Want to know why they call it gambling and why we advise to risk entertainment only?
Notice the following: Mike Leach and Washington State had a 15-point lead with less than three minutes to go in the Blankety-Blank Blah Bowl over Colorado State, comfortably beyond the five-point spread. A touchdown, a fumble, another TD and a two-point conversion, a fumbled kickoff return and a last-second field goal later, Leach and Co. lost in regulation.
We head into the bowl season looking for some good fortune after a rocky conclusion to the regular season. Yes, we finished the year 51-40-1 against the spread, but that's below our standards and we were plodding down the stretch.
So we were flummoxed by Pirate Leach walking the game-management plank. Washington State was up eight with less than two minutes to go and just got a first down, only to lose a fumbled handoff on the next play when three kneels and a punt would all but seal it. That was not how we had hoped to start spinning around the bowl slate. So it goes.
It also goes as such when Louisiana-Lafayette surprisingly starts quarterback Terrance Broadway, who broke his arm last month. And it's how it goes when Southern California shows up motivated. Alas.
We are 2-3 against the spread and have work to do. Take that for what it is and know that if you want to ride the other way, it's your entertainment on the line.
So we enter the week of Christmas, which is gold for tots but is more like the Chili's triple-play appetizer in bowl parlance. It's not the main meal -- sure, it can be viewed as a meal because there is a lot on the plate -- but the bigger morsels are still to come.
But we pledged to pick them all, and picking them all we shall.
• Oregon State minus-3 over Boise State: Tonight's only game features an interesting matchup. We'll swing with the Beavers because: (a) OSU quarterback Sean Mannion is a senior and this is his final go; (b) OSU coach Mike Riley is 5-2 in his last seven bowl games, so he knows a little about preparation; (c) Boise State veteran coach Chris Petersen ran off to Washington; (d) Boise State sent quarterback Joe Southwick home from Hawaii for violation of team rules; (e) Boise State was 8-4 this year, a perfect 6-0 in Boise but 2-4 away from the blue turf.
• Utah State plus-2 over Northern Illinois: NIU's Huskies have been an interesting story all year, even getting Jordan Lynch an invitation to the Heisman Tropy presentation. The Utah State defense is not as interesting but every bit as tough. Hey, Merlin Olsen went to U-State, and he was awesome in "Little House on the Prarie." That's enough.
• Pittsburgh plus-4.5 over Bowling Green: Bowling Green was sneaky good in the sneaky entertaining MAC. (Admit it: You miss those Tuesday night MAC games. MAC Action ... it's fantastic.) Pittsburgh was blah-rific in the ordinary ACC. Still, Pittsburgh has a legit NFL player in Aaron Donald; Bowling Green lost its head coach. Edge: Panthers. Side question: Speaking of nicknames, if Stetson is going to be the Hatters and we all know that Tulane is the Green Wave, why can't they change Falcons to the Bowling Green Green Bowlers. That would be cool.)
• Marshall minus-2 over Maryland: Comparing common opponents tells us that each team won at Virginia Tech in overtime. Let's ride with Marshall because (a) Conference USA was far from great but the ACC was not exactly filet mignon; (b) Matt McConaughey will have his boys ready to play. (Better football movie: "We Are Marshal"l or "Remember the Titans"? Discuss.)
• BYU plus-3 over Washington: Nineteen times out of 20 we favor the favorite. It's the wise play. We have picked more underdogs in this wave of bowl picks than we did all season. That's a scary fact. Still, Washington's Huskies are another bunch that are playing after their coach broke up with them. Sigh. BYU is tough. Tough does not slump. One of the main hurdles about bowl handicapping is whether teams mess around during the bowl festivities. BYU is not into messing around, not when certain extracurricular activities get you dismissed from school.
• Minnesota minus-4 over Syracuse: Hey, look, another ACC team in a Christmas-week bowl game. Go figure. The Gophers are one of the better, undertold stories in college football. Plus, the most famous Gophers are Dave Winfield and the little critter in "Caddyshack"; the most famous Oranges are Carmelo Anthony and navel. Edge Gophers.
Contact Jay Greeson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jgreesontfp, and listen to him and David Paschall on "Press Row" weekdays 3-6 p.m. on ESPN 105.1 FM and in real time on timesfreepress.com.