Ward, Houston among betting favorites to early slate of bowl games

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Led by quarterback Greg Ward Jr. the Houston Cougars boast wins against Louisville and Oklahoma this season, but they have a tough matchup against the San Diego State Aztecs in the Las Vegas Bowl.

Saturday’s slate of bowl games includes Houston being listed as a 3.5-point favorite against the San Diego State Aztecs at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. Houston is 1-6 against the spread in their last seven games, but 7-0 straight-up in their last seven games after losing as a favorite. The Mountain West-champion Aztecs, who boast 2,000-yard rusher Donnel Pumphrey, are 5-2 SU in their last seven games against AAC competition.

Ward directs a Houston attack that averages 38 points, 459 yards and 301.9 passing yards per game, but is turnover-prone. The Aztecs lead the country with 22 interceptions. Paced by Pumphrey, the Aztecs pound out more than 273 rushing yards per game, but Houston is No. 2 in the nation (behind only Alabama) in yards allowed per rush. Aztecs quarterback Christian Chapman typically isn’t asked to step out of his comfort zone as a game manager.

The New Mexico Lobos are listed as seven-point favorites against the UTSA Roadrunners in the New Mexico Bowl on their home field, University Stadium in Albuquerque. The Lobos are 8-2 SU and 4-6 ATS in their last 10 games as a home favorite. They lead the country in rushing thanks to the tandem of 1,000-yard rushers Teriyon Gipson and Teriyon Owens. The Roadrunners, led by linebackers La’Kel Bass and Marcus Davenport, are one of the Top 10 teams at generating turnovers.

The Appalachian State Mountaineers are favored by one point against the Toledo Rockets in the Camellia Bowl. The matchup at Montgomery, Alabama’s Cramton Bowl pits Toledo’s Logan Woodside, the country’s second-most efficient passer, against Appalachian State’s defense which is the sixth-most efficient against the pass, with 20 interceptions. The Mountaineers are 8-0 when Marcus Cox rushes for 100 yards this season and Toledo is average at containing the run.

The Arkansas State Red Wolves are 5.5-point favorites against the Central Florida Golden Knights in the Cure Bowl, in which UCF will be playing close to home at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. The Red Wolves, 1-6 ATS in their last seven games against the AAC, face a challenge against AAC defensive player of the year Shaquem Griffin and the 10 senior starters on the Golden Knights defense. Central Florida is 7-3 ATS in their last 10 games.

And the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles are 3.5-point favorites against the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in the New Orleans Bowl. Each team is middling defensively, but quarterback Nick Mullens and 1,300-yard rusher Ito Smith give Southern Miss, which is 10-2 SU in its last 12 games against Sun Belt teams, the edge in scoring punch. Ragin’ Cajuns quarterback Anthony Jennings is the second-least prolific passer in the Sun Belt.

Alabama the Betting Favorite against Georgia in CFP Championship Game

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It has been all or nothing when the Alabama Crimson Tide have a betting line as tight as the one Nick Saban’s team faces against the Georgia Bulldogs in the national title game.

Alabama is a four-point favorite against Georgia with a 45.5-point total in the College Football Playoff Championship Game matchup at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. The all-SEC tilt takes place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Monday.

The OddsShark College Football Database has turned up an odd pattern with Alabama: it is 4-4 straight-up and against the spread in its last eight games as a favorite of 5.5 or fewer points, alternating covers with outright defeats (the most recent instance was its loss against Auburn in November, for what that is worth). Georgia is 3-1 SU and 4-0 ATS over the last two seasons as an underdog of 5.5 or fewer points.

Going against Alabama means setting aside its 24-1 SU record in its last 25 games against SEC teams, as well as the 11-0 SU record of Saban-coached teams against opponents led by any of his former assistant coaches. Georgia, guided by Kirby Smart (a former Alabama defensive coordinator), won as an underdog against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl on Monday and it is 10-0 SU in its last 10 games after winning as an underdog.

Georgia, which is 13-1 SU and 10-4 ATS, will be trying to beat Alabama at its own game, relying offensively on a lethal rushing game built around their Nick Chubb-Sony Michel rushing tandem and a defense led by OLB Roquan Smith.

The typical formula to beat Alabama begins and ends with transcendent quarterback play – think Clemson and Deshaun Watson in the 2016 championship, or college-level Johnny Manziel in 2012. Bulldogs QB Jake Fromm will be trying to be the first true freshman QB to win a national title since 1985 (Hurts nearly did so last season).

