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Weekend bowl games: Preview, picks and predictions


There are few experiences that approach the anxious energy of eagerly awaiting the final leg to hit on a plus-money, three-team parlay, especially when the final leg is a double-digit favorite teased to the moneyline.

The only hurdles to clear before enjoying the view of that final leg are the first two legs.

College bowl season is loaded with value opportunities. Given the impact of the transfer portal, many of those develop just days before kickoff.

We are focused on three bowl games this week, playing them together for a nice potential holiday bonus.


Utah State Aggies vs. Georgia State Panthers

Date, time: Saturday, Dec. 23, 3:30 p.m. ET
Site: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
The line: Utah State -2.5, total 59.5

Utah State is a middling college football team as its 6-6 record (4-4 in the Mountain West Conference) would indicate. But the Aggies aren’t going to be adversely affected by the transfer portal.

Georgia State (6-6, 3-5 in the Sun Belt Conference) is less than a middling team – as its five-game losing streak would indicate. And the Panthers can’t get a break.

The transfer portal consumed a good chunk of the offense, which relied heavily on its ground-game success. Top rusher Marcus Carroll, right tackle Montavious Cunningham and top receiver Robert Lewis won’t play. And the defense lost starting cornerback Bryquice Brown.

Utah State has the familiarity card to play, as well. Coach Blake Anderson is 5-1 when facing Georgia State, and starting quarterback Levi Williams was a standout in the 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl when playing for Wyoming.

Williams ran for more than 200 yards and four TDs and passed for another in that 52-38 win against Kent State.

Top target Jalen Royals led the FBS with seven touchdown receptions of 50+ yards.

The Aggies defense is anchored by graduate senior linebacker MJ Tafisi Jr., whose 131 tackles (10.9 per game) rank No. 8 in the country.


Northwestern Wildcats vs. Utah Utes

Date, time: Saturday, Dec. 23, 7:30 p.m. ET
Site: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas
The line: Utah -6.5, total 41.5

These teams appear headed in opposite directions, with Northwestern rallying in the wake of a coaching change and Utah cursing the football gods.

The Utes (5-4, 8-4 Pac-12) dropped three of their final five games and are the more affected of the teams with regard to the transfer portal.

The Wildcats (5-4, 7-5 Big Ten) capped their season with victories at Wisconsin, at home against Purdue and at Illinois.

This matchup has all the potential to be messy – and likely within two touchdowns.

Bryson Barnes, who threw for 1,517 yards on 134 completions, 12 touchdown passes and nine interceptions, would need to play a virtually flawless game to ignite a blowout. His ESPN QB rating was 123.6.

Northwestern’s Ben Bryant completed 150 throws for 1,585 yards and had 11 touchdown passes and six interceptions with a rating (per ESPN) of 126.5.

With comparable QBs and modest offenses, look for a relatively tight game.


San Jose State Spartans vs. Coastal Carolina Chanticleers

Date, time: Saturday, 10:30 p.m. ET
Site: Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, Honolulu
The line: San Jose -10.5, total 52.5

Both teams finished the regular season 7-5, but the Spartans closed with a rush following a 1-5 start and tied for first in the Mountain West Conference.

The Chanticleers and long-time (40 starts) quarterback Grayson McCall were 7-3 before McCall was hurt and they dropped their final two games.

McCall won’t play Saturday, either, having entered the transfer portal.

Coastal Carolina must fly 5,000 miles for this “neutral site” matchup against San Jose State, which has played – and won – in Hawai’i three times in the past four years.

San Jose State opened as a 7.5-point favorite and has seen plenty of public support in the days since.

Spartans quarterback Chevan Cordeiro probably feels this is somewhat of a home game, having played there in high school and at the University of Hawai’i.

Running back Kairee Robinson should be able to find plenty of room to run against the Chanticleers’ shaky rush defense.

Cordeiro threw 19 touchdown passes and only four interceptions while Robinson scored 18 TDs to anchor a ground game that exceeded 200 yards in five of San Jose State’s final six games this season.

Robinson rolled up 200 yards by himself in a Nov. 11 victory over Fresno State.

Barring a big turnover disparity, this one falls into the late-night comfort zone – just win the game outright, Spartans!

The bet, with a +150 payout (DraftKings): Three-team teaser parlay Utah State +3.5, Northwestern +12, San Jose State moneyline of -380.

–Field Level Media

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