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November 26, 2014

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Bowl Pick’em Against the Spread: Entry 3

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Steve Marcus

University of Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey scores during UNLV’s home opener against the University of Arizona at Sam Boyd Stadium Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.

Underdogs are off to a rough start to bowl season as teams taking points have gone 6-9 against the spread. Their first five letters have performed more profitably for bettors.

Unders are the story of bowl season in Las Vegas so far, as 12 of 15 games have ended with fewer points than the total posted in sports books. That includes an eight-game streak of unders that comes into Monday’s quartet card.

The blog underperformed with the last entry, going 3-4 over the weekend picking every bowl game against the spread. The bonus prediction of a line finally coming into play was right, albeit barely and devastatingly.

The New Era Pinstripe Bowl is the lone game where the spread has come into play so far, as Notre Dame beat Rutgers 29-16 as 14-point favorites. Talking Points felt the pain of Notre Dame’s near-miss and now sits at 8-7 overall.

Find the next eight games below.

Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee plus-7 vs. Navy; over/under: 56.5

8:45 a.m. Monday, Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, Texas

The Blue Raiders surged to win their final five games, though they only covered in three of them, to reach a bowl. But they struggle against the run, which could present a problem against Navy’s triple-option attack led by Keenan Reynolds. The sophomore set the record for rushing touchdowns by a sophomore with 29 this season.

Pick: Middle Tennessee plus-7

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl: Ole Miss minus-3 vs. Georgia Tech; over/under: 57

12:15 p.m. Monday, LP Field in Nashville

The SEC’s postseason finally begins 15 games into bowl season with Ole Miss. The ACC is off to an impressive start with Georgia Tech’s conference going 3-1 straight up and against the spread thus far, including two outright victories by underdogs.

Pick: Ole Miss minus-3

Valero Alamo Bowl: Oregon minus-14 vs. Texas; over/under: 68

3:45 p.m. Monday, Alamodome in San Antonio

More bets are on Oregon, but sharp money has backed Texas to keep this line at two touchdowns. Part of the Longhorns’ appeal is that they’ll draw extra motivation from a desire to send 15-year coach Mack Brown out with a victory. But that sounds like spotty reasoning considering Oregon’s statistical supremacy. Oregon averages a staggering 2.2 yards per play more than Texas and gives up 0.7 fewer yards per play on defense.

Pick: Oregon minus-14

National University Holiday Bowl: Arizona State minus-14 vs. Texas Tech; over/under: 71

7:15 p.m. Monday, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego

The usually stellar Holiday Bowl boasts a lousy matchup to cap a lousy day of games. It’s tough to predict both teams’ mental states, what with Arizona State getting embarrassed in the Pac-12 Championship Game and Texas Tech losing quarterback Baker Mayfield to transfer. Hate to go with a second-straight two-touchdown favorite, but Arizona State’s No. 8 ranking in Football Outsiders’ F/+ ratings to Texas Tech’s No. 60 is a margin too drastic to ignore.

Pick: Arizona State minus-14

AdvoCare V100 Bowl: Arizona minus-7 vs. Boston College; over/under: 58

9:30 a.m. Tuesday, Independence Stadium in Shreveport, La.

It’s a Cajun treat for anyone who loves run games, as both All-American running backs face off in a bowl for the first time college football history. Boston College’s Andre Williams, a Heisman finalist, and Arizona’s Ka’Deem Carey, a should-have-been Heisman finalist, ranked first and second nationally in rushing this season. But Williams had only 29 yards in the Eagles’ final game — a 34-31 loss to Syracuse as 2.5-point favorites — while dealing with an unidentified injury.

Pick: Arizona minus-7

Hyundai Sun Bowl: Virginia Tech plus-7.5 vs. UCLA; over/under: 47

11 a.m. Tuesday, Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas

The thing that kept UCLA from having an even better season than its 9-3 straight-up, 8-4 against-the-spread campaign was inconsistent offensive line play. That’s a major problem against Virginia Tech. The Hokies, offensively challenged as they may be, are loaded in the front seven of their defense and rank No. 1 in the nation according to Football Outsiders on that side of the ball.

Pick: Virginia Tech plus-7.5

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Rice plus-7 vs. Mississippi State; over/under: 50.5

1 p.m. Tuesday, Liberty Bowl in Memphis, Tenn.

The Bulldogs eked their way into bowl eligibility with narrow wins over archrival Ole Miss and lowly Arkansas to end the season. The Owls exploded in their final game, smashing Marshall 41-24 as 6.5-point underdogs to win their first outright conference title in 56 years. Now they’re out to get to 11 wins for the first time in school history — an easily-attainable goal as long as they’re prepared for the hundreds of cowbells obnoxious Mississippi State fans will bring to Memphis.

Pick: Rice plus-7

Chick-fil-A Bowl: Duke plus-13 vs. Texas A&M; over/under: 75

5 p.m. Tuesday, Georgia Dome in Atlanta

The schools could have saved some money and left their punters at home. Neither the Blue Devils nor the Aggies plays any defense. That’s a scary thought with Johnny Manziel — especially with memories of his 516-yard outing in his first bowl game last year — but Duke is determined to make amends for its 45-7 trouncing against Florida State in the ACC Championship. And it’s never advisable to side with 80 percent of the money, which is about the amount Texas A&M will attract.

Pick: Duke plus-13

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

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