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Pamela’s College Football Bowl Games Picks & Best Bets

College Football Bowl Betting Blog

December is both my most favorite and least favorite month of the year.

On one hand, the NFL playoff picture is becoming clearer, college football bowl games consume the holidays and, of course, there’s all that holiday food.

On the other hand, bowl games also mean another year of college football is almost over and, ugh, this makes me sad every dang time. So, in an effort to soak up every last bit of college football we have left, I’m carrying on the tradition started last year of writing a bowl blog throughout bowl season, documenting my thoughts, considerations and picks for every single bowl game.

If you’re seeking college football bowl game picks, best bets and analysis, then you’ve come to the right place.

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People often ask what is my most confident pick. If I’m picking a dog moneyline in addition to the plus points, I’d say I like that side. One tip: go light with your bet sizing here. Bowl games are typically a great opportunity to cash, but with the season we have had between cancelations, postponements and opt-outs, it could be a tricky time for college football bowl game betting.

Don’t see the game you’re looking to bet? Check back a couple of days before kickoff. This will be a running blog and posts will be added as I get through them. Make sure to follow @pamelam35 on Twitter for a running thread on any last-minute changes regarding player opt-outs, COVID-19 issues, or coaching changes.

Looking to bet on college football? Our Best NCAAF Sites page will help find the sportsbook that’s right for you.

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Wednesday, Dec. 30

Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Wisconsin -7 vs Wake Forest, 52.5

This line opened at 6.5 and the total at 53.5. The Badgers’ leading rusher, Jalen Berger, could be back for this matchup after missing the last two games due to COVID-19 protocol. His return will definitely provide additional depth to this running back corps. Third back Nakia Watson also missed the finale against Minnesota and his status is unknown.

For Wake Forest, RB Kenneth Walker III has opted out. He is second on the team in carries and second in rushing yards but first in rushing touchdowns, scoring 13 of the Demon Deacons’ 21 majors on the ground. He last played in a 59-53 loss to North Carolina. The Demon Deacons went on to lose 45-21 to Louisville with no rushing touchdowns scored.

Wisconsin has been overvalued all season long. It is 3-3 SU and 2-4 ATS, including two outright losses as a favorite of a touchdown or more. The only bit of offense it has is in that run game and even that has had its struggles. The Badgers are 58th in rushing yards but 76th in yards per rush, averaging just 4.1.

Quarterback Graham Mertz, who has eight touchdowns and five interceptions, started off hot in a 45-7 win over Illinois and followed that up with a 49-11 win over Michigan. In four ensuing games, Wisconsin has averaged 316 yards per game but has produced an average of just 10 points. It is 77th in red-zone attempts and 67th in red-zone scores.

Wake Forest’s offense, on the other hand, has been humming. Quarterback Sam Hartman has been a bit inconsistent with just a 59 percent completion rate but he does have 10 passing touchdowns to just one interception.

The Demon Deacons, 33rd in passing yards, average 33 points per game and are 17th in red-zone scores, which means when they do get downfield, they are converting those drives into points. But many of those points came from a player they no longer have. 

Wisconsin is ninth-best in passing defense. However, four of its six opponents are ranked 91st or worse in passing yards. It was able to limit Indiana, ranked 36th in passing yards, to 5.9 yards per pass but lost 14-6.

Wake’s weakness has been its defense. It is bottom 10 in total defense but Wisconsin is definitely not an offense to fear. Give me an overvalued favorite with a mediocre offense, and I’m looking at the dog.

However, I’m not sure where Wake is generating points in this one without its leading touchdown scorer, but I’m not 100 percent sold on taking the Badgers as a touchdown favorite. I can’t consider the UNDER in case Wisconsin wakes up against a bad defense and plays like it did in the early weeks of the season. Tough one for me.

Consider: Wisconsin -7 or pass

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic: Florida -2.5 vs Oklahoma, 71.5

This line opened at 3 and the total at 71.5. It’s no surprise to see that Gators junior TE Kyle Pitts has opted out to declare for the NFL draft. He finished the season with 770 yards, a 17.0 average and 12 touchdowns in eight games. We could see him get taken off the draft board in the first round.

He was second in receptions and receiving yards, and led the team in touchdown catches. Kyle Trask has a variety of other weapons but losing Pitts could definitely come into play. As of Thursday, Trask was set to play in this game, saying that he would decide on his future after the season was over.

For Oklahoma, CB Tre Brown has opted out. He was second on the team in interceptions and led in passes defended. The Sooners’ second-leading rusher, T.J. Pledger, has also opted out. He accounts for nearly a third of the team’s total rushing yards and five of its 24 rushing scores. 

Talk about questions on motivation for this one. Florida had a shot at the College Football Playoff and Oklahoma will miss it for the first time since 2016. Regardless, it’s really hard not seeing this game as a shootout.

Oklahoma has a really good defense … against the run. Florida has a pretty good defense … against the run. So you have two teams ranked first and 19th in passing yards, and seventh and 12th in yards per pass, going against defenses ranked 100th and 105th in passing yards allowed. 

Oklahoma looks to be good in defending explosive passing plays, ranked 42nd in opponent yards per pass in allowing an average of just 6.9. But the two best teams it has faced in terms of yards per pass, Iowa State and Texas, were ranked 43rd and 49th respectively. In the first matchup with the Cyclones, the Sooners allowed 11.3 yards per pass, giving up 37 points and 428 yards of total offense. They surrendered 45 points to Texas.

Trask and the Gators are far more explosive than either Iowa State or Texas. Yes, I do think Oklahoma’s defense has improved, but it has improved playing against a Big 12 schedule of mediocre offenses and will now be missing a key part of its secondary.

