We’re into the second week of bowl games, and we’re leaving some of the uglier matchups behind. App State vs. Toledo is a genuinely good game, despite what your snobby friends may tell you.
Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (-3)
Date: Friday, Dec. 22 (4:00 PM ET)
This game opened as a pick’em, and the betting public has swung pretty solidly in Josh Allen’s direction. Kid can throw.
It’s not entirely misplaced enthusiasm, either. Wyoming is a slightly better team, just not for the reason you think. This defense is incredible, and the inexperienced and inconsistent offense is actually holding the Cowboys back. The real value here is the under: Central Michigan is a coin-flip at 6-5-1 but Wyoming is at 2-9 over/under, likely because the only player most bettors have heard of is a future first-round NFL draft pick under centre. Aaron Rodgers Jr will work it out this week, surely.
My pick: Wyoming (-3) to cover.
Birmingham Bowl: South Florida (-3) vs Texas Tech
Date: Saturday, Dec. 23 (12:00 PM ET)
South Florida is the better team, and by quite a lot. Quinton Flowers will be the best football player on this field and within a surprisingly broad radius. I’m not sure why Tech is such a narrow underdog here; they’ve had another “should we or shouldn’t we fire Kliff Kingsbury” season, but I suspect the answer has something to do with both of theses teams’ volatility against the spread. South Florida was 5-6 ATS, while Texas Tech was 6-5-1. A lot of those losses for South Florida, however, were against some crazy lines. USF went against a double-digit spread in all 10 of its games as a favorite, and the only real disappointment of the season was their loss to Houston.
My pick: USF (-3) to cover.
Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State (-7) vs Army
Date: Saturday, Dec. 23 (3:30 PM ET)
This game is going to be over quickly. Neither team likes to pass. Army has become a parody of itself in that respect, passing for a healthy 29.5 yards per game in 2017. Both teams are top flight in terms of time of possession and near the bottom in number of plays run.
The teams match up nicely. San Diego State had a marvelous season, winning 10 games and achieving a decent 8-4 record against the spread. Army had a similarly impressive season, going 9-3 straight up, 6-0 at home, 6-6 against the spread, and (perhaps most importantly) 1-0 against Navy. Army’s emerged as a decent G5 team over the past few years, an impressive achievement given their limitations.
San Diego State is the better team, but only slightly. I would not, under any circumstances, expect this game to be a shootout, so a tight score that allows Army to cover the spread seems most likely.
My pick: Army (+7) to cover
Dollar General Bowl: Appalachian State vs Toledo (-7.5)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 23 (7:00 PM ET)
Two very good football teams meet in a rematch of last year’s Camellia Bowl! Kareem Hunt played in that game, which seems bizarre in retrospect. Terry Swanson probably won’t be one of the most important players in the NFL next year.
Toledo is the dream team here: 11-2 straight up and 6-2 ATS in their last eight games, the Rockets are … rocketing. For App State to cover this spread, they’ll have to make use of their defense and probably run Jalin Moore for another huge game. Logan Woodside will be too much for App State, Woodside has blossomed into one of the best passers in the country and the Mountaineers aren’t exceptional against the pass.
My pick: Toledo (-7.5) to cover.
Hawaii Bowl: Houston (-2.5) vs Fresno State
Date: Sunday, Dec. 24 (8:30 PM ET)
Let’s not get too complicated here: Fresno State, which went 9-4 straight up and 10-2 against the spread, is a better team than Houston. Houston was 6-5 ATS in its abbreviated season, but has one (two?) things going for it: a brand name and Ed Oliver. Oliver is genuinely fantastic, perhaps the best defensive player in college football, but brand name is worthless. This is no longer the Houston that got Tom Herman the Texas job. It’s just Houston. Good ol’ 7-4 Houston.
My pick: Fresno State (+2.5) to cover.