The college football bowl season begins Saturday to kick off over three weeks of bowl games between now and the national title game on Monday, January 7. Here are three games I’m focusing on:
Las Vegas Bowl – Arizona State (+4) vs. Fresno State: Fresno State punched their ticket to Las Vegas for this bowl game by emerging victorious against Boise State in the Mountain West Championship game. The Bulldogs have been a point spread juggernaut at 21-6 SU and ATS in 27 games over the last two seasons with head coach Jeff Tedford leading this program toward a phenomenal turnaround.
Fresno State has a complete team on both sides of the football with QB Marcus McMaryion leading a balanced attack on offense as the Bulldogs can run the football effectively. The Fresno defense is a tremendous unit as they have allowed just 194 yards per game through the air and 129.8 yards per game on the ground at 3.8 yards per carry.
Arizona State peaked early in their first year under Herm Edwards but the Sun Devils stumbled in the middle portion of their schedule before rebounding to win four of their last five games. ASU has a senior QB in Manny Wilkins who had a solid season but he will be missing his favorite target in the passing game as standout WR N’Keal Harry has decided to skip this bowl game so that he can prepare for the NFL Draft. Harry is an impact loss for the Sun Devils offense in this bowl game as he had 73 receptions and nine TD catches this season. The rest of the receiving corps had 39 catches combined.
Fresno State’s only two losses this season came against Minnesota in a turnover-marred game and Boise State during the regular season in a game Fresno State led for the entire first half. This is a quality foe and I expect them to be motivated to play and beat a Pac-12 opponent. Fresno State won and covered against Houston in their bowl game last season in Tedford’s first season. Expect a similar result here. FRESNO STATE
Cure Bowl – Tulane (-3.5) vs. Louisiana (58): Tulane is bowl eligible for the first time since 2013 so I expect the Green Wave to be an excited and motivated team to be playing in this bowl game. UL took their lumps early in the season, but put it together during the Sun Belt Conference schedule as the Ragin’ Cajuns went all the way to the conference title game but fell to Appalachian State 30-19.
Both teams rely on running the football to fuel the offense. The Green Wave utilize the triple option under head coach Willie Fritz. However, the results and production for the offense have been mixed throughout the season. The good news for Tulane in this matchup is that UL has been an abysmal run defense this season. The Cajuns are yielding 210 yards per game and 5 yards per carry on the ground. That should be good news for the Green Wave.
The extra prep time is usually a good thing for teams when facing the triple option but UL has been terrible stopping the run all season so in my estimation, there is a good chance that even the extra time to get ready for a particular type of offense may not help.
Louisiana has that same big play ability so I expect them to be able to trade points. That being said, I do think Tulane has the slight edge defensively and the numbers bear that out. Tulane also faced a tougher strength of schedule during the season. TULANE and OVER
Boca Raton Bowl – Northern Illinois (+2.5) vs. UAB: The UAB program was rebooted and rescued from purgatory in 2017 and the results have been nothing short of amazing. Bill Clark resumed his role as head coach and has guided the Blazers to a strong 18-8 SU, 17-8-1 ATS record in two seasons since the program restarted.
The defense has been the strength of the Blazers this season as they’ve held opponents to fewer than 119 yards on the ground and 181 yards through the air on a per game basis. Northern Illinois has a very pedestrian offense, although they did perform better down the stretch of the MAC regular season.
Paying attention to coaching trends during the bowl season is vital for success in betting bowl games. Some coaches fare much better in bowl games both SU and ATS than others. Northern Illinois head coach Rod Carey has been a disaster area in bowl games during his tenure with the Huskies. NIU is 0-5 SU and ATS in five previous bowl games under Carey since 2013 and they have lost those games by an average of over 20 points per game. That is a concerning track record for me.
UAB was annihilated in their bowl game last season against Ohio in the Bahamas Bowl but I got the sense the Blazers were simply happy to be there and treated the trip to a nice warm climate as a vacation. I think this trip will be much more business-like for UAB with an emphasis on getting their first bowl win. UAB
Last week: 0-0