It seems like a tall order for a run-based offense to succeed against Alabama, which allows just 2.8 yards per rush (second-lowest nationally). But Georgia is much more efficient than Clemson.

Alabama, which is 12-1 SU and 6-7 ATS overall, got a major statement during the Sugar Bowl from its offensive line, which held up well against a vaunted Clemson defensive line, but Georgia’s defense grades out better statistically than Clemson’s. Hurts, who was turnover-free against Clemson, will need to show enough of a passing threat to keep Smith and fellow OLB Lorenzo Carter honest, rather than selling out to stop the run.

The Crimson Tide does have an ace in the hole – the hole perhaps being in the deep middle of the Georgia secondary – in that WR Calvin Ridley will be the most talented receiver on the field on Monday. Bulldogs FS J.R. Reed will have the critical task of containing Ridley.

Alabama’s running back combo of Damien Harris and Bo Scarbrough might not be as well-known as their Bulldogs counterparts. However, like Georgia, Alabama is in the top 10 nationally in overall rushing and yards per carry.

Alabama is only 1-4 ATS in its last five games in January. However, the smallest line in any of those games was 6.5 points.

The Crimson Tide are No. 1 in the nation in scoring defense, while the Bulldogs are No. 4 in fewest points allowed despite playing in the highest-scoring Rose Bowl (102 total). There are some pronounced over trends, though. The total has gone over in five of Georgia’s last seven games against its conference. The total has also gone over in five of Alabama’s last six games in January.

 

New Year’s Six Bowl Games: Betting Lines and Trends for Matchups

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Stars come and go, but if trends are any indication, Alabama and Clemson’s rubber match should have plenty of scoring and a down-to-the-wire finish.

The Alabama Crimson Tide, led by quarterback Jalen Hurts, are three-point betting favorites at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com against the Clemson Tigers in the Sugar Bowl  matchup that will cap off the New Year’s Six slate of bowl games on January 1.

Alabama nabbed the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff and a rematch with defending national champion Clemson at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans despite losing its regular-season finale against archrival Auburn. Alabama is 11-1 straight-up in its last 12 games after a loss. However, the Tide are a mere 2-6 against the spread in their last eight games after losing as a favorite.

Clemson is 5-3 SU and 7-1 ATS as an underdog over the last four seasons. The total has gone over in Clemson’s last four games in January. The total has also gone over in five of Alabama’s last six games against the Atlantic Coast Conference.

In the first semifinal, the Georgia Bulldogs are 2.5-point favorites against the Oklahoma Sooners in the Rose Bowl matchup at Pasadena, California, on Monday. Georgia is 1-3 ATS in its last four games on a three-game SU win streak. Oklahoma is 5-1 ATS in its last six games. The total has gone under in five of Georgia’s last seven games against the Big 12. The total has gone under in seven of Oklahoma’s last eight games against the SEC.

The winning teams advance to the national championship game, which takes place at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on January 8.

Also Monday, the Auburn Tigers are 9.5-point favorites against the UCF Golden Knights with a 67-point total in the Peach Bowl, a matchup that is also based in Atlanta. Auburn, whose title hopes were dashed with a loss against Georgia in early December, is 9-1 SU in its last 10 games after a loss. Central Florida is 4-1 ATS in its last five games as an underdog. The total has gone under in seven of Central Florida’s last eight games against the SEC.

The Wisconsin Badgers are a 4.5-point favorite against the Miami Hurricanes with a 45.5-point total in the Orange Bowl, which is Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Wisconsin is 4-1 ATS in its last five games. Miami is 1-7 SU in its last eight games in December. The total has gone UNDER in nine of Miami’s last 10 games.

The Penn State Nittany Lions are a two-point favorite against the Washington Huskies with a 55-point total in the Fiesta Bowl, which is Saturday at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. Penn State is 10-2 SU and 11-1 ATS in its last 12 games on a three game SU winning streak. Washington is 4-0 SU in its last four games against the Big Ten. The total has gone over in Washington’s last three games.

And the Ohio State Buckeyes are 7.5-point favorites against the USC Trojans with a 65-point total in the Cotton Bowl Classic, which is Friday at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. Ohio State is 11-2 ATS in its last 13 games against the Pac-12. Southern Cal is 1-8 SU and ATS in its last nine games as an underdog. The total has gone over in both eight of Ohio State’s last 10 games and in five of USC’s last seven games.

For more info, picks and a breakdown of this week’s top sports betting news check out the new OddsShark podcast with Jon Campbell and Andrew Avery. Subscribe on iTunes, or check it out at OddsShark.libsyn.com.