NCAA Bowl Game Handicapping: Potential Upsets
by Trevor Whenham - 12/17/2013
For bettors, the college football bowl season can be a whole lot of fun. It’s like a restart on the entire season. Throughout the month of games there are going to be some upsets, and bettors who call those upsets are going to make out nicely. Here are five games with the potential to be upsets:
Las Vegas Bowl: Fresno State (+6) vs. USC
There are teams that haven’t gone through as many head coaches — real or interim — in the last two decades that the Trojans have in the last two months. They head into this bowl with their second interim coach of the year, and their new head coach is waiting in the wings, too. It’s not hard to imagine them struggling to focus heading into this one. The quarterback could be an area of poor focus as well as all the talk around the team lately has been about next year’s presumed starter Max Browne, a freshman currently redshirting. It will be hard for the two youngsters playing now to get too motivated with that situation hanging over their heads. The Trojans face a huge test in the one-two punch of Fresno State QB Derek Carr and his gaudy numbers, and receiver Davante Adams who is the biggest weapon Carr has. The Bulldogs have amassed their big stats and 11 wins against a stunningly weak schedule, and they don’t win pretty, but they will be hungry to prove themselves here, they will be the more focused team, and they will feel far less slighted about a Dec. 21 bowl assignment. The Bulldogs could have the last bite.
Alamo Bowl: Texas (+13.5) vs. Oregon
Just over a month ago the Ducks were going to play in the National Championship Game, and Marcus Mariota was going to run away with the Heisman. But then Stanford happened. And Arizona. Suddenly a season of destiny means nothing. It could be very tough for them to get up for this game — especially now that Mariota is going to be back, so they know that this isn’t their last hurrah. Texas has been pretty lousy and has struggled with teams — Baylor and Oklahoma State — that like to play fast like Oregon. Still, this is the last hurrah for Mack Brown, and the team could rally around their departing coach. They don’t have the talent to compete on an even playing field, but Oregon may not make that relevant. I think it was time for Brown to go, but leaving with a big upset would be sweet justice.
Rose Bowl: Michigan State (+4.5) vs. Stanford
The Spartans have won nine in a row, they play absolutely stifling defense, and they made undefeated Ohio State look very ordinary last time out. Their lone loss was at Notre Dame, and it was close. Stanford is a very talented team, but against Utah and USC we saw they don’t always bring their A Game — even though in both cases those games were extremely important to their goals. If both teams play their best, Stanford probably wins, though not as easily as some would think given the relative appreciation of the Pac-12 over the Big Ten these days. The Spartans are going to be ready, though, and they will make this one interesting.
Fiesta Bowl: Central Florida (+16.5) vs. Baylor
Why not? This is a Baylor team that looked a whole lot less frightening down the stretch when they got crushed by Oklahoma State and tried their hardest to lose at TCU. Central Florida’s only loss was a close one at South Carolina, and they got a very nice win at Louisville when no one gave them a chance. QB Blake Bortles is a very legitimate player getting real NFL attention, and he leads a balanced and disciplined team. At the very least, this isn’t the mismatch the odds suggest.
National Championship: Auburn (+8.5) vs. Florida State
In their last three games, the Tigers have beaten Georgia, Alabama and Missouri. Not too shabby. Sure, they needed some divine inspiration to do so, and at least two of those teams aren’t as good as Florida State. Still, it’s far from impossible to imagine them pulling off an upset here. Florida State hasn’t exactly faced the toughest schedule in the world. Their best win by far is against Clemson, and those Tigers don’t look as fierce now as they once did after losing badly to South Carolina. Jameis Winston has been poised and brilliant, but a lot of players have struggled in their post-Heisman bowl. Florida State is a very deserving favorite, but I wouldn’t engrave the trophy just yet.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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