Bowl game betting primer: Part I

Happy Holidays and a special thanks to all of you who stuck with the NFP college football betting primer through an up and (mostly) down campaign. We closed out the regular season with a clean sweep and now the hope is that we can maintain this success through the remainder of the 2014 bowl season.

The following rundown isolates six games from this week’s upcoming slate of postseason action. We’ll be back next Tuesday morning with another edition of the bowl game betting primer to cover the marquee matchups and New Year’s Day run of games for those of you who may be interested in watching that sort of thing.

Be safe and have a wonderful holiday season.

Final week of regular season: 5-0

Season: 38-46 (.452)

BOCA RATON BOWL

Marshall Thundering Herd (12-1, 6-0 road) at Northern Illinois Huskies (11-2, 6-1 road)

When: Tuesday, December 23 at 6:00pm ET
Location: Boca Raton, Florida
Open: Marshall -10
Current: Marshall -10

Marshall in 2014: 8-5 ATS, 7-6 to the OVER
Northern Illinois in 2014: 7-6 ATS, 9-4 to the UNDER

Analysis: Northern Illinois will have a hell of a time trying to slow down a lightning quick Marshall offense that averaged 45.1 points per game this season (fifth in NCAA) while defeating the opposition by the staggering average of 26.3 points per contest. The Thundering Herd represent the best offense that the Huskies have faced in 2014, which is led by experienced signal-caller Rakeem Cato, who is 2-0 both straight-up and against the spread in bowl games (563 passing yards, 5 TDs, 1 INT). Take note that Marshall is 8-3 ATS over its last 11 games against teams with a winning record while Northern Illinois is 1-4 ATS over its last five matchups with Conference USA opposition. This is a big number to lay per the odds board at Sportsbook Review.com, but given the MAC’s poor bowl record in recent years, we’re comfortable Marshall will prevail by more than 10.

Notable trends: Marshall is 5-1 ATS over its last six non-conference games while Northern Illinois is 2-5 ATS over its last seven bowl games.

Pick: Marshall (-10)

SAN DIEGO COUNTY CREDIT UNION POINSETTIA BOWL

Navy Midshipmen (7-5, 3-1 road) at San Diego State Aztecs (7-5, 1-5 road)

When: Tuesday, December 23 at 9:30pm ET
Location: San Diego, California
Open: San Diego State -3
Current: San Diego State -3

Navy in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 7-4 to the UNDER
San Diego State in 2014: 6-5-1 ATS, 11-1 to the UNDER

Analysis: A rematch of the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl in which San Diego State emerged victorious 35-14, the Aztecs have a big advantage in this matchup due to the fact that it will be played at Qualcomm Stadium where SDSU went 6-0 this season winning by an average of 19.8 points per game. Another San Diego State edge comes in the form of having three weeks to prepare for Navy’s triple-option attack, a system the Aztecs’ 3-3-5 defense faced when playing Air Force and New Mexico this year and had much success, holding both schools to season-low offensive yardage totals. This is a big step up in class for a Navy squad that is 2-5 ATS over its last seven games played in the month of December.

Notable trends: Navy is 2-5 ATS over its last seven neutral site games while San Diego State is 11-5-1 ATS over its last 17 games following a win.

Pick: San Diego State (-3)

POPEYES BAHAMAS BOWL

Central Michigan Chippewas (7-5, 4-2 road) at Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (7-5, 2-4 road)

When: Wednesday, December 24 at 12:00pm ET
Location: Nassau, Bahamas
Open: Western Kentucky -2.5
Current: Western Kentucky -3.5

Central Michigan in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 7-5 to the UNDER
Western Kentucky in 2014: 6-6 ATS, 8-3-1 to the OVER

Brandon DoughtyWKU quarterback Brandon Doughty led the nation with 44 touchdown passes this season.

Analysis: Led by quarterback and Conference USA Player of the Year Brandon Doughty (NCAA-best 44 TD passes in 2014), Western Kentucky shook off the cobwebs from learning a new system that resulted in a 3-5 start and rallied to close out the year on a perfect 4-0 run (3-1 ATS), winning by an average of 18.7 points per game. And those four wins didn’t come against inferior competition, either, as the Hilltoppers landed the only blemish on Marshall’s otherwise perfect 12-1 record with a 67-66 win back on November 28. This is just as much a PLAY ON Western Kentucky as it is a PLAY AGAINST Central Michigan, as MAC teams cannot be trusted during bowl season (0-5 in bowl games in 2013).

