CFB Bowl Predictions & Best Bets 2023-2024

Last Updated: Dec 27, 2023

I never thought there would be a worse named bowl game than the Poulan Weed-Eater Independence Bowl, which ran from 1990-97.

But now we have such bowl games as the Famous Toastery Bowl, Scooter’s Coffee Frisco Bowl, 68 Ventures Bowl, Guaranteed Rate Bowl, Duke’s Mayo Bowl, TaxAct Texas Bowl, Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl, Pop-Tarts Bowl, and Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl.

Can’t we go back to just the Rose Bowl, Cotton Bowl, and Sugar Bowl?

If these corporate named bowls aren’t bad enough, the games have become a crapshoot to handicap with so many players going into the transfer portal or opting out. Who’s in? Who’s out? There’s already been several favorite changes in the Missouri-Ohio State Cotton Bowl game due to player rumors.

The key is either play early gambling that you’ll have the best of the number, or wait until post studying any late line movement that often comes from sharps if last-second information breaks.

But for our purposes, I’ll take a stab at these five bowl games after going 3-2 on my bowl plays last week.

There’s much to consider when making your college football bowl picks.

Stephen Nover’s TGD Picks Record: 44-56-2

CFB odds used in these betting tips are current as of Tuesday, Dec. 26, at 11:30 p.m. ET

CFB Bowl Game Best Bets (Dec. 28-Jan. 1)

North Carolina State vs Kansas State (Pop-Tarts Bowl) @ Orlando, Fla.

BEST BET: North Carolina State +2.5 (-110)

Caesars SportsbookWAGER: 2 Units

North Carolina State finished the regular season winning and covering its last five games, producing upset victories in four of those games - against Clemson, Miami, Virginia Tech, and North Carolina.

The Wolfpack suffered some roster losses, most notably star linebacker Payton Wilson, but they weren’t hit as hard as Kansas State. The Wildcats lost at least 15 players, including starting quarterback Will Howard, All-Big 12 tight end Ben Sinnott, and star safety Kobe Savage.

Also leaving Kansas State was offensive coordinator Collin Klein. So the Wildcats will have a new play-caller, offensive line coach Conor Riley, to go with a true freshman at quarterback, Avery Johnson.

Johnson is a dual-threat, but he faces an opportunistic Wolfpack defense that ranked 17th in run defense and was third in the nation in takeaways with 17.

North Carolina State has veteran Brennan Armstrong under center, who is also a passing and running threat. Armstrong is coming off his best game of the season, passing for 334 yards and three touchdowns in a 39-20 victory against North Carolina. The Wolfpack piled up 504 yards in that game.

Kansas State has not been a reliable favorite losing three times straight-up in that role - falling to Missouri, Oklahoma State, and Iowa State in its last game.

North Carolina State showed more improvement and played better down the stretch than Kansas State. Look for that to carry over.

Alabama vs Michigan (Rose Bowl) @ Pasadena, Calif.

BEST BET: Under 45 (-110)

Caesars Sportsbook WAGER: 2 Units

Sure these teams have skill position stars. But their defenses are more dominant than their respective offenses.

Michigan gives up 9.5 points a game. That’s the best in the nation. The Wolverines also rank No. 2 in the country in defensive total yards and pass defense.

Alabama has a dynamic dual threat quarterback in Jalen Milroe. Michigan, though, has a strong pass rush and Alabama’s offensive line has been prone to giving up sacks and quarterback hurries more than in past seasons.

The Crimson Tide also have a powerful pass rush to go with an elite secondary. The Wolverines became heavy run-oriented during their last few games. They ranked 112nd in explosiveness on offense.

Michigan lost guard Zak Zinter, one of the best offensive linemen in the country, to a broken leg against Ohio State.

The Wolverines are the slowest-paced team in the nation. Alabama ranks in the bottom 30 in tempo, too, so the clock will keep moving.

