The 2019 college football season moves into the third week of bowl games, which includes three New Year’s Six bowl games plus some high-profile matchups between the Big Ten and the SEC.
First Responder Bowl: Western Michigan vs. Western Kentucky – Dallas, TX
Odds: Western Kentucky -3
This is a game in which Western Kentucky’s more challenging non-conference schedule, which enabled the Hilltoppers to play Army and Louisville, should probably enable WKU to be more prepared than Western Michigan. Western Kentucky also played at Arkansas. It is true that Arkansas was not a very good team at all this season, but Western Kentucky still played and beat an SEC team on the road. The Hilltoppers have taken more chances this year than the Western Michigan Broncos. That reality should bear fruit for Western Kentucky in this game.
Pick: Western Kentucky -3
Music City Bowl: Louisville vs. Mississippi State – Nashville, TN
Odds: Mississippi State -4.5
The Mississippi State Bulldogs finished 6-6 this season. One of their wins was against an FCS team (not the Football Bowl Subdivision), Abilene Christian. Mississippi State won only three games in the SEC this year, finishing 3-5. Of those three wins, only one came against a team with a winning record. Louisville defeated ACC Coastal Division champion Virginia this season, and the Cardinals also defeated Wake Forest – another team with a winning record – this season. Louisville has beaten better teams this season. Give the Cardinals the edge in this bowl game.
Pick: Louisville +4.5
RedBox Bowl: Illinois vs. California – Santa Clara, Ca
Odds: California -6.5
Illinois made a very improbable run to a bowl game, beating Wisconsin with a late rally and stunning Michigan State with a comeback from a 25-point deficit. Illinois also benefited from Purdue’s multiple injuries to skill players, drilling the Boilermakers on their road to bowl eligibility. Illinois is a mysterious team, but it got blown out in its regular season finale by Northwestern, acting like a 3-9 team instead of a bowl team. Which Illinois team is more likely to show up in this game? It is hard to say, but that loss to Northwestern – a team which suffered one of its worst seasons in the 21st century – is hard to shake. California is playing very close to its home campus and has to feel good about its defense’s ability to limit the Illinois offense.
Pick: California -6.5
Orange Bowl: Florida vs. Virginia – Miami, FL
Odds: Florida -14.5
This is a game Florida is more likely to win outright. The Gators have an 18.5-point differential between their offensive scoring average (33 points per game) and their points allowed average (14.5 points per game). Florida has lost only twice, while Virginia has lost four times. Florida is playing in its home state with plenty of fans on hand. The Gators beat Auburn this year, a win far better than anything Virginia has accomplished. Yet, Virginia has nothing to lose in this game, while Florida might find it hard to get motivated for a game it is expected to win easily. Bowl games often revolve around motivation, so the best bet for this game is to take Florida on the moneyline but Virginia against the spread, as a hedge between two extremes.
Pick: Virginia +14.5
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky – Charlotte, NC
Odds: Virginia Tech -2.5
This is the final game Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster will coach for the Hokies after a career which has lasted nearly 40 years in college coaching. Kentucky could very possibly win this game, but Virginia Tech is going to try extra hard to win this game for Bud Foster. If Kentucky was a significantly better team, Virginia Tech’s emotions wouldn’t really matter, but the 7-5 Wildcats have not been especially powerful or overwhelming this season, making it a lot easier to pick Virginia Tech in this game.
Pick: Virginia Tech -2.5
Sun Bowl: Florida State vs. Arizona State
Odds: Arizona State -4.5
The two coaching staffs lack a single permanent coordinator. The offensive and defensive coordinators in this game on both sides are all temporary coaches who will be replaced by a permanent coordinator in the offseason. The big difference here is that Florida State running back Cam Akers, a legitimate NFL prospect who will probably get taken before the end of the second round, is skipping this game. That gives Arizona State a big advantage.
Pick: Arizona State -4.5
Liberty Bowl: Navy vs. Kansas State
Odds: Navy -2.5
This is a game in which Navy has two more wins than Kansas State, 10 to eight, but KSU has scored the biggest win of the regular season in a comparison of the two teams. Kansas State beat Oklahoma, one of the four teams in the college football playoff. That is a result Navy cannot match. Kansas State has the look of a team which is going to be very good next season and in future years. The Wildcats can build toward 2020 with a strong performance here, and Navy might not be physical enough in the trenches to withstand Kansas State’s offense. The Wildcats will win outright.
