We play 40 bowl games in college football, a number that is altogether far too high. As a way of illustrating that, I’ve subjected myself to picking all 40 of those games (plus the Army/Navy game!) as a performance art piece.
[Editor’s note: who is Alex to pick all these games? He’s the guy who created the hottest new Heisman predictor.]
Army vs Navy (-3.5)
I get that Navy went on something of a win streak with this game, but a) that win streak ended last year and b) Army is really good this year, way ahead of Navy. I don’t even mean service-academy good, I mean 8-3 with a Power 5 win good. Not sure why Navy is favored, so I’ll take the points.
My pick: Go Army, Beat Navy, Or At Least Lose By Less Than Three And A Half Points
New Orleans Bowl: Troy (-5.5) vs North Texas
Troy went 10-2 and you didn’t notice, because they lost to South Alabama the week after they beat LSU in Baton Rouge. North Texas has a great offense (and went 9-4!) but Troy’s the value here.
My pick: Troy (-5.5) to cover.
Cure Bowl: WKU (-4.5) vs Georgia State
Western Kentucky is … not great, but Georgia State probably shouldn’t be a bowl team. I’m also a little confused as to how Georgia State is supposed to score points in this game, or do the one thing that slows down WKU, stop the run.
My pick: WKU (-4.5) to cover.
Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon (-7.5) vs Boise State
Oregon just lost their head coach, and whoever is the Boise State head coach this year hasn’t been hired blindly by a desperate Power 5 team yet, so gimme the Broncs and the points.
My pick: Boise State (+7.5) to cover.
New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs Colorado State
Colorado State is decidedly better than Marshall, with a top offense and a bad defense. Marshall has a good defense, but their offense is the worst unit on the field and they don’t defend the pass, Colorado State’s most efficient weapon, particularly well.
My pick: Colorado State (-5.5) to cover.
Camelia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs Arkansas State (-3.5)
As much as I love Middle Tennessee, Arkansas State is one of the most underrated teams in FBS, with a really good offense. Middle Tennessee’s defense is great and everything, but Arkansas should be favored by a bit more here.
My pick: Arkansas State (-3.5) to cover.
Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs FAU (-23)
This is a crazy line, but let’s consider two things: this is a home game for FAU, and Akron is badddd. Sorry, Zips fans, but you’re lucky to be a bowl team, while Florida Atlantic might have been screwed out of being ranked. Never doubt a Lane Kiffin team’s willingness to blow out an opponent in a bowl game and tweet “come to #THEfaU” at Lebron James, or something.
My pick: FAU (-23) to cover.
Frisco Bowl: LA Tech vs SMU (-5)
As with any SMU game in 2017, you know a bunch of points are going to be scored both ways. LA Tech might not be able to keep up with the Pony Express in a shootout, but you’re supposed to take the points in these situations. Furthermore, SMU head coach Chad Morris is now Arkansas head coach Chad Morris.
My pick: LA Tech (+5) to cover.
Gasparilla Bowl: Temple (-7) vs Florida International
I had to triple-check that I had this line right. I think Florida International is the better team, although not by much, and I’ll happily take the points. I get that the brand name favors Temple, but Matt Rhule left a year ago, people, and Temple finished 6-6.
My pick: Florida International (+7) to cover.
Bahamas Bowl: UAB vs Ohio (-7.5)
Ohio is considerably better than UAB, and they’re balanced. As fun as the narrative of UAB going from not-a-football-team to bowling in the Bahamas is, Ohio is just so clearly the better team.
My pick: Ohio (-7.5) to cover.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Central Michigan vs Wyoming (-1)
Now, I’m not big on taking teams just because of one player, but Wyoming is slightly more efficient than CMU, and Wyoming has Josh Allen, whom I struggle to bet against. If it’s even money, or even Wyoming minus a field goal, I’ll take the Cowboys.
My pick: Wyoming (-1) to cover.
Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs USF (-2.5)
USF is so much better than Texas Tech, and USF also came mighty close to winning the AAC, squaring off with UCF in easily the most exciting game of the year. A two-and-a-half point spread is a little silly.
My pick: USF (-2.5) to cover.
Armed Forces Bowl: San Diego State vs Army (NO LINE YET)
Dollar General Bowl: App State vs Toledo (-8)
Toledo is really good, their offense (and particularly their passing game) is amazing, but an eight-point line? App State didn’t do much worth writing home about, and they’re not particularly good against the pass, which Toledo quarterback Logan Woodside will punish.
