Ryan Mayer

The college football bowl season is upon us. With 39 games spread out over the next two and a half weeks there is plenty of opportunity to add a little bonus to your holiday gift pile. Our bowl picks series will let you know who we think will come out on top against the spread. All lines and totals courtesy of Sportsline. Find all our picks here. All lines are as of the date of publication.

Valero Alamo Bowl

#13 Stanford (9-4) vs. #15 TCU (10-3)

Spread: TCU -2.5

Total: 49.5

Spread: This is your typical Stanford team, pounding opponents on the ground and playing solid defense. The Cardinal ranked in the Top 40 in both offensive and defensive scoring averages, putting up 32 points per game on offense and 21.5 per game on defense. The offense runs through Heisman-finalist running back Bryce Love, who carried the ball 237 times for nearly 2,000 yards (1,973) this season and 17 touchdowns. The amazing thing with Love is that he averaged 8.3 yards per carry this season, making it much easier on the Cardinal’s QBs. Keller Chryst started the year, before ceding the job to K.J. Costello. Costello was solid, averaging 7.5 yards-per-attempt with an 11-to-2 touchdown to interception mark this season. Defensively, the Cardinal were much more bend-but-don’t-break than they normally are allowing just under 400 yards per game while giving up just the 21.5 points per. That unit is led by safety Justin Reid and defensive end Harrison Phillips who have combined for 181 tackles, 21 for loss and 8.5 sacks.

TCU had a terrific bounce back season after a rough 2016 in which they went 6-7. A runner-up in the Big 12 and 10 wins, the Horned Frogs defense is the star of the show, ranking just outside the Top 10 in points allowed per game (17.6), Top 5 in rush defense (99.8 YPG), and Top 10 in sacks with 41. The dominant pass-rushing duo of Mat Boesen and Ben Banogu (20 sacks, 30 TFL) leads the way, with LB Travin Howard cleaning up everything else (98 tackles, 7 TFL). On offense, QB Kenny Hill was solid this year, completing 67 percent of his passes for 2,798 yards and 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. The offense averaged over 33 points and 414 yards per game, but they will likely be without top running back Darius Anderson who is nursing a foot injury.

The ATS trends don’t offer much in the way of insight as TCU went 6-7 and Stanford went 6-6-1. The Horned Frogs were 5-5 as a favorite while Stanford was 3-1 as an underdog. The biggest question is if TCU can “slow” Bryce Love the way Washington State (16 carries 69 yards 1 TD) and USC (22 carries 125 yards 1 TD) did. If they can, they’ll win. TCU -2.5

Total: Either way, this game isn’t likely to develop into a shootout. Stanford was just 5-8 this season and TCU was 3-10 against the total. TCU had three games where the total was set this low (Kansas St., Iowa St. and Texas) and was under all three times. Stanford’s lone game that had this low of a line came against San Diego State, and a hard-fought ground dominant game ended up 20-17. Look for a similar type scoreline here. Under 49.5

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