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2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

BCS Championship Primer

The 2014 BCS Championship game is all set from Pasadena, California with an ACC/SEC matchup. Following Ohio State's defeat to Michigan State in the Big 10 title game, that opened the door for SEC champion Auburn to make its second BCS title game appearance in four years. Auburn will face top-ranked Florida State, as the Seminoles cruised past Duke to capture the ACC championship. The Seminoles opened up as 7 ½-point favorites at the LVH with a total of 64.

Florida State is making its first BCS title game appearance since losing to Oklahoma in 2000, while participating in its fourth BCS Championship since its inception in 1998. The Seminoles enter Pasadena looking for their third-ever championship (1993 and 1999), as FSU finished the 1999 campaign undefeated. Jimbo Fisher's team compiled a 13-0 SU and 11-2 ATS record this season, as their two non-covers came as a favorite of over 24 points in wins against Boston College and North Carolina State.
Auburn made a tremendous turnaround after failing to win an SEC game last season, as the Tigers put together a 12-1 SU and 11-2 ATS mark in 2013, including 10 consecutive covers. Gus Malzahn has done wonders in his first season as head coach at Auburn, leading the Tigers' offense to 34 points or more in each of the last eight games. The offensive explosion has resulting in 'overs' in seven of the past eight contests, including the easy 'over' in the SEC Championship victory over Missouri.

Since 2007, Florida State has gone 5-5 SU and 5-4-1 ATS against SEC opponents, including a 37-7 rout of Florida this season. In this same stretch, Auburn has compiled a 3-2 SU and 2-3 ATS record against ACC foes, as four of those contests came against Clemson. Auburn leads the all-time series, 13-4-1, but the Seminoles and Tigers haven't faced off since 1990.

Florida State is riding a five-game bowl winning streak, including last season's pounding of Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl. The Noles have covered the number in each of the last five bowls, while last facing an SEC squad in the 2010 Chick-Fil-A Bowl in a 26-17 triumph over South Carolina. Auburn has also won five consecutive bowls, but didn't qualify for a bowl last season. The Tigers have won each of their last three bowl games against ACC opponents, while playing in its third BCS game in school history (2-0 with wins over Oregon in 2010 and Virginia Tech in 2004).

Other BCS games:

Rose Bowl, Michigan State vs. Stanford (January 1)
Fiesta Bowl, Baylor vs. Central Florida (January 1)
Sugar Bowl, Oklahoma vs. Alabama (January 2)
Orange Bowl, Ohio State vs. Clemson (January 3)

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

How to bet college football bowl games
By Teddy Covers

During football season, I usually write about the NFL every week.  But it wasn’t easy to make broad generalizations about teams on a Sunday in which more than half the games were significantly affected by snowy or frigid weather.  And the college football bowl pairings were announced on Sunday Night.  So, I made the executive decision to take a one week break from the NFL this week to discuss my personal strategies for winning during bowl season.

Motivation is the key factor for any bowl game. Overall talent and team speed don’t mean a thing when the players don’t give a hoot about being there.  That’s why underdogs tend to do fairly well against the spread in the earlier bowl games.  It’s not a reward for a favorite to end up in front of a sparse crowd in Boise or Detroit facing a team they’re not particularly excited about playing, especially if their second tier bowl bid came as a result of a relatively disappointing campaign.

Always check the local newspapers, blogs and yes, even twitter feeds for clues about any team’s level of preparation and intensity. If the favorite isn’t likely to be motivated, any halfway competent underdog is almost an automatic play.

Look for the areas of team strength that are not likely to be affected by a long layoff. Remember, most teams will have been off the field for three weeks or even a month by kickoff of their bowl games.  In particular, teams that run the ball well are generally good bets in bowl games.  Run blocking is not something that suffers dramatically during a layoff, nor do the good running backs suffer from a month of rest.  Teams that outrush their opponents cover the spread better than 75% of the time in December and January.

Bet the coach. Some coaches seem to do well in bowl games almost every year, while other coaches treat bowl games like a reward for their squads, with plenty of time devoted to extra curricular activities, and not that much focus on the game itself.   Some coaches stand strong in the underdog role; other coaches do their best work as favorites when given the opportunity to annihilate a weaker foe. These are not meaningless trends, or statistical aberrations.  Rather, they are a statement about how a particular coach views the bowl process for his team.

Look for motivated and talented quarterbacks. When it comes to college football, the best quarterbacks are often the biggest moneymakers for their supporters. Most QB’s are team leaders, and the rest of the club will follow their example.  If a QB is prepared to make a statement in his bowl game, he’s generally the type of quarterback worth supporting with a wager.  Look no further than the regular season for some prime examples, with elite quarterbacks like Jameis Winston from Florida State, Bryce Petty from Baylor and Nick Marshall from Auburn all guiding their teams to 9-3 (75%) ATS marks or better.

Defense means every bit as much as offense. The dominant defensive clubs are strong plays in bowl games almost every year – just ask anybody who’s been betting on Alabama in recent bowl games.  Strong defensive squads create turnovers and hold leads, exactly what you want from the teams you have bet on.

Teams that fall behind in bowl games tend to get frustrated easier than they do in the regular season, one of the reasons why bowl season produces more than its fair share of blowouts, particularly as we get into the matchups featuring the very best teams in the first week of January.  Nine of the twelve bowl games played on or after January 1st last year were decided by double-digit margins.

Heck, look at the conference championship games from last weekend as another clear example of fairly one-sided results, with six of the seven championship games decided by double digits.  Don’t think that means the favorites dominate – four of the seven double digit wins on conference championship weekend were won by the underdog (Bowling Green, Auburn, Michigan State and Stanford).  Be aware of this trend when betting in-game or at halftime – there will be plenty of ‘second half run-outs’ over the course of the next month

And, while this is obvious, it’s also worth stating clearly. Teams with the better quarterback AND the better defense are generally very good bowl bets, even though they’ll usually (not always) be the favorite.

Which gets me to perhaps the most important point of all – just pick the winner! Straight up success correlates better with ATS success than any other factor, well over 80% of the time over the past 20 years.  Those long term results also tell us very clearly that when you bet underdogs during bowl season, be sure to have at least a taste of the plus price return on the moneyline.

Bettors should also note the enormous potential returns on underdog moneyline parlays – even modest three and four teamers.  And it’s definitely worth noting that moneylines vary, often dramatically – much more than pointspreads from sportsbook to sportsbook, as do underdog moneyline parlay rules.  Line shoppers routinely get rewarded with bigger paydays, plain and simple.

Look for teams that are searching for respect or redemption. When one club gets all the hype and publicity, and the other is virtually ignored by the media, or widely regarded as ‘lucky to be there’, the over-hyped team often comes in overconfident, while the under-hyped squad is usually more motivated.  Pay particular attention to this in the later bowl games, when the media glare really heats up.  Teams that enter bowl season off a disappointing series of late season losses can be strong ‘bet-on’ squads if they are properly motivated.  Also look for teams that came out flat in their bowl last year, looking for a better showing this time around.

Be sure to handicap the conferences themselves. When a particular conference shows strength early on in the bowl season, the remaining teams from that conference are often worth a play, or vice-versa.  Every year there is a conference or two that does very well in the bowl games, while another conference or two will do very poorly.  If you catch these trends early you can ride them all the way through the conclusion of the bowl season.

Don’t be afraid to pass. With so many bowl games, and so many intangible factors to consider during bowl season, there will be numerous matchups that simply don’t offer much value to bet on, either side or total.  Remember that the entire bowl season has fewer games than a single ‘normal’ Saturday college football card.  Sure, we know these teams well – they are the cream of the crop in college football this season, and just about every club we’ll see over the next months has been on TV multiple times this year.  But we don’t have 20 or 25 plays on a normal college football Saturday; there’s no reason to have that many plays when the card is significantly smaller.

Don’t let bad beats get you down. I know it’s easier said than done, but people tend to get insane during bowl season when zany things happen at the end of the game.  Anyone who had Duke in last year’s Belk Bowl against Cincinnati still remembers the sting of that loss, and it certainly wasn’t the only positively brutal beat of the bowl season.  Wacky final minutes aren’t unique to bowl season, and bettors must do their best to avoid losing focus on the big picture (profitable results), even after a very tough beat (or two, or three). Using these factors in your handicapping process should help you produce a profit this bowl season.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Bowl Breakdown - Part I
By Mike Rose

It's the most wonderful time of the year for college football betting fans, as there are 35 bowl games on tap to break down and find winners in.

Today, we're taking a look at the first eight bowl games of the year, starting with the New Mexico Bowl on Dec. 21 through the Poinsettia Bowl on Nov. 26.

New Mexico Bowl – Washington State Cougars vs. Colorado State Rams

Opening Line: Washington State -10

The Rams are back in a bowl game for the first time since 2008. The Cougs are here in the second season for the first time since 2003. Wazzu had one of the best ATS records this year in the land at 9-3, including covering its last three. A 31-24 loss to Auburn at Jordan-Hare to start the season certainly looks a lot better now than it did then.

Las Vegas Bowl – Fresno State Bulldogs vs. USC Trojans

Opening Line: USC -7

It'll be interesting to see how USC reacts to being on its third head coach of the season. Fresno State was looked upon as a team which gave up on the season after losing to San Jose State, but QB Derek Carr and the gang rallied for an easy win over Utah State. The concern we have? Fresno State only played one BCS conference team this year, and that was a 52-51 OT escape against Rutgers way back in Week 1.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – San Diego State Aztecs vs. Buffalo Bulls

Opening Line: Buffalo -3.5

This is probably the least sexy of the 35 bowl games. San Diego State did beat Boise State this year, but that doesn't say nearly as much now as it would have in the past. Buffalo was the runner up in the MAC East, and it is only playing in its second bowl game in school history. The Bulls were smacked in their one effort back in the '08 International Bowl by UConn.

New Orleans Bowl – Tulane Green Wave vs. Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

Opening Line: Tulane -3

It has been 11 years since Tulane has been to a bowl game, so there isn't much here to analyze. ULL meanwhile, is playing in the New Orleans Bowl for the third straight season, and it has won and covered both games. This is the first time they have played a team anywhere close to the Bayou though, taking away the the home field advantage they relied upon these last two seasons.

St. Petersburg Bowl – East Carolina Pirates vs. Ohio Bobcats

Opening Line: East Carolina -14

Ohio more or less slunk to the end of the season this year, just like it did last year. It was a dog in the Independence Bowl last season to ULM, a very comparable team to this East Carolina bunch though, and it slammed the Warhawks 45-14. The Pirates are 0-4 SU and just 1-4 ATS in their last four trips to bowl games, including last year when they were trucked by ULL in the New Orleans Bowl.

Hawaii Bowl – Boise State Broncos vs. Oregon State Beavers

Opening Line: Washington State -10

An interesting game for sure. The Beavers could be running Head Coach Mike Riley out of town if this game is lost. The Broncos have already seen head coach Chris Petersen bolt to Seattle to take the Washington job. These two teams are familiar with each other, having played against one another in 2010, as well as in 2003-2006. The Broncos are 3-2 SU and 3-1-1 ATS in those five games, but this is clearly the worst edition of a Boise State team in the last decade.

Little Caesars Bowl – Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Bowling Green Falcons

Opening Line: Bowling Green -5

The Panthers have been dealing with the BBVA Compass Bowl for the last three seasons, and not surprisingly, they have been incredibly disinterested, getting slaughtered by Ole Miss and SMU each of the last two seasons. Bowling Green won the MAC this year to get to Motown for this bowl game, and it is rightfully favored and perhaps playing to finish the year in the Top 25.

Poinsettia Bowl – Utah State Aggies vs. Northern Illinois Huskies

Opening Line: Northern Illinois -1.5

These are two of the best mid-majors in the country, but there is a real question as to whether either of these teams are going to be that interested in playing in this game. The Aggies lost the MWC Championship Game and probably got invited to a better bowl game to play in than they deserved. Northern Illinois lost out on the BCS by losing the MAC Championship Game. However, this is the last game for QB Jordan Lynch, who is probably on his way to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation, though he won't come anywhere near winning the award.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Bowl Season's Best/Worst ATS and Over/Under Teams

If you’re looking for some solid bowl bets this postseason, why not start with the teams that made college football fans money in the regular season. We look at the best and worst ATS teams as well as the top Over and Under programs bowling this month:

Best ATS

Auburn Tigers (11-2-0 ATS)

Auburn has been fantastic this year rushing the ball, ranked first overall with 335.7 yards. They are also 11th overall in total yards with 505.3. Auburn covered its first 10 games by a comfortable margin and is an 8.5-point underdog versus Florida State – the other top ATS team in college football - in the BCS title game.

Florida State Seminoles (11-2-0 ATS)

Florida State’s margin of victory is 42.3 points per game - a record in the BCS era. Florida State is ranked second overall in points scored (53) and sixth in total yards with 529.4. Defensively, the Seminoles are first overall in passing yards allowed (152) and points allowed with a measly 10.7.

