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The Loop

Bowl SZN

Our favorite bet for all 42 freaking bowl games

Dylan Buell

Two years ago, a few members of Team Loop conducted an all-encompassing betting look at all 40 college football bowl games. In a stunning turn of events, we went 24-16 on the bowl season, a remarkable record for a couple of self-described squares who like to consider themselves experts in betting on golf, not so much on football.

Despite the strong record, we scrapped it a year ago, probably because COVID and stuff. Of course, that's still very much a thing, and might very well wreak havoc on bowl season, but for now all 42 freaking bowl games are on schedule to be played, and if you're doing any bowl picks pools you likely have to get the picks in before Friday when the first bowl kicks off. Hopefully, we can be of assistance.

So, without further ado, here are me and Steve's best bets on all 42 bowl games, which you are more than welcome to back or fade accordingly. Keep in mind Steve and I are currently in a heated battle in a 30-man against-the-spread NFL/college football picks pool, in which I am in first through 14 weeks and Steve is close behind in fourth. No big deal. OK, let's do this dance.

Bahamas Bowl - 12/17, 12 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Toledo vs. Middle Tennessee
Pick: Toledo -10 (-115, PointsBet)

This line has been on the move since the opener (-8), so catch it before it gets to -10.5. Middle Tennessee St. has had a nice season, but Toledo’s offense is 14th in the nation in Yards Per Play (YPP) and has put up at least 30 points in every game since mid-October. I think the Rockets can get margin here … I like the -10. -- (SH)

Cure Bowl - 12/17, 6 p.m. | ESPN2
Matchup: Coastal Carolina vs. Northern Illinois
Pick: Coastal Carolina -10.5 (-110, DraftKings)

One of the top offenses in the country (Coastal) vs. one of the more abysmal defenses (NIU). Plus, redshirt sophomore quarterback Grayson McCall has hinted at transferring, which would make this his final game as a Chanticleer. Would imagine he’ll want to make it count. -- (CP)

Boca Raton Bowl - 12/18, 11 a.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Appalachian State vs. Western Kentucky
Pick: Over 67.5 (-110, BetMGM)

App State prides itself on running the ball and playing great defense, but literally no team has stopped WKU from scoring at least 31 points in a game this season. The Mountaineers won’t be able to resist the track meet, especially in a bowl game where teams love to empty the kitchen sink. Expect both teams to score in the high 30s in this one. -- (CP)

New Mexico Bowl - 12/18, 2:15 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: UTEP vs. Fresno State
Pick: UTEP +11.5 (-110, FanDuel)

The early, pre-bowl game offseason has been a chaotic one for Fresno State. Former head coach Kalen DeBoer already bolted for the Washington job and took his offensive coordinator with him, and star quarterback Jake Haener announced he’d be entering the transfer portal, then went back on that decision after receiving some backlash from the fan base. As of now, despite being eligible to play, interim head coach Lee Marks won’t even say if Haener is going to be the starter, or if he’s going to play at all. All that uncertainty has me leaning with UTEP. -- (CP)

Independence Bowl - 12/18, 3:30 p.m. | ABC
Matchup: UAB vs. BYU
Pick: Under 54.5 (-105, DraftKings)

UAB is seventh in YPP in the country, but the Blazers will be without standout running back DeWayne McBride here. And UAB’s offensive success came against a weak schedule, so these non-schedule-adjusted numbers are likely a tad inflated. BYU’s offense is 57th in YPP, so above average, but UAB’s defense has been stout—again, seventh in the country in YPP. I think there’s value in going under the total. -- (SH)

LendingTree Bowl - 12/18, 5:45 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Eastern Michigan vs. Liberty
Pick: Liberty -9.5 (-105, FanDuel)

This one feels too easy, which usually indicates you’re a sucker, but if Liberty quarterback Malik Willis plays (he’s expected to) then I don’t see how they don’t beat EMU by double digits. They are the far better team in all three phases. -- (CP)

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl - 12/18, 7:30 p.m. | ABC
Matchup: Oregon State vs. Utah State
Pick: Over 67.5 (-110, DraftKings)

Oregon State can’t stop the pass (Utah State’s strength) and Utah State can’t stop the run (Oregon State’s strength). Ipso, facto, this is going to be a back-and-forth, last-team-with-the-ball-wins affair. -- (CP)

