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Tis the season to be bowling


Friday, December 15, 2017

Good morning!

The 2017-18 college football bowl season begins today, 39 games between the good, the sorta good, and the best of the bad teams.

Purists will pine for when only the top eight or 10 teams were invited to play in the revered Rose, Cotton, Sugar and Orange bowls, but the plethora of live entertainment will beat channel-surfing around Christmas reruns.

During the holiday season, college football will be as constant a companion as the Weather Channel. Here’s a gridiron menu of the FBS (Division 1) games for you to go bowling. Information was gleaned from ESPN.com, donbest.com, teamrankings.com, ncaa.com and team websites.

Records against the spread (ATS) are listed directly below each matchup, and are subject to change.

Today

New Orleans Bowl 1 p.m., ESPN

Mercedes-Benz Superdome

North Texas St. (9-4) vs. Troy (10-2)

Line: Troy by 7

ATS: (Troy 4-6-1; N. Texas St. 8-4-0)

SCOUTING REPORT: Sun Belt champ knocked off LSU, comes in on a six game roll. … No. Texas QB Mason Fine threw for 3,479 yards, ninth best in the nation for a team that scored 467 points and allowed 440. … Expecting a pigskin shoot-out on the corners of Lasalle St. and Sugar Bowl Drive.

AutoNation Cure Bowl 2:30 p.m., CBSSN

Camping World Stadium, Orlando

Georgia State (6-5) vs. W. Kentucky (6-6)

Line: W. Kentucky by 6½

ATS: (Ga. St. 4-6-1; W. Ky. 3-8-1)

SCOUTING REPORT: Ga. State had the third easiest strength-of-schedule in FBS; barely beat 2-10 Ga. Southern by four points last month and lost its last two games by double digits. … W. Kentucky ninth in FBS passing offense (333.7 yards per game); Hilltoppers QB Mike White has passed for the third-most yards in the FBS.

Las Vegas Bowl 3:30 p.m., ABC

Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas

No. 25 Boise St. (10-3) vs. Oregon (7-5)

Line: Oregon by 7

ATS: (Boise St. 7-4-1; Ore. 6-6)

SCOUTING REPORT: Boise QB Brett Rypien, nephew of former Skins QB Mark Rypien, has 58 career TD passes and 20 INTs. … Ducks RB Royce Freeman’s 1,475 yards are 7th-most in FBS.

Gildan New Mexico Bowl 4:30 p.m., ESPN

Dreamstyle Stadium, Albuquerque

Marshall (7-5) v. Colorado State (7-5)

Line: Col. St. by 5½

ATS: (Marshall 8-4; Col St. 4-8)

SCOUTING REPORT: Marshall’s 370 yards of offense per game is 94th (of 129) in FBS. … Keion Davis has returned two TDs for touchdowns. … Col. State’s offensive line has allowed just eight sacks all season, giving Mason Rudolph time to throw for the most yards (4,553) in the nation.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl 8 p.m., ESPN

Cramton Bowl, Montgomery, Alabama

Arkansas State (7-4) vs. Middle Tennessee State (6-6)

Line: Ark. St. by 3½

ATS: (Ark. St. 6-4; MTSU 5-7)

SCOUTING REPORT: Red Wolves scored 424 points this season and allowed 274. … MTSU soph. wideout Ty Lee averaged six catches a game with five TDs. Equal timers John Urzua and Brent Stockstill have a combined 127 passer rating.

Tuesday

Boca Raton Bowl 7 p.m., ESPN

Schnellenberger Field at FAU Stadium

Boca Raton, Florida

Florida Atlantic (10-3) vs. Akron (7-6)

Line: FAU by 22½

ATS: (FAU 6-4; Akron 9-4)

SCOUTING REPORT: Owls’ Devin Singletary leading scorer in FBS with 30 touchdowns and 180 points. Coach Lane Kiffin’s offensive juggernaut posted 518 points and is 6-1 on home field. … Owls 6th in rushing defense. … Zips near tops against the spread, but outscored 307-342, 89th in total defense and 119th in total offense. … Betting line opened at 17 and moved to 22½. … The only concern bettors will have is the back door cover. Kiffin took flak for it happening against Marshall and might make amends.

Wednesday

DXL Frisco Bowl, 8 p.m., ESPN

Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

SMU (7-5) vs. Louisiana Tech (6-6)

Line: SMU by 5

ATS: (SMU 6-6; La. Tech. 6-6)

SCOUTING REPORT: Mustangs’ 6-foot-4 wideout Courtland Sutton caught 189 passes for 3,152 yards and 31 touchdowns. … Bulldogs lost by one point to SEC’s Gamecocks and C-USA runner-up North Texas State.