Pick: Kansas State +2.5
Arizona Bowl: Wyoming vs. Georgia State
Odds: Wyoming -7
The Georgia State Panthers might allow close to 36 points per game, but they also won on the road against the Tennessee Volunteers this season and have shown that in big games, they can play at a higher level and respond to a good opponent. Wyoming has a stingy defense allowing roughly 18 points per game, so the Cowboys might win this game due to their defense. However, Wyoming has scored more than 23 points in only three of its 12 regular season games. If you were to select a team which could uniquely take advantage of Georgia State’s relatively weak defense, Wyoming is not exactly the first team which comes to mind. The nature of this matchup is such that Georgia State has a very good chance of covering the spread.
Pick: Georgia State +7
Alamo Bowl: Utah vs. Texas
Odds: Utah -7
This is a game in which Texas has been hearing for a full month how bad it is after a disappointing 7-5 regular season. Utah, on the other hand, just got whipped by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game and missed a chance to make the College Football Playoff. The Utes could be dejected and dispirited in this game, whereas Texas could be extremely fired up in a game which could enable the Longhorns to salvage their season. Utah is a better team, but better teams often don’t win in bowl games because they would rather be somewhere else. That is certainly a possible scenario in San Antonio, where Texas should have the partisan crowd and a lot to prove on the field.
Pick: Texas +7
Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama
Odds: Alabama -7
This game recalls the 2011 Capital One Bowl, when Alabama lost three games in the regular season and missed the national championship game, but crushed Michigan State in a game which was never close. That could very easily happen here, nine years later. Alabama is going to be angry after failing to make the College Football Playoff. Michigan showed against Ohio State that it does not have the elite athletes needed to stay with the top teams in the country. Alabama will win big.
Pick: Alabama -7
Outback Bowl: Minnesota vs. Auburn
Odds: Auburn -7
The Minnesota Golden Gophers watched offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca leave to become the new offensive coordinator at Penn State on Thursday. That is a huge distraction and a source of disappointment just before a big bowl game the Golden Gophers were looking forward to. Auburn has one of the better defenses in the country, and with Ciarrrocca out of the picture, Auburn has a very good chance of smothering Minnesota’s offense.
Pick: Auburn -7
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Oregon
Odds: Wisconsin -3
The Rose Bowl was a game Wisconsin once won. The Badgers won this game in 1994, 1999 and 2000. However, in their last three Rose Bowl trips, the Badgers have lost. Oregon proved a point by smacking Utah in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and given the Ducks’ ability to play physical football, they should be able to stand up to Wisconsin at the line of scrimmage. If Oregon can do that, it has more team speed and should be able to dictate the terms on which the Rose Bowl is played. The Ducks will win outright.
Pick: Oregon +3
Sugar Bowl: Baylor vs. Georgia
Odds: Georgia -5.5
The Georgia Bulldogs have a stagnant, stale offense which did not perform well for most of the 2019 season. Baylor has an excellent defense which played really well throughout 2019, and played well against the potent Oklahoma Sooners’ offense. In two games against OU, Baylor’s defense allowed an average of under 30 points per game in regulation (not in overtime, but regulation time only). If Baylor can hold down Oklahoma, it can do a far better job against Georgia. The Bulldogs might hammer Baylor’s offense, but Baylor should be able to contain Georgia to a similar degree. Georgia might win this game 20-17 or 17-14. Baylor will cover.
Pick: Baylor +5.5
Birmingham Bowl: Boston College vs. Cincinnati
Odds: Cincinnati -7
This game puts Boston College’s interim coaching staff up against Cincinnati’s veteran staff of head coach Luke Fickell and defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman. Cincinnati has better players and better coaches. The Bearcats should be able to win this game decisively.
Pick: Cincinnati -7
Gator Bowl: Tennessee vs. Indiana
Odds: Tennessee -1.5
The Indiana Hoosiers lost offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer to Fresno State, but they won eight games this season and had one of their best seasons in a long time. Head coach Tom Allen will not allow his players to get down. Indiana has been a consistently better team than Tennessee and has a very good chance of winning this game in Jacksonville.
Pick: Indiana +1.5
Potato Bowl: Ohio vs. Nevada
Odds: Ohio -7.5
The Ohio Bobcats were 4-6 this season before winning their last two games to become bowl-eligible. Nevada won a lot of close games this season. The Wolf Pack weren’t dominant, but they knew how to pull out games in the fourth quarter. Nevada’s ability to play close games makes Ohio’s touchdown-plus spread seem absurdly large. Take Nevada plus the points here.
Pick: Nevada +7.5
Armed Forces Bowl: Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane
Odds: Tulane -7
The Tulane Green Wave have improved a lot under coach Willie Fritz. The Green Wave suffered a number of tough losses this season, but those losses came against quality teams in the deep and competitive American Athletic Conference. Southern Mississippi is not nearly as tough or powerful as the AAC teams Tulane has faced this season. Tulane should be able to do very well in this game and cover the spread.