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College Football Odds and Picks: The Gamble-Tron, Bowl Edition Part I

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Again!

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XVI Pan American Games - Day 11 Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Welcome back. During our inaugural edition of the 2018 Gamble-Tron, we called the premier of college football the most wonderful time of the year. We still believe that, but this time of the year is also pretty great, as we get to see college football nearly every night during the holidays. The one bummer regarding the schedule is the absence of a Christmas Eve bowl game, which means you’ll have to drink more booze and wrap more presents if you want to avoid interacting with your family.

But while bowl season is fun for a variety of reasons, such as matchups you rarely see, or the fact that there’s a random Tuesday bowl game going on to help you kill time while blowing off work maintaining laser focus to get that project done on time, it’s quite possibly the most maddening set of games for a gambler. There is example upon example of a team with superior talent not bothering to put forth an ounce of effort. It’s hard enough to predict the winners of most of these games, let alone figure in the point spread.

One of the reasons I gave up on bowl pools a few years ago, aside from the fact that I was abjectly terrible at them, is because I was tired of swearing at the TV as the underdog in the Motor City Bowl pulled off a last-second victory. Aside from the Apple Cup result, the most predictable thing about my holiday season is flushing my money down the toilet when filling out the bowl picks sheet.

All that said, let’s pick some games, shall we? We’re gonna mix things up this year, and we’re also bringing back something we did a couple times in the past. Asked for by few and demanded by nobody, the Kendall kiddos will be in the next installment to make a few picks. What’s new? Well, I’m picking EVERY BOWL GAME. Why am I doing that? Well aside from being a complete idiot, I did quite well this year in the money department, and feel like giving some back, because that’s absolutely going to happen. These picks will come out in a few different segments, because nobody wants to read 200 words I write, let alone 2,500.

Championship Week Results: 6-3 / $1,860

Season Total: 104-83-6 (slight round up to 56%)!!!

Cash Balance: $18,630

Not gonna do the usual genius/idiot spiel today, but I just want to note this: EWU was a 20.5-point favorite over Nicholls State, and the total was 62.5. Final Score: EWU 42, Nicholls St. 21. Gambling!

Reader Results:

  • stewak: 5-3 / $180
  • .:R: 3-1 / $690
  • Keith_Clark_: 2-0 / $700
  • BothwaysUphill: 3-1 / $190

Cure Bowl - Tulane (-3/-110) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (+3/-110)

Sponsor: Auto Nation

Motivation edge: Tulane barely missed out on a bowl game last year, and now they’ve made it. I can guarantee they’re happy to be here.

Analysis: Louisiana-Lafayette is probably happy to be in a bowl game not in New Orleans for the first time ever. Tulane is probably happy to not be in a bowl game where they play all of their other games. So anyway I’m taking the team with the better uniforms.

The Pick: $110 on the Green Wave

Las Vegas Bowl - Arizona St (+4.5/-110) vs. Fresno St (-4.5/-110)

Sponsor: Mitsubishi, but it’ll always be the Sega Las Vegas Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: Any time a G5 team plays a P5 team, the motivation edge will be with the G5 team.

Analysis: This opened at Fresno -3 and has risen to 4.5, almost certainly due to N’Keal Harry and his business decision. Even if Harry were playing, I think I’d take the Bulldogs. If they can slow down Eno Benjamin even a little, they should win by at least a touchdown.

The Pick: $110 on Fres-yes!

New Mexico Bowl: North Texas (+9.5/-110) vs. Utah State (-9.5/-110)

Sponsor: (crickets, crickets), but it’ll always be the Gildan New Mexico Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: Tough call here. On one hand, Utah State has a chance to win its 11th game, but is playing without its head coach, as Matt Wells is probably on his fourth pound of brisket at Rudy’s Barbecue. The North Texas players had been in a bit of limbo, as Seth Littrell was all but gone to Kansas State, only to head back to Denton. There were about 24 hours there where many folks thought Graham Harrell was also headed elsewhere. Neither ended up happening.

Analysis: AGGIES VS. EVERYBODY NO WAY I CAN TURN MY BACK ON MY FAVORITE TEAM NOW. Side note - I reserve the right to pretend this game never happened if Gary Andersen is anywhere near it.