Thursday

Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl 8 p.m., ESPN

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, Florida

Temple (6-6) vs. Florida International (8-4)  

Line: Temple by 7

ATS: (Temple 6-6; FIU 6-6)

SCOUTING REPORT: Owls’ four-point loss to UConn typifies team’s inconsistencies. … FIU played third-weakest strength of schedule in the FBS. Senior QB Alex McGough’s 404 combined yards passing and rushing helped Panthers put up 63 points against UMass. … Temple was lucky to beat UMass in September, wraps up first season under new coach and with several key first-year starters.

Friday

Bahamas Bowl 12:30 p.m., ESPN

Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas

U of Ala.-Birmingham (8-4) vs. Ohio (8-4) 

Line: Ohio by 7½

ATS: (UAB 8-4; Ohio 8-4)

SCOUTING REPORT: Bobcats’ QB Nathan Rourke rushed for 22 TDs, third most in the nation. … UAB junior QB AJ Erdely has 13 rushing TDs in 12 games. … Game matches Bobcats’ size against Blazers’ speed. Ohio makes its ninth bowl appearance under Fearless Frank Stolich. Bobcats toyed with Minutemen at McGuirk Stadium, and they take their football seriously.

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 4 p.m., ESPN

Smith Field at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

Wyoming (7-5) vs. Central Michigan (8-4)

Line: Wyoming by 1

ATS: (Wyoming 7-5; Central Mich. 7-5)

SCOUTING REPORT: Cowboys kickoff returners lead the FBS averaging 29.5 yards. … Chippewas righted ship after needing overtime to beat URI in the season opener; ended the season on a five game win streak.

Next Week: Twenty bowl games in seven days.

It’s sad when a newspaper takes it on the chin, particularly if it’s the Boston Herald, which is in our backyard and on the news shelves. According to wire reports, the Herald’s weekday circulation is 45,155 — a shocking drop for a major metropolitan. Consequently Patrick Purcell is selling the 171-year-old tabloid for $4.5 million in cash and filing for bankruptcy to stave off his creditors.

A salvage yard called GateHouse Media bought the company and the reaper from corporate will soon beckon. GateHouse is paring approximately one quarter of all jobs from the workforce and threatening current worker pensions and healthcare benefits.

Employees will be required to interview with GateHouse, an opportunity not to advance, but to survive.

Ed McCaffrey caught 55 touchdown passes during his 13-year NFL career. Discussing concussion protocol he said, “In my day it was, ‘Hey Ed, what’s your name?”

His son, Christian McCaffrey, plays with the same energy and elasticity as his father, and the Panthers are in the NFC playoff chase. “You think Carolina can beat Green Bay at home?” McCaffrey asked his SXM co-host Bob Papa. “I’ll tell ya man, there’s a lot of good football that’s left to be played.” 

Attendance nearly doubled — up by over 40,000 — at FAU Stadium under new coach Lane Kiffin. A lightning rod of attention, Kiffin was fired as Alabama’s offensive coordinator two days before last year’s national championship game.

The 42-year-old Kiffin had already accepted the FAU job, and Saban wanted him gone. Kiffin’s job at FAU was Last Chance U after washing out at USC and Tennessee. “Kiffin didn’t just burn bridges at Tennessee and Southern California, he left a path of scorched earth that still smolders,” wrote USA Today’s Nancy Armour.

Despite his flaws, Kiffin can coach. The Owls (10-3) won the Conference USA championship and are 22½-point favorites to beat MAC runner-up Akron on their own field in the Boca Raton Bowl on Tuesday.     FAU’s Devin “Motor” Singletary has scored 30 touchdowns and is the nation’s leading scorer with 180 points.

SQUIBBERS: The Yankees made the first move, now it’s Boston’s turn. The Bryce Harper watch has begun; he’ll be in Boston either by trade this winter, or by free agency in 2019. … Next year is the 100th anniversary of the Curse, the year the Red Sox began their 86-year World Series drought after trading the Bambino to the Bronx. … Georgia linebacker Roquan Smith got ahold of Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield’s cell number. “Roquan texted me he’s gonna hit me harder than the Fayetteville police,” said Mayfield. … Detroit Tiger great Alan Trammell was inching out of his aisle seat in the back of an airplane when he got the call he’d been elected to the Hall of Fame. “I wanted to jump up and down and scream and do something crazy,” said the six-time All Star. … Syracuse football was crushed in five straight games by a combined 216-110 after the Orange beat Clemson on Friday, the 13th. … After the Giancarlo Stanton trade was announced, Yankees’ shortstop Didi Gregorious tweeted manager Aaron Boone: “Hey Skip am I still batting 4th???”

Chip Ainsworth is an award-winning columnist who has penned his observations about sports for four decades in the Pioneer Valley. He can be reached by email at sports@recorder.com.