CFB Bowl Game Betting Prediction Leans (Dec. 28-Jan. 1)

Missouri vs Ohio State (Cotton Bowl) @ Arlington, Texas

BET LEAN: Ohio State money line (-115)

BetMGM WAGER: 1 Unit

This line has bounced all around twice going through favorite changes. The bottom line for me is Ohio State is the superior team even if some of its star players drop out at the last minute. If they don’t, the Buckeyes are even more of a bargain.

Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord is out for sure after transferring to Syracuse. I’m OK with that.

Devin Brown came close to winning the starting job before the season. He’s a better runner and more mobile than McCord, who was bolstered by the Buckeyes having one of the best wide receiving groups in the country.

Missouri had a good year, but the Tigers are far from elite. I don’t put them in Ohio State’s class, especially on defense. The Buckeyes allowed nearly 100 fewer yards and 12.1 fewer points per game than the Tigers.

Ohio State ranked in the top three in scoring defense, total defense, and pass defense.

Memphis vs Iowa State (Liberty Bowl) @ Memphis, Tenn.

BET LEAN: Memphis +9.5 (-106)

FanDuel Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

Memphis has home field with this game taking place at the Liberty Bowl in Memphis and a high-scoring offense that can keep it in the game even if a backdoor cover is needed.

The Tigers average 39.7 points, seventh-best in the nation. They have scored at least 20 points in 26 consecutive games. That’s the longest active streak in the country.

Seth Henigan has played his best this season down the stretch with a 15-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio during the last six games.

Iowa State finished the regular season with a disappointing 7-5 record. The Cyclones don’t own a signature victory, as the best teams they beat were Oklahoma State and Kansas State.

The only defeats Memphis suffered were to the two best teams in the American Athletic Conference, SMU and Tulane, and Missouri of the SEC. Those three losses were by an average of seven points.

Toledo vs Wyoming (Arizona Bowl) @ Tucson, Ariz.

BET LEAN: Wyoming -3.5 (-110)

BetRivers Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

The handicap is simple here. No Dequan Finn for Toledo, and this is the final game for Wyoming’s popular coach Craig Bohl.

Finn, the MVP in the Mid-American Conference, is transferring to Baylor. But even with Finn, the Rockets were held to only 14 points by Ohio in losing the MAC title game, 23-14.

Also out for Toledo is Vinny Sciury, one of the top offensive linemen in the country. He transferred to Texas Tech.

Bohl is retiring after 10 seasons at Wyoming. The Cowboys are highly motivated to send him out with a win and have gone 4-0-1 ATS in their last five bowl games during the past seven years.

Contrast this with Toledo coach Jason Candle, whose Rockets are 1-5 ATS in bowl games and have failed to cover in their last five.

CFB Bowl Game Best Bets (Dec. 21-23)

Coastal Carolina vs San Jose State (Hawaii Bowl) @ Honolulu

BEST BET: San Jose State -10 (-110)

Caesars SportsbookWAGER: 2 Units

Playing a tough non-conference schedule that included USC, Oregon State and Toledo paid off for San Jose State. The Spartans closed as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning their last six games.

Getting excellent balance, the Spartans averaged 38.7 points during that slate.

Chevan Cordeiro lived up to the hype. He was the top quarterback in the Mountain West Conference, throwing 13 touchdown passes with just one interception in the win streak. Meanwhile, Kairee Robinson rushed for triple-digits in five of the last six games.

Coastal Carolina not only lost its last two games, but it faces serious issues. The Chanticleers’ defense was exposed during that period, giving up 365 rushing yards to Army in a 28-21 loss and yielding 481 yards to James Madison in a 56-14 defeat.

Chanticleers star quarterback Grayson McCall was one of many to leave the team. He’s transferring to North Carolina State.

San Jose State is used to playing in Hawaii being in the Mountain West Conference. Cordeiro played for the Rainbow Warriors before switching to San Jose State, so it’s a homecoming game for him.

Coastal Carolina has no experience traveling and playing in Hawaii, which can be highly distracting.