Notable trends: Central Michigan is 5-15-1 ATS over its last 21 non-conference games while Western Kentucky is 14-3 ATS over its last 17 games played on grass.

Pick: Western Kentucky (-3.5)

ZAXBY’S HEART OF DALLAS BOWL

Illinois Fighting Illini (6-6, 1-4 road) at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-5, 4-4 road)

When: Friday, December 26 at 1:00pm ET
Location: Dallas, Texas
Open: Louisiana Tech -5
Current: Louisiana Tech -6

Illinois in 2014: 5-7 ATS, 6-6 to the OVER
Louisiana Tech in 2014: 10-3 ATS, 8-4-1 to the OVER

Analysis: Some may be worried about the five Bulldogs who were suspended at the beginning of the month due to academic issues, but Louisiana Tech rallied without those players against 12-1 Marshall on December 6 and nearly upset the Thundering Herd before falling 26-23. Winners of six of their last eight, Skip Holtz has the Bulldogs playing with jam thanks to a 2014 turnover differential of +18 (note that Illinois is -2 in turnover differential this season). The Fighting Illini may have finished the year at 6-6, but the team got really lucky in its wins over Minnesota, Penn State and Northwestern. In addition, note that Louisiana Tech is 5-1 ATS over its last six games overall. With think the Big Ten will be dealt a swift and decisive blow in this one.

Notable trends: Illinois is 9-19 ATS over its last 28 games played on turf while Louisiana Tech is 4-0 ATS over its last four games played on turf.

Pick: Louisiana Tech (-6)

BITCOIN SAINT PETERSBURG BOWL

North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5, 3-2 road) at Central Florida Knights (9-3, 3-2 road)

When: Friday, December 26 at 8:00pm ET
Location: Saint Petersburg, Florida
Open: Central Florida -1
Current: Central Florida -1.5

North Carolina State in 2014: 7-5 ATS, 6-5-1 to the UNDER
Central Florida in 2014: 8-4 ATS, 6-6 to the OVER

Analysis: Central Florida boasts one of the better defenses you’ll see this bowl season after concluding a 1 2-game campaign that resulted in permitting an average of just 17.9 points per contest (eighth in NCAA) with 27 turnovers (2.25 per game) and 33 sacks (2.75 per game). The Knights also went 4-0 ATS to finish the season and are now 6-1 ATS over their last seven games played on a Friday. North Carolina State definitely took a step in the right direction this season, but note that the team’s seven wins came against opponents who combined to finish the year with a 37-46 record (.445). The Wolfpack have turned the corner and should prove to be worthy adversaries in this one, but we believe Central Florida will prevail based on the strength of its defense.

Notable trends: North Carolina State is 2-7 ATS over its last nine games on turf while Central Florida is 8-2 ATS over its last ten non-conference games.

Pick: Central Florida (-1.5)

NATIONAL UNIVERSITY HOLIDAY BOWL

Nebraska Cornhuskers (9-3, 3-2 road) at #24 USC Trojans (8-4, 3-3 road)

When: Saturday, December 27 at 8:00pm ET
Location: San Diego, California
Open: USC -5.5
Current: USC -7

Nebraska in 2014: 7-4-1 ATS, 7-5 to the OVER
USC in 2014: 7-5 ATS, 7-5 to the UNDER Bo PeliniUS PRESSWIREBo Pelini's time at Nebraska has come to an end.

Analysis: The Cornhuskers dropped two of their final three games to close out the regular season, are 1-4 ATS over their last five neutral site matchups and just said goodbye to head coach Bo Pelini, who had some choice words for the Nebraska brass on his way out the door. In addition, as you’ll see below, the Huskers have had a hell of a time when tasked with beating opposition from the PAC-12, while USC has performed quite admirably in recent encounters with Big Ten schools. Take note that the Trojans are 5-1 ATS over their last six bowl games and enter this showdown much more organized and well-prepared than the team that will be staring them down from the other sideline.

Notable trends: Nebraska is 0-4 ATS over its last four games against the PAC-12 while USC is 9-2 ATS over its last 11 games against the Big Ten.

Pick: USC (-7)

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