Bowling for dollars!

Dec 19, 2000 7:12 AM

With no less than 26 Division I-A college football bowl games to be played, the bowls may truly be looked upon as the second season of college football. The payoff per team ranges from the $750,000 mandated by the NCAA to the $13.5 million for the games of the Bowl Championship Series.

To help pay the freight, bowl promoters have sold naming rights to various commercial enterprises such as financial institutions, wireless communication systems, restaurant chains, package delivery services, automobile manufacturers and the omnipresent dot-coms.

Once upon a time, a bowl invitation was regarded as a reward for an exceptional season, but now a mediocre 6-5 record gets a bid. The safest bet concerning the bowl games ”” particularly the early bowls ”” is that there will be thousands of empty seats at the games as the public, often gullible, is not always so. But regardless of the quality of play, bowl games offer discerning bettors opportunities to win money. So here’s a look at the early game.

Dec. 20, Wednesday

Texas Christian (-7) vs. Southern Mississippi (Alabama Bowl at Mobile) ”” The Horned Frogs have the nation’s best running back in LaDainian Tomlinson. He’ll run through and over the Golden Eagles, who lost three of their last four games after getting off to a flying start. Lay the points and bet TCU.

Dec. 21, Thursday

UNLV (-1) vs. Arkansas (Las Vegas Bowl) ”” John Robinson has done a great coaching job with the Rebels, but even with the home field advantage I can’t see them beating a team from the Southeastern Conference. Go here with the Razorbacks.

Dec. 24, Sunday

Georgia (-10) vs. Virginia (Oahu Bowl at Honolulu) ”” This is the swan song for both coaches. Virginia’s George Welsh is retiring. Georgia’s Jim Donnan has been fired. The game appears to be a mismatch. Lay the points and go with Georgia.

Dec. 25, Monday

Arizona State (-4) vs. Boston College (Aloha Bowl at Honolulu) ”” Give yourself a nice Christmas present by laying it in on the Sun Devils. ASU may be the best of the entire bowl season.

Dec. 27, Wednesday

Cincinnati (-5 ½) vs. Marshall (Motor City Bowl at Pontiac, Mich.) ”” This game matches the winners of Conference USA and the Mid-American Conference. They had no common opponents. Marshall closed strongly in regular season. Tough call, but when in doubt take the points.

Texas Tech (-1) vs. East Carolina (Galleryfurniture .com Bowl at Houston) ”” Tech beat Texas A&M, played tough against Texas and Oklahoma during the regular season, and should win this game.

Dec. 28, Thursday

Boise State (-6) vs. Texas-El Paso (Humanitarian Bowl at Boise, Idaho) ”” The best bet for this game is the Over. It figures to be a high-scoring affair. Boise State gets the nod because of home field advantage.

Mississippi (-4) vs. West Virginia (Music City Bowl at Nashville) ”” Rebels will play sweet music here. Mississippi will win and cover.

Minnesota (-4) vs. North Carolina State ( Bowl at Miami) ”” The Golden Gophers played in a much tougher conference than did the Wolfpack. Minnesota is a solid play here.

Pittsburgh (PK) vs. Iowa State ( Bowl at Tucson, Ariz.) ”” Two teams that have risen from the ashes. Iowa State essayed a tougher schedule and is the selection here.

Dec. 29, Friday

Colorado State (-2) vs. Louisville (Liberty Bowl at Memphis) ”” CSU is Ram tough and will win and cover as one of the better bets of the bowl season.

Wisconsin (-4 ½) vs. UCLA (Sun Bowl at El Paso, Texas) ”” The Badgers beat Oregon during the regular season, while the Bruins lost to Oregon. Lay the points and go with Wisconsin.

Georgia Tech (-8) vs. Louisiana State (Peach Bowl at Atlanta) ”” Coach Nick Saban has revitalized the Bayou Tigers, but the Yellow Jackets are a really fine team. Tech quarterback Gary Godsey will be a Heisman Trophy candidate next year and the team will be in the hunt for the national championship. Georgia Tech will win this game and cover the spread.

Texas (-7) vs. Oregon (Holiday Bowl at San Diego) ”” After a stumbling start, the Longhorns won their last six games and will stampede here.

Next week

Next week we’ll preview the remaining bowl games. In the meantime, here’s wishing one and all a very Merry Christmas.