Pitts is an important offensive player but fortunately for Trask, he should still have his leading receiver in Kadarius Toney in addition to Trevon Grimes, a duo accounting for 19 total touchdowns. Seven other players have a touchdown reception. If Trask is saying he wants to play this game, then I think he’ll want to play this game!

Consider: Florida -2.5

Note* On Monday, Dec. 28, Gators first and second leading receivers Kadarius Toney and Trevon Grimes opted out. Both account for 19 total receiving touchdowns. With Florida now down Pitts, Toney, and Grimes, who combined account for 31 of the 45 total scores, I would look to the total, instead of the spread.

Consider: UNDER 71

Thursday, Dec. 31

Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl: Mississippi State vs Tulsa -2.5, 46.5

This total opened at 50. On Christmas Eve, Tulsa junior LB Zaven Collins announced he would be opting out for the NFL draft. He is first on the Golden Hurricane in forced fumbles, interceptions (with four of the team’s six picks) and sacks, and is third in total tackles. Clearly, he’s a big part of this Tulsa defense.

Tulsa enters this matchup with a 6-2 record facing a 3-7 Bulldogs team and coming off a 27-24 loss to Cincinnati in the AAC title game. Will they be motivated to play? Coming off a loss, perhaps they will be. I can definitely understand the drop in the total. I’m not sure the Bulldogs will see many scoring opportunities.

Collins accounted for four of Tulsa’s 19 total sacks. Had he accounted for more, I’d be worried, but there are other players fully capable of applying pressure to Mississippi State quarterback Will Rogers, who has been sacked 16 times. If for whatever reason K.J. Costello comes back into the picture, he’s been sacked 14 times. That’s 30 combined sacks. This offensive line is terrible. Even without Collins, Tulsa will still have a pretty good pass rush.

Mississippi State is also a one-dimensional offense. They don’t run. They are 127th in rushing yards but 16th in passing yards. Well, Tulsa has a pretty great secondary, ranked 24th in opponent passing yards allowed and 16th in opponent yards per pass. It’s not like they haven’t been tested either. Tulsa defeated UCF 34-26, holding the Knights to an average of 6.5 yards per pass, held East Carolina to 6.6 in a 34-30 win and limited SMU to 5.6 in a 28-24 win. 

So, now you’re one-dimensional with a bad offensive line going up against a good pass rush and a great secondary. Tulsa has a more balanced offense but the Bulldogs are pretty good defending the run. If Tulsa wants yards, they’ll need to get them through the air. The Bulldogs are 24th in defending the run but 95th in defending the pass. 

I liked the UNDER at 50 but you have lost some major value with it now being 46.5 and juiced to potentially move to 46.

Consider: Tulsa -2.5

Offerpad Arizona Bowl: Ball State vs San Jose State -9, 63

This line opened at 7. Ball State’s leading rusher, Caleb Huntley, has opted out. He accounted for a third of the team’s total rushing yards and half of its rushing touchdowns. His final game, however, was played in Week 3 against Northern Illinois. He racked up 437 rushing yards and six scores in just three games. In the four games without Huntley, the Cardinals averaged 141 rushing yards per game but just 3.1 yards per carry. Huntley averaged 5.5.

Establishing a run game against this Spartans defense is a tall task, however. They are 20th in opponent rushing yards allowed and 16th in opponent yards per rush. And this ranking has merit. Air Force, ranked first in the run game, was held to 206 rushing yards, 4.2 yards per rush and six points. The Spartans also defeated New Mexico and San Diego State, two other run teams.

Both teams will be looking to the passing game as Ball State is 25th in passing yards and San Jose State is 20th. The two quarterbacks are quite comparable, averaging 8.4 and 9.0 yards per pass. Nick Starkel has thrown for 1,906 yards with a 65 percent completion rate and 16 touchdowns to four interceptions. Drew Plitt has thrown for 1,937 yards with a 66 percent completion rate and 16 touchdowns to six interceptions. The one big difference, however: Plitt has been sacked 24 times through seven games while Starkel has been taken down just five times. The Spartans are 16th-best in sacks.

Under pressure, Plitt has a 4-to-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio, a 50 percent completion rate and an adjusted percentage of 61. Four of his six interceptions resulted in points for the other team. Their defense won’t be able to provide much help either. The Cardinals are 122nd in opponent passing yards allowed and 107th in opponent yards per pass. San Jose State’s rankings are a bit skewed, though, with all but one opponent (Nevada, 13th) ranking 60th or worse in passing yards. The Spartans, however, did hold Nevada to 20 points, all scored in the first half, and produced four sacks in the second half and two fumbles.

As well, the Spartans are 27th in opponent red-zone attempts and 22nd in opponent red-zone scores. There’s a reason they are 1-6 to the UNDER. With a limited run game, a vulnerable offensive line and a suspect secondary, I think Ball State will find San Jose State is too tough to upset.

Consider: UNDER 63

AutoZone Liberty Bowl: West Virginia -7 vs Army, 41.5

This line opened at 7.5 and 43.5. West Virginia will be without LB Tony Fields, who led not only the Mountaineers but all of the Big 12 in tackles. Not the player you want to lose for this type of matchup.

I’m not going to overthink this. West Virginia is great at home at 5-0 SU and ATS but as an away team, the Mountaineers stink. They are 0-4 SU and 1-3 ATS. On the road, they are averaging 353 yards of offense but just 15 points per game compared to 441 yards of offense and 32 points per game at home.

The Black Knights are no scrubs, which they showed in a competitive 24-10 loss to Cincinnati and in defeating Navy 15-0 and Air Force 10-7 in back-to-back games. But West Virginia doesn’t run. They may be 27th in passing yards but they are 84th in yards per pass. So they aren’t even efficient or explosive in the offensive component of the game they emphasize.