Worst ATS

Georgia Bulldogs (3-8-1 ATS)

The Bulldogs have gone 2-3-1 ATS at home and 1-5 ATS away. Georgia’s fall from fifth in preseason rankings to out of the polls is in large part to key injuries. Georgia lost QB Aaron Murray to a season-ending knee injury in November. After winning and covering in their first two games, the Bulldogs went 1-1-8 ATS in their final 10 games. Georgia is a 9-point favorite versus Nebraska in the Gator Bowl on New Year’s Day.

Rutgers Scarlet Knights (4-8 ATS)

The Scarlet Knights have gone 0-2-0 ATS in games played on grass (UCF and Connecticut) and have failed to cover both 20-plus point spreads with their offense struggling to run the ball. Defensively, the Knights are ranked fourth in rushing yards allowed (94.6) but struggle against the pass, sitting 122nd and allowing 311.4 yards per game. Rutgers is a 15.5-point underdog taking on Notre Dame at Yankee Stadium in the Pinstripe Bowl on December 28.

Best Over

Florida State Seminoles (10-3 O/U)

The Seminoles have the most points for and the second-lowest points against in the country. Quarterback Jameis Winston ranks second with the most touchdown passes (38) and has the league’s highest yards per pass attempt at 10.9. Florida State is on pace to score more points than any team in the history of college football needing only 28 more to snap the 2008 Oklahoma State Cowboys’ record of 716 points. The total for the BCS Championship is at 66 points.

Georgia Bulldogs (9-3 O/U)

Georgia has an offense scoring points (458) and a defense giving them up (353). Offensively, the Bulldogs are ranked 17th in total yards (489.8) and 16th in total passing yards with 313.8. Their defense is allowing 29.4 points good for 82nd and 232.8 passing yards. Georgia has faced nine totals of 60 or more points and has topped the number in seven of those games.

Best Under

Louisville Cardinals (3-9 O/U)

The Cardinals defense has been fantastic in preventing opponents from scoring. They’re ranked second overall in total yards allowed with 258.2. They are eighth in passing yards allowed (171.7), second in rushing yards allowed (86.5) and third in total points allowed with 12.4 a game. Louisville takes on Miami in the Russell Athletic Bowl on December 28.

Bowling Green Falcons (4-9 O/U)

The Falcons are ranked in the Top 10 defensively in three categories: eighth in total yards allowed (308.7), fourth in passing yards allowed with 166.2, and fifth in points allowed (14.8). The Falcons are also in the Top 25 in holding their opponents to a 34.4 percent completion rate on third downs. Bowling Green meets Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl on December 26.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Early thoughts on Rose, Fiesta, Sugar, BCS and more
By Rob Veno

Rose Bowl

255 Michigan State
256 Stanford -2 (Power Rating)

Game Opened: Stanford -3 Total Not posted
Current Line: Stanford -4 or -4.5 Total Not yet posted

Early Thoughts

1. Obviously a battle of mirror images as similar style offenses and arguably the nation’s toughest defenses meet. Both teams are extremely happy to be in this game which should equate to 60 minutes of full effort from each side.     
2. Can’t help but feel the edge in this game goes to Stanford because they’ve produced equally stellar defensive results against far superior offensive competition. Indiana, Nebraska and Ohio State are the best offenses MSU faced this season and they allowed 28, 28, and 24 points to those teams for an average of 26.7 per game. The Spartans overall defensive numbers are somewhat skewed by the seven lousy offenses they played.             

3. The passing game and offensive line will be vital to each team’s success and probably determine the winner. Advantage goes to Stanford which has the far more experienced QB in this situation and an offensive line that eventually grinds all defenses down. This pointspread has already climbed a point and a half in one day and Michigan State has not lost a game by more than four points all season. They are 3-0-1 ATS as an underdog.

Fiesta Bowl

257 Central Florida
258 Baylor -15 (Power Rating)

Game Opened: Baylor -16.5 Total Not posted
Current Line:  Baylor -16.5 Total Not yet posted

Early Thoughts

1. This group of Central Florida Knights has performed well against tough opponents in hostile venues the past couple of season. Pointspread covers at Ohio State in 2012 and at Penn State and Louisville this season (both outright wins) have UCF battle tested. Still, they may be in over their heads here.   
2. Central Florida’s offensive line play has gone under the radar but it’s a major part of the team’s offensive success (432 ypg). The skill position talent is also overlooked nationally despite the fact that they are a veteran group. QB Blake Bortels, RB Storm Johnson and the WR quartet of Rannell Hall, Jeff Godfrey, JJ Worton and Breshad Perriman have all been major contributors the past couple of years. They are very capable of giving Baylor’s defense a lot of trouble.           

3. UCF’s defense is going to get rolled. They haven’t faced anything like what they’re going to face in the Baylor offense and even with the extra time, there’s no way to prepare for it. To make things worse, Baylor will be cranked up in this stand-alone game to show the national audience how explosive they are. Bears HC Art Briles is also likely to gain a boatload of new fans who will be seeing his offense for the first time. QB Bryce Petty, RB Lache Seastrunk and WR Antwan Goodley will become household names as quickly as Auburn’s RB Tre Mason did. It’s a shame WR Tevin Reese won’t get to play in this one. 

Sugar Bowl

259 Oklahoma
260 Alabama -16.5 (Power Rating)

Game Opened: Alabama -14 Total Not posted
Current Line:  Alabama -15 Total Not yet posted

Early Thoughts

1. My first thought was disappointment that Oklahoma received this bid rather than Oregon. The Ducks closed the regular season sputtering somewhat but have to believe QB Marcus Mariota’s injury had everything to do with that. No matter, Oklahoma is the team slotted here and they earned the spot with an impressive road upset of Oklahoma State which ran their second half pointspread record to 5-1. They are without question playing their best football of the season right now.   
2. Alabama’s run defense which was gutted by Auburn will be ready to atone for that performance. Much like Auburn QB Nick Marshall, Oklahoma QB’s Trevor Knight and Blake Bell are additional running threats and the Sooners have explosive WR’s led by Jalen Saunders. There is a lot less “window dressing” with the Sooners offense and they don’t have a back like Auburn’s Tre Mason.       

3. Oklahoma has not seen a defense with anywhere the ability of the Crimson Tide defense so the play of their offensive line and QB’s will have to be solid and limit mistakes. Alabama’s offense figures to move the ball pretty well in this one because their balance won’t allow OU to focus on solely stopping the run. It should also be noted that despite the 5-1 ATS record down the stretch, Oklahoma allowed four of those opponents to score 31 points or more.

Cotton Bowl

261 Oklahoma St.
262 Missouri pk (Power Rating)

Game Opened: Missouri -3.5 Total Not posted
Current Line:  Missouri -1 Total Not yet posted

Early Thoughts

1. Smaller limit offshore shop 5 Dimes opened this game Missouri -3.5 and quickly saw it bet down as the money grabbed Oklahoma State. Later yesterday afternoon, the much higher limit and more respected CRIS opener came out at pick-em which was pushed up to Missouri -1. My power ratings for this game showed the contest pick-em suggesting the small amount of action that was allowed grab the +3.5 offered at 5Dimes on down to +1 was correct from a value standpoint. 
2. A huge factor will be which head coach can pick up the pieces from disappointing losses last weekend. Guess here is that the former Big XII conference mates are not that far separated from those days and thus will both come to Dallas fully focused on winning this game. If that’s the case, the key matchup could end up being Mizzou’s dynamic offense versus Oklahoma State’s defense which held the prolific Baylor attack to their lowest point total of the year (17).       

3. Missouri will be extremely happy to face a far more traditional running game after being steamrolled by Auburn’s deception style. They also have a number of players including QB James Franklin and RB Henry Josey who remember the 45-24 home beating they took against Oklahoma State in their final season of Big XII play. Franklin committed four second half turnovers in that game so redemption angle here could be legitimate. 

Orange Bowl

263 Clemson
264 Ohio State -6 (Power Rating)

Game Opened: Ohio State -2.5 Total Not posted
Current Line:  Ohio State -1.5 to -3 (mostly -2.5) Total Not yet posted

Early Thoughts

1. Ohio State’s cornerbacks are going to have their hands full with the size and speed of Clemson’s Sammy Watkins and Martavis Bryant. Throw in slot receiver Adam Humphries and OSU’s secondary which was mediocre at best this year will be tested. They’ll need extreme help from their pass rush but Clemson has a terrific screen game which can negate it.
2. Clemson will have their hands full with all the elements of the Ohio State offense. Florida State destroyed the Tigers defense and Ohio State is similar to FSU in their strengths. Dual threat QB…check, powerful ground game with breakaway ability…check, home run potential in the WR corps…check, tremendous run blocking and pass protecting offensive line…check. Clemson DC Brett Venables unit showed statistical improvement this season but they failed against the one opponent most comparable to Ohio State. He’s got three and a half weeks to prepare his defense.

3. Motivation would seem to favor Clemson in this game. They’re obviously ecstatic to be in a BCS Bowl game and with stars QB Taj Boyd (definitely), WR Watkins (likely) and DE Vic Beasley (likely) playing in their final college game, Clemson figures to be focused. On the other hand, it’s hard to say how the Buckeyes will enter this game after blowing their opportunity to play in the national championship game.

BCS Championship Game

269 Auburn
270 Florida State -12.5 (Power Rating)

Game Opened: Florida State -9.5 Total 65
Current Line:  Florida State -8.5 or -9 Total 66

Early Thoughts

1. It’s funny how one game can so significantly elevate the public perception of a player. A week ago, Auburn RB Tre Mason was mentioned by absolutely nobody in the national media as a Heisman Trophy candidate. Now, you have Heisman voters moving him all the way up inside their top three, the entire sports media gushing over him and casual fans and bettors all know who he is. Inkling here is that Florida State knows who Mason is too and there will be an extreme chip on their defense’s collective shoulder to subdue the sudden attention he’s receiving.     

2. Why are so many who cover college football saying that Auburn is playing their best football right now after they’ve given up 1,029 total yards in their last two games. I’ll agree with the determination that the Tigers are playing their best offensive football considering the pair of defenses they just lit up but their defense is proving to be horrendous.

3. There has not been a better college football money maker than Auburn the past 11 weeks as they’ve gone a perfect 10-0 against the spread including 3-0 as an underdog. FSU (11-2 ATS) and Auburn (11-2 ATS) are tied as the two best pointspread teams this season.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Four Best Non-BCS Bowls to Watch and Wager
By Jason Logan

Just like a kid waiting for Christmas morning, college football bettors are counting down the minutes until New Year’s Day, when the BCS bowls kick off.

While you wait it out for the big boys to clash, don’t put blinders on to the rest of bowl season. Here are four great non-BCS bowls to watch and wager on this holiday season:

Holiday Bowl: Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (+13.5)

Don’t let that near two-touchdown spread fool you. This could be one of the most entertaining bowl games – BCS or not – this entire bowl season.

The Red Raiders have the offensive weaponry to keep pace with ASU, averaging 35.7 points per game and airing it out for the second most yards in the country (392 yards per game). The Sun Devils come in deflated after a loss at home in the Pac-12 title game and could be walking into a shootout on Dec. 30.

Advocare V100 Bowl: Arizona Wildcats vs. Boston College (+7.5)

This New Year’s Eve bowl game will turn into a track meet between two of the most dynamic running backs in college football.

Boston College stud rusher and Heisman finalist Andre Williams – the nation’s top runner (2,102 yards) – takes on Arizona RB Ka'Deem Carey, who ranked fifth in the country with 1,720 yards on the ground. Many in the Tucson area believe Carey was snubbed by the Heisman folks and that the Wildcats will use the bowl stage to showcase their star player. Could be value in the Under with both teams looking to tear up the turf.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl: Duke Blue Devils vs. Texas A&M Aggies (-11.5)

There are a couple reasons why this spread sits at a brow-furrowing 11.5 points. The Blue Devils are one of the surprise teams this season, going 10-3 SU and ATS. While Duke did get rolled by Florida State in the ACC title game, you can’t discount the Blue Devils for losing to a team that’s favored by almost nine points in the BCS Championship.

And the other reason is actually more of a question: Where is Johnny Manziel’s head going to be in his final college game? The former Heisman winner will likely jump to the pros after this New Year’s Eve performance. Will he go all out to boost his draft stock or get caught looking past Duke after a disappointing season?

Capital One Bowl: South Carolina Gamecocks vs. Wisconsin Badgers (+1)

The nation’s most destructive defensive force – Gamecocks DL Jadeveon Clowney – runs into one of the most rock-solid offensive lines, with South Carolina and Wisconsin clashing at the Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Clowney is another pro-ready talent likely making the leap to Sundays, but his stock took a knock this week when he was flagged for speeding – going 110 mph in a 70 zone. The Badgers consistently have one of the better offensive lines in the land. Wisconsin allowed only 15 sacks for a total of just 87 yards lost and averaged only five tackles for a loss allowed per game on the season. It’s a classic “unstoppable force meets immovable object” showdown.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

2013 Bowl Strategies & Early Thoughts

Preference for the Dog

I’m not particularly a fan of the favorites in these bowls. But like the regular season, I’m not afraid to play them either when I feel they are getting a favorable line or spot. As a rule for the dogs in these games, I’ll move the point spread about 2 points in favor of the dogs. I do this mainly because of the month of extra prep time a team gets. I feel it favors the dogs more than the faves in these games.

