Welcome back, and welcome to a bittersweet edition of the Gamble-Tron. I love making picks, and I especially love watching your picks roll in. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want dozens of you to make picks every week, but I legitimately treasure the interaction with each of you who do put your name - ok, your username - to your weekly predictions.
It’s Christmas Day as I write this, and the only sweet part of bittersweet is the fact that I will get a not-insignificant part of my weekday evenings back, since January means that I go from three deadlines to one for the next eight months. But you didn’t tune in for any of that. At least, I hope you didn’t. You’re here because you enjoy the pretend (or maybe even real) thrill of putting some action on college football.
We’re into the higher-profile games now, with mostly Power Five teams facing off. Let’s get to it.
Bowl season so far: 10-6
Bowl season cash balance: $470
Arizona Bowl - Nevada (-2/-110) vs. Arkansas State (+2/-110)
Sponsor: Nova Home Loans
Motivation Edge: Nevada. The Wolf Pack rebounded nicely from a 3-9 2017 to win seven games and make a bowl game. The
Indians Red Wolves are playing in their...eighth straight bowl game? Yep.
Analysis: Both teams played a decent non-conference slate, and even had one common opponent, as Arkansas State beat UNLV, while Nevada lost to the Runnin’ Rebels in the season’s final game. Count me among the people who think Nevada faced many tougher contests in their conference than the Red Wolves did.
The Pick: $110 on Nevada
Belk Bowl - Virginia (+5.5/-110) vs. South Carolina (-5.5/-110)
Sponsor: Well it isn’t Kohl’s, but it’ll always be the Meineke Car Care Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: The Wahoos will are almost certainly more excited to be here after not having finished with a winning record since 2011.
Analysis: South Carolina played a tougher schedule, as the SEC was far stronger than the ACC this season. But while the Gamecocks played several ranked opponents, they didn’t actually beat any of those teams. South Carolina may well win, but it should be relatively close.
The Pick: $110 on UVa
Orange Bowl: Oklahoma (+14/-110) vs. Alabama (-14/-110)
Sponsor: Capital One, but it’ll always be the FedEx Orange Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: Are you kidding me?
Analysis: How odd is it that, in a pair of games featuring the four best teams in the nation, the point spreads are 14 and 13 points? While I was hoping that Georgia would beat Alabama, I’m on board for IV bag upon IV bag of Kyler Murray vs. Nick Saban. I will be rooting hard for the Sooner Schooner to take this one home. I have serious doubts about the possibility.
The Pick: $110 on the Tide
Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame (+13/-110) vs. Clemson (-13/-110)
Sponsor: Goodyear, but it’ll always be the SBC Communications Cotton Bowl Classic to me.
Motivation Edge: See above, and also see the fact that hardly anyone gives Notre Dame a chance, while Clemson is here for the fourth straight season. Who do you think is more motivated? There’s also the tiny matter of Clemson possibly being without stud defensive tackle Dexter Lawrence.
The Pick: $220 on Notre Dame
Military Bowl: Virginia Tech (+5.5/-110) vs. Cincinnati (-5.5/-110)
Sponsor: Northrop Grumman, but it’ll always be the EagleBank Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: Once again, it’s P5 vs. G6. Not only that, it’s P5 vs. used-to-be BCS league team.
Analysis: Virginia Tech is quite possibly the worst Power Five team to be in a bowl, while Cincinnati is one of the better G6 teams in 2018. I have zero faith in Va Tech.
“After evaluating millions of pieces of data in the blink of an eye, the Gamble-Tron 2000 says the winner is . . . Cincinnati by . . . two hundred points?— Dead Homer Society (@deadhomers) February 4, 2018
Why you worthless hunk of junk!” pic.twitter.com/uoU24PYuvp
The Pick: $550 on the Bearcats
Liberty Bowl - Missouri (-9/-110) vs. Oklahoma State (+9/-110)
Sponsor: Autozone, but it’ll always be the AXA Liberty Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: Probably Missouri. I know their coach is more excited to be here, considering his tenure in Columbia was on life support midway through last season. Turns out all it took to turn things around was...Derek Dooley? Well, having a good quarterback doesn’t hurt. The Cowboys were all over the map this season. Their 6-6 record includes wins over Boise State, Texas and West Virginia, along with losses to Kansas State, Baylor and TCU. Here’s hoping this game catches the ‘Pokes pretending like they’re facing a ranked team. Wait, they are!
