The Birmingham Bowl will pit the Houston Cougars (21) and the unranked Auburn Tigers against one another at Protective Stadium in Birmingham, Alabama on December 28.
Houston finished at 11-2 this season, ripping off 11 straight wins between their season-opening loss to Texas Tech and their season-ending loss to Cincinnati.
Meanwhile, Auburn lost its last four games to finish at 6-6, giving them six or fewer wins in consecutive campaigns for the first time since 1998-1999. Nevertheless, Auburn will want to show Houston that the SEC reigns supreme in college football in the Birmingham Bowl.
Will Houston end its strong season on a high note, or will Auburn snap its losing streak and salvage another underwhelming campaign? Continue reading to see my Birmingham Bowl predictions and best bets.
All Birmingham Bowl odds and lines are courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook as of 5:00 p.m. ET on Thursday, December 9.
Houston vs Auburn Prediction
The Cougars are led by redshirt junior quarterback Clayton Tune, who threw for 3,263 yards, 28 touchdowns, and nine interceptions.
On the other side of the field, Auburn is still without Bo Nix (season-ending ankle surgery), forcing them to lean on TJ Finley again.
Even though Nix wasn’t lighting it up from under center, Finley is a massive downgrade for the offense. RB Tank Bigsby, who could elect to sit out, is about the only consistent source of offense for the Tigers right now.
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On the defensive side of the ball, Roger McCreary is a standout cornerback for Auburn who could refrain from playing in order to prepare himself for the 2022 NFL Draft. That would benefit Houston, who has a standout wide receiver in Nathaniel Dell that recorded 80 receptions, 1,179 yards, and 12 touchdowns this season.
If both teams were at full strength, I would probably lean in favor of Auburn in this contest. But with the Tigers sans Nix and potentially other key contributors, I believe the Cougars will get their 12th win of the season in the Birmingham Bowl.
Birmingham Bowl Prediction: Houston 24, Auburn 17
Birmingham Bowl Best Bets
CFB Betting Record: 13-5-0
Best Bet: Houston +3 (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
The SEC runs strong in college football and it’s always considered the toughest conference. Given the circumstances in this game, I’m convinced that Auburn is only favored on our CFB gameday odds by virtue of being an SEC program.
SEC or not, the Tigers are playing a backup quarterback against a team that went 11-2 during the regular season. Houston is more than capable of keeping this within a field goal or even winning this game outright with Tune and running back Alton McCaskill leading the offense.
For what it’s worth, the Cougars posted a 7-6 record against the spread this season and were 1-1 against the spread as 2.5+ point underdogs. As for Auburn, they went 6-6 against the spread and are 1-4 straight up in their past five games this season.
Best Bet: Under 52 Total Points (-110) at Caesars
Wager: 1 Unit
On the surface, Houston appears to have a ferocious offense that recorded 37.3 points per game (14th in the FBS). The Cougars are more methodical than explosive, however, as they own the ninth-highest time of possession per game at 33:35.
Houston only averages 415.9 yards of offense per game (55th in the FBS) and produces a modest 5.8 yards per play (52nd in the FBS). So with that in mind, I’m not expecting many big plays that could make this game a shootout or high-scoring contest.
As discussed, Auburn will have a backup quarterback in Finley who has struggled since taking over for Nix. The Tigers’ sluggish offense has been the main culprit for their losing streak, averaging just 19 points per game during their four-game skid.
Look for Houston to focus on controlling the ball and not put up many points against Auburn’s formidable defense. Unless either side erupts for multiple long touchdowns, I don’t see any way this total hits the Over.
Thanks for reading our Birmingham Bowl Predictions & Best Bets! For more CFB betting tips, check out our CFB Pick of the Day.