But there are other reasons. Although not always the case,  I also consider the fact that some of these dogs are just happier to be in a bowl than their opponents. For example a Sunbelt team or maybe a low rung CUSA team who very seldom if ever gets to perform on television in front of a national audience, and are more than likely going to give 100% for their school and program exposure.

This is just one reason why I like to give a slight advantage to the dogs in these early games. It comes down to program respect, redemption and prep time, getting healthier as a team and other intangibles.

Good Luck Predicting Motivation

I no longer use motivation as a big factor in my capping. If I have some serious doubts about the mindset of a team, I simply won’t bet the game unless the line already favors the other side after I cap it. I love the psychological part of college football, but the fact is it’s pretty much impossible to guess the mental state of an entire football team.

There may be a couple teams each bowl season that I have serious doubts about as far as the motivation factor, like USC last season against Ga Tech. But it was the events leading up to that game such as the USC team missing the bowl banquet which was a dead giveaway, and a serious snub to the Sun Bowl officials and GT that they simply didn’t care to be there. In my mind that was pretty much inexcusable for the sorry Lane Kiffin and his team. I was about 90% sure they weren’t going to show up for the game either. And they didn’t.

But most of the time the motivation factor isn’t that obvious, and may only happen once or twice a bowl season, if at all. So it’s no use trying to guess. Plus something tells me that even if these teams do have more motivation, they don’t perform any better or worse than 50% over the long run.

If your really stuck on looking for the motivation factor in the bowls, look no further than the coach first. He’s the one who dictates the general attitude of the team. You might be able to pick up on their general attitude in their press conferences. But none of them are going to come out and say “this bowl sucks, and we aren’t going to give 110%.”

Line Movement

We have to keep in mind that because of the public interest in the bowls, we are going to get much more line movement than we normally do during the regular season. This is why I don’t really care for playing games too early.

And I’m especially hesitant of playing double digit dogs too early. Some of these dogs are eye candy to the public. Like for example a dog of +14. Weekend bettors think after reading all of the bowl handicapping advice about dogs covering in December games that the +14 is a gift they better get now before the line drops. Problem is Vegas is already aware of the December dogs theory, and many times will set the line a little lower than it should be.

I’ve seen many examples where the public has jumped all over a team early at +14 thinking it was a great deal, and by kickoff it was up to +16 and the favorite covers. It pays to cap these games yourself before making any foolish early bets based on old or bad advice or somebody else’s opinion.

I know you’ve all heard about the “take the dogs in December and the favorites in January” theory. This is true to an extent. But let’s not get carried away with that angle. Dating back about 25 years the dogs cover about 55% of the time in December. With dogs of 7 points or more a little more than that. In fact I remember back about 7 or 8 years ago when the big dogs had an incredible ATS bowl run for about 3 or 4 years straight. Something around 70% or higher covered at over 7 points. But you can’t count on that big of a run every season. It eventually evens out in the end.

This is why most system plays don’t work year after year. College football is an ever changing game. When we get to January it of course turns to the favorites, who have covered a little over 53% of the time. So you still have to carefully pick and choose your spots.

Plus the bowl calendar has changed quite a bit since these old trends came out. Many of these mediocre teams who used to play their games in December are now playing them in January as filler for the networks. So you have to treat some of these post-New Year’s games like a December bowl.

Coaching Still Rules

To me, the coaching angle is still the strongest handicapping angle there is when it comes to bowl games. I’m probably more guilty than most of using this angle more than I should during the regular season. But there are simply situations where it can’t be ignored.

For example the Gundy/Stoops matchup with OU/OSU. Gundy is 1-8 SU against Stoops in his career. And this year his team was favored by the biggest point spread margin than they’ve ever had over the Sooners. This was an instance where the coaching matchup had to be your number one reason for liking the Sooners in that game.

Same goes for bowls. If the coaching angle isn’t the strongest, it’s  way up there in the top 3 angles you should be using to cap the bowls. Unlike the regular season where they have a fixed routine every week for prepping for weekly games, the bowls are another animal. Some coaches are just better at getting their teams prepped through finals, parties, suspensions, illness and other distractions such as the bowl events leading up to the game. Others are not so good at it. And it reflects in their poor bowl records.

I’m also a little hesitant of betting on coaches in their first bowl. Unless the opposing coach is also inexperienced in bowls or has a poor bowl record, or his team is simply much more talented than their opponent. But in the end every decision you make still depends on the point spread.

Hot ATS Teams vs Cold ATS Teams

Another thing about bowls that differ somewhat from the regular season. Although not set in stone, I’m a little more prone to bet against teams who have an ATS winning streak (3 games or more) coming into the bowls. And I like to bet on teams who have a losing streak ATS, because those teams are usually getting a little more line value because of public perception, and could also be looking for a little redemption for their poor finish.

This is opposite of the way I play regular season games. As a rule I like to ride ATS winning streaks, and bet against the losing streaks. But a layoff of a few weeks can sometimes totally change the dynamics of a team.

Remember, I’m talking about winning and losing ATS, I’m not talking about SU wins or losses. For this reason alone I’ve never liked the 5 week or so layoff from the regular season to the national title game. It is just way too long when you compare it to the other major sports. I think it would have been much more interesting for Florida State to have caught a hot Auburn team the next week or maybe two weeks after the regular season. With 4 or 5 weeks between games, I’m never sure what kind of team will show up.

Remember a couple years ago when Oregon/Auburn played in the title game and the total was set in the 70′s? We ended up getting a 41 point final total for that game. If those two teams had met a week or two after the regular season, my bet is we would have seen a much different type of game. It looks to me like the farther out from the regular season these games go, the less true to form a team plays. But that’s just my opinion. And a subject for another article.

More to come …

I’ll have plenty more to say as we get into the bowls, which I’ll be adding to this post. I’m sure many of you have heard most or all of this info before, but it never hurts to get a refreshment course on these bowls. I do it for myself every year at this time since I’m getting old and forget half the crap I’ve learned after a good nights sleep.

I’ll try to add a few things as we go along. Every game is different. And with coaching changes it makes it incredibly difficult to cap some of these games. Even with assistants moving on it can put a crimp in a bowl game. I’ve especially found this to be the case with offensive coordinators when they take another job and can’t coach in the bowl. You’ve got to be careful of these games.

Just one early observation from looking at the raw numbers on these games,  it looks like the ACC could perform better than expected in the bowls. And it looks like the Big 12 could be the worst performer of the Big 5 conferences.

I also think the SEC will perform under expectations. And the Big 10 and Pac-10 will be a little hit and miss as far as the spread goes, and we’ll just have to take them game by game. But I think the Big 10 could surprise in one or two games. I’ll start giving my early opinions on some of these games starting in the next few days. BOL this bowl season. Let’s make’em apologize.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Betting College Football Bowl Season's Coaching Moves

We’re heading into bowl season, a time when some coaches are on the hot seat and when rising coaches and hot-shot coordinators are often on the move. Such moves can represent good opportunities for spot bets. Here’s a quick snapshot of the coaching carousel:

USC Trojans (9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS)

Holiday Bowl: -6 vs. Fresno State

Earlier this month, USC hired Steve Sarkisian away from Washington, prompting interim Trojans coach Ed Orgeron to quit before USC’s Las Vegas Bowl date with Fresno State on Dec. 21. In the interim, Clay Helton will lead USC – becoming the school’s third coach this season. Orgeron picked up the pieces and engineered a 6-2 SU finish to the season (5-3 ATS), and the Trojans would’ve run through a wall for him in the bowl game. But the players might not feel the same way about Helton.

Washington Huskies (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS)

Fight Hunger Bowl: -3 BYU

The Huskies hired Chris Petersen away from Boise State, leaving Washington with interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo in the Fight Hunger Bowl vs. Brigham Young. Washington players are likely feeling the sting of Sarkisian spurning them for a Pac-12 rival. Perhaps they rise up for the bowl game.

Boise State Broncos (8-4, 6-6 ATS)

Hawaii Bowl: +2.5 vs. Oregon State

Interim coach Bob Gregory has the reins at Boise State. Chris Petersen led the Broncos to their greatest heights, including two BCS bowl victories. This year, Boise State goes to the Hawaii Bowl against Oregon State. Not exactly a BCS game. In fact, not even the same area code. Could a letdown follow? Bettors seem to think so, moving BSU from -2.5 to +2.5.

Arkansas State Red Wolves (7-5 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)

GoDaddy Bowl: +9 vs. Ball State

Arkansas State coach Bryan Harsin jumped to Boise State to replace Petersen, so the Red Wolves will have interim coach John Thompson for the GoDaddy Bowl against Ball State. This line has jumped from -8 to -9 at some books.

Michigan State Spartans (12-1 SU, 8-4-1 ATS)

Rose Bowl: +4.5 vs. Stanford

Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is another hot prospect, having led a unit that is arguably the best in the nation. He already spurned Connecticut, so he might actually stick around to finish the job against Stanford in the Rose Bowl.

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (8-4 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)

Pinstripe Bowl: -15.5 vs. Rutgers

Notre Dame, a 15.5-point favorite against Rutgers in the Pinstripe Bowl, has lost two key assistants. Defensive coordinator Bob Diaco bolted for the head coaching job at Connecticut, just a week after offensive coordinator Chuck Martin left to become head coach at Miami of Ohio.

Bowling Green Falcons (10-3 SU, 10-3 ATS)

Little Caesars Pizza Bowl: -5 vs. Pittsburgh

Bowling Green’s Dave Clawson, whose squad upset Northern Illinois in the MAC title game, jumped ship to Wake Forest. So Bowling Green will lean on interim coach Adam Scheier against Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The Falcons have dropped from -6 to -5 since Clawson’s departure.

Coaching moves to watch

The Mack Brown-Nick Saban soap opera continues. Brown is rumored to be resigning this week from Texas, which faces Oregon (-14) in the Alamo Bowl, and rumor has it Texas is offering piles of cash to Alabama’s Saban, who has a Sugar Bowl date with Oklahoma (+15). … Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is definitely on the hot seat heading into a meeting with Georgia (+9) in the Gator Bowl.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

College Football Betting Tips – Pre New Years                      
By Marc Lawrence

For the longest time College Bowl games played before New Year's Day were deemed minor bowls.  Those played from January 1st out were the main or major bowl games.

That all changed when the Go Daddy's and other lesser, lightweight bowl games were created to fill a need for cable television broadcasting rights.

Hence, none of the bowl games on the docket prior to New Year's Day are considered of the heavyweight variety.  Instead they are largely populated by two classes of teams: those who suffered disturbing late losses and fell out of major bowl consideration, and those who scraped and clawed and earned a bowl bid thanks to a strong second-half effort.

Let take a look this year's pre-New Year's Day bowl card shapes up.  All stats are from the 2013 PLAYBOOK Bowl Stat Report.

Conference Call

Like teams and coaches, conferences too develop bowl personalities.

Our database dug deep and found these noteworthy pre-New Year's Day conference trends.  All results are ATS dating back as far as 1980, unless noted otherwise.

ACC: 19-8 as dogs versus an opponent off a win (Miami Florida, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech).

Big 10: 12-3-1 off back-to-back losses (Michigan and Minnesota).

Big 12:  2-8 as dogs versus .750 or greater opponent (Texas and Texas Tech)

CUSA: 10-3 as dog 7 or more off a win (Rice)

MAC: 1-7 off loss of 8 or more points (Buffalo and Northern Illinois)

MWC: 1-6 versus .800 or greater opponent (Utah State)

PAC 12: 1-11 favorite 6 or more points versus opponent off a loss (Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon)

SEC: 1-8 as a favorite of 8 or more points (Texas A&M)

Second-Half Ups and Downs

The pre-New Year's Day bowl team whose second half overall stats (from Game 7 out as opposed to the first six games of the season) improved the most was Middle Tennessee State, whose +108 net yards per game improvement tops the pack.

Nipping at the Blue Raiders' beak were Colorado State and Rice, each showing +83 net stat YPG improvement over the 2nd half of the season.

The pre-New Year's Day bowl team whose overall team stats regressed the most from Game 7 out was Miami Florida, who slipped a whopping -130 net YPG during the 2nd half of the campaign.

Other teams going backward dramatically after the midway point included Texas Tech (-105) and Oregon (-101).

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

It's important analyzing pre-New Year's bowl contestants on a performance scale in games against teams that owned a winning record at the time of the meeting this season.

The best pre-New Year's Day bowl teams from a straight up perspective this year were Fresno State (3-0) and Louisiana Lafayette (3-0).

