Gambler’s Corner: BOWL MANIA
We had pretty successful year here at Gambler’s Corner, producing a 21-12 overall record for the 2018 season.
We’re not done yet, however.
To end this season with a bang, we’re going to pick every single bowl game, including either the spread or the point total.
Yep, you read that right. Every. Single. Game.
It’s BOWL MANIA, people. So, let’s get started.
Celebration Bowl – Alcorn State (+7.5) versus North Carolina A&T
Full disclosure: I know nothing about either of the teams. I do know that Alcorn State employs former Mountaineers Ryan Stanchek (offensive coordinator) and Pat White (quarterbacks coach) and that’s reason enough for me to pick the Braves in this one.
Cure Bowl – Louisiana (+3) versus Tulane
With a team name like Ragin’ Cajuns, you’d think Louisiana’s mascot would be a crawdad, but I digress. I like Louisiana in this one after the Cajuns won three straight games before falling to Appalachian State in the Sun Belt Conference Championship Game.
New Mexico Bowl – North Texas versus Utah State (over 66 points)
The Aggies and the Mean Green average over 80 points per game combined and both boast rather porous pass defenses. Plus, both are accustomed to playing in high-scoring games.
Las Vegas Bowl – Fresno State (-4.5) versus Arizona State
Fresno State has over-achieved all season long, defeating the likes of UCLA and Boise State. And though the Sun Devils came on strong late in the year, the Bulldogs have proven the know what it takes to beat a mediocre PAC 12 team by at least 4.5 points, hopefully.
Camellia Bowl – Georgia Southern (-1) versus Eastern Michigan
This one will be decided based on whether or not Eastern Michigan can stop Georgia Southern’s run game. Allowing an average of 190 rushing yards per game doesn’t bode well for the Eagles.
New Orleans Bowl – Appalachian State (-7) versus Middle Tennessee
Statistically, the Mountaineers are simply better than Middle Tennessee. Appalachian State boasts the nation’s sixth-best scoring defense, a top-ten pass defense and allow only 4.35 yards per play. The Blue Raiders… well, don’t have a top-ten anything.
Boca Raton Bowl – Northern Illinois versus UAB (over 43 points)
I said cheering for the over was more fun than the under, didn’t I?
Frisco Bowl – Ohio (-3) versus San Diego State
The Bobcats have one the most underrated offenses in the country, averaging over 40 points and 470 yards per game. Throw in the fact that the Aztecs are currently enduring through a three-game losing streak, and I like Ohio even more.
Gasparilla Bowl – Southern Florida (+2.5) versus Marshall
I’m picking the Bulls because the alternative means cheering for Marshall. Also, South Florida hasn’t won a game since October 20th, so they kinda deserve it.
Bahamas Bowl – FIU (+5.5) versus Toledo
The Golden Panthers throw the ball at a high clip, averaging over 240 yards passing per game. The Rockets allow just over 250 per contest.
Potato Bowl – BYU versus Western Michigan (over 49.5 points)
What a name for a bowl game. Either way, both of these teams employ high-powered offenses, combining for nearly 800 yards per game. It what should turn into a shootout, 49.5 points seems pretty low.
Birmingham Bowl – Memphis (-3.5) versus Wake Forest
The Demon Deacons are humorously terrible on defense. And Memphis is really, really good on offense, averaging over 40 points and 500 yards per contest. Easy pick.
Armed Forces Bowl – Army (-3) versus Houston
The Black Knights have secured back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history, dating back to 1890. Naturally, Army boasts a stellar run game, averaging 296 rushing yards per game. The Cougars have proven inept at stopping the run, allowing an average of 196 per contest. Besides, how does Army not cover the spread in the ARMED FORCES BOWL?!
Dollar General Bowl – Buffalo versus Troy (over 51.5 points)
The Bulls and Trojans average over 60 points per game combined. And Buffalo has hit the over in nine of its last 13 games.
Hawai’i Bowl – Louisiana Tech (+1) versus Hawai’i
The Rainbow Warriors are only 5-4 when playing a bowl game in their own stadium and are 4-7-2 against the spread (ATS) this season. The Bulldogs are an impressive 5-2 ATS this year away from Louisiana.
First Responder Bowl – Boise State (-3) versus Boston College
The Broncos possess a top-20 passing attack while the Eagles are 95th in the country in passing yards allowed.
Quick Lane Bowl – Georgia Tech (-5) versus Minnesota
The Golden Gophers have been miserable at stopping the run this season, allowing 430 rushing yards against Illinois and 383 yards against Nebraska. Unfortunately for them, Georgia Tech averages a nation’s best 335 rushing yards per contest.
Cheez-It Bowl – TCU versus Cal (over 40.5 points)
These are two really bad offenses but I have a rule against playing the under when a Big 12 team is involved.
Independence Bowl – Temple (-3.5) versus Duke
After coasting to a 5-0 start, the Blue Devils lost five of its last 8 games. Temple is 6-1 in its past seven contests, including impressive wins over Cincinnati and Houston. The Owls are simply playing better football right now.
Pinstripe Bowl – Wisconsin (+4) versus Miami
Football in a cold, wet Yankee Stadium? This suits the Badgers much better than it does Miami.
Texas Bowl – Baylor versus Vanderbilt (over 55 points)
The fact either of these teams made a bowl game is unbelievable. Again, don’t take the under when a Big 12 team is involved, especially when it’s only 55 points.
Music City Bowl – Auburn (-3.5) versus Purdue
The only thing the Boilermakers have going for them is the fact they embarrassed Ohio State on national television. Since that game, they’re 2-3 and needed a seven-point win over Indiana just to become bowl eligible.
