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I'm from Houston, a graduate of the University of Texas, a fan of the Houston Astros and Houston Texans. But this blog will be about the "greater sports", whatever that means.

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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

College Football 2014 - Bowl Betting Extravaganza

After a less than lucrative 2014 regular season gambling-wise, we turn the page to the Bowl Season.  The bowl season can be a gamblers delight, given the intrigue of matchups.  Some teams are playing close to home, some teams are thousands of miles away.  Some teams are excited just to be there, some times feel that they deserved better.  Some big name programs take the smaller guys for granted, sometimes teams are just physically overmatched.  Combine that with a few games per day for three weeks, and you have a recipe for fun!

I'll spare you the details, but the regular season saw me go down about $1,350 for $10,900 bet (-12%).  And it was pretty awful.  Did well on straight up bets on underdogs, poorly on ATS.

For the bowl season, I give you the best of the best.  Here are my top 8 bets (20 units) for both ATS and S/U.  ATS bets are for $110 per unit, S/U are $100 per unit.

Boca Raton Bowl - December 23, 2014
Northern Illinois (+280) vs. Marshall (1 unit)
The MAC champion Huskies are on a complete roll, having won seven straight, only one by less than a touchdown.  Marshall got all the "group of five" (conferences) publicity for being undefeated, but really hadn't played anyone.  They're 2-1 over their last three without a win by more than a TD.  NIU represents the best team they'll play this year, I love the money line here for the Huskies to win straight up.

Hawaii Bowl - December 24, 2014
Fresno State (+2.5) vs. Rice (5 units)
Rice really hasn't defeated a "good" football team all year (UTEP the best win).  And when they stepped up in competition (Louisiana Tech or Marshall) it was blowout city.  Fresno State meanwhile beat teams like Nevada and San Diego State.  Also played several powerhouses (Nebraska, USC, Utah, Boise State twice) so their seven losses are not as bad as it might seem.  I'd think Fresno should give a FG here, so I'll joyfully accept the FG and take the Bulldogs.

Liberty Bowl - December 29, 2014
Texas A&M (+3.5) vs. West Virginia (2 units)
Here we have two teams with similar records, yet one battled through the SEC West gauntlet while the other was in the strong (but not as) Big 12.  Both teams went 2-3 over their last five games, more or less stumbling across the finish line.  West Virginia hangs their coon-skin cap on a win against Baylor; Texas A&M hangs their cowboy hat on a win at Auburn.  The Aggies played very well away from Kyle Field and will benefit from the long preparation time to foil the Mountaineers pass attack.  Even with assistant coach turmoil, the Aggies probably win, but I also want to collect with a FG loss.

Orange Bowl - December 31, 2014
Georgia Tech (+215) vs. Mississippi State (1 unit)
Mississippi State was nearly bound for the playoffs. Had they beat Ole Miss, it would have been interesting how they stacked up with Ohio State and the two Big 12 teams for the last spot.  But it didn't work out.  Suddenly if you look at Mississippi State's body of work, it's not that impressive.  They drew soft against the SEC East by getting Kentucky and Vanderbilt (6th and 7th place teams).  Out of conference they played no teams from the Power 5 and mixed in Tennessee-Martin.  There's six of their 10 wins.  They've also dropped 2 of their last 3.  Georgia Tech won five of their last six with a narrow lost to Florida State (and all losses by less than a TD).  I like the money line here, getting more than 2:1 for the Jackets to win.

Cotton Bowl - January 1, 2015
Michigan State (+2.5) vs. Baylor (2 units)
Here you have contrasting styles.  Michigan State plays defense and is disciplined.  Baylor is fast and furious on offense (soft on defense) and commits TONS of penalties.  Their only loss to West Virginia they couldn't get out of the way of the yellow hankies.  Same for their loss against Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl last year.  I think the Spartans get them out of their game and Baylor is thinking more about missing the playoff than lining up and playing big boy Big 10 football.  Michigan State has two very quality losses: Oregon and Ohio State.  The Big 12 has an atrocious record in this bowl, as well (1-10 over the last 11 years, the one win for now SEC member Missouri).

Rose Bowl - January 1, 2015
Oregon (-9) vs. Florida State (3 units)
It's going to come crashing down for the Seminoles.  It's bound to.  Geographically, they'll be in enemy territory out west (where Florida State fans haven't even sold out their allotment).  Heisman trophy runaway winner Marcus Mariota will be rested and loaded.  Florida State played middling teams within the last few seconds while Oregon blew out everyone they played (including avenging for an earlier loss in the season by defeating the Arizona Wildcats).  Were this in the southeast, I might like the 'Noles, but they're in for a show.  When the Ducks get up by 2 or 3 TD, it's not going to be as easy to come back as it was against Boston College or North Carolina State.

Sugar Bowl - January 1, 2015
Alabama (-9) vs. Ohio State (5 units)
This is a lot of points to give, but Ohio State is about to experience a significant step up in competition.  And Alabama is extremely battle tested.  The latest Buckeyes QB Cardale Jones had an easy go of it in the Big 10 Championship Game with the team jumping ahead and Wisconsin shell shocked.  It won't be so easy against the athletic Crimson Tide.  My only hesitation in this bet is that Nick Saban frequently manages a game (smartly) at the end to win and not to cover.  Read, foot off the throttle and simply running it out and relying on his defense (prevent at the end) to move along.  But the talent gap here is real.

Cactus Bowl - January 2, 2015
Oklahoma State (+175) vs. Washington (1 unit)
This is an intriguing game.  Oklahoma State was flying high and ranked #15 until they had to play the top half of the Big 12.  And lost five straight before beating rival Oklahoma in the Bedlam Game.  Still, that's the best win of either of these two teams. Washington toiled in the Pac 12 by beating the bad teams and losing to the good ones.  The Huskies do have a good OOC win vs. Illinois.  Where Oklahoma State played Florida State close in their opener.  The Cowboys have been injury-riddled, the break should help them get some reps for the replacements.  I like the Cowboys based upon their win in Norman especially with the money line.

Have a great Christmas, prosperous New Year, and wonderful Bowl Season.  May your team win and you win your bowl pool!

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