Our favorite bet for all 40 college football bowl games
Kevin C. Cox
After three long, arduous days without so much as a crappy MAC weeknight game, football finally returns on Friday. But not just any football, daytime football. That's right folks, BOWL SZN is upon us. It truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
The festivities kickoff with the Bahamas Bowl on Friday afternoon, and they don't stop until we're already a week into 2020. The action will be fast and furious, and, if you're degenerates like us, it will be stress-inducing. Haven't done any of your homework yet? Don't worry, we did it for you. Here's our favorite bet from all 40—that's right, every single damn bowl—games to get you ready for all the fun.
Bahamas Bowl - 12/20, 2 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Buffalo vs. Charlotte
Pick: Under 51.5 (BetMGM)
This total opened at 58 and has dropped almost a full touchdown. Why? Weather. Thunderstorms and 25 to 35 MPH winds are expected on Friday in the Bahamas. Even though it’s moved down significantly, under is still the play.
Frisco Bowl - 12/20, 7:30 p.m. | ESPN2
Matchup: Kent State vs. Utah State
Pick: Kent State +5.5 (BetMGM)
If recency matters to you, Kent State has covered in its last four games and is armed with WR Isaiah McKoy, who averages 15 YPC and has seven touchdowns on the year. Utah State is the better team on paper, but watch for a backdoor cover. They don’t call them the Golden Flashes for nothing.
Celebration Bowl - 12/21, Noon | ABC
Matchup: North Carolina A&T vs. Alcorn State
Pick: Alcorn State ML +115 (BetMGM)
Is this MEAC vs. SWAC battle marked on your calendar? Now it should be. Alcorn State has the motivational edge in our book. Alcorn won the SWAC championship game this year, while N.C. AT&T got in because the actual MEAC champ (Florida AT&T) was ineligible. Alcorn State also lost to NC AT&T last year, so this is a classic revenge spot.
New Mexico Bowl - 12/21, 2 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Central Michigan vs. San Diego State
Pick: Under 37 (Bovada)
While the Aztecs have a subpar offense and Central Michigan is above-average in that category, every time the latter plays a team with a real defense (ex: Wisconsin and Miami), CMU gets steamrolled. The under is a strong bet here, especially since San Diego State hasn’t scored more than 20 points in its last four games.
Cure Bowl - 12/21, 2:30 p.m. | CBS Sports Network
Matchup: Liberty vs. Georgia Southern
Pick: Liberty ML +155 (BetMGM)
Pretty strong first season for Hugh Freeze at Liberty. I expect him to end it with a bowl victory. He’s 3-1 in bowls lifetime. Well, technically 2-1 since one of those wins was vacated. Whoops!
Boca Raton Bowl - 12/21, 3:30 p.m. | ABC
Matchup: FAU vs. SMU
Pick: SMU -3.5 (BetMGM)
SMU was one of the best teams in a historically strong AAC this year and are only giving 3.5 against FAU, whose head coach and offensive mad scientist Lane Kiffin is off to Ole Miss. Expect Lane’s offbeat genius (or rather lack thereof) to be worth a touchdown when all is said and done.
Camellia Bowl - 12/21, 5:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Arkansas State vs. Florida International
Pick: Arkansas State -1.5 (first half) (BetMGM)
Two impressive programs on the rise. Arkansas State has apparently made eight consecutive bowl appearances, which is really impressive for a school that 99.9 percent of America couldn’t place on a map (Jonesboro, Ark.). That’s the hometown of PGA Tour player Austin Cook, which is a fact you didn’t know you needed, but now you know.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl - 12/21, 7:30 p.m. | ABC/ESPN App
Matchup: Boise State vs. Washington
Pick: Total points to be an odd number (-145) (Bovada)
Out of every Boise State contest this season, the total has been an odd number 11 out of 13 times. Let’s keep this train rolling: Bet an odd final result at -145 and yell at the TV for a new reason this bowl season.
New Orleans Bowl - 12/21, 9 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: UAB vs. Appalachian State
Pick: Appalachian State -16.5 (BetMGM)
The Mountaineers have been a juggernaut this season, scoring 39.5 points per game and holding opponents to 20.2 points per game. The program will win its fifth straight bowl game on Saturday, and I’d expect a dominating effort for new head coach Shawn Clark (former head coach Eliah Drinkwitz left for Missouri). UAB might be 9-4, but the Blazers kind of stink (coming off a 49-6 loss to FAU).
