College Football Bowl Previews

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That most wonderful time of the year is nearly upon us. No, we’re not talking about the upcoming holidays and the parties that go with them, although that’s all good in itself. We’re talking bowl games, and lots of them, on an almost-nightly basis, for the next three weeks. Here’s a quick look at this weekend’s opening batch of bowls, and their accompanying Oddsmaker.com numbers.

The bowl season begins Saturday afternoon when 8-4 Fresno State, the third-place team in the WAC this year, faces off against 6-6 Wyoming, the fifth-place team in the Mountain West, in the New Mexico Bowl down in Albuquerque (3:30 pm Eastern, ESPN).

The Bulldogs started 1-3 this season, but won seven of their last eight to reach the New Mexico Bowl for the second straight season. The Cowboys, meanwhile, started 1-2, then won three in a row, then lost three in a row, then won two of their last three to earn their first bowl bid in five years.

As of Wednesday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing Fresno State at -11.5 over Wyoming, with a total of 55.

The action moves to the Florida coast Saturday night when 8-4 Central Florida, which finished second in the C-USA East this season, takes on 8-4 Rutgers, which tied for fourth place in the Big East, in the St. Petersburg Bowl (7 Eastern, ESPN2).

The Scarlet Knights got to 7-2 about a month ago, but lost two of their last three. Nonetheless, they’ll play in a bowl for the fifth straight season. The Golden Knights, meanwhile, started 3-3, then won five of their last six, and are playing in a bowl after missing out last season.

Oddsmaker.com is lining this game with Rutgers favored by 2.5 points over UCF, with a total of 44.

Then Sunday night 9-3 Middle Tennessee State, the second-place team in the Sun Belt, goes up against 7-5 Southern Miss, which came a win away from playing in the Conference USA championship game, in the New Orleans Bowl at the Superdome (7 Eastern, ESPN).

The Blue Raiders started 3-3 this season, but finished with a six-game winning streak to earn their first bowl bid in three seasons. The only thing that kept them from a Sun Belt championship was an early-season loss to eventual conference champ Troy.

The Golden Eagles won their first three games this season, then lost three in a row, and had to replace their starting quarterback because of an injury. But with back-up Martevious Young compiling a 13/1 TD/INT ratio in relief, Southern Miss got within one win of the C-USA East Division title. And they’ll be playing in a bowl for the eighth straight season.

The Eagles won last year’s New Orleans Bowl, beating Troy 30-27 in overtime.

Oddsmaker.com is listing Southern Miss at -3.5 over MTSU, with a total of 58.5.

The bowl action continues next week with the Las Vegas Bowl Tuesday, which matches 10-2 BYU vs. 8-4 Oregon State (7 Eastern, ESPN); the Poinsettia Bowl from San Diego on Wednesday, matching 9-3 Utah vs. 9-4 California (7 Eastern, ESPN); and the Hawaii Bowl Thursday, pitting 7-5 SMU vs. 8-4 Nevada in what might be a shootout (7 Eastern, ESPN).

As of Wednesday morning Oddsmaker.com is listing the Beavers at -2.5 over the Cougars, with a total of 60; the Bears at -3.5 over the Utes, with a total of 53; and the Wolf Pack at -14.5 over the upstart Mustangs, with a total of 73.

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