Line Dancing Can Hinder Bowl-Game Handicapping

Ever get excited to receive a Christmas gift, only to be completely disappointed when you tear off the wrapping paper? Maybe it’s a leather jacket, with keys to a new motorcycle inside one of the pockets! Let’s see … well, what do you know: a Deadmau5 head and a subscription to the Jelly of the Month Club.

Gee, thanks.

This is sort of how I feel about bowl season. On the one hand, we get the gift of 35 games (and numerous wagering opportunities) spread across 17 days. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year … except for that giant piece of coal that comes in the form of betting lines that are about as stable as a seismograph needle during an earthquake.

Every year, there are a handful of point spreads that skyrocket and another handful that plummet—always without warning—and the trick is trying to stay ahead of the game within the game. Throw in the coaching carousel, inevitable player suspensions and the always-important variable of motivation—Will Alabama show up for a bowl game without national-title implications? Will Oregon State and Boise State be interested in playing football on Christmas Eve in Honolulu?—and producing a profitable bowl season ain’t easy.

So which bowls are apt to see some significant point-spread shifts in the coming weeks? Unfortunately, we continue to lack a scientific formula that would provide an answer to that question. That said, I am keeping a close eye on the following five contests:

Bowling Green (-5½) vs. Pittsburgh (Bowling Green upset Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference title game, while Pitt had a disappointing year, so expect this line to inch toward 7 by kickoff); Kansas State (-3½) vs. Michigan (Michigan lost four of its final five, capped by a gut-punching, last-second loss to rival Ohio State, while K-State went 5-1 down the stretch); Stanford (-4½) vs. Michigan State (this line has already gone up at least a point and seems headed for the key number of 6); Arizona State -13½ vs. Texas Tech (Tech has lost five in a row, dropping its last four by 18 points or more—who wants any part of the Red Raiders?); Louisville (-3) vs. Miami (Miami closed 2-3 after a 7-0 start, while Louisville’s only loss was by a field goal—meaning this number will only rise).

Alas, these are nothing more than educated guesses. So if time proves me wrong, don’t come looking for a refund. I will, however, gladly ship you some jelly next month (but I’m keeping the Deadmau5 head).

Lucky Seven (picks for bowl games between Dec. 21-27): Fresno State +6 vs. USC (Best Bet); Buffalo -1½ vs. San Diego State; Oregon State-Boise State OVER 65; Bowling Green -5½ vs. Pitt; Utah State +1½ vs. Northern Illinois; Minnesota -4 vs. Syracuse; BYU +3 vs. Washington.

Last Week: 3-4 (1-0 Best Bet). Season: 50-56-1 (26-25 college; 24-31-1 NFL; 3-12 Best Bets).

Matt Jacob appears Wednesdays on’s First Preview, which airs 10-11 a.m. weekdays on ESPN Radio 1100-AM. Jacob also appears on “Vegas Wise Sports” at 9 p.m. Sundays on KDWN 720-AM