Play Q & A with handicapper Kelly Stewart, who will answer selected questions from Las Vegas Review-Journal readers. Email her at Askkelly@reviewjournal.com.
Q: What do you see as the best bowl matchups before Jan. 1?
– Ryan, Las Vegas
A: I love the Baylor-UCLA matchup in the Holiday Bowl. UCLA is a 1-point favorite. The Bears are showing promise after beating Kansas State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma State, and I think they will keep the momentum going behind quarterback Nick Florence, who has done a good job stepping in for Robert Griffin III. Although the Bruins looked impressive against Southern California and hung in the Pac-12 championship game against Stanford, I don’t think they’re ready for a high-powered Big 12 offense.
I also really like Texas and Oregon State in the Alamo Bowl. I’ve been on the Oregon State bandwagon since the upset of Wisconsin. I expect the Beavers to win big. The Longhorns have all the talent in the world and can’t figure it out. It doesn’t matter if it’s David Ash or Case McCoy at quarterback for Texas, I still like Oregon State as a 2-point favorite. Mike Riley gives the Beavers a coaching edge. And for those who will say the Longhorns are playing the bowl for coach Mack Brown, it appears to me the players want him gone.
Q: How big of a disaster was this season for USC and Matt Barkley? Do you think he’s still the top QB in the NFL Draft?
– William, Los Angeles
A: I guess it depends on how high your hopes were for the Trojans. Did I think they would be 7-5? No, but I didn’t expect them to be playing for the national championship, either. So I guess I will call their season a disappointment rather than a disaster. USC is a 10-point favorite over Georgia Tech (6-7) in the Sun Bowl, and we’ll see if Lane Kiffin can motivate his team.
As for Barkley, I believe he cost himself a significant amount of money by not entering the draft last spring, but you can’t live in the past. He is fortunate enough to be a USC quarterback, so I’m sure he’ll still be drafted higher than Oklahoma’s Landry Jones and Tyler Wilson of Arkansas. It looks like only West Virginia’s Geno Smith will go before Barkley.
Q: What are your best bets this week in the NFL?
– David, Las Vegas
A: My favorite play is Indianapolis minus-5 over Tennessee. The Colts are 4-0 in their past four home games and 5-1 against the spread at Lucas Oil Stadium. After pulling off the upset last week at Detroit, Andrew Luck and the Colts have shown they’re the real deal and ready to clinch a playoff berth.
I also like Tampa Bay minus-7½ over Philadelphia. The Eagles are 1-7 ATS versus NFC opponents. Don’t get me wrong, I was very happy with their back-door cover last week with the punt return at Dallas, but I’m not banking on a miracle every week. The Buccaneers, on the other hand, are a covering machine and in the hunt for a wild-card spot.
Kelly Stewart of Hottiehandicappers.com can be reached at Askkelly@reviewjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kellyinvegas.KELLY’S HOT TIPS
The weekend’s five best bets:
• Ravens (+2.5) over REDSKINS
• COLTS (-5) over Titans
• Falcons (-3.5) over PANTHERS
• BENGALS (-3) over Cowboys
• Texans (+3.5) over PATRIOTS
Last week: 3-2