Well, here we are; reading our last Risk Management picks of the 2019 season. It seems like it was just yesterday that Scott went 0-6 filling-in for me one dreary September weekend that I was unavailable to make you money. While Scott retired from picking with a win-less record, I stood the test of time and finished the regular season just over .500, good enough for more than your money back if you played your cards right. But enough about the past - let’s take a look into the future and find out where you should place that $20 Grandma put into your stocking yesterday morning.
First up, the Cheez-it Bowl.
Friday, December 27th 10:15 PM ET on ESPN
Air Force (-3)
Wow, 68.5 points for a 10:15 PM kickoff? Sign. Me. Up. Just two Air Force games this season would hit the over at 68.5 (vs. Fresno State and at Hawaii), but something tells me we are going to see a lot of points in this contest. The Cougars average 37.4 points per game this season, good enough for 11th in the country, and the Falcons aren’t far behind totaling an average of 33.1 points per game. On averages alone you have to like the “over” but it’s actually quite simpler than that.
A Mike Leach coached team is not only going to score at a high rate, but it’s also likely they will fail to play defense at least 70% of the time. When checking the box score you often find yourself wondering if they even put 11 defenders on the field. The Cougars gave up 67 points to UCLA and another 53 against Oregon State in a game they still managed to win 54-53. You see, 68.5 points doesn’t seem like too much a challenge when you dig a little bit. Especially in a partial showing of #Pac12AfterDark.
Let’s take a step back here and make sure everyone understands just how hard bowl games are to predict sometimes. You never know who is motivated. Some teams use the extra practices to work in their 2020 returners with very little actual game prep against the opponent. Others use the time to create a laid-back reward-like atmosphere to celebrate a successful season. Chances are if you ask Troy Calhoun or Mike Leach about their preparation for this game you won’t get a direct answer but I bet you will still get an answer worth talking about. I mean really, can you think of a better coach vs. coach match-up this bowl season? I think not.
Okay, okay - the spread. I hear you, so let’s get to it. Washington State is 4-8 ATS this season and 1-2 as underdogs. Yikes. The Falcons are 7-5 ATS and 5-2 ATS in their last seven games; all seven in which they served as favorites. Those trends coupled with Air Force’s motivation to end their season on a high-note for a solid senior class has me taking the Falcons to win straight-up and cover the spread.
*Note* Bill Connelly has this game as pretty much a coin flip with a slight edge (0.4 points) to Washington State in a game that totals 68 points...man these Vegas folks are good.
SP+ BOWL PICKS— Bill Connelly (@ESPN_BillC) December 16, 2019
* GUHHHH, I hate these lines so much. So much “favorite -3.5 or -7.5” b.s., and the only space between SP+ and the line involves teams I don’t think SP+ has as good a read on.
* GOOD LUCK IN YOUR BOWL POOLS, FRIENDS pic.twitter.com/mAE5f6FRfn
Spread: Air Force (-3)
O/U: Over (68.5)
The Autozone Liberty Bowl
Tuesday, December 31st 3:45 PM on ESPN
Kansas State has hit the “over” just three times this season but the 52 total is their third lowest of the season. This is expected considering Navy will utilize the clock-eating triple option, but 52 points seems rather low for a bowl game. You have to travel back to 2014 to see a Navy bowl game where the combined point total fell below 52, so what can we expect this year?
Well, even with history pointing towards a high scoring bowl experience on New Year’s Eve for the Midshipmen, I think both teams will chew some clock and keep point-scoring to a minimum. A better bet should be an O/U of game time at 3 hours. Kansas State is third in the country in TOP at 34 minutes per game while Navy is close behind averaging 33 minutes per game. Take the under and enjoy the TOP battle.
The Wildcats have been a relatively quiet eight-win program this season. Even with their impressive 48-41 win over Oklahoma, Kansas State has kind of flown under the radar so to speak. They boast a pretty stout defense that has kept ten teams below 28 points this season. Navy is 0-2 in games where they score less than four touchdowns and that will be the true test to see if Navy can win.
Look, this Navy team has surpassed our expectations all season and there is no reason to think this Liberty Bowl will be any different. Stats and trends may suggest Kansas State winning a lower scoring game, but let’s say I miss on my “under” call and we find ourselves in a shoot-out. If this game features plenty of points (err, uhh, more than 55) I see Navy securing a touchdown win. Maybe this is hedging my bets, but let me take the team that is 9-3 ATS this year and 7-1 as a favorite.
Spread: Navy (-2.5)
O/U: Under (52)