The two best rushing teams West Virginia has faced are Oklahoma State and TCU. They lost 27-13 to Oklahoma State on the road and beat TCU 24-6 at home. Looking at bowl game history, West Virginia has lost its last three by double digits. Army, though not the same team, has Big 12 experience, nearly upsetting Oklahoma in a 28-21 loss in overtime in 2018 when Kyler Murray was behind center for the Sooners.

And we know Army wants to be here. After the cancellation of the Independence Bowl, 9-2 Army was left without a bowl game, until they weren’t. Now, you have to prepare for the triple option, on the road, when you are not the same team on the road.

Pick: Army +7, Army ML +225

Friday, Jan. 1

Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: Cincinnati vs Georgia -7, 51

This line opened at 6.5 and 49.5. Bearcats lead running back Gerrid Doaks is a player to watch. Injured during the first half of the 27-24 win over Tulsa, he sat out the rest of the game and as of Tuesday, his status was unknown. Not having him on the field would be a big blow. He leads the team in rushing yards, just barely ahead of quarterback Desmond Ridder, and has accounted for seven of the team’s 28 total rushing scores.

The list for Georgia is kind of long, as expected. The Bulldogs will not have LB Azeez Ojulari, who leads the team in sacks; LB Monty Rice, who is tied for second in tackles; CB Eric Stokes, who leads in interceptions; and RG Ben Cleveland, who is considered their best offensive lineman. Some other players they will be without who may have less of an impact include TE Tre’ McKitty (only six receptions), CB Mark Webb and CB DJ Daniel, and LB Jermaine Johnson, who is third on the team in sacks.

Statistically, these two squads are kind of the same team except Cincinnati is just a little bit better on every front. This will be a game where we could see Ridder showcase his arm. However, we could also see him run like a mad man. Georgia is fourth-best in defending the run but consider two things. First, they haven’t faced a mobile quarterback. Second, the best run offense they have played is ranked 43rd. Cincinnati is ranked 16th. Having Doaks could really be beneficial here. 

Georgia’s vulnerability is against the pass and Ridder can sling it. He has thrown for over 2,000 yards with a 66 percent completion rate, an average of 8.6 yards per pass and 17 touchdown passes to go with his 12 rushing scores. He stands behind a top-10 offensive line and has thrown just six interceptions, three of them coming in one game in October. Georgia is 91st in opponent passing yards but 54th in opponent yards per pass, which means they do a pretty good job of limiting explosive plays.

Signal-caller JT Daniels has played just three games for Georgia but has made an impact, throwing for a 10.4 average with nine touchdowns to just one interception, though he has been sacked seven times. That could really come into play facing the 10th-best pass rush in the country. Daniels sure does look good but he’s also faced three teams ranked 67th, 103rd and 50th in total defense. The Bearcats are ranked 11th-best.

Meanwhile, considering that Ridder has passed for 269, 338 and 327 yards in his last three games, I think the Bearcats could stick to that type of offense here.

Cincinnati is been looked at as an overvalued team but has also been the favorite in eight of nine games. The one time the Bearcats played an underdog role, they defeated SMU 42-13. Now, the pressure is off. They are coming in as underdogs and fully capable of keeping this competitive facing a quarterback who has yet to be tested. This reminds me of 2018, when Texas defeated Georgia 28-21 in the Sugar Bowl as a 13.5-point dog.

Consider: Cincinnati +7, ML +230

Vrbo Citrus Bowl: Auburn vs Northwestern -3.5, 43.5

Auburn will be without head coach Gus Malzahn, who was fired in mid-December with a 67-35 record. I can’t say I agree. I don’t think the problem was with the coaching but with Bo Nix. Reminder: I AM NOT A BO’LIEVER in Bo Nix!

Northwestern will be missing leading rusher Drake Anderson, RB Isaiah Bowser (who was third in yardage but led in carries) and second-leading receiver Kyric McGowan. All three have entered the transfer portal. They will also be without DB Greg Newsome, who leads in passes deflected. 

I’m not sure either team wants to be here. Auburn lost two of its last three games but did win its finale, and Northwestern fell short in a 22-10 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.

I’m not surprised to see Northwestern offensive players pack up and leave. This is not an offensive team and it showed against the Buckeyes. The opportunities were there and the Wildcats could not capitalize. I may not be a Bo’liever in Nix but I’m even less of a believer in this Northwestern offense.

One thing Northwestern is good at is takeaways. Auburn is 11th-best in limiting turnovers but Nix does have seven interceptions, with three coming in one game. Before facing Northwestern, Justin Fields had just three interceptions, but he threw two in that matchup. That Wildcats defense will do that to you, but as noted, Northwestern can’t capitalize.

The Wildcats are 101st in total offense, 106th in passing yards and 68th in rushing yards. And now you’ll be minus three players on offense? The UNDER looks enticing with two teams that have subpar offenses. Northwestern allows just 15 points per game and Auburn allows just 24. The total is too low, though, for my liking.

Consider: Auburn +3.5

Rose Bowl CFP Semifinal: Notre Dame vs Alabama -19.5, 65.5

The Fighting Irish have a pass rush that doesn’t come into play because of Alabama’s stellar offensive line. Notre Dame has a top-20 run game but that doesn’t come into play against Alabama, which is ranked 15th in both opponent rushing yards allowed and opponent yards per rush.

Can Ian Book do well against Alabama? He might but I wouldn’t bank on it being enough. Notre Dame is 56th in passing yards and Book is throwing for an average of 8.2 yards per pass. The two passing teams that were competitive against Alabama were Ole Miss (10.7 average) and Florida (10.0 average) and neither was good enough to keep it close.

