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


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.