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Betting the Bowl Season: What to make of the non-CFP games and the semi-finals

Bowl opt-outs have made this incredibly challenging.

NCAA Football: Rose Bowl Stadium Photo by Kirby Lee/Getty Images

Betting the Big Ten was so successful this year that we decided to try our hand at betting some of the bigger bowl games this year. The CFP games are pretty straightforward. However, the non-CFP bowls are an exercise in futility, as the hardest part is figuring out who is actually playing in each game. Opt-outs have made it near impossible, but we’re going to give it a try.

All lines are courtesy of DraftKings Sportsbook. Please bet responsibly.

Cotton Bowl: Missouri vs. Ohio State (-1), O/U 49, 8 p.m., Friday in Arlington, TX

This line has been all over the place. Following the departure of Kyle McCord to Syracuse, it shifted heavily towards Missouri. However, it’s crawled back toward Ohio State, as there have been surprisingly few opt-outs from the Buckeye side of the house. I’m not convinced there won’t be any surprise opt-outs on game day, so I’m afraid to take the spread. Instead, I’ll lean on the under, as the Buckeye defense is still very legitimate while Devin Brown doesn’t inspire much confidence.

The pick: Under 49

Peach Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Penn State (-4), O/U 48.5, Noon, Saturday in Atlanta, GA

In Penn State’s last eight bowl games under James Franklin, the Nittany Lions are 4-4 with three New Year’s Six bowl wins. As much as we ridicule Franklin for his mid-season failures against Michigan and Ohio State, he has a knack for winning big bowl games. Ole Miss has been all over the transfer portal in the past few weeks and are set up nicely for 2024. However, I just don’t see them overcoming an angry Nittany Lion team.

The pick: Penn State -4

Orange Bowl: Georgia (-17) vs. Florida State, O/U 44.5, 4 p.m., Saturday in Miami, FL

In the most fascinating bowl game of the non-CFP games, neither team wants to be here. Florida State is now without Jordan Travis and Tate Rodemaker, with the latter entering the transfer portal. Carson Beck, on the other hand, announced he is coming back for 2024 and is playing in the Orange Bowl. I don’t love the spread being as large as 17, but I just don’t see how Florida State keeps it close without most of its best players.

The pick: Georgia -17

Fiesta Bowl: Liberty vs. Oregon (-17), O/U 67.5, 1 p.m., Monday in Glendale, AZ

Liberty had an excellent season but picked up an unfortunate New Year’s Six matchup with an angry Oregon team that will have Bo Nix playing. I was tempted to take the over, as both offenses are potent. However, Bucky Irving’s opt-out has me tentative. The Ducks will also be missing starting center Jackson Powers-Johnson. I’m going to ride with the underdogs here, as I believe they are a very good, healthy team and have nothing to lose. The spread is just too large for me to trust the Ducks.

The pick: Liberty +17

Citrus Bowl: Iowa vs. Tennessee (-8), O/U 36, 1 p.m., Monday in Orlando, FL

In a bowl game that could have featured former Michigan quarterbacks playing against each other, we instead get another Deacon Hill appearance. Iowa was ravaged with injuries throughout the season, but luckily didn’t struggle with opt-outs. Tennessee is loaded with talent but had a largely disappointing season. There’s no way I’m taking Iowa ATS here, so I’ll stick with the tried and true method of betting the under for Iowa games.

The pick: Under 36

Sugar Bowl: Texas (-4) vs. Washington, O/U 63.5, 8:45 p.m., Monday in New Orleans, LA

This line has stayed shockingly consistent the past few weeks, with more or less even money on both sides. For me, there’s one key stat I look at here — Michael Penix and the Washington offense are No. 1 in the country in passing yards. The Texas defense, while very stout against the rush (fourth nationally), is No. 95 in the country at defending the pass. My money is on Washington playing to its strengths and keeping the ball in the air.

The pick: Washington +4

Rose Bowl: Michigan (-1.5) vs. Alabama, O/U 44.5, 5 p.m., Monday in Pasadena, CA

Now we come to the granddaddy of them all. Similar to the Sugar Bowl, the spread has remained shockingly consistent. According to the Action Network, 76 percent of the public money is on Alabama. This is an almost identical situation as we saw leading up to the Michigan vs. Ohio State matchup in late November. The public narrative and money is all on the Alabama and the SEC, but the spread hasn’t budged a bit. Vegas knows something. Michigan is winning this game.

The pick: Michigan -1.5