Gasparilla Bowl - 12/23, 2:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Marshall vs. UCF
Pick: Over 61.5 (BetMGM)
Don’t touch the spread. UCF and Marshall are a combined 5-14 against it in the past 19 games. Instead, lean with the over, with both teams prone to a high-scoring loss or two, including Marshall’s 52-14 embarrassment to Cincinnati and UCF’s 35-34 heartbreaker against Pitt.
Hawaii Bowl - 12/24, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: BYU vs. Hawaii
Pick: Over 64 (BetMGM)
The Hawaii Bowl will be an explosion of points. Bettors think so, too. As of writing, 94 percent of bets placed have been on the over, which has moved to 64 (from 62). Oddsmakers may have established a bad line, and sharps and the public seem to be in agreement.
Walk-On’s Independence Bowl - 12/26 4 p.m. | ESPN/ESPN App
Matchup: Louisiana Tech vs. Miami
Pick: Louisiana Tech +6 (BetOnline)
Louisiana Tech is a six-point underdog yet is essentially the home team—the game's in Shreveport, Louisiana—and is playing a mediocre Miami squad. This would mark the Bulldogs' first 10-win season in 39 years and even if they don't come out on top, they're inevitably going to keep the game close.
Quick Lane Bowl - 12/26, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Pittsburgh vs. Eastern Michigan
Pick: Over 49 (BetMGM)
The only way to make this game remotely watchable is to bet the over. It’s indoors at Ford Field. That's it. That's the handicap.
Military Bowl - 12/27, Noon | ESPN
Matchup: North Carolina vs. Temple
Pick: Temple ML +165 (BetMGM)
How much do you believe in Mack Brown? That’s the question you really have to answer here. The Tar Heels coach was 10-5 all-time in bowl games while at Texas, but Temple went 8-4 in a strong AAC while North Carolina went 6-6 in a weak ACC. Add that to the fact Temple will be playing a semi-home game in Annapolis, and suddenly the Owls seem like good value.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl - 12/27, 3:20 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Michigan State vs. Wake Forest
Pick: Michigan State -3.5 (BetMGM)
No Sage Surratt, possibly no Scotty Washington. Wake’s offense, with those talented wide receivers healthy, is a force. Without them, they’re stoppable. Michigan State’s defense is stout, so despite a disappointing season, they should be able to halt Wake’s bowl-game streak.
Academy Sports + Outdoors Texas Bowl - 12/27, 6:45 p.m. | ESPN/ESPN App
Matchup: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M
Pick: Over 54 (Bovada)
Although the Over has shot up from 51.5 to 54, it's still a good bet with two high-scoring teams consisting of offensive star-power. Prognostications for this matchup all seem to project scores in the low-30s and high-20s, so predicting a shootout is the way to go here.
Holiday Bowl - 12/27, 8 p.m. | FS1
Matchup: USC vs. Iowa
Pick: USC ML Even (BetMGM)
Clay Helton doesn’t “need” to win this one, as USC decided to commit to him for at least another season (his contract actually runs through 2023). But, as Matthew McConnaughey’s character famously said in “Dazed and Confused,” it’d be a lot cooler if he did.
Cheez-It Bowl - 12/27, 10:15 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Air Force vs. Washington State
Pick: Over 67.5 (BetMGM)
A total of 67.5 is nothing to bat your eyes at, but Air Force and Washington State can handle it, with the latter stretching games out by throwing the ball more than any other team in the nation. Let games like Washington State’s 63-67 loss to UCLA and Air Force’s 56-25 victory over Hawaii give you faith.
Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic - 12/28 Noon | ESPN/ESPN App
Matchup: Penn State vs. Memphis
Pick: Penn State -10 (alternate line at +140) (Bovada)
As strong as Memphis has looked this season, Penn State won seven games in the Big Ten East and faced tougher opponents on a week-to-week basis. Memphis also is without its head coach, Mike Norvell, for the Cotton Bowl as he left for greener pastures at Florida State. Penn State is favored by a touchdown for good reason; take them at -10 for +140.