Notre Dame’s weakness also happens to be in the secondary and giving up explosive plays downfield. In the first matchup against Clemson, the Irish gave up 439 passing yards, a 10.0 average and 40 points. In the rematch, they got torched on the ground for 219 rushing yards and gave up 8.1 yards per carry and 8.3 yards per pass. Even while limiting North Carolina to 17 points, they gave up 215 yards in the first half and yielded multiple completions of 20-plus yards.

Alabama has Najee Harris, who has 24 rushing touchdowns and over 1,200 yards on the ground. The Tide also have star receiver DeVonta Smith but have five other players averaging 11.1 or more yards per reception.

Alabama has a mean pass rush and Ian Book under pressure has just a 48 percent completion rate. You know what has been consistently cashing, though – ’Bama covering the first-half spread. The Crimson Tide come out firing and bring down the hammer like there’s no tomorrow. They have outscored opponents 326-112 in the first half, including Florida 35-17. The two teams that kept it close before the break were Ole Miss (explosive offense) and Georgia, which held ’Bama to 20 points off 307 yards of offense.

Georgia and Notre Dame are sort of the same team, though. Georgia led 24-20 at the half but ended up losing the game 41-24. The difference with Clemson blowing out Notre Dame compared to Alabama? The dual-threat mobility of Trevor Lawrence. Notre Dame kept the pocket passer in check against UNC and Georgia did the same with ’Bama.

Consider: Notre Dame 1H +11.5

Sugar Bowl CFP Semifinal: Ohio State vs Clemson -7, 66.5

This line opened at 7.5 and 65.5. I’m not sure how Ohio State will be competitive in this matchup. One of its weaknesses has been the vulnerability of the offensive line. Justin Fields has been sacked 18 times. Against Northwestern, he was sacked three times and as a result threw two interceptions. Clemson is fifth-best in the pass rush with 44 sacks and is 16th in takeaways, forcing 13 interceptions and 12 fumbles.

Offensively, Clemson is sixth in passing yards and 21st in yards per pass. Ohio State has a horrendous secondary that ranks 104th in the country in opponent passing yards allowed and 52nd in opponent yards per pass.

The Big Ten, as we know, has been non-competitive this season. The best passing team the Buckeyes faced is ranked 36th, and three of their six opponents are ranked 91st or worse. The Buckeyes are this bad in the secondary playing this caliber of opposing pass offenses?

A similar thing could be said about Clemson’s run defense, however. I do think the Clemson stats hold more weight, though, as the Tigers did face Virginia Tech and held them to 2.9 yards per rush, then limited Notre Dame to 1.5 yards per carry in their rematch. This is a defense that has grown stronger and I think it will be really troublesome for Fields and the Buckeyes.

Ohio State will get some players back who missed the Big Ten championship game due to issues related to COVID-19. One of those players is second-leading receiver Chris Olave, who has five of the team’s 15 touchdown receptions. Another key player who returned to practice is starting punter Drue Chrisman. Fields also sprained the thumb on his throwing hand in the Big Ten title game but says he’ll be fine by Friday night.

Why the pick to win the CFB championship? The look-ahead line has Clemson as a dog of about 4.5 points, which puts the moneyline around +170. This is the best value you will get for Clemson. Because of their defense, they have a legit shot at winning.

Consider: Clemson -7, Clemson +250 to win the national championship

Saturday, Jan. 2

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl: Kentucky -2.5 vs NC State, 50

This total opened at 53. Kentucky will have a new offensive coordinator for this matchup with former Los Angeles Rams assistant quarterback coach Liam Coen hired in mid-December to fill the role of OC and QB coach.

I can agree with the line move. You have two teams whose offensive strength falls into the opponent’s defensive strength but with a three-point line drop, you’ve lost value. The Saturday slate of games is really tough to assess in terms of motivation because it comes a day after the big games go off. These are truly meaningless games for your squad. 

Kentucky does not have an offense. The Wildcats rarely make it downfield, ranking 109th in red-zone attempts, and when they do get downfield, they don’t convert as they are 98th in red-zone scores. That explains why the Wildcats average just 21 points per game, are 87th in points per play and just hired a new OC. They are 122nd in passing yards but 45th in rushing yards and 38th in yards per carry, averaging 4.8. They have zero pass rush, ranking 114th in quarterback pressure, but they do have a top-35 offensive line.

The Wolfpack run defense is average. They did crash and burn in a 45-24 loss to Virginia Tech but the Hokies are 10th-best in the run game, considerably better than what Kentucky can muster. They played two comparable opponents in terms of stats and defeated Florida State 38-22 and Georgia Tech 23-13. Liberty, also top 10 on the ground, was held to a 2.8 average off 38 attempts. NC State, on the other hand, doesn’t run and is 35th in passing yards and 41st in yards per pass. 

The level of competition is the big thing here. Kentucky played an all-SEC schedule. NC State didn’t play scrubs, though. The Wolfpack lost by three to Miami, a very good team, and beat Liberty, another good team, by one point. Yes, value is lost on the total but I can’t see anything else other than a game in the 30s. You have a team with an offense that has trouble scoring but a defense that can stop NC State from scoring.

Consider: UNDER 50

Outback Bowl: Ole Miss vs Indiana -6.5, 67

I’m not sure this game will be played. Ole Miss is having a bunch of roster issues when it comes to both injuries and COVID-19.

Starting with injuries, leading RB Jerrion Ealy got hurt during the finale against LSU and has yet to return to practice. He leads in carries, rushing yards and rushing scores. Also injured is wide receiver and deep threat Braylon Sanders, who is fifth in receiving targets but third in yardage with a 25.1 average. He also has not returned to practice after getting injured in the final game. Meanwhile, top receivers Elijah Moore and TE Kenny Yeboah have opted out for the draft. With these injuries, the Rebels may be down their top four targets. Combined, they account for 29 of the team’s 50 total scores.

