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Friday, 20 December 2019

College Football Bowl Picks 2019 Part One (December 20-28)

The 2019 College Football regular season came to a close earlier this month and I think most will agree we do have the right four teams making up the PlayOffs.

I am glad the two Tigers, LSU and Clemson, have been kept apart in the Semi Final as I did think they were the top teams in College Football, although Ohio State Buckeyes fans will not want to hear that.

The Oklahoma Sooners were probably the right choice getting in as the Number 4 team, especially when Georgia and Utah were beaten. I do think they are the weakest of the four teams involved, but their Quarter Back has won a National Championship and for that alone the Sooners need to be respected.


As I have done in previous years, I am going to split the Bowl Game thread in two with the first twenty-one games covered in Part One. That concludes on December 28th with the two PlayOff Semi Final games and my second thread will cover the remaining eighteen games before I have one last separate post for the National Championship Game scheduled for Monday 13th January 2020.

Splitting the posts makes things easier to follow and this thread will be plenty long once I have gotten through the first nine days of Bowl season.

It all begins on Friday with two Bowl Games to be played and I will be adding to this thread over the coming days with any College Football Picks I have.


After a really slow start to the season five of the last six weeks of the regular season did end up with a profit. I am looking to add to the season totals. Let's hope it is a strong ending to the 2019 College Football season over the next four weeks.


Friday 20th December
Buffalo Bulls vs Charlotte 49ers Pick: If you hear the 49ers are going to play in the post-season you would likely be thinking about the San Francisco 49ers of the NFL. However it is the Charlotte 49ers who open up the Bowl Season and who will be taking centre stage as they bid to improve their 7-5 record from the regular season.

Charlotte had not had a winning season before after only recently putting their Football program together and having joined the main FBS Divisions of College Football. Last season they did finish up with a 5-7 record, but having a new Head Coach was expected to make it difficult for them to push on.

At 2-5 they looked like falling short for a Bowl bid yet again, but Charlotte won five games in a row and that momentum makes them dangerous in the Bahamas.

The 49ers face the Buffalo Bills from the MAC Conference who also finished with a 7-5 record which means they are someway short of the 10 wins earned in 2018. The Bulls came up short in the MAC Championship Game twelve months ago, but they missed out on a return to that stage by a single game this time around.

Buffalo have not won a Bowl Game before, but they are making back to back appearances in the post-season in 2019. Last season they were beaten as the narrow favourite over the Troy Trojans, but they come into this one with more expectation that they are going to have too much for the 49ers.

Much is going to depend on the Buffalo Offensive Line which has played well throughout the 2019 season. They have opened up some big holes for Jaret Patterson and he has certainly made teams pay and I can't see much going different for the Bulls in this Bowl Game.

All season we have seen the Charlotte Defensive Line have issues shutting down the run and they are facing a Buffalo team who are producing 6.7 yards per carry over their last three games. There were one or two signs that Charlotte have shown improvement on the Defensive Line, but even then I can't see how they are going to cope with the power Buffalo bring to the table.

Running the ball as well as Buffalo have been able to do means they have not needed to go to the air too much, but this is still a team very difficult to stop. To underline the point, the Bulls might be making it clear to everyone what they want to do but they have still scored 40 plus points in four of their last five games as teams have not been able to cope with the Offensive Line.

It won't just be Buffalo looking to run the ball in this game after the successes the 49ers have had doing that all season. The rushing Offense has been aided by having a dual-threat Quarter Back in the backfield who has proven to be efficient both running and throwing the ball, but even then the 49ers have to be wondering if they can get the ground game established in this one.

Chris Reynolds has had a very big season for Charlotte at Quarter Back, but it might be more difficult for him in this one considering how tough the Buffalo Defensive Line has been up front. The Bulls will feel they can make one or two big plays to at least clamp down on the 49ers when it comes to running the ball and that could be key to forcing the stops needed to win this game.

The Defensive unit has been a huge part of the successes Buffalo have had this season and they are not just stout on the Defensive Line. The Bulls Secondary have also shown they have the talent to slow down the pass so it is going to be a tough day for Reynolds and the 49ers on the Offensive side of the ball.

With the winning run behind them I do think it might be tough to completely shut down the 49ers, but the inexperience of dealing with a Bowl Game might also play against them. Buffalo were beaten in their Bowl Game twelve months ago, but that should hold them in good stead and I think it will help them handle the surroundings of the Bahamas a little better than the 49ers.

Buffalo have not played well on neutral fields, but they are 5-1 against the spread in their last six as the favourite. I also can't ignore the fact that Charlotte are 2-5 against the spread in their last seven playing a team with a winning record and I think Buffalo can cover a big looking number in this opening Bowl Game of the 2019 season.

The favourite is only 2-3 against the spread here since the Bahamas Bowl began, but in the odd years it has been the MAC who have come out victorious against their CUSA opponents. I do like Buffalo's chances of shutting down the run with some success compared with Charlotte and that can be the major difference between the teams on the day.


Utah State Aggies vs Kent State Golden Flashes Pick: If the marijuana possession charges had led to some suspensions I imagine the Utah State Aggies would have been a much bigger priced favourite to win this Bowl Game. Key players have been cited for possession, but those are all going to be playing in this Bowl Game including Jordan Love who is being pegged as a potential First Round Pick in the NFL Draft having declared himself eligible for that Draft in April.

