Best Bowl Bets of the Week: Christmas Edition

Josh Allen about to hit a Wyoming receiver on the numbers for an incomplete pass.
Josh Allen about to hit a Wyoming receiver on the numbers for an incomplete pass. Photo by RalphTheCornDog (CC License)

It’s bowl game season, and the betting card is a mess. Games at weird times, games at weird places, one that appears to be a lawnmower race of some kind, and some featuring some weird matchups that are hard to predict. I’ve condensed the card into what I believe are the best bets currently available.

These bets are based on flying contrary to the public’s opinion. A great way to find value in betting is to find commonly-held views that don’t actually bear out on the football field. Brand-name influences bettors but means nothing on the field. “Curses” aren’t real, and if they are, we have other things to worry about.

For some reason, there are a couple of these this weekend, maybe as an early gift from Santa Claus. You were good bettors this year, so Dasher and Dancer and Comet and Vixen swooped in and made South Florida a really narrow favorite against Texas Tech, just like you asked for!

Hawai’i Bowl (Dec. 24):
Fresno State (+2.5) vs. Houston

VERDICT: The Bulldogs are better

I pretty firmly believe that Fresno State is the better team in this matchup, and I’m a little confused as to why Houston is favored by 2.5 points. Fresno State has the better record (9-4 to Houston’s 7-4), better ATS record (10-2-1 to Houston’s 6-5), and the better team. The only reason Fresno State isn’t still ranked is because they lost to Boise State 17-14. Is that not forgivable? Especially considering what we just saw Boise do to Oregon?

Is it because Fresno State has lost its last six bowl games? I sure hope so, because that’s dumb money. Is it because Houston has Ed Oliver? Picking a team because of one player is silly, especially in bowl season. Will Ed Oliver really go to the mat for the Hawaii Bowl Trophy?

Fresno State as an underdog against Houston is a slightly upside down line in a game that’s not particularly important otherwise.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Dec. 22):
Central Michigan vs. Wyoming (45 O/U)

VERDICT: Taking the under in a Josh Allen game is reliable as rain

You’ve heard of Josh Allen, right? He’s that gunslinger from Wyoming that’s a hipster pick for #1 overall in the NFL Draft. He makes insane play, invites comparisons to Aaron Rodgers, and inspires delightful longform about Wyoming’s economy and old Westerns. He is, I’m willing to bet, the only current Wyoming player you’ve ever heard of. He’s great, right? And the over is only 45! Sure!

Wyoming has one of the worst offenses in the country. Allen is good, although struggling, and Wyoming is well into the bottom quartile in pretty much any offensive stat you can name. Central Michigan isn’t exactly explosive, either, and Wyoming’s defense is severely underrated. In all likelihood, this will not be an offensive showdown, but a defensive struggle, and everything on the field except for some dumb NFL scout hype points in that direction. This dynamic has led Wyoming to a 2-9 record on the Over/Under.

Quinton Flowers
USF QB Quinton Flowers running for the endzone … again (Photo: US Army Garrison – Miami (Public Domain))

Birmingham Bowl (Dec. 23):
Texas Tech vs. South Florida (-2.5)

VERDICT: USF is so much better than Texas Tech

South Florida and Texas Tech aren’t exactly ATS darlings, each team floating around .500. South Florida is at 5-6 and Texas Tech is at 6-5-1. That doesn’t tell the whole story, however, as -3 is the shortest line USF has faced all year, and Texas Tech is nowhere near as good as South Florida. USF’s ATS record has been plagued by huge lines against decent teams, so failing to cover consecutive 23.5-point spreads against Tulsa and UConn, despite winning each game convincingly, counts against their ATS record.

Maybe you’re thinking it’ll be a shootout. Except USF is 14th in the country in yards per play allowed and the Red Raiders are 71st. The Bulls are above average in points allowed and Texas Tech is 95th. The stats all favor USF covering this tiny spread, as does USF’s record of winning by big margins. Of its nine wins, only three came by fewer than seven points.

Strictly talking about players, Quinton Flowers is the best player in this game and not by a small margin. He’s likely followed by Darius Tice or one of the USF receivers. The Texas Tech defense will not be able to contain Flowers’ ability to score, like most teams in the country. Kliff Kingsbury made progress on that side of the ball in 2017, maybe enough to stop this elderly gentleman from being so disappointed in him, but not enough to stop one of the top offenses in the nation. I feel like the line would be a lot different if it were Texas Tech vs the broadly comparable Miami, but here we are. Value!