Wilson: The 4 Bowl Games I Bet Right Away

Wilson: The 4 Bowl Games I Bet Right Away article feature image
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USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Gardner Minshew (16), Brock Purdy (15).

  • Bowl season is still two weeks away from getting underway, but Collin Wilson has a few games he bet right off the bat.
  • He has early picks in four bowl games: The Fiesta Bowl (UCF-LSU), Music City Bowl (Purdue-Auburn), Las Vegas Bowl (Arizona State-Fresno State) and Alamo Bowl (Iowa State-Washington State).

After 15 weeks of regular-season games, the college football world comes to a crescendo with bowl season. It seems like yesterday when Week Zero provided us feelings that Cole McDonald would win the Heisman and Wyoming football was the class of the Mountain West.

Alas, we are an Army-Navy game away from the postseason. It’s perfectly fine to celebrate Belk Bowl bad beats, Bad Boy Mower jokes, and the return of Spuddy Buddy.

Caesars Entertainment led the effort on Sunday to release lines for all bowls as they were announced.

I was able to get action at both outlets, and while we’ll have full previews on every bowl in the coming weeks, here is a quick mention about some of the teams I made investment on today.


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Valero Alamo Bowl

Iowa State v. Washington State

  • Spread: Washington State -6.5
  • Projected Total: 54
  • Date: Dec. 28
  • Time: 9 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

This number makes absolutely no sense. The Action Network projections line this game at Washington State -1, while Caesars in Las Vegas opened the Cougars -1.5.

I would argue that you could throw the numbers out and make Iowa State the favorite to win this game. Mike Leach is 1-3 ATS the spread in bowl games, with his lone cover coming against an interim staff in a snowy Sun Bowl back in 2015.

While this may not be the bowl game the Cougars had in mind, Leach’s Air Raid offense will have over a month to keep a rhythm after a loss in the Apple Cup.

Iowa State has experience against the Air Raid, specifically a 40-31 victory over Texas Tech. The Cyclones were able to pick quarterback Alan Bowman off three times in the victory.

If we can keep football teams from head coach Matt Campbell’s home state of Ohio to quit calling, we will be fading the Pac 12 in this spot.

PICK: Iowa State +6.5


Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl

Arizona State v. Fresno State

  • Spread: Fresno State -3
  • Projected Total: 57
  • Date: Dec. 15
  • Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ABC

If there is one deterrent to backing Arizona State, it’s the early signing day on Dec. 19. The teams participating in bowls prior to that date may have coaching staffs on the road, causing a few distractions during bowl prep.

While we love Herm Edwards getting the Sun Devils motivated for the Vegas Bowl, recruiting has been a new world for the first year coach.

As for the game with Fresno State, let’s focus on the Bulldogs game against San Diego State. Aztecs head coach Rocky Long uses a 3-3-5 defense that was implemented by Sun Devils defensive coordinator Danny Gonzales. Fresno State beat San Diego State 23-14, but averaged just 2.9 yards per carry.

Arizona State has a much better havoc rate, ranking 38th overall. While San Diego State was only able to get eight first downs on Fresno State, expect Arizona State senior quarterback Manny Wilkins to have all day to throw. The Bulldogs rank just 100th in sack rate after playing an S&P+ strength of schedule of 113th.

PICK: Arizona State +3


Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Purdue v. Auburn

  • Spread: Auburn -5
  • Projected Total: 54
  • Date: Dec. 28th
  • Time: 1:30 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

Another scenario of a team and coaching staff that had higher aspirations versus a team that is elated to make a bowl with a coach electing to return.

Auburn’s run to the 2017 SEC Championship game included regular-season wins against Georgia and Alabama. The Tigers could muster no such success this season, going 7-5 as rumors swirled of a Gus Malzahn buyout to make room for Bob Stoops.

Meanwhile, Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm is staying in West Lafayette after Louisville’s failed attempt of swaying the former Cardinals quarterback.

Statistically speaking, this could be a terrible spot for Auburn. The Tigers rank 106th in overall defensive IsoPPP — 95th in standard downs and 64th against the pass.

Purdue freshman wide receiver Rondale Moore may have a career day. He finished the regular season with 103 catches, 1.164 yards and 13 total touchdowns.

PICK: Purdue +5


Playstation Fiesta Bowl

Central Florida v. LSU

  • Spread: LSU -7
  • Projected Total: 61.5
  • Date: Jan. 1
  • Time: 1 p.m. ET
  • TV channel: ESPN

There might not be a bigger motivator in a one-game situation that LSU head coach Ed Orgeron. LSU’s loss to Texas A&M put its New Year’s Six bowl chances in peril, but now Coach O gets the chance to snap a 25-game winning streak of Central Florida.

In case you didn’t know, UCF head coach Josh Heupel and Orgeron have met before, a 42-7 LSU victory against Missouri when Heupel was the offensive coordinator.

McKenzie Milton’s injury may play more of a factor in this game. Darriel Mack Jr. was successful in replacing Milton against Memphis, as he scored four rushing touchdowns in the 59-41 victory. But LSU is a different defensive animal to corral.

These two teams simply have a large difference in size, skill and strength of schedule. Central Florida played the 95th-toughest schedule, while LSU’s slate ranked first in the nation per S&P+.

And LSU’s defense showed out against that schedule, ranking fourth against the pass, eighth in standard downs, and 20th in passing downs sack rate.

The Action Network power ratings make this game LSU -9, and I would play the spread up to that number.

PICK: LSU -7


Editor’s note: The opinions on these games are from the individual writer and are based on his research, analysis and perspective. They are independent of, and may not always match with, the algorithm-driven Best Bets from Sports Insights.

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