This is a chance for Love to showcase some of his talents as he leads the Aggies into this post-season game with a 7-5 record, although that is slightly disappointing off the 2018 season when they were 11-2. Gary Anderson has returned as Head Coach, but he could not find the right plays to give his team more consistency.

Utah State won their Bowl Game twelve months ago and Jordan Love should be motivated at the Quarter Back spot to put some positive headlines front and centre rather than the headlines that have been created over the past week. 2019 has not been a great season for Love, but he will be confident in having a strong showing against the Kent State Golden Flashes who had a 6-6 record in the regular season.

The Golden Flashes have not had a winning season since 2012 when they last played in a Bowl Game and they will only have a winning record in 2019 if they win this game. Even if they don't, this has been a vastly improved season for Kent State who had not won more than four games in a single season since that 11-3 record in 2012.

Having the extra practices for the Bowl season may pay off for Kent State next season, but they will also feel they can perhaps earn the upset in this game. Dustin Crum at Quarter Back has been huge for Kent State and his ability to run the ball as well as throw it with success should give the Golden Flashes a chance of moving the ball throughout this one.

Running the ball is important to teams at any level of Football and Kent State have to find a way to get established on the ground to open things up. They should have success against the Utah State Defensive Line which has struggled to slow the run, but the Aggies Secondary have been playing well in recent games.

If the Aggies can just make a few plays and ask Crum to beat them from third and long they may be able to slow one or two drives, and that can give them the edge to win this Bowl Game. Dustin Crum has to be respected considering how careful he has been with the ball and only throwing 2 picks all season will give Kent State in any game, but Utah State can give their Offensive playmakers a chance to showcase what they have available for those teams scouting them at the next level.

This might have been a season in which Jordan Love has thrown 17 Touchdown passes alongside 16 Interceptions, a record that is far from impressive, but the Quarter Back is still very much intriguing those scouting him in the NFL. To really show what he has, Love has to lean on the running game to keep the team in third and manageable spots and that means hoping the Offensive Line can pick up their level.

Over the course of the season the Aggies Offensive Line has been very good at paving the way for the rushing Offense, but in recent games they have not found it easy to open things up for big runs. Things might be different against the Kent State Defensive Line which has struggled throughout 2019, but Gerold Bright is the top Running Back for Utah State and he is someway short of reaching 1000 yards for the year.

Jordan Love might have to step up and play one of his better games of the season. There will be times when he is going to have to throw from third and long spots to maintain drives, but Love can do that against the Golden Flashes Secondary which has contributed to some porous numbers against them throughout the season.

The motivation is clear for Love and the Aggies and the experience of these players in Bowl Games might be enough to give them an edge over a team that overachieved like Kent State did.

Both teams have some decent trends to fall back upon, but the Golden Flashes have been much better at home and I will look for Utah State to make one or two big plays on both sides of the ball which helps them clear this number.


Saturday 21st December
Central Michigan Chippewas vs San Diego State Aztecs Pick: Rocky Long is in his ninth season as Head Coach of the San Diego State Aztecs and he has led his team to a 9-3 record in 2019 to continue the streak of having a winning record in every season he has led the team. He has guided the team to a Bowl Game in all eight years as Head Coach, although the Aztecs have dropped back to back post-season games to fall to 3-5 under Long.

This season they did fall just short of reaching the Mountain West Championship Game and that means the Aztecs have missed playing in that game for three years in a row. However you can't underestimate how well San Diego State have played under the guidance of Rocky Long when you think they can reach double digit wins for the fourth time in five seasons if they can win this game in Albuquerque.

San Diego State are going to be facing the surprising Central Michigan Chippewas who finished with an 8-5 record after losing the MAC Championship Game to the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks. Jim McElwain took over as Head Coach here at the start of the season having been fired as Head Coach of the Florida Gators, and he has turned around a team that finished with an 1-11 record in 2018.

It is a huge change from 2018 to 2019 and McElwain has to be respected for the job he has done here, although I do think it is hard to know how the players will be feeling having lost the Conference Championship Game.

They are also playing a San Diego State Defensive unit that has been the basis for the successes the Aztecs have had this season. This is a very difficult team to run the ball against and the Aztecs have been holding teams to 3.3 yards per carry in their last three games to underline the strength they have shown throughout the season.

In saying that there have been one or two holes in the Secondary which have popped up and will give Quarter Back Quinten Dormady some encouragement. Dormady has been playing well all season in the system run by Central Michigan and I do think he can do enough to at least put up some points for what has been a powerful Offensive unit even when going up against a very good Aztecs Defense.

It really has been the Defensive unit which has given San Diego State the chance of getting close to double digit wins in 2019. Only one of their last eight games have seen an opponent score more than 17 points against them, but the Aztecs have not been able to fully capitalise with none of their last five games seeing the Offensive unit produce more than 20 points.

Ryan Agnew should be ready to return at Quarter Back for the Aztecs and a lot of the responsibility of moving the ball may be on his arm. The Chippewas Defensive Line has been stout against the run and San Diego State have not been able to open up big holes up front which means Agnew may need to hit some big plays from third and long spots.

Like his Central Michigan counterpart, Agnew may have some successes, but it will be tough to consistently throw against this Secondary. And like the San Diego Defense, Central Michigan will likely find some pressure if Agnew is left in obvious passing downs and I do think this has the making of a very close game.

