Gamblers have six bowl games to feast upon on New Year’s Day. Let’s get you started with a look at the four early contests.
**Purdue vs. Oklahoma State**
--The Heart of Dallas Bowl will pit the Big Ten versus the Big 12 at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. The action on ESPNU starts at noon Eastern.
--Oklahoma St. (7-5 straight up, 6-5 against the spread) is the most heavily favored school in this year’s postseason. As of late Monday afternoon, most betting shops had the Cowboys installed as 17-point ‘chalk’ with the total in the 70-71 range. The Boilermakers are plus-600 on the money line (risk $100 to win $600).
--OSU head coach Mike Gundy turned down job offers from several schools to stay at his alma mater, but his flirtations clearly point to a rift in Gundy’s relationship with the school’s AD. Whatever the case, you would think the Cowboys are fired up that their head coach decided to stay put. On that note, OSU would seem to have the advantage in motivation but then again, is it excited to face a six-loss team?
--Purdue (6-6 SU, 6-6 ATS) saw its head coach Danny Hope fired at the end of the regular season. Hope went 22-27 during his four-year tenure. His permanent replacement will be Kent State’s Darrell Hazell, but Patrick Higgins is the Boilermakers’ interim head coach vs. Oklahoma St.
--OSU compiled a 4-2 spread record in six games as a double-digit favorite during the regular season. The Cowboys are seeking their third consecutive win in a bowl game. They won a 41-38 decision over Stanford in overtime of last year’s Fiesta Bowl.
--Purdue won its last three regular-season games to become bowl eligible. Hope’s team covered the spread in two of those contests, including the regular-season finale, a 56-35 home win over Indiana as a 5 ½-point ‘chalk.’ Robert Marve threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns. For the season, Marve has a 13/3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
--Oklahoma St. lost back-to-back games to end the regular season, but we should note the Cowboys’ stellar 5-2 spread record down the stretch. They are ranked fourth in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 44.7 points per game despite going through three different starting QBs due to injuries.
--Purdue has hooked up its backers in a pair of double-digit underdog situations this year. The Boilers nearly pulled outright upsets in narrow losses at Notre Dame (17-14) and at Ohio St. (29-22 in overtime).
--The ‘over’ hit at a 7-4 overall clip for OSU, going 4-1 in its last five games.
--The ‘over’ also went 7-4 overall for Purdue during the regular season.
**Northwestern vs. Mississippi State**
--This showdown between the SEC and Big Ten will be contested in Jacksonville at the Gator Bowl. As of late Monday afternoon, most books were listing Northwestern (9-3 SU, 11-1 ATS) as a short favorite. Most Vegas shops had the Wildcats favored by one, while most offshore books had them as two-point favorites. Mississippi St. was favored for most of the month of December by 1.5 to 2.5. However, most spots made Northwestern the favorite on Dec. 28.
--Mississippi St. (8-4 SU, 6-6 ATS) won its first seven games before losing four of its last five when it faced the meat of its schedule. The losses came at Alabama (38-7), vs. Texas A&M (38-13), at LSU (37-17) and at Ole Miss (41-24).
--Mississippi St. is led by junior QB Tyler Russell, who threw for 2,791 yards with a 22/6 TD-INT ratio. The Bulldogs go as he goes, evidenced by his 3/5 TD-INT ratio in their four losses.
--Russell’s favorite target is senior WR Chad Bumphis, who has 55 receptions for 904 yards and 12 TDs. LaDarius Perkins is the team’s leading rusher, producing 941 yards on the ground with eight TDs with a 5.1 yards-per-carry average.
--Pat Fitzgerald’s team covered the number in each of its six games as a favorite. Northwestern won outright in its last two games and took the cash in each of its last six. The Wildcats closed the regular season by trouncing Illinois 50-14 as 19-point home favorites. Kain Colter threw three TD passes without an interception and also rushed for 88 yards and one TD. Venric Mark rushed for 127 yards and one score.
--Northwestern utilizes a two-QB system that has proven to work effectively. Trevor Siemian is more of a pure passer and gets more of the snaps. Siemian has 1,192 passing yards with a 6/2 TD-INT ratio. Colter gets playing time at WR and is a two-way threat under center with his arm and scrambling ability. Colter has eight TD passes compared to only two interceptions. He has also rushed for 820 yards and 12 TDs with a 5.2 YPC average.
--Mark rushed for 1,310 yards and 11 TDs while averaging 6.2 YPC.
--Dan Mullen’s team went 0-3 both SU and ATS in three underdog spots.
--The ‘under’ went 6-1-1 in the Bulldogs’ first eight games, but the ‘over’ ended the regular season on a 3-0 run.