My pick: Toledo (-8) to cover.
Hawaii Bowl: Houston (-2.5) vs Fresno State
Fresno State’s a little better than Houston, and I think Houston is getting something of a brand-name bump here. Fresno State is ranked! By this committee! Which hates G5 teams!
My pick: Fresno State (+2.5) to cover.
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Utah (-7) vs West Virginia
Utah doesn’t matchup well at all for West Virginia, with a good defense and an offense solid enough to punish West Virginia’s porosity. With Will Grier questionable (pop quiz: how many fingers does Will Grier have?) there’s very little that suggests West Virginia will keep this game close.
My pick: Utah (-7) to cover.
Quick Lane Bowl: NIU vs Duke (-4.5)
Duke isn’t better than NIU, a seriously good team, on either side of the ball. This is pure name recognition, which means value for bettors!
My pick: NIU (+4.5) to cover.
Cactus Bowl: Kansas State (-3) vs UCLA
Kansas State is the better team, and UCLA is under a new coach. Plus, what if Josh Rosen doesn’t play? Don’t think Chip Kelly is going to save you that quickly, UCLA fans, or you’ll be sorely disappointed.
My pick: Kansas State (-3) to cover.
Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs Florida State (-16)
What if I told you that Southern Miss is actually a better team than Florida State, even before you figure in that Florida State just lost its head coach and brought in Willie Taggart, king of tearing programs down to the studs before rebuilding them?
These lines are why there’s value in following G5 football, truly. I don’t do a “Lock of the Week” but this is a Christmas present.
My pick: Southern Miss (+16) to cover.
Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs Iowa (-3)
Iowa is well ahead of Boston College, and I figure Yankee Stadium will be extremely hostile to anything with “Boston” in its name on basic principle.
My pick: Iowa (-3) to cover.
Foster Farms Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs Purdue
Do you take Purdue, the decent team that you trust (and looks better on paper) or Arizona, the team with the occasionally mercurial quarterback and the most outrageous October?
I take Purdue, because secretely I love this team and what they’ve done this year, and I’m worried about Khalil Tate’s long-term success.
My pick: Purdue (+3.5) to cover.
Texas Bowl: Texas vs Missouri (-3)
Missouri did a lot of work to climb out of the hole it dug itself at the beginning of this year. The Tigers went from wanting to fire everyone (and losing 35-3 to Purdue) to losing its offensive coordinator to the UCF job. Texas trended in the opposite direction, losing some close and exciting games before finishing their season with a loss to Texas Tech.
My pick: Missouri (-3) to cover.
Military Bowl: Virginia vs Navy (NO LINE)
Camping World Bowl: Virginia Tech vs Oklahoma State (-6)
A fun matchup, because VT has an elite defense and a woeful offense, and Oklahoma State is the other way round. Watch this game when Oklahoma State has the ball and change channels when it’s going the other way.
I believe in Mason Rudolph and James Washington’s endless ability to put on a show, even against this defense.
My pick: Oklahoma State (-6) to cover.
Holiday Bowl: Michigan State vs Washington State (-3)
I have Michigan State a little ahead of Washington State in terms of raw efficiency, and with all the Mike Leach-to-wherever rumours circling, I’m not confident the team will have their head coach on game day.
My pick: Michigan State (-3) to cover.
Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs TCU (-2.5)
I still believe in TCU, despite what Baker Mayfield did to them. Also, with Bryce Love’s ankle still a problem, it seems irresponsible to bet on Stanford’s offense being any kind of productive. Also: TCU’s defense is the real highlight here, despite what Big 12 detractors will tell you.
My pick: TCU (-2.5) to cover.
Belk Bowl: Wake Forest (-3) vs Texas A&M
The best part is that Wake Forest is actually better than Texas A&M, even before you work in that A&M just fired their head coach and spent every dime in the state on Jimbo Fisher.
Jimbo Fisher does not care about this game. Jimbo Fisher might not even care about football anymore. He’s got too much money for all that.
My pick: Wake Forest (-3) to cover.
Sun Bowl: NC State (-6) vs Arizona State
Dave Doeren is sticking around, and Herm Edwards is dropping some serious word salad on the Sun Devils. NC State is by a distance the better team, and Arizona State has some … adjusting to do.
My pick: NC State (-6) to cover.
Music City Bowl: Kentucky vs Northwestern (-7)
Northwestern is really quite good, especially on defense, and Kentucky is bad, even by Kentucky standards. By most accounts, they should not have been a bowl team. I will happily lay the points against them, as I see no viable way for them to win.
