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Bowl Game Odds: Betting on The College Football Postseason

If you’re a fan of college football and sports betting, you’ve come to the right place. From August 24th – December 14th, 2019, the regular season gives you a chance to make some coin wagering on your favorite conferences. But, it’s during college football bowl time where bettors of all levels can really shine.

Starting on December 20th and culminating in the National Championship game, you can see the crème de la crème of the NCAA Football Division 1 battle it out in 40 different bowls.

This page will give you everything you need to handicap your picks for the college football playoffs, complete with bowl odds and expert analysis.

College Football Bowl Season

There are 78 bowl berths available, with 31 bowl-eligible teams in the mix. The winners of the two semi-final games advancing to the final. The College Football Playoff committee, primarily made up of athletic directors from each major conference, former players, coaches and administrators, meets in early December. They probably sit around a giant table covered in snacks. Their goal is to rank the Top 25 teams and select the top four squads for the semi-final games.

Once the committee ranks the teams and probably finish their snacks, they place the top-seeded team at the closest site to their home field to prevent a road-game environment. Cities across America can bid to host the champion matchup years in advance. This year it’s on January 13th, 2020, at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans – where the Saints play, also the maker of expensive cars.

NY6 Semifinal Bowls

The semifinals are assigned to a different pairing of the six major bowl games each year. Known as the New Year’s Six (even though they’re not all played on January 1st) in the years they’re not playing host to the semis, they host their bowl’s affiliated conferences or committee selections. The Rose Bowl usually accommodates the Big Ten champions against the Pac-12 champions. The Orange Bowl will be home to the ACC champion and either the second-place SEC team, second-place Big Ten squad, or the one school from the Independent conference that gets a good deal, Notre Dame. The Sugar Bowl features the best of the Big 12 and SEC. Finally, the Cotton, Fiesta and Peach bowls are decided by committee selection. Also, Cotton, Fiesta & Peach sounds like a law firm from a Disney cartoon.

BowlDateLocationConference Affiliations
CottonDecember 28th, 2019AT&T Stadium, Arlington, TexasSelection
FiestaDecember 28th, 2019State Farm Stadium, Glendale, ArizonaSelection
PeachDecember 28th, 2019Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta, GeorgiaSelection
OrangeDecember 30th, 2019Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, FloridaACC, Big Ten, SEC, ND
RoseJanuary 1st, 2020Rose Bowl, Pasadena, CaliforniaBig Ten, Pac-12
SugarJanuary 1st, 2020Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LouisianaBig 12, SEC

The winners of the Fiesta and Peach bowls play in the National Championship Game.

How to Read Bowl Game Odds

One of the most common bets is the moneyline. This is a straight-up bet that requires you to simply pick a winner. When you visit an NCAAF sportsbook, you’ll see bowl odds laid out like this:

  • Ohio State -170
  • Alabama +120

In this scenario, the Buckeyes are the favorite and the Crimson Tide are the underdogs. Faves are always marked by the minus sign (-), whereas dogs always have a plus sign (+). This is universal across all betting sites. We’ve also used American odds but you can choose Fractional or Decimal style if you prefer.

Let’s say you believe that the Ohio State is going to trounce ‘Bama, you would take them straight-up (SU). A $100 winning bet would give you a payout of $158.82 – your original $100 comes back along with your winnings of $58.82. That same $100 on Alabama would give you a payout of $220 – you get your $100 back, coupled with your prize of $120. Bets on underdogs come with more risk but bigger rewards.

Our Odds Calculator can show you what you’d win based on the odds and amount bet.

Spreads, Totals and Parlays

No matter which bowl you’re betting on, you’ll find other options besides the moneyline. Below, we list the other betting types that are popular with college football bettors during the playoffs.

Point Spread

To make this kind of bet you would need to determine which team will cover the spread. Let’s say Penn State is taking on USC in the Citrus Bowl and are favored by 4.5 points. The Nittany Lions would need to win by five or more points to cover. In order for the Trojans to cover they would need to win the game outright or not lose by more than four points. Our Database will tell you how teams have performed in the past against the spread (ATS).

OVER/UNDER Bets

Often referred to as totals betting, this is a wager that requires you to bet on the combined number of points scored by both teams. Oddsmaker’s create these odds based on previous performance and you need to predict if the total will be OVER or UNDER the set number. If the Gator Bowl features Georgia Tech vs Kentucky, and the total is 48.5, you would decide if the collective score from both teams will be OVER 49 or UNDER 48.