New Orleans Bowl - 12/18, 9:15 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Marshall vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Pick: Marshall +5 (-110, FanDuel)

Don’t be fooled by the huge win-loss record differential here. Marshall can hang with this team, and I’m tempted to take them on the money line giving the coaching shakeup at Louisiana with Billy Napier leaving for Florida and taking a few staff members with him. -- (CP)

Myrtle Beach Bowl - 12/20, 2:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Tulsa vs. Old Dominion
Pick: Old Dominion ML (+270, DraftKings)

You wanna get nuts? Let’s get nuts. ODU, AKA the Monarchs, AKA the fightin’ Taylor Heinckes, started this year 1-6 then finished the season on a ridiculous 5-0 tear just to get into this bowl game. Tulsa finished the season on a similarly strong three-game win streak, but I question how pumped up they’ll be to play Old Dominion. Old Dominion, meanwhile, will likely treat this as the Super Bowl. Taking them +8.5 is smart, but that juicy money line is absolutely worth a shot here. -- (CP)

Potato Bowl - 12/21, 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Wyoming vs. Kent State
Pick: Over 59 (-105, DraftKings)

The total has ticked up slightly, for good reason. Both defenses are worse than 100th nationally in havoc created, per Action Network. Kent State’s defense was just 123rd in YPP this year, and though Wyoming’s D was solid YPP-wise, they can be exploited on the ground, ranking 89th in rushing yards allowed. Kent State should be able to exploit that, ranking sixth in the nation in rushing success and line yards on offense. Both offenses have shown FLASHES this year—and it should be a close game in a shootout. -- (SH)

Frisco Bowl - 12/21, 7:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: San Diego State vs. UTSA
Pick: San Diego State ML (+115, PointsBet)

The public seems to be gravitating toward UTSA in this one, mainly because the Roadrunners are coming off a huge win in the C-USA title game that helped them complete a 12-1 season, while San Diego State embarrassed itself in the Mountain West title game. No better time to zag and take the Aztecs, who were dealing with a ton of COVID issues prior to that blowout loss to Utah State and are far better than that score indicated. Plus, we stan Matt Araiza. -- (CP)

Armed Forces Bowl - 12/22, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Missouri vs. Army
Pick: Army -3.5 (-110, FanDuel)

Very simple handicap here. Army’s rushing attack is ranked third in the country, averaging 286.4 yards on the ground. Missouri’s rushing defense ranks 248th, giving up an average over 229.3 yards per game. When you add those two things together, what do you get? (*Extreme Steve Smith voice*) MISMATCH. -- (CP)

Frisco Football Classic - 12/23, 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Miami (OH) vs. North Texas
Pick: North Texas ML (+135, DraftKings)

What a draw for North Texas, playing its bowl game just a half hour from campus. The Mean Green exceeded expectations this year, whereas Miami Ohio just missed out on a MAC championship game appearance in a heartbreaking 49-48 loss to Kent State. This is a huge motivational edge for North Texas, looking to give coach Seth Littrell his first bowl victory for NT. -- (SH)

James Gilbert

Gasparilla Bowl - 12/23, 7 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: UCF vs. Florida
Pick: Florida -6.5 (-110, BetMGM)

Firing Dan Mullen early may actually help the Gators in this one. They took down Florida State to get into a bowl and now will have the same coaching staff from that game leading them against UCF, which has not been the same since losing quarterback Dillon Gabriel to injury (and now to the transfer portal). We should see another spirited effort from a UF team that desperately needs some positive momentum heading into 2022. -- (CP)

Hawai’i Bowl - 12/24, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Memphis vs. Hawaii
Pick: Memphis -7 (-110, Caesars Sportsbook)

Unfortunately, we’re getting the worst number here, as Memphis opened at -3 and has skyrocketed to -7. For good reason. Hawaii’s program is a mess right now, with a number of anonymous players basically campaigning to get head coach Todd Graham fired. Memphis will be without top wide receiver Calvin Austin III, and will be playing a literal road game in Hawaii on Christmas Eve night. But I wouldn’t touch Hawaii with a 10-foot pole in this one. Memphis is the only play if you’re betting this game. -- (CP)

Camellia Bowl - 12/25, 2:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Ball State vs. Georgia State
Pick: Under 50 (-105, DraftKings)

