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31 college football bowl bets for 2016-17, including Clemson over Ohio State

Betting on bowl games can be tricky, but let’s give it a shot.

NCAA Football: ACC Championship-Clemson vs Virginia Tech Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

All wagers at -110 odds unless otherwise noted. Visit Odds Shark for updated lines throughout each game week.

College football bowl games are a different beast for bettors. Sure, the typical handicapping elements apply. Offense and defense matter. But there are some key elements at play that don’t apply as much during the regular season.

Take coaching changes, for instance. For teams in transition, is the departing coach staying on for the bowl game? If not, does the roster like the interim or new coach? What sort of changes will be implemented for a bowl game?

Then there is motivation. Did the team start hot and then limp to a disappointing bowl? Or is it happy to have made any bowl at all and looking to prove it belongs?

And don’t forget location. Some bowls are played on a team’s home field, or in the home of a huge alumni base. Fan support can factor in to provide an advantage similar to that found in a home game. For bowls with a de-facto home team, I have denoted the matchup with an “at,” as opposed to the standard “v.” used for a neutral site. I hope this is helpful, as bowl names are far from intuitive.

A full bowl schedule is here. Let’s get to the picks.

December 17

UTSA +7.5 at New Mexico, in the New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico's option attack has been dominant of late. But the Roadrunners have had several weeks to prepare, and are capable of scoring points. This being a home game for New Mexico must be taken into account for spread purposes.

Houston v. San Diego State +3.5, in the Las Vegas Bowl: Houston just lost its coach. While that could be a motivating factor for the Cougars to prove they are more than Tom Herman, it’s still a rough transition.

Arkansas State at UCF -5.5, in the Cure Bowl: Arkansas State has been impressive down the stretch. But UCF is at home, and I expect a bump in play with the first extra bowl practices under first-year coach Scott Frost.

Southern Miss at Louisiana Lafayette +4.5, in the New Orleans Bowl: The game is being played in Louisiana. Take the points in a battle of two fairly even teams.

December 19

Central Michigan v. Tulsa -11, in the Miami Beach Bowl: The Golden Hurricane can really score, and I am expecting a blowout in this one.

December 20

Memphis +5 v. Western Kentucky and over 77.5, in the Boca Raton Bowl: Memphis finished the year quite strong. WKU has to deal with a coaching change. I think this is a coin flip, so take the points. Perhaps I am missing something, but both of these teams could threaten to score 50 on their own, so the over makes sense.

December 22

Colorado State -13 at Idaho, in the Potato Bowl: While I recognize this game is being played in Idaho, Colorado State has been rolling in the second half of the season. The Rams are one of the sneaky good Group of 5 teams.

December 23

Louisiana Tech -4 at Navy, in the Armed Forces Bowl: With top two QBs Tago Smith and Will Worth out, Navy's offense looked inept against Army. Louisiana Tech can score enough to make Navy pass more than it wants. This is another one of the games where one team will have the advantage of crowd, as it is the Armed Forces Bowl.

Ohio at Troy -3.5, in the Dollar General Bowl: Troy has played poorly down the stretch, but I believe it will get it together in front of the home crowd in Mobile, just 140 miles away. There are plenty of Troy alumni in Mobile.

December 26

Maryland v. Boston College +1.5, in the Quick Lane Bowl: Maryland finished the year in a tailspin. Boston College played some decent football down the stretch.

NC State -4 v. Vanderbilt, in the Independence Bowl: The Wolfpack are a pretty good football team, while Vanderbilt might be inflated after taking down some seriously flawed Ole Miss and Tennessee squads. If there is a concern here, it is one of motivation. Who is more excited to go to Shreveport?

December 27

Army at North Texas +10.5, in the Heart of Dallas Bowl: Army was a great bet against Navy, but this is a huge line against a North Texas team that is simply not as bad as it has been in previous seasons.

Temple v. Wake Forest +13, in the Military Bowl: This is a ton of points for a team with Temple's offense to cover. I anticipate a game with a lot of defense, as both the Owls and Demon Deacons excel on that side of the football.

Washington State -7 v. Minnesota, in the Holiday Bowl: Minnesota's four losses were by an average of a single score, but they have not seen a passing offense like WSU’s. Also, Minnesota is currently dealing with a rash of defensive suspensions.

Baylor v. Boise State -7, in the Cactus Bowl: I would lay these points even if Baylor had great motivation to play in this game, but the Bears do not. Baylor has been a mess down the stretch.

