This week’s podcast features a tribute to Coach Mike Leach as his untimely death made headlines this week. We kick off bowl season too with some fun matchups – but good luck picking these games. Opt-outs, injuries, coaching changes, and more all create many unknowns this time of year and more uncertainty lies ahead too with players continuing to make decisions right up until kickoff. The NFL has some hot divisional matchups, including a potential snowy game in Buffalo which we will preview too. Let’s get to some games!

UTSA at Troy, Friday @ 3:00PM, Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL, Troy -1.5, O/U 54.5

If you have listened to the podcast before, or perused our column, then you know I’m a fan of UTSA. QB Frank Harris is the man with over 3800 yards passing and 31 touchdowns on the season. Troy is no slouch though and both teams come into this matchup ranked and with an 11-2 record. The weather should be perfect in Orlando for this one: sunny and highs in the upper 60s. The spread is tight for a reason. I have no insight here other than a gut feeling. Frank Harris and the Roadrunners run all the way to victory. Give me UTSA on the money line straight-up. UTSA ML.

Cincinnati at Louisville, Saturday @ 11:00AM, Fenway Park, Boston, MA, Louisville -1, O/U 41.5

Welcome to the Scott Satterfield bowl everybody! The Louisville head coach, who many wanted to run out of town, got their wish. He is heading to…Cincinnati! This after Luke Fickell took the Wisconsin job and Satterfield likely sees the possibilities in a rich recruiting area as the Bearcats get ready to join the Big 12. None of that matters in this game, however, because he isn’t coaching yet. However, I think Louisville has the bigger challenge here. They aren’t as talented as Cincinnati in my opinion and weren’t really playing well for their coach at times this season. How can they get up for this game when so much has changed and it will be a rainy, gray, and ugly day in front of the Green Monster? I think Cincy will be slightly more motivated here and bring more talent too, even though they lost their head guy too. I’ll take Cincinnati money line to take it to the Cardinals. Cincinnati ML.

Marshall at UConn, Monday @ 2:30PM, Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC, Marshall -10, O/U 41

The fact that UConn even made a bowl game should be celebrated under first year head coach Jim Mora, Jr. This team and program were left for dead until he arrived on campus. Now, they fought hard all year and at times were fun to watch. You know who else was fun to watch this season? Charles Huff’s Marshall squad. They pulled the upset in South Bend and went on to finish 8-4. I think a lot of Huff’s coaching talent and he should be able to get his boys ready for this one. They are favored by 10 and as much as I like the UConn story, the happy ending won’t be in Conway, South Carolina. Give me the Thundering Herd -10.

49ers at Seahawks, Thursday @ 8:15PM, Lumen Field, Seattle, WA, 49ers -3.5, O/U 43.5

I’m done with Pete Carroll. His Seahawks have let me down the past few times I have picked them…even with the 12th man at home. After Brock Purdy had his coming out party last week, how can I pick against San Francisco? These two teams are vying for control of the NFC West but the 49ers are starting to run away with it after the Seahawks have dropped 3 out of the last 4. They have looked lifeless at times. The 49ers beat the Seahawks at home earlier this season, and it is tough to beat a divisional team twice in the same year. But I’ll need to see a lot more out of Pete’s squad before I’m confident giving them my pick. I’ll take the 49ers in a tough environment to really be in the driver’s seat this weekend for the NFC West. 49ers -3.5.

Dolphins at Bills, Saturday @ 8:15PM, Highmark Stadium, Orchard Park, NY, Bills -7.5, O/U 41.5

The Bills seem to have found their mojo while the Dolphins are faltering down the stretch. Tua Tagovailoa blamed the west coast time change on the struggles and that could be the case, but perhaps they have also faced better competition? Things don’t get easier for Miami on Saturday when they face Buffalo in Orchard Park. A very snowy Orchard Park mind you. An intense lake effect snow band looks to set up right over this game Saturday night and while it could be fun to watch, it will be less fun to play in. Especially if you are from Florida. Sorry Dolphins fans, no shot here. I’ll take the Bills at home on a snowy Saturday night. Bills -7.5.

SMU @ BYU, Saturday @ 7:30pm, University Stadium, Albuquerque, NM, SMU -5.5, O/U 64

There’s not really much to say here. I don’t think this matchup is very exciting, quite frankly. While it gives college football fans something to watch on TV other than the NFL, SMU is leaps and bounds better than BYU. Or at least, that’s the theory. BYU started off strong, but then collapsed down the stretch and hasn’t looked very good. SMU has the same 7-5 record, but looks faster on the field and should be ready despite opt-outs. These bowl games end up being coin flips much of the time, but I’ll ride with the Mustangs here to cover and finish off the Cougars. I wish I had better insight, but the eye test says stick with SMU. Big. SMU -5.5.

