Saturday’s Bowl Trifecta

Published on Dec. 14 at 12:23 p.m. Eastern.

By Brian Edwards

New Mexico Bowl – Dec. 17, 2011 (Saturday) – 2 p.m. ET., ESPN
Temple (8-4 straight up, 8-4 against the spread) vs. Wyoming (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS)
Line: Temple minus-6.5
Over/Under: 48.5

The Wynn opened Temple as a six-point favorite on Dec. 5, but the number quickly moved to seven. Since Dec. 7, however, most betting shops have had the Owls favored by 6 1/2, while the total opened at 48 and is now up to 48 1/2. Gamblers can take Wyoming on the money line for a lucrative plus-220 return (risk $100 to win $220).

The Cowboys have thrived as underdogs this year, compiling a 5-2 spread record with three outright victories. They are led by freshman quarterback Brett Smith, who has 2,495 passing yards and 18 touchdown passes compared to only eight interceptions.

Temple is ranked seventh in the nation in rushing thanks to junior Bernard Pierce, who has 1,381 yards and 25 TDs. The Owls went to their first bowl game since 1979 two years ago, losing 30-21 to UCLA as 4 ½-point underdogs.

In Wyoming’s last two postseason appearances in 2004 and ’09, it has won outright as a double-digit underdog with wins over UCLA and Fresno St., respectively. I like the Cowboys to win outright in this spot, too, so I’ll back them as ‘dogs and get a small taste of the money-line as well.

As for the total, Temple has seen four consecutive ‘overs’ despite a 7-5 overall ledger for the ‘under.’ Wyoming has watched the ‘under’ cash in five straight games and go 7-4-1 overall.

Idaho Potato Bowl – Dec. 17, 2011 (Saturday) – 5:30 p.m. ET., ESPN
Utah State (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Ohio (9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS)
Line: Utah St. minus-2.5
Over/Under: 57.5

Motivation and location are two pivotal factors in predicting the outcome of bowl games. In this scenario, we have a Utah St. squad that has won five in a row and is returning to the postseason for the first time since 1997. The Aggies are close to home and familiar with their surroundings, playing on the smurf turf of Bronco Stadium in a loss to Boise St. in last year’s regular-season finale.

Ohio, on the other hand, just saw its five-game winning steak snapped when it blew a 20-0 third-quarter lead in a 23-20 loss to No. Illinois in the MAC Championship Game. The Bobcats have to fly out West into a different time zone while still suffering a hangover from the loss to NIU.

Therefore, Gary Andersen’s team appears to have the motivation/location advantages. Utah St. will also have the best player on the field in WAC Player of the Year, Robert Turbin, who has 51 career rushing TDs. Furthermore, USU gets back freshman QB Chuckie Keeton, who has not played due to a back injury since a Nov. 5 win at Hawaii. Keeton has an 11/2 TD-INT ratio. In his absence, another true freshman, Adam Kennedy, has played well by leading the Aggies to victory in all four of his starts. Kennedy has a 10/4 TD-INT ratio.

Frank Solich’s squad won the MAC East thanks to the brilliant play of sophomore QB Tyler Tettleton, who has 3,060 passing yards with a 26/10 TD-INT ratio. Tettleton has also rushed for 598 yards and nine TDs.

The ‘over’ is 7-5 overall for USU, but the ‘under’ has cashed in back-to-back games. Meanwhile, Ohio has seen the ‘over’ go 7-6 overall, but the ‘under’ has hit in its last three outings.

These schools met in 1994 with Utah St. going to Ohio and winning by a 5-0 count as a two-point road underdog.

New Orleans Bowl – Dec. 17, 2011 (Saturday) – 9 p.m. ET., ESPN
Louisiana (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS) vs. San Diego State (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS)

Line: San Diego St. minus-5
Over/Under: 58.5

Although the location and motivation factors favor Louisiana, which is playing in a bowl game for the first time in school history, bettors have to weigh if those advantages are enough for a Sun Belt team to beat a squad from a tougher league – the Mountain West Conference in this instance.

The Aztecs stayed home and played in the Poinsettia Bowl last season, so it’s debatable whether or not they are disappointed to travel to New Orleans. Rocky Long’s team has won four of its last five games with the lone loss coming to Boise St. San Diego St. has one of the nation’s most underrated running back in sophomore Ronnie Hillman, who has already rushed for more than 3,000 yards and 36 career touchdowns. Also, QB Ryan Lindley has 20 TD passes.

Mark Hudspeth’s squad is bowling thanks to outstanding production from junior QB Blaine Gautier, who has 20 TD passes compared to only five interceptions. The Ragin’ Cajuns are an amazing 7-0 ATS as underdogs this year. They have seen the ‘over’ go 8-4 overall, 4-1 in their last five games.

SDS has a mediocre 3-5 spread record in eight games as a favorite this year. Totals have been an overall wash (6-6) for the Aztecs.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

–La. Tech and TCU will both bring seven-game winning streaks to San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl. The Bulldogs, who are catching 10 ½ points from the Horned Frogs, have taken the cash in all six of their games as underdogs this year. They are 5-0 ATS against teams in bowl games and they’ve cashed tickets at a 4-0 ATS clip when playing in the Pacific time zone.

–TCU went 3-5 ATS as a double-digit favorite this year.

–Alabama offensive coordinator Jim McElwain has been named the new head coach at Colorado St. He’ll recruit for the Rams until Dec. 19 before going back to Tuscaloosa to join the Crimson Tide in its preparation for the BCS Championship Game vs. LSU on Jan. 9 at the Superdome in New Orleans. We’ve seen many instances through the years when a coordinator for a team prepping for the national-title game has taken a head-coaching gig at another school. The results have been mixed. When Mark Richt took the Georgia job while serving as the OC for FSU vs. Oklahoma in the 2000 title game, the ‘Noles had their worst offensive showing of the year in a 13-2 loss to the Sooners. On the flip side, Florida fared just fine in 2008 when it beat Oklahoma after OC Dan Mullen had taken the Mississippi St. job. The same positive results came for LSU in a blowout win over Ohio St. after DC Bo Pelini took the Nebraska job in 2009. (If I didn’t make it clear, all three of those coaches stayed on and called plays in the aforementioned BCS title games.)

–Auburn OC Gus Malzahn is leaving The Plains to become the new head coach at Arkansas State, which lost Hugh Freeze to Ole Miss last week. Also, DC Ted Roof has bolted for the same job at UCF under George O’Leary.

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