College Football Picks: Top Bowl Games for Fri. & Sat.

Kevin Stott

Tuesday, December 23, 2014 7:03 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 23, 2014 7:03 PM UTC

Illinois and Louisiana Tech both have a number of  talented and speedy skill position players making the Over the pick in the Heart of Dallas Bowl while the Pinstripe Bowl looks like an Under play.

Friday, December 26, 2014
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas
Illinois Fighting Illini vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (Louisiana Tech -6, 58, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), Friday 18:00 (ESPN, 1 p.m. ET/10 a.m. PT): Bet down from its opening number of 62, the Total in this game—now 58 in most places—seems like a decent number to take a shot on the Over on in this Heart of Dallas Bowl between the Big Ten’s Illinois (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) and the Conference USA’s Louisiana Tech (8-5 SU, 10-3 ATS, 8-4 O/U).

College football odds point toward taking a small shot on the Over 58 here, including both teams’ offenses, although with a workhorse RB like Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon (240 rushes, 1,236 yards, 20 TDs), one can see the early money from the Wise Guys drove the number down 4 points with the presumption the Bulldogs will run the ball a bunch—a probably pretty good presumption with Dixon having three straight 100-yard rushing games (106, 137, 156).

But Louisiana Tech and QB Cody Sokol (246 completions, 3,189 yards, 29 TDs, 13 INTs) like to sling the football too and with WRs Trent Taylor (62 receptions, 814 yards, 9 TDs, 13.1 ypc), Carlos Henderson (25 receptions, 476 yards, 4 TDs, 19.0 ypc) and Paul Turner (39 receptions, 476 yards, 4 TDs, 12.2 ypc), the 6-foot-2-inch, 215-pound senior Sokol has some nice targets and Louisiana Tech should score at least couple TDs on the ground and a couple TDs in the air here in Big D on Friday afternoon.

Illinois is led by QB Reilly O’Toole (98 completions, 1,049 yards, 9 TDs) and the Fighting Illini’s signal caller has some talented guys to throw to including freshman sensation WR Mike Dudek (69 receptions, 965 yards, 6 TDs, 14.0 ypc), WR Geronimo Allison (37 receptions, 576 yards, 5 TDs, 14.2 ypc), RB Josh Ferguson (44 receptions, 373 yards, 2 TDs) and WR Martize Barr (19 receptions, 249 yards, 3 TDs, 13.1 ypc). But the Bulldogs are tied for first in the nation with 25 interceptions so O’Toole had best be careful when putting it up in this one.

When these two teams met two years ago in 2012 in Champaign, Illinois committed 6 TOs in a 52-24 loss in a game which went flying Over the Total (54½). And Illinois’s last game (vs. Northwestern) went Over the Total (52) as did Louisiana Tech’s last win (Rice), where the Bulldogs easily rocketed Over the Total (47½) themselves in a 76-31 romp.

Dixon (26 total TDs) will likely be the focus here and should get his yardage and a couple of TDs against the Illini defense which allows 249.6 ypg (sixth worst in NCAAF) and was last in the Big Ten in both Total Defense (464.3 ypg) and Scoring Defense (33.9 ppg), so taking Louisiana Tech as your college football pick in the Money Line (Winner) marketplace at -220 (bet365; Illinois +180) may also be a good idea along with the Over.


Saturday, December 27, 2014
Pinstripe Bowl, Yankee Stadium, Bronx, New York
Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Boston College Eagles (Boston College -2½, 40, Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook), Saturday 21:30 (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET/1:30 p.m. PT): The Bowl season’s representation of paint drying, the Pinstripe Bowl on Saturday afternoon from The House That Ruth Built in The Bronx sees the Big Ten’s Penn State (6-6 SU, 5-6-1 ATS) and the ACC’s Boston College (7-5 SU, 8-4 ATS, 4-7 O/U) locking horns in the game with the lowest Total on the betting board this Holiday Bowl Season. The last time these two played was 10 years ago, and that one went way Under as Penn State won 21-7 and almost all of the trends point toward taking the Under in this one.

Penn State (16-7 ATS L23 on Grass) is somewhat anemic on offense and the Nittany Lions average just 19.8 ppg (115th), but they compensate for that weakness by playing lights out defense and Penn State ranks 7th in the nation in Points Allowed (17.7 ppg) so the Eagles and QB Tyler Murphy (120 completions, 1,526 yards, 11 TDs, 10 INTs) will really have their work cut out for them. Boston College averages 25.9 ppg (84th) on offense and also possesses a tough defense which allows just 20.5 ppg (19th). The weather forecast from a distance for Saturday at Yankee Stadium around 4:30 p.m. ET calls for temperatures around 48° and Partly Cloudy conditions with 82% Humidity and relatively mild (14 mph) Winds.

The aforementioned trends which support backing the Under here—although it’s extremely hard betting an Under in Bowl games with both teams having so much rest and preparation behind them and nothing ahead of them meaning all players can leave everything on the field—include the reality that both Boston College (7-4 Under) and Penn State (7-5 Under) both skewed to the Under this regular season. The Under in Boston College Non-Conference games is 22-7 over the L29 and the Under is 6-2 in the Eagles L8 games as well as 6-2 in Boston College’s L8 played at a Neutral Site. The Under is also an impressive 19-7 in the L26 Non-Conference Penn State games and although not a real strong recommendation, taking the Under in a game the Nittany Lions could very well win (Penn State Money Line +120, Bwin, Skybet) seems worth the smallest-sized shot.

Free NCAAF picks: Illinois-Louisiana Tech Over 58, Penn State-BC Under 40, Nebraska-USC Over 61 (Holiday Bowl, Saturday, ESPN, 8 ET/5 PT)  (Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook)

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