Turnovers are likely going to be critical to the direction this game will take when it comes to the spread. As long as Central Michigan don't lose on that statistic I think they will be able to keep this one close with San Diego State unlikely to blow out any opponent.

MAC teams set as underdogs in Bowl Games have not been good teams to back, but Central Michigan are 5-1 against the spread in their last six games against non-Conference opponents. I do respect San Diego State who have tended to play better, as far as the spread is concerned, when set as the favourite, but their last seven games have been decided by a combined 44 points.

I think Central Michigan will be able to get just enough out of their Offense to keep this one close and getting the hook above the key number of 3 is enough for me to back the underdog.


Georgia Southern Eagles vs Liberty Flames Pick: This is only the second season that the Liberty Flames are playing FBS Football and many expected them to take a step back from the 6-6 record they finished with in 2018. The scheduled looked much more difficult for Hugh Freeze to manage in his first year as Head Coach of the Flames, but they have surprisingly finished with a 7-5 record and a trip to a Bowl Game for the first time.

Liberty have not had a losing season since 2005 and they will continue that run no matter how this Bowl Game goes. In saying that, they did end the regular season with three losses from their last five games and they are coming up against an opponent with more experience.

The Flames face the Georgia Southern Eagles who finished with a 7-5 record in the regular season which is a drop from the ten wins secured in 2018. However the Eagles will be satisfied with how things have gone for them as they play in a Bowl Game for the third time including making it to back to back post-season games for the first time.

Georgia Southern are more experienced and they have also won both Bowl Games previously played which will give the fans some belief that they can see another one in Orlando this time around.

The Eagles have slightly better momentum and they will feel the worn down Liberty Defensive unit is not going to be strong enough to contain them in this one. Everyone knows what Georgia Southern want to do with their triple-option Offense and the Offensive Line has opened holes for at least 5 yards per carry for the second season in a row.

In recent games the Eagles have been even more productive on the ground and Liberty have shown little to suggest they are going to be able to clamp down on the Georgia Southern run game in this one. That power up front has meant there has been limited times Georgia Southern have needed to throw the ball and even though the game plan has been emailed to Liberty I am not convinced they are going to be able down Georgia Southern.

I do have to credit the Flames Offensively as they have found a nice balance to keep teams honest, but this feels like a game in which they are going to have to rely on Quarter Back Stephen Calvert a little more than normal. While the Flames Offensive Line has opened up some nice holes in the run game, they are facing a Georgia Southern Defensive Line which has been holding opponents to under 3 yards per carry in their last three games.

Stopping teams through the air has been much more difficult for the Eagles and I do think Calvert will have success throwing into this Secondary. However he might have to deal with a strong Eagles pass rush that is going to try and disrupt things whenever they get Liberty into third and long spots and ultimately it may be that pass rush which helps Georgia Southern win a third Bowl Game from three appearances in the post-season.

The Flames have been a good underdog to back when it comes to the spread selections, but I do think Georgia Southern might be able to use their experience to edge them out. It should be a fun game with both teams matching up well Offensively with the Defenses they are going to face, but I think the Eagles will edge out Liberty in this one and I will look for them to cover the number.


SMU Mustangs @ Florida Atlantic Owls Pick: For most teams playing in the Bowl Season will mean visiting a neutral Stadium, but that is not the case for the Florida Atlantic Owls who host the Boca Raton Bowl at home. Two years ago they won the CUSA Championship Game and were given a chance to play in this Bowl which was dominated by the Owls and they have won the Conference Championship Game again in 2019.

All credit has to be given to Lane Kiffin who spent three years here as the Head Coach and has rebuilt his reputation thanks to 11-3, 5-7 and 10-3 records. Ultimately those performances were always going to lead to another job for Kiffin and he has left Florida Atlantic to return to the SEC as Head Coach of the Mississippi Rebels.

Willie Taggart who was last seen being fired by the Florida State Seminoles has already been announced as Lane Kiffin's replacement in Boca Raton, but he will not be Coaching in this game. It can be difficult to know how a team will react knowing their Head Coach has moved on, but in the past those Coaches who have left for pastures new off their own back have left a group of players who can be inspired for a big performance.

The Owls are going to need that when they host the SMU Mustangs from the American Athletic Conference. Good things were expected from the Mustangs in Sonny Dykes second season as Head Coach, and they moved from 5-7 in 2018 to 10-2 in 2019 and only just missed out on playing in the Championship Game.

This is only the second Bowl Game that SMU will be playing since 2012 and they were blown out in 2017. Transferring in Shane Buechele has proven to be a very good decision by the Mustangs and he has had a very big season for the team, but the Mustangs Defensive unit could not hold up under pressure and it is the reason they failed to win their Division despite the strong record.

Even though the numbers for the Owls Defensive unit have looked very good for much of the season, you can't deny that they will not have played too many teams who can play Offense as well as SMU. The Mustangs will be relying on the arm of Buechele who throws to some talented Receivers, but Florida Atlantic will be looking to show off the improvement in the Secondary which has restricted teams to under 175 passing yards per game in their last three including the blow out of the UAB Blazers in the Conference Championship Game.

