Running with the Bowls


    Other sports journalists can whine about too many bowl games, sports bettors like us are just grateful for the chance of most action, with 34 sides and totals to consider over the next 20 days. The first four are available Saturday and plenty of tough decisions to made. Navy and Wake Forest start the festivities in Washington, D.C. Two bowl games will be offered in afternoon action, with 7-5 clubs squaring off against .500 teams. In the nitecap, Arizona and BYU matchup that could have a little more spice than your typical pre-Christmas contest. Take note that favorites before Dec.25 are 21-2 and 14-9 ATS.

    The bowl season starts in our nation’s capital without the usual bang, but with more of a whimper. It’s a rematch (any bowls worst nightmare) of Navy and Wake Forest from Sept. 27, when Navy pulled the 24-17 upset catching 17-points on the road. The Demon Deacons turned out to be vastly overrated and are just 13-24 ATS as a favorite. Wake Forest is 5-3 and 4-2 ATS in bowls.
    The Navy’s top-rated running game deserves most of the attention at 294.7 yards per game, however many will be singing the praises of the defense off consecutive shutouts. The Midshipmen have been one of the best spread teams for a numbers of years and they are 18-5 ATS in all December games since 1992. A 6-7-1 bowl record is fair, but a 7-2 ATS mark will fatten a wallet.

    Why to Watch and Wager:

    This is the first time in 63 years Wake Forest is playing the same team twice in the season. You would believe revenge would be a big motivator for the Demon Deacons, who are 20-6 ATS vs. meager passing teams averaging 150 or less passing yards a game. Navy’s defense has to feel pretty proud after hanging eight straight zeros on the scoreboard and not a touchdown scored on them in over nine quarters. Their must have been something about the letter “W” this season, with Wake 103rd in total offense, among five different universities with that letter that finished in the 100’s in total yards gained. The Middies are 17-5 ATS on the road versus poor offensive teams averaging 310 or less yards per game.

    Bookmaker Line – Wake Forest -3, 43.5

    It was another disappointing campaign for Fresno State, who was the preseason favorite to win the WAC. The 105th ranked run defense took care of any hopes of the Bulldogs being extremely successful this season. Fresno State became a steady play against team this season at 2-10 ATS and is on a 1-9 ATS run as a favorite. Fresno State is 10-7 and 6-5 ATS in the postseason, thou 0-4 ATS as faves.

    Colorado State won its last two games to become bowl eligible after two losing seasons. First year coach Steve Fairchild’s team should have a chance if the Rams can gear up the running game, being 15-3 ATS when they rush for 4.5 to 5 yards per attempt. “We still have a lot of work to do here at Colorado State, in all areas of our program, but this is obviously a step in the right direction, and a tremendous reward for our 17 seniors, who’ve worked extremely hard during their time here in Fort Collins,” Fairchild said. Colorado State is 1-4 ATS as a bowl underdog to go with 4-7 record.

    Why to Watch and Wager:

    Colorado State averages 263.3 yards passing per game with senior Billy Farris at the controls. Fresno State is weaker against the run than the pass, yet lacks playmakers in the secondary with a FBS-low four interceptions on the season. The Bulldogs roll over like a puppy after a spread loss like they suffered in last game to Boise State and are odorous 1-15 ATS after one or more consecutive straight up losses over the last three seasons. If Fresno State gets the running game in order, they should have no problems slugging it out in the trenches against Rams run defense that was allowed 185.7 yards per game, which is ranked 100th.

    Bookmaker Line – Fresno State -3, 60

    MagicJack St. Petersburg Bowl –ESPN2, 4:30 E
    South Florida (7-5, 4-7-1 ATS) vs. Memphis (6-6, 5-5-1 ATS)

    South Florida, based in Tampa, will be very close to home in inaugural St. Petersburg, FL Bowl. The Bulls never came together as a team predicted to win the Big East title this season, as they were undermined by -7 turnover margin, in losing four of last five. The South Florida defense did its best, finishing 13th in the country in yards allowed at 291.1 per game. South Florida is 23-15 ATS in non-conference action.

    Memphis made another late season push to finish 6-6, winning three of last four contests. The Tigers tamed Tulane 45-6 to have a chance to be invited to a bowl; however are 2-15 ATS after scoring 42 points or more last game. Neither team has played in many bowls, though South Florida has an excuse being a FBS member only since 2001. The Bulls are 1-2 SU and ATS and Memphis is 3-2 all-time failing to cover as underdog on both occasions.

    Why to Watch and Wager:

    It’s hard to say if coach Tommy West is getting the max out of the Memphis program, yet with his continued back luck at the quarterback position, just earning a bowl invite is darn good. West teams have had a penchant for playing well against good defenses like South Florida , with 9-1 ATS in road games vs. defensive teams allowing 310 or fewer yards a game. The Bulls have to travel all of 32 miles to the home of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for this bowl encounter. Quarterback Matt Grothe had a fairly disappointing senior season, trying to do too much with not much help from receivers who couldn’t get open. This is his one last chance for redemption in front of a largely partisan USF crowd. Check out defensive tackle George Selvie, who will likely go into NFL draft as a junior. After scoring only seven points in snowy and wind-swept West Virginia in last contest, the Bulls are 8-1 ATS after scoring nine points or less last game.

    Bookmaker Line – South Florida -11, 55

    Pioneer Las Vegas Bowl-ESPN 8:00 E
    BYU (10-2, 3-8 ATS vs Arizona (7-5 SU & ATS)

    BYU is probably mildly unhappy about not winning the conference, yet backers of the Mormon University always enjoy making the trek to Sin City. This will be their fourth consecutive trip to this bowl, thus the enthusiasm of the players is a question mark. The Cougars 17th ranked offense will match wits with the 21st ranked Arizona defense. What ended up costing BYU an undefeated season was a defense that was too slow against faster teams. The Cougars are 1-7 ATS since October.

    The Wildcats only had
    one real bad defensive game against Oregon, allowing 55 points, otherwise were solid. Arizona is a field goal favorite with quarterback Willie Tuitama leading a balance attack averaging over 400 yards a game, which is 3-10 ATS in that role in non-conference play. Interesting to note, the Mountain West was 6-1 and 4-3 ATS in regular season meetings. The ‘Cats are in first bowl since 1998.

    Why to Watch and Wager:

    BYU has won eight in a row at Boyd Stadium, including two in a row over Pac-10 opponents. This should be the motivating factor for quarterback Max Hall and the offense to play well. The Cougars are 13-3 ATS in road games versus defensive teams allowing 310 yards or fewer yards per game, nevertheless this will be their third consecutive contest away from Provo and they are just 4-20 ATS after a two-game road trip. Count the ‘Cats as excited to be in a bowl game and this might be a prickly encounter as theses two schools have faced off the previous two seasons, splitting the contests. Coach Mike Stoops saved his job for the time being and hopes his team is ready, since they 3-8 and 4-7 ATS away from Tucson.

    Bookmaker Line – Arizona -3.5, 59.5


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