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Bowl season betting primer: UCLA’s last stand in Pac-12


The holidays are approaching, and that means one very important attraction is here: college football bowl season.

A full slate Saturday kicks off the college football postseason and offers up plenty of time for sports bettors to consider their strategy.

The Pac-12 makes its final stand this month before disappearing, with one heralded soon-to-be-former member making an appearance among our betting selections.


New Mexico State Aggies vs. Fresno State Bulldogs

Date, time: Saturday, Dec. 16, 5:45 p.m. ET.
Site: University Stadium, Albuquerque, N.M.
The line: New Mexico State -3.5, total 51.

The opt-outs, injury report and transfer portal play a large role, as usual, in analyzing bowl games, and the New Mexico Bowl is no different.

The most prominent area of concern is the health of Aggies starting quarterback Diego Pavia. The guy who keyed the 31-10 upset of Auburn a few weeks ago aggravated an arm injury in the conference title game.

But New Mexico State coach Jerry Kill offered an optimistic evaluation last week, and it appears Pavia is on track to start.

“We’re hoping he is even throwing by Sunday or Monday,” Kill told reporters Dec. 7.

The Aggies (10-4) have won eight of their past nine, while Fresno State (8-4) is on a three-game skid.

The Bulldogs have plenty of distractions, too, with coach Jeff Tedford having stepped away due to “personal health concerns,” leaving Tim Skipper to guide the team.

Fresno State QB Mikey Keene is solid but has some concussion-related issues in his immediate past. His presence is mandatory for the Bulldogs to stand a decent chance.

On the down side for New Mexico State, receiver Trent Hudson entered the transfer portal. Hudson led the Aggies in receiving touchdowns with 10 and was second in receptions (35) and receiving yards (551).

This should feel very much like a New Mexico State home game – 30,000+ pushing the Aggies momentum – and the trends are working against Fresno State.

DraftKings’ opening line was Aggies -1; it’s now at -3.5.

There’s an element of unfinished business for New Mexico State and, having the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year calling signals Saturday feels like enough to make a difference.

The bet: New Mexico State -3.5.


UCLA Bruins vs. Boise State Broncos

Date, time: Saturday, Dec. 16, 7:30 p.m. ET.
Site: SoFi Stadium, Inglewood, Calif.
The line: UCLA -2, total 49.5.

This one appears to be a real toss-up, with the Bruins missing the nation’s best player at his position and the Broncos likely without their top two quarterbacks.

The betting number opened with UCLA as much as a four-point favorite but has moved downward as the Bruins deal with defections.

UCLA defensive lineman Laiatu Latu will miss the LA Bowl, opting to prepare for the NFL draft.

It’s a big hole to fill.

Latu was voted the nation’s top D-lineman (Lombardi Award) and the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Boise State has its issues, too, and the challenges will test coach Spencer Danielson, who was given the reins after the Broncos fired Andy Avalos after 10 games.

Danielson supervised a 3-0 finish to the regular season and has since had the interim tag removed.

Boise State likes to run the ball, but the Bruins finished atop the list of run-stoppers – first in the country at only 69.6 yards per game.

Compounding the troubles, Broncos starting quarterback Taylen Green, who entered the transfer portal last week, has formally committed to play at Arkansas next season.

Green lost his starting job to Maddux Madsen, who then suffered a season-ending injury. Boise State must turn to either true freshman CJ Tiller or walk-on Colt Fulton.

And there’s not much elite help from the Broncos receiving corps. They will be missing leading wideout Eric McAlister, who averaged almost 20 yards per reception and compiled 873 receiving yards. McAlister entered the transfer portal and waved goodbye to Boise before the bowl game.

Bruins former five-star quarterback Dante Moore also entered the transfer portal, but UCLA is much better prepared and is set to roll with Ethan Garbers at quarterback.

Garbers had the steadier hand this season, connecting for nine touchdowns on 66.4% of his passes for 984 yards. It’s a good matchup for the Bruins, given Boise State’s porous secondary (No. 113 in passing defense).

It feels like UCLA’s defense will have enough left to stack the box against the Boise State running game, and that the Bruins will win the quarterback matchup convincingly.

The bet: UCLA -2.5.

–Field Level Media

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