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Garner Wallace


Northwestern defensive back Garner Wallace celebrates after recovering a fumble by Illinois and running in a touchdown during the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023, in Champaign, Ill.

Northwestern becomes the second Big Ten team to ever compete in the Las Vegas Bowl Saturday night at Allegiant Stadium. Utah becomes the 21st representative from the Pac-12.

The Utes are also the last Pac-12 representative.

The Pac-12 is dissolving — at least in its current state. The Las Vegas Bowl is in no danger of following suit, especially now that it’s become one of the premier games of the early postseason, but it will look a lot different without the Pac-12.

A Pac-12 team has now played in the Las Vegas Bowl in 21 of the last 22 years since the game and conference struck a partnership at the turn of the century. It’s the most of any league, edging the ousted Mountain West with 20 all-time appearances.

The Pac-12 teams have gone 10-10 straight-up, 11-9 against the spread in the Las Vegas Bowl, meaning it will be up to Utah to determine whether the conference finishes with a winning outright record. The history of course holds no handicapping impact on this year’s game, in which Utah is giving Northwestern 6.5 points on the spread, but it’s interesting nonetheless.

College football’s farewell season has its impacts everywhere, including locally.

Read below for picks on the next 11 bowl games including the Las Vegas Bowl. Picks are labeled with one of three confidence categories. Lines are the best currently available in Las Vegas on the chosen side. The record in the first part of the bowl pick’em column was 4-4-1 (2-0 on plays, 1-2 on leans and 1-2-1 on guesses).

Gasparilla Bowl at 3:30 p.m. Friday in Tampa, Fla.: Georgia Tech +4.5 vs. UCF, over/under: 67. The spread curiously isn’t moving despite the total continually climbing. A higher-scoring game should favor the better team, and UCF is definitely the better team. The Knights slightly underachieved this year because of injury but they figure to be healthier in the postseason and have seen fewer impactful roster departures than the Yellow Jackets. Play: UCF -4.5.

Birmingham Bowl at 9 a.m. Saturday in Birmingham, Ala.: Troy -7.5 vs. Duke, over/under: 44.5. Troy was a bet at the opening price of -5.5 all the way up to 7, but the line is getting a little too high now. Both teams lost their coaches, but the many members of the interim staff Duke has assembled are also on their way out. Duke’s roster has gotten hammered in the transfer portal too while Troy’s is closer to full strength. Lean: Troy -7.5.

Camellia Bowl at 9 a.m. Saturday in Montgomery, Ala.: Arkansas State -3 vs. Northern Illinois, over/under: 54. The number seems right on but it’s worth noting that teams from the MAC covered against teams from the Sun Belt in both bowls pairing the two over the initial week. Perhaps the former is stronger than expected, and the latter is weaker. That’s not something I’d factor too heavily into my handicapping, but there’s not much else to go off here. Guess: Northern Illinois +3.

Armed Forces Bowl at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Fort Worth, Texas: James Madison -2.5 vs. Air Force, over/under: 41. The Falcons don’t give official word on player availability but things seem to be trending in the right direction of quarterback Zac Larrier returning from an injury to play. Air Force arguably looked like the best Group of Five conference team in the nation when Larrier was healthy in the early to midseason. James Madison belonged in the same conversation but tailed off without a similar major injury and shouldn’t be as sharp with coach Curt Cignetti’s departure to Indiana. Play: Air Force +2.5

Idaho Potato Bowl at 12:30 p.m. Saturday in Boise, Idaho: Georgia State +2 vs. Utah State, over/under: 41. These teams looked even about midway through the year, but a lot has changed since then. Georgia State lost its last five games of the year and then saw multiple starters from both sides of the ball enter the transfer portal. This is also a long trip for the Panthers to a higher elevation, unique venue where the Aggies are more accustomed to playing. Play: Utah State -2.

68 Ventures Bowl at 4 p.m. Saturday in Mobile, Ala.: South Alabama -16 vs. Eastern Michigan, over/under: 46.5. Eastern Michigan sits 125th in the nation in net yards per play and 113th in success rate. It’s a miracle this team made a bowl game. It’s not much of a reward having to go up a burly Jaguars’ side playing in their home stadium. This line should be above 17, where at least one sports book already sits. Play: South Alabama -16.

Las Vegas Bowl at 4:30 p.m. Saturday at Allegiant Stadium: Utah -6.5 vs. Northwestern, over/under: 42. Utah is ravaged by defections in every corner of its roster while Northwestern has actually gained stability with the promotion of interim coach David Braun to full-time status. No Power Five conference team still playing was less likely to get to a bowl game going into the season than Northwestern, and that hopefully means no one is more excited for the opportunity. This was a play at anything above 7, but there might still be some slight value remaining. Lean: Northwestern +6.5.

Hawaii Bowl at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Honolulu: Coastal Carolina +10.5 vs. San Jose State, over/under: 52. San Jose State is better than Coastal Carolina and more used to Hawaii trips, but is it really worth this many points? At a neutral site during the season, this spread would have never been higher than -7. The Chanticleers have lost a lot more players than the Spartans so it’s not comfortable, but taking the points is the only approach with a number this bloated. Lean: Coastal Carolina +10.5.

Quick Lane Bowl at 11 a.m. Tuesday in Detroit: Bowling Green +4 vs. Minnesota, over/under: 39.5. 40. Bowling Green held its own when it stepped up in class this year, not only beating Georgia Tech outright but intercepting J.J. McCarthy three times in a 31-6 loss-but-cover as 41-point underdogs to Michigan. The Falcons took money all year, and mostly lived up to it with an 8-4 against the spread record. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the market moved in their direction again, so get ahead of it and bet them now. Play: Bowling Green +4.

First Responder Bowl at 2:30 p.m. Tuesday in Dallas: Texas State -5.5 vs. Rice, over/under: 59.5. Consider this a cousin of the Hawaii Bowl. The favored team clearly has the better news in its corner, but the betting market may have over-adjusted. Owls quarterback J.T. Daniels retired from football after repeated concussions but replacement AJ Padgett settled in and won the last two games of the season. Why can’t he make it three with an in-state showdown that should help ensure everyone is locked in and determined to play to their potential? Wait to see if a 6 emerges but there’s only one way to look here. Lean: Rice +5.5.

Guaranteed Rate Bowl at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Phoenix: Kansas -13 vs. UNLV, over/under: 64.5. This is the rare bowl where both teams stayed almost entirely intact, minus a couple Jayhawks assistant leaving for other jobs. That means it should be safe to fall back on regular-season numbers, and my regular-season numbers only make Kansas a 10-point favorite here. The action on Kansas to push this number up is puzzling and may be an overreaction to UNLV losing two straight to end the season. Play: UNLV +13.

Case Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or [email protected]. Follow Case on Twitter at Keefer can be reached at 702-948-2790 or

Article written by #LasVegasSun