular season. Play: Memphis minus-3.5.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas: Houston plus-5.5 vs. Army, over/under: 60. Army might have been the play at the opening number of minus-3, but the price has gotten awfully steep. The Cougars have the far more explosive offense, and as fantastic as future first-round pick Ed Oliver may be, one defensive player’s absence shouldn’t be overvalued. Guess: Houston plus-6.5.
Dollar General Bowl at 4 p.m. Saturday in Mobile, Ala.: Buffalo minus-2 vs. Troy, over/under: 50. Teams look like mirror images considering they were contenders in their respective conferences and feasted on weak schedules en route to records within a half-game of each other — the Trojans went 9-3 straight-up, 8-3-1 against the spread to the Bulls’ 10-3 straight-up, 9-4 against the spread. Would therefore take points either way. Guess: Troy plus-2.
Sofi Hawaii Bowl at 4:30 p.m. Saturday Honolulu, Hawaii: Hawaii minus-1 vs. Louisiana Tech, over/under: 60.5. Yes, Hawaii gets to play at home and there’s a history of teams traveling to the islands for their bowl games not playing up to their standards. But the Warriors’ might be the worst bowl-eligible team —they rank 100th in the nation by Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings — and Skip Holtz is too strong of a coach to let his team succumb to distractions. Play: Louisiana Tech plus-1.
Servpro First Responder Bowl at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday in Dallas: Boston College plus-2 vs. Boise State, over/under: 56. Money has come in against Boise State to drop this number 1.5 points, but that’s nothing new. Although the Eagles’ defense could make this a tough matchup for the Broncos, it’s hard to shake years’ worth of memories of Boise State over-performing in bowls. They’re 4-1 against the spread alone under current coach Bryan Harsin. Guess: Boise State minus-2.
Quick Lane Bowl at 2:15 p.m. Wednesday in Detroit: Minnesota plus-5.5 vs. Georgia Tech, over/under: 58. The Golden Gophers have improved significantly in the three games since Joe Rossi took over as defensive coordinator, upsetting both Wisconsin and Purdue as double-digit underdogs. This might be the rare case where the market has under-reacted, because with a dependable defense, the Golden Gophers are at least equal to the Yellow Jackets. Play: Minnesota plus-5.5.
Cheez-It Bowl at 6 p.m. Wednesday in Phoenix: California pick’em vs. TCU, over/under: 39.5. It took everything just for TCU to get bowl eligible, as it was among the nation’s most injured teams before eking out upset wins over Oklahoma State and Baylor in the final two weeks of the season. The Horned Frogs still might be down third-string quarterback Grayson Muehlstein for the bowl game, which is unenviable against a California defense ranked 12th in the nation by the S&P+ ratings. Lean: California pick’em.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl at 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Shreveport, La.: Duke plus-4.5 vs. Temple, over/under: 55. The Owls have the far better statistical profile, but it’s hard to know what to expect from them under interim coach Ed Foley. They were a shell of themselves in Foley’s other appearance as interim coach in a bowl game, losing 34-26 to Wake Forest as 13.5-point favorites in the 2016 Military Bowl. Duke played a tougher schedule and will have the advantage on the sidelines in coach David Cutcliffe, who’s 4-1 against the spread in bowls with the Blue Devils. Guess: Duke plus-4.5.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl at 2:15 p.m. Thursday in New York: Miami minus-3.5 vs. Wisconsin, over/under: 48. These two 7-5 records were not created equally, as Miami has a plus-153 point differential on the year to Wisconsin’s plus-60. This might even be a play if the line reverts to minus-3 where it opened. Lean: Miami minus-3.5.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl at 6 p.m. Thursday in Houston: Baylor plus-4.5 vs. Vanderbilt, over/under: 55.5. Not rushing out to lay more than a field goal with Vanderbilt, which seems to be at its market height with the nation’s longest covering streak. But Baylor has an injury cluster in its skill positions that makes it hard to believe it will be at its best for the bowl game. Guess: Vanderbilt minus-4.5.