Parlays

This betting type involves bundling two or more wagers on one ticket. Parlays let you add many SU, spread and totals bets to a single betting slip, which works out very well during bowl season. Since there are so many games played on each day during the college football playoffs, you can combine 10-15 teams on one bet. Want to bet on the Liberty Bowl, the Cure Bowl and Las Vegas Bowl? Go for it! Our Parlay Calculator will show you how much you’d win based on the odds and bet amount of all your wagers.

A Brief History of the College Football Bowl System

While bowl matchups have been around for over a century, the current College Playoff system has only been in effect since 2014. You know what else’s been around for over a century? Trains. Crazy, right?

Before there were television crews to document it, college football teams have been battling each other in front of a live audience. However, it wasn’t until bowl games became a staple of our New Year’s Day TV viewing diet that people realized there was major betting opportunities that couldn’t be missed. Before streaming, people used to turn on their televisions to NBC or ABC and watch college football, commercials and all. Can you even imagine?

Everything’s Coming up Rose Bowls

The year was 1901. New York became the first state to require automobiles to feature license plates, Theodore Roosevelt was sworn in as President of the United States, and a Michigan schoolteacher named Annie Edson Taylor went over Niagara Falls in a barrel (she survived). It was also the year that the head of the Pasadena Tournament of Roses decided to stage a sporting event to promote the village’s floral festival (other than the traditional porcupine wrangling – no really, it was a thing).

Instead of watching people tussle with a spiky beast, the citizens of Pasadena were treated to the first incarnation of a college football bowl. With the two best teams from the East and West taking the field on January 1st, 1902, the Rose Bowl was born. Featuring Michigan and Stanford, the game lasted a whopping eight minutes. After trailing by 49 points, the Cardinal threw their hands up in defeat allowing the Wolverines record the first-ever victory in a college football bowl. We’re not sure what the odds were for that game, but it’s safe to say that those who had the Stanford moneyline were left with a very sour taste in their mouths. Still better than having to wrangle a porcupine.

Due to the short Michigan/Stanford game, it took 14 years for another big game between East and West to take place in Pasadena.

TV, Naming Rights, and the End of the Bowl Championship Series

After a 14-year hiatus, bowl games came back with a fervor. Here’s how things went from 1916 until present day:

  • In 1916, the Tournament of Roses featured a match between Washington State and Brown. The Cougars won. Yes, Brown has a football team. They’re called the Charmin Bears.
  • The 1923 tournament was the first to be played in a new stadium called the Rose Bowl, cementing the location of the New Year’s Day game.
  • After seeing the success of that game, other warm-weather regions decided to get in on the action with their own bowls.
  • The Festival of Palms Bowl was played in 1933 between Manhattan College and the University of Miami.
  • The Sugar Bowl started in 1935 in New Orleans. A year later, the Sun Bowl started in El Paso.
  • 1937 saw the launch of the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, and the Bacardi Bowl was played in Havana, Cuba.
  • Post-World War II, bowl games began to crop up with names like the Great Lakes Bowl (Cleveland, OH), the Raisin Bowl (Fresno, CA), the Salad Bowl (Phoenix, AZ), the Cigar Bowl (Tampa, Fla), and the Camellia Bowl (Lafayette, LA).
  • Zooming forward to 1965, the magic of television was able to broadcast the majority of college games on a national level. Bowl directors realized they could make more money with marquee teams playing in those games and started looking for sponsorship opportunities.
  • By the 1980s, bowls were a haven for corporations who could pay to have their name and logo plastered everywhere (Sunkist Fiesta Bowl, FedEx Orange Bowl, Outback Bowl, and the Scrambled Eggs Bowl – Okay, we made the last one up, but give it time and Big Fowl will eventually have their own bowl).
  • Amidst the grunge sounds emanating from the Northwest, the 90s saw the birth of the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), a nirvana for sports bettors.
  • From 1998-2013, the BCS system resulted in five bowl game matchups of the top 10 ranked College Football Division I teams. But first there was the Bowl Coalition (92-94) and the Bowl Alliance (95-97), and like the “Rachel” haircut, they fell out of favor for a more modern system.
  • The BCS met its end after the 2013 season and was replaced by the current system, the College Football Playoff.

A Sports Betting Extravaganza

The College Football Playoff is one of the top betting events of the year, besides the Super Bowl. There’s plenty of action throughout the playoffs. Be sure to keep an eye on our NCAA football section for Betting Trends, Consensus data, bowl odds, and free picks. We’ve got more content than Alabama has bowl wins.