It's always tough to handicap totals in bowls because the teams have so much time to prepare for one another. So does that help the offenses or defenses? There's no sure answer. Here's some betting value on NCAA totals for early bowl matchups.
Boca Raton Bowl: Northern Illinois vs Marshall, Dec. 23
This total is set at 64 on our college football odds. This is the first year of this bowl game and will be held at Florida Atlantic University. It also features probably the two best non-Power 5 conference teams to miss the playoffs. Of course there's one spot reserved in the New Year's Six bowls for a non-Power 5 team and Mountain West champion Boise State claimed it. Marshall was unbeaten until a shocking 67-66 overtime loss at home to Western Kentucky in the regular-season finale. The Thundering Herd then played a bit flat the next week in edging Louisiana Tech 26-23 in the Conference USA title game. This will essentially be a homecoming for Marshall senior QB Rakeem Cato, a Miami native. He was named the C-USA Offensive Player of the Year for the second straight season, throwing for 3,622 yards, 37 TDs and 13 picks. He also has rushed for 457 yards and six touchdowns. The four-year starter has all of the school’s career passing records, including 13,798 yards (No. 8 in FBS history) and 128 touchdowns (No. 5). Marshall ranked fifth nationally in averaging 45.1 points per game. Northern Illinois was the Mid-American Conference champion again and closed the season on a seven-game winning streak, thumping Bowling Green 51-17 in the conference title game. The Huskies are a running team, ranking 14th nationally. They put up 32.2 points per game. Marshall and NIU do have a few common opponents. The Herd beat Miami (Ohio) 42-27 on Aug. 30. The Huskies beat Miami 51-41 on Oct. 19.
NCAAF Free Pick: 'Over.' This should be one of the highest-scoring bowl games of the year.
Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Penn State, Dec. 27
This game will be held at Yankee Stadium, and the weather could play a factor; so keep this in mind before placing your college football pick. This is the only bowl game with a total under 40 as it's set at 39.5 at sportsbooks. If you have seen these teams in action, you would know why. The Nittany Lions, who are ecstatic to be playing in any bowl game after the NCAA lifted sanctions earlier this season, are just 115th nationally in scoring at 19.8 points per game. They had eight games in which they scored 21 or fewer -- Baylor often gets that in one quarter. Penn State did win three of those eight games because the defense is very solid, ranking 8th in points. PSU can't run the ball a lick, while Boston College is the opposite. All it can do is run, averaging 251.8 yards per game. The Eagles put up just 132.0 yards a game through the air. Their leading rusher is QB Tyler Murphy, a transfer from Florida. Murphy broke the ACC record for rushing yards by a quarterback (1,079) and scored 10 rushing touchdowns. The BC offense isn't quite as bad as Penn State's (25.9 per game) and the defense not quite as good (20.5 ppg). The BC defense did play very well in close losses to Clemson and Florida State, allowing a combined 37 points to very good offenses.
NCAAF Free Pick: 'Under.' BC's 'over/under' record this season was 4-8, while Penn State's was 5-7.
Belk Bowl: Georgia vs. Louisville, Dec. 30
This game is held in Charlotte and the opening total at sportsbooks is 57. What's so interesting about this matchup between teams that expected to contend for their respective conference titles but came up short? That would be Louisville defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. He was formerly Georgia's highly respected defensive coordinator but jumped to Bobby Petrino's staff at Louisville last January after four seasons with the Dawgs. Grantham's Louisville defense is ranked sixth in the nation, allowing just 293.3 yards per game, and tied for 18th in scoring (20.5 ppg). Georgia's defense, now led by former Alabama and Florida State assistant Jeremy Pruitt, is 20th, allowing 334.8 yards per game, and 25th in scoring (21.3). lf you were wondering, Georgia ranked 78th in scoring defense in Grantham's final season in Athens so maybe he saw the writing on the wall. Louisville has one of the best receivers in the nation in DeVante Parker, while Georgia has one of the best freshmen in running back Nick Chubb. Both sides lost key offensive players to season-ending injuries in November: Louisville QB Will Gardner and Georgia RB Todd Gurley, the former Heisman favorite.
NCAAF Free Pick: 'Under' at BetOnline. Both quarterbacks are moderate question marks.