Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, December 25, 2018 at 5:00 PM
Fifteen bowls down, twenty-five to go!
Hey, no wonder they love to call this the "most wonderful time of the year" as we're really heating up with College Bowl Mania.
In a moment or two we'll getcha the Three (3) College Bowl Previews set for this day-after-Christmas but let us not "bury the lead" here and that's the playoffs are here this Saturday with #2 Clemson (- 13) squaring off against #3 Notre Dame at 4 p.m. Eastern time in the Cotton Bowl followed by #1 Alabama (- 14) battling #4 Oklahoma at 8 p.m. ET in the Orange Bowl.
Two absolute blowouts? Well, the current Las Vegas betting lines would suggest that and note both chalk sides have taken some money:
Clemson opened as an 11-point fav while 'Bama has moved up a smidge after opening up as a 13.5-point favorite. Just to let y'all know, Alabama's actually 3-4 ATS (against the spread) in any/all playoff games since the inception of the playoffs back in 2014 but that includes a 2-and-oh spread record when in the role of double-digit favorite (see 38-0 over 10-point dog Michigan State in 2015 and then 24-7 over 13-point pup Washington in 2016).
Meanwhile, Clemson - also a playoff regular - has posted a nifty 4-1 ATS mark in these games with the lone playoff spread loss in last year's 24-6 setback to 3.5-point fav Alabama in a national semifinal affair. Interestingly enough, not only has Clemson not been a twin-figure favorite in any of its five playoff games the past three years, but the ACC Tigers have not been a favorite AT ALL in these games (dogs three times against Alabama while covering twice and outright upset winners as pups against both Oklahoma in 2015 and Ohio State in '16).
COLLEGE BOWLMANIA - HERE'S THE WEDNESDAY, DEC. 26 SCHEDULE
FIRST RESPONDERS BOWL - at Dallas, TX
BOSTON COLLEGE (7-5) vs. BOISE STATE (10-3) - 1:30 p.m. ET, ESPN
Bowl historians, take note: Boise State's won seven of its last nine bowls SU (straight-up) since 2009 while going 6-3 ATS (against the spread) in these tilts: If that sort of good run in bowls is to continue here, then the nation's 22nd-best rush defense must get up close and personal with oft-injured BC running back A.J. Dillon (1,108 yards rushing but that's down from his 1,589 ground yards as a frosh in 2017). Dillon's been in and out of the lineup with ankle woes this year and so, if 2-point pup Boston College wants to snag its second bowl win the past three years, then a wobbly pass defense (ranked 96th in the country) better be in tip-top form against Boise State slinger Brett Rypien (3,705 yards passing with 30 TDs). P.S., one of those rather rare bowls games where a Group of 5 team is favored over a Power Conference crew.
QUICK LANE BOWL - at Detroit, MI
MINNESOTA (6-6) vs. GEORGIA TECH (7-5) - 5:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
All the chit-chat regarding this game centers around retiring G-Tech head ball coach Paul Johnson who - by the way - is a collective 65-59-6 ATS ever since he arrived on the scene in Atlanta back in 2008. Johnson's rather antiquated triple option attack still has a place in the high-tech/tempo world of college football as this team ranked first in the land in rushing offense while averaging 335 yards a game and it scored 30-or more points on seven different occasions - in fact, the Yellow Jackets are going against a painfully young Minnesota defense that surrendered 171 yards a game via the ground (ranked 75th among 130 FBS teams). Keep your eyes on Tech QBs TaQuon Marshall and Tobias Oliver who are modern-day magicians with the football. One final spread note: Minny's Golden Gophers have covered their last five consecutive non-Big 10 games while dating back to early 2017 but this is their first bowl game under second-year boss P.J. Fleck.
CHEEZ-IT BOWL - at Phoenix, AZ
TCU (6-6) vs. CALIFORNIA (7-5) - 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Totals players, take note: This is the smallest over/under number on the bowl board - it actually opened at 41 points and has come down to 38.5 points - and keep in mind that TCU needed regular-season-ending back-to-back wins against Baylor and Oklahoma State just to get head coach Gary Patterson into his 16th bowl game in 18 years. Now, TCU wide out Jalen Reagor (1,061 yards receiving and 9 TDs) must be a playmaker deluxe here - even if he's grabbing throws from a third-stringer - while Cal is counting on veteran RB Patrick Laird (2,059 rushing yards these past two seasons) to give the Berkeley bunch a jolt: Cal's scored 17 points or less in half of its games this year and yet still the Golden Bears sport a winning spread mark at 6-5-1 ATS. Dee-fense, dee-fense!