College football bowl picks, predictions, odds: BYU-Hawaii, Washington-Boise State are early best bets
It's the most wonderful time of the year -- the start of bowl season
Bowl season is here, which is both good and bad news for the bettor. On the one hand, there will basically be a football game every day for the next three weeks, providing us all with plenty of games to not only watch but wager on. On the other hand, it's difficult enough to handicap a game during the regular season; the bowl season only adds even more factors one must consider.
Which teams are excited to play in their bowl game, and which ones aren't? Which coaches are approaching the game as an opportunity to add another win, and which ones are using the game as a chance to get some guys playing time to prepare for next season? Which players are going to sit out and prepare for the NFL Draft? Who might be suspended?
These are just some of the factors that we don't have complete information on, and when we don't have complete information, we can't make optimal decisions.
Instead, we must rely on what our eyes and brains tell us and make the best decisions, all while crossing our fingers and hoping for the best. So let's do that and get to this week's picks. For this week, I'm picking games between Friday, Dec. 20 and Tuesday, Dec. 24.
Games of the Week
Washington (-3) vs. No. 19 Boise State: There's the obvious storyline about this being Chris Petersen's final game at Washington, and how he is coaching against the program where he made his name. I'd be lying if I said that didn't have some role in how I'm picking this game. With it being Petersen's grand finale, there's no questioning that Washington will show up and try to get one more win for Petersen. As for the matchup itself, whenever you see a ranked team as an underdog against an unranked team, that should be a warning sign.
Not that Boise State isn't good, but it does not have the overall talent that Washington does. The Huskies have had a disappointing season considering their preseason hopes, but their struggles came in the Pac-12. In three nonconference games against Eastern Washington, BYU and Hawaii, the Huskies were 3-0 and won those three games by an average of 30.3 points per game. Now, Boise is better than those three teams, but is it 27 points better? I don't think so, and I don't believe Petersen plans to go out with a loss. Washington 27, Boise State 23
SMU (-3) at Florida Atlantic: When I picked FAU to crush UAB in the Conference USA title game, my lone concern was the Owls being deflated by the news that Lane Kiffin had left for a new job. They weren't and won easily. Well, how will they feel here? Not only will the Owls be playing under an interim coach, but they'll be playing in their home stadium. I'm not making this pick solely on the idea that Florida Atlantic won't be amped up to play, but it's something to consider.
Either way, I still like SMU here. I give the Mustangs the advantage at nearly every key position on offense, and while neither team has a defense it can rely on, SMU has gotten here playing a much more difficult schedule than FAU. SMU 38, Florida Atlantic 31
Lock of the Week
BYU (-2) at Hawaii: There's a trend with this Hawaii team that's been difficult to ignore in 2019. The Warriors are 9-5 on the season, but in seven games against teams with losing records, they scored 39.1 points per game. They did not fare nearly as well against bowl teams, averaging only 26.8 points in those six games. That's almost a two-touchdown difference. Hawaii also turns the ball over a lot. It has given the ball away 30 times in 14 games. That's going to be problematic against a good BYU defense that has done an excellent job of limiting explosive plays.
Then there's the trend of Hawaii at home. In the College Football Playoff Era (since 2014), Hawaii has gone 13-26-1 ATS at home, and that includes a mark of 6-11 when it's a home underdog like it is in this situation. Take the Cougars. BYU 31, Hawaii 24
Underdog of the Week
Liberty (+4.5) vs. Georgia Southern: One of the advantages of being an option offense is that your opponents don't face option teams often, and they typically only get a week to prepare for them. Well, while Liberty hasn't seen a lot of option offenses this season, it has had nearly a month to get ready for Georgia Southern's. Plus, Liberty's defense wasn't great against the run this season, but it wasn't horrific, either. On the other side of things, Liberty has an explosive passing offense, and Georgia Southern's defensive weakness has been allowing explosive plays in the passing game. It's not a great matchup for Southern, so I'm taking Liberty and the points. Don't be surprised if the Flames win outright. Liberty 38, Georgia Southern 30
Favorite of the Week
Buffalo (-6.5) vs. Charlotte: Charlotte is a great story this season, getting to its first bowl game by winning its final five games of the season, but this is a horrible matchup for the 49ers. Buffalo averaged 254.25 rushing yards per game and 4.98 yards per carry. Those numbers rank 9th and 28th respectively in the nation. Charlotte's run defense ranks 97th in yards allowed (190.83) and 110th in yards allowed per carry (4.94). With extremely high winds expected for this game in the Bahamas, the team that runs the ball the best is going to win. That looks to be Buffalo based on how they've each performed during the regular season. Buffalo 27, Charlotte 17
Under of the Week
Kent State vs. Utah State (Under 67.5): If I knew for a fact that Jordan Love was going to play in this game, I'd be on Utah State. After Love's recent legal problems, there's no telling if he'll play at all, or for how long he might be suspended during the game. Either way, I do think the total for this matchup is a little too high. Kent State has scored 27.4 points per game this season, but it has done its damage against bad teams. In five games against teams with winning records, Kent State scored 13.8 points per game. Against losing teams, the Flashes averaged 39. Utah State doesn't have the kind of defenses Kent State saw against Auburn and Wisconsin, but it should be able to hold the Flashes in that 17-21 point range. Utah State 38, Kent State 23
Games of the Week
Lock of the Week
Who wins Boise State vs. Washington in the Las Vegas Bowl? And what critical x-factor makes one side of the spread a must-back? Visit SportsLine now to see which side of the spread you should jump on Saturday, all from the seasoned expert who has hit seven of his last eight picks on the Huskies, and find out.
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