Indiana has also had COVID-19 concerns. The Hoosiers’ final game against Purdue was moved from December 12 to December 18 and ultimately canceled. As of a few days ago, they were back to practicing.

I’m not going to spend time on this. With all the players out for Ole Miss, the only direction to look is at both Indiana and the UNDER. Missing four players who account for more than half their team’s touchdowns, where are the points coming from? But seriously, this game might get canceled. On Monday, Rebels coach Lane Kiffin said the team was “really struggling” with numbers heading into the matchup. I’ll be surprised if this game is played.

Consider: Pass

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs Iowa State -4.5, 57.5

This line opened at 4 and at 57. Where is the focus for Oregon? Defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has expressed interest in the Boise State head coaching job but head coach Mario Cristobal has had his contract extended through the 2025 season. 

These teams are pretty similar: good offensive lines, balanced offenses and pretty good defenses. Comparing quarterbacks, Oregon’s Tyler Shough holds the edge over Iowa State’s Brock Purdy. Shough and Purdy are 42nd and 43rd in passing yards but Shough throws for a 9.2 average compared to Purdy’s 8.0. When comparing run games, they are also similar in yardage but Iowa State has produced 5.3 yards per carry to Oregon’s 4.9. 

Neither team defends the pass well but Iowa State can stop the run. The Cyclones are 13th in opponent rushing yards and 14th in opponent yards per carry. Even still, against rushing teams, they have either lost (Lafayette, Oklahoma State, Oklahoma rematch) or narrowly won (TCU by three, Texas by three, Oklahoma by seven in the first game).

So, I think Oregon matches up very well here. If the Ducks have to drop the ground game in favor of passing more, I definitely give Shough the edge.

Consider: Oregon +4

Capital One Orange Bowl: North Carolina vs Texas A&M -7, 65.5

This total opened at 68.5. This game should just be canceled, honestly. The Tar Heels’ No. 1 and No. 2 running backs, Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, have opted out. Combined, they account for 2,385 of UNC’s 2,740 total rushing yards and 28 of 35 total rushing scores. Receiver Dyami Brown, also making a go at the draft, led the team in receptions and receiving yards and had eight touchdown receptions. LB Chazz Surratt has also opted out. He leads the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in sacks.

This comes after North Carolina lost No. 3 running back D.J. Jones and fourth wide receiver Beau Corrales to injury. A team built on offense has no offense now, with players who account for more than half of its total scores no longer available. All Saturday games should just be scrapped.

Consider: Texas A&M -7

Be sure to check out our NCAAF Odds page for updated lines and spreads. 

Monday, December 21

Myrtle Beach Bowl: North Texas vs Appalachian State -19, O/U 63.5

The Mean Green’s star wide receiver has opted out and declared for the NFL draft. Jaelon Darden led the team with 1,190 receiving yards, 16.1 yards per catch and 19 touchdowns. He accounts for just under half the team’s total receiving yards and became North Texas’s career leader in receptions, touchdown catches and receiving yards. Needless to say, losing him for this matchup is a big deal.

North Texas hasn’t had a player selected in the NFL draft since 2004 when linebacker Cody Spencer was chosen in the sixth round by the Oakland Raiders. Darden definitely is a beast so I hope to see him on a team next season. UNT is typically an OVER machine but without Darden, I couldn’t comfortably play a total.

What is the Mountaineers’ strength? That run game. They are 12th-best in rushing, averaging 227 yards per game and 5.1 yards per rush. Why has North Texas been an OVER machine? They can’t stop a nosebleed. Their worst defense is in that run game, as they are ranked bottom four in opponent yardage, giving up an average of 262 yards per game, and bottom 10 in opponent yards per carry, allowing a 5.6 average.

With or without Darden, this North Texas passing offense should have trouble against an App State secondary that held Arkansas State to 17 points and Troy to 10. Both of those teams were top 20 in the passing game. The Mean Green may find some success on the ground but I think the Mountaineers will control this game from start to finish and limit possession. This North Texas defense is just too terrible to not exploit.

The only thing I question is motivation. How excited will App State players be to face a 4-5 opponent?

Consider: Appalachian State -19

Tuesday, December 22

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Tulane vs Nevada -3, O/U 55.5

Tulane lost its offensive coordinator at the beginning of the month and has since filled that role but the transition didn’t seem to affect the Green Wave much as they went on to defeat Memphis 35-21 in their season finale. Meanwhile, Nevada is coming off a 30-20 loss to San Jose State that cost the Wolf Pack a spot in the Mountain West title game.

The Wolf Pack had a much-improved passing attack this season. They were 51st in the country in passing yards a year ago but made the jump to 11th. More importantly, quarterback Carson Strong improved on his passing average of 6.2 yards per attempt to now 7.9. He also went from having 11 touchdowns and seven interceptions to 22 touchdowns and just four interceptions this season.

Tulane should be giving up some yardage to this pass attack. The Green Wave allowed 319 passing yards and a 9.7 average in a 49-31 loss to Houston, 439 passing yards and an 11.6 average in a 37-34 loss to SMU, 422 passing yards and a 10.6 average in a 51-34 loss to UCF, and 343 passing yards and a 7.1 average in a 30-24 loss to Tulsa. But last week they limited Memphis to 255 passing yards and a 6.5 average in a 35-21 win. The Tigers had a missed field goal and Brady White threw two interceptions while being sacked three times.

What could help Tulane limit those passing yards is applying pressure on Strong. He’s been sacked 19 times this season for 143 yards lost. This Tulane defense is ranked 13th in applying pressure, generating 38 total sacks and 243 sack yards. What did we just see Nevada do? Lose to San Jose State while being held to 20 points, all scored in the first half. The four sacks produced came in the second half when the Wolf Pack were shut down and had two fumbles.

