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A short list of games round out the first week of bowl season. This weekend will see a rare intersection of the college and pro schedule with three bowls Saturday coinciding with Colts-Ravens (3:30 p.m.) and Vikings-Packers (7:30 p.m.) followed by the NFL's full slate and a lone bowl on Sunday.
The tail end of the regular season always attracted a mix bag of NFL fans: in addition to the diehards, a small number of contrarians (although we'd prefer realists) perversely root for their squad to bomb and thus improve draft position (ahemBEARSahem), fans of teams in the hunt watch with one eye on the scoreboard particularly for teams still technically in contention due to the NFL's arcane tie-breaking rules, and, even otherwise meaningless games draw passionate interest from fantasy owners. (For most fantasy leagues the playoff championship culminates this weekend.)
However we find another aspect of the overlapping schedules most intriguing: putting action on pro and college "teasers." (See some examples here.) Love the dogs? Tease the Colts (+19.5) with Army (+12.5) on Saturday. Prefer frontrunners? Buy the Patriots (-11.5) down to -5.5 and Toledo to a Pick (favored by -6.5). The latter looks especially attractive: a two-team tease gets you a 6 and 6.5 swing, asking an otherwise healthy favorite (Toledo) just to win and dropping an otherwise intimidating spread (Patriots) to under one touchdown. (Check this out for more on teaser strategy.) Don't even get us started on three-league teasers: with the NBA's marquee match-ups on Christmas day, the number of options start to multiply exponentially. Of course, you're exposed to greater risk. Even a Push in any game is a loss.
Of course, if you see an otherwise live teaser bet headed south in the second game, you can always hedge at halftime . . . or if you're a high-risk, high-reward bettor, put your money on parlays like these. The books love parlays (especially with three teams or more) almost as much as Super Bowl prop bets because suckers tend to flush cash on longshots. But never mind that. Betting is easy! You just have to pick the right side!
As we go to press, The Birmingham Bowl (at Legion Field in you-know-where) has kicked with slight 'dog Texas Tech (+2) getting out to a strong start over South Florida. Bowls can be equalizers. Typically a team with a great record (9-2) like South Florida will look like a no-brainer over an opponent that squeaked in like Texas Tech (at 6-6). But examine those nine wins. Only one (versus Temple) came against a team with a winning record. Yuck.
Texas Tech enters the Birmingham with a mediocre record but plenty of experience against legit competition. The Red Raiders faced nine teams now in the postseason (albeit with only three wins) and finished 3-3 ATS and won twice outright when getting points. Look for similar incongruities as we progress through the remaining schedule of lesser-known bowl games leading up to the premier games and presumably better-paired match-ups.
The Lockheed Armed Forces Bowl
San Diego State Aztecs (-6.5) vs. Army Black Knights
Saturday, December 23, 2:30 p.m. ESPN (Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth, TX)
We've always liked the Aztecs but picking against the Cadets seems downright un-American. And if 2017 taught us anything, it's that Americanness is super important. We aren't worried because our ancestors were nursed by bald eagles and swaddled in Old Glory. But unless you were raised by Uncle Sam on a strict diet of apple pie and lulled to sleep each evening to "God Bless America," you had better take Army. Rumor has it that the NSA is monitoring online betting sites and SDSU backers should expect unwelcome Christmas guests asking pointed questions.
CFR pick: Whatever. San Diego State's offense fields a deadly ground attack featuring Rashaad Penny, the nation's leading runner with 2,027 yards, and a change-of-pace back most squads would love to have as a primary option: Juwan Washington gained 715 yards recording seven touchdowns. Go ahead, deport us. Go Aztecs!
The Chicken: SDSU by 8
The Dollar General Bowl
Appalachian State Mountaineers (-6.5) vs. Toledo Rockets
Saturday, December 23, 6:30 p.m. ESPN (Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL)
As a region, Appalachia doesn't have much going for it. How can we not root for the upstart Mountaineers? ASU reached FBS status just four short years ago yet is going bowling for the third consecutive season including last year's Camilia Bowl, which featured this exact same match-up.
CFR pick: We like the Mountaineers to repeat and will lay the points.
The Chicken: Not a beast renowned for sentimentality or many other human emotions (other than orneriness) the Chicken likes Appalachian State too, by 13.
The Hawai'i Bowl
Fresno State Bulldogs (-1.5) vs. Houston Cougars
Sunday, December 24, 7:30 p.m. ESPN (Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI)
Hard to believe either team will be too focused playing on a glorified vacation. Among the first items on the agenda for Wednesday, for example: a luau featuring a joint hula dance.
CFR pick: Let's make this fluffy occasion interesting shall we? We'll tease a pair underdogs to get the Cougars (Fresno is jinxed, with two losses in recent Hawaiian bowl games) up to +7.5 and the Seattle Seahawks way up (!) to +10.5 over the Dallas Cowboys.
The Chicken: Houston by 19
Merry Christmas. Apparently we're saying that again.
* The World's Greatest College Football Report's Bowl Preview Part 1. Keywords: AutoNation, Dreamstyle Remodeling, Las Vegas, Mountain Dew Mouth, North Texas Mean Green, Raycom, Troy Trojans.
* The World's Greatest College Football Report's Bowl Preview Part 2. Executives at Cheribundi no doubt would have preferred a more competitive game. Having signed on as the bowl sponsor until 2019, Cheribundi needed the contest to attract at least some marginal attention to bolster the awareness of its tart cherry beverages nationwide.
* The World's Greatest College Football Report's Bowl Game Preview Part 3. In this world of uncertainty, the Potato Bowl remains our rock.
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