NCAAFB

Big Bowl Blowout: A Pick for Every Bowl Game

Spread bets, overs, unders — one pick for all the bowl games this season.

December 7, 2023

The bulk of the college football season is behind us, but we still have the Army-Navy game and 42 bowl games left (41 here) on the docket before the National Championship Game. We’ll dive into the latter slate of games, which are set to begin Dec. 16, providing some quick hit analysis along with a pick for each contest. Odds are as of this writing.

Myrtle Beach Bowl: Georgia Southern (-3.5) vs. Ohio (o/u 48.5) – Saturday Dec. 16 11:00 a.m. ET

Nealy every trend in this game pushes in opposite directions. Georgia State was one of the best betting values to begin the season. They went 4-0-1 against the spread to start the season, including four games as favorites. Across their final seven games they went just 1-6 against the spread, erasing that previous value. One key data point is Georgia Southern dominating Ball State 40-3 on Sep. 23, a MAC school that Ohio only pulled away from in the fourth quarter.

The Pick: Georgia Southern

New Orleans Bowl: Jacksonville State (-3.5) vs. Louisiana (o/u 56.5) – Saturday Dec. 16 2:15 p.m. ET

Thankfully, this game gives us some value in terms of the betting trends. JSU was 8-3-1 against the spread this season, including 4-1-1 as the favorite. Louisiana had one of the easiest schedules in the country, while one of JSU’s covers came Nov. 4 when they hung within 10 of South Carolina.

The Pick: Jacksonville State

Cure Bowl: Miami OH (+5.5) vs. Appalachian State (o/u 47.5) – Saturday Dec. 16 3:30 p.m. ET

Miami is 10-3 against the spread this year and is fresh off winning the MAC Championship game, but Appalachian State has stepped up in class against the likes of North Carolina and East Carolina at points in the season and more than held their own. There is some concern over the relatively large number to cover, but App State has the advantage on paper.

The Pick: Appalachian State

New Mexico Bowl: New Mexico State (-2.5) vs. Fresno State (o/u 51.5) – Saturday Dec. 16 5:45 p.m. ET

Fresno State is likely to get the attention in this game thanks to name value, but New Mexico State is 10-3-1 against the spread this season. Two of their losses came against Liberty, the G5 representative in a New Year’s Day bowl (more on that soon).

The Pick: New Mexico State

L.A. Bowl at SoFi Stadum: UCLA (-2.5) vs. Boise State (o/u 49.5) – Saturday Dec. 16 7:30 p.m. ET

Ethan Garbers is expected to be under center for UCLA in this one. He led the team in the second half of the season, when the Bruins went just 2-3 against the spread. It’s a step up in class for Boise State, but they’ve looked inspired on the field since Andy Avalos was fired. In three games since the change at head coach, they’ve gone 3-0 and outscored opponents by a combined margin of 116-49.

The Pick: Boise State

Independence Bowl: California (+2.5) vs. Texas Tech (o/u 58.5) – Saturday Dec. 16 9:45 p.m. ET

This game features two completely average teams, but the intrigue comes from two young quarterbacks leading these offenses. Since taking over as the starter for the Bears in Week 6 against Oregon State, freshman Fernando Mendoza has posted a 13:7 TD:INT ratio while also chipping in two rushing scores. Meanwhile, sophomore Behren Morton has led Texas Tech to a 4-5 record against the spread in Big 12 play.

The Pick: California

Famous Toastery Bowl: Western Kentucky (+2.5) vs. Old Dominion (o/u 55.5) – Monday Dec. 18 2:30 p.m. ET

This will pit strength against strength as Western Kentucky is led by prolific quarterback Austin Reed, while Old Dominion has relied primarily on its defense to reach six wins. The offense will win out.

The Pick: Western Kentucky

Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl: UTSA (-9.5) vs. Marshall (o/u 54.5) – Tuesday Dec. 19 9:00 p.m. ET

This is the biggest spread we’ve seen to this point, and the trends of these two teams suggest there’s good reason for that. Marshall has lost seven of its last nine games ATS and is 3-6 straight up in that span. They’re limping into this matchup.

The Pick: UTSA

Boca Raton Bowl: South Florida (+3.5) vs. Syracuse (o/u 61.5) – Thursday Dec. 21 8:00 p.m. ET

We’ll hit our first total bet on this one, as Syracuse is led by its defense and will face an inconsistent USF offense that generally needed to be pushed to really get going during the regular season.