That being said, I do wish Tulane was in the dog role. Nevada faced Wyoming, which matches up very similar to Tulane, and the Wolf Pack came out with a 37-34 win. Instead, I’ll look to the total. However, it’ll be tough for Nevada to exploit Tulane’s secondary if they can’t get a pass off. If you’re considering strength of schedule, Tulane has definitely been the team to face the tougher competition. 

*Note: Coach Willie Fritz announced Monday that Tulane’s all-time sacks leader, Patrick Johnson, will not travel with the team to play the bowl game. DE Cameron Sample is a game-time decision and DT De’Andre Williams will be sitting as well. Johnson has 10 of Tulane’s 38 total sacks this season and the trio combined to account for 20 of them. If you took Tulane, I’d buy out.

Consider: Tulane -3

RoofClaim.com Boca Raton Bowl: UCF vs BYU -4, O/U 71

The Knights’ leading receiver, Marlon Williams, has opted out and declared for the NFL draft. He led in receptions and yardage and accounted for 10 of the 30 receiving touchdowns. Meanwhile, it is not yet known whether BYU’s leading rusher, Tyler Allgeier, will be available. He did not play in the win over San Diego State but could be back on the field this week. Allgeier has hit the 100-yard mark in each of his last three appearances, so he could benefit from playing a UCF run defense giving up 190 rushing yards per game.

The teams average 44 and 41 points per game, are top 20 in points per play, top 30 in red-zone attempts and top 20 in red-zone scores. Even without Williams, I think this UCF offense is too much for BYU to contain. UCF loves to play with pace. The Knights are first in plays per game, averaging 88 to BYU’s 67. UCF is second-best in converting third downs, while BYU struggles, ranked 82nd.

The Knights also have Jaylon Robinson, who has 20 fewer receptions than Williams but is just 100 yards shy of his 1,039 receiving yards. UCF has three other receivers who will be looking to get their shot to shine.

If you think BYU’s defense is legit, ranked 18th, they gave up 310 passing yards for a 9.4 average to Houston. Though they did win 43-26, Houston had 10 penalties for 113 yards. They couldn’t get out of their own way.

Aside from Houston, the best passing team BYU has faced is ranked 55th. UCF is ranked second in the country. BYU did stomp on Troy but it was Zach Wilson’s best game of the season. Troy gave up 524 yards through three quarters. I’m also not convinced Troy is a good team. They got crushed by App State and caught Coastal Carolina in a look-ahead spot. 

UCF has enough weapons without Williams to put some points up on the board against a defense that hasn’t really been tested against the pass this season. If need be, UCF can run and BYU has shown that it is vulnerable there too, giving up 281 rushing yards to Coastal Carolina for a 5.2 average. The UCF defense is ranked 117th in the country and is poorer against the pass, so I expect BYU to throw up some numbers.

Consider: OVER 71

Wednesday, December 23

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Georgia Southern -6.5 vs Louisiana Tech, O/U 49.5

This line opened at 4.5 and 51. Who will be behind center for Georgia Southern? Starting quarterback Shai Werts is fighting a shoulder injury and was sidelined for the second straight week. Backup Justin Tomlin was carted off the field after suffering a leg injury during Saturday’s 34-26 loss to Appalachian State. Third-string quarterback Miller Mosley stepped in and went 5-for-14 with one touchdown and two interceptions. Of course, the Eagles aren’t a passing team as they are ranked 124th in passing yards but Werts is the team’s leading rusher.

The Bulldogs are vulnerable against the run. They gave up 338 rushing yards to UAB, though they were able to pull out a 37-34 win. They did just get stomped by TCU, losing 52-10 and giving up 333 rushing yards and 9.5 yards per carry, but TCU is in a different class. LA Tech was competitive against both Marshall and UTSA and found some mojo in a 42-31 win over North Texas. But we know how bad that Mean Green defense is.

I think you have to look at the dog in this spot. LA Tech may not have the stats but looking at their schedule, you know they have the fight. Both Werts and Tomlin are question marks and if they do play, it’s a guessing game how healthy either will be.

Consider: LA Tech +6.5 or pass

Montgomery Bowl: Florida Atlantic vs Memphis -8, O/U 51.5

This line opened at 10 and the total at 52.5. The Owls don’t pass and they have been plagued by injury at the running back position for a while now. They are 117th in passing yards and 46th in rushing yards. Two of their best backs, BJ Emmons and Larry McCammon, have been sidelined since October. Emmons has been ruled out for this matchup. The next guy up, Malcolm Davidson, got injured in the second-to-last game against Georgia Southern, had to sit out the finale and has been confirmed to miss this game as well. 

That left James Charles to take the bulk of the load in last week’s game where he was able to put up two scores. Two games ago, starting quarterback Javion Posey was benched after completing seven of 15 passes for 107 yards and two interceptions in a 20-3 loss to Georgia Southern. Posey also happens to be the team’s leading rusher and in last week’s loss to Southern Miss only saw two carries.

This offense is in shambles but their strength lies in their defense. Can their defense contain Memphis? Prior to giving up 45 points to Southern Miss, the Owls had not allowed more than 20 points to an opponent. What happened? I don’t have an answer to that. FAU gave up 514 total yards, 305 of them on the ground for a 6.4 average. Even with two lost fumbles and one interception, Southern Miss had control from start to finish. And because FAU doesn’t have an offense, they could never catch up.

