This Saturday is the busiest day remaining for college football. The Division II Championship Game between West Florida and Minnesota State and the FCS Semifinals will be broadcast on the ESPN family of networks, but the games most people are jonesing for are the seven bowl games scheduled to take place throughout the day. This is one of the last days to lean back in your recliner and let the college football wash over you all day, so here’s a primer for those games.
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North Carolina A&T -2.5 vs. Alcorn State, O/U 51.5
Florida A&M would have been the MEAC representative in this game if not for a postseason ban levied by the NCAA in the summer. Instead of seeing the Rattlers in the Celebration Bowl for the first time, we will see the North Carolina A&T Aggies making their fourth trip in five years, and they will be facing the Alcorn State Braves for the third time in that span.
North Carolina A&T has had its way with the SWAC champion in the Celebration Bowl, winning all three of its previous appearances here. However, the Aggies are the weakest they have been in some time. They no longer have extremely gifted athletes like Lamar Raynard or Tarik Cohen, and the offensive line is not as strong without Brandon Parker holding down left tackle. The third time should be the charm for Alcorn State provided Felix Harper doesn’t turn the ball over, making the Braves a nice moneyline play.
New Mexico Bowl
San Diego State -3.5 vs. Central Michigan, O/U 40.5
Buyer beware … this game is going to be tough to watch. The New Mexico Bowl has the lowest total of any game during bowl season, as San Diego State pairs the 127th ranked offense in the nation with the 11th best defense by SP+. Central Michigan is ranked outside the top 70 in both phases of the game by SP+, but there’s a good reason to like the Chippewas here.
Aztecs’ head coach Rocky Long is 4-9 all-time in bowl games during his coaching career. Many of those losses weren’t against great teams, and San Diego State is 3-5 ATS under Long in bowl games.
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Georgia Southern -4 vs. Liberty, O/U 58.5
Hugh Freeze has taken Liberty to a bowl game for the first time in school history, but the Flames played the softest schedule in the country to get to Orlando. Only their win against Buffalo looks good, as their other six victories came against two FCS schools, UMass, New Mexico, and New Mexico State (twice).
The conventional wisdom is that triple option teams underachieve in bowl season considering opponents have time to prepare for the scheme, but that hasn’t played out. Since 2007, the true triple option teams (Army, Air Force, Navy, Georgia Southern, and Paul Johnson’s Georgia Tech) are 28-18 ATS.
Boca Raton Bowl
SMU -3.5 vs. Florida Atlantic, O/U 68.5
The Owls have the benefit of playing a home game on Saturday, but it’s hard to know how motivated Florida Atlantic will be for this game. Teams that are playing under an interim coach have a mixed track record in bowl season, and FAU played in the weakest conference in the FBS this season.
We should see plenty of points since SMU is involved though. Sonny Dykes has built the Mustangs in his image, and the average SMU game has seen almost 75 points scored in 2019. Lane Kiffin may have left Boca Raton, but plenty of offensive minds remain and this game is the most likely shootout on the board.
Arkansas State -2.5 vs. Florida International, O/U 60.5
We have yet to see a blowout in the Camellia Bowl. The largest margin of victory in the history of this bowl was five points, and the five bowl games played thus far have a total MOV of 17 points. Accordingly, the college football betting line for this game is under a field goal, and this is the biggest toss-up on the board for Saturday.
Las Vegas Bowl
Washington -3 vs. Boise State, O/U 49
Chris Petersen will call it a career in Sin City on Saturday with a fitting final game. He will be facing the program he helped put on the map in Boise State, and there are sure to be emotions displayed on the sidelines and in the stands.
The Huskies will be short-handed though with tight end Hunter Bryant declaring early for the NFL Draft and star left tackle Trey Adams sitting out his final collegiate game. Adams has kept Jacob Eason relatively untouched in the pocket, while Bryant has been his favorite receiver throughout 2019, leading to questions surrounding Washington’s offense.
New Orleans Bowl
Appalachian State -17 vs. UAB, O/U 47.5
When the opening bowl game betting odds were released two weeks ago, Appalachian State was the biggest favorite on the board. UAB looked lost in the Conference USA Championship Game against Florida Atlantic, and the Blazers sputtered over the second half of the season.
Although Eli Drinkwitz left Appalachian State after one season to take the job at Missouri, the Mountaineers are still heavy favorites in this game. They have an elite defense that made App State one of the best Group of Five teams in the country, and Zac Thomas is a very good dual threat quarterback. App State has continually showed up in bowl games, winning four straight bowl games coming into the New Orleans Bowl, and their last two victories were by a combined 66 points.