12/19/2013 3:10PM

Dave Tuley: College bowl contests gaining in popularity

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LAS VEGAS – Football contests have been popular offerings here for years, especially with the NFL, but college football (and college basketball contests around March Madness) have been lacking.

But that’s been changing, and local bettors (or those who can get to Nevada before the end of the year) have their most options this bowl season, which kicks off Saturday with four games.

William Hill Bowl Challenge

This contest can be entered at any of the William Hill outlets across the state. The entry fee is $20 and you pick 20 games against the spread from the 35-bowl schedule. There is a guaranteed first-place prize of $20,000 (increased from $10,000 last year) to the person compiling the best record. There is no limit to the number of entries, so it’s kind of like a parlay card, except you don’t have to be perfect in order to cash. However, if someone does indeed go 20 for 20, they’ll get a $50,000 bonus.

Also, since you can choose any of the bowl games, entries will be taken until there are 20 bowls left to be played, so the deadline isn’t until the 8:45 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 30, with the kickoff of the Armed Forces Bowl between Navy and Middle Tennessee State. For the first time, the card also will be available on the William Hill Mobile Sports app for smartphones (only available within Nevada).

Aliante Bowl Blitz Contest

This casino is located in the north part of the Las Vegas valley, and it often has betting lines that differ enough from the market to make it worth the drive from the Strip corridor. This contest also costs $20 (again, no limit on entries) and you pick all 35 bowls plus five over/unders for a total of 40 plays. It’s seeding the prize pool with $3,000, plus adding a $2,000 bonus to be split by those that hit more than 67 percent, or 27 winners. This contest has a deadline of the first game Saturday. The only catch is not all the picks can be put in at once, but instead must be entered in blocks of eight to 11 games with separate deadlines on Dec. 27, Dec. 31, and Jan. 2.

South Point Bowl Jackpot

This $10 card has a $50,000-guaranteed prize and also can be played at the Cannery casinos, Rampart, Riverside, and Virgin River. It doesn’t start until the 16 bowls of New Year’s Eve, with a deadline of 9 a.m. Pacific on Tuesday, Dec. 31. All those tying for the top record share the prize pool.

Enjoy the contests and enjoy the bowls.

Back to the betting board

Last week, I went 2-0, with the Vikings +5 not only covering the spread but beating the Eagles outright, 48-30, plus the Jets +11 covering in their 30-20 loss to the Panthers. Hopefully, I can land on another easy winner and pull out the coin-flip with these two games Sunday and another on Monday night.

Saints +3 vs. Panthers

I certainly respect what the Panthers have done this season and I know the Saints don’t play as well on the road as they do at home, but I like divisional teams that won the first matchup and are getting points in the second meeting. I’m not a handicapper that puts much stock in “revenge”; I’d rather have the team that proved it could beat the other. And getting points is a bonus.

PLAY: Saints for 1 unit.

Texans +10.5 vs. Broncos

Yes, the Texans are awful, but the same is said every time a team is made a home underdog of eight or more points, and those teams are 27-4 ATS since December 2009, according to Marc Lawrence of playbook.com. And that doesn’t include when the Texans stepped up against the Patriots in Week 13 and lost only 34-31 as a 7-point underdog (it fell short of that 8-point cutoff, but the same concept applied). The Broncos will probably still win (unlike their outright loss to the Chargers as 10-point favorites a week ago Thursday), but the Texans can keep it close.

PLAY: Texans for 1 unit.

Falcons +12.5 vs. 49ers

The 49ers are on a roll, covering four of their last five games, but the Falcons are 3-1 ATS and playing like we expected them to at the start of the year. This line is inflated based on the public perceptions of these two teams, which really aren’t that far apart talent-wise. (If the Seahawks beat the Cardinals on Sunday, this line could drop if the 49ers are locked into being an NFC wild card.)

PLAY: Falcons for 1 unit.

NCAA record: 7-7 for net loss of 0.7 units (based on risking 1.1 to win 1). NFL record: 11-13 for a net loss of 3.3 units.