Man oh man, what an awesome college football season it was. And, for the final time of the year I can say: It’s Thursday, and you know what that means. It’s time to make some college football picks!
Now look, I’ll be the first to admit that betting bowl games is completely, 10,000 percent different than betting regular season games. In bowl games you’ve got to factor in a million different things. How motivated the team you’re betting is? Which star players are sitting out? Did a team lose its head coach, or key assistants?
Again, it’s a total crap shoot. And all the normal metrics we use to determine the best bets during the regular season should be taken with a grain of salt here. Therefore, bet these games at your own peril, and – more than at any point in the regular season – trust your own gut. If there are other games that you like more than these, bet them. If you think I’ve completely mis-evaluated a game, take the other side. In bowl season, it really is one of those deals where up is down, and nothing is as it seems.
Of course, with that said, I am in fact a man of the people, which means that I’m still giving you these bowl picks. We’ve got to give the people what they want, after all!
As always, the picks are provided by our good friends at MyBookie, and remember, if you’re gambling this bowl season, make sure to sign up through MyBookie. If you use the promo code “TORRES” they’ll give you a 100 percent sign-up bonus, meaning that for every dollar you spend, they give you a dollar for free.
Also note that there are some big games (the Rose Bowl, the Orange Bowl) that I’ve simply stayed away from. Right now I’m only taking the games that I feel fully confident in.
Now, let’s get to the picks!
Holiday Bowl: No. 22 USC (+2 ½) vs. No. 16 Iowa, Friday, December 27th, 8:00 p.m. ET (San Diego)
Unless you live in Los Angeles, you can’t fully understand the disdain that USC fans have for Clay Helton. I’m not talking like “LSU fans frustrated with Les Miles in the final few years” kind of disdain. I’m talking that (outside me) there isn’t one, single person in the local media (let alone the fan-base) that believes the school should have kept him as a head coach.
Granted, I’m not saying that he’s Nick Saban or anything. But the guy just went 8-4, and went to back-to-back New Year’s Five bowl games in the 2016 and 2017 seasons. And in a year where you would have owed him $20 million in buyout money, and there were no good candidates other than Urban Meyer – (who the school President didn’t want) I just don’t think it’s awful to bring back a guy who again went 8-4.
So why do I bring this all up? Because for whatever you think about Helton, he has done an incredible job of getting his players to block out the noise, block out the negativity and just perform when they step on the field. And I think they do it one more time here.
When it comes to this matchup, all you need to know is that athletically, Iowa hasn’t seen a team all season with the size and speed of USC’s wide receivers all season. Seriously, they faced one Top 40 offense in all of college football, and that was Iowa State back in September. This will also be the healthiest that USC’s much maligned defense will be all season.
Of all the bets this weekend this is one of my favorites. Take the Trojans and Clay Helton, if only to piss the haters off.
Cotton Bowl: No. 17 Memphis (+7) vs. No. 10 Penn State, Saturday, December 28th, 12:00 p.m. ET (Dallas)
Speaking of my favorite bets, how about MY Memphis Tigers in this year’s Cotton Bowl.
Why do I like Memphis so much? The reason is simple: All Memphis does is score points.
Want a crazy stat on the Tigers? The last time they scored under 28 points was back in… August, in Week 1 against Ole Miss. Since then, they’ve scored at least 28 points in every game, have topped 30 points 10 times, 40 points eight times and 50 points three times. That’s a good sign to me against a Penn State team which simply isn’t built to score a bunch points, or go score for score with anyone.
Then also, there’s this: Normally I’d be concerned that the Tigers will be playing their first game following the departure of Mike Norvell to Florida State. But in this case, I actually think it works to their advantage, after Memphis named top assistant Ryan Silverfield as the school’s new head coach. With Silverfield now in charge, not much will change behind the scenes. And the players will want to play hard for him and prove that the school made the right decision in keeping him.
I could actually see a scenario where Memphis wins this game outright. But to be safe, grab the points and the Tigers here.
College Football Playoff Semifinal: No. 4 Oklahoma (+14) vs. No. 1 LSU (UNDER 76), Saturday, December 28th, 4:00 p.m. ET, (Atlanta)
I’ll be honest: It took me a while to buy into Joe Burrow and LSU, and it cost me a lot of money (Woops!) in the process. Therefore, I’m hesitant to go against the Tigers here, as they’ve made me look stupid all season long.
Still, there are a few reasons I like Oklahoma to keep things close.
One, there are the historical factors in their favor, the fact that the No. 1 seed has never won the College Football Playoff (incredible, but true) and also that Heisman Trophy winners historically have struggled in bowl games. The wear and tear of travel, media interviews and being away from the team is a real thing for whoever takes home the Heisman. That could be especially true this season, where there is one less week between the end of the season and the start of the playoff.
More importantly when it comes to LSU, there is the health of running back Clyde Edwards-Hellaire, who is dealing a hamstring injury that could limit him in this game. For all the talk of Burrow’s successful season what gets underappreciated is that Edwards-Hellaire is actually the heartbeat of this offense with almost 1,300 yards rushing.
Yet you know why I like Oklahoma to keep things close? Because of Oklahoma. They’re led by a senior in Jalen Hurts who has played in these big games, and the Sooners themselves are no strangers to the bright lights of the playoff. This is their third straight playoff appearance, and I’m guessing that they’re tired of hearing how they “don’t belong” because they haven’t won a game yet. Honestly, how motivated do you think they’ll be after hearing for a month that they have no shot in this game?
