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August 22, 2014

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Bowl Pick’em Against The Spread Entry 1

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Richard Brian

San Diego State Aztec running back Ronnie Hillman (13) breaks through UNLV’s defense during their game Saturday, Nov. 26, 2011, at Sam Boyd Stadium.

The third weekend of December is traditionally a time saved for candy canes, discount deals and bowl betting.

Because transitioning to a holiday-themed blog was out of the question, I’m going to focus on the third example. It lasts the longest anyway.

Eight days of Hanukkah or seven days of Kwanzaa account for only a third of bowl season. Thirty-five bowl games will play out over the next 24 days.

Although the bowl system clearly has it flaws and local sports books would much prefer a playoff system, bettors have to love the current landscape. Playoffs just wouldn’t offer the same opportunity for action.

An eight-team playoff would bring all of seven games. The numbers on those games would likely be airtight after an initial reaction from the marketplace. Sports books couldn’t risk anything else with the amount of public money they would attract, which bookmakers estimate would be more than the Super Bowl.

Of course, the lesser bowl games could stick around too and then even the degenerates would rejoice. But I digress.

In this space over the next three weeks, you’ll find picks and a quick betting discussion of every bowl game. Shout outs go to Vegas Insider and Covers.com. Much of the information in this space will come from VI’s betting board and Covers’ database.

Last year, I finished an underwhelming 17-18 on this project. The foremost goal, obviously, is to top that.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Temple (-7) vs. Wyoming; over/under: 50

Saturday 11:00, University Stadium in Albuquerque, N.M., ESPN

The 2011 bowl season starts with a distinct moneymaking opportunity. It might sound too good to be true. But it’s not. Temple is a whole lot better than Wyoming.

Click to enlarge photo

Wyoming running back Alvester Alexander navigates his way through the UNLV defense.

The fact that both these teams finished with an 8-4 record is about as misleading as The Chewbacca Defense. Temple lost three games by four points or less. Wyoming won four games by four points or less.

The Cowboys traditionally show up for bowl games, however, as they’ve won their last two outright as double-digit underdogs. But the Owls, who are bowling for only the second time in 30 years, are still reeling from not getting a postseason invitation a year ago after going 8-4. The under might be worth a look because both teams want to pound the ball. They combine to call rushing plays about 73 percent of the time, according to Football Outsiders. Temple’s defense has stood out all year, while Wyoming’s has, maybe, become more serviceable as the year has gone on.

Pick: Temple -7

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio (+1.5) vs. Utah State; over/under: 59

Saturday 2:30, Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho, ESPN

Read the first sentence from the New Mexico Bowl breakdown and imagine the opposite. It’s hard to tell where the value rests in this one. And who the heck took “Humanitarian” out of this bowl’s title? Blasphemy.

The Aggies are like the bumbling, but lovable uncle at the family reunion. You never know what to expect. They are the kind of team that takes Auburn to the brink of defeat to open the season before losing at home to Colorado State two weeks later. Ohio is more like the bipolar aunt. Just two weeks ago, Ohio went up 20-0 on Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship Game only to forget how they scored those points. The Bobcats lost 23-20.

But they’ll have the most dangerous player on the (blue) field in dual-threat sophomore quarterback Tyler Tettleton. His father is longtime Major League Baseball catcher Mickey Tettleton. That’s absolutely relevant.

Pick: Ohio +1.5

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: San Diego State (-5) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette; over/under: 58

Saturday 6:00, Superdome in New Orleans, ESPN

First reaction was to take the points with the Ragin Cajuns. They’re playing some 1,600 miles closer to their campus than the Aztecs, which will make for an obvious crowd advantage. Either bookmakers or bettors — more likely both — were slow to recognize how much Lafayette improved this year. The Sun Belt Conference’s third-place finishers covered the spread in five of their first six games against FBS opposition.

But the Ragin Cajuns haven’t run into anyone as talented as Aztecs running back Ronnie Hillman since Week 1 when they played at Oklahoma State. Lafayette is also burdened with a leaky secondary that San Diego State quarterback Ryan Lindley could exploit. Save some gumbo for the Aztecs.

Pick: San Diego State -5

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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