Shane Buechele should have some successes considering his own record this season, but the Quarter Back will have to be careful with the ball and avoid giving Florida Atlantic extra possessions.

Throughout 2019 we have seen Buechele do that and avoid fatal mistakes so you have to feel the same will happen here. However I also think the Florida Atlantic Owls are going to have a good time throwing the ball and that should make this a very competitive game.

While there are some question marks about how well the Mustangs will be able to run the ball, the Owls should be strong behind their Offensive Line and at least find the balance to keep the SMU Defensive unit guessing. Running the ball will ease the Mustangs pass rush and it will also keep the team in third and manageable which is where they should be able to convert for much of the game.

Chris Robinson has had a hugely successful season throwing the ball from the Quarter Back position and he has some talented players receiving for him. That is a huge benefit for Florida Atlantic who are going up against the Mustangs Secondary which has been giving up over 300 passing yards per game in their last three and who have struggled to stop the pass all season.

In close games you do have to like the team who have shown more of an ability to make the big plays to turn the ball over. That is an area where it looks like the Owls have the edge and being to play at home is huge for them as they look to show they can move past Lane Kiffin and still win games.

Florida Atlantic have not been the most productive home underdog to back, but I think they can follow 2017 and have a strong performance in the Bowl Game at home after winning their Conference Championship Game. Some of the value has gone from the game as I would have loved to have backed Florida Atlantic with a point or two more, but we are still going through a key number of 3 and I will take the points with the underdog.


UAB Blazers vs Appalachian State Mountaineers Pick: There has to be some motivation from being disrespected that the Appalachian State Mountaineers can use in this Bowl Game. After finishing the season with a 12-1 record and a Conference Championship I am sure the Mountaineers would have been expecting a much bigger Bowl Game to be their post-season reward, but instead they have been placed to play before Christmas Day.

This is a school playing in their fifth Bowl Game in a row and Appalachian State have won all of those with the last two coming in blow out fashion. Last season they did have to use an interim Head Coach in the Bowl and the same is happening in 2019 after Eliah Drinkwitz decided to accept the job with the Missouri Tigers after just one season with the Mountaineers.

Shawn Clark may see this as an opportunity to push his own credentials as the future Head Coach of the Mountaineers and he will be looking to inspire a big performance from his players with a number of Seniors playing their final game for the team.

Appalachian State play the UAB Blazers who have only had their Football program restored in 2017 having dismantled it at the end of the 2014 season. The Blazers have been very good under Head Coach Bill Clark who has surprisingly led them to a third straight winning season, although they will not be able to match the 11 wins secured in 2018 after losing the CUSA Championship Game.

That defeat to the Florida Atlantic Owls has dropped the Blazers to 9-4 for the season, but that record has to be respected. The only worry for UAB fans is that they have not really been able to match up against some of the better teams they have played this season and a number of those games have led to one-sided blow outs.

The Blazers are facing a very good Appalachian State team in this Bowl and it does look like a tough game for them when it comes to the Offensive side of the ball. While UAB love trying to pound the ball on the ground, they have not been able to do that very efficiently in recent games and now face a Mountaineers Defensive Line which has clamped down up front and restricted teams to under 3 yards per carry in the last three games.

By holding teams up front it does mean the Secondary is perhaps challenged a bit more and Appalachian State have given up some big yards through the air with teams chasing points against them. However the Blazers have not had much consistency passing the ball and the Mountaineers pass rush could also have a big impact in the game.

All in all Appalachian State will feel they can do enough Defensively to set up their Offensive unit to secure the points to win this game. I think they have every chance for a third straight blow out win with that in mind, although the Mountaineers will know UAB's Defensive unit have the capabilities of matching up well with them.

Much will depend on the Blazers Defensive Line and whether they can hold up against the strong Appalachian State rushing Offense. While for the most part the Blazers have been able to do that throughout the 2019 season, it has to be pointed out that stopping the Mountaineers is much more difficult than the majority of opponents they have faced.

Unlike UAB, Appalachian State should have a better time passing the ball and I think that will make the difference for them in this game. The limited Blazers pass rush should not be able to affect the Mountaineers Offensive Line when it comes to protecting the Quarter Back and I do really like Appalachian State to cover what is a very big number.

Appalachian State have some strong trends to fall back on as the favourite and in non-Conference games. On the other hand UAB are 1-4 against the spread in their last five games as the underdog and I think that underlines the point about the Blazers perhaps not being as good against the better teams in College Football as their results have indicated.


Friday 27th December
The Bowl Season continues and I was not a big fan of trying to pick the games that were set to be played on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. The next selections come from the last two days of this thread before I open the 'Part 2' which will cover the remainder of the Bowl Games after the College Football PlayOff Semi Final games have been completed.

It has not been a good start to the Bowl Picks, but I am hoping the next set of games can get things turned around.


Temple Owls vs North Carolina Tar Heels Pick: The last two seasons have been incredibly disappointing for the North Carolina Tar Heels who had a combined 5-18 record in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. Unsurprisingly they missed a Bowl Game each time, but the re-hiring of Mack Brown for his second stint at Chapel Hill has sparked a solid 2019 season in which they finished 6-6.

On the face of it that is nothing to write home about, but when you surpass the combined number of wins from the previous two season in the first year of a new Head Coach it is worth celebrating. The Tar Heels also were the closest team to knock off the Clemson Tigers in the regular season having lost by a single point to what may be the best team in College Football.