The Pick: Under 61.5

Gasparilla Bowl: Georgia Tech (+4.5) vs. UCF (o/u 64.5) – Friday Dec. 22 6:30 p.m. ET

Georgia Tech is back in a bowl game for the first time since 2018 and have momentum in its program for the first time in a while. Backing the Yellow Jackets for that reason makes sense, but the best bet comes from the state of these two offenses. Both rank inside the top 30 in offensive EPA, so look for plenty of points in this one.

The Pick: Over 64.5

Birmingham Bowl: Troy (-6.5) vs. Duke (o/u 44.5) – Saturday Dec. 23 12 p.m. ET

Duke lost its head coach and starting quarterback for this game, while Troy is developing into a dominant force in the Sun Belt. This is a big number to lay, but Troy is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games, and they were favored eight times in that span.

The Pick: Troy

Camellia Bowl: Arkansas State (+0.5) vs. Northern Illinois (o/u 53.5) – Saturday Dec. 23 12 p.m. ET

Sometimes numbers don’t tell the full story, but this one seems pretty clear. Northern Illinois finished 23rd in EPA differential per play, while Arkansas State finished 94th. In what’s basically a pick ’em, this is straightforward.

The Pick: Northern Illinois

Armed Forces Bowl: James Madison (-2.5) vs. Air Force (o/u 41.5) – Saturday Dec. 23 3:30 p.m. ET

Air Force is on a four-game skid both ATS and straight up. That’s come during the absence of starting quarterback Zac Larrier (undisclosed), who could be back for this matchup. For those backing Air Force, now is the time to take the number and hope Larrier comes back. Without Larrier, this is a comfortable win for JMU. For now, we’ll assume Larrier is out.

The Pick: James Madison

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Georgia State (+0.5) vs. Utah State (o/u 63.5) – Saturday Dec. 23 3:30 p.m. ET

There are conflicting data points in this one, as EPA favors Utah State by a significant margin, while strength of schedule suggests Georgia State could close the gap. The Panthers are on a five-game losing streak, so side with the Aggies.

The Pick: Utah State

LendingTree Bowl: South Alabama (-15.5) vs. Eastern Michigan (o/u 47.5) – Saturday Dec. 23 7:00 p.m. ET

South Alabama is by far the better team, but Eastern Michigan is too well coached by Chris Creighton to get embarrassed.

The Pick: Eastern Michigan

Las Vegas Bowl: Utah (-6.5) vs. Northwestern (o/u 42.5) – Saturday Dec. 23 7:30 p.m. ET

Utah and Northwestern rank 103rd and 92nd respectively in offensive EPA per play. The game total is low, but the under is still the right side.

The Pick: Under 42.5

Hawaii Bowl: Coastal Carolina (+9.5) vs. San Jose State (o/u 54.5) – Saturday Dec. 23 10:30 p.m. ET

In what will become a common theme, Coastal Carolina lost its quarterback to the transfer portal. The number is big, but with a lot of uncertainty, back the Spartans.

The Pick: San Jose State

Quick Lane Bowl: Bowling Green (+3.5) vs. Minnesota (o/u 37.5) – Tuesday Dec. 26 2:00 p.m. ET

This might be the worst matchup of the bowl season in terms of entertainment. Whether we want to call it strong defense or inept offense, there won’t be many points.

The Pick: Under 37.5

First Responders Bowl: Texas State (-4.5) vs. Rice (o/u 60.5) – Tuesday Dec. 26 5:30 p.m. ET

Highly-regarded quarterback JT Daniels was forced to retire for medical reasons, but AJ Padgett has stepped in nicely to keep the Rice offense humming. The Owls aren’t known for their work on the gridiron, but on paper they’re the better team in this matchup.

The Pick: Rice

Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Kansas (-12.5) vs. UNLV (o/u 64.5) – Tuesday Dec. 26 9:00 p.m. ET

This is another pair of potent offenses, as Kansas ranks 16th in EPA per offensive play and UNLV 23rd. This is an under-the-radar matchup that could be highly entertaining.

The Pick: Over 64.5

Military Bowl: Virginia Tech (-7.5) vs. Tulane (o/u 46.5) – Wednesday Dec. 27 2:00 p.m. ET

Tulane is another team that has lost its head coach, and it also is coming off a tough defeat in the AAC Championship at the hands of SMU. Even so, this is too big of a number to lay against a mediocre Tech team.