This is just a pure, gut-feeling bet. Who the hell wants to play football at 2:30 p.m. on Christmas Day in Montgomery, Alabama? This game could be an absolute slog, and slog usually equals under. -- (CP)

Quick Lane Bowl - 12/27, 11 a.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Western Michigan vs. Nevada
Pick: Western Michigan -4.5 (-105, FanDuel)

It’s dangerous in bowl season to just blindly fade teams that appear to be in full-chaos mode, but Nevada is leaving us no choice. The Wolfpack’s entire coaching staff is all but gone, and starting quarterback Carson Strong is sitting out to prep for the NFL draft. They also had a pair of wide receivers enter the transfer portal, plus a starting OL and two linebackers. Also, people forget Western Michigan beat ACC Champion Pittsburgh way back in September. The Broncos are a solid squad. -- (CP)

Military Bowl - 12/27, 2:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: East Carolina vs. Boston College
Pick: Over 51.5 (-110, BetMGM)

For those following ACC football closely this year (and god bless if you did), you’ll know Boston College quarterback Phil Jurkovec returned before most people expected for the final few games of the year. He gives the offense an extra dimension, and the total probably doesn’t fully account for it—in addition to an ECU offense with some big-play capability. -- (SH)

Birmingham Bowl - 12/28, 12 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Houston vs. Auburn
Pick: Houston ML (+130, Caesars Sportsbook)

Auburn lost its Super Bowl to Alabama and has since had its roster ravaged by the transfer portal. The Tigers are also expected to have a few guys opt out of the game, though we won’t know for sure until the game gets closer. Either way, they should not be favored against Dana Holgorsen’s 11-2 Cougars, who had ripped off 11 straight before losing a tough one to CFP-bound Cincinnati in the AAC Championship Game. -- (CP)

First Responder Bowl - 12/28, 3:15 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Louisville vs. Air Force
Pick: Air Force ML (+110, DraftKings)

Louisville is getting a majority of the action thus far—the Cardinals were small underdogs on the openers, but you’re now laying points with them. I’m not sure I’d side with the movement. Louisville was exposed in its blowout loss to Kentucky—Louisville is 99th in the nation in rushing yards this year and gave up 362 yards rushing in the game. Air Force leads the country in rushing yards, so just like an efficient Kentucky rushing attack did, I think the Air Force Academy can ground and pound this thing. Plus, it’s the First Responders Bowl … don’t you have to go with the service academy side? -- (SH)

Liberty Bowl - 12/28, 6:45 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Texas Tech vs. Mississippi State
Pick: Mississippi State -8.5 (-110, DraftKings)

Yes, I am falling victim to the Mike Leach storyline. If the line is right, and Mississippi State is up late, you can see him keeping the proverbial pedal down for margin as revenge against his former school. You won’t make money betting purely on motivation, but in this case, I think it does make sense. -- (SH)

Holiday Bowl - 12/28, 8 p.m. | FOX
Matchup: N.C. State vs. UCLA
Pick: UCLA +1.5 (-110, BetMGM)

Both teams are (somewhat) at full strength injury-wise and coaching-staff wise, and appear to be very evenly-matched statistically. This point-spread seems right on the money, which makes me think it’ll come down to a last-second field goal. In a situation like that, it’s nice to have the team getting one point and the hook, even if I believe UCLA can win this game outright. This will sneakily be one of the best games of the bowl season. -- (CP)

Guaranteed Rate Bowl - 12/28, 10:15 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: West Virginia vs. Minnesota
Pick: Under 45 (-110, DraftKings)

Remember when WVU was an over team? I memba. Those days are long gone, though, and it’s not changing against Minnesota, who loves itself a slugfest, too. The Gophers probably win this one by scoring less than 24 points, which should get us to the finish line here. -- (CP)

Fenway Bowl - 12/29, 11 a.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Virginia vs. SMU
Pick: Virginia -2.5 (-110, DraftKings)

SMU falls into our “program in flux” bucket, with head coach Sonny Dykes departing for TCU and taking a bunch of his staff with him. The Mustangs will also be missing two of their top wide receivers. UVA, meanwhile, will get one last game out of head coach Bronco Mendenhall, who announced he’d be stepping down after the bowl game. Win one for the gipper mode, engage! -- (CP)

Pinstripe Bowl - 12/29, 2:15 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Maryland vs. Virginia Tech
Pick: Maryland ML (-120, DraftKings)