Chiefs @ Texans, Sunday @ 1:00pm, NRG Stadium, Houston, TX, Chiefs -14, O/U 49

I know, I know. The Texans ALMOST upset the Cowboys last weekend. Key word: ALMOST. Not every NFL team can be great every week. Even the best team in the league has one loss this year to an inferior opponent. But the Chiefs won’t let Lovie Smith or the Texans sniff victory here. They want to get one step closer to clinching a spot in the playoffs too and when you play an inferior team like this, don’t let them hang around. Stomp on them early, get the easy win, and go home. I think Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes do that here. Without fail. Give me the Chiefs to cruise to victory. Chiefs -14.

Here’s a summary of my picks for the week.

Games of the Week

UTSA ML

Cincinnati ML

Marshall -10

49ers -3.5

Bills -7.5

Under the Radar Game

SMU -5.5

Brett’s Best Bets

Chiefs -14

I’m really looking forward to watching that Buffalo game this Saturday and hopefully seeing some lake effect snow pile up on my screen. That’s what a December football game is supposed to look like right? It’s bowl season too and despite all the issues surrounding college football, it’s still one of my most favorite times of the year. Enjoy the start of bowl season and the holiday cheer this time of year. Good luck with any games you’re playing this week. Enjoy!

-Brett Thackara       

My picks the last two weeks have been mediocre, I am hoping with the start of bowl games I can get back on the right track. The NFL has been nearly impossible to predict week to week, and more divisional games should keeps things challenging. Here is how I see things shaking out this week:     

UTSA at Troy, Friday @ 3:00PM, Exploria Stadium, Orlando, FL, Troy -1.5, O/U 54.5

Both teams come in 11-2 to this bowl in sunny Florida, but Troy has a defense in the top 10 when it comes to low scoring games. UTSA loves to put up points, but Troy impressed me in taking down Coastal Carolina. Weather should be fine Friday afternoon even if it is perhaps a little cool for Orlando standards. This game is nearly a pick ’em, but I’ll side with the Trojans at -1.5.

Cincinnati at Louisville, Saturday @ 11:00AM, Fenway Park, Boston, MA, Louisville -1, O/U 41.5

This game deserves to be renamed the Scott Satterfield bowl! Cincinnati has been an up-and-coming program thanks to Luke Fickell and the success he had there. Meanwhile Scott Satterfield never found his footing at Louisville, and their program fell short of expectations with quarterback Malik Cunningham. Now both coaches are moving on, with Satterfield moving across outfield in this bowl game. Weird game, weird matchup. Too much up in the air for me, and speaking of the air it will be cold and blustery at historic Fenway Park. I’ll take Louisville based on what seems like a slight advantage in talent, but I don’t feel great about either team right now.

Marshall at UConn, Monday @ 2:30PM, Brooks Stadium, Conway, SC, Marshall -10, O/U 41

Charles Huff might have been the recruiting glue that gave James Franklin some early success at Penn State. I was surprised when he took a head coaching job at Marshall, however he probably climbed the assistant coaching ladder as far as he could for the time being. More surprising though was Jim Mora Jr. ending up at UConn. Fortunately that experiment has worked out! UConn is back on the map with bowl eligibility for the first time since they faced and lost to Marshall in the St. Petersburg Bowl in 2015. Call this game a little payback for a pretty good Marshall team that has a win against Notre Dame on its resume: Marshall -10. 

49ers at Seahawks, Thursday @ 8:15PM, Lumen Field, Seattle, WA, 49ers -3.5, O/U 43.5

I think Geno Smith and the Seahawks have been inconsistent, however they have also been surprising with how long they have been able to stay in the playoff hunt. Kenneth Walker III will be a huge addition back into the mix for Pete Carroll this week, plus they have a huge home field advantage. For the 49ers this is Brock Purdy’s ship for now with both top quarterbacks on the shelf and now their best wide receiver too in Deebo Samuel. For me this is a must win for the Seahawks if they want to stay relevant. Home field advantage is real too for Seattle, plus its an odd Thursday night schedule which should favor the home squad: Seattle -3.5.

Games of the Week

Troy -1

Louisville ML

Marshall -10

Seahawks +3.5

Bills -7.5

Under the Radar Game

SMU -5.5

Doppler Dandies

Browns -2.5

**All odds from Caesars Sportsbook as 12/13/22**