They are only 4-3 since then, but this is a much improved team and North Carolina go into the Military Bowl as the favourites when they take on the Temple Owls.

Temple had an 8-4 record in the regular season under first year Head Coach Rod Carey and a win in the Bowl Game would mean finishing with their best record since 2016. The Owls have to be respected even though they have lost three of their last four Bowl Games, but this time they are under a Head Coach who is going to be sticking around through the 2020 season.

The Owls have played in the Military Bowl twice before and each time they have fallen to a defeat, but I don't expect that to have an impact on the players who are looking to sign off with two Bowl wins for their school. Anthony Russo will lead the Owls into this Bowl Game having surpassed his performance from 2018 and he benefits from throwing to a strong set of Receivers who will believe they can hurt a North Carolina Secondary.

Running the ball efficiently will only open the passing game all the more and Temple have been doing that very well in their last three games. However I do think they will be facing the strength of the North Carolina Defensive unit and instead the Owls can lean on Quarter Back Russo who has been well protected by his Offensive Line and now facing a pass rush that did not end the season as well as they would have liked.

This has been a special season for Sam Howell at Quarter Back for the North Carolina Tar Heels and he looks like being a very capable player at the College level in the years ahead. Howell came in with a big reputation, but you would have thought the step from High School to College might have been a difficult one until you saw the Quarter Back play and end the regular season with 35 Touchdowns and 7 Interceptions.

The question for Sam Howell is how well he can read the Temple Defensive unit which has a very strong Secondary that are capable of making big plays. Some of that is helped by a very good pass rush and the Owls should be able to pressure Howell whose own Offensive Line has not been as strong in pass protection as they have in getting out and run blocking.

Like the Owls, North Carolina have been running the ball well, but they are now facing a very good Defensive Line which has been able to limit the damage done on the ground. The difference between the teams is that Sam Howell may be dealing with more pass rush pressure which could lead to a mistake or two for what has been a very careful Quarter Back.

That pass rush pressure may keep this game competitive for Temple who are 4-0 against the spread when given 6.5 or fewer points as the underdog this season. On the other hand North Carolina are 1-2 against the spread as a favourite of less than 7 points, and I think taking the points with Temple is a worthy play.

My one concern is that Rod Carey had a terrible Bowl record in his last job with the Northern Illinois Huskies and failed to win or cover the spread in his five games as Head Coach there. However I think his Temple team are capable of keeping this one close behind the Defense and that is enough reason to take more than a Field Goal worth of points in this one.


Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs Michigan State Spartans Pick: A Bowl loss at the end of the 2018 season saw the Michigan State Spartans finish 7-6, but they are going to need to win the Pinstripe Bowl to match that in 2019. The last few years have been more difficult for the Spartans who had become one of the leading contenders to win the Big Ten Conference under Mark Dantonio, although the Head Coach is going to be given time to get things turned around.

Some questioned whether he would have remained in the job after the third season in four in which the Spartans have won less than eight games, but it seems like the school is ready to give Dantonio more time. However his recruiting class has been criticised somewhat and I do think this is one Head Coach who will be firmly on the hot seat going into the 2020 season.

Mark Dantonio can at least do himself a favour by guiding Michigan State to a Bowl win, although the Spartans have lost two of their last three in the Bowl season.

Michigan State are the favourites when they take on the Wake Forest Demon Deacons from the ACC who have finished with a winning record for the fourth season in a row. That is a remarkable achievement for Wake Forest under Dave Clawson and there should be plenty of motivation for the Demon Deacons who can finish with nine wins for the first time since 2007.

Since taking Wake Forest back into the Bowl season, Clawson has overseen three Bowl wins in a row and he will be looking to maintain that standard. His successes have not been ignored by other schools considering he is working in the Power 5 Conferences, but Clawson remains in charge in Winston Salem.

A key for the Demon Deacons is going to be the health of Quarter Back Jamie Newman in this Bowl Game played at historic Yankee Stadium. Newman was banged up at the end of the regular season and missed some time, but there has been three weeks to get into a better position when it comes to his health and he should be suited up.

No once can doubt how important it is for Jamie Newman to play for the Demon Deacons as they are going to be relying on their Quarter Back to make plays to keep the chains moving. It is very difficult to run the ball on the Michigan State Defensive Line, but the Secondary has been attacked with success at times and that is where Newman could have a strong showing.

However the pass rush generated by the Spartans could be a problem for the Demon Deacons if they are stuck in third and long spots and they are also going to need their own Defensive unit to rediscover their mojo after a tough last four games.

One of the main criticisms of Michigan State this season has been the unproductive Offensive play and they can't be trusted to take advantage of any Wake Forest Defensive shortcomings. Brian Lewerke has not really hit the heights at Quarter Back that the team would have liked to have seen and his inconsistencies have blighted the Spartans throughout 2019.

It has not helped that Michigan State have not been able to run the ball with the kind of consistency they needed and they have been forced to make plays from third and long. Against a fierce Wake Forest pass rush it is going to be difficult for Lewerke to move the chains throughout the game if he is being asked to do so from third and long spots, although the Demon Deacons have seen one or two holes in the Secondary being exploited.