--The ‘under’ went 6-5 overall for Northwestern this year.
--During Fitzgerald’s seven-year tenure, Northwestern is winless in four bowl games but has covered the spread in two of those. Two losses came in overtime.
--ESPN2 will provide television coverage at noon Eastern.
**South Carolina vs. Michigan**
--Another SEC-Big Ten matchup will go down in Tampa at the Outback Bowl.
--Most books opened South Carolina (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS) as a 3 ½-point favorite but the number was quickly adjusted to four. Since then, the number has been gradually increasing and got as high as six at one point. As of late Monday afternoon, the Gamecocks were favored by five or 5.5 at most books in Las Vegas. Some offshores were down to 4 ½. Gamblers can take the Wolverines to win outright for a plus-175 return (risk $100 to win $175).
--South Carolina won eight of its 10 games by double-digit margins, including a 27-17 win at Clemson without starting quarterback Connor Shaw in the regular-season finale. The only losses for Spurrier’s team came during a murderous three-week stretch. The Gamecocks started the brutal span by spanking Georgia 35-7 in a game that was over midway through the first quarter. Next, they lost a 23-21 heartbreaker at LSU. In the only poor performance all year, South Carolina got run out of The Swamp when turnovers got the best of it and created a lopsided final score.
--South Carolina has thrived in its last eight roles as a favorite, compiling a 6-2 spread record. The Gamecocks are 5-2-1 ATS in their last eight games as single-digit ‘chalk.’
--Michigan (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) lost four times during Brady Hoke’s second season at the helm. The Wolverines were drilled 41-14 in their season opener vs. Alabama on a neutral field in Arlington, TX. They also got blasted by a 23-9 count at Nebraska. The other defeats came at Notre Dame (13-6) and at Ohio St. (26-21).
--Michigan has been an underdog four times this year, going 0-4 both SU and ATS.
--South Carolina is going bowling for the seventh time during Steve Spurrier’s spectacular eight-year tenure. After losing three straight bowl games, the Gamecocks dealt out woodshed treatment to Nebraska in last year’s Capital One Bowl. They won 30-13 as 2 ½-point favorites to capture the first 11-win campaign in school history. Spurrier’s bunch will be looking for another 11-win season in this spot, so motivation shouldn’t be an issue.
--Totals were an overall wash (6-6) for Michigan, but it saw the ‘over’ cash at a 3-1 clip in its last four outings.
--The ‘over’ is 7-4 overall for the Gamecocks, going 4-1 in their last five games.
--Kickoff is slated for 1:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.
**Georgia vs. Nebraska**
--Georgia and Nebraska will collide in Orlando at the Capital One Bowl. UGA nearly advanced to the BCS Championship Game before dropping a 32-28 heartbreaker to Alabama at the Ga. Dome in the SEC title game.
--Most spots opened Georgia (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) as a 10-point favorite with a total of 57. However, as of late Friday afternoon, the number had dipped down to nine and even 8 or 8.5 at some offshores. The total was all the way up into the 61-62 range. The Cornhuskers are plus-280 on the money line (risk $100 to win $180).
--Nebraska (10-3 SU, 6-6-1 ATS) saw its Rose Bowl hopes dashed in a humiliating 70-31 loss to Wisconsin as a three-point ‘chalk’ in the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis. The Badgers raced out to a 49-10 lead less than one minute into the third quarter and coasted to victory. The Cornhuskers gave up an appalling 539 rushing yards, giving up an average of more than 10 yards per tote.
--Bo Pelini’s squad has been an underdog twice, going 1-1 both SU and ATS. Nebraska got spanked at Ohio St. and won a 28-24 decision over Michigan St. in East Lansing.
--Georgia has a balanced offensive attack that averages 37.2 PPG. Junior QB Aaron Murray has thrown for 3,458 yards with a 31/8 TD-INT ratio. Freshman RB Todd Gurley rushed for a team-high 1,260 yards and 16 TDs.
--UGA was been a single-digit favorite only once during the regular season, collecting a 41-20 win at Missouri as a one-point road ‘chalk.’
--Mark Richt’s team has lost back-to-back postseason games. The Dawgs lost 10-6 to Central Florida in the 2010 Liberty Bowl and dropped a 33-30 triple-overtime decision to Michigan St. in last year’s Outback Bowl.
--The ‘over’ is 7-4-1 overall for Nebraska, cashing at a 3-1-1 clip in its last four outings.
--Totals have been an overall wash (6-6) in UGA games, but the ‘under’ has cashed in six of its last seven contests.
--ABC will have the telecast at 1:00 p.m. Eastern.