Upsets were the theme of this week’s early bowl games, with SMU defeating Fresno State on Christmas Eve – a game that caught Casino Review by surprise – and Central Michigan usurping Western Kentucky – a result Casino Review had from the off – on Boxing Day. Now it’s time for College Bowl Season to really kick into gear, starting with a three-game slate today in which three more dogs will be looking to surprise the opposition.
Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman
San Jose State vs. Bowling Green
RFK Stadium, Washington, DC
3:00 PM ET
D.C. will be the site of this weekend’s massive game between the Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys but before that, the Military Bowl comes to the old home of the ‘Skins, RFK Stadium.
Winners of 10 of the last 11, San Jose State (10-2, 5-1 WAC) will look to overcome the defensive juggernaut that is Bowling Green (8-4, 6-2 MAC).
The Spartans were no strangers to putting points on the board this season, averaging 35.3 points per game (26th), utilizing one of the most potent passing games in the country (327.5 yards per game, 11th in the nation).
Bowling Green was all about defense though. The Falcons gave up just 15.8 points per game this season, ranking 15th against the run (116.7 YPG) and seventh against the pass (173.0 YPG).
Whilst this could look like a classic offense vs. defense matchup, the Spartans will be quick to point out that their defense was efficient also, ranking in the nation’s top 25 in points allowed (21.4 PPG) and rushing yards (123.7 YPG). The Military Bowl looks certain to be a defensive struggle.
Odds: San Jose State is favorite (-7½), with the over/under at 45, down from 49½ at opening.
Take: San Jose State – Whilst defense may win some championships, Bowling Green’s defensive numbers may be a little overstated by some dubious opposition. San Jose State however has been consistently solid, including a near win over Stanford in the opening game of the season. With a 10-2-0 ATS record, take the Spartans to cover the spread on the way to winning a fourth bowl game in five. Take the total to go under.
Duke vs. Cincinnati
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
6:30 PM ET
Were this college hoop, Duke (6-6, 3-5 ACC) meeting Cincinnati (9-3, 5-2 Big East) would be a marquee matchup. As it stands as a bowl game, this one is pretty forgettable.
Duke will be making its first bowl appearance since 1995’s Outback Bowl. The Blue Devils have lost two straight bowl games and three of the last four. The side has also lost four straight games this season and five of the last six.
Cincinnati meanwhile has won four of the last five games, and finished 5-2 in the Big East alongside Louisville, Rutgers, and Syracuse. The Bearcats defeated Vanderbilt in last year’s Liberty Bowl, snapping a two-game bowl losing streak.
Odds: Cincinnati opened as 10-point favorites, but that figures has fallen as low as seven. Today it sits at nine. The over/under is 61, up from 56½ at opening.
Take: Cincinnati – Duke barely limped into postseason play and will be coming up against a Cincinnati side that at times has looked more than impressive. With a 7-4-1 ATS record, take the Bearcats to cover the spread also. Cincinnati is strong defensively, but its offense will likely see the total go over thanks to a poor Duke defense.
Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl
Baylor vs. UCLA
Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
9:45 PM ET
Remember the Alamo Bowl? Last year, Baylor ran out 67-56 winners over Washington in the Alamo Bowl, a surreal scoreline that was indicative of the Bears’ offensive-minded attack. The Bears have adopted that same philosophy this season.
Only Marshall and Texas Tech threw for more yards than Baylor (353.3 YPG) this year. The Bears also had a top 20 running attack (225.5 YPG) on their way to 44.1 points per game, good enough for fifth in the nation. This is not a team built for defense.
UCLA made a second straight appearance in the Pac-12 championship game, ultimately losing out to Stanford. The Bruins weren’t shy offensively either, ranking in the top 30 in points scored and running yards, and 36th in passing year. Defensively, the side was more effective than the Bears, but again, this is not a team built for defense.
UCLA will be looking for a rare bowl win, having lost nine of the last 13. The Bears meanwhile will be hoping to win a second straight, having lost three in a row prior to that bombardment.
Odds: This game opened even. Subsequently, UCLA has become three-point favorites, with the over/under at a goliath 82.
Take: UCLA – This is perhaps the toughest game to pick on the bowl schedule simply because of the potential numbers that could be put up here. The Bruins have sneaked ahead of the Bears, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see Baylor pick up an ‘upset’ win. However, Baylor has struggled against some of the better teams in the country, a category you could put UCLA into this year. That being said, the Bears did beat Kansas State. Still, take the Bruins to win outright and to cover the spread. Take the total to go under, just. Yes, these teams will put points on the board, but 82 will be tricky.