Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
The National Finals Rodeo has left town and the hullabaloo over the opening of City Center has subsided. Finally, there is some peace and quiet in Las Vegas.
This, of course, will change next week as the city prepares to ring in the New Year. But for now, the locals will catch their breath during Christmas week, the slowest time the year in this gambling mecca.
Tuesday night’s Las Vegas Bowl is the last major event of this week, and I’m going to do my best to break down not only that game, but the seven others that will take place before my next column.
As always, this comes with a disclaimer of sorts, as my judgment sometimes goes completely haywire.
Take Saturday, for example. I foolishly thought Fresno State would not only win, but cover 12 points against Wyoming. Only later did I realize some guy named Christensen was coaching the Cowboys.
Final from Albuquerque: Wyoming 35, Fresno State 28.
Lesson learned: Never bet against somebody named Christensen.
Here way go:
Las Vegas Bowl — Oregon State has won seven of eight bowl games this decade, including five in a row. They have the unstoppable Rodgers brothers and once the calendar is flipped to October, November or December, Mike Riley is next to impossible to beat. The Beavers are no strangers to the bright lights of Las Vegas, having played the hometown Rebels in September. Everything points toward a rout in favor of Oregon State. Therefore, I’m taking the points and going with the clean-living folks from Brigham Young.
Poinsettia Bowl — Frankly, I can’t figure this California team. They’re 8-4, but when they lose, it’s not even close. The Golden Bears have scored only 30 points in their four losses and have given up a jaw-dropping 145. As for Utah, it has been blown out only once — a 55-28 loss at Texas Christian on Nov. 14. My advice: Play it safe and bet the over.
Hawaii Bowl — Think they miss June Jones in Hawaii? While the hometown Warriors sit out the postseason, Jones is bringing his Southern Methodist Mustangs to Honolulu. The opponent is Nevada, and no bowl game is projected to have scoring that will match the Hawaii Bowl. The over/under is an obscene 72.5 points and don’t be surprised to see it go over. SMU has more money than it knows what to do with. Not only did the school decide to bring its live pony mascot to the game, but SMU graduates arrogantly drive around Dallas-Fort Worth with license plate frames on their BMWs that read, “My maid went to Texas.” Follow the money and take the points and SMU, which will have the backing of the locals.
Little Caesars — A bowl game in Detroit in late December. If you needed proof that there are too many bowls, here it is. This is actually the one of the easiest games to figure. One team (Ohio) has a coach. The other (Marshall) recently fired theirs.
Meineke Car Care — Not a good spot for Pittsburgh. The Panthers, in typical Dave Wannstedt fashion, blew a late lead against Cincinnati and lost 45-44 in the final game of the schedule. With it went a trip to a prestigious Bowl Championship Series game. Now, Wannstedt is trying to pump up his players by talking about the value of bowl games. The only value here is betting against Wannstedt, whose team lost a forgettable 3-0 game to Oregon State in last year’s Sun Bowl. North Carolina isn’t any great shakes, but the Tar Heels will have the home-crowd edge because the game is played in Charlotte.
Emerald — USC running back Joe McKnight likely won’t play after questions were raised about the 2006 Land Rover he recently started driving around campus. While McKnight is enjoying the comforts of his snazzy ride, the Trojans will be looking to jumpstart their offense, which has sputtered behind freshman quarterback Matt Barkley. Two other starters — tight end Anthony McCoy and defensive tackle Averell Spicer — have been declared academically ineligible. Yes, Boston College has to travel cross-country, but the Eagles and those points look mighty appealing.
Music City — If ticket sales are any judge, Kentucky is going to be a big winner. As of last week, Wildcat fans had purchased close to 16,000 tickets. Clemson had sold only 4,000. Bottom line: Kentucky and its fans are excited to be playing in Nashville and Clemson could care less. Take the Wildcats and the points.
Independence — Texas A&M’s Jerrod Johnson is one of the biggest secrets in the college game. He passed for over 3,200 yards and 28 touchdowns. Only six of his passes were intercepted and he also scored eight rushing touchdowns. The kid can play. Georgia is in a state of disarray. Mark Richt fired defensive coordinator Willie Martinez, defensive ends coach Jon Fabris and linebackers coach/co-defensive coordinator John Jancek earlier this month. Look for Johnson to take advantage.
Great minds disagree. If you want to see how Covers’ Jon Campbell, Jason Logan and David Payne are picking the bowl games against yours truly, click here.
Enjoy your holiday!