The Pick: $220 on Ok State
Gator Bowl - Texas A&M (-7/-110) vs. NC State (+7/-110)
Sponsor: Taxslayer, but it’ll always be the Konica Minolta Gator Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: Texas A&M had a pretty darn good season, and is the better team. Like we said earlier, the SEC was a better conference than the ACC by a lot in 2018. I have no idea why I like NC State, but I do.
$110 on the Wolfpack
EDIT: I’ve learned that multiple NC State players are sitting out. Since the line is the same, I’m taking Texas A&M for $330. That always goes well, right?
Outback Bowl: Iowa (+7/-110) vs. Mississippi State (-7/-110)
Sponsor: Outback Steakhouse, but it’ll always be the Hall of Fame Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: Probably the Bulldogs. They’re playing in this game for the first time ever, while Iowa is here for the second time in three seasons, having been trounced by Florida in the 2017 game. Mississippi State should win this game by 24, so why am I taking Iowa? Don’t answer that.
The Pick: $220 on my Hawkeyes
Fiesta Bowl: UCF (+7/-110) vs. LSU (-7/-110)
Sponsor: Playstation, but it’ll always be the IBM/OS2 (seriously that is probably my second-favorite bowl name ever) Fiesta Bowl to me.
Motivation: Let’s see, SEC vs. AAC. Who do you think wants this game more? Hopefully LSU is motivated too. If I’m Da Coach O, I’m reminding my team every five minutes about how UCF beat an SEC team in a bowl game just a year ago.
Analysis: This is a weird one, as UCF is the team that’s used to the NY6 stage. LSU hasn’t played in a game like this since Alabama suffocated the Tigers in the 2011 BCS title game. Fun fact: LSU’s first ever bowl game was in 1907. The Tigers played in the first ever Bacardi Bowl, where they faced the University of Havana, in Cuba. Taking credit for that bowl win seems about as legit as claiming the outright national title in 2003, but LSU does that too.
The Pick: $330 on LSU
Citrus Bowl - Penn State (-6.5/-110) vs. Kentucky (+6.5/-110)
Sponsor: Vrbo (what, HomeAway didn’t want any of this?) but it’ll always be the Ourhouse.com Florida Citrus Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: Penn State is getting used to playing in New Year’s Six games. Kentucky hasn’t played in a high-profile bowl game since, well since they played Penn State in a similar game 20 years ago.
Analysis: I’ve been on the “Penn State is drastically overrated” train ever since the stooges on the CFP committee ranked them ahead of WSU simply because they have “Penn State” next to their record. I’m not about to jump off now. On Penn State? More like f*** Penn State.
The Pick: $110 on the Cats
Sugar Bowl - Georgia (-13/-110) vs. Texas (+13/-110)
Sponsor: Allstate, but it’ll always be the USF&G Sugar Bowl to me.
Motivation Edge: Georgia was a couple minutes from the CFP, while Texas is lucky to be here, and is only here because of stupid bowl contracts. Which team do you think is more excited?
Analysis: As a WSU fan, it’s hard to imagine a scenario in which I’d be disappointed that my team was playing in the Sugar Bowl, but that’s almost certainly how Georgia feels. They had Alabama beat for the second straight season, and walked off the field defeated for the second straight season. Georgia should win comfortably, but I think Texas will kick down the back door. Of course, they should have done that against Oklahoma, too.
The Pick: $110 on the ‘Horns
And with that, we are officially at the end of the road for the Gamble-Tron in 2018. Thousands of words, hundreds of bad picks and scores of aneurysms later, I sincerely appreciate the fact that all six of you faithfully tune in every week during the football season. It truly is a labor of love, and writing this column will never get old (even as my wife says “are you writing again tonight?” for the 285th time). Happy New Year.