Athlon picks the first 14 bowl games against the spread.
College football's bowl season starts on Dec. 16 with five matchups on tap, including Oregon-Boise State in the Las Vegas Bowl, as well as North Texas and Troy meeting in the New Orleans Bowl. After the opening Saturday of the 2017-18 bowl season, nine other games are slated prior to Dec. 25. With bowl season approaching, here are picks against the spread for each postseason game from Dec. 16-24.
College Football Bowl Spread Picks: Games from Dec. 16-24
New Orleans Bowl: North Texas (+6.5) over Troy
North Texas made another big leap in Year 2 of the Seth Littrell era, improving from 5–8 overall and 3–5 in C-USA in 2016 to 9–4 and 7–1 (and West Division champs). But how good were the Mean Green? Five of their nine wins came by even points or fewer, and they lost two games to FAU by a combined score of 110–48. On the plus side, they did beat UAB and Army, teams that combined for 17 wins. Troy will be the pick by many fans because of name recognition — the Trojans shocked the college football world by winning at LSU this season — but North Texas might be the smart play, especially getting almost a touchdown.
Troy 28, North Texas 24
Cure Bowl: Western Kentucky (-6.5) over Georgia State
Western Kentucky was overvalued for most of the season — the Hilltoppers went 3–9 against the spread — but should have little difficulty finishing the year on a high note. Georgia State was a nice story, rebounding from an 0–2 start (that included a loss at home to an FCS team) to finish with a 6–5 mark. But those six wins came against Charlotte, Coastal Carolina, ULM, South Alabama, Georgia Southern and Texas State. Not good.
Western Kentucky 38, Georgia State 20
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon (-7) over Boise State
Boise State lost both of its games against Power 5 opponents, losing at Washington State 47–44 and at home vs. Virginia 42–23. The Broncos also struggled offensively down the stretch, scoring 17 points in a loss at Fresno State in the regular-season finale and 17 points in the Mountain West Championship Game victory over Fresno State. Oregon ended the season on an offensive tear, scoring 48 vs. Arizona and 69 vs. Oregon State. The guess here is the Ducks will be highly motivated to play well for recently promoted head coach Mario Cristobal.
Oregon 41, Boise State 27
New Mexico Bowl: Colorado State (-5.5) over Marshall
Neither team played well down the stretch of the regular season. Marshall was 6–1 after a 38–10 win at Middle Tennessee in late October but lost four of its last five games (each by 11 points or fewer). Colorado State was 6–2 at one point, with both losses to Power 5 teams (Colorado and Alabama). The Rams, however, lost three straight to fall out of contention in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West conference. Colorado State appears to be the better team.
Colorado State 30, Marshall 17
Camelia Bowl: Arkansas State (-3.5) over Middle Tennessee
Middle Tennessee is a tough team to evaluate because the Blue Raiders have suffered some key injuries that slowed what was expected to be a powerful offense. Quarterback Brent Stockstill returned to the lineup late in the season, but MTSU will be without outstanding widoeut Richie James. Arkansas State missed an opportunity to claim a share of the Sun Belt title by losing at home to Troy on the final weekend of the season. This should be a tight game.
Arkansas State 38, Middle Tennessee 34
Boca Raton Bowl: FAU (-22.5) over Akron
This is reportedly the biggest point spread ever in a bowl game. And it’s understandable. Florida Atlantic is riding a nine-game winning streak and boasts arguably the best offense of any Group of 5 team not named UCF in the nation. Akron won the MAC West but is 7–6 overall with a rather weak rÃ©sumÃ©. This will get ugly.
FAU 51, Akron 21
Frisco Bowl: SMU (-5) over Louisiana Tech
This will be a strange game. Sonny Dykes, recently hired to take over for Chad Morris at SMU, will coach his new team in the bowl game against a Louisiana Tech team that he coached from 2010-12. I’m guessing the SMU playbook won’t be too extensive. Louisiana Tech slumped to six wins this season after winning nine in each of the previous three seasons. This is not a vintage Bulldog team.
SMU 38, Louisiana Tech 20
Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7.5) over FIU
The record (6–6) isn’t overly impressive, but Geoff Collins did a nice job in his first season at Temple. The Owls won three of their final four games to become bowl eligible — a solid accomplishment after a 3–5 start. FIU is in a bowl game for the first time since 2011 thanks in large part to the magic of Butch Davis, the Panthers’ first-year coach. Lane Kiffin stole all of the headlines for his work at FAU, but Davis authored an impressive turnaround in South Florida as well.
Temple 24, FIU 16
Bahamas Bowl: UAB (+7.5) over Ohio
I’m shocked by the spread in this game. Ohio is a solid team that won eight games, but the Bobcats ended the regular season with losses to Akron and Buffalo. UAB also went 8–4; one of the losses was at Florida and two of the other three were by three points or fewer. Bill Clark did a great job getting this team to a bowl game in its first season back after a two-year hiatus. The Blazers will be highly motivated.
UAB 31, Ohio 27
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: CMU (pick) over Wyoming
This likely will be the final game for Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen, who is expected to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. Allen and the Cowboys struggled down the stretch, losing at home to Fresno State 13–7 and then suffering a shocking 20–17 loss to dreadful San Jose State in the finale. Allen is dealing with a shoulder injury and is a game-time decision. Central Michigan, on the other hand, won its final five games to end the season with an 8–4 mark. The Chips didn’t play as difficult of a schedule, but let’s go with the hot team.
Central Michigan 26, Wyoming 20
Birmingham Bowl: South Florida (-2.5) over Texas Tech
Can a nine-win season be a disappointment? Yes, if you are a South Florida team that was the overwhelming favorite to earn a New Year’s Six Bowl bid as the top Group of 5 team in the nation. Not only did the Bulls fall short of their goal, they had to watch rival UCF race to an undefeated season and earn a spot in the Peach Bowl. Still, this is a good team that should be able to score a bunch of points on Texas Tech. This should be a fun game.
South Florida 41, Texas Tech 34
Armed Forces Bowl: Army (+7.5) over San Diego State
Jeff Monken’s rebuild at Army has been impressive. The Black Knights capped off a nine-win regular season by beating Navy 14–13 last weekend — their second straight victory over the Midshipmen. San Diego State might be the second best team Army has faced (after Ohio State). The Aztecs are 10–2 overall and have wins over Stanford and Arizona State. Expect to see plenty of work on the ground; Army leads the nation in rushing (355.8 ypg) while San Diego State ranks 12th (252.3). San Diego State 27, Army 21
Dollar General Bowl: Toledo (-7.5) over Appalachian State
Toledo capped off a 10-win regular season by rolling past Akron in the MAC Championship Game. There was only one blip on the Rockets’ rÃ©sumÃ© — a strange 38–10 loss at Ohio. The other defeat was forgivable: 52–30 at Miami (Fla.). Appalachian State enjoyed another strong season in the Sun Belt, sharing the league title with Troy after going 7–1 in conference games. Still, this is a team that lost to UMass and ULM in consecutive games. Go with the Rockets.
Toledo 44, Appalachian State 34
Hawaii Bowl: Houston (-2.5) over Fresno State
Jeff Tedford guided Fresno State to a 9–4 record in his first season at his alma mater — an impressive turnaround for a program that went 1–11 in 2016. The Bulldogs head to Hawaii to face a Houston team that has been very impressive at times (wins at South Florida and vs. Navy) and underachieved at times (28-point loss to Tulsa, lost a 17–0 lead at the half to Memphis). When in doubt, go with the better coach (Tedford over Major Applewhite).
Fresno State 28, Houston 24