Maryland is a program clearly on the ascend while Virginia Tech has to hit the reset button after firing Justin Fuente after just six seasons. I’d explore some alternate spreads for the Terps here, as I’m sure you can get really nice odds on them winning by a touchdown or more, depending on how confident you are. -- (CP)

Cheeze-It Bowl - 12/29, 5:45 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Iowa State vs. Clemson
Pick: Iowa State -1.5 (-110, BetMGM)

Clemson is an ultra-public team, but all the money is coming in on Iowa State, pushing this line two and a half points from the opener. That tells you a lot of sharp money is on the Cyclones, which makes sense with Clemson losing its offensive and defensive coordinators. Clemson’s last two wins of the year were a bit fugazi – the Tigers put up points against an untested Wake Forest defense and a less talented South Carolina team. The Cyclones underachieved this year, but the sharps still seem to believe. -- (SH)

Icon Sportswire

Alamo Bowl - 12/29, 9:15 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Oregon vs. Oklahoma
Pick: Oklahoma -4.5 (-110, Caesars Sportsbook)

When this game kicks, both teams will be virtually unrecognizable from their pre-bowl season selves. Lincoln Riley is already at USC, Mario Cristobal is already at Miami, and both the Sooners and Ducks will be without key starters in the game. It’s a true battle of who will be less motivated. I guess… back Bob Stoops here? That’s right, ol’ Bobby is back on the Sooners sideline for this one, and he should be able to get the most out of whoever is actually playing. Boomer Sooner. -- (CP)

Duke’s Mayo Bowl - 12/30, 11:30 a.m. | ESPN
Matchup: South Carolina vs. North Carolina
Pick: Under 58.5 (-110, Caesars Sportsbook)

If South Carolina can somehow keep this game close, it will be low-scoring. If UNC runs away with this one like most expect (Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell is playing), the under still has a good chance of hitting in a blowout. Simply put, the Gamecocks are an under team in sickness and health. In 12 USC games this season, the total has gone under 58.5 10 times. -- (CP)

Music City Bowl - 12/30, 3 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Purdue vs. Tennessee
Pick: Tennessee team total, over 33.5 (-130, DraftKings)

This is a pseudo home game for Tennessee in Nashville, so you know they’ll have a large fan presence. The Vols scored on everybody not named Georgia this year, and Purdue, while solid on defense, is very much not Georgia. The Vols offense will get theirs, which makes me like their team total a little more than the game total, which has been bet up from 58 to 63.5. -- (CP)

Peach Bowl - 12/30, 7 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Pittsburgh vs. Michigan State
Pick: Michigan State -1.5 (-110, BetMGM)

Pittsburgh opened as a 3.5-point favorite, but the uncertainty around whether or not quarterback Kenny Pickett will play has shifted this line dramatically. His draft stock has never been higher, so it would behoove him to sit this one out. Bet Michigan State as soon as you can before the Pickett news becomes official. -- (CP)

Las Vegas Bowl - 12/30, 10:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Arizona State vs. Wisconsin
Pick: Wisconsin -7 (-105, DraftKings)

Arizona State’s strength is running the football, but they’ll be without their top two running backs in Sin City. That’ll make this matchup extra difficult, as Wisco boasts the No. 1 rush defense in the country. -- (CP)

Gator Bowl - 12/31, 11 a.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Texas A&M vs. Wake Forest
Pick: Over 58 (-110, BetMGM)

I know this is a much different Texas A&M team, but how could you bet the under in this game after these two programs each put up half a hundo in the 2017 Belk Bowl? Wake has an even more potent offense now, and their defense is so bad that the Aggies, despite being gutted by opt-outs and transfers on offense (including their starting QB Zach Calzada), should be able to score on them with ease. Unless they hold the Deacs to under 20, I don’t see how this goes under. -- (CP)

Sun Bowl - 12/31, 12 p.m. | CBS
Matchup: Washington State vs. Miami (FL)
Pick: Miami -2.5 (-110, BetMGM)

Absolutely zero feel on this game with both team’s coaching staffs in scramble mode. I’d love to say over because interim coaches in bowl games love trickeration and fake punts and surprise onsides and going for it on fourth down and all that, but Wazzu will be without their No. 1 offensive player in running back Max Borghi. Guess I’m all about the U here. -- (CP)

