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 betting favorite over Clemson in National Championship

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Led by linebacker Tim Williams and a hellacious defense, the Alabama Crimson Tide have got better at beating oddsmakers’ expectations during their pursuit of a repeat national championship.

Alabama is listed as the 6-point favorite against the Clemson Tigers with a 50.5-point total for the College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Tampa on Monday night at sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com.

Alabama is 7-2 against the spread in its last nine games as a favorite on the college football odds, and is also 4-2 ATS in its last six games when it was favored by 4.5 to 10 points. In last season’s national championship game, though, Clemson accounted for one of the two covers. Clemson is 6-1 SU in its last seven games after losing the previous game in a matchup.

The Tigers, who are 13-1 SU and 7-7 ATS, are once again a worthy challenger to Alabama as Heisman Trophy finalist Deshaun Watson embarks on his last college game before leaving for the NFL.

Watson and RB Wayne Gallman successfully running against the likes of Williams, MLB Rashaan Evans and OLB Reuben Foster could prove difficult, as Alabama has the nation’s No. 1 run defense. The Tigers do have an athletic receiving corps led by WR Mike Williams and TE Jordan Leggett and even Alabama might not be able to completely shut them down.

Watson is coming off a two-interception performance against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl and will need to be disciplined against the takeaway-happy Tide.

The major question about the Crimson Tide, who are 14-0 SU and 10-4 ATS, is how much liberty freshman QB Jalen Hurts will have after the coaching shake-up following the Peach Bowl. Newly arrived offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian will be in his first game calling plays for Hurts after the ouster of Lane Kiffin.

Alabama and LT Cam Robinson can often exert their will in the rushing phase without being complemented by a dynamic passing attack, but Clemson has a stout defense led by DT Carlos Watkins and DE Christian Watkins. The Tigers were able to shut down a more seasoned dual threat QB, Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett, in the Fiesta Bowl.

Alabama’s Bo Scarbrough is a bruising ball carrier who could be essential to tiring out the Tigers defense. Both WR Calvin Ridley and WR ArDarius Stewart have the size and speed to win one-on-one battles downfield – provided Hurts has the time and precision to find them.

Alabama is 8-2 SU and 7-3 ATS in its last 10 games in the postseason. The total has gone UNDER in four of Clemson’s last five games on a Monday. The total has gone UNDER in four of Alabama’s last five games against teams with winning records.

College Football Playoff semifinals: Ohio State, Alabama set as favorites

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While they are the second-best and third-best teams in the country by any measure, Clemson and Ohio State carry some negative against-the-spread trends into the Fiesta Bowl College Football Playoff semifinal this weekend.

The Buckeyes are listed as 3-point favorites against the Tigers with a 58.5-point total, according to sportsbooks monitored by OddsShark.com. In the Peach Bowl, the early semifinal on Saturday, the No. 1-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are 14-point betting favorites against the Washington Huskies with a 52.5-point total.

Ohio State is only 2-6 ATS over their last eight games while Clemson is 1-5 ATS in their last six games against teams with winning records.

Clemson (12-1 SU, 6-7 ATS) is bolstered by NFL- bound QB Deshaun Watson’s passing and a voracious pass rush that has amassed 46 sacks. Football Outsiders rates Ohio State second nationally (after Alabama) in defensive efficiency, and cornerbacks Gareon Conley and Marshon Lattimore won’t be easy pickings for star WR Mike Williams and the other Clemson receivers. The Buckeyes also have the speed to counter Watson’s scrambling.

Ohio State (11-1 SU, 6-6 ATS) is not as explosive offensively as Clemson, and the 11 sacks they allowed on QB J.T. Barrett over their last two games is a troubling trend to take into a matchup against the Tigers. However, with Barrett, RB Mike Weber and H-back Curtis Samuel, the Buckeyes inevitably get scoring opportunities. Clemson’s defense can also struggle to generate turnovers, so there could be some long Ohio State drives on Friday.

The total has gone over in Clemson’s last four games according to the OddsShark College Football Database.

Washington (12-1 SU, 7-6 ATS), led by QB Jake Browning, has the country’s fourth-highest scoring offense while Alabama is first in scoring defense by a fair margin. The only SEC offenses which had success against DE Jonathan Allen, OLB Reuben Foster and the vaunted Alabama defense in the regular season were Arkansas and Mississippi, who run the same fast-paced spread attack as the Huskies. If Washington is up to blocking Allen and fellow DE Dalvin Tomlinson – a big if – it might be able to move the ball.

Alabama (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS) is the deeper team on each side of the ball. The Huskies defense allows only 17 points per game, but has shown vulnerability since the season-ending injuries to MLB Azeem Victor and OLB Joe Mathis. The only QB to defeat Washington this season, Southern Cal’s Sam Darnold, is also a scrambler, somewhat like Crimson Tide QB Jalen Hurts. Hurts has turned the ball over 14 times on fumbles and interceptions and Washington does excel at takeaways.

The Crimson Tide are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games against teams with winning records heading into the Peach Bowl. The total has gone over in seven of Washington’s last 10 games against teams with winning records.