Saturday’s Best Bets – Sides

Saturday's Best Bets - Totals

Saturday is a day that football fans and bettors will likely carve out a nice indent in their couches, as the NFL's got a triple-header and the college football bowl season kicks off in earnest. Six different bowl games are on the card, and while the pre-Christmas bowl games don't necessarily generate the same excitement as the ones down the line do, adding to you bankroll all counts the same no matter what game they come from.

Hopefully that ends up being the case with these two plays I'm about to get to, as it always feels good to start off on the right foot during bowl season and go from there. Admittedly, this is a tricky opening Saturday card overall as five of the six games are lined at +4 or lower currently, and three teams (FAU, Boise State, and App State) are going into their proceedings with an interim head coach. Those coaching changes are always tough to handicap given how important motivation is for programs during bowl season, and who can really know if those teams are deflated (or happy) their coach moved on.

So it's two other games on the board that I've isolated for Saturday's action, and given that they are both underdogs, putting a bit of your wager on the outright victory is always an option as well.

New Mexico Bowl

Central Michigan vs. San Diego State - 2:00 PM EST

If you watched the MAC Championship game that Central Michigan fell short in, it's hard not to come to the conclusion that the Chippewas offense really crapped the bed for the majority of that contest. Central Michigan was coming off three consecutive 40+ point efforts (and five of their last seven) heading into that game, and got blanked in two of those four quarters against Miami (Ohio). Getting plenty of time to reboot and recharge after such a disappointing performance can only help the Chippewas for this bowl game, and they'll need it considering how tough the Aztecs defense has been all year.

San Diego State's defense is always going to be a talking point for those breaking this game down, and it's tough to argue with. The Aztecs finished the year allowing 17 or fewer points in each of their final six games – going 4-2 SU and 3-3 ATS in the process. They are as stout as it comes when playing defensive football at this level, but in the collegiate game, if you give up 17 or fewer points for six straight weeks, your record should be 6-0 SU in all likelihood.

Simply put, San Diego State's offense is atrocious, and should the Chippewas find a way to grab an early lead with that dynamic offense of theirs – 447.4 yards per game, 6.2 yards per play, and 31.9 points per game – I don't know how you can trust the Aztecs to come back and win this game by more then a FG. It's not like the Chippewas defense is a sieve by any means, and with the total currently sitting at 40.5 points, scores like 20-17 or 23-20 for either side are very much in play here.

That's an all important hook on the +3.5 point spread in my view, and I'll gladly take it with a team that's got the far better offense, will hang tough defensively relative to their opponent (who struggles to move the ball anyways), and has something to prove to themselves internally after they coughed up their shot at being a conference champion this year.

Best Bet: Central Michigan +3.5

Cure Bowl

Liberty vs. Georgia Southern - 2:30 PM EST

Liberty is in its first ever bowl game as a program, and for some that means the 'simply happy to be here' angle puts the Flames in a fade spot. Every year there are bowl teams that do fall into that category for sure, but I'm not a big believer in that being the case, especially as an underdog. The last three teams to make it two their first FBS bowl game this decade and came in as an underdog – UTSA in 2016, Georgia State and Georgia Southern in 2015 – ended up going 1-2 SU and 2-1 ATS.

There is also something to be said regarding motivation for teams in Liberty's position, as they will always go down as the first to get here in the school's history. Why stop there though right, why not be the first team to not only get to a bowl game, but win a bowl game as well, and that's something that their opponent Georgia Southern knows all too well. They were referenced in that earlier list, and that 2015 Eagles team got the program's first bowl win as well that year. Things like that have a funny way of coming full circle, and hopefully that's the case here.

That type of excitement for Georgia Southern has come and gone, as this program is all about competiting for Sun Belt titles now that they've established themselves as a legit FBS team. And the Eagles had their chance this year after being the only team to knock off Appalachian State this season (as 13.5-point underdogs), but couldn't maintain that high. They slipped up in a natural letdown spot the following week losing 49-28 at a suspect Troy team, and then suffered another loss in their final road game at Arkansas State when they couldn't get the help they needed with another App State defeat. The Eagles did end the year on a high note in clobbering rival Georgia State in the season finale (38-10), so really where is the motivation going to come from their side of things?

Finally, these two teams have three common foes this year in FCS team Maine, Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, and New Mexico State (which Liberty played twice). Both sides hosted Maine with Georgia State winning SU 26-18 but failing to cover the -9 spread, while Liberty had a similar ATS result in their 59-44 victory but failing against the -15.5 spread.

The respective games against Louisiana ended in defeat for both, but Georgia Southern lost 37-24 at home as +3.5 dogs, while Liberty fell 35-14 on the road catching 14 points. Liberty won both games SU and ATS against New Mexico State, but for comparison's sake we will only look at the home contest since Georgia Southern hosted the Aggies too. Both sides put up 40+ on New Mexico State in 49-28 (Liberty) and 41-7 (Georgia Southern) wins, but what's telling is that the Eagles closed as -13.5 point favorites while Liberty closed a full point higher at -14.5.

What I see in all of those results, aside from the two teams being very equal, is the fact that in the two essentially identical situations – hosting Maine and hosting New Mexico State – it was actually Liberty who garnered more respect from the oddsmakers and the betting market in closing as bigger favorites both times.

Best Bet: Liberty +4