On the opposite end of the SU ladder was Boise State (0-3).

When the money was on the line, this year's pre-New Year's Day best spread beater in games against winning opposition was Boston College (5-0).

And the only minor-bowl squad still looking for its first paycheck in games against a winning opponent this season is East Carolina (0-3).

Tale Of The Tape

Another interesting slant is weighing teams and their performance in games against other fellow bowl teams this season.

The best pre-New Year's Day bowl spread beater against other bowl foes was Bowling Green (4-0).

The biggest pre-New Year's Day bowl spread money loser was Texas Tech (0-5), followed closely by Pittsburgh (1-7-1).

In games "In The Stats" (net overall yards versus opponent's net overall yards), the biggest pre-New Year's Day bowler Yards Per Game stat winners were: Cincinnati (+184), Bowling Green (+156) and Oregon (+111).

Pre-New Year's Day bowlers that got trounced on the field, or the biggest Yards Per Game stat losers, were: Rutgers (-179), Buffalo (-171) and Ohio U (-166).


Speaking of stat performance this season, two bowl teams head into the postseason having been pushed all over the field to conclude the 2013 campaign.

We're speaking primarily of teams who have lost the overall yardage stats in at least their last three games.

This year's contingent of pushovers includes Arizona and Texas A&M, both of whom are laying points, making them 'leaking oil' favorites. Amazingly enough the Wildcats have been out yarded in each of their last four contests.

Incidentally, last year's bowl card featured two teams - Duke and Kansas State - that were outgained in each of their final four games of the season.  They went 0-2 SUATS, losing by 14 and 18 points, respectively.

Are You Kidding Me

Notre Dame is 0-10 SU and ATS in bowl games when facing an opponent off a win.

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Betting College Football Teams Ending Long Bowl Droughts
By Chase Ruttig

One of the best parts about bowl season is watching the schools that haven't made the postseason cut in years finally return to the holiday tradition. While detractors point to the meaninglessness of some of the bowl game calendar, the programs that haven't had the luxury of playing one more game in December show just how special the season is.

Here’s a look at schools ending bowl droughts in 2013, including two matchups that will feature teams that are all ending long droughts.

UNLV (12 Years) vs. North Texas (Eight Years)

Playing on New Year’s Day, UNLV and North Texas will both be ending two of the longest bowl droughts in the NCAA when they square off in the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Both schools got over the six-win requirement, with UNLV hitting a 7-5 record and North Texas having a strong year with an 8-4 record in the C-USA.

There isn’t much between these schools, who both managed to be just good enough in mid-major conferences to squeak into bowl season, but the Mean Green's 9-3 ATS record is slightly better than the Runnin' Rebels 8-4 mark.

Playing in its home state, North Texas is a deserved favorite, but at 6.5 points the number is high. If that number hits over a touchdown by New Year’s, bettors may want to go with UNLV.

Washington State (Nine Years) vs. Colorado State (Four Years)

With Mike Leach restoring Washington State to respectability after a falling out at Texas Tech, the Cougars will be grabbing all of the headlines heading into Saturday's Advocare V100 Bowl. Washington State will be returning to a bowl game for the first time in nearly a decade.

Colorado State should not be ignored either, after ending its bowl drought after nearly half a decade - something that will give them bragging rights over rival Colorado, which continued its bowl drought this season.

The Rams will be in extremely tough against a Pac-12 team that has hung with some top-notch opponents and appears to be on the rise under Leach. Washington State is a 4.5-point favorite.

Buffalo (Four Years)

The Buffalo Bulls will be ending their bowl streak in 2013 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl when they take on San Diego State Saturday. Buffalo has star linebacker Khalil Mack, who will be a likely first-round pick, and hold a fourth-best turnover rate in the nation at +15.

San Diego State has an overtime win against Boise State on its resume, but has played teams close in 2013 with four overtime games - three of which were won by the Aztecs. Playing on the "Smurf Turf" in Boise at the Famous Idaho Bowl, the Aztecs will have the advantage of travel distance on their side, which could be why this line has moved from Buffalo -3.5 to SDSU -1.

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Bowl Season Preview
By Razor Sharp Sports

OK, if you have been on for a long time and followed my articles and videos, you know that I am not a fan of the 35 Bowl Schedule. I just don’t believe that 70 teams had seasons that deserve to play in Bowls. I a not going to go into the whole thing I did last year. If you want to read it, it is still here in the freeplays blog, you jut have to select Razor Sharp Sports and keep hitting previous until you get back to last December’s article. Instead I am going to concentrate on the positive. I have taken a look at the Bowl schedule and here is a list of the Top-8 games I am looking forward to watching.

#8 – Las Vegas Bowl – #21 Fresno St (11-1) vs. USC (9-4) - The bowl season gets a pretty good start right away this Saturday, Dec. 21st. #21 Fresno St was 1 game away from possibly playing in a BCS Bowl game. This high-powered offense ranks 5th nationally in points per game. QB Derek Carr leads the country in passing yards. USC has come on strong at the end of the season, winning 5 of their last 6. Interim Coach Ed Orgeron did a great job going 6-2 after taking over when Lane Kiffen was fired. He was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year but still didn’t get the full time job and resigned, when Steve Sarkisian was named the new coach. Clay Helton will coach the Trojans in the Vegas Bowl.

#7 – Chik-Fil-A Bowl – #22 Duke (10-3) vs. #20 Texas A&M (8-4) - One of the biggest surprises in all of college football was the Duke Blue Devils. The Dukies won their division in the ACC and played in ACC Championship game. Head Coach David Cutcliffe has put together an offense that has scored at least 28 points in 10 of 12 games and averages 31.6 points and 408 yards per game. They go up against Johnny Manzeil and the Aggies. Johnny Football continues to be one of the most spectacular offense weapons in the country. With these two teams expects plenty of scoring.

#6 – Capital One Bowl – #19 Wisconsin (9-3) vs. #8 South Carolina (10-2) - This very well could have been a BCS Bowl match-up if a couple of things would have changed. Wisconsin had the controversial lose to Arizona St and then a late hiccup versus Penn St. Without those, they would be playing in a BCS Bowl. The Gamecocks only two losses were early in the season versus Georgia and then their own hiccup against Tennessee. Still they fought their way back into the Top-10. This is a match-up of 2 of the Nation’s top defensive players in South Carolina DE Jadaveon Clowney and Wisconsin LB Chris Borland. Still the key to winning this game may be at QB. Both the Badgers Joel Stave and Gamecocks Conner Shaw have been up and down all year, whoever performes better should come out ahead.

#5 – Cotton Bowl – #13 Oklahoma St (10-2) vs. #9 Missouri (11-2) - Here is another great match-up of two teams that were very close to be playing in a BCS Bowl game. Oklahoma St’s final game loss to rival Oklahoma cost them their BCS game. Still the Cowboys are still one of the highest scoring teams in the country at just under 40 points per game. Missouri, a former Big-12 opponent of the Cowboys, were also just a game away from a BCS Bowl game. Their loss in a very tight battle with Auburn in the SEC Championship game cost the Tigers their shot. Missouri’s offense is just below Oklahoma St in points per game at 39.0. Look for plenty of points on January 3rd.

#4 – Russell Athletic Bowl – Miami-FL 9-3 vs. #18 Louisville (11-1) - This is my favorite Non-BCS, Non-New Year’s Day Bowl game. The Hurricanes started the season Red-hot at 7-0 before their match-up against Florida St. They then his a 3-game losing streak. It looks like they have things back on track after beating Virginia and Pittsburgh in their final 2 games and scoring 86 points combined in those games. Louisville is lead by highly-touted QB Teddy Bridgewater. Bridgewater’s Cardinals only slip up came against Central Florida. Besides that game they won every other game by at least a touchdown. Offensively they have scored at least 31 points 7 times and defensively have given up more than 17 just twice and held opponents to 10 points or less in 7 games.

#3 – BCS Championship Game – #1 Florida St (13-0) vs. #2 Auburn (12-1) - Overall his looks to be a very good match-up for the title game, but even though it has the most importance, I don’t have it as my top bowl game. Florida St has been penciled into this spot ever since Oregon dropped their first game to Stanford. Then when Alabama lost to Auburn, the Seminoles moved to the top of the heap. Heisman Trophy winning Freshamn QB Jameis Winston leads the way. The Noles offense averages 53 points per game while the defense is giving up just 10.7. Unlike Florida St, Auburn was a true surprise to be playing for the Championship. The Tigers hadn’t even recieved AP Top-25 votes as late as Week 6 of the season and didn’t break into the Top-25 until Week 8. Still with wins over 5 ranked opponents, including #1 Alabama and #5 Missouri leaves little doubt that they deserve to be there. Can Florida St finally break the SEC’s strong hold on the Crystal Ball or does the Cinderella Season continue for Auburn?

#2 – Orange Bowl – #12 Clemson 10-2 vs. #7 Ohio St (12-1) - To me, these two teams may not deserve to be playing in a BCS Bowl game. Clemson has been in the Top-10 for most of the year. They ran into Florida St that dropped them a bit and then a loss to in-state rival South Carolina to finish their regular season, to me, should have knocked them out of a BCS Bowl. Ohio St was on their way to a second straight undefeated season until Michigan St ended that dream in the Big-10 Championship game. Even before that loss, the Buckeyes showed that they could fall. Giving up 41 points to Michigan and 35 to Illinois late in the year showed vulnerability. Still with all these negatives I mentioned, I still can’t wait to see this game. Both teams have great athletes and huge playmakers. For Clemson, QB Tajh Boyd and WR Sammy Watkins are dynamic. Ohio St matches them with QB Braxton Miller and RB Carlos Hyde. I expect to see plenty of highlights and scoring here.

#1 – Rose Bowl – #5 Stanford (11-2) vs. #4 Michigan St (12-1) – If you like tough smash mouth football then get ready for a GREAT ONE here! Both of these teams have been challenging opponents physically all season long. The Cardinal has had chances to be playing for a National Championshp this year but slipped up twice on the road against Utah and USC, still they have very impressive wins over Oregon and 5 other ranked opponents. Michigan St is a true “Team” that has gotten better and better as the season goes on. This might bethe best defense in College Football. Their only loss came back in September on the road versus a ranked Notre Dame team. Since then they have rung up 9 straight double-digit wins, including wins over #21 Michigan and #2 Ohio St. This should be a great physical match-up that I can’t wait to watch!

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Good and Bad Bowl Game Coaches
By Marc Lawrence

Coach me up, Buttercup

With the bowl season kicking off this weekend, these coaches and their career tendencies in pre-New Year’s day games:

Good coaches:

Mark Hudspeth, La Lafayette • 12-4 ATS as a dog
Bronco Mendenhall, BYU • 15-6 ATS as a dog vs. < 1.000 opponent
Al Golden, Miami Fla • 0-4 SUATS vs. 900 > foe off a SUATS win
Brady Hoke, Michigan • 15-3 ATS off a loss if team .500 or greater
Hugh Freeze, Ole Miss • 9-1 ATS vs. non-conference opponents
Jim Mora, UCLA • 6-1 SUATS off a win vs. opponent off a win of 3 >
David Bailiff, Rice • 8-3 SU and 9-2 ATS with rest
David Cutcliffe, Duke • 3-1 SUATS as a bowl dog

Bad Coaches:

Mike Leach, Washington State • 2-6 ATS as a bowl favorite
Rocky Long, San Diego State • 1-6 SUATS in all bowl games
Mike Riley, Oregon State • 8-1 ATS away off BB losses
Rich Rodriguez, Arizona • 1-5 ATS in all bowl games
Dan Mullen, Mississippi State • 8-18 ATS vs. .750 > opponents

Stat of the Week

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is 17-1 ATS as a dog vs. an opponent off a loss.

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Five Hot Teams Losing Momentum Over The Bowl Break

Not every NCAA team with a bowl appearance on its schedule is happy about the long break between games.

Strong finishes to the regular season earned several teams their bowl invitations, but the extended time off may curtail whatever momentum they had built. And while the rest will undoubtedly do the players some good, the rust may be difficult to overcome on the grand stage.

Here are five teams betters should be wary of despite their season-ending success:

USC Trojans (9-4, 6-3 Pac-12)

The Trojans were headed for a long season after opening with losses in four of their first seven games, leading to the firing of head coach Lane Kiffin. Interim bench boss Ed Orgeron took over and promptly led USC to wins in six of seven games, including an impressive 20-17 triumph over then-No. 5 Stanford. The Trojans dropped a 35-14 decision to No. 22 UCLA in the latest edition of their rivalry, but still comes into its Las Vegas Bowl showdown with Fresno State on Dec. 26 as one of the hottest teams in the nation.

Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4, 5-3 Big Ten)

The Hawkeyes saw their bowl chances take a significant hit with three losses in a four-game stretch in October and November, but responded well to the adversity. Emphatic road victories over Purdue and Nebraska bookending a narrow home triumph over Michigan earned Iowa a spot in the Outback Bowl against the 16th-ranked LSU Tigers on New Year's Day. The timing is unfortunate for the Hawkeyes, who have had just one poor game since early-October - a 28-9 loss to then-No. 24 Wisconsin in which Iowa managed just 289 yards of total offense.

Bowling Green Falcons (10-3, 7-1 MAC)

Like Iowa, Bowling Green found its bowl future in jeopardy following back-to-back narrow defeats to Mississippi State and Toledo. But the Falcons have been completely unstoppable since, reeling off five consecutive victories while outscoring opponents by a ridiculous 223-44 margin. Bowling Green capped the dominant stretch with a 47-27 drubbing of the Northern Illinois Huskies in the MAC championship game, but will have waited 20 days before closing its season Dec. 26 against Pittsburgh in the Little Caesars Bowl.

North Carolina Tar Heels (6-6, 4-4 ACC)

Much of the focus in the ACC has been on rival Duke's unlikely run to a spot in the conference final, but the Tar Heels are making their own waves. After opening the season with losses in five of their first six games, North Carolina strung together five straight wins - highlighted by an 80-20 drubbing of Old Dominion on Nov. 23 that saw the team set school records for points and touchdowns. The Tar Heels dropped their ACC finale 27-25 to the Blue Devils on Nov. 30, and will have had four weeks off by the time they face Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl.

Rice Owls (10-3, 7-1 C-USA)

Losses in two of their first three games cast a bit of a pall on what was supposed to be a promising season for the Owls. Since then, Rice has been the most dominant team in its conference, winning nine of its next 10 games - including four straight to close the regular season. The Owls overcame their only defeat during that stretch - a 28-16 defeat versus rival North Texas - with a decisive 41-24 triumph over Marshall in the conference title game. Rice will have 23 days off before tangling with Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl on Dec. 31.

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70 Betting Notes For 70 College Football Bowl Teams
By Dan Berlin

Bowl season is here, with 35 games in 17 days to highlight your holiday. But with shopping, shoveling and family eating up your time, you may not have a moment to cap the college football board.

Don’t worry. has you covered, with 70 need-to-know betting notes for all 70 bowl teams in action this postseason.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl - Saturday Dec. 21, 2 p.m. ET

Washington State Cougars vs. Colorado State Rams (+4.5, 65)

Washington State, despite an impressive 9-3 ATS mark this season, has never won a bowl game by more than eight points in its history (5-3 SU since 1981). The Cougars are making their first bowl appearance since 2003.

Can history repeat itself for Colorado State? The last time the Rams made a bowl appearance, they defeated Fresno State 40-35 in the 2008 New Mexico Bowl.

Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl - Saturday Dec. 21, 3:30 p.m. ET

Fresno State Bulldogs vs. USC Trojans (-6.5, 62)

Southern Cal can only hope good things come in threes, as offensive coordinator Clay Helton takes over on the sidelines to become the third coach this season for the Trojans. USC finished the year 0-2 ATS, including a blowout 35-14 loss at home to UCLA as a 4.5-point favorite.

Fresno State’s 11-1 record might look impressive upon first glance, but the Mountain West champion finished the season 5-7 ATS and only faced one BCS conference opponent all season, defeating Rutgers 52-51 way back in Week 1.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl - Saturday Dec. 21, 5:30 p.m. ET

Buffalo Bulls vs. San Diego State Aztecs (-1, 53)

Making only its second-ever bowl appearance in school history, MAC runner-up Buffalo finished tied for fifth in the nation in turnovers allowed, committing only 12 all season.

San Diego State recovered from a 0-3 start to win seven of its last nine (6-6 ATS record this season), including a 34-31 victory over Boise State on Nov. 23.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl - Saturday Dec. 21, 9 p.m. ET

Tulane Green Wave vs. UL Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (+2.5, 49)

Tulane, playing at its home stadium – the Superdome – for the final time before moving to a new stadium next year, is 21-5 SU all-time vs. the Ragin’ Cajuns.

UL Lafayette, which finished the regular season 0-5 ATS, makes its third consecutive appearance in the New Orleans Bowl, where it is 2-0 SU/ATS.

Beef O’Brady’s Bowl - Monday Dec. 23, 2 p.m. ET

East Carolina Pirates vs. Ohio Bobcats (+14, 61.5)

East Carolina opened as a 13.5-point favorite over Ohio, despite its 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS over its past four bowl games.

The Bobcats, making their fifth consecutive bowl appearance, are 2-2 SU/ATS under head coach Frank Solich. Last season, Ohio finished 1-4 SU/ATS down the stretch, before defeating UL Monroe handily 45-14 in the Independence Bowl as a 6-point dog. This year, the Bobcats finished the regular season 2-3 SU/1-4 ATS.

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl - Tuesday Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET

Oregon State Beavers vs. Boise State Broncos (+3, 63.5)

Boise State will have linebackers coach Bob Gregory serve as interim head coach for this game after Chris Peterson jumped ship to take the Washington job. The Broncos are 3-2 SU and 3-1-1 ATS in their last five vs. the Beavers, including a 37-24 win in their last meeting in 2010.

Head coach Mike Riley’s job may be on the line in Honolulu. After starting the season 6-1, Oregon State dropped each of its final five games of the regular season (2-3 ATS) to finish at .500.

Little Caesar’s Bowl - Thursday Dec. 26, 6 p.m. ET

Bowling Green Falcons vs. Pittsburgh Panthers (+5, 50)

At 10-3, Bowling Green owns one of the best ATS records in the entire country. The Falcons recorded a perfect 5-0 SU/ATS mark to end the regular season, highlighted by their 47-27 upset win over previously unbeaten Northern Illinois in the MAC championship game.  A win could secure BGSU its first-ever Top 25 finish, but it’ll have to do it without head coach Dave Clawson, who recently left to take over the job at Wake Forest.

Pitt DT Aaron Donald, awarded the 2013 Nagurski Trophy as the best defensive player in college football, will try to lock down BGSU’s offense, which has averaged 44.6 ppg during its five-game win streak.

Poinsettia Bowl - Thursday Dec. 26, 9:30 p.m. ET

Northern Illinois Huskies vs. Utah State Aggies (+1.5, 58)

Arguably the best mid-major in the country, Northern Illinois and the nation’s fifth-ranked offense will have to find a way to regroup after losing the MAC championship and a shot at a BCS bowl game. QB Jordan Lynch, a Heisman finalist, is just the man to lead the turnaround in his final college game.

Utah State ranks seventh in the FBS in points allowed, averaging only 17.3 points per game against. The Aggies haven’t allowed more than 24 points in any game since Week 1.

Military Bowl - Friday Dec. 27, 2013, 2:30 p.m. ET

Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Maryland Terrapins (+2.5, 62.5)

After a 4-0 start to the season, Maryland suffered a rash of injuries on both sides of the football, causing the Terps to limp to the finish line in the ACC Atlantic with a 3-5 SU/ATS record.

Marshall showed earlier this year they can hang with the ACC. The Thundering Herd lost a 29-21 heartbreaker on the road at Virginia Tech (8-4) in triple-overtime back in September.

Texas Bowl - Friday Dec. 27, 6 p.m. ET

Minnesota Golden Gophers vs. Syracuse Orange (+4, 47.5)

Following a leave of absence due to epileptic seizures, head coach Jerry Kill leads Minnesota to the Texas Bowl for a second straight year (lost to Texas Tech 34-31), ending the season on a 6-0 ATS run.

Prior to its offense breaking out in a 34-31 win vs. Boston College to end the regular season, Syracuse averaged just 12.8 ppg in its previous seven contests (3-4 SU/ATS). The Orange are ranked 100th nationally in points scored (22.8).

Fight Hunger Bowl – Friday Dec. 27, 9:30 p.m. ET

Washington Huskies vs. BYU Cougars (+3, 60)

BYU is 3-0 SU/2-1 ATS in its last three games vs. Washington, including a 23-17 win most recently in 2010.

The Huskies will be without head coach Steve Sarkisian, who left to take the vacant USC job. Incoming head coach Chris Peterson (from Boise State) will watch from the stands, leaving the team in the hands of unproven interim coach Marques Tuiasosopo.

New Era Pinstripe Bowl - Saturday Dec. 28, 12:00 p.m. ET

Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights (+14.5, 52.5)

New Jersey-based Rutgers earned its pinstripes based far more on geography than football success. The Bronx-bound Scarlet Knights were a woeful 2-5 SU/ATS down the stretch, leading to the firing of their defensive coordinator, quarterbacks coach and offensive line coach this week.

With Rutgers reeling, Notre Dame opened as high as a 17-point favorite before being bet down. The Irish are an impressive 15-0 SU dating back to Oct. 2011 when favored by 10 or more points, but are just 6-9 ATS over that span.

Belk Bowl - Saturday Dec. 28, 3:20 p.m. ET

North Carolina Tar Heels vs. Cincinnati Bearcats (+3, 56.5)

North Carolina may have overcome a 1-5 start to earn a bowl bid, but beware UNC playing on state soil in the postseason. The favored Tar Heels are 0-3 lifetime in bowl games played in Carolina.

Cincinnati returns to the Belk Bowl for the second straight year, defeating Duke 48-34 in last season’s game. The Bearcats only have one victory versus a team with a winning record this season.

Russell Athletic Bowl - Saturday Dec. 28, 6:45 p.m. ET

Louisville Cardinals vs. Miami Hurricanes (+3, 57)

Louisville QB Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t picked as a Heisman finalist after managing only five TD passes over his last four games. He threw for 24 touchdowns in the Cardinals’ first eight games.

Miami started the season 7-0 SU and finished it 1-6 ATS.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - Saturday Dec. 28, 10:15 p.m. ET

Kansas State Wildcats vs. Michigan Wolverines (+3.5, 55)

Slow start, solid finish. K-State opened the season 2-4, before winning five of its last six and ending the year on a 6-2 ATS run.

Solid start, bad finish. Michigan started 6-1, before losing four of its last five to close out the regular season. The Wolverines did finish, however, on a 3-0 ATS run, including their highly-publicized one-point loss to Ohio State at the Big House.

Armed Forces Bowl - Monday Dec. 30, 11:45 a.m. ET

Navy Midshipmen vs. Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (+6, 55)

Middle Tennessee won its final five games (3-2 ATS), averaging 523.4 yards and 42.6 points.

Navy boasts the third-ranked rushing attack in the nation (320.1 yards per game), led by option QB Keenan Reynolds, who scored seven touchdowns in the Midshipmen’s 58-52 win over San Jose State to close out the regular season.

Music City Bowl - Monday Dec. 30, 3:15 p.m. ET

Mississippi Rebels vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (+3, 56.5)

Georgia Tech is sixth in the nation running the ball, averaging 312.1 yards per game, while ranking ninth in the country in rushing yards allowed, surrendering just 107 yards an outing.

Ole Miss is 8-1 SU and 7-1-1 ATS in its past nine bowl games, dating back to 1997. The Rebels only SU/ATS loss came the last time they played in the Music City Bowl, a 49-38 loss to West Virginia in Eli Manning’s freshman season.

Valero Alamo Bowl - Monday Dec. 30, 6:45 p.m. ET

Oregon Ducks vs. Texas Longhorns (+13.5, 67)

Texas struggled to keep pace with Baylor’s high-octane offense in a 30-10 loss and it certainly won’t have an easier time against QB Marcus Mariota and the potent Ducks offense, which averages 46.8 points per game.

Oregon is 4-4 SU/ATS over its last eight bowl games, alternating between winning/covering two games, then losing two, then winning two, then losing two over that span. Should the trend continue, it’s worth noting the Ducks have won/covered their past two bowl games.

Holiday Bowl - Monday Dec. 30, 10:15 p.m. ET

Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (+14, 70)

It’s been a tale of two seasons for Texas Tech, which opened the season 7-0 before dropping its final five games to fall to sixth in the Big 12. The Red Raiders defense allowed a whopping 48.6 points per game during their losing streak.

Arizona State, meanwhile, is ranked ninth in the nation in scoring, averaging 41 points per game. It’s no surprise the Sun Devils opened as 13-point favorites.

AdvoCare V100 Bowl - Tuesday Dec. 31, 12:30 p.m. ET

Arizona Wildcats vs. Boston College Eagles (+7.5, 57)

Boston College RB Andre Williams led the FBS with 2,102 yards rushing, en route to becoming a Heisman finalist. The Eagles are 6-1 SU and 5-2 ATS when Williams runs for 150 yards or more. Arizona ranks 71st against the run, allowing 169.8 yards on the ground per game.

Arizona RB Ka’Deem Carey finished fifth in the FBS with 1,716 yards. The Wildcats are 4-1 SU and 3-2 ATS when Carey runs for 150 yards or more. Boston College ranks 53rd against the run, allowing an average of 155 yards per game.

