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Friday, December 29

   by Larry Ness - 12/29/2006

All three favorites won and covered in Thursday's bowl games, as favorites continue to rule in the 2006-07 bowl season. Last year, underdogs dominated, but through this year's first 12 bowl games, favorites have gone 9-3 ATS! So far, the pointspread has not come into play, as the three favorites that have failed to cover (Rice, New Mexico and UCLA), have also lost SU.

'Under' bettors got off to a fast start by cashing SEVEN of their first eight plays but the last four bowls have all gone 'over,' with the average score of those four games totaling 59.5 PPG. That's more than two TDs per game higher than the first eight bowl games, which averaged 44.9 PPG. As I said on Wednesday, "things change very quickly in this business."

Fittingly, The Independence Bowl, which featured two 6-6 teams (Okla St and Alabama), saw the game decided by a field goal with eight seconds remaining. Seven "6-6" teams are part of this year's expanded bowl season and besides Alabama and Oklahoma State, New Mexico has already lost to San Jose State with Florida State beating UCLA (Wednesday) and avoiding the school's first losing season since Bobby Bowden's first year in Tallahassee (1976).

Minnesota is the next 6-6 team to be in action, as the Gophers play Texas Tech in Friday night's last game, The Insight Bowl. It's one of SIX bowl games on Friday, which ties January 1 (also with six games scheduled), as the busiest day of the bowl season. Kentucky and Clemson start things off in The Music City Bowl at 1:00 ET, followed by Missouri vs Oregon State in The Sun Bowl, Houston vs South Carolina in The Liberty Bowl, Purdue vs Maryland in The Champs Sports Bowl and finally, Minnesota vs Texas Tech.

In Thursday's two other games, Rutgers handled Kansas State 37-10 and Cal ran away from Texas A&M in the second half, winning 45-10. The Cal win was a much-needed one for the Pac-10, as previously this bowl season, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA had lost by the combined scores of 123-59! Oregon State of the Pac-10, plays Missouri on Friday.

Rutgers' win gives the much-maligned Big East a 2-0 mark in bowl play so far, as USF easily took care of East Carolina last Saturday. The Mountain West Conference, a league that most felt had a "down year" this season, has been very impressive, although all in minor bowl games. While New Mexico did lose on its home field, TCU, BYU and Utah have won their bowl games by the combined scores of 100-28. The MWC has no more teams playing.

The WAC has opened 2-0 in bowl play this year, with Hawaii joining San Jose State as early winners. The conference still has two bowl appearances remaining, as Nevada takes on Miami-Florida on New Year's Eve in Boise and of course, Boise State will play Oklahoma on New Year's Day in the Fiesta Bowl.

Conference-USA has gone 0-3 in bowl play so far, as Rice, East Carolina and Tulsa have all lost. Houston represents the league Friday against South Carolina and Southern Miss plays Ohio U in The GMAC Bowl on January 7.

I'll be back tomorrow with more bowl updates and previews, along with Part 1 of my two-part NFL Week 17 preview.

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