Camping World Bowl - 12/28, Noon | ABC
Matchup: Notre Dame vs. Iowa State
Pick: Under 28.5 (first-half) (BetMGM)
This isn’t a game either team will be excited about. The mighty Fighting Irish … in the Camping World Bowl? They will likely come out flat, as will Iowa State. Maybe the offenses get in gear at halftime, but we think this will start slowwww.
CFP Semifinal - Peach Bowl - 12/28, 4 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Oklahoma vs. LSU
Pick: Over 76 (BetMGM)
It’s an astronomical number, and one that if you bet, you’ll know if you’re dead or alive from the very first drive. But it’s also one that if you don’t bet and the points start to fly, you’ll have some serious FOMO. LSU has scored 36-plus in every game but one this year, and Oklahoma is Oklahoma. Take the over, no matter how square it seems.
CFP Semifinal - Fiesta Bowl - 12/28, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Ohio State vs. Clemson
Pick: Under 62.5 (BetMGM)
The top-ranked defense in the nation vs. the second-ranked defense in the nation. You’re not taking the over, especially when it doesn’t offer much added value at -115. This feels for all the world like a 31-27. Clench hard and hold on tight.
SERVPRO First Responder Bowl - 12/30, 12:30 p.m.| ESPN
Matchup: Western Kentucky vs. Western Michigan
Pick: Western Michigan +3.5 (BetMGM)
Directional Michigan vs. Directional Kentucky … we’ll say that Michigan’s the bigger football state and go Michigan over Kentucky. That’s hard-hitting analysis, isn’t it?
Redbox Bowl - 12/30, 4 p.m. | FOX
Matchup: Illinois vs. California
Pick: California -5.5 (BetMGM)
Cal gets a pair of starting receivers back and only has to travel 50 miles to Levi’s Stadium for this one. Illinois had a nice season but last we checked they're still Illinois.
Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl - 12/30 4 p.m. | ESPN/ESPN App
Matchup: Mississippi State vs. Louisville
Pick: Mississippi State -4 (SportsBetting)
Louisville is on the downslide right now losing two of their final four games, including a 45-13 beatdown at the hands of the Kentucky Wildcats to end the season. Mississippi State may be 6-6, but that includes losses to SEC powerhouses such as LSU, Texas A&M, and Alabama. Bulldogs are the easy bet here.
Orange Bowl - 12/30, 8 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Florida vs. Virginia
Pick: Florida -13.5 (BetMGM)
Florida—a good SEC team who hung tough in a brutal conference with a backup QB for most of the year—is laying less than two touchdowns to Virginia—an OK ACC team who just got nuked by Clemson in the conference championship. Jump all over that before it moves.
Belk Bowl - 12/31, Noon | ESPN
Matchup: Virginia Tech vs. Kentucky
Pick: Virginia Tech -2.5 (BetMGM)
Virginia Tech’s long-time defensive coordinator is retiring at the end of the season. The program undoubtedly wants to send him out on a high note. Plus, it’s not hard to stop Kentucky’s run-only offense this year. A last defensive stand to send out the D-coordinator shouldn’t be too hard.
Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl - 12/31 2 p.m. | CBS
Matchup: Florida State vs. Arizona State
Pick: Florida State +4.5 (5Dimes)
Two equally-matched teams with similar ATS records (4-7-1 for Florida State and 4-8 for Arizona State), you will definitely feel safer taking the +4.5 and praying for a field goal to decide the game.
Liberty Bowl - 12/31, 3:45 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Kansas State vs. Navy
Pick: Navy -1.5 (BetMGM)
Navy is a perfect 8-0 as a favorite this season, and following a victory (Navy just beat rival army 31-7), the Midshipmen are 5-1 ATS. Yes, Kansas State is a tough Big 12 opponent, but Navy can out-physical just about any team.
Arizona Bowl - 1/31, 4:30 p.m. | CBSSN
Matchup: Georgia State vs. Wyoming
Pick: Under 49 (BetMGM)
49 isn’t exactly a massive number, but all Wyoming does is run the football, averaging 208.1 YPG on the ground, and stop opponents from doing the same. Expect this game to be a tight three hours and 10 minutes. Oh, and did we mention Wyoming hit six consecutive unders to end the season? Go low, folks.