Hyundai Sun Bowl - Tuesday Dec. 31, 2 p.m. ET

UCLA Bruins vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (+7, 47)

Despite a strong 8-4 ATS record this season, UCLA is just 5-8 ATS (4-9 SU) over its past 13 bowl games dating back to 1995. The Bruins opened as touchdown favorites over the Hokies.

Despite a weak 4-7-1 ATS record this year, Virginia Tech is 4-1-1 ATS (4-2 SU) over its past six bowl appearances since 2008.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl - Tuesday Dec. 31, 4 p.m. ET

Mississippi State Bulldogs vs. Rice Owls (+7, 50.5)

Rice defeated Marshall 41-24 in the C-USA Championship - its first outright title since 1957. A win would give the Owls a school-record 11 wins and consecutive bowl victories for the first time in school history.

Mississippi State won its last two games in overtime, including a dramatic 17-10 win over Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl, to get to the necessary six-win plateau to qualify for a bowl game. How tough is the SEC? All six of the Bulldogs’ losses came against teams ranked in the Top 20.

Chick-fil-A Bowl - Tuesday Dec. 31, 8 p.m. ET

Texas A&M Aggies vs. Duke Blue Devils (+11.5, 74.5)

Duke, playing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time in school history, had its seven-game ATS win streak snapped by Florida State in the ACC championship game.

Texas A&M, which enters as a 11.5-point favorite, finished the season 0-4 SU/1-3 ATS versus ranked teams. Gator Bowl - Wednesday Jan. 1, 12:00 p.m. ET

Georgia Bulldogs vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (+9, 60.5)

Nebraska looks for revenge in the rematch of last year’s Capital One Bowl, which Georgia won 45-31. The Cornhuskers are 0-3 SU/ATS in their past three bowl appearances.

Georgia will be without the services of starting QB Aaron Murray, who is out with a knee injury. Murray lit up Nebraska for five TDs and 427 yards passing in last year’s bowl win. Junior Hutson Mason, who has made one career start for the Bulldogs, is Murray’s replacement.

Heart of Dallas Bowl - Wednesday Jan. 1, 12:00 p.m. ET

North Texas Mean Green vs. UNLV Runnin’ Rebels (+6.5, 54.5)

UNLV, which opened as a 7-point underdog to North Texas, went 5-1 ATS as a dog in its last six games – winning three of them outright – to qualify for its first bowl game since 2000.

North Texas finished its season 6-1 SU/ATS, including a convincing 28-16 win over Rice.

Capital One Bowl - Wednesday Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET

Wisconsin Badgers vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (Pick, 51)

Wisconsin’s defense proved itself to be BCS-worthy, ranking sixth nationally in yards allowed (294.4), rushing yards allowed (101.8) and points allowed (14.8). Unfortunately for the Badgers, an upset loss to Penn State as 25-point home favorites in their final regular season game sealed their bowl fate. Wisconsin went 9-0-1 ATS in its first 10 games before finishing 0-2 ATS.

Over the past five years, the Gamecocks are 1-4 ATS in bowl games. Over its past five games, South Carolina is 4-1 ATS (5-0 SU).

Outback Bowl - Wednesday Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET

LSU Tigers vs. Iowa Hawkeyes (+7, 49)

Louisiana State opened as a heavy favorite (-8.5) vs. Iowa, despite losing senior QB Zach Mettenberger to a season-ending knee injury in its season finale. Freshman backup Anthony Jennings, who manufactured the game-winning 99-yard touchdown drive to defeat the Razorbacks 31-27, will get the start.

The last – and only – time these two teams faced off was back in 2005 in the Capital One Bowl, won 30-25 by Iowa as a 6-point dog on a 56-yard touchdown by Warren Holloway on the last play of the game. Iowa’s four losses this season came against teams that finished with a combined record of 45-6.

Rose Bowl - Wednesday Jan. 1, 5 p.m. ET

Stanford Cardinal vs. Michigan State Spartans (+4.5, 42.5)

Michigan State makes its first trip to Pasadena in 25 years on the strength of a defense that ranks No. 1 in the nation in total yards allowed (247.8) and rushing yards allowed (80.5). The Spartans, fresh off their big 34-24 win over Ohio State in the Big Ten championship game, are 14-1 SU and 9-1-1 ATS in their past 11 as underdogs.

Stanford, making its second straight Rose Bowl appearance, also boasts a stingy defense that ranked third nationally in rushing yards allowed (91.7) and 10th in scoring defense (18.6). The Cardinal finished the season 1-7 O/U, while MSU went 2-5 O/U in its last seven games. The total opened at 41.

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl - Wednesday Jan. 1, 8:30 p.m. ET

Baylor Bears vs. Central Florida Knights (+16.5, 68.5)

Baylor is making its first-ever BCS bowl appearance after winning the Big 12 title for the first time since 1980. The Bears finished 8-0 ATS at home this season, but just 1-3 ATS away from Floyd Casey Stadium.

Central Florida also makes its first BCS appearance after winning the American Athletic Conference. The Knights are 3-0 ATS as underdogs this season, which includes a 3-point loss at home to SEC-power South Carolina and an outright win at Louisville.

Allstate Sugar Bowl - Thursday Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET

Alabama Crimson Tide vs. Oklahoma Sooner (+15, 51.5)

Alabama lost out on its chance for a third consecutive national championship after losing a heartbreaker to Auburn in the Iron Bowl. Could this be a letdown spot for Bama? This season is starting to feel eerily similar to 2008, when then-undefeated Alabama lost to Florida 31-20 in the SEC Championship before getting blasted by Utah 31-17 in – you guessed it – the Sugar Bowl.

Surprisingly, this year’s Sugar Bowl marks only the fifth time in college football history that these two storied programs have met on the gridiron. Oklahoma leads the series 2-1-1 SU, winning most recently 20-13 at Tuscaloosa in 2003.

AT&T Cotton Bowl - Friday Jan. 3, 8 p.m. ET

Missouri Tigers vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (+1, 60.5)

Missouri finished with an impressive 10-2-1 ATS record this season, but is 0-3 SU/ATS in its past three matchups vs. Oklahoma State, dating back to its days in the Big 12.

Prior to last week’s 33-24 loss to Oklahoma, Oklahoma State was 6-0 SU/ATS down the stretch, including notable wins vs. bowl-bound Baylor, Texas and Texas Tech. The Cowboys are 3-0 SU in their past three bowl games.

Discover Orange Bowl - Thursday Jan. 2, 8:30 p.m. ET

Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Clemson Tigers (+2.5, 68)

Ohio State and Clemson have only met once before in the 1978 Gator Bowl - best remembered for Buckeyes coach Woody Hayes punching out a Clemson linebacker for intercepting a pass in the Tigers’ 17-15 win.

Is the Under the play here? The Under is 6-1 over the past seven Orange Bowls, 6-2 in OSU’s last eight bowl games and 8-3 in the past 11 when the Tigers are a dog. The total opened at 68.

BBVA Compass Bowl - Saturday Jan. 4, 1 p.m. ET

Vanderbilt Commodores vs. Houston Cougars (+2.5, 53)

Vanderbilt is in search of its second consecutive nine-win season under head coach James Franklin. Since last year, when Franklin took over, the Commodores are 13-1 SU and 11-2 ATS in the second half of the season, including a 38-24 win over North Carolina State in the 2012 Music City Bowl.

Despite losing three of its last four games, the Cougars finished the year with an impressive 10-2 ATS record, making Houston one of only five FBS schools with a 10 ATS-win season.

GoDaddy Bowl - Sunday Jan. 5, 9 p.m. ET

Ball State Cardinals vs. Arkansas State Red Wolves (+9, 64.5)

Ball State is 0-6 SU/ATS lifetime in bowl competition dating back to 1989.

Arkansas State makes its third consecutive appearance in Mobile, defeating Kent State 17-13 last year after losing to Northern Illinois 38-20 in 2011 (1-1 ATS).

BCS National Championship - Monday Jan. 6, 8:30 p.m. ET

Florida State Seminoles vs. Auburn Tigers (+8.5, 67)

The SEC has won seven consecutive BCS national championships, including Cam Newton and Auburn’s title captured in 2010 with a 22-19 win over Oregon. Auburn has five wins over ranked teams this season.

Florida State – the nation’s only unbeaten team – finished the season 11-2 ATS, one of only two FBS teams to boast 11 ATS wins. The other? Auburn.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Big Ten Bowl Report - Part I

Texas Bowl

Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. Syracuse Orange (6-6 SU, 7-4-1 ATS)

Date: Friday, Dec. 27
Time/TV: 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Golden Gophers (-4.5, 45.5)
Venue: Reliant Stadium
Location: Houston, Texas

No matter what happens in the Bowl game, Minnesota players and coaches can walk away from the 2013 season successful. They finished with the most wins since 2003 and reached the top 25 poll for the first time since 2008. They’ve now improved their win total each season under Jerry Kill. Still, after dropping the final two games to Wisconsin and Michigan State, the Gophers would like to close out the season on a high note with a Bowl win over Syracuse.

Nothing special stands out about this team, but a bend-but-don’t-break defense and a power-run offense (200.9 YPG) allowed this team to eke out wins. The Gophers ranked 107th in total yards and QB Nelson showed little improvement in his 2nd season with the team. Nelson finished with just 9 TD and 6 INT and a 51.4% completion percentage. RB David Cobb is the star of this offense with 1,111 rush yards (5.1 YPC) and 7 TD. But too few weapons for receivers made this offense one-dimensional (leading receiver had 25 receptions).

Defensively DT Ra'Shede Hageman was a unanimous selection on the All-Big Ten team and he’s one of the most disruptive big men in College Football. He led this defense that ranked 41st in yards allowed, 40th against the pass, 51st against the run, and 28th in points allowed. Over the final three games, the Gophers allowed just 14.6 PPG to Penn State, Wisconsin, and Michigan State – three above-average offenses. This defense could have a big day against a Syracuse offense that struggled throughout the year.

Syracuse had a transitional year with a new head coach, new quarterback, a new offensive schemes, and a new conference to call home. Many would’ve doubted Syracuse’s bowl chances to begin the season, but here they are going to consecutive bowl games for the first time since 98-99. The Orange rank 87th in yards per game, 104th in passing, and 100th in scoring. They were held to 20 points or fewer in 7 of 12 games this season.

Much like the Gophers, they are led by the rushing attack with a struggling passing attack. RB’s Smith led the team with 840 yards and 11 touchdowns while QB Hunt contributed 426 yards and 5 scores.  Hunt didn’t excel in the passing game. He completed 60.7% of his passes with 10 TD and 8 INT this season and didn’t throw a TD pass in league play until the 2nd to last game of the season.

It was ugly at times for Syracuse with losses to Florida State, Clemson, and Georgia Tech by a combined score of 17-164; but overall this defense ranked statistically strong. They rank 39th in yards allowed, 27th against the run, and 60th in points allowed. The Orange were able to overcome a slew of injuries to win four games in the ACC and secure a bowl berth.

Syracuse is 0-4 SU against Big Ten teams the last two years, including a 17-10 loss to Minnesota in 2012. Minnesota hasn’t won a bowl game since 2004 while Syracuse has won two straight – including a 38-14 win over West Virginia in the Pinstripe Bowl last year.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl

Michigan Wolverines (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. Kansas State Wildcats (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS)

Date: Saturday, Dec. 28
Time/TV: 10:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Wildcats (-3.5, 56.5)
Venue: Sun Devil Stadium
Location: Tempe, Arizona

Michigan lost four of its last five games, with the only win over that span an overtime victory over 5-7 Northwestern. Still, they ended the season by taking then-undefeated Ohio State to the brink of an upset in the biggest rivalry in college football. The Wolverines tallied 603 total yards, 31 first downs, and 41 points against the Buckeyes – but a failed two-point conversion with 32 seconds remaining cost them the game. Prior to that outburst, Michigan’s offense was really struggling. They averaged just 16.7 PPG, 209 YPG, and 32 rushing YPG over the four games leading up to Ohio State. Still, for a team that had high hopes after a 5-0 start, a 7-5 finish and a trip to the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl isn’t what the Wolves had in mind – so motivation will be a factor here.

QB Devin Gardner showed flashes of brilliance this year, like the 4 TD performance against Ohio State, but he was too often under duress behind this subpar offensive line. And because of that, Gardner turned the ball over 17 times this year (11 INT & 6 fumbles).

Defensively the statistics aren’t bad for Michigan, but the Wolverines struggled against the top offenses they faced this season. Notre Dame, Penn State, Indiana, Michigan State, and Ohio State averaged 38.2 PPG against this Michigan defense this season.

Kansas State will present another stern test for this Wolverine defense. After a 2-4 start which included a loss to FCS North Dakota State, K State was left for dead in the Big 12. Star QB Collin Klein was gone and this offense didn’t have an identity. They found one in Big 12 play as the two-quarterback system with Daniel Sams and Jake Waters worked seamlessly during the final half of the season, leading KSU to 36.7 PPG over the final six games (31+ points in each game). KSU’s 6.54 yards per play during that span led the Big 12, even better than the headline-making crew from Baylor. They reeled off wins in five of their last six Big 12 games to finish 7-5 and earn a berth in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Waters finished the season with 15 TD passes and 2,198 yards while Sams, the better runner, finished with 4 TD passes and 11 rush TD.