Camping World Bowl – Syracuse versus West Virginia (over 68 points)
Without Will Grier, the Mountaineers may have trouble posting their normal 42 points and 358 passing yards per game. But Syracuse’s defense is 109th in the country at stopping the pass. Throw in the fact that both of these teams combine for over 80 points per game, and it looks like an easy pick.
Alamo Bowl – Washington State versus Iowa State (over 55 points)
The Cougars are nothing short of a Big 12 team in disguise, boasting the nation’s best passing attack (379 yards per game). Plus, the over has hit in four of the last five games Washington State has played away from Pullman.
Peach Bowl – Michigan versus Florida (under 51 points)
Michigan’s defense is one of the best in the country yet they only score an average of 17 points per game. I’m betting on the idea that Florida won’t be able to pass the ball with any success against the Wolverines and Michigan won’t surpass its average scoring rate.
Belk Bowl – Virginia versus South Carolina (over 54 points)
It’s too difficult to trust either of these teams to pick the spread. They do, however, combine for over 60 points per contest and both have averaged over 35 during their last three games.
Arizona Bowl – Arkansas State (-1.5) versus Nevada
The Red Wolves have outscored their opponents 146-54 over its last four games and bring to the table a top-25 passing game. Nevada has had trouble slowing down high-octane offenses, allowing an average of 422 yards per game against bowl-eligible teams.
Military Bowl – Cincinnati (-5.5) versus Virginia Tech
After losing four-straight games in the middle of the season, the Hokies needed a narrow three-point win over Virginia and a “make-up game” win over Marshall to even make it to a bowl. The Bearcats offense is just too good for a Virginia Tech team that allowed over 600 yards of offense against Old Dominion.
Sun Bowl – Stanford (-6.5) versus Pitt
The Panthers haven’t won a bowl game since 2013 (Little Caesers Bowl) and for Stanford, the Sun Bowl has to feel disappointing after winning the Rose Bowl just two seasons ago. With a healthy Bryce Love toting the rock, it’s hard to imagine the Cardinal not running away with this one.
Redbox Bowl – Michigan State versus Oregon (over 48 points)
If Justin Herbert is healthy enough to play, the Ducks should have no issue carving up Michigan State’s defense through the air. If Herbert is out, all bets are off. The Spartans boast the best run defense in the country and notoriously find themselves in low-scoring affairs on a weekly basis.
Liberty Bowl – Missouri (-8) versus Oklahoma State
Oklahoma State’s defense is… well, a Big 12 defense. And Missouri’s Drew Lock is considered one of the top quarterback prospects for the 2019 NFL Draft. Lock and the Tigers should have a field day against the Cowboys.
Holiday Bowl – Utah (-7) versus Northwestern
Surprisingly, the Wildcats pass defense is 105th in the nation (258 yards per game). Utah isn’t that much better when putting the ball in the air, but given the fact the Utes possess a top-15 scoring and run defense, Northwestern will have a difficult time simply moving the ball.
Gator Bowl – Texas A&M versus North Carolina State (over 58.5)
Both teams average just over 70 points per game combined and the last time the Aggies played, they hung 74 on LSU. So, yeah, take the over.
Outback Bowl – Iowa versus Mississippi State (over 44 points)
Say hello to another questionably low point total. Both teams averaged at least 40 points per game during the last two games of the season. Plus, Hawkeyes games have hit the over eight times this year.
Fiesta Bowl – LSU versus Central Florida (over 55.5 points)
Losing McKenzie Milton to a knee injury hasn’t dampened the Knights’ high-powered offense one bit. Against Memphis, Central Florida posted 56 points and nearly 700 yards of total offense. LSU is no stranger to high-scoring affairs either, scoring 72 against Texas A&M at the end of the regular season.
Citrus Bowl – Penn State versus Kentucky (over 47.5 points)
Because cheering for the over is more fun than applauding less offense and more defense.
Rose Bowl – Ohio State (-6.5) versus Washington
The Ohio State program is a bucket full of disappointing choices and frustrated fans irate over the idea of missing the playoff. Regardless, the Buckeyes’ offense features a Heisman candidate quarterback and the nation’s second-best passing attack. As much as I want the Huskies to win, I doubt they even come close to covering the spread.
Sugar Bowl – Georgia (-12.5) versus Texas
Georgia was painstakingly close to handing Alabama its first and only loss of the season in the SEC Championship before letting the game slip away in the final minute. The Sugar Bowl is a decent consolation prize for the loss. Texas, on the hand, landed in a New Year’s Six Bowl because West Virginia couldn’t win at least one of its final two games of the season. Horns Down.
College Football Playoff
Cotton Bowl – Clemson (-12.5) versus Notre Dame
For the Tigers, it’s beat Alabama or bust. Playing in its fourth-straight playoff, Clemson has the experience and talent needed to give the Crimson Tide a run for their money. Notre Dame is simply a speed bump along the way.
Orange Bowl – Oklahoma versus Alabama (over 80 points)
I’m taking the easy way out and playing the over rather than the spread. We already know both teams can score at will and demolish any point total you throw at them. And despite how unbelievable Tua Tagovailoa has been all year long, Kyler Murray won the Heisman for a reason. There will be points… a lot of them.
National Championship Game – Alabama over Clemson
There’s not a spread or point total for this game, so I’m just going to predict the winner. ‘Bama gets by the Sooners by forcing Oklahoma to kick field goals rather than extra points. Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence looks good against Notre Dame but looks like the true freshman he is against the Crimson Tide. Whether it’s Tua or Jalen Hurts, both have proven they have what it takes to bring yet another national championship trophy home to Tuscaloosa.