Bowl Pick’em Against The Spread Entry 5

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Oklahoma running back Blake Bell runs in a touchdown against Iowa in the Insight Bowl. A fourth quarter touchdown from Bell provided bettors in Las Vegas a bad beat when the Sooners won 31-14 to cover as 13.5-point favorites

Mon, Jan 2, 2012 (2:05 a.m.)

No one likes to hear bad beat stories.

So go ahead and click the ‘X’ in the upper left corner of the screen — on second thought, just scroll to the picks at the bottom if it’s that big of a deal — because here a few come. This bowl season has been marred with games that leave half of sports book patrons smirking like a teenager who threw eggs at his math teacher’s house and the other half fuming when said teacher’s spouse discovers the damage the next morning.

Nearly one-third of the games thus far, seven out of 23, have qualified as complaint-worthy to that whiny friend who’s always on the wrong side.

Washington blew a 42-24 third quarter lead to lose 67-57 against Baylor in the Valero Alamo Bowl as 9.5-point underdogs. Notre Dame did what it’s presumably done to gamblers since the Grover Cleveland administration by giving up 15 fourth quarter points to Florida State and losing 18-14. The Irish were up 14-3 as 2.5-point underdogs with 15 minutes remaining.

Georgia Tech, Tulsa and Utah State had similar meltdowns in their postseason berths. But the two worst so far? It’s hard to beat Iowa falling 31-14 to Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl or Toledo winning 42-41 to Air Force, but not covering the 3-point spread in the Military Bowl.

Toledo went up 42-35 with five minutes to go and proceeded to let Air Force convert three straight fourth-down opportunities to score once more. The Falcons scoring wasn’t so bad, however, until their kicker missed the extra point. That made an overtime cover out of the question.

Iowa, meanwhile, out-played Oklahoma in the statistics as 13.5-point underdogs and trailed 21-14 with three minutes to play. But after the Sooners booted an understandable field goal, running back Blake Bell ran in a meaningless touchdown with 45 seconds left to doom underdog bettors.

But why were those really the worst so far? Because they affected this blog’s record. My 12-11 record just isn’t far.

Now do you remember how much you hate bad beat stories?

Picks are below and will be updated with new games everyday this week.

TicketCity Bowl: Houston (-7.5) vs. Penn State, over/under: 56.5

Monday 9:00, Cotton Bowl in Dallas, ESPNU

The talk of distractions for the Penn State players is overblown at this point. Time has passed and the Nittany Lions have accepted and adjusted to the h-bomb of scandals that dropped on their campus. Houston, meanwhile, has plenty tugging at its focus. Coach Kevin Sumlin bolted for the Texas A&M job and won’t coach in the game. Penn State has the No. 4 ranked pass defense in the nation. It’s capable of containing Houston’s Case Keenum, one of the best quarterbacks in the nation.

Pick: Penn State +7.5

TaxSlayer.com Gator Bowl: Ohio State (+2) vs. Florida, over/under: 44

Click to enlarge photo

Former Florida coach Urban Meyer appears at a news conference to officially accept the same position at Ohio State.

Monday 10:00, Everbank Field in Jacksonville, Fla., ESPN2

Urban Meyer’s old team vs. Urban Meyer’s new team sure sounds like a convenient marketing point for this game. But mediocre team with rich history vs. mediocre team with rich history is more suitable. Both these teams went 6-6 and didn’t look pretty doing it. But Florida has speed on both sides of the ball — headlined by running backs Chris Rainey and Jeff Demps — that will paralyze Ohio State. The Buckeyes are also 1-9 against the spread when facing SEC teams in bowl games.

Pick: Florida -2

Outback Bowl: Michigan State (+3) vs. Georgia, over/under: 50

Monday 10:00, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, ABC

These two teams met in the 2009 Capital One Bowl and Georgia rolled, 24-12, as 8.5-point favorites. Why would this game be any different? Easy. The Bulldogs aren’t quite as good as they were then — that team was ranked No. 1 in the nation to start the year — and the Spartans are better. Michigan State, which was a field goal away from the Rose Bowl, comes into the game wanting to send a loaded senior class away with a victory. In a tough one to call, the under 50 might be the best bet.