The Pick: Tulane

Duke’s Mayo Bowl: North Carolina (+3.5) vs. West Virginia (o/u 56.5) – Wednesday Dec. 27 5:30 p.m. ET

For now, quarterback Drake Maye appears set to suit up for this contest. If that remains the case, this line doesn’t make much sense. It’s likely the best move to wait until there’s more clarity on Maye’s status, but for now the Tar Heels are the side to back.

The Pick: North Carolina

Holiday Bowl: Louisville (-7.5) vs. USC (o/u 57.5) – Wednesday Dec. 27 8:00 p.m. ET

It’s hard to get the hideous performance from Louisville in the ACC Championship out of mind, but the reality is that their rank of 16th in the country is about right based on EPA per play. On paper, they have a significant advantage over USC, particularly with Caleb Williams unsurprisingly opting out. Laying that many points with the Cardinals is a tough ask, but it’s probably the right way to take this game.

Top Pick: Louisville

Texas Bowl: Texas A&M (-3.5) vs. Oklahoma State (o/u 53.5) – Wednesday Dec. 27 9:00 p.m. ET

Oklahoma State’s win total has far exceeded what its deserved in terms of quality of play. If the Aggies come to the game with the right motivation, they’re the clear choice here.

The Pick: Texas A&M

Fenway Bowl: SMU (-11.5) vs. Boston College (o/u 50.5) – Thursday Dec. 28 11:00 a.m. ET

SMU ranks fifth in net EPA per play while Boston College ranks 109th. The only case for BC is that they’re playing with home city advantage and will be motivated to perform in front of their fans. That’s not enough.

The Pick: SMU

Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers (+2.5) vs. Miami (FL) (o/u 41.5) – Thursday Dec. 28 2:15 p.m. ET

Miami will be reliant upon Jacurri Brown under center. He hasn’t played at all this season and has a small sample from 2022, during which he averaged 5.1 yards per attempt with a 3:3 TD:INT ratio. Rutgers will be motivated to win its first bowl game since 2014 and should be able to do so.

The Pick: Rutgers

Pop-Tarts Bowl: NC State (+3.5) vs. Kansas State (o/u 47.5) – Thursday Dec. 28 5:45 p.m. ET

Kansas State is rightfully the favorite based on their resume this season, but they lost quarterback Will Howard to the transfer portal. Thankfully Avery Johnson is ready to replace him and has played effectively at points this season. That shift in quarterback play makes the number a bit daunting, but K-State is still the side to pick here.

The Pick: Kansas State  

Alamo Bowl: Arizona (-3.5) vs. Oklahoma (o/u 62.5) – Thursday Dec. 28 9:15 p.m. ET

Arizona is arguably the hottest team in the nation and has been perennially underrated by the market this season, going 10-2 ATS. Oklahoma quarterback Dillon Gabriel is yet another starter to have entered the portal, giving Arizona the significant edge here.

The Pick: Arizona

Gator Bowl: Clemson (-6.5) vs. Kentucky (o/u 46.5) – Friday Dec. 29 12 p.m. ET

Clemson has found its groove, winning four straight games while also covering the spread on each occasion. Kentucky has gone the opposite direction, fading down the stretch after a hot start. Coach Dabo Swinney and quarterback Cade Klubnik will build momentum for next season with a decisive win here.

The Pick: Clemson

Sun Bowl: Oregon State (+8.5) vs. Notre Dame (o/u 43.5) – Friday Dec. 29 2:00 p.m. ET

Notre Dame ranks second in the nation in net EPA per play, so they seemingly deserve a better record than 9-3. The question is more about the number, but Oregon State has gone just 1-4 ATS in its last five games.

The Pick: Notre Dame

Liberty Bowl: Memphis (+8.5) vs. Iowa State (o/u 57.5) – Friday Dec. 29 3:30 p.m. ET

This is an interesting line because Memphis is getting a home game but has been terrible ATS this year (4-7-1). Iowa State has had recent success on the road, so even in the tough environment, their defense should be able to slow the explosive Tigers’ offense.

The Pick: Iowa State

Cotton Bowl: Missouri (-1.5) vs. Ohio State (o/u 48.5) – Friday Dec. 29 8 p.m. ET

There’s no way this would be the line if these teams were squaring off in October, but this is another game that will be highly affected by the transfer portal and opt outs. The Buckeyes look likely to start true freshman Lincoln Kienholz after starting quarterback Kyle McCord entered the portal. They could also be without a number of talented skill-position players, highlighted by Marvin Harrison Jr. and running back Trayveon Henderson. This is another game to wait on for more clarity, but Missouri will be the more motivated team, presumably with more of its roster intact.

