Pick Six: College football bowl season our final opportunity to win some money

Bowl season is one of the greatest times of the year for a sports bettor, but it's also one of the more difficult to predict. During the regular season, you have a somewhat better idea of what to expect, while bowl games bring a few new variables into the equation. There are coaching changes that can disrupt the flow of a team, as well as the extended time off between games. There's also motivation. Some teams are more excited to be playing in a bowl game than their opponents. Some teams have something to prove, while others would rather be home with the family for the holidays.

There's no way to accurately predict how a team will respond to its bowl game. So when it comes to bowl season, I have two core tenets that I follow. Both of these guidelines stem from one philosophy: fading the public. Bowl season is an excellent time to be a contrarian. There are more casual bettors during bowl season and going against them works in your favor more often than not. There's a reason that (since 2006) underdogs have covered the spread nearly 53 percent of the time, and that's because Joe Public loves favorites. He also loves ranked teams, mainly when they're playing unranked teams, which is why unranked teams cover nearly 57 percent of the time against ranked teams in bowl games.

These are excellent starting points but that doesn't mean you want to follow them blindly. So without further ado, let's get to this week's picks. I'll be picking games from Saturday, Dec. 16 through Wednesday, Dec. 20.

Games of the Week

New Orleans Bowl: North Texas (+7) vs. Troy -- Dec. 16: As I write this, North Texas is receiving little to no love from bettors, so it seems like an excellent fade opportunity. The Mean Green looked awful against Florida Atlantic but just about everybody in Conference USA did this season. They're still a good team, and I think Troy's value is being over-inflated a bit because people remember it as the team that beat LSU. Well, it's also the team that lost to South Alabama and doesn't do nearly as well stopping the pass as it does the run. Troy 28, North Texas 24

Cure Bowl: Georgia State (+6.5) vs. Western Kentucky -- Dec. 16: Georgia State has never won a bowl game, and will be motivated to win this game. That's a significant factor, but it's not the only one I'm considering. Georgia State's defense can stop the run, but Western Kentucky is one of the worst rushing teams in the country, so I don't know if that will be a major factor. On the other side of that coin, however, WKU's defense ranks 97th against the run using S&P+ and 123rd against the pass. Finally, Georgia State's getting little love from the public right now, which tilts the field more in their favor in my mind. I don't hate the over here, either, but I'm more comfortable taking the Panthers and the points. Georgia State 31, Western Kentucky 28

Las Vegas Bowl: No. 25 Boise State vs. Oregon (Under 61.5) -- Dec. 16: You know that stat I mentioned about unranked teams against ranked teams in bowl games? Well, I'm not considering it here only because -- even if Boise State's well-known -- it's not like Oregon is some small school nobody's ever heard of. Also, the hook on that spread at 7.5-points is worrisome. What's not nearly as troubling is the under. There's a chance both of these teams could be without their leading rushers, which makes the spread even trickier, but makes the under feel even safer. Even if Royce Freeman and Alexander Mattison play, I still like it as both teams have sturdy defenses. Oregon 27, Boise State 24

New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State (Under 58) -- Dec. 16: I do worry how things could play out here considering Marshall can't run the ball and Colorado State can't defend the pass, but I think 58 points might be just a tad too high, and I don't much care for anything else in this game. Colorado State 28, Marshall 27

Boca Raton Bowl: Florida Atlantic (-22.5) vs. Akron -- Dec. 19: I'm ignoring both of my starting guidelines for this game and taking the public darling favorites that are the Florida Atlantic Owls. The reason for this is that FAU is a much better team than Akron. That spread is as large as it is for a reason, and while there's always concern about a backdoor, I trust Lane Kiffin will want to send a message to all those teams that didn't hire him this winter. Florida Atlantic 49, Akron 14

Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech (+5) vs. SMU -- Dec. 20: This is essentially a home game for SMU, but I'm not too concerned about it. Sonny Dykes, who was just hired to replace Chad Morris, will be coaching the Mustangs in this game, and I have to wonder how prepared the team will be given he just took over. Plus, the Mustangs have a horrible pass defense as it is and will be without top cornerback Jordan Wyatt. Also, did you know that since he took over at Louisiana Tech for Dykes, Skip Holtz has gone 3-0 in bowl games? Louisiana Tech 38, SMU 34

Last Week 2017 Overall
Games of the week 3-321-11
Lock of the week 0-0 6-7
Underdog of the week 0-0 9-3-1
Over of the week 0-0 7-6
Under of the week 0-0 7-6
Overall 3-3


CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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