Bowl games can be handicapping booby traps. The college football postseason is a field of study for amateur psychologists who tend to overanalyze the effect of coaching changes, long layoffs, odd matchups and player injuries and suspensions.
How will the resignation of coach Mack Brown impact Texas’ play against Oregon in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 30? It should serve as a positive emotional factor for the Longhorns, but no one knows for sure.
There are 35 bowls, all full of intangibles.
The simplest way to view the bowls is to look at impact players, so here are five (quarterbacks not included) who should play big roles in winning or losing wagers:
New Mexico Bowl, Saturday
■ Colorado State (+4½) against Washington State
■ IMPACT PLAYER: Colorado State sophomore running back Kapri Bibbs
Bibbs leads the nation with 28 touchdowns. He has rushed for 1,572 yards, which is even more impressive considering he didn’t open the season as a starter. In his fourth career start, against UNR on Nov. 9, Bibbs set a school rushing record with 312 yards on 30 carries. He needs to rush for only 30 yards in the bowl to set Colorado State’s season rushing record.
■ ANALYSIS: Bibbs gets little hype, but he’s one of the nation’s best running backs. The Rams scored 52 points or more four times this season, so they can trade scores with Washington State, which plans to win a shootout with its passing attack. With a total of 65½, this should be a high-scoring game. Colorado State needs to control the clock and the game on the ground, and Bibbs figures to be a big factor.
Hawaii Bowl, Tuesday
■ Oregon State (-2½) against Boise State
■ IMPACT PLAYER: Oregon State junior wide receiver Brandin Cooks
Cooks broke the Pacific-12 Conference record with 120 receptions during the regular season, totaling 1,670 yards. Beavers junior quarterback Sean Mannion completed 376 passes, almost a third of those to Cooks. Of Mannion’s 36 touchdown passes, Cooks caught 15.
■ ANALYSIS: The Beavers are bowl favorites despite finishing on a five-game losing streak. But this is a favorable matchup because Boise State’s soft spot is its pass defense. Mannion will be airing it out in Hawaii, so expect him to connect early and often with Cooks, who should get around 10 receptions.
Heart of Dallas Bowl, Jan. 1
■ UNLV (+6½) against North Texas
■ IMPACT PLAYER: UNLV junior wide receiver Devante Davis
A Texas high school champion in the triple jump, Davis chose UNLV instead of offers that included a track scholarship to Texas A&M. He had only four receptions as a freshman, then 61 as a sophomore. This season Davis exploded, recording 77 receptions for 1,194 yards and a school-record 14 touchdowns. Senior quarterback Caleb Herring’s efficiency (22 touchdowns, four interceptions, 64.3 percent completions) was boosted by Davis’ ability to make plays.
■ ANALYSIS: The 6-foot-3-inch Davis is the Megatron of the Mountain West. He’s a great leaper with strong hands, and he wins the battle for jump balls against almost all defensive backs. Davis is an NFL talent, and if he displays those skills against the Mean Green, the Rebels are live underdogs.
Rose Bowl, Jan. 1
■ Michigan State (+5) against Stanford
■ IMPACT PLAYER: Michigan State senior cornerback Darqueze Dennard
The Jack Tatum Award and Jim Thorpe Award winner as the best defensive back in college football, Dennard is an aggressive and fast cover corner who had four interceptions. He leads a Spartans defense that allowed six points or fewer in five of the past seven games.
■ ANALYSIS: Dennard is a physical corner who doesn’t give an inch, typical of the entire Michigan State defense. He said he’s looking forward to a “smashmouth football” game against Stanford. The Spartans lead the nation in total defense (248.2 yards per game), while the Cardinal rank 15th (339.4). This could be the Ultimate Fighting Championship on grass. Defense will win the game, and Dennard is the best defensive player on the field. He’s a probable first-round pick and wants to prove his worth to NFL scouts.
Orange Bowl, Jan. 3
■ Ohio State (-2) against Clemson
■ IMPACT PLAYER: Ohio State senior running back Carlos Hyde
At 6-3 and 235 pounds, Hyde is loaded with power and speed. He was suspended for Ohio State’s first three games but led the Big Ten with 140.8 yards per game. Hyde averaged 7.7 yards per carry and compiled 1,408 yards and 14 touchdowns. How tough is he to tackle? He was dropped for a loss on only three of his 183 carries.
■ ANALYSIS: The Buckeyes are not short on running threats, one being quarterback Braxton Miller. The total is 68½, about 25 points higher than the Rose Bowl total. The Tigers excel at fast-break football, and Ohio State can play that pace, but it needs Hyde to pick up tough yards against a physical defensive front.
Contact reporter Matt Youmans at email@example.com or 702-387-2907. Follow him on Twitter: @mattyoumans247.