I’m not sure if they’ll win outright, but they’ll do enough to cover the two touchdowns they’re currently getting.
College Football Playoff Semifinal: No. 3 Clemson (-2) vs. No. 2 Ohio State: Saturday, Dec. 28th, 8:00 p.m. ET (Phoenix)
Speaking of “Tired of Hearing of they Don’t Belong,” I present you the Clemson Tigers. Clemson is back for their fifth straight playoff appearance, with an edgy Dabo Swinney to boot, with the normally mild-mannered coach angry his team isn’t getting more respect.
In the case of the Tigers I actually think it’s legit. I get that their schedule wasn’t tough, but that’s not Clemson’s fault (as much as it is the ACC’s) and I think they come out with a point to prove in this game. It also concerns me a bit that following Ohio State’s Big Ten title game victory over Wisconsin, Buckeye coach Ryan Day spent the postgame politicking for the No. 1 seed in the playoff and complaining that they were stuck with the No. 2.
Speaking of Ohio State, and this is no disrespect to the Buckeyes – who’ve been incredible this season – but they have struggled out of the gate the last few games. I’m not sure if they’re reading their press clippings or what, but they gave up 16 points in the first half to Michigan before pulling away in the third quarter, and fell behind to Wisconsin at halftime of the Big Ten title game.
If they come out flat against Trevor Lawrence and Clemson, I’m not sure they’ll be able to recover. Because of it I like the Tigers to advance to another championship game.
Alamo Bowl: No. 11 Utah (-7) vs. Texas: Tuesday, December 31st, 8:00 p.m. ET (San Antonio)
It’s Rocking New Year’s Eve with Tom Herman, and what’s better than that!
I’m kidding of course, but this is one of those games where it feels like there is an obvious play: Utah was one game away from potentially making the College Football Playoff. And because of it they’re going to come out flat, against a Texas team with something to prove after a disappointing season.
So take the Longhorns, right? Well, I’m not so sure.
Instead, I like Utah here for two reasons.
One, historically, Kyle Whittingham is one of the best bowl coaches in postseason history. He’s 11-2 overall, giving him the highest win percentage of any coach who has ever coached in more than 10 postseason games. Admittedly, he has never coached in a game with
this much of a letdown factor. But that’s still pretty incredible, right?
More importantly though, I like Utah because of the uncertainty with Texas.
Yes, the players have something to prove. But one thing that isn’t getting talked about enough is the wild, house cleaning Tom Herman did after the season. He fired defensive coordinator, fired his passing game coordinator and demoted his offensive coordinator.
That’s a lot of new voices for players to hear, as they get ready for this game. And the biggest reason I think Utah wins with ease.
Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Michigan vs. No. 13 Alabama (-7 ½): Wednesday, January 1, 12:00 p.m. ET (Orlando)
This is another game where I don’t believe the “Motivation Factor” will be much of a factor at all.
Look, I get the argument of “How can Alabama be fired up to play in this game?” but if you’ve followed closely, I actually think it’s the opposite. Yes, a few Alabama guys have chosen not to play. But the vast majority of draft eligible players who could have sat out have decided not to, and they’re basically saying “Let’s finish our careers in style.” Honestly, seeing comments from guys like star wide receiver Jerry Jeudy is refreshing.
Still, as much as this is about Alabama’s motivating factors, it’s also about Michigan.
Anyone who reads my work knows that I can be at times, a bit of a Jim Harbaugh apologist. I truly believe he’s done about as well as anyone can at Michigan in this day and age.
At the same time, this is just the kind of game that the Wolverines always lose under Harbaugh. Michigan has now lost three straight bowl games, all against teams from the SEC footprint (Florida State, South Carolina and Florida last year), and the one thing that gives them fits, are fast and explosive offensive playmakers.
Well, there might not be a more explosive wide receiver core in the history of college football than Alabama’s, with Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, Devonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle.
I love Harbaugh. But this could get ugly early.
Sugar Bowl: No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 5 Georgia (-6): Wednesday, January 1, 8:00 p.m. ET, (New Orleans)
Anyone who follows my work knows that there is no bigger punching bag for your boy AT than Kirby Smart’s Georgia Bulldogs. I’ve never seen a team or program get more credit, for winning fewer big games than Georgia.
Yet even I can sniff out when Georgia simply has a stylistic advantage. And this is one of those games.
First off, with no disrespect intended, what is Baylor’s best win this season? They lost to Oklahoma twice, so who is their actual best win?
It’s either Kansas State or Oklahoma State, neither of which is exactly a juggernaut.
Beyond that though, you know what concerns me entering this game? That Baylor offense.
While their matchup was close in the Big 12 title game, let’s never forget that Baylor basically got all its offense off two plays. The Bears finished the game with just 265 total yards, and 114 of them came on two plays. Which means that for the rest of regulation and overtime, they put up a total of 151 yards, and did it against a bad Oklahoma defense. With starting quarterback Charlie Brewer not expected back for this game, I have a hard time imagining it will get better.
I’ve been critical of Georgia. But for this particular game, I believe they win, and win convincingly.
Hope everyone had a great Christmas, and enjoy bowl season!
And remember, if you're going to wager on these games or any others, make sure to use MyBookie. Put in the promo code "TORRES" at checkout, and you automatically receive a 100 percent sign-up bonus.