Both teams have some good numbers against the spread in Bowl Games, but Michigan State are just 3-13 against the spread in their last sixteen overall. With Wake Forest being 5-1 against the spread in their last six off a loss and the fact they have won three Bowl Games in a row and twice as an underdog, I will look for the Demon Deacons to cover the spread.


Texas A&M Aggies vs Oklahoma State Cowboys Pick: It has been a few years since these two schools were both playing in the same Conference and the Oklahoma State Cowboys and Texas A&M Aggies meet for the first time since 2011. Both sets of teams should be well supported in the Texas Bowl and I think there will be enough motivation to see both teams play strong teams and not have too many declare themselves unavailable ahead of the NFL Draft.

The Aggies finished 7-5 in the regular season in Jimbo Fisher's second season as Head Coach after the 9-4 conclusion in 2018. While they have dropped off from the record earned in the first season, Texas A&M will recognise that they have been given a tough schedule which has seen them play two teams who will be playing in the College Football PlayOff.

Add in the fact that the Aggies are now in the SEC West Division and also faced the Georgia Bulldogs and you can make a reasonable case for the team struggling and perhaps overachieving to get to eight wins if they win the Bowl Game.

Some considered this being a difficult season for Mike Gundy and the Oklahoma State Cowboys, but they have once again secured a winning record. They have also won more games than in 2018 and the Cowboys have been able to surprise, although they did come up short in the final regular season game when losing to rivals Oklahoma Sooners who went on to make the PlayOff.

Oklahoma State have won their last three Bowl Games and they were actually considered as the underdog in two of those games. They will be looking for Chuba Hubbard to set the tone for the game, although the Offensive Line had some issues opening hopes for him down the stretch as teams focused on the Running Back who is set to declare for the NFL Draft.

Hubbard is expected to play and he will be hoping that Spencer Sanders will be over his injury concerns at Quarter Back. He missed a few games with an injury and Sanders' status for this Bowl Game is questionable which meant teams were able to play closer to the Line of Scrimmage and make sure they contain Hubbard.

That could be a real problem for the Cowboys against Texas A&M who have a decent Defensive unit even if the numbers have been dented by the strength of opponents they have faced. Consecutive losses to the Georgia Bulldogs and LSU Tigers, the two teams who ended up competing in the SEC Championship Game, will have dented some confidence, but the Aggies have largely played well on that side of the ball.

Oklahoma State should be able to move the ball, although they may see a few drives stall which may result in Field Goals and Punts being needed.

Things should be a little more comfortable for the Aggies on the other side of the ball as I expect Kellen Mond to bounce back from two rough outings. You have to credit the bend, don't break philosophy of the Cowboys Defensive unit, but they do have some holes that Texas A&M have to believe the are going to exploit as Mond faces a much easier Defense than the ones that limited his impact in the last couple of games.

Isaiah Spiller will offer some support for his Quarter Back by establishing the run and I think the Aggies are more likely to find some consistency with the ball in their hands. However there have been some signs down the stretch that the Cowboys can play the run a little better than they have for much of the season, and that will then make the pass rush come alive and really have a big impact in the game for the underdog.

Turnovers have been huge for Oklahoma State all season and I think they could earn one or two to keep this game closer than the layers may think.

The Cowboys are 3-1 against the spread as the underdog in 2019. Going back further the team are 12-2 against the spread in their last fourteen as the underdog, while they have been a good team at bouncing back for losses under Mike Gundy.

Texas A&M have to be respected having a solid record as the favourite, but I think the Texas Bowl could be one in which the underdog can thrive thanks to some big plays on both sides of the ball.

In each of the last two seasons at the Texas Bowl the underdog have covered the spread and I will take the points in this one.


Saturday 28th December
Iowa State Cyclones vs Notre Dame Fighting Irish Pick: As the biggest name that doesn't play in a Conference the Notre Dame Fighting Irish will always have an opportunity to play in the College Football PlayOff, but they will have to be perfect to do so. The lack of a Championship Game hurts the Fighting Irish, but in most cases you have to believe an unbeaten Notre Dame would almost certainly make the final four.

That doesn't matter in 2019 as the Fighting Irish finished 10-2 in the regular with defeats to the Georgia Bulldogs and Michigan Wolverines. They did finish the season with a strong run, and they have won at least ten games in four of the last five seasons even if this season won't be seen as good as 2018 when they did make the College Football PlayOff.

The Fighting Irish play the Iowa State Cyclones in the Camping World Bowl and the team coming from the Big 12 have to bounce back for some disappointing losses in 2019. Iowa State played well in moments, but a 7-5 regular season record is not what was expected and they will need a win to match the 8-5 record they have had in the previous two seasons.

Iowa State have lost three of their last four Bowl Games and they head into this one having been beaten in three of their last five in the regular season. This is going to be a big challenge for them Offensively especially as Iowa State are going to have it very tough to crack some big runs against the Notre Dame Defensive Line.

Breece Hall is going to have some pressure on him to establish the run against the Fighting Irish and that is going to lead to more being heaped on Brock Purdy's shoulders. While the Quarter Back has played well all season, he did struggle in the final regular season game and now faces the Notre Dame Defensive unit who have been amongst the best in College Football throughout the year.

At least Purdy has been protected by the Offensive Line and he can also scramble from pressure and make runs to earn First Downs, but keeping that going over the full sixty minutes will not be easy.