December 28

West Virginia at Miami -2.5, in the Russell Athletic Bowl: I am shocked this number is not more than a touchdown. Miami will have one of the best pass rushes the Mountaineers have seen. QB Skyler Howard has been terrible down the stretch. And Miami should have some advantage with the game being in Orlando.

Kansas State at Texas A&M -2, in the Texas Bowl: Houston is A&M's largest alumni base, so there should be some good home field advantage for the Aggies. If Trevor Knight can heal up, all the better.

December 29

Virginia Tech -7 v. Arkansas, in the Belk Bowl: Arkansas’ defense is just horrible. While betting against Bielema in a bowl game is scary given his strong track record, I do not believe Arkansas has the juice.

Colorado v. Oklahoma State +3.5, in the Alamo Bowl: Perhaps I am underestimating Colorado, but I believe the wrong team is favored. Colorado averaged just 16 points per game against ranked teams this year in four games, and in seven games against FBS winning teams, just 24.9. If Oklahoma State scores 35 on the fast track in the Alomodome, can the Buffaloes keep up?

December 30

North Carolina +4 v. Stanford, in the Sun Bowl: I like North Carolina’s ability to spread out the Cardinal and pitch it around with Mitch Trubisky, who could be a high NFL pick this spring.

Georgia v. TCU, under 49, in the Liberty Bowl: In its last three games, TCU’s offense has scored four touchdowns. Georgia has also not been clicking on offense. These are two defensive head coaches.

Nebraska at Tennessee, over 60, in the Music City Bowl: Tennessee’s offense has improved a lot since Jalen Hurd left the program. Its last three games (against Kentucky, Missouri, and Vanderbilt) have averaged a total of 88 points between the two teams.

Michigan at Florida State +7, and under 55, in the Orange Bowl: Michigan’s defense has been awesome all year, but its offense faded down the stretch. Florida State’s defense was awesome this year against pro-style offenses, like Michigan’s. Importantly, quarterbacks Wilton Speight and Deondre Francois each feasted against bad defenses this year but had poor numbers against good ones.

Speight had a QB rating of 114 against winning FBS teams, and 183 against non-winning. Francois had a rating of 118 against ranked teams, and 153 against unranked. Naturally, some split is to be expected, but those are stark numbers, suggesting both will struggle. Also, I would not expect much home-field advantage in this game, despite the Orange Bowl location, as Michigan fans travel well.

December 31

LSU v. Louisville +3.5, in the Citrus Bowl: The Cardinals finished the year terribly. The Tigers, on the other hand, finished strong against Texas A&M. But I expect Louisville’s defense to help spring the upset against LSU. Having Lamar Jackson does not hurt, either.

Kentucky v. Georgia Tech -3, in the TaxSlayer Bowl: Kentucky had a nice turnaround this year but was a deceptive 4-1 in games decided by a single score. Tech, similarly, was 3-1 in games decided by a single score. So why the Yellow Jackets? Because Tech’s defense has not allowed 30 points since Nov. 5 against North Carolina. Tech lost only to varyingly good QBs this year: Deshaun Watson, Brad Kaaya, Nathan Peterman, and Mitch Trubisky. Kentucky’s quarterback will likely be the seventh-best or eighth-best QB it has seen.

Washington at Alabama -15.5, in the Peach Bowl Playoff semifinal: Washington struggled mightily up front in games against USC and Utah. Those were the best defensive fronts the Huskies faced. Now they must go face Alabama. BUT GO EASY HERE. Alabama is shorthanded in the secondary and at linebacker. And the optimal time to bet this was when it opened, at -11. I believe it will get to -17, so if you want to chase with Alabama, do it now. 17 is just too much.

Ohio State v. Clemson +3.5, in the Fiesta Bowl Playoff semifinal: I’ll copy what I wrote about Ohio State QB J.T. Barrett in breaking down the recruiting profiles of the Playoff teams:

Against winning FBS teams, Barrett was 70th in yards/attempt. In Ohio State’s last two games, Michigan State and Michigan shut down Ohio State’s offense by disrespecting its receivers and loading up against the run.

The result? Barrett was a combined 25-54 (46 percent) for 210 yards (3.9/attempt), with a QB rating of 81.

But, I also have a lot of respect for Ohio State’s defense, and I would have been all about betting the under had the line been 65, as opposed to 60.

January 2

Iowa +2.5 at Florida, in the Outback Bowl: Iowa played good football down the stretch. Florida did not. Despite this game being in Tampa, and a virtual home game for the Gators, I believe Iowa should be favored.

Auburn +4 v. Oklahoma, in the Sugar Bowl: Auburn is getting healthy on offense. And its defense has talent up front like the one team that wrecked Oklahoma in Norman: Ohio State.