The Pick: $110 on the Ags and $220 over 66.5

Camellia Bowl: Eastern Michigan (+1/-110) vs. Georgia Southern (-1/-110)

Sponsor: Raycom Media (it’s always been Raycom Media which reminds me of those 11am SEC broadcasts before the advent of the SEC Network).

Motivation Edge: Tough call. The Hurons Eagles are playing in their fourth bowl ever, and only their second since 1987 (who could forget that legendary 3-point California Bowl win over San Jose State?). On the other hand, the still-relatively-new-to-FBS /checks notes, also Eagles are appearing in just their second bowl game ever.

Analysis: Eastern Michigan will have a tough time stopping the triple option, and Georgia Southern will limit possessions and bleed the clock.

The Pick: $110 on Georgia Southern

New Orleans Bowl: Middle Tennessee St. (+7/-110) vs. Appalachian St. (-7/-110)

Sponsor: R&L Carriers, but it’ll always be the Wyndham New Orleans Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: Once again, a lower-division team (in this case App St) is playing without its head coach, as Scott Satterfield departed for Louisville. On the other side, the Blue Raiders have a father-son coaching combo in Rick and Brent Stockstill. I’m sure dad wants to see his son go out a winner.

Analysis: Stockstill may be playing for family, but he’s still only the second-best QB in this game behind Zac Thomas. App St. has rolled over most of its opponents, but who knows how it’ll play without its leader?

The Pick: $110 on the Blue Raiders

Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois (+2/-110) vs. UAB (-2/-110)

Sponsor: Something called Cheribundi, but it’ll always be the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: Well considering the fact that UAB had its football program literally wiped from the earth in 2014, we’re going with the Blazers.

Analysis: Northern Illinois is the MAC champion, and has a hell of a defense. They also needed a miraculous comeback to beat Buffalo in the title game. Meanwhile, UAB lost at Middle Tennessee by 24 points, then went back there the next week and won. That is some grit, my friends.

The Pick: $110 on UAB and $220 under 43.5

Frisco Bowl: Ohio (-3/-110) vs. San Diego State (+3/-110)

Sponsor: something called DXL

Motivation Edge: Both of these teams are semi-regulars on the bowl scene, but given the way the Aztecs have played of late - they’ve lost four of five - you’d have to think they want to end the season on a high note.

Analysis: Ohio always seems to win 7-9 games a year. Then they almost always lose the bowl game. San Diego State definitely has the talent advantage. While that rarely matters in games like this, hopefully it’s the difference here.

The Pick: $110 on the Aztecs

Gasparilla Bowl: Marshall (-1.5/-110) vs. South Florida (+1.5/-110)

Sponsor: Bad Boy Mowers, but it’ll always be the magicJack Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: The slight edge seems to be with the Thundering Herd here, because USF hasn’t seemed like they’ve cared since mid-October.

Analysis: Marshall has lost four games. Two of them came courtesy of ACC teams. Meanwhile, South Florida’s house of cards collapsed in on itself two months ago, and the Bulls haven’t been within double digits of an opponent since.

The Pick: $110 on Marshall

Bahamas Bowl: FIU (+6/-110) vs. Toledo (-6/-110)

Sponsor: The lovely city of Elk Grove Village, Illinois (no, really), but it’ll always be the Popeyes Bahamas Bowl to me. But seriously why did you quit sponsoring this bowl, Popeyes?

Motivation Edge: Easily with the Rockets. I mean, if you got the chance to get the hell out of Toledo and head to the Bahamas for a week, wouldn’t you be fired up?

Analysis: Remember when Lane Kiffin was all the rage last season, while Butch Davis was largely forgotten? Well after two seasons, Davis is in a bowl game again, while Kiffin is sitting at home. The Panthers are just as good as Toledo, and they’re getting nearly a touchdown? Sold!

