You’re not going to find a boring game on the day after Christmas. The Little Caesars Pizza Bowl and the Poinsettia Bowl might not be sexy matchups, but they figure to be close and exciting in the fourth quarter. The presence of Mid-American Conference teams in each game should create an added layer of curiosity that will make college football fans want to tune in.
2013 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl
Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Bowling Green Falcons
Thursday, 6:05 PM ET
Odds: Bowling Green -4.5
This is a game in which Bowling Green’s level of focus will be tested. The Falcons have had to deal with a coaching change following the end of their regular season. Head coach Dave Clawson took the open coaching job at Wake Forest, moving up to the Atlantic Coast Conference. Bowling Green thrived under Clawson’s leadership, so it’s easy to think that without him, the Falcons will not be the same team. Every bowl team that undergoes a coaching change before its bowl game has to make a decision about how badly it wants to compete and win. Some teams meet this challenge, while others fall well short of doing everything they can to win their bowl game. On one hand, Bowling Green could relish the fact that it is returning to Ford Field in Detroit, the same place where it won the MAC Championship Game on Friday, Dec. 6 against Northern Illinois. On the other hand, returning to Detroit could make this game feel stale for the Falcons as well. Pittsburgh is an average team. The focus in this game will be on whether Bowling Green plays at a high level or well below average. The feeling from this vantage point is that the Falcons will probably drag through the motions. Their win of the MAC title probably represented the kind of football betting performance that will not be duplicated in this situation.
Pick: Pittsburgh +5
2013 Poinsettia Bowl
Utah State Aggies vs. Northern Illinois Huskies
Thursday, 9:35 PM ET
Odds: Northern Illinois -1
This game looks and feels like a close one. It’s true that Northern Illinois got exposed by Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference Championship Game on Dec. 6, but the Huskies are still a 12-1 team, marking the second straight regular season in which they’ve compiled that particular record heading into their bowl game. This is a really good team. Utah State has also done really well this season. The Aggies won the Mountain West’s Mountain Division title, beating out Boise State and earning the right to face Fresno State in the Mountain West Conference Championship Game. Moreover, Utah State has done all this under a first-year head coach, Matt Wells.
What’s likely to alter the outcome of this game, though, is that Northern Illinois has its starting quarterback, Jordan Lynch, in the lineup, while Utah State will not have its opening-day starter, quarterback Chuckie Keeton. With Keeton, Utah State probably would have been the favorite, but without him, Northern Illinois should be the selection to cover the spread.
Pick: Northern Illinois -1