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November 20, 2014

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Bowl Pick’em Against The Spread: National Championship and final games

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Phil Sears / AP

In this photo from Saturday, Nov. 23, 2013, Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston (5) looks on from the sidelines during the first half of an NCAA football game against Idaho in Tallahassee, Fla.

2013 NFL Playoffs

Of the four teams with first-round byes, which Super Bowl bet has the most value?
New England 7-to-1 — 28.9%
Denver 5-to-2 — 28.1%
Carolina 10-to-1 — 24.3%
Seattle 2-to-1 — 18.6%

This poll is closed, see Full Results »

Note: This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

There’s nothing like staying warm in the winter with a first-rate heater.

Talking Points flamed out of the win-one, lose-one doldrums picking every bowl game against the spread with the New Year’s Day entry, going 6-1 to improve the overall record to 18-12.

Sustaining the spark now becomes the objective with the final five college football games of the year.

Check below for the last set of betting analysis and picks, which includes Monday’s national championship.

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Oklahoma State minus-1 vs. Missouri; over/under: 62

4:30 p.m. Friday, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas

Upon the reveal of all 35 bowl games last month, the Cotton Bowl immediately stood out as the most evenly matched. The betting market has confirmed as much, as sports books couldn’t even decide which team deserved to give points. They posted Missouri as the 1-point favorite initially, but Oklahoma State steam has pushed the spread the other way. That’s not a significant move, but enough to show where the public sentiment rests.

Pick: Missouri plus-1

Discover Orange Bowl: Clemson plus-3 vs. Ohio State; over/under: 69.5

5:30 p.m. Friday, Sun Life Stadium in Miami

Yes, Ohio State was a victory away from playing in the national championship. But motivational concerns aren’t as prominent for a team that’s playing in their first bowl game in two years after serving probation in coach Urban Meyer’s first season. Clemson failed to inspire much confidence when it played above-average teams this season — getting blown out against Florida State and South Carolina while eking past Georgia in a game where it was outplayed.

Pick: Ohio State minus-3

BBVA Compass Bowl: Vanderbilt minus-3 vs. Houston; over/under: 54

10 a.m., Saturday, Legion Field in Birmingham, Ala.

Oddsmakers couldn’t catch up to the Cougars all season, as they went 10-2 against the spread including covers in each of their first seven games. Get ready to hear the name John O’Korn plenty over the next few years. Houston’s quarterback threw for 2,889 yards with 26 touchdowns and eight interceptions in his freshman season. Vanderbilt, meanwhile, will play without senior quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels.

Pick: Houston plus-3

GoDaddy Bowl: Ball State minus-7.5 vs. Arkansas State; over/under: 64.5

6 p.m. Sunday, Land-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Ala.

Last chance to fade an interim coach this season, as Arkansas State amazingly plays under one in the postseason for the third straight year. Following the same trajectory as Hugh Freeze and Gus Malzahn before him, Bryan Harsin bailed on the Red Wolves less than a year after getting the job. He took the coaching post at his alma mater Boise State after the regular season. Arkansas State covered in last year’s bowl appearance under interim coach John Thompson, beating Kent State 17-13 as 3-point favorites, but lost to Northern Illinois, 38-20 as a 1-point favorite, two years ago.

Pick: Ball State minus-7.5

BCS National Championship: Auburn plus-7.5 vs. Florida State; over/under: 67

5:30 p.m. Monday, Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif.

Florida State defeated nine of its 10 BCS-conference opponents by at least four touchdowns this season. Auburn also played 10 teams within that category, but could only muster one win of more than 28 points. A decisively tougher strength of schedule for Auburn — the Tigers played the nation’s 21st most difficult slate as opposed to the Seminoles’ 90th — doesn’t go far enough to make up for the difference.

No, it feels like history is repeating itself for the second straight year in the national championship. One team’s magical run of close victories is outweighing their opponent’s tyrannical stretch of total obliteration in the eyes of the public to keep the spread reasonable. Much like Notre Dame last year, sports book directors are reporting six or seven out of every 10 tickets coming in on Auburn.

The Tigers are better than the Irish, but how exactly are they going to beat the Seminoles? Auburn has the nation’s top-ranked rushing offense with Tre Mason averaging six yards per carry but Florida State will be the best defense its faced this season. Yes, the Seminoles edge the Crimson Tide according to Football Outsiders and have one of the nation’s best defensive tackles in Timmy Jernigan disrupting the run game. Florida State has a Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback in Jameis Winston who averages 293 passing yards per game. Auburn’s converted-cornerback quarterback Nick Marshall has thrown for more than 293 yards once in his career.

Pick: Florida State minus-7.5

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

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