Arizona Bowl - 12/31, 2 p.m. | Barstool
Matchup: Boise State vs. Central Michigan
Pick: Over 55.5 (-105, PointsBet)

Don’t feel too strongly about this game, but both teams like to sling the pill and neither defense will be mistaken for the ‘85 Bears. It also wouldn’t be a Barstool Bowl if the under hit. -- (CP)

CFP Semifinal, Cotton Bowl - 12/31, 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Cincinnati vs. Alabama
Pick: Alabama -13.5 (-110, BetMGM)

Alabama (-13.5) over Cincinnati – This hurts … I’m holding a 100-1 ticket on Cincy to win the national title. And the Bearcats are one of four teams remaining … and yet I can’t even hedge out of this with Bama being such a heavy moneyline favorite. Thanks a lot, Georgia. I’m going to bet Bama on the spread … and probably on an alternate spread of like -6.5 … in the hopes my proverbial gambling guts aren't bashed in with a steel pipe. But they will be. -- (SH)

Mike Mulholland

CFP Semifinal, Orange Bowl - 12/31, 7:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Georgia vs. Michigan
Pick: Under 45 (-110, Caesars Sportsbook)

Alabama beat Georgia by spreading out that vaunted defense and throwing it all over the lot. Sorry, Wolverine fans, but your offense simply isn’t capable of replicating that. The Dawgs defense returns to its dominant ways here and wins in a low-scoring affair. -- (CP)

Outback Bowl - 1/1, 12 p.m. | ESPN2
Matchup: Arkansas vs. Penn State
Pick: Arkansas +2.5 (-110, BetMGM)

Catching three points or more when this opened at 4.5 would’ve been nice, but Arkansas is capable of winning this game … and this is coming from a Penn State alum. This is the first bowl game since 2016 for the Razorbacks, so this is a big deal for that program -- whereas Penn State probably has questionable motivation after a disappointing 7-5 season. -- (SH)

Fiesta Bowl - 1/1, 1 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Oklahoma State vs. Notre Dame
Pick: Notre Dame -2 (-110, DraftKings)

After losing to Cincy, Notre Dame became a bit of a wagon before losing Brian Kelly to LSU. That said, this has been one of the rare instances where a program has seemingly gained new life after being jilted by a longtime head coach. Marcus Freeman, by all accounts, appears to be the man for the job, and should have the Irish ready to run through a brick wall against the Pokes, even without two key starters in Kyle Hamilton and Kyren Williams, who aren’t playing as they prepare for the NFL Draft. No matter. OSU had their dreams crushed at the one-inch line against Baylor. Going to be tough to get up for this one. -- (CP)

Citrus Bowl - 1/1, 1 p.m. | ABC
Matchup: Kentucky vs. Iowa
Pick: Iowa team total, under 20.5 (-120, DraftKings)

If you could bet on the bowl game with the least amount of passing yards, this would be a heavy favorite. Iowa’s offense is anemic … I wish this season was longer if only for more chances to bet against this team. -- (SH)

Rose Bowl - 1/1, 5 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Utah vs. Ohio State
Pick: Ohio State -6.5 (-110, FanDuel)

Normally, this would be a classic case of a hungry dog jumping all over the unmotivated juggernaut program that didn’t make the CFP. But I can’t get behind that narrative here. Utah’s strong season in the PAC-12 is a lot less impressive when you remember the PAC-12 absolutely stinks. Plus, this is the Rose Bowl. Ohio State’s season may have died against Michigan, but I find it hard to believe the uber-talented Buckeyes won’t get up for the granddaddy of them all. -- (CP)

Sugar Bowl - 1/1, 8:45 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Baylor vs. Ole Miss
Pick: Ole Miss ML (-105, BetMGM)

This is just going to be an awesome game to finish off the NYE/New Year’s Day CFB extravaganza. Two big-time programs headed in the right direction, each retaining their apparent head coaches of the future (though who knows these days) and each likely at full strength for this one. I’m filibustering because I have no idea who to back. Screw it, Lane Train all day. -- (CP)

Texas Bowl - 1/4, 9 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: LSU vs. Kansas State
Pick: Kansas State -1 (-105, BetMGM)

If we’re being honest this game stinks to the high heavens. Going to just blindly fade the public, which is heavily on LSU because it’s LSU. LSU’s next meaningful game will be the Purple vs. White spring game in April. -- (CP)