Brady White struggles against a pass rush. He’s been sacked 20 times this season and FAU has produced 25 sacks of its own. FAU’s best defense is supposed to be against the pass, but the best passing team the Owls faced was Southern Miss and though they gave up just 209 yards, they did allow an 11.0 average and let the Southern Miss quarterback complete 13 of 19 passes.

I think at full strength, FAU has a shot to keep it close here but with back-to-back ugly losses and short-handed at running back, this team may be checked out, while Memphis is coming off a big 30-27 win against Houston. 

Consider: Memphis -8

Thursday, December 24

New Mexico Bowl: Hawaii vs Houston -13, 59.5

This line opened at 10 with a total of 61.5. In random news, Hawaii’s football stadium has reportedly been deemed “unsafe to hold crowds” and will be shut down and condemned. A new stadium is being built but is not expected to be completed until 2023. It’ll be interesting to see what the Rainbow Warriors do for the 2021 season.

Hawaii’s second-leading rusher, Miles Reed, has entered the transfer portal. He accounted for 346 yards and a score on the ground, while also catching 16 passes for 123 yards. Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro leads the team in rushing with 450 yards and seven scores.

I can understand the line movement for a few reasons. For starters, Houston does have a mean pass rush. The Cougars are 16th-best and are going up against a Hawaii quarterback who has been sacked a total of 26 times, bottom 20 in the country. Secondly, the Rainbow Warriors will be facing a strong passing attack in Houston, ranked No.  33 in passing yards. 

However, Hawaii has already faced strong pass rushes in Fresno State (W 34-19), Wyoming (L 31-7) and San Jose State (L 35-24), all ranked in the top 25. Hawaii has also faced some good passing offenses in Fresno State, Nevada and San Jose State, all ranked in the top 20. So facing this Houston team won’t be much of a difference from what they have already gone up against.

This isn’t the same high-powered offense we’ve seen from Hawaii in years past but the Warriors have still remained competitive against some good teams. If you liked Houston, the time to have grabbed the number was at 10 but now it’s up to 13 and juiced headed for 13.5. If this ticks to 14, I’d be inclined to grab the points with the dog. Hawaii’s two biggest losses came against non-passing, run-heavy teams in Wyoming (31-7) and San Diego State (34-10) and they have kept it close when playing passing teams.

*Update: On Tuesday, it was announced that Houston will be down anywhere from 15 to 20 players due to eligibility requirements. This is not a COVID-19 issue but rather academics. This could explain the line drop from 13 back to 10.5.

Consider: Hawaii +13 or better

Saturday, December 26

SERVPRO First Responder Bowl: Louisiana vs UTSA +14, 57.5

You’ve got to think a team is really feeling themselves when their head coach turns down a gig in a bigger conference. That’s exactly what happened with the Ragin’ Cajuns. Bill Napier on Monday reportedly turned down the head coaching job at Auburn. Louisiana went 9-1 on the season, its only loss coming in a close matchup with Coastal Carolina. Trying to find their flaws, there’s not many. This is a well-coached program with a more than capable quarterback, a solid group of backs and a strong defense.

The UTSA Roadrunners aren’t scrubs, though. In my opinion, they have been one of the most underrated teams in the country. They had a competitive 21-13 loss to UAB, a 27-20 loss to BYU as 35-point underdogs and a 28-16 loss to Army in which they lost their starting quarterback to injury. They have won three straight and come into this contest with confidence after rebounding from the loss of Lowell Narcisse for the season.

Comparing quarterbacks, the edge does go to the Ragin’ Cajuns’ Levi Lewis with a 60 percent completion rate, 7.7 yards per pass and a 17-to-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. However, Frank Harris has been playing well for UTSA with 10 touchdowns, five interceptions and a 64 percent completion rate, although he has just a 6.2 average.

These teams are quite comparable in rushing offense and defense. They rank 26th and 24th in rushing yards and 12th and 16th in yards per carry. On the defensive side of things, they are 86th and 65th in rushing yards allowed and both give up an average of 4.3 yards per rush. 

I do think these teams are similar even though Louisiana definitely gets more name-brand recognition. I think UTSA has been an underpriced team all season and I think that to be the case again here. UTSA holds the edge on both third-down conversions and third-down conversions allowed, so I like the Roadrunners to be competitive once again. 

Consider: UTSA +14

LendingTree Bowl: Western Kentucky vs Georgia State -3.5, 51

This line opened at 4.5 and 52.5. The Hilltoppers caught a bit of a spark on the back end of the season, closing 3-0 to finish 5-6 after a sluggish start. This team has not had much of an offense at all, though. They are ranked 121st in total offense, 111th in the passing game and 97th in the run. They are bottom 20 in plays per game, bottom 10 in converting third downs and average just 19 points per game.

They turned in their best offensive performance in the finale against Charlotte with quarterback Tyrrell Pigrome throwing for 218 yards, the first time he’d surpassed the 200-yard mark this season. He went 18-for-27 with an 8.1 average, one touchdown and no interceptions in a 37-19 win. 

That effort, however, came against the fourth-worst pass rush in the country. Now, Pigrome and company will go up against the seventh-best. This Panthers defense is mean and can do some damage. They piled up 32 sacks for 200 yards lost, forced 11 fumbles and had 10 interceptions. It’s unlikely we’ll see Pigrome and this offense replicate their finale performance. When under pressure, Pigrome has two touchdowns, five interceptions, a 34 percent completion rate and an adjusted completion percentage of just 55.

Georgia State possesses a top-40 rushing attack, owing in large part to Destin Coates. He leads the team with 652 rushing yards and six scores. Western Kentucky has a solid defense but its strength is against the pass, not the run. The Hilltoppers are 72nd in rushing yards allowed and barely break into the top 75 for quarterback pressure. Defending this run team is a tall ask. The Panthers are also 12th-best in converting on third down while the Hilltoppers are 85th in opponent third-down conversion rate.

