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Boise State popular underdog play over Oregon in Las Vegas Bowl

Updated December 14, 2017 - 7:48 pm

The 41-game college football bowl schedule kicks off Saturday, and one popular bowl betting angle is fading teams that lost their coach after the regular season.

That strategy will be put to the test in Saturday’s Las Vegas Bowl, where Oregon is a 7-point favorite over Boise State. Ducks coach Willie Taggart bolted for Florida State on Dec. 5 and was replaced by offensive coordinator Mario Cristobal.

Oregon was favored by as many as 8 points before sharp money on the Broncos moved the line to 7 on Thursday, when Ducks senior star running back Royce Freeman said he wouldn’t play in the game because he didn’t want to risk injury and jeopardize his stock in the NFL draft. Before that news broke, Westgate sports book manager Ed Salmons said he wouldn’t be surprised if the number dropped to 6½.

“Just because a lot of people are willing to bet against a coach leaving and the team no showing,” he said.

Angle worked last year

That’s what happened in the 2016 Las Vegas Bowl. Houston coach Tom Sherman left for Texas before the game and was replaced by offensive coordinator Major Applewhite. The Cougars took an early 10-0 lead before folding in a 34-10 loss to San Diego State.

“We were in the exact same spot last year,” Salmons said. “We had quite a bit of money on San Diego State. Houston went up early and then was an absolute no show.”

Many bettors are expecting a similar result Saturday, as Boise State has become a popular underdog play.

“We’ve got a ton of action on the game, mostly on Boise,” Golden Nugget sports book director Tony Miller said.

Boise State consensus play

Handicappers Kelly Stewart (@kellyinvegas), Bruce Marshall (Goldsheet.com) and Doug Fitz (Systemplays.com) picked the Broncos in the Review-Journal’s Bowl Challenge that will run in Saturday’s paper. The coaching situation was just one reason.

“When a coach, like UCLA’s Jim Mora, gets fired, I don’t think the players really care,” Stewart said. “But when a coach leaves you and goes to another school, the players are like, ‘Why did I come here and play for you?’ Sometimes it really affects the team.”

Stewart noted that Boise State has covered six of its past eight bowls against Power Five schools. Fitz is backing the Broncos mostly because of the nation’s 20th-ranked rushing defense, which allows only 3.5 yards per carry.

Oregon (7-5) averaged 52 points and went 6-1 with Justin Herbert at quarterback. He’ll start Saturday, but Marshall still likes Boise State.

“They’re a much better team with Herbert, but their best wins were over some flawed teams and (Boise State) is better than anybody they beat this season, even with Herbert,” Marshall said.

Huge play on Ducks-Broncos over

Salmons also expects the Broncos to keep it close and is hoping the game goes under the total, which is at 61½ after opening at 59½.

“One of our house customers has a huge parlay going to the over. If it goes over 59½, we’ll lose a lot on this game,” he said. “It’ll be as high scoring as Boise allows it. Boise’s got a really good defense. I think the defense will keep it competitive.”

Big line move on Owls

The biggest line move of all the bowl games was in Tuesday’s Boca Raton Bowl at FAU Stadium, where host Florida Atlantic opened as a 17-point favorite over Akron and is now favored by as many as 23 points.

“I was shocked at that number when I saw 17. I don’t know if they lined the game not knowing it was on the Owls’ home field,” Salmons said. “But Florida Atlantic’s been a point-spread monster. They’re such a public team.”

The Owls are ninth in the nation in scoring (39.8 ppg) and have one of the best ATS records at 9-4. Coach Lane Kiffin will have the national stage to himself Tuesday night, so look for him to try to run up the score and then tweet about it. The total is 63 after opening at 61½.

All rise for Yankees home run props

How many home runs will Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge combine to hit for the New York Yankees in 2018? The total is 86½ (over-under minus-115) at the Golden Nugget. The two combined for 111 homers in 2017, with Stanton hitting 59 and Judge 52.

The same prop was posted offshore at 104½, and the under was adjusted to minus-160.

“The way it looks right now makes you want to take the over,” Miller said. “But if there’s an injury and you bet the over, you’re going to be in trouble.”

The Golden Nugget also posted props for total homers by Stanton, Judge and Gary Sanchez (115½), and for total strikeouts by Stanton and Judge (335½).

William Hill sports books has a prop for who will hit more regular-season homers, Stanton (minus-185) or Judge (plus-165).

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on Twitter.

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