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Betting Against the Spread: Bowl Edition, Part 1


My advice for picking bowls?

Don't do it. Stay as far away from these exhibitions as you can. Trying to pinpoint motivation, focus and the holidays at the end of a long, grueling season is virtually impossible.

I finished the regular season 56-53-1 against the spread. Unimpressive but in the black nonetheless during the most unpredictable season since '07. This isn't the regular season though, so these are more like suggestions than iron-clad locks.

Nevada (-1) vs. UL Lafayette

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New Orleans Bowl

Dec. 20, 11 a.m., New Orleans

The Cajuns are extremely familiar with this situation and have been very successful. ULL has is 3-0 under Mark Hudspeth with each win coming in the New Orleans Bowl. Stopping Cody Fajardo isn't easy but Lafayette will find a way. The Pick: ULL +1

Utah St (-10.5) vs. UTEP

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New Mexico Bowl

Dec. 20, 2:20 p.m., Albuquerque

This is one of the largest spreads in any bowl game and that should give you pause. The Miners have been excellent against the number all season (8-3-1) and should be motivated in their first bowl appearance since 2010. Utah State is getting healthier but got smoked by Boise State 50-19 its last time out. The Pick:UTEP +10

Utah (-2.5) vs. Colorado St

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Las Vegas Bowl

Dec. 20, 3:30 p.m., Las Vegas

Both teams have been excellent against the spread, going 8-4 this year. Colorado State has lots of weapons but no head coach. This will be close but Utah's front seven should make enough plays to slow down the Rams' talented offensive trio. The Pick:Utah -2.5

W. Michigan (-1) vs. Air Force

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Potato Bowl

Dec. 20, 5:45 p.m., Boise

It should come as no surprise that this game is a total crap shoot. On one side there's a unique offense that is much tougher to stop at the mid-major levels. On the other is one of the best teams in the nation against the spread (10-2) and three weeks to prepare. Good luck. The Pick: Air Force +1

South Alabama (-2.5) vs. Bowling Green

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Camellia Bowl

Dec. 20, 9:15 p.m., Montgomery

Bowling Green is 4-8-1 against the spread this season and has lost three straight. Meanwhile, South Alabama has lost four out of five. Both teams are well coached and are evenly matched, so I'll take the team playing in its first-ever bowl game. The Pick: South Alabama -2.5

BYU (+1.5) vs. Memphis

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Miami Beach Bowl

Dec. 22, 2 p.m., Miami

This is the most intriguing early bowl matchup of the year. Both teams are very well coached and play physical defense. BYU would be the pick if Taysom Hill was playing but the Stormin' Mormon won't be back until 2015. Take Memphis to be motivated to get its first bowl win since 2005 in its first bowl appearance since 2008. The Pick: Memphis -1.5

Marshall (-10) vs. N. Illinois

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Boca Raton Bowl

Dec. 23, 6 p.m., Boca Raton

Just like the New Mexico Bowl, big spreads in bowl games should be played with caution. Frankly, the Huskies are good enough to win the game outright. The Herd will be tough to beat but that is too many points for a program that knows all about the postseason and has been challenged this year. The Pick:N. Illinois +10 

Navy (+2.5) vs. San Diego St

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Poinsettia Bowl

Dec. 23, 9:30 p.m., San Diego

This is a solid Navy team that has won three straight and rolled up efficient offensive numbers all season long. The Aztecs are playing well but won't be able to stop the Middies' triple-option attack. The Pick: Navy +2.5

C. Michigan (+3) vs. W. Kentucky

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Bahamas Bowl

Dec. 24, Noon, Nassau

Finally, a pre-Christmas bowl game I'd like to cover. The Hilltoppers have played a much tougher slate and have won four straight, including scoring 67 points on previously unbeaten Marshall. In its last five wins (six games), WKY has scored at least 45 points four times. The Pick: Western Kentucky -3

Fresno St (+2) vs. Rice

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Hawai'i Bowl

Dec. 24, 8 p.m., Honolulu

The competition got stiff in the final few weeks for Rice and it gave up huge numbers to Marshall (41) and Louisiana Tech (76) in losses. Fresno State wants to get back to .500 and played very well in a loss to Boise State in the MWC title game. The Pick: Fresno St +2