If you just spent copious amounts of money buying battery-powered shiatsu massagers for everyone on your Christmas list, then you could probably use a little extra jingle in your pockets. Allow me to offer a suggestion: the plasma bank. Seriously, they pay pretty well and the juice and cookies are on the house.
If, however, you managed to regift your way through this season of giving and avoided squandering your holiday bonus on such frivolities as food, heat and medicine for your family, you probably have a little coin just sitting around. Perhaps you should join all the other swells in placing a gentleman's wager on a sporting event or two. Heck, in this post I'll offer you five games on which you could, providing such is legal in the jurisdiction in which you find yourself, bet. I THINK YOU CAN MOVE ON THESE AS IF THEY'VE ALREADY BEEN PLAYED!!!
Actually, that last bit's not true. Betting on college football is for people who find the outcomes of squirrel races contested upon miniature minefields entirely too predictable. Remember kids, sports betting is retirement planning for people who suck at math. And believe you me, I suck at math. So, if I were you, I'd read the picks below, but I wouldn't bet on them.
We'll start with the December 28th Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman. It pits 8-4 Toledo against 7-5 Air Force (7-5). In researching this one I happened upon several interesting nuggets. For one, Toledo is not in fact coached by Bob Toledo, which is their loss. Speaking of losses, Air Force's five losses were to TCU, Boise State, Notre Dame, Wyoming and San Diego State. In other words, no team with fewer than 8 wins. Air Force also finished with solid wins over UNLV and Colorado State in which the Falcons put up 45 points per game. Air Force is getting 3 points in this one, and I'd suggest you take the academy and the points. Air Force's option offense averages 320 rushing yards per game (2nd in the nation), and will give Toledo's 89th ranked defense fits. The Rockets haven't seen anything like what Air Force will do, and the prebowl layoff won't help their tackling. An option team against a team that doesn't always tackle so well? Take it.
Tomorrow night brings the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl between the 7-5 Cal Golden Bears and the 7-5 Texas Longhorns. Texas is giving up 3 points to a Cal squad which followed a bad loss to UCLA with 3 wins and a 3 point loss to Stanford to close the season. A lot of that success is attributable to the maturation of Golden Bear QB Zach Maynard, who looked better and better each week after that UCLA debacle. This game may also test the old maxim that disappointed teams don't show up for bowl games. While Cal finished the year on a crescendo, Mack Brown's Longhorns to a man didn't come to Austin to play in the Holiday Bowl. If I were betting, which I'm not, I'd take Cal and the points. Also, Nick Saban is taking the Texas job. Nick Saban to Texas. Nick Saban Texas coaching rumors. Those last few sentences were not true, but they should be the Google search gift that keeps on giving at some point in the not so distant future.
The Champs Sports Bowl on December 29th will match Jimbo Fisher's Florida State Seminoles against Brian Kelly's Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It's a clash of 8-4 teams whose fans each thought that they would be much better than 8-4. But then they always do, and they've generally been wrong about that for a while now. Notre Dame is getting 3 points in a game which will match two signalcallers (FSU's E.J. Manuel and Notre Dame's Tommy Rees) who have been by turns ineffective and downright dangerous to their respective teams' causes. Manuel, save for a self-immolation derby with John Brantley to end the season, has been ever so slightly less dangerous to his team's chances. Look for Rees to throw at least 2 picks, and take FSU while giving the points. Notre Dame will give this one away even if the Seminoles do their best not to take it.
San Antonio's Valero Alamo Bowl will see the Baylor Bears, led by Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin, III, taking on the Washington Huskies. To me the X factor in this one is going to be how well Griffin has prepared despite the many demands on his time in the past couple of weeks. Those demands are such that he even has a Baylor staffer serving as a sort of "Body Guy" to get him around San Antonio without incident. Baylor is giving 9.5 points to Steve Sarkisian's team, but I don't think it matters. Look for Baylor to rely on criminally underrated tailback Terrance Gannaway to get things going if Griffin struggles. If that happens, it won't last for long. Take Baylor and look for a blowout.
Finally, the Bell Helicoptor Armed Forces Bowl will match the 9-3 BYU Cougars against the 8-4 Tulsa Golden Hurricanes. The boys from Utah are favored by a scant 1 point in a game that no sane person should bet actual money on. BYU's Bronco Mendenhall deserves some credit for leading his squad to a 9-3 record despite an embarassing 54-10 September loss to instate rival Utah. After that game BYU starter Jake Heaps lost his job to junior Riley Nelson and subsequently has decided to transfer to parts unknown. BYU seems to have put things back right after that early season loss (and the prior week's defeat at the hands of the Texas Longhorns), and could be a team to watch in 2012.
Tulsa on the other hand is a team which has strenuously tested the old adage that all losses are not created equal. Their four defeats were to (using rankings at the time of the defeats themselves): #1 Oklahoma, #8 Oklahoma State, #4 Boise State and #8 Houston. In other words, Tulsa has looked pretty good boxing within their own weight class. But stepping up to the heavy weight division has been an ill-fated venture. BYU is nothing like any of those point machines Tulsa lost to. My guess is that the first squad to 50 wins, and that will be the boys from Oklahoma. Take the Golden Hurricanes and the point.
Until later . . .