Notre Dame will also know they have to respect the Iowa State Defensive unit which has played well in 2019 and been a key to the team finishing up with a winning record. However they have not been as stout as Notre Dame when it comes to clamping down on the throw or the run and I do think Ian Book has performed at a good standard outside of the two losses the Fighting Irish have suffered in 2019.

Book has some good Receivers he can target and he has also been well protected by his Offensive Line which should give him time to throw down the field. With Notre Dame likely going to run the ball effectively, I do think they can get into a position to win and cover.

It is hard to really go against Iowa State who have thrived as the underdog, but Notre Dame are 4-1 against the spread in their last five when favoured playing on a neutral field. It might take one or two big plays in the Fourth Quarter to separate the teams and I think that is where I give Notre Dame enough of an edge to look for them cover.


LSU Tigers vs Oklahoma Sooners Pick: The first of the College Football PlayOff Semi Final games is played at the Peach Bowl in Atlanta and it features the Number 1 team LSU Tigers and the Number 4 Oklahoma Sooners. Unsurprisingly the former are big favourites having completed an unbeaten regular season in the SEC West and going on to win the Conference Championship Game by dominating the Georgia Bulldogs.

The Tigers will be more familiar with the surroundings of the Peach Bowl and that is an advantage to add to what looks like the more talented team.

However it would be foolish to sleep on the Oklahoma Sooners who have experienced the College Football PlayOffs and have dealt with the pressure at this time of the season which is unfamiliar to the LSU Tigers. The Sooners have lost all three Semi Final games played, although they have not been led by a National Champion Quarter Back like Jalen Hurts before.

Jalen Hurts led the Sooners to a 12-1 record this season and they earned their spot in the PlayOff by beating the Baylor Bears in the Big 12 Championship Game. They have not looked as strong as the other three teams in the PlayOffs though and I think it would be a huge upset if the Sooners are able to see off LSU, and they have been beaten by SEC opponents in each of the last two seasons when entering the post-season.

Oklahoma have to find a way to make sure they are moving the ball Offensively against the one criticism the Tigers have faced all season and that is the Defensive unit. For a long time LSU were not trending towards the Number 1 Ranking because of the amount of yards and points they were giving up, but they have stepped up their play in the last three games including the SEC Championship Game and it will be a real test for Oklahoma who have been inconsistent on the Offensive side of the ball.

Running the ball is going to be a real test for the Oklahoma Offensive Line, especially as the Tigers will be brining in an improved SEC Line to the table. Jalen Hurts can make one or two plays with his legs, but he won't be a surprise to LSU who will remember him from his time at Alabama and I think they will be trying to keep Hurts in the pocket and force him to beat them through the air.

I expect Hurts will be able to make some plays, but LSU's Secondary have really improved in the last few weeks of the regular season. If Oklahoma can't establish the run, LSU will be able to tee off with their pass rush in third and long spots and that will make it very difficult for the Sooners to win this game.

At least they have a Quarter Back who has made plays at the very highest level in College Football and has shown he thrives in the moment. That will give Oklahoma belief, but they will have to try and match the confidence that the LSU Tigers are playing with.

Joe Burrow leads the Tigers at Quarter Back and he is off a season in which he almost threw for 5000 passing yards and almost 50 Touchdown passes. It has moved him from perhaps being a low First Round NFL Draft Pick to likely the Number 1 Overall Pick, but Burrow won't be satisfied unless he can go into the pro game as a National Champion.

An improved Oklahoma Defensive unit has been a real boost for the team this season, but slowing down the Tigers is next to impossible. The best way is going to be to extend drives on the Offensive side of the ball and keep Burrow and company on the sidelines, but the Sooners will also believe their improved performance Defensively will give them a chance.

One big boost for the Sooners is that the Tigers starting Running Back Clyde Edwards-Helaire looks to be trending towards missing this game. Even if he is available, Edwards-Helaire is going to be far from at 100% and I think that is going to be a boost for the Sooners as they try and stall some drives.

I still would expect Joe Burrow to have a very good game as he throws to some of the more talented players in College Football, but getting him in third and long would be a win for the Sooners. From there they have a pass rush that can at least try and rattle the Heisman winner, but no team have been able to shut down the Tigers Offensively and I don't think this one will be any different.

LSU have not just been winning games, but they have been covering the spread no matter where it has sat. I do like the Oklahoma Sooners as the underdog in this one though as I look for Jalen Hurts to show the bigger the occasion the bigger the performance he can put together.

There are plenty of points being given to the underdog in this one and I think the opportunity of a backdoor cover is available at the very least. Last year Oklahoma were beaten by 11 points against the Alabama Crimson Tide, and I would not be surprised to see a similar margin this time as the LSU Tigers progress, but have a rare fail to cover.

It's not easy opposing them considering what we have seen from the Tigers this season, but I will look for the underdog to show their bite is worse than their bark in this one.


Ohio State Buckeyes vs Clemson Tigers Pick: Up until the Championship Week it looked like the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Clemson Tigers were going to be on opposite sides of the PlayOff bracket. The Buckeyes were not as dominant as the LSU Tigers in their Championship Game which meant a drop from Number 1 to Number 2 in the Rankings and that means a Fiesta Bowl clash with the defending National Champions Clemson in this Semi Final.

