Five Best Bets for the Bowl Season

For degenerate gamblers, bowl season is a bit like staring at an In-N-Out Burger separated from you by a minefield. If the regular season treated you kindly, no need to risk blowing yourself up for some fast food. If you took it on the chin for the last three months, jump in and hope you’re dining Animal Style in a couple weeks.

(OK, I’m not sure if that analogy works, but roll with it.)

For those tempting fate for recreational purposes only, here are The Student Section’s five favorite bets of the bowl season:

Rose Bowl – Florida State (+9.5) vs. Oregon

The Seminoles spent the entire regular season begging for someone to bump them off. They survived, though, and now have a month off to rest up one of the most talented rosters in the land. They’re also preparing for Oregon, and, on its face, the coaching matchup heavily favors Jimbo Fisher’s staff.

The ‘Noles have a puncher’s chance of winning this one outright. At worst, the Ducks don’t look 9.5 points better.

The pick: Oregon by 2.

Fiesta Bowl – Michigan State vs. Baylor (-3)

Ending the season on a downer can cut both ways come bowl time. Some teams get pissed off and come out smoking. Others couldn’t care less.

(Just ask Nick Saban for an example from one of his teams; you’ll get one that suits him.)

Assume that we’ll see the latter from the Bears. Central Florida treated Baylor pretty rough in last year’s Fiesta Bowl, which couldn’t have helped BU’s image nationally. If the selection committee didn’t convince Art Briles that he could use a few more big scalps, I don’t know what will.

Aside from the motivation angle, Sparty really struggled to keep pace with the two best offenses it faced this year, Oregon and Ohio State.

The only wildcard here: officiating. If the refs are calling it tight against the Bears’ handsy defensive backs, they might be the ones struggling to keep pace with Connor Cook and the MSU offense.

The pick: Bears, 42-35.

Belk Bowl – Louisville (+6.5) vs. Georgia

The Bulldogs’ running game against Louisville’s run defense. Shoo wee, that is good on good.

But dig in on the opportunity to back Bobby Petrino – with his plotting and his scheming – versus a potentially deflated side. Losing Leonard Floyd really hurts the UGa D, which was already thoroughly mediocre this season.

The pick: Cards outright all day.

Taxslayer Bowl – Iowa vs. Tennessee (-3.5)

Kirk Ferentz’s milquetoast demeanor just screams CPA, so you have to think he’ll be right at home in this game. Yet, when the best thing you can say about your season is that you won at Illinois, that’s not much to hang your green eyeshade on.

The Volunteers haven’t played in a bowl game since 2010. They have built up some momentum under second-year coach Butch Jones and talented freshman quarterback Josh Dobbs, so a blowout win here should fuel the hype for UT heading into 2015.

The pick: Tennessee 27, Iowa 5.

Boca Raton Bowl – Marshall (-10) vs. Northern Illinois

Take a look at the Thundering Herd roster. Notice anything in the “Hometown” column?

When he’s not chilling with his canasta partners at Del Boca Vista Phase 3, Marshall head coach Doc Holliday is hitting the South Florida high school circuit in search of talent that the big boys might have missed on. A bowl game in Boca is a huge recruiting opportunity for the Herd. Look for Marshall to go big.

The pick: Herd huge.