We've done it. We've reached bowl season. That means it's time to issue my annual reminder that only gets truer with every passing season: You know nothing about betting bowl games. Seriously. There have always been several different variables that made handicapping bowl games so tricky, and it hasn't gotten any easier. It used to be you only had to worry about interim coaches and motivation. Now you have to go through every roster with a fine-tooth comb to see who has opted out, who's in the transfer portal and how many second- and third-stringers will see action.
It's not easy, so my best advice when betting on bowl games is to have fun. Don't take it too seriously, and don't risk any more than you're willing to lose. That's also my advice for betting anything, but at least during the regular season you can convince yourself you know what you're doing.
All odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook.
Games of the Week
Cure Bowl -- Friday, Dec. 16: The second game of the bowl season also happens to be the, and for good reason. You don't get a lot of bowls outside the College Football Playoff and New Year's Six that pit conference champions against one another. This is one of those rare spots as Sun Belt champion Troy takes on Conference USA champion UTSA.
While I was impressed with what I saw from both teams this season, I don't understand why UTSA is the underdog. If QB Frank Harris had opted out of the game, it would make sense, but Harris already announced his intention to return to the Roadrunners next season and play in this game. The Sun Belt is a tougher league than C-USA, but the Roadrunners would be a favorite in the Sun Belt alongside Troy. In fact, my power ratings would have UTSA as the slight favorite over the Trojans to win the league, and I would definitely pick it here on a neutral field. UTSA 24, Troy 20 | UTSA +2
Cincinnati vs. Louisville
Fenway Bowl -- Saturday, Dec. 17: The old Keg of Nails rivalry is back for the first time since 2013 -- before Louisville left to join the ACC and the Big East morphed into the American. As if that wasn't enough, coach Scott Satterfield left Louisville to take the job at Cincinnati. With the game being played at Fenway Park, the two teams will share a sideline. In my opinion, they should force Satterfield to stand between both sidelines. If Cincinnati wins, it doesn't have to pay his buyout. If Louisville wins, it gets double. Who says no? Let's make it interesting!
As for the game, Louisville QB Malik Cunningham has opted out, which stinks, but Brock Domann has plenty of experience and weeks to prepare for this start in relief. The Bearcats reached the playoff last season, and this team was one of the AAC's best; however, I have concerns about them offensively. My gut says the Cardinals offense will do more in this one than the Bearcats, so I'm leaning in that direction. Louisville 27, Cincinnati 14 | Louisville -1.5
Lock of the Week
Frisco Bowl -- Saturday, Dec. 17: It's a battle of conference championship losers! Boise State lost to Fresno State in the Mountain West Championship Game and faces the North Texas squad that lost to UTSA in the Conference USA Championship Game. The biggest difference is that Boise State didn't fire its coach after the loss, while North Texas did. The Mean Green will be in this game under an interim coach, and you have to wonder what frame of mind they'll be in because of it.
Boise State will be without leading rusher George Holani due to injury, but the Broncos have an elite defense that I suspect will overwhelm North Texas up front. The Broncos also have the more electric QB in the matchup in Taylen Green -- no disrespect to 29-year-old UNT QB Austin Aune -- and I'm not sure the Mean Green will be able to keep up here. Boise State 38, North Texas 17 | Boise State -10.5
Underdog of the Week
Fresno State vs. Washington State
Jimmy Kimmel L.A. Bowl -- Saturday, Dec. 17: There are so many connections between these games. UTSA won the C-USA title game against North Texas, which was then followed by North Texas firing Seth Littrell and replacing him with Washington State offensive coordinator Eric Morris. That has nothing to do with how I see this game going, I just find it interesting. And I'm writing this column, so you have to listen to things I think are interesting.
As for this game, I don't think the absence of Morris will significantly impact the outcome. Washington State was only 7-5, but when you look at how well it played against teams like Utah and Oregon, you realize it's slightly better than the record suggests. Meanwhile, Fresno won the Mountain West (against Boise State! Another connection!), but the Bulldogs lost all three nonconference games against FBS competition, including UConn. It makes me wonder if the Bulldogs didn't just take advantage of a down Mountain West to inflate their overall number. Washington State 27, Fresno State 24 | Washington State +3.5
Over of the Week
Potato Bowl -- Tuesday, Dec. 20: San Jose State's defense was terrific to start the season as the Spartans allowed an average of only 14.5 points per game. However, that number ballooned to 27.2 points over their final five games, and I don't think the market has quite caught on to the drop off.
Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan's been doing nothing but playing in tennis matches all season long. The average Eastern Michigan game has seen 57.4 points, but more importantly, the Eagles' defense has looked sub-par against bad MAC offenses. San Jose State's offense isn't a juggernaut but should be able to move the ball against this team effectively. San Jose State 31, Eastern Michigan 27 | Over 58
Under of the Week
No. 14 Oregon State vs. Florida
Las Vegas Bowl -- Saturday, Dec. 17: The worst part of this game is that Oregon State has flown under the radar all season, but if it manages to pick up a win over an SEC team in the bowl game, it'll be written off because Florida is far from full strength. The Gators will be missing a lot of key players between opt outs and the transfer portal, including starting QB Anthony Richardson. Considering how inefficient the Gators' offense was all year (79th nationally in success rate), it's hard to imagine things improving without the one player who seemed capable of making something out of nothing.
As for the Beavers, Chance Nolan began the year as the starting QB but missed the last seven games due to injury and was replaced by Ben Gulbranson. Nolan has since entered the portal, and the Beavers offense hasn't been great with the freshman Gulbranson. If I were to bet on any of this first week's bowl games to be an ugly, low-scoring affair, it's this one. Oregon State 24, Florida 21 | Under 53
Which college football picks can you make with confidence during bowl season, and which underdogs will win outright? Visit SportsLine to see which teams will win and cover the spread -- all from a proven computer model that has returned almost $2,500 in profit over the past six-plus seasons -- and find out.