Many of the bowl games on the schedule promise to be quite close. The odds suggest that there is little to separate the teams, and when you handicap them you understand how close they are. Not all games are like that, though - not at all. There are 6 games right now in which oddsmakers give one team an edge of more than 11 points. The odds suggest that these games are all mismatches. But are they? (odds are from BetOnline):
Peach Bowl - Washington (+16) vs. Alabama: It's funny that so many teams were fighting to get into the playoff and annoyed that they didn't get in, yet the team that did is the biggest underdog on the entire board. Penn State and Michigan should count themselves lucky that they landed in a much kinder spot than Washington did despite losing the race to the playoffs. What makes this game interesting despite the mismatch, though, is the possibility that Washington could surprise - at least enough to keep it close if nothing else. They haven't played anyone and are very deserving underdogs, but coach Chris Petersen knows all about coaching an underdog in big games from his time at Boise State. The last time he played an SEC team in Atlanta his Broncos upset Georgia. Can history repeat itself - to some extent, at least? That's a question I will be asking myself a whole lot between now and kickoff.
Idaho Potato Bowl - Idaho (+13.5) vs. Colorado State: Idaho really gets an exotic trip this year. This is the second time they have played in their home state showdown, having won it in 2009. The Vandals are heading down to FCS after next year, so they aren't exactly a dominant program. Colorado State is clearly the better team and deserving favorites. All I hope is that this game matches their last showdown. I randomly watched their 2010 showdown when Colorado State won 36-34 in a truly crazy, wildly-entertaining game.
Military Bowl - Wake Forest (+13) vs. Temple: Temple returns to the field that they won the AAC title on last time out, so they will feel comfortable. They do it without their coach, though, as he has bolted for Baylor. At their best they will win this one in a cakewalk against a Wake team that hasn't been in a bowl for five years. But will we get anything close to the best from Temple after losing such a strong leader?
St. Petersburg Bowl - Miami (Ohio) (+12.5) vs. Mississippi State: This is just a weird matchup. Mississippi State gets the pity bowl bid here as they enter at a dismal 5-7, Miami is one win better at 6-6, but they started out 0-6 before going on a late run. They didn't play much of a schedule, though, and lost to the best teams they played, so they are in trouble here. The Bulldogs were lousy in two of their last three, but then they closed out with a dominating win over rival Ole Miss. If they can come even close to replicating that effort they will be just fine here.
Arizona Bowl - South Alabama (+12.5) vs. Air Force: This is a game that is so highly anticipated that you can't watch it on TV - you have to stream it if you don't want to miss out on the action. Despite the 6-6 record compared to Air Force at 9-3, I actually think that South Alabama is interesting here at this price. They have two eye-opening wins this year - against Mississippi State as 27.5-point dogs, and over San Diego State by 18 as 18.5-point underdogs. They can obviously get up for big games, and if they can do that here they could make things interesting against an Air Force team that is solid but hardly unbeatable - they were favored by at least 13.5 in all three of their losses.
Miami Beach Bowl - Central Michigan (+11.5) vs. Tulsa: Central Michigan really doesn't deserve to be here - they are just 6-6, and the first of those wins came against Oklahoma State as the result of an officiating mistake that was admitted to after the game. They should be 5-7 and sitting at home. There is a huge mismatch here that should define this game - Tulsa has two 1,000-yard rushers and a Top 10 rushing game, while CMU sits 70th in yards allowed per rush, and will have their hands full here.
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