Athlon picks the bowl games from Dec. 26-29 against the spread.
The post-Christmas slate of college football's bowl season kicks off on Dec. 26 with three games, including the Heart of Dallas Bowl between West Virginia and Utah, along with the Cactus Bowl matchup of Kansas State versus UCLA. A busy slate is on tap for Dec. 27, as the schedule features four games, including the Texas Bowl between former Big 12 foes Missouri and Texas. With bowl season picking up after Dec. 25, here are picks against the spread for each postseason game from Dec. 26-29.
College Football Bowl Spread Picks: Games from Dec. 26-29
Heart of Dallas Bowl: West Virginia (+6.5) over Utah
West Virginia received great news in the past week, when both quarterback Will Grier and wide receiver David Sills announced they would be returning to school in 2017. The Mountaineers can treat this bowl game as the first game of the 2018 season (how’s that for a coaching cliché?).
West Virginia 30, Utah 20
Quick Lane Bowl: Duke (-5.5) over Northern Illinois
Duke is trying to avoid its second straight losing season after recording three straight winning seasons from 2013-15. After scoring a total of 74 points in their final two regular-season games, the Blue Devils appear poised to pick up win No. 7.
Duke 37, Northern Illinois 24
Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-2.5) over UCLA
The future of UCLA football is extremely bright after the Bruins won the offseason coaching carousel by snagging Chip Kelly. Speaking of coaches: Could this be Bill Snyder’s last game as the boss at K-State?
Kansas State 24, UCLA 20
Independence Bowl: Southern Miss (+16.5) over Florida State
Let’s be honest: Florida State cannot be fired up for this trip to Shreveport. The Seminoles are clearly the better team, but they likely will not be the more motivated team. Florida State 27, Southern Miss 20
Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College (+2.5) over Iowa
Boston College was very good offensively in the latter half of the season, scoring 35 points or more in five of its last six games. Iowa has struggled in bowl games of late, losing five straight, including four by at least 17 points.
Boston College 34, Iowa 30
Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3) over Purdue
Arizona closed the season with losses in three of its final four games, but the Wildcats still scored a bunch of points in defeat. Jeff Brohm is one of the top offensive coaches in the game, but the Boilermakers will have a tough time keeping pace with Khalil Tate & Co.
Arizona 37, Purdue 24
Texas Bowl: Missouri (-2.5) over Texas
The schedule wasn’t overly taxing, but Missouri won its final six games of the regular season — and looked very good doing so. The Tigers scored at least 45 points in all six games and allowed 21 or fewer in five of the six.
Missouri 34, Texas 30
Military Bowl: Navy (+1) over Virginia
Kudos to Virginia for getting back to a bowl game for the first time since 2011, but the guess here is that Navy seniors will want to close their careers on a positive note after losing six of their final seven games — including that painful 14–13 loss to Army.
Navy 30, Virginia 27
Camping World Bowl: Oklahoma State (-4) over Virginia Tech
This will be a great matchup between Oklahoma State’s powerful offense — second nationally in total offense (575.7) and third in scoring (46.3 ppg) — against Bud Foster and the outstanding Virginia Tech defense. They say good pitching stops good hitting, but I’m going with the big bats from Stillwater.
Oklahoma State 34, Virginia Tech 24
Holiday Bowl: Michigan State (+1) over Washington State
No matter what happens in the Holiday Bowl, this has been a good offseason for Washington State, which signed head coach Mike Leach to an extension (after there was speculation that he was looking to leave Pullman).
Michigan State 31, Washington State 28
Alamo Bowl: TCU (-2.5) over Stanford
This was not one of David Shaw’s better teams at Stanford. The Cardinal lost four games and won five others by 10 points or fewer.
TCU 31, Stanford 20
Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) over Texas A&M
Texas A&M is thrilled to have Jimbo Fisher as its new head coach. The future looks bright. The present? Don’t be surprised if the Aggies get lit up by a better-than-you-think Wake Forest team that ranked third in the ACC (behind Louisville and Clemson) in scoring offense (33.7 ppg).
Wake Forest 37, Texas A&M 27
Sun Bowl: NC State (-6.5) over Arizona State
These are interesting times for Arizona State. And by interesting, I mean very, very weird. The Sun Devils will head into the 2018 season as one of the most intriguing teams in the nation thanks to the decision to name Herm Edwards as the next head coach. It’s hard to envision the players being too focused on the task at hand at the Sun Bowl.
NC State 33, Arizona State 20
Music City Bowl: Kentucky (+7) over Northwestern
Northwestern is riding high after winning its final seven games of the regular season. Kentucky, on the other hand, limps into Nashville with losses in three of its final four games, including the final two (to Georgia and Louisville) by a combined score of 84–30. So obviously the pick is Kentucky.
Kentucky 33, Northwestern 31
Arizona Bowl: Utah State (-4) over New Mexico State
New Mexico State is playing in a bowl game for the first time since 1960 — when they, coincidentally, also played Utah State. Go with the Aggies from Logan over the Aggies from Las Cruces.
Utah State 28, New Mexico State 20
Cotton Bowl: USC (+7.5) over Ohio State
Two of the top programs in the nation will meet in Dallas in the first of the New Year’s Six bowl games. Ohio State probably has the more talented roster, but the Buckeyes didn’t play at a consistently high level throughout the season.
USC 34, Ohio State 30