Two of VSiN’s top handicappers dive into betting angles on the New Year’s Eve bowls:
Armed Forces Bowl: Tulsa (-2.5, 45.5) vs. Mississippi State
Reynolds: Mississippi State had a lot of roster turnover during the season as some players did not seem to jibe with new coach Mike Leach nor with his “Air Raid” offense. However, the Bulldogs did improve, covering three of their last four, and they played their best game of the season in the finale with a 51-32 victory over Missouri.
Meanwhile, Tulsa was clearly game in the AAC Championship vs. Cincinnati, but came up short as the Bearcats kicked the winning field goal as time expired. Nonetheless, Tulsa is bowl eligible for the first time since 2016. It should be clearly motivated to get a shot at a team from the SEC. However, it is fair to ask whether the Golden Hurricane left it all on the field against Cincinnati a couple weeks ago. More often than not, the Group of 5 club is the motivated underdog in these spots, but Tulsa comes in as the favorite this time.
Mississippi State has had to hear about how it has the worst record of any bowl team (3-7) and could be more motivated than one would think.
Arizona Bowl: Ball State vs. San Jose State (-10, 63.5)
Tuley: These teams both pulled upsets in the conference title games. Ball State is a Cinderella story, but San Jose State is an even bigger one at 7-0 SU and 6-0-1 ATS and ranked No. 22. The Spartans are led by QB Nick Starkel, a transfer from Texas A&M who lost his starting job to Kellen Mond, has thrown for 1,904 yards, 16 TDs to just four interceptions.
Ball State is without its best player as leading rusher Caleb Huntley opted out before the MAC title game, but sophomore Tye Evans stepped in with 94 rushing yards against Buffalo to pick up the slack. SJSU has the better defense, allowing just 17.9 ppg, though Ball State played in the more wide-open MAC and its defense did step up against Buffalo. San Jose State is 6-1 with the Under while Ball State is 4-3 with the Under, including four of its last five games. With the total at 63.5 points, the lean is to the Under, but the stronger play looks to be Ball State plus the points.
Liberty Bowl: West Virginia (-7, 41.5) vs. Army
Reynolds: Army accepted a bid to play in the Independence Bowl on Oct. 24, but found out on Dec. 20 that the trip would be canceled due to most of the Pac-12 teams opting out from the bowl season. College Football Twitter took up arms for the 9-2 Black Knights being left out of a postseason appearance, but they were not left out for long as Tennessee had to shut down due to COVID-19 and Army took its spot here.
While the men of West Point have been a great story, when you examine the schedule more closely, they have beaten three FCS teams and this is the first shot they will have this season against a Power 5.
Army surely will be motivated, but West Virginia is a big step up in class. The Mountaineers rank sixth nationally in total defense and have had 10 days to prepare for Army’s triple option. Since Army is such a feel-good story, bettors are backing them but now they have become the “public underdog.”
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