The defense performed well despite playing against some of the top offenses in the country. KSU ranked 38th in yards allowed and 36th in points allowed. Defensive end Ryan Mueller is the leader of this defense and he finished with 11.5 sacks and 18.5 tackles for loss. This unit led the Big 12 with just 4.73 yards per play allowed in the final six-game stretch.

While Michigan’s arrow was pointing down to end the regular season, KSU’s is clearly pointing up. Michigan is 1-4 SU & 0-4-1 ATS in its last five bowl games. The Wolves lost to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl last year. Kansas State is 0-5 SU & ATS in its last five bowl appearances (dating back to 2003). They dropped the Fiesta Bowl to Oregon last season after winning the Big 12.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Bowl Breakdown - Part II
By Mike Rose

It's the most wonderful time of the year for college football betting fans, as there are 35 bowl games on tap to break down and find winners in. Today, we're taking a look at the second eight bowl games of the year, starting with the Military Bowl on December 27th through the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl on December 28th.

Military Bowl - Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Maryland Terrapins

Opening Line: Marshall -2.5

There aren't many bowl games where Conference USA teams are favored over Big Five conference teams (in fact, this is the only one). Marshall has a high-flying offense, but it doesn't have a great record against bowl teams this year, allowing 36.6 points per game in said games. Maryland has never lost a game to a mid-major conference team in a bowl game in its history.

Texas Bowl - Syracuse Orange vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Opening Line: Minnesota -4

This is a game sharps will love, especially if Minnesota QB Philip Nelson is out with an undisclosed injury. The Gophers covered their last six of the season, but they only scored a grand total of 10 points in their last two games combined. Syracuse has a 12-2 ATS record in bowl games since 1988, and it had to scratch and claw just to get to a bowl this year.

Fight Hunger Bowl - BYU Cougars vs. Washington Huskies

Opening Line: Washington -3

Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall and the Cougs are 4-0 SU and ATS in their last four bowl games, and though this is one of the tougher games on their docket this year, they are sure to be up for the challenge. Washington has to get used to life without Head Coach Steve Sarkisian, and interim coaches are just 7-11 in their last 18 bowl games. They're just 5-10 when they know that they are lame ducks and aren't getting the head coaching gigs at the end of those games.

Pinstripe Bowl - Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Notre Dame Fighting Irish

Opening Line: Notre Dame -14

The Fighting Irish are one of the biggest favorites of the bowl season, and they're the only two-TD favorite before January 1st. They have some of the most impressive wins of the season, but their wins by two touchdowns are few and far between. Rutgers stunk it up all year, and it was 0-5 against bowl teams on the season. To make matters worse, the Scarlet Knights lost the worst bowl game of last season by far, that horridly offensive played game against Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Belk Bowl - Cincinnati Bearcats vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

Opening Line: North Carolina -3

The Bearcats have to wonder what they did wrong here. They have now played three straight games essentially "on the road" in the bowl season. However, they beat Duke in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte last year and beat Vandy in the Liberty Bowl the year before, so this one is winnable as well. The Tar Heels weren't eligible for a bowl game last year thanks to the NCAA, so they'll be hungry in this one for sure.

Russell Athletic Bowl - Miami Hurricanes vs. Louisville Cardinals

Opening Line: Louisville -3

Louisville and Miami are both underrated teams, and that makes this one of the best bowl games of the year. The Cardinals have won and covered three of their last four bowl games, including besting Florida as big dogs last year in the Orange Bowl. The Hurricanes haven't won a bowl game since 2006, and they haven't been eligible for a bowl game since 2010.

Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl - Michigan Wolverines vs. Kansas State Wildcats

Opening Line: Kansas State -3.5

The Wildcats are 0-5 SU and ATS in their last five bowl games, but the Wolverines have had a history of really struggling badly in minor bowl games as well. This feels a lot like when Head Coach Rich Rodriguez was fired after a bad season when the team was whacked by Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl. If the same thing happens here in Tempe, don't be shocked if Head Coach Brady Hoke gets fired.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Football Betting Tips: Late December Bowl Games                     
By Jim Feist

As 2013 draws to a close, we find ourselves smack in the middle of the bowls. You shouldn't be bowled-out, either, as the bowls slowly build to the crescendo that is the Auburn/Florida State showdown.

Hawaii Bowl (Tues, Dec. 24): A pair of teams with great passing offenses that slumped down the stretch. Boise State (8-4 SU/6-6 ATS) is 2-4 SU/3-3 ATS away from home and the Broncos will be playing their first game under interim coach Bob Gregory. Senior QB Joe Southwick (12 TDs, 5 INTs) is back from an October ankle injury while soph RB Jay Ajayi (1,328 yds, 5.9 ypc) is a powerful back. Boise State's 91st ranked pass defense that gave up 460 yards and four touchdowns through the air to Fresno State, which is a concern against a pass-happy Oregon State (6-6 SU/6-6 ATS) offense. The Beavers average 34.5 points, 382 yds passing (No. 3 in the nation) behind junior QB Sean Mannion (36 TDs, 14 INTs, 4,403 yds, 66%) and junior WR Brandin Cooks (1,670 yds, 13.9 ypc, 15 TDs). Mike Riley's team started 6-1, then folded, losing the last 5. The Beavers are 11-6-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and the underdogs are on a 6-2 ATS Hawaii Bowl run.

Little Caesar's Bowl (Thurs., Dec. 26): Pitt (6-6 SU, 4-7-1 ATS) didn't exactly tear it up to make this bowl indoors at Ford Field, on a 2-4 SU/2-3-1 ATS run. They were outscored for the season and rank 112th in rushing. The offense has senior QB Tom Savage (21 TDs, 9 INTs) and a pair of talented targets in Tyler Boyd and Devin Street. Pitt is on a 7-2 run under the total. The Panthers have wins over Notre Dame and Duke. Bowling Green (10-3) is riding high after its big upset of undefeated Northern Illinois in the MAC title game, 47-27. This team ranks 5th in the nation in points allowed (14.8 ppg) and has plenty of offensive punch averaging 35.4 points and over 206 yards rushing and passing, led by sophomore QB Matt Johnson (23 TDs, 7 INTs). However, they lose their head coach as Dave Clawson, off to Wake Forest.

Fight Hunger Bowl (Fri., Dec. 27): Offense against defense! Washington (8-4) is another team in a bowl with a head coaching change, with Steve Sarkasian jumping back to USC. This is one of the best offensive teams in the country, led by senior quarterback Keith Price (20 TDs, 5 INTs), averaging 38.5 points, 243 yards rushing and 271 yards passing. He's got the Pac-12's leading rusher, Bishop Sankey (1,775 yards, 5.8 ypc) to help him. BYU (8-4) scored plenty of points (31.3 ppg) but did it on the ground, 10th in the nation in rushing with 274.6 yards per game, 74th in passing. Linebackers Kyle Van Noy and Uani' Unga lead a terrific Cougar defense that allows 21.3 points per contest.

Wild Wings Bowl (Sat., Dec. 28): Michigan (7-5) squeezed into a bowl despite a 5-0 start, losing 5 of its final 7 games. They put it all on the line against Ohio State in a thrilling 42-41 loss in the finale, but the offense went mostly cold down the stretch scoring 6, 13, 27 and 21 in the previous four. Michigan is on a 4-1 run under the total. This offense finished 100th in the nation in rushing. The Wolverines have a flair for the dramatic: In addition to the Ohio State thriller, they played a pair of multiple overtime games (2 and 4 OTs), and five other games decided by 4 points or less. By contrast, Kansas State (7-5) began the season 2-4 before winning five out of its last six games, on a 6-2 ATS run. Bill Snyder's team has great balanced averaging 33.4 points, 220.8 yards passing and 180 yards rushing behind QBs Jake Waters and Dan Sams, while RB John Hubert (968 yards) averages 5.3 yards per carry. Kansas State has lost its last five bowl games.

Alamo Bowl (Mon., Dec. 30): Texas (8-4) and Oregon (12-2) clash, a pair of teams that had huge expectations this fall and came up short. Mack Brown felt the heat all season, starting and finishing 1-2 sandwiched around a 6-game win streak. The Longhorns did not fare well when stepping up, getting blown out by Ole Miss (44-23), Oklahoma State (38-13) and Baylor (30-10). Texas is riding a 12-1 SU streak in its past 13 bowl games. Oregon is third in the nation in points (46.8 ppg), averaging 294.7 yards passing and 278 yards rushing, but the Ducks lost steam after a late season lost to rival Stanford, going 2-2 SU, 0-4 ATS. The favorites are 4-1 ATS in the past 5 Alamo Bowls and the under is 6-2 in Oregon's last eight bowl games.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Bowl Breakdown - Part III
By Mike Rose

It's the most wonderful time of the year for college football betting fans, as there are 35 bowl games on tap to break down and find winners in. Today, we're taking a look at the final bowl games of 2013, starting with the Armed Forces Bowl on December 30th through the Chick-Fil-A Bowl on December 31st.

Armed Forces Bowl - Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders vs. Navy Midshipmen

Opening Line: Navy -6.5

We have already seen the MAC struggle in the bowl season in a big time way. Is Conference USA next? The Blue Raiders only beat one bowl team this year, the Marshall Thundering Herd, and they could have their hands full against Navy if the Middies get their defense in order. They had allowed over 600 yards in their last two bowl games, both of which turned out to be easy losses.

Music City Bowl - Ole Miss Rebels vs. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Opening Line: Ole Miss -3

The Rebels have been great of late in bowl games, going 4-0-1 ATS in their last five, while Georgia Tech snapped a seven-game losing streak in bowls last season in the Sun Bowl against the USC Trojans. History suggests that this is going to be a game where the Rebs succeed as well, as they have been getting beaten up by the rough and tumble SEC all year long, while the triple option for the Ramblin' Wreck has had no success whatsoever against the SEC.

Alamo Bowl - Oregon Ducks vs. Texas Longhorns

Opening Line: Oregon -13.5

There is a lot of emotion here in this bowl game, as it is a de facto home game for Texas against one of the best teams in the country in the final game for Head Coach Mack Brown. Brown's legacy is going to be in his bowl wins, which have come in scores for sure. The only bowl loss he has had since 2003 came in the National Championship Game. Oregon's offense, which is good for over 45 points per game in the last four seasons combined, has averaged just 29.0 points per game in its last four bowl games.

Holiday Bowl - Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders

Opening Line: Arizona State -14

There was a point when T-Tech was ranked in the Top 10 in the land, but it has been beaten in five straight games both SU and ATS coming into the Holiday Bowl. The Red Raiders are 1-5 ATS in their last six bowl games in spite of the fact that they are 5-1 SU in those games. The Sun Devils waxed the Navy Midshipmen last season in their bowl game, and they are going to be flying high for sure after being one of the best teams in the Pac-12 this year.

AdvoCare v100 Bowl - Arizona Wildcats vs. Boston College Eagles

Opening Line: Arizona -7.5

We hope you like running the ball, because this game is going to feature a heck of a lot of it. The Wildcats' RB Ka'Deem Carey is one of the best pro prospects in the NFL Draft this year at the tailback position, and he is going against RB Andre Williams, who was one of the Heisman Trophy finalists. This is the second straight season in which Arizona has taken on a team with the nation's leading rusher, as it beat the Nevada Wolf Pack in a stunning come from behind victory in last year's New Mexico Bowl.

Sun Bowl - Virginia Tech Hokies vs. UCLA Bruins

Opening Line: UCLA -7

Here's another case where the Pac-12 is favored over the ACC in a big time way, as QB Brett Hundley, who struggled mightily in the second half of the season this year, goes against one of the best defenses in America from Virginia Tech. The Hokies have maxed out at 24 points in five of their last six bowl games, and they might have a tough time getting past the three and a half TD mark again in this one.

Liberty Bowl - Rice Owls vs. Mississippi State Bulldogs

Opening Line: Mississippi State -7

This is where we are going to find out whether the Owls were really capable of playing against SEC teams this year or not. They might have won 10 games, but they are getting no respect here against an MSU team which only barely squeaked into a bowl. Head Coach Dan Mullen has a good history in these bowl games, but this is the first time we have seen the Bulldogs play against a team of this caliber in quite some time.

Chick-Fil-A Bowl - Duke Blue Devils vs. Texas A&M Aggies

Opening Line: Texas A&M -11.5

The Dookies have had no troubles going against the big boys in the nation this year, and though they have mostly failed in those situations, they are going to come at this game full of gusto for sure. It's tremendous exposure for a program which is playing in consecutive bowl games for the first time in school history and for a team which hasn't won a bowl game in over a half century. The Aggies are seeing QB Johnny Manziel go to the NFL after this one is over in all likelihood, and they're hoping for one last great performance to lead the way like he did when they destroyed the Oklahoma Sooners in the Cotton Bowl last year.

