There are a few things that are key to ensure a winning Bowl campaign.
First, injury reports. The college football season is a long and grueling one. Many of the teams this late in the season have been hit by the injury bug. However, this is more significant in the earlier Bowl contests, as these smaller schools aren’t as stacked with talent as teams in such conferences as the SEC and the Big Ten. So, be sure to go through the injury reports and know your backups.
Secondly, I always look to see how much success a team or a coach has had in the month of December. Some teams and coaches rise to the occasion during crunch time, and others fall. Once again, be sure to know who is money in clutch situations.
I have four bowl plays for you this week:
Frisco Bowl – Ohio (-2.5) vs. San Diego State: Talk about folding! San Diego State started the year at 6-1, only to finish with a record of 7-5, including three straight losses to end the season.
To make matters worse, the Aztecs crushed bettors, riding a 1-6 ATS run.
Rocky Long’s boys are known for having a very poor offense and a solid defense. Their “O” averages just 22.3 PPG. But, as we look closely, we see their “D” started to leak, allowing 26.1 PPG over their last five outings.
Ohio can score points, ranking 10th nationally, accounting for 41.2 PPG. Defensively, they are good enough here in this matchup. There is no way San Diego State can keep pace on the scoreboard with Ohio. The Aztecs are 3-7 ATS the last 10 in December and 1-5 ATS the last six non-conference games. The Bobcats are 4-0 ATS the last four in December and 5-1 ATS the last six Bowl games. OHIO
Bahamas Bowl – Florida International (+6) vs. Toledo: Florida International enters this game with a very healthy squad, led by a solid MAC transfer at QB. James Morgan (65.8 percent completion rate, 2,727 passing yards, 26 TDs, seven INTs) knows this Toledo team. As a member of Bowling Green, he threw for 335 yards and five TDs in an October 2016 matchup.
The Rockets have backup Eli Peters under center. The QB has just a, 54.6 percent CR, and 15 TDs against seven INTs. The big difference here is the disparity in both QB’s, along with a Toledo defense that is a doormat, ranking 105th vs. the pass, and allowing the most points, 30.2 PPG, in over four years.
FIU is 4-0 ATS the last four vs. winners, 5-2 ATS the last seven non-conference games, and 14-6 ATS the last 20 overall. Toledo is 2-5 ATS the last seven vs. winners, 2-5 ATS the last seven non-conference games, and 1-5-1 ATS the last seven in December. FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL
Birmingham Bowl – Wake Forest (+3.5) vs. Memphis: These are two very different teams at the moment. Wake Forest, which lost 13 players between the pre- and regular seasons, has had time to rest, heal, and prepare. Several key personnel return here, including RB Matt Colburn, which gives the Demon Deacons back their 1-2 backfield punch of Colburn and Cade Carney (1,693 yards, 13 TDs combined).
Memphis RB Darrell Henderson, who led the nation in all-purpose yards, is skipping the contest to prepare for the NFL draft. Wake Forest finished the season with a 59-7 rout at Duke, while Memphis lost to Central Florida, in the AAC title game, 56-41. Reports are that the Demon Deacons are excited to be in their third straight Bowl, while the Tigers are not, after losing a chance to appear in a more prestigious Bowl.
Wake Forest is 5-1 ATS the last six in December and 4-1 ATS the last five Bowls. Memphis is 0-5 ATS the last five in December and 1-5 ATS the last six Bowls. WAKE FOREST
Armed Forces Bowl – Army (-3.5) vs. Houston: At first glance, Houston looked like the play. But after taking a closer look, I strongly reversed my decision.
The Cougars, after starting 7-1, dropped three of their last four games. Things went from bad to worse for the team, which just fired defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio, and will be without four defensive linemen, including All-America DT Ed Oliver.
This doesn’t bode well as they go up against the nation’s No. 2 rushing attack. On the other side of the ball, Houston lost their biggest offensive playmaker, QB D’Eriq King (2,982 yards passing and 36 TDs in the air, 816 yards rushing and five TDs on the ground) to a knee injury last month and will not play against the Black Knights.
Add it all up and it’s going to be a long day facing the stout, 13th-ranked Army defense (18.0 PPG allowed). ARMY
Last week: 3-0