The Pick: $110 on FIU

Potato Bowl: BYU (-11/-110) vs. Western Michigan (+11/-110)

Sponsor: Old people who sit on some sort of potato committee, but it’ll always be the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: Gotta be BYU. After a disastrous (for them) 4-9 season in 2017, the second-rate Cougars bounced back to qualify for a bowl. Fun fact: Wyoming was supposed to be in this bowl game, as the MWC has a tie-in. However, ESPN and BYU have a contract stipulating that BYU gets placed in an ESPN-owned bowl game if it qualifies. Ipso facto, ESPN sends BYU to Boise and Wyoming sits at home.

Analysis: BYU has both the talent edge and the motivation edge. Additionally, they will bring a ton of fans to the game, as there is a large Mormon population in Southern Idaho. Heck, there might be as many BYU fans in Boise as there are Iowa State fans in San Antonio.

The Pick: $110 on BYU

Birmingham Bowl: Memphis (-4.5/-110) vs. Wake Forest (+4.5/-110)

Sponsor: Jared (the jewelry company, not Stanger, the douchebag Husky fan), but it’ll always be the Papajohns.com Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: How motivated could Memphis be after their monumental collapse against UCF? Meanwhile, Wake Forest needed to win its final game to qualify. Qualify they did, winning a 59-7 squeaker over Duke.

Analysis: Look, I didn’t see a ton of college football this year outside of WSU, so do you really think I’ll be able to break this game down? Then again, is there any game on the bowl slate that I can break down with even a hint of competence? Probably not! In that case, give me the points.

The Pick: $110 on the Deacons

Armed Forces Bowl: Houston (+3/-110) vs. Army (-3/-110)

Sponsor: Lockheed Martin because you gotta spend that sweet, sweet Uncle Sam money somehow. But anyway it’ll always be the PlainsCapital (yes, no space) Bank Armed Forces Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: Uh, Army.

Analysis: Let’s see, Army won 10 games, while Houston’s best offensive player (D’Eriq King) and best defensive player (Ed Oliver) are out. King is hurt, while Oliver basically took the second half of the season off because his knee had a boo boo. He’d be completely insane to play against a team that will try to legally murder his kneecaps.

I went against Army last year, in a big way. I got burned. Ain’t happening again.

The Pick: $1100 on the Black Knights

Dollar General Bowl: SUNY-Buffalo (-2.5/-110) vs. Troy (+2.5/-110)

Sponsor: Hopefully you can tell by the bowl name, but it’ll always be the GoDaddy.com Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: Troy is playing just 170 miles from home, and they don’t even get to leave the Redneck Riviera. Meanwhile, Buffalo is located in Buffalo. You think they’re happy to get the hell out of there in December? They’re probably happy to leave Buffalo even if it means going to Montlake.

Analysis: Both of these teams are pretty darn good, but I think Buffalo has the slight edge. They should have won the MAC, and they have two legitimate NFL prospects in quarterback Tyree Jackson and receiver Anthony Johnson. That’s good enough for me.

The Pick: $220 on the Bulls

SoFi Hawaii Bowl: Louisiana Tech (+1/-110) vs. Hawaii (-1/-110)

Sponsor: Something called SoFi, but it’ll always be the Jeep Eagle Aloha Bowl to me.

Motivation Edge: It’s weird, but I want to say it’s with Hawaii? Well, maybe not. I mean, have you ever been to Ruston, Louisiana? I haven’t, and I never hope to be. Now those guys are in Hawaii for the holidays! Related: WHY ISN’T THIS GAME ON CHRISTMAS EVE???!!!

So I got to thinking about how it always seems that Hawaii plays their bowl game at home, and decided to do a little research. Turns out that Hawaii has played 24 bowl games, starting in 1936 (I have no idea what the New Year’s Classic was). 22 of those games have taken place in Hawaii. The only exceptions are the 1992 Holiday Bowl and the 2008 Sugar Bowl. Don’t you think that even Hawaii would want to leave the islands for a bowl game?

Analysis: I know Skip Holtz is a decent coach, but Nick Rolovich has resurrected the Rainbows program. And there’s that part where Hawaii always seems to get the calls at home.

The Pick: $550 on Hawaii

Next Week in Part Two: A couple people who are younger, smarter, and undoubtedly better at picking games than yours truly.