James Madison vs Air Force (Armed Forces Bowl) @ Fort Worth, Texas

BEST BET: Air Force +2.5 (-110)

DraftKings WAGER: 2 Units

Air Force last played on Nov. 24. The time off was much needed by the Falcons, who opened 8-0 but then wore down and lost their final four regular-season games. They are healthy and rested now.

The Falcons have a strong pedigree. They have 28 victories, including two bowl wins, during the past three seasons.

Unlike James Madison, Air Force isn’t going through a coaching change and is not having players opt out and enter the transfer portal.

James Madison coach Curt Cignetti has left for Indiana, and he’s taken some of his assistants with him. The Dukes also lost eight players to the transfer portal, including multiple defensive talents.

Lineman Jalen Green is James Madison’s best defensive player, but he’s out with a knee injury.

Service academies have covered 71 percent of their last 31 bowl games.

CFB Bowl Game Betting Prediction Leans (Dec. 21-23)

Syracuse vs South Florida (Boca Raton Bowl) @ Boca Raton, Fla.

BET LEAN: Under 56.5 (-110)

BetMGM WAGER: 1 Unit

Syracuse wasn’t that good offensively when it had starting quarterback Garrett Shrader, but now he’s out following shoulder surgery.

The Orange shouldn’t get too many points, even against a bad South Florida defense.

But the Bulls won’t do extensive damage against a well-coached Syracuse defense that surrendered an average of 23.8 points a game, and Syracuse’s Rocky Long is one of the more innovative defensive coordinators.

Duke vs Troy (Birmingham Bowl) @ Birmingham, Ala.

BET LEAN: Troy -7.5 (-110)

Caesars Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

This game means more to Troy, being a Sun Belt Conference team, than it does to Duke of the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Duke finished its season in disappointing fashion with close losses to Virginia and North Carolina. Troy will want to show it can soundly beat an ACC team.

Duke had a top-notch coach, Mike Elko, and a versatile quarterback in Riley Leonard. Both are gone.

Troy lost Jayden McDonald, its leading tackler, to the transfer portal. Duke, however, lost many more players than Troy, especially on defense.

The Blue Devils go into this matchup lacking depth. They were 1-5 when allowing more than 20 points.

Duke lacks a passing attack with Leonard no longer there, and Troy has a strong pass rush.

Arkansas State vs Northern Illinois (Camellia Bowl) @ Montgomery, Ala.

BET LEAN: Northern Illinois +3 (-110)

BetRivers Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

The combination of Northern Illinois star running back Antario Brown and a bad Arkansas State defense puts me on the Huskies.

Brown could be the best running back in the Mid-American Conference. He rushed for 1,164 yards and topped the MAC with a 6.2 yard average.

Arkansas State ranked 115th in run defense and 124th in total defense. Northern Illinois is 6-0 this season when outrushing its opponents.

The Red Wolves won’t have their second-leading tackler, linebacker Javante Mackey, after he entered the transfer portal.

Northern Illinois retains its entire starting defense. The Huskies had the sixth-best pass defense in the country, surrendering just 21.2 points a game.

CFB Bowl Game Best Bets (Dec. 16-18)

New Mexico State vs Fresno State (New Mexico Bowl) @ Albuquerque, N.M.

BEST BET: New Mexico State -3.5 (-110)

FanDuel Sportsbook WAGER: 2 Units

Money has poured on New Mexico State, and for good reason. The Aggies have come on strong winning eight of their last nine games.

Fresno State has gone the opposite way. The Bulldogs opened 8-1 but are now 8-4 after three consecutive bad losses.

The Bulldogs concluded their regular season with a 42-18 road loss to San Jose State as a short underdog, a 25-17 home loss to New Mexico as a 23-point favorite, and a 33-18 road defeat to San Diego State as a five-point favorite.

Bulldogs quarterback Mikey Keene regressed as the season went on. Fresno State can’t be excited to be playing in this New Mexico Bowl game in Albuquerque, N.M, but New Mexico State should be.

The Aggies should get plenty of crowd support, with Las Cruces being a little more than three hours from Albuquerque.