Consider: Georgia State -3.5

FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl: Liberty vs Coastal Carolina -7, 59

I have high hopes for this game from an entertainment perspective. After Coastal played BYU, they underwhelmed in their matchup against Troy, nearly getting upset but sneaking out a 42-38 win. The Chanticleers were possibly caught in a look-ahead spot as they were set to face Louisiana in the Sun Belt title game but had to cancel due to COVID-19 concerns.

It would be a huge program disappointment if those concerns carried over into this week. This marks Coastal’s first bowl appearance ever and – fun fact – the first neutral-site game for the Chanticleers in the program’s 18-year history.

On offense, these two teams are pretty dang similar. They are averaging 228 and 219 passing yards per game, 8.0 and 9.2 yards per pass, 252 and 226 rushing yards per game, and 5.6 and 5.0 yards per rush. They run 6.3 and 6.4 yards per play, and are top 30 in converting on third downs, top 13 in red-zone attempts and top 30 in red-zone scores.

Liberty’s defensive stats are entirely misleading. The Flames are ranked 11th in passing defense but excluding two FCS teams, five of their eight opponents are ranked in the bottom 13 in yards per pass and only one is in the top 50. That one was Virginia Tech, which put up 217 passing yards, 8.0 yards per pass, 6.5 yards per rush and 35 points. Coastal has definitely been the team to face tougher competition, having gone up against passing offenses in Arkansas State, Troy and BYU and rushing offenses in Louisiana, Georgia Southern and Georgia State.

These teams are run-first squads but we know both quarterbacks can sling it. That’s what attracts us to both and having such strong similarities on offense, I think we could see some points scored in this matchup. We may not see either team have much success on the ground, which would lead to more emphasis on the passing game.

Consider: OVER 59

Tuesday, Dec. 29

Cheez-It Bowl: Oklahoma State -2.5 vs Miami 58.5

This line opened at 2. Cowboys leading rusher Chuba Hubbard opted out for the NFL draft. However, he hasn’t really been in the picture much. His last game played was November 21 and the last time he was healthy and fully utilized was on Halloween. So, this news doesn’t affect this matchup.

On Miami’s roster, both DL Jaelan Phillips and DE Quincy Roche have opted out. Phillips led the Hurricanes in sacks with eight of the team’s 28 and Roche was second with five. One of the strengths of this Miami team is in that pass rush, so losing both could come into play.

Come game time, D’Eriq King and company would have had two weeks to recover from the beating they took in a 62-26 loss to North Carolina. Fortunately for them, Oklahoma State does not have an offense like the Tar Heels. In fact, these two teams match up pretty similarly, averaging 427 and 432 total yards per game.

It’s how they go about it that is what separates them and not really by much. The Cowboys are more run-heavy, ranked 36th in rushing yards, but both average 4.2 yards per rush. The Hurricanes are ranked 30th in passing yards, though both King and Cowboys QB Spencer Sanders average 8.2 yards per pass.

Where the difference lies is in the defense. Oklahoma State holds the edge in opponent yards per play, opponent third-down conversions, opponent points allowed, opponent red-zone attempts and red-zone scores.

If Miami had Phillips in the lineup, I consider the Hurricanes as a low-spread dog. However, with him out, I look to the total. It’s scary as heck to take an UNDER in a college football game, even more so in a college football bowl game, but I can’t help but look at this as a defensive game.

The Cowboys are on a 3-11 UNDER run since late last season and they do hold the defensive edge in nearly every stat line. The Cowboys are top 20 in applying quarterback pressure and we just saw what pressure can do to King, shutting him down.

Consider: UNDER 58.5

Valero Alamo Bowl: Colorado vs Texas -9, 63.5

The total for this game opened at 64 and the line with Texas as a 12-point favorite. The status of Colorado’s leading tackler, Nate Landman, who is also second in sacks, is unknown. He suffered a non-contact knee injury in the first half of their season finale against Utah. Not having him in this game could be a big blow to their defense.

Looking at Texas, it has had multiple opt-outs, including leading receiver Brennan Eagles as a redshirt sophomore with two years of eligibility left. Quarterback Sam Ehlinger had a handful of receivers to choose from, but Eagles did account for five scores and 469 of the Longhorns’ 2,466 total receiving yards.

They also lost LB Joseph Ossai, who led the team with five of its 16 sacks and was top three in tackles. Adding to the list, DB Chris Brown is out, while earlier this month running back Keaontay Ingram left for the transfer portal and DB Caden Sterns opted out. The defense has been down a few parts but it didn’t appear to hurt them in a 69-31 thrashing of Kansas State.

Ehlinger has not yet announced whether he will return for an unprecedented fifth year. He could do that because of a coronavirus-related eligibility waiver or he could move on from the Texas program and prepare for the NFL draft. If he plays, I like the Longhorns in this spot. Ehlinger has led Texas to four straight bowl games and has a 3-0 record, including last year’s dominating 38-10 win over Utah as a 7-point underdog.

Texas ranks 29th in passing yards and Ehlinger boasts a passing average of 7.9 yards to go along with 25 touchdowns and just five interceptions. Colorado did come out with a 35-32 win over Stanford, a 21st-ranked passing team, but Ehlinger is a big step up in class. Stanford has just seven passing touchdowns and ranks 53rd in points per play while Texas is ranked 13th.

Texas may be down some defensive parts but if Ehlinger is on the field, you know he’ll want to rack up the stats and points to boost his future draft stock. The Buffaloes are not a pass-heavy team and it just so happens that Texas does have a pretty good defense against the run. It is interesting to note that Texas is favored for the first time in a bowl matchup since 2011.

Consider: Texas -9