Alamo Bowl - 12/31, 7:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Utah vs. Texas
Pick: Utah -6.5 (BetMGM)
All day Utah. Utah had playoff aspirations, but this is still a banner season. The players will undoubtedly want to punctuate it. Texas has minimal motivation. You’ll hear how Tom Herman is a king of the underdog role, but that’s when there’s something to play for. This 7-5 team wants to get home to watch the ball drop.
Vrbo Citrus Bowl - 1/1, 1 p.m. | ABC/ESPN App
Matchup: Michigan vs. Alabama
Pick: Alabama -7 (DraftKings)
Alabama may not have made the College Football Playoff this year, but they're probably still one of the top four teams in the nation on their best day. The Crimson Tide are favored by seven for good reason—they're better. Take Alabama and don't overthink it.
Outback Bowl - 1/1, 1 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Minnesota vs. Auburn
Pick: Minnesota +8.5 (BetMGM)
Auburn just won its Super Bowl against Alabama, and while the Tigers are going for a 10-win season, this feels like a game Minnesota hangs around in. Maybe the Gophers even pull out a win and force SEC fans to have to trot out the ol' “Auburn doesn't care about the Outback Bowl" defense.
Rose Bowl - 1/1, 5 p.m. | ABC
Matchup: Oregon vs. Wisconsin
Pick: Oregon ML +115 (BetMGM)
This is a tough one. A small spread. A sensible O/U. If you simply must bet it, ignore history, especially with both teams’ Rose Bowl records hovering around .500, and go with recency. Oregon proved they can put up points on an elite defense in the PAC 12 championship, so Wisconsin’s best unit shouldn’t intimidate them. Take the Ducks at +115 in their own time zone.
Allstate Sugar Bowl - 1/1, 8:45 p.m. | ESPN/ESPN App
Matchup: Georgia vs. Baylor
Pick: Georgia -7.5 (BetMGM)
Like the Citrus Bowl, this is a game consisting of one very good team and one great team, Georgia is the latter. Even with the 7.5 points, Baylor just doesn't match up. Baylor's QB, Charlie Brewer, might not even be able to play, so get the point-spread now before it starts to rise.
Birmingham Bowl - 1/2/20, 3 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Boston College vs. Cincinnati
Pick: Cincy -6.5 (BetMGM)
Two of Cincy’s three losses came in the last two weeks, both against Memphis. The other one? Ohio State. BC might keep it close, but we like Cincy to get the edge in the end.
Taxslayer Gator Bowl - 1/2, 7 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Tennessee vs. Indiana
Pick: Tennessee -1.5 (BetMGM)
The Vols finished the season 6-1, and if not for a fumble literally on the one-yard line, they might have only been down a touchdown against mighty Alabama in the fourth quarter in Tuscaloosa back in October. What an incredible turnaround for Jeremy Pruitt’s squad, who started the season 0-2 with losses to Georgia State and BYU at home and recovered to make a bowl game.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl – 1/3, 3:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Nevada vs. Ohio
Pick: Ohio -7.5 (BetMGM)
Nevada ranks 102nd in scoring defense and have suspended three starters for their role in the postgame brawl with UNLV on November 30th. They’ll also be missing a fourth for the first half. Expect Ohio to jump out to big lead and make you sweat it in garbage time, but 7.5 feels like more like 9.5 right now.
Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl - 1/4, 11:30 a.m. | ESPN/ESPN App
Matchup: Southern Mississippi vs. Tulane
Pick: Tulane -6.5 (BetMGM)
Tulane may have lost five of its final six games, but they were mostly close contests. The Green Wave's rushing attack is 13th in the nation and they will be able to get off the schneid against a team that isn't as good as their last three opponents: Temple, UCF and SMU.
LendingTree Bowl - 1/6, 7:30 p.m. | ESPN
Matchup: Miami OH vs. UL-Lafayette
Pick: Miami OH ML +450 (BetMGM)
If you made it this far (and have any money left), you might as well get nuts. Take the MAC Champs and pray for a miracle.