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Re: 2013-14 College Football Bowl Betting News and Notes

Big Ten Bowl Report - Part II

Gator Bowl

Nebraska Cornhuskers (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Georgia Bulldogs (8-4 SU, 3-8-1 ATS)

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Line: Bulldogs (-9, 60.5)
Venue: EverBank Field
Location: Jacksonville, FL

Haven’t we done this before? Nebraska and Georgia met in the Capital One Bowl on year ago, with Georgia winning 45-31 behind five touchdown passes from Aaron Murray. Despite being just one year removed from that meeting – this game will have a much different feel. Neither of the returning QB’s from last year’s game will play here as Georgia’s QB Murray suffered a torn ACL in the 2nd to last game while Nebraska’s QB Taylor Martinez has not been fully healthy all season (just one appearance in Big Ten play). Nebraska is another Big Ten team that can’t wait to get back on the field. The Huskers lost their final game of the season at home on Black Friday to Iowa, 38-17. After the game, head coach Bo Pelini had to endure questions from the media on if he’d be fired or not. It seems that Nebraska will stick with Pelini, at least for one more game, before heading to the offseason. Nebraska finished 3-3 down the stretch. They lost at Minnesota by 11, vs. Michigan State by 13, and vs. Iowa by 21. Wins over that stretch included home vs. Northwestern by 3, at Michigan by 4, and at Penn State by 3 in overtime – meaning Nebraska came dangerously close to a complete second half breakdown this season.

Redshirt freshman Tommy Armstrong, Jr. will get the start at QB here and he’ll need to throw well for the Huskers to win. He should be ready for action after a late-season ankle injury derailed him after he took over for an injured Taylor Martinez back in October. Armstrong completes just 53 percent of his passes and has seven TD and seven INT. If Armstrong struggles, Nebraska could turn to Ron Kellogg III, who started the finale vs. Iowa, but struggled in hitting 19-of-37 passes for 199 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. RB Ameer Abdullah has been the only constant for this offense. He rushed for 1,568 yards and eight scores this season, hitting the 100-yard mark in all but two games this season. He did that despite Nebraska shifting around its offensive line all season long after a string of injuries.

Speaking of injuries, no team in the nation had it worse than the Georgia Bulldogs. Six starters on offense suffered torn ACL’s this season (!) and high hopes of a national title went quickly out the window after a loss to Clemson in the first week of the season. Credit the Bulldogs for not quitting on the season as they won four of the final five games – including an overtime win over in-state rival Georgia Tech in the final week of the season. QB Hutson Mason will get his 2nd career start here in place of Murray. Mason has completed 64.8% of his passes for 648 yards with 4 TD and 2 INT in a little over two games of work. The offense hasn’t missed much with him under center as he led the team to 59 points and 41 points in his two games that he commandeered the offense. Star RB Gurley battled injuries throughout the year (missed three full games) but should be fully rested and healthy for the bowl game. He still finished with 903 rush yards (6.2 YPC), 344 receiving yards, and 15 total touchdowns (four TD in the finale against GA Tech). He finished with 125 rush yards and a score last year against Nebraska and could have another big day against this struggling Nebraska D.

Georgia’s defense lost a ton of talent to the NFL after last season and it showed early. They allowed 33 PPG through the first seven weeks but showed great improvement over the final five – surrendering just 23.4 PPG. Pelini and the Huskers would like nothing more than to close this season out on a high note with a win here over Georgia, but they’ll have to limit their mistakes. Nebraska finished minus-12 for the year in turnover margin, better than only three teams nationally. Georgia has faced three Big Ten teams in the last five Bowl games – going 2-1 SU & ATS in those games (only loss was a 3-point defeat to Michigan State in the 2011 Outback Bowl. Nebraska is 0-3 SU & ATS in the last three Bowl games, losing the last two to SEC schools.

Capital One Bowl

Wisconsin Badgers (9-3 SU, 9-2-1 ATS) vs. South Carolina Gamecocks (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS)

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Badgers (-1, 49.5)
Venue: Florida Citrus Stadium
Location: Orlando, FL

Both of these squads finished as the third selection out of their respective conferences. Wisconsin’s loss in the final week of the regular season prevented them from being BCS Bowl eligible while South Carolina was behind Auburn & Alabama. No Big Ten team wants to get on the field more than the Badgers, who delivered their worst performance of the season in their final game against Penn State. Their stellar defense picked a bad game to have an off day as PSU racked up 465 yards and 31 points, including 339 pass yards and 4 TD from freshman QB Hackenberg. This UW defense finished 6th in rush defense, total defense, and scoring defense, and 12th against the pass. Seven of their 12 opponents were held to 10 points or fewer and not one surpassed 32 points. Offensively this unit is led by the duo of James White and Melvin Gordon at running back. Both earned 2nd Team Big Ten honors and form the No. 8 run game (283 YPG) in the nation. The speedy duo helped the Badgers average an FBS-best 8.3 yards per carry outside the tackles, and both rushed for more than 1,300 yards and combined for 25 touchdowns. Wisconsin will try to get its running attack going early in this game and take some of the pressure off of QB Stave – who did not play well to close out the season. Stave threw a career-high three interceptions against PSU and practice reports indicate that Wisconsin is giving reps to JUCO-transfer Tanner McEvoy in case Stave underperforms again.

This offense will face one of their toughest tests of the season against this fierce South Carolina defensive front. The Gamecocks ranked 32nd against the run and 18th in total defense despite playing a buzz saw of a schedule in the SEC. Just one of South Carolina’s opponents scored more than 28 points (Georgia back on September 7th) and the Gamecocks held their final five opponents (Missouri, Mississippi State, Florida, Coastal Carolina, and Clemson) to just 16.2 PPG. They won those five games by a combined 181-81 margin. The star of the show for the Gamecocks was supposed to be defensive end Jadeveon Clowney. Nagging injuries and constant double-teams left him with a pedestrian season. The real stars were QB Connor Shaw and RB Mike Davis. Shaw continued to show the country why he's one of the most underrated performers. Shaw battled injuries and showed up for the Gamecocks when it mattered most. He finished the year with 2,135 yards with 21 touchdowns to just one interception. Davis, who is as much a home run threat as a legitimate between-the-tackles bruiser, rushed for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns in his first year as a starter.

South Carolina’s resume is stronger as it boasts wins against Central Florida (AAC Champ) Missouri (SEC runner-up), and Clemson (playing in the Orange Bowl). Wisconsin lost its two marquee games this season: @Arizona State in a highly controversial ending and @Ohio State by seven points. Despite not returning to the Rose Bowl for the fourth consecutive season, all signs point to the Badgers being highly motivated for this game. For one, they lost all three of those Rose Bowls and they have a strong group of seniors (Jared Abbrederis, James White, and Chris Borland to name a few) that want to end their collegiate career with a Bowl victory. South Carolina has won back-to-back Bowl games, both against Big Ten opponents (Nebraska in 2011, Michigan in 2012).

Outback Bowl

Iowa Hawkeyes (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. LSU Tigers (9-3 SU, 5-6-1 ATS)

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1
Time/TV: 1:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Tigers (-7, 49)
Venue: Raymond James Stadium
Location: Tampa, FL

Iowa bounced back nicely after a dismal 4-8 finish in 2012. Many doubted Kirk Ferentz’s team in the preseason and few had the team pegged as the 2nd best in the Legends division. Stout defensive play and a strong rushing attack led the team to an 8-4 finish, including three straight victories to close out the season. Their four losses came against Northern Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, and Wisconsin – who boast a combined record of 45-6. The Hawkeyes' success starts on defense, where they ranked in the top 20 nationally against both the pass and the run (7th overall in yards allowed). Everything revolves around a standout trio of senior linebackers in James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey, who combined for nearly 300 tackles and more than 30 tackles for loss. Rushing yards don’t come easy against this team as opponents average just 3.5 YPC and have scored just 5 rushing touchdowns against this Iowa defense all season long.

LSU will be dependent on running the ball as the Tigers’ starting QB all season, Zach Mettenberger, injured his knee and will miss this game. Freshman Anthony Jennings will get the start under center for LSU. He has attempted just 10 passes in relief duty this season, completing six for 99 yards with one TD. He has two of the nation’s top receivers to throw to in Jarvis Landry and Odell Beckham Jr. Both have over 1,100 receiving yards this season with 18 combined touchdowns. Still, expect LSU to lean on a running attack led by RB’s Hill & Magee. Hill (1,185 rush yards) averages 6.8 yards per carry with 14 touchdowns while Magee (614 yards) averages 7.8 YPC with eight touchdowns. This LSU defense lost a ton of talent to the NFL last season and it has not been the dominant unit that we’ve come to expect from LSU. It’s a big testament to defensive coordinator John Chavis that he has this team ranked 20th in total defense and 31st in scoring defense. This defense had its ups (21 points allowed to Auburn, 10 points allowed to Texas A&M) and its downs (44 points allowed to Georgia, 38 points allowed to Alabama), but overall is a pretty stout unit.

Iowa’s offense is far from explosive and LSU’s defense has the talent edge over the Hawkeyes O. The Hawks finished 81st in yards per game and 74th in points per game. The RB trio of Weisman, Bullock, and Canzeri combined for 1,852 rush yards (4.7 YPC) and 10 TD. First year QB Rudock finished with 2,281 pass yards (60.2%) with 18 TD and 12 INT. He has also shown the ability to extend plays with his legs (223 rush yards and 5 scores). LSU had much higher hopes than the Outback Bowl this season while Iowa is thrilled to go Bowling again after a one-year hiatus – so motivation will be a key factor in this game. LSU has dropped three of its last four Bowl games. Iowa has won three of its last four Bowl games, including a 21-point win over SEC South Carolina in the 20089 version of the Outback Bowl. These two last met in 2005 in the Capital One Bowl, with Iowa winning 30-25.

Rose Bowl

Michigan State Spartans (12-1 SU, 8-4-1 ATS) vs. Stanford Cardinal (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS)

Date: Wednesday, Jan. 1
Time/TV: 5:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Line: Cardinal (-4, 41)
Venue: Rose Bowl
Location: Pasadena, CA

The 100th Rose Bowl in 2014 looks more like a 1950’s style Rose Bowl as it features two suffocating defense and two power-style offenses. The first thing that jumps out about this matchup is the similar styles. Much like Stanford’s 20-14 win against Wisconsin in the Rose last year, points could be at a premium. Both Stanford (18.6 ppg) and Michigan State (12.7) allow fewer than 20 points per game, and the Spartans lead the nation in total defense. Neither team has allowed more than 28 points in a game this year; both allowed 28 on two occasions. Stanford will play in its second consecutive Rose Bowl after a definitive win over Arizona State in the Pac-12 Championship game. The Cardinal had +206 yards and had three touchdowns of 22+ yards. Stanford’s stout defense held ASU to just 311 yards and QB Kelly to just 173 pass yards and one TD.

There’s nothing sexy about this team as they use a power-run style behind RB Gaffney. Gaffney has 1,613 rush yards (5.3 YPC) and 20 rush TD this season (rush TD in every game but one this season). QB Hogan manages games well, but the passing attack is where this team struggles. Hogan has completed 61.4% of his passes this year with 20 TD and just 9 INT. He had just 14 TD in conference play and that includes a 5 TD performance against lowly Cal. MSU will be by far the best defense that Stanford faces this season. Rushing yards won’t be easy to come by against the top-ranked rushing defense (80 rush YPG allowed) and Hogan will be forced to make plays with his arm.

Michigan State was able to overcome an uncharacteristically poor performance from its defense to win the Big Ten Championship against previously undefeated Ohio State. OSU was able to gain 273 rush yards on 6.8 YPC, but the Spartans forced a number of key stops as OSU was just 1-of-10 on third down and 0-of-2 on 4th down. Offensively QB Cook passed for a career-high 304 yards and three touchdowns and RB Langford rushed for over 100 yards for the eighth consecutive game and sealed the game with a 26-yard rush TD with 2:16 remaining to seal the victory. Cook made huge strides this year and has developed into one of the top QB’s in the conference with 20 TD and just 5 INT this season. A balanced offense is the perfect complement to a suffocating defense and allowed the Spartans to win each of their nine Big Ten games by 10 points or more this season.

MSU leads the nation in fewest yards allowed (248.2 ypg), rush yards allowed (80.8 ypg) and third-down conversions allowed (27.7 percent), and ranks second in pass efficiency defense and fourth in points allowed. This is Stanford’s fourth straight BCS game and second straight Rose Bowl. The Spartans will play in their first BCS Bowl and haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since 1988, when they beat USC 20-17. The teams’ only common opponent is Notre Dame. The Irish handed Michigan State its only loss of the season, 17-13 on Sept. 21., but fell 27-20 at Stanford on Nov. 30. Stanford has won its last 10 games against ranked opponents, with the last loss coming two years ago in the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma State.

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