‘Tis the season for college bowls!

Dec 20, 2005 3:32 AM

College football enthusiasts who went into hibernation a couple of weeks ago can now bask in the sunshine from the upcoming bowl season.

A total of 56 teams — nearly one-half the entire Division 1A — will compete in 28 bowl games beginning Tuesday (Dec. 20) with the New Orleans Bowl and continuing through Jan. 4 with the Rose Bowl match-up of Texas versus Southern California for the national championship.

With so many teams now competing, college football fans have the equivalent of handicapping a second season of college football.

"It doesn’t get any better than this," said Joe Walchek, who drives in from Southern California and usually bets at the Palms sports book. "With all the parlay cards and teams playing, I can camp out here and wallow in bowl bliss for the next three weeks."

In addition to the regular betting lines (sides and totals), the Palms — like most books — features a variety of parlay cards, including higher odds (half-point) cards, ties-win cards, ties-win teasers, ties-win mega teasers, ties-win mini-teasers and an innovative ties reduce, first-half parlay cards.

If you’re into serious handicapping, the Stardust and related Boyd Gaming properties feature an Ultimate Challenge card, a reverse teaser that makes the point totals more difficult but offers payoff with lottery-like returns.

Most sports books report light betting action on most of the bowls, although some games — notably the Rose Bowl and other Bowl Championship Series (BCS) contests — have already seen significant action.

"In the Rose Bowl, most bettors have been all over USC," said the supervisor at a Strip sports book. "We opened ”˜SC a 6-point favorite and the line has already climbed to 7½."

The supervisor added the game’s total, which opened around 66 points at most books has reached 71 and 72 at some operations.

So far, only one college bowl contest has surfaced, and that one is offered through Leroy’s sports books. It costs only $5 to enter and the first place prize is $5,000.

The Leroy’s contest, which opens Thursday and accepts entries through Dec. 29, requires picking the point-spread winners of 15 bowl games, as well as the over/under total in the Rose Bowl — and weighting each pick from No. 1 (best bet) to No. 16 (weakest choice).

Entries are graded according to a system by which the top pick is worth 16 points, the second best pick is worth 15 points, and so forth, with the weakest pick worth one point.

The contest covers the bowl games from Dec. 30 through Jan. 4. A perfect card (yeah, right!) would produce a maximum 136 points.

Prior to launching the contest, Leroy’s officials conducted a series of sample contests and determined the average score to be around 78 points.

However, if you’re serious about winning that contest, as well as your parlay card bets, here is a quick (and unscientific) prediction of many of the bowl games this season (remember, nothing in life is guaranteed!):

Arkansas State +17 vs. Southern Miss: Both teams are 6-5, so why the big point spread? It’s ridiculous. Take the points and cruise with State.

UTEP +3 vs. Toledo: The Rockets (Toledo) are tough in their home Glass Bowl, but in Alabama the nod goes to the Miners.

Navy -2½ versus Colorado State: That romp by Navy against Army wasn’t a fluke. They’ll play hard and put away the Buffaloes.

BYU +7 vs. California: The Cougars improved steadily through the season, while Cal slipped after non-realizing high expectations. BYU could win it all.

Houston vs. Kansas -3: The Jayhawks are one of the Big 12’s best defensive teams and they should disable Houston’s vaunted passing attack.

Nevada -2½ vs. Central Florida: The Wolf Pack out of Reno had a tremendous season, capped by a big win over Fresno. They’re still high and will put away UCF.

Akron +5½ vs. Memphis: Akron knocked off some tough MAC teams this year. Memphis will be next to fall.

Rutgers +10½ vs. Arizona State: It was a great season for Rutgers, and they face a Sun Devil squad that had sights set higher. Take the Scarlet Knights here.

Colorado vs. Clemson: No line on this game as Colorado is breaking in a new coach. Take Clemson up to 10 points or less.

Nebraska +11.5 vs. Michigan: This isn’t your Tom Osborne Huskers, but they’ve improved this season and have a stout defense. They’ll stay close to an uninterested Spartan squad.

Boston College -1 vs. Boise State: Tough match-up here for the Eagles, who must overcome the blue "smurf" carpet in Boise. The Broncos get by a very tough BC team.

Oklahoma vs. Oregon -3: The Ducks should have little trouble scoring on a rebuilding Sooner squad.

Utah vs. Georgia Tech -7½:: It may seem like a lot of points, but Tech’s defense should be able to stop the Utes and win easily.

Virginia vs. Minnesota -3:The Golden Gophers have an overpowering running attach, which should make for a long afternoon for the Cavaliers.

Missouri vs. South Carolina -4: The Game Cocks have crowed under Steve Spurrier. And Missouri will fall within their pecking order.

Iowa State vs. TCU -4: TCU should have no trouble with a team that blew its chance for a Big 12 title.

Alabama vs. Texas Tech -3:The Crimson Tide fooled everyone for most of the season, but they fell back into character when it counted. Texas Tech will score early and often in big win.

Texas vs. USC —7½: The hype surrounding Texas sounds like the same nonsense from Oklahoma bettors last season. USC takes care of business in a 21-point win.