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April 19, 2014

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Bowl Pick’em Against The Spread Entry 2

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Sam Morris

Boise State wide receiver Tyler Shoemaker pulls in a touchdown pass while being covered by UNLV linebacker Tim Hasson during their Mountain West Conference game Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 at Sam Boyd Stadium. Fifth-ranked Boise State won the game 48-21.

The first three football teams to cash tickets for bettors this bowl season were Temple, Ohio and Louisiana-Lafayette.

Ready for a mind-boggling statistic? None of those three teams had covered a bowl game spread in at least 30 years before Saturday.

Talk about defying history and achieving something long overdue. This was like the Cubs winning the World Series and Las Vegas getting a professional sports team within a year.

On second thought, maybe some things are bound to never happen. But seeing Ohio beat Utah State in the final seconds of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for the first postseason victory in school history would make you wonder.

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Ohio's Skyler Allen (65) and Jordan Thompson (88) celebrate after defeating Utah State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl NCAA college football game on Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011, in Boise, Idaho

It ended a near-century of football futility in Athens, Ohio. Before Saturday, the Bobcats were 0-5 in bowl games since they first made the 1962 Sun Bowl against West Texas State.

Temple wasn’t much better. The Owls last won a bowl game in 1979, a 28-17 thriller over Cal, but no reliable point spread history exists from back then.

Temple and Ohio got this pick’em project off to an acceptable start. The blog provided winners in two of the first three bowl games.

But there’s no time to rest or spend our minuscule earnings on collect calls. The next three bowl games are on tap over the next three days.

Let’s handicap them below.

Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl: Florida International (-4) vs. Marshall, over/under: 48

Tuesday 5:00, Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla., ESPN

This is the type of matchup the no-fun, crotchety complainers will point to in support of the bowl system becoming over-saturated. It’s great for the Golden Panthers and Thundering Herd players to get one more game, but is anyone really going to watch it?

Well, you can bet on it. So why not? But it’s difficult to uncover any value here. FIU coach Mario Cristobal has done a terrific job building the program, but his team may have over-achieved this year. The Golden Panthers were staggeringly out-gained in five of their eight victories.

Marshall has one of the best pass rushers in the nation in defensive end Vinny Curry, who had 11 sacks this season. The Thundering Herd also have a player from my high school alma mater, offensive lineman Alex Schooler. That’s hard-hitting analysis on why to take the points.

Pick: Marshall +5

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: TCU (-9.5) vs. Louisiana Tech; over/under: 55.5

Wednesday 5:00, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, ESPN

It’s dangerous to evaluate a team only on how they’ve played recently. That being said, the Bulldogs were mighty impressive in finishing the season on a seven-game winning streak.

But they were 1-4 before then. More importantly, TCU actually looked better than Louisiana Tech at the end of the year. The Horned Frogs had a seven-game winning streak of their own and won the underrated Mountain West Conference by beating Boise State on the road. A double-digit victory is well within reason for TCU.

Pick: TCU -9.5

MAACO Bowl Las Vegas: Arizona State (+13.5) vs. Boise State; over/under: 66.5

Thursday 5:00, Sam Boyd Stadium, ESPN

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Arizona State head coach Dennis Erickson looks up at the scoreboard in a game against UNLV in 2008.

A ghost is haunting the Sun Devils this week. His name is Dennis Erickson. The apparition comparison goes beyond Erickson’s snow-white hair. He’s a figurative dead man walking, as Arizona State has already fired him and hired Pittsburgh coach Todd Graham.

Erickson will coach the bowl game, but Graham is already around the program and interacting with players. With the program in a purgatory state, mixed emotions are everywhere. Does that sound like a healthy environment going into a game against the No. 6 team in the nation? The Broncos were one point away from possibly playing for the national championship. Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore is a perfect 3-0 against the spread in bowl games. Get the number at less than two touchdowns while it’s available.

Pick: Boise State -13.5

Bowl Season Record: 2-1

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

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