Strong Underdogs for Bowl Game Betting: Possible Moneyline Paydays
There is a while yet until bowl season gets rolling and a long time until the whole slate of games will be done with. We have lots of time to dissect the games from all sorts of angles. At this point, though, we're interested in first instincts. When I looked over the games after they were set, and the first numbers assigned by the oddsmakers, five games stood out above the rest as particularly interesting because they have live bowl underdogs. I love betting underdogs, and few things are more satisfying than a fat moneyline win. Maybe there will be a few in this group:
Las Vegas Bowl, December 21 - Boise State (+3) vs. Washington: I have to assume that one of the big reasons that Washington is favored here is because it is Chris Petersen's last game as head coach and the first game of the Jimmy Lake era. People expect players to play hard for their current and new head coaches. That may be true, but here's the thing - Boise State is a better team this year. They have been more dangerous, more consistent, and more creative. And the Broncos are going to be very motivated here . Not only is Petersen their former head coach, but several other guys on the Washington staff - including Jimmy Lake - are Boise State guys, too. The guys still at Boise State are going to have no interest in being shown up by the guys who left. The Broncos are good at getting up for bowl games, and they will be up for this one. The price is right to play the Broncos as an underdog here.
Texas Bowl, December 27 - Oklahoma State (+6) vs. Texas A&M: All-world running back Chuba Hubbard from Oklahoma State grew up and played his high school three hours north of me. That's almost impossible to believe - I live three hours north of Montana. Guys like him don't come from places like that. But here he is, and he's amazing. And he is facing a team in Texas A&M that was beaten down by playing a very tough schedule. They had a lot of fight to give along the way, but against LSU they just quit. They were done. And through the years, the one thing we have learned about Jimbo Fisher is that if his team quits on him, he is no good at rallying them back. The Aggies have more talent, but the Cowboys have more desire. And, up to a point at least, I'll take desire happily. The Cowboys offer value here.
Alamo Bowl, December 31 - Texas (+6.5) vs. Utah: If the Utes play like we know they can, then they will be fine here. They have a very solid offensive line, and Texas is just terrible at defending the pass. But Utah has not been at their best in big games this year and were just awful in the Pac-12 title game. That was a truly demoralizing loss when they had a playoff berth in the palms of their hands, and it would be easy for them to pout coming into this one. If they aren't at their best, then Texas is good enough, and well-coached enough, to at least keep this one close, and perhaps to win it outright. If you are concerned about the Utes, then there is some value in the Longhorns.
Outback Bowl, January 1 - Minnesota (+8) vs. Auburn: Auburn has much more talent and played a much tougher schedule. They should win this game. But they had a frustrating season when it mattered, and playing Minnesota in a game like this is a long way from what their goals were earlier in the season. They could easily feel sorry for themselves. In Minnesota, meanwhile, P.J. Fleck is a master motivator, and armed with a big new extension he will have his boys fired up here. Motivation can overcome talent in the right situation, and I feel like it wouldn't be a horrible idea to bet on the plucky upstarts in this one. Minnesota offers some value.
Rose Bowl, January 1 - Oregon (+2.5) vs. Wisconsin: Let's just start by saying that the fact that Jonathan Taylor had the career he had without ever getting invited to a Heisman ceremony is just plain sad. He deserved better. But, as good as he is, I expect him to go out with a loss. Wisconsin played a nearly perfect first half against Ohio State, but they were horrifically exposed in the second half, and it was the kind of setback that can be tough to shake off. Ohio State did well when they played fast, took shots deep, and were relentless. Those are all things that Oregon did to blow out what had been a terrific Utah team, and if they can do a similar thing here they will come out on top. As much as I like the Big Ten, I really do feel like the wrong team is favored here. That means that this is an opportunity.
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