After an exciting regular season, college football bowl games are finally here.
There are two types of bowl games: the inconsequential and the important. For the important matchups, chalky favorites tend to win. For the inconsequential installments, the heavy underdogs frequently win outright, or the heavy favorites more than cover the spread.
That is why my strategy for this year’s bowl slate is to find underdogs who can win outright in the games being played before New Year’s Eve.
From heavy underdogs that underperformed during the regular season to games that could turn into high-scoring shootouts, I have plenty on my plate for my college football bowl best bets.
Note: CFB odds used for bowl games are current as of Tuesday, Dec. 27, at 11 a.m. ET at the sportsbooks mentioned.
Cotton Bowl Best Bet: Tulane vs USC
USC Moneyline (-118) at FanDuel Sportsbook
WAGER: 2 Units
USC is only a 1.5-point favorite in a game where they should be more heavily favored. The biggest reason is because of the status of 2022 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, Caleb Williams.
The sophomore quarterback threw for 4,075 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns, and had only four interceptions. In addition, Williams had 10 rushing touchdowns and a few big runs on the ground.
Track our best college football bowl lines from the top sportsbooks
If Williams plays, which I believe he will, USC should handle Tulane. The Green Wave had a great season, but they are punching above their weight class.
USC notched victories against Notre Dame and UCLA, with their only two losses coming against Utah. Conversely, Tulane’s only notable wins were narrow victories against Cincinnati and Kansas State.
The Trojans are golden at -118 to win outright, and I would bet them up to -3.5. (Read our full Cotton Bowl predictions.)
Arizona Bowl Best Bet: Ohio vs Wyoming
Ohio Moneyline (-114) at BetRivers Sportsbook
Ohio -6.5 (+180) at BetRivers Sportsbook
WAGER: 1 Unit each
One day before the other Ohio team plays, the Ohio Bobcats play the Wyoming Cowboys in a game with one of the tightest spreads for a bowl game.
Ohio is favored by only one point, but I believe that they will comfortably win what is expected to be a low-scoring game.
All season, the Bobcats have been the most underrated MAC team. Other than the conference championship against Toledo, Ohio covered the spread in every conference game.
Of those nine conference games, seven of them had a favorite of a touchdown or less, just like in the Arizona Bowl.
The only reason to be skeptical of Ohio is that they are missing their quarterback Kurtis Rourke due to injury. In Rourke’s place has been sophomore quarterback C.J. Harris, who has been a noticeable downgrade.
I am not too worried about Harris for two reasons: he has had more time to practice, and Ohio has a decent run offense. Not only have the Bobcats been able to establish the run, but the Cowboys have a weak run defense.
Wyoming allows 4.4 yards per carry and 162 rushing yards per game, which is among the worst in the FBS.
I like Ohio to not only win outright as a narrow favorite but also to cover an alternate spread of -6.5 (+180) at BetRivers sportsbook. Bowl Games have more variance than regular season games, and BetRivers has not taken this into account for their alt-line pricing, unlike FanDuel.
If you don’t have access to BetRivers or a sportsbook that uses the same lines, I would recommend the -6.5 alternate spread, but only up to +160.
Orange Bowl Best Bet: Tennessee vs Clemson
Tennessee Moneyline (+180) at Betway Sportsbook
WAGER: 1.5 Units
If you like orange, then you are going to love the Orange Bowl this year. Not only is the Orange Bowl trophy a glass bowl holding oranges, but both Tennessee and Clemson wear orange.
Speaking of oranges or orange juice, I don’t understand why Clemson is a juicy favorite. Just look at their lackluster record this year, even though they went 11-2.
They lost to South Carolina at home as a 14-point favorite, Notre Dame, 35-14, and narrowly held off Syracuse, Florida State, NC State, and Wake Forest.
Generally, Clemson has a tough time against strong teams. Further complicating matters for the Tigers is that their quarterback, DJ Uiagalelei, is transferring to Oregon State, so he will be missing the game.
Like Tennessee, their quarterback Hendon Hooker is also out after a season-ending injury. Even though Hooker is missing, his replacement, Joe Milton, could have a big game.
Milton, who is returning to Tennessee next year, is the favorite to be the starting quarterback in 2023. If he has a big game in the Orange Bowl, he is likely to cement his spot as the top QB for the Volunteers.
If he has a poor performance, then his job may be in jeopardy.
Citrus Bowl Best Bets: LSU vs Purdue
Over 56 Points (-110) at Caesars Sportsbook
WAGER: 1 Unit
My logic for betting the Over in the Citrus Bowl is simple: Purdue will be behind all game, and they have an explosive offense. To push the envelope, the Boilermakers should turn up the flame and score some touchdowns, which the Tigers will have to roar back with some of their own.
Purdue’s high-scoring nature should be baked into the point total, but Overs have gone 8-5 in their games this season. Sixty-five points were scored in the Big Ten Championship Game, and the point total was only 53 points.
Even against a Wisconsin team with a weak offense and a strong defense, 59 combined points were scored.
LSU, while clearly the better team, has a vulnerable defense. They allowed 50 points to Georgia in the SEC Championship Game, and 38 points to an underperforming Texas A&M team.
LSU might cover a hefty -14.5 spread against Purdue, but for Citrus Bowl bets, I would rather take my chances with the Over at only 56 points.
CFB Bowl Betting Tips
Bet on dogs to win outright
It’s a dog-eat-dog world, especially for bowl games. In the last decade, underdogs are 124-217 outright. Since 2019, a bettor would be up 21.8 units if they bet every underdog moneyline.
Usually, trends are worth ignoring because of randomness, but for bowl games, underdogs doing well is not random. Instead, it is caused by specific teams being more motivated and people misreading pre-game news.
Bet against overreactions to news
The soap opera of college football intensifies after the regular season. Coaches get fired or leave for other jobs, with their assistants taking over for the bowl games. Then, players enter the NFL Draft or transfer portal and opt out of bowl games.
Even though this news hurts several teams, bettors consistently overreact to this news. Backups frequently have breakout bowl games as an audition for the next season, and coaches are overrated.