The Pick: Missouri

Peach Bowl: Ole Miss (+3.5) vs. Penn State (o/u 49.5) – Saturday Dec. 30 12 p.m. ET

This matchup pits each team’s strengths against each other, as Ole Miss has an elite offense and Penn State has arguably the best defensive unit in the nation. This will come down to the Nittany Lions offense and how much production they can muster. It should be just enough.

The Pick: Penn State

Music City Bowl: Auburn (-2.5) vs. Maryland (o/u 50.5) – Saturday Dec. 30 2:00 p.m. ET

Auburn will need to bounce back from a mind-numbing loss to New Mexico State and a heartbreaking loss to nemesis Alabama. That creates some risk, but on paper their EPA margin and schedule difficulty suggest they should have the upper hand.

The Pick: Auburn  

Orange Bowl: Georgia (-13.5) vs. Florida State (o/u 45.5) – Saturday Dec. 30 4:00 p.m. ET

Speaking of two teams looking to bounce back, that will be the case here. Georgia was the number one team in the country all season only to lose in the SEC Championship Game. Meanwhile, FSU was arguably the most controversial snub of the playoff era after they went undefeated with an ACC Championship but were still left out of the top four. Assuming Georgia comes to play, they win and cover with ease, but we’ll see who is actually suiting up for this contest closer to game time.

The Pick: Georgia

Arizona Bowl: Toledo (+2.5) vs. Wyoming (o/u 44.5) – Saturday Dec. 30 4:30 p.m. ET

This is an intriguing matchup. Toledo has an elite running game, while Wyoming has an elite run-stopping unit. Meanwhile, the Rockets should also have the edge defensively over the Cowboys offense. In other words, this will be a slugfest. It’s overshadowed by the other games on the same day, but this is DVR-worthy for true college football fanatics.

The Pick: Under 44.5

ReliaQuest Bowl: Wisconsin (+10.5) vs. LSU (o/u 55.5) – Monday Jan. 1 12 p.m. ET

This is a mismatch all the way around as LSU is the better team per EPA and faced a far tougher schedule. The Tigers should win comfortably.

The Pick: LSU

Fiesta Bowl: Liberty (+15.5) vs. Oregon (o/u 65.5) – Monday Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET

Oregon should be motivated in this one, as they are clearly one of the better teams in the country despite falling out of the playoff field due to a pair of losses to Washington. Liberty won’t be able to hang around in this one, as they faced the 123rd-ranked strength of schedule this season and haven’t come across any team near the quality of the Ducks.

The Pick: Oregon

Cheez-It Citrus Bowl: Iowa (+8.5) vs. Tennessee (o/u 36.5) – Monday Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET

Both teams are likely to struggle to score, as the Volunteers were pretty easily handled by their elite SEC foes. In games against Alabama, Missouri and Georgia, Tennessee managed 20, 7, and 10 points, respectively. Iowa is about as incompetent as it gets offensively, so this will be a defensive struggle.

The Pick: Under 36.5

Rose Bowl: Alabama (+1.5) vs. Michigan (o/u 45.5) – Monday Jan. 1 at 5 p.m. ET

Alabama controversially snuck into the playoff field after finishing only 24th in net EPA per play this season. However, they have arguably the best win of any team given their victory over Georgia in the SEC Championship. Michigan played among the softest non-conference schedule imaginable but handled Penn State on the road and Ohio State at the Big House. Both teams are coached at an elite level, so there’s not much to parse between these two teams. The line is probably a little short based on the reputation of the Crimson Tide, leaving some value for Michigan.

The Pick: Michigan  

Sugar Bowl: Texas (-4.5) vs. Washington (o/u 64.5) – Monday Jan. 1 at 8:45 p.m. ET

This is a really fun matchup between two deserving teams, no controversy here. The key will be each defense’s ability to slow down the opposing offense, with Washington boasting the superior offense and Texas the better defense. If nothing else, we can bet on Washington keeping it close and likely scoring some points.

The Picks: Washington and Over  

Dale Weber
Dale began working at RotoWire in 2017 writing MLB game wraps. He now covers primarily MLB, NFL and racing, but also has experience writing in a wide range of sports, including MMA, golf and soccer.
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