NCAA Football Betting: Poinsettia, St. Petersburg Bowl Analysis & Picks

Bowl season is here and that means we’ve got some college football betting to take the edge off the holidays. The first two bowl games of the week come on Thursday and Friday, featuring a pair of teams that are very familiar with each other despite one leaving their conference while the other matchup pits two solid mid-majors.

The theme of these two bowls will be the running games. If the two underdogs, San Diego State and Ball State, can’t come up with balanced offensive efforts against two quality defenses, they’ll be in trouble both against the spread and straight up.

BYU Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs

Odds: BYU -3

It’s not often that you get two rivals meeting in a bowl game but BYU and San Diego State should be very familiar with each other as the Cougars were in the Mountain West before going independent. They’ve dominated the Aztecs with nine wins in their last 10 games.

The Aztecs will try and breach BYU’s #2-ranked rushing defense because if San Diego State’s ground game isn’t working, they’re going to struggle to get any traction at all. The Aztecs haven’t been in the Poinsettia Bowl since a 35-14 romp over Navy in 2010. They’ll be facing a BYU team that has won five of their last six bowl games under head coach Bronco Mendenhall.

The Cougars are a much better team than their 7-5 record would indicate. Road games were their Achilles heel as they lost four times away from home (including at Notre Dame, who is playing for the national title and Boise State, who are always good at home). They’ll flex their muscles against the Aztecs in San Diego on Thursday night and prove that – with a little offense – they could be a part of the national conversation in 2013.

Pick: BYU -3

Ball State Cardinals vs. Central Florida Knights

Odds: UCF -7

This Friday night edition of the Beef O’ Brady’s Bowl in St. Petersburg could be predicated on one thing: Ball State’s inability to stop the run. The Cardinals are 106th in the country in rushing defense and that could mean a big game for UCF’s Latavius Murray, who averaged 103.5 yards per game for the Knights, who put up a fight at Ohio State earlier in the year. Ball State has a potentially explosive offense that was 22nd in the country and 31st in points scored with 35 points per game. They have a little balance that could throw the Knights off, but UCF can control the clock with Murray. If their rushing game keeps Ball State’s offense on the sidelines, the Golden Knights should cover the college football spread easily.

The Knights also have something to prove after losing a nail biter in the Conference-USA title game against Tulsa. They’re only in the postseason after the NCAA lifted restrictions on the athletic program after recruiting violations against the football and basketball teams. Central Florida has a lot to play for and they’re a team that can beat you in a lot of ways. If Ball State can’t score, they’re in trouble.

Pick: UCF -7

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