Pick: Michigan State +3

Capital One Bowl: Nebraska (+2.5) vs. South Carolina, over/under: 46

Monday 10:00, Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando, ESPN

The Gamecocks are better than the Cornhuskers in every imaginable way. They’ve beaten better teams. They’ve got a better defense. They’re stronger. They’re faster. It’s almost eerie that some shops opened Nebraska as the favorite. Throughout the season, South Carolina did lose quarterback Stephen Garcia to expulsion and running back Marcus Lattimore to injury. But quarterback Connor Shaw and running back Brandon Wilds have stepped up. They’re under-valued players on an under-valued team.

Pick: South Carolina -2.5

Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (+5.5) vs. Oregon, over/under: 72

Monday 2:00, Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., ABC

A wager isn’t necessary to enjoy this game. The first of the four BCS games might come in as the odds-on favorite for the most exciting matchup. But handicapping is inescapable since this is, after all, a betting blog. Oregon has lost its last two bowl games, while Wisconsin stumbled in a Rose Bowl heartbreaker to TCU last year. Between quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Montee Ball and wide receiver Nick Toon, the Badgers probably have the best trio of offensive skill players in the nation. Contrary to popular belief, Wisconsin’s defense is athletic enough to keep up with Oregon.

Pick: Wisconsin +5.5

Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Stanford (+4) vs. Oklahoma State, over/under: 74.5

Click to enlarge photo

Andrew Luck looks deep in a game earlier this season. Luck hopes to lead Stanford to its second straight BCS bowl game victory against Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl.

Monday 5:30, University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., ESPN

It would feel dirty to bet against Stanford after it treated bettors as royalty all season. The Cardinal opened the year by covering in their first nine games before tapering off a bit and finishing with a 10-2 record against the spread. Oklahoma State was also one of the best teams in the country at proving oddsmakers wrong at a 9-3 against the spread clip. For all the uproar of Oklahoma State missing the BCS National Championship Game, no condolences were sent the way of Stanford. But the Cardinal’s only loss was to a better team, Oregon, instead of Oklahoma State’s clunker against Iowa State. In a perfect world, this is a game to pass. When forced to side one way or the other, however, Andrew Luck sounds like a better option than Brandon Weeden.

Pick: Stanford +4

AllState Sugar Bowl: Michigan (-3) vs. Virginia Tech; over/under: 52

5:30 Tuesday, Superdome in New Orleans, ESPN

The Sugar Bowl is where underdogs have come to fall apart in recent years. In the last five years, four favorites have covered and won — for the most part, won big — in New Orleans. But there’s some discord to which team is the real favorite this year. At least one major Las Vegas sports book, Wynn, opened Virginia Tech with the minus-price. Michigan finished the season stronger, as Clemson blew out Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, and its return to a BCS game is attracting all the attention. But the Hokies were undefeated other than two encounters with the Tigers this year. ACC Player of the Year running back David Wilson is just as dangerous for the Hokies as quarterback Denard Robinson is for the Michigan.

Pick: Virginia Tech +3

Discover Orange Bowl: West Virginia (+3) vs. Clemson; over/under: 61.5

5:30 Wednesday, Sun Life Stadium in Miami, ESPN

The Mountaineers won three straight games by a field goal or less to take the Big East Conference title. It’s a minor miracle they made it to Miami. Clemson won — and more importantly, covered — in each of its first eight games before going on a 1-3 stretch to close the regular season. But that downswing is vastly overrated. It’s always more important to look at a team’s entire résumé. Both teams haven’t played in more than a month. Odds are the Tigers and Mountaineers are going to look more like the fresh teams from the beginning of the season than the worn-out versions seen in November. That’s unfortunate for West Virginia.

Pick: Clemson -3

AT&T Cotton Bowl: Kansas State (+7.5) vs. Arkansas; over/under: 63

5:00 Friday, Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, FOX

Might as well flip a coin, because this is as torn as I’ve been on a bowl game so far this year. There’s plenty to like about Kansas State. The Wildcats are 7-1 against the spread this year. Collin Klein is among the most underrated signal callers in the nation. But they’ve had a rough time defending against the pass, which is Arkansas’ strong suit. The Razorbacks rank in the top 15 in the nation in passing. Before a loss to LSU, Arkansas was ranked as the No. 3 team in the nation. That might not be too far-fetched.

Pick: Arkansas -7.5

Bowl Season Record: 16-14-1 (updated 1/5)

Case Keefer can be reached at 948-2790 or case.keefer@lasvegassun.com. Follow Case on Twitter at twitter.com/casekeefer.

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