Both teams finished the 2019 season with 13-0 records, but once you get to this stage of the season anything short of a National Championship will be considered a disappointment.

Ohio State have looked the better team for much of the season, but you can't overlook the experience the Tigers have picked up and they have arguably the best player in College Football who is looking better and better in each passing week.

Trevor Lawrence is almost certainly going to end up as the Number 1 Overall Pick in the NFL Draft when he is eligible to to declare at the end of next season, but he can add to his growing reputation by leading Clemson to back to back National Championships. It was a slow start to the 2019 season for Lawrence and I think the whole team might have been guilty of some complacency, but the narrow win over the North Carolina Tar Heels added to the continued disrespect felt by the players by not being Ranked in the top two by the PlayOff Committee has seen much improved performances.

Lawrence has 20 Touchdown passes and no Interceptions in his last six games and he was so strong in the post-season in 2018. All season the Ohio State Defensive unit have been amongst the very best in College Football, but the last three games saw some holes being exploited and I do think Trevor Lawrence can showcase his talent and why he is considered such a top prospect heading into the NFL.

Travis Etienne is a very strong complement to the passing game and he has been running the ball very hard. The Clemson Offensive Line has opened up nice holes for Etienne, and he is another I think might be looking forward to taking on the Buckeyes who did end the season giving up a few more yards per carry than they have averaged throughout the year.

Ohio State will still believe they have the Defense to keep them in this game, but Clemson won't be worried about the capabilities of their own Defensive unit playing in this game. They have only allowed more than 14 points twice this season, although you do have to point out that the Buckeyes is the best Offensive team Clemson will have faced by some distance.

Like Clemson, Ohio State will know the importance of establishing the run and making sure there is a balance to their Offensive game-plan. JK Dobbins has had a strong season at Running Back, but he is going up against a stout Defensive Line which has not given up a lot of yards on the ground and it is going to be difficult for Ohio State to have a lot of success pounding the ball.

It is even more difficult if Justin Fields is still restricted in his movement having played with a knee brace in the Big Ten Championship Game. The Quarter Back relies on his scrambling ability, and he believes he is back to 85% of his health in the knee, but if Fields is unable to do that as he likes it could be very difficult for the Buckeyes to have any Offensive consistency.

Justin Fields is going to be facing a tough Clemson Secondary and an inability to move away from pressure is going to put the Ohio State Offensive Line under a strain from the Tigers pass rush.

That could be the key difference on the day between these teams and adds to the edge given to the Tigers who have been dealing with the PlayOffs for some time and know exactly what to expect.

Ohio State are a tough underdog to beat, but Clemson are 9-1 against the spread in their last ten Bowl Games and Dabo Swinney has been using the 'us against the world' mentality to strong effect. I think the injury to Justin Fields does hurt the Buckeyes in this one and I have long thought Clemson are the best team in College Football which makes them the team to get behind here.

I expect one or two big Defensive plays from the Tigers to give them the momentum in this one and backing the favourite to cover the small line is the play.

MY PICKS: Buffalo Bulls - 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Utah State Aggies - 6.5 Points @ 1.91 Sky Bet (1 Unit)
Central Michigan Chippewas + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Victor (1 Unit)
Georgia Southern Eagles - 3.5 Points @ 1.76 Bet365 (1 Unit)
Florida Atlantic Owls + 3.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Appalachian State Mountaineers - 16.5 Points @ 1.91 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Temple Owls + 4.5 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)
Wake Forest Demon Deacons + 3.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Oklahoma State Cowboys + 6.5 Points @ 1.95 Bet Fred (1 Unit)
Notre Dame Fighting Irish - 3.5 Points @ 2.00 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Oklahoma Sooners + 13.5 Points @ 1.91 Paddy Power (1 Unit)
Clemson Tigers - 2 Points @ 1.91 William Hill (1 Unit)

Bowl Update: 5-7, - 2.28 Units (12 Units Staked, - 19% Yield)

Week 15: 6-3, + 2.45 Units (9 Units Staked, + 27.22% Yield)
Week 14: 4-5, - 1.22 Units (9 Units Staked, - 13.56% Yield)
Week 13: 4-3, + 0.64 Units (7 Units Staked, + 9.14% Yield)
Week 12: 6-3, + 2.53 Units (9 Units Staked, + 28.11% Yield)
Week 11: 5-3, + 1.55 Units (8 Units Staked, + 19.38% Yield)
Week 10: 4-1, + 2.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 54.60% Yield)
Week 9: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.43% Yield)
Week 8: 4-4-1, - 0.47 Units (9 Units Staked, - 5.22% Yield)
Week 7: 3-3, - 0.24 Units (6 Units Staked, - 4% Yield)
Week 6: 2-5, - 3.18 Units (7 Units Staked, - 45.42% Yield)
Week 5: 6-1, + 4.40 Units (7 Units Staked, + 62.86% Yield)
Week 4: 3-2, + 0.73 Units (5 Units Staked, + 14.60% Yield)
Week 3: 3-5, - 2.18 Units (8 Units Staked, - 27.25% Yield)
Week 2: 5-7, - 2.57 Units (12 Units Staked, - 21.42% Yield)
Week 1: 3-2, + 0.67 Units (5 Units Staked, + 13.40% Yield)

Season 2019: 60-52-1, + 2.66 Units (113 Units Staked, + 2.35% Yield)

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