New Mexico State should hold a coaching edge, too, with the wily Jerry Kill against Fresno State interim coach Tim Skipper. He’s filling in for Jeff Tedford, who stepped away because of health concerns.

Western Kentucky vs Old Dominion (Famous Toastery Bowl) @ Charlotte, N.C.

BEST BET: Old Dominion -2.5 (-110)

BetRivers Sportsbook WAGER: 2 Units

When talking about marquee bowl games, the Famous Toastery Bowl does not and will not come up. But Old Dominion is thrilled to get an invitation to play.

The Monarchs became bowl eligible on the last play of their final regular-season game when their quarterback, Grant Wilson, scored on a three-yard run at the gun, which allowed Old Dominion to edge Georgia State, 25-24, after being down 21-7 after the third quarter.

Motivation is important in assessing bowl teams. Old Dominion has it, but Western Kentucky is unlikely to be excited to play.

The Hilltoppers had a down season. They were the choice of many to win Conference USA, but they instead finished fourth in the league with a 7-5 record.

The team’s high-powered offense wasn’t anything special, and now they are down three starting offensive linemen after they entered the transfer portal.

Western Kentucky’s defense also wilted down the stretch, surrendering 42 points to Liberty, 38 to New Mexico State and 28 to Florida International.

CFB Bowl Game Betting Prediction Leans (Dec. 16-18)

Miami (OH) vs Appalachian State (Cure Bowl) @ Orlando, Fla.

BET LEAN: Appalachian State -6.5 (-110)

BetMGM WAGER: 1 Unit

Miami (OH) has a solid defense, but the RedHawks’ offense isn’t very good – and that was before backup quarterback Aveon Smith entered the transfer portal on Dec. 4. Starting RedHawks quarterback Brett Gabbert suffered a season-ending knee injury on Oct. 21.

The Mid-American Conference’s Miami is down to little-used and untested third-string quarterback Henry Hesson and fourth-stringer Maddox Kopp for this bowl matchup against Sun Belt Conference foe Appalachian State. The RedHawks failed to reach 24 points during each of their last four games.

The Mountaineers played a tougher schedule than Miami. They beat then-10-0 James Madison and nearly upset then-ranked No. 17 North Carolina, losing after two overtimes.

Appalachian State had a five-game win streak snapped by Troy in the Sun Belt title game, which they lost 49-23. The Mountaineers should find redemption here, taking advantage of Miami’s unfortunate quarterback situation.

California vs Texas Tech (Independence Bowl) @ Shreveport, La.

BET LEAN: Texas Tech -2.5 (-112)

DraftKings • WAGER: 1 Unit

Texas Tech had a disappointing 6-6 season in the Big 12, but the Red Raiders are better than California on both sides of the ball.

The Golden Bears were often lit up in the Pac-12, finishing the season ranked 110th in scoring defense (allowing 32.7 points a game) and 106th in total defense (giving up 416.6 yards per game).

The Red Raiders had held eight of their previous nine opponents to 28 or fewer points until getting blasted by Texas in their last game.

I’m not a fan of California freshman quarterback Fernando Mendoza. He’s not going to be helped by the Golden Bears losing their ace offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital to Baylor following the regular season.

UCLA vs Boise State (LA Bowl) @ Inglewood, Calif.

BET LEAN: Boise State +4.5 (-114)

BetRivers Sportsbook • WAGER: 1 Unit

Boise State is playing its best ball down the stretch. UCLA, on the other hand, is regressing and not excited about playing in a bowl game in its backyard.

Even though this game is in Inglewood, Calif., it’s Boise State that is selling out its ticket allotment.

The Broncos have gone 3-0 straight-up and against the spread since firing head coach Andy Avalos and turning to popular Spencer Danielson in the interim.

Boise State cares about this bowl game. UCLA seems disinterested. The Bruins concluded their regular season going 1-3 straight-up and against the spread in their last four games.

During this span, the Bruins managed only a combined 24 points against California, Arizona and Arizona State.

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