The high-profile college football betting bowl battles have arrived. The Sugar Bowl could be intriguing but the Fiesta Bowl is expected to be a massively entertaining tilt. The fireworks are about to begin.
Louisville Cardinals vs. Florida Gators
Wednesday, 8:35 PM ET
Odds: Florida -14
The Gators’ defensive front is going to be faster, stronger, and more athletic than the Cardinals’ offensive front. What often separates teams in the Southeastern Conference from their counterparts in other conferences is not necessary the strength and bulk of their defensive linemen, but the speed of their defensive linemen. Florida shut down LSU and South Carolina this season while containing Georgia over 60 minutes and then shutting down Florida State over the final one and a half quarters of competition. The Gators’ only loss this season came against Georgia, but the defense did great work to hold Georgia to just 17 points on a day when Florida’s offense committed six turnovers. Florida’s defense is going to be a step or two ahead of Louisville’s offense throughout this game. As long as the Gators and quarterback Jeff Driskel do not turn the ball over, Florida should be able to dictate the way in which this game is played, gaining field position and other forms of leverage.
All in all, Florida should be able to win without need of last-minute heroics. However, Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is skilled enough to keep this game close with first-rate playmaking. With 24 touchdowns and seven interceptions, Bridgewater is Louisville’s perfect trigger man. Bridgewater showed his moxie and his determination in the late-season victory over Rutgers that gave Louisville the Big East championship and a ticket to this very game against Florida. Just a week after breaking a bone in his non-throwing hand, Bridgewater led a second-half comeback against Rutgers to earn the Cardinals their second ever trip to the BCS. When Bridgewater takes to the air, he looks for breakout wide receiver DeVante Parker (725 yards, nine touchdowns). Bridgewater will do enough to enable the Cardinals to cover the spread.
Pick: Louisville +14
Oregon Ducks vs. Kansas State Wildcats
Thursday, 8:35 PM ET
Odds: Oregon -8.5
The Ducks could wobble in this game and not surprise observers in the process. They have had a tendency under head coach Chip Kelly to struggle after prolonged periods of inactivity. Oregon lost a season-opening game to Boise State in 2009 and another opener to LSU in 2011. It lost its bowl game after the 2009 and 2010 seasons, meaning that of the seven losses UO has endured under Kelly, four of them have come after long breaks. In season openers, the Ducks have been rusty against quality foes. In bowl games, Oregon has lost the rhythm it established in a 12-game regular season. This is what the Ducks have to address in the Fiesta Bowl. It’s true that Oregon beat Wisconsin last year, but the Ducks had so much more speed than the Badgers on that day. Beating a well-schooled Kansas State team will do much to silence Kelly’s bowl game critics. The fact that Oregon lost late in the season to Stanford will motivate the Ducks. This is a team that will treat this game as a matter of unfinished business. Quarterback Marcus Mariota, who lost his edge in November and felt the pressure of playing for Pac-12 and national titles, will be mentally refreshed in Glendale, Ariz. Moreover, Oregon knows that Kelly might bolt to the NFL and the Philadelphia Eagles. The Ducks are going to fly across the field with great energy and passion. Take Oregon here on the college football betting odds.
Pick: Oregon -8.5