Hot & Not Report – Bowls

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Last week's piece on NFL trends heading into Week 16 didn't bring the best results, and with Week 17 being one that generally resembles a crap shoot for the bulk of the card with motivation and who's suiting up being big question marks throughout the week, it's back to the collegiate game this week.

NFL angles will be back in time for the playoffs early next week, but with a plethora of Bowl games in the more immediate future, here are a couple of 'lighter' angles to keep on your holiday plate for the next 10 days or so.

Straight Up - SU, Against the Spread - ATS

Who's Hot

ACC teams in Boxing Day Bowls: 7-3 SU and 6-4 ATS in CFB Playoff era (2014-15)

Historical information like this isn't always the most in-depth approach or even the most relevant knowledge in some cases, but considering Boxing Day (Dec. 26) this year has just two Bowl games on the card and there is an ACC team involved in each, it was worth pointing out. Miami and Pittsburgh are chalk in their respective games this year, and while ACC chalk is just 3-2 ATS in the span outlined in the header, if you do believe they will win the game, laying the points doesn't hurt.

That 7-3 SU and ATS run by ACC teams on Boxing Day is perfectly correlated (ie there were no ATS covers coming in SU defeats), with one exception, so keep that in mind. It does work the other way too in that if you are looking at taking the points with Louisiana Tech or Eastern Michigan later this week, dousing the ML with a partial unit should be considered as well. The University of Miami did account for one of those past SU and ATS losses on Boxing Day – their only appearance in this data – as a 20-14 loss to Washington State (-1.5) back in 2015 is one of the three ACC blemishes on this day in recent years.

That one exception – Virginia Tech winning 55-52 back in 2015 as double-digit (-14) chalk.

But what may be even more interesting for this data set is the fact that not only are the SU wins correlated with ATS wins perfectly, but the same goes for the totals in these games as well.

In the seven SU/ATS wins by ACC programs in Boxing Day Bowls the past few years, the 'over' has gone 6-0-1 O/U, while the three SU/ATS losses by ACC schools has gone a perfect 0-3 O/U to the 'under'. That is quite the history when you think about it, and how you chose to use that information (if at all) for this year's games is up to you. But it does suggest that with Pittsburgh (-11.5) and Miami (-6) both being expected to win their respective games, the 'over' may end up being the place to look that does give you more margin for error.

Yes, the SU and ATS results have nearly always been perfectly correlated in the sense that the point spread hasn't mattered, but the one time it did – Virginia Tech in 2015 – was the only other time prior to this year that an ACC school was laying double-digit chalk. That puts Pittsburgh in the trickier spot this week, at least in terms of the side, which is why I do say that the 'over' (at least in that game) does potentially give you more of a margin for error. Pitt wasn't an 'over' team at all this season (3-9 O/U), but Eastern Michigan was (7-3-2 O/U), and if the Eagles do find a way to make a game of it, chances are it will be a game that should surpass their current total of 49.

Who's Not

Backing Favorites in non-CFB Playoff New Year's Day Bowl games – 1-7 ATS and 2-6 SU the last two seasons

If you are someone who tends to wake up groggy and hungover on New Year's Day, when you take your dog out for a walk to get some fresh air and shake loose some of the cobwebs, make sure you put some underdog betting tickets in your pocket at the same time. That's because underdogs playing on this day have been money the past two years, going 7-1 ATS and 6-2 outright in that span.

When you really step back and think about it, the general theory does make a lot of sense too. All year you hear announcers talk about how important it is for many programs to be playing in a New Year's Day Bowl game, but that's not the reality for all of them. A lot of the time it's this day that houses those teams that finished ranked #5 through #10 in the CFB Playoff rankings, meaning they just missed out on their ultimate goal and there is simply no desire to go out and be at their best in a Bowl game on New Year's Day that's only lost more and more prestige as the years have gone on. That's not even mentioning that the lone ATS loss for underdogs in this spot came by a half-point last year in UCF's 40-32 loss to LSU when the Knights closed at +7.5.

But when the past two seasons has had brand name programs like LSU, Auburn and Michigan all lose outright as chalk in 2017 – Auburn and Michigan laying -9 or more – and the likes of Georgia (-13.5) and Penn State (-4.5) lose outright in 2018, you can see how the lack of motivation for these schools who just missed out on the playoff does come into play. This year we've got a few more candidates that fit that role, as all eight teams in action finished the year ranked in the Top 18 in the country.

The Baylor/Georgia (-6.5) game is really interesting given that both teams basically needed just a win in their Conference Championship game to be playoff bound, and for the entire Bowl season I'm not sure there is another game where you could have neither side wanting to be there like that one.

Wisconsin (-2.5/3) is currently laying about a FG against Oregon in the Rose Bowl, and while neither team likely saw their playoff hopes dashed in the final week of the season, you could make that argument for Wisconsin given they held a halftime lead against #1 Ohio State in the Big 10 Title game and then crumbled after half.

Auburn is laying a TD against Minnesota in a game that could end up being one that bucks this trend, as Auburn was never really a serious playoff contender down the stretch, and Minnesota was, had they not stumbled late in the year.

And then there is the Michigan/Alabama (-7), one that fits taking the points rather well, as long as you believe the Wolverines are able to pick themselves up off the canvas after suffering humiliation yet again in the Ohio State game. That's a role that's buried Michigan before in their Bowl game, but Alabama lost more later in the year in terms of the playoff picture, and having been involved in the CFB playoff every year since its inception, a “regular” Bowl appearance for the Crimson Tide has to be a huge disappointment.

Meanwhile, Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh is in need of a significant win now more then ever with how his teams have performed against top level competition during his tenure at Michigan, and a lack of excitement/motivation from Alabama could be just what the doctor ordered for Harbaugh's crew. Alabama still has plenty of cache in their name in terms of Harbaugh beating a quality foe, and let's not forget the Tide are still without their starting QB.

That's got to be about as good as it gets situationally for a play on Michigan here, you've just got to hope that the Wolverines are motivated themselves.