My pick: Northwestern (-7) to cover.
Arizona Bowl: Utah State (-4) vs New Mexico State
I’m a little bit a fan of New Mexico State’s offense, and I think this is a good matchup for them. Utah State is good, likely better than New Mexico State, but I like the Aggies here because of their efficiency on offense.
My pick: New Mexico State (+4) to cover.
Cotton Bowl: USC vs Ohio State (-7)
The Ohio State Death Machine survives. Even if JT Barrett is injured, Dwayne Haskins is good enough to get two first downs while this defense goes to work on USC. Add in that Darnold is projected to be one of the first quarterbacks taken in the draft, you can assume that he’ll have other things on his mind than winning USC the football game.
My pick: Ohio State (-7) to cover.
TaxSlayer Bowl: Louisville (-7) vs Mississippi State
Louisville gets pushed around at the line by bigger teams, and Mississippi State is nothing if not bigger than Louisville. The blueprint for beating Louisville has been handed down since late last season and Mississippi State, even without Dan Mullen, can make it happen. Also, let’s not pretend that a mobile projected first-round quarterback is going to be running his tail off in the TaxSlayer Bowl.
My pick: Mississippi State (+7) to cover.
Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs Memphis (-3.5)
Memphis is really very good in 2017, particularly at scoring points. Points all around. Iowa State nearly managed to strangle the Heisman out of Baker Mayfield and the Playoff out of TCU, but hasn’t been deeply impressive since.
My pick: Memphis (-3.5) to cover.
Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs Penn State (-3)
Washington is about as good (if not better) than Penn State, and Penn State just lost their offensive coordinator. Not that being the Nittanies’ OC is a particularly complicated job in 2017 (you or I could quite easily stand at the sideline and scream DEEP BALL or GIVE IT TO SAQUON at random intervals and win eight games with this squad) but I’ll happily take the points here.
My pick: Washington (+3) to cover.
Orange Bowl: Wisconsin (-7) vs Miami-FL
Wisconsin is still very good, despite what you saw in the Big Ten championship game, and Miami is still without Ahmmon Richards, who is one of their best offensive players and was sorely missed during the ACC Championship.
My pick: Wisconsin (-7) to cover.
Outback Bowl: Michigan (-8) vs South Carolina
South Carolina is not what you’d call “good,” particularly on offense, and particularly not for an SEC team. They did, however, manage to go 8-4, field a quality defense, and generally play good football. Michigan declined sharply after the injury to Wilton Speight, and are likely going to force a defensive standoff against South Carolina.
My pick: South Carolina (+8) to cover.
Peach Bowl: UCF vs Auburn (-10)
Hot tip: Central Florida is really, really good, and Auburn is a lot … different without Kerryon Johnson. Scott Frost and his staff are trying to coach the game for UCF, and it’s hard to believe that Nebraska won’t let him, but either way, this is a very good team getting a lot of points against an injured and limited opponent.
My pick: UCF (+10) to cover.
Citrus Bowl: LSU (-3) vs Notre Dame
I have Notre Dame as the better team, particularly on offense. Notre Dame’s fan-base also travels well, and LSU has put in some suspect performances this year. No, I’m still not over the loss to Troy, nor the accompanying one-point win over Florida.
My pick: Notre Dame (+3) to cover.
Rose Bowl: Georgia vs Oklahoma (EVEN)
Georgia is, by most measures, the better, more complete football team. There’s a balance here; the offense and defense both hold up their end, and the offense alternates between Nick Chubb running the ball and Jake Fromm making key outside throws.
There’s none of that with Oklahoma. The Sooners defense is better than most analysts will tell you, but you came to watch Baker Mayfield make plays. He’s such an exciting, charismatic player that it’s hard to bet against him, and there will be a lot of money riding on the Heisman favorite’s shoulders.
Mayfield is the better player, but Georgia is the better team.
My pick: Georgia (EVEN) to win.
Sugar Bowl: Alabama (-2.5) vs Clemson
Alabama is the better team, but with some key injuries on defense, there could be value here with Clemson. Safety Hootie Jones will be missed; LaBryan Ray has a broken bone in his foot; and three linebackers (Mack Wilson, Christian Miller and Terrell Lewis) will be back for the game after suffering a variety of injuries that either kept them out of or limited them in the Iron Bowl. Are they 100% healthy, and ready to take on one of college football’s most physically demanding offenses?
My pick: Clemson (+2.5) to cover.