College Football Bowls: Best bets for every game
It's the most wonderful time of the year, and there are 43 college football bowls to wager on. VSiN is here to help bettors sort through them all and find the value. Be sure to check out our College Football Bowl Betting Guide, all VSiN Bowl picks, sortable by game and the College Football Betting Splits.
Click here for our College Football Playoff best bets.
Monday, January 2
12:00 p.m. ET
Adam Burke: Mississippi State players have banded together to lift each other up after the tragic death of head coach Mike Leach, but Illinois is also trying to win a bowl game for the first time since 2011. The pregame remembrance of Leach will make for a very somber atmosphere in Tampa and you have to wonder how it affects the gameplay.
Leach was also the Bulldogs’ offensive coordinator, a job that may simply go to QB Will Rogers III at this point with his grasp of the offense. He won’t necessarily be calling plays, but he will likely have carte blanche to do what he wants at the line of scrimmage like he mostly did with Leach anyway. Both teams are missing their defensive coordinators, though, so that adds another wrinkle to this handicap.
Illinois has a couple of key opt-outs in the secondary with Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown. Those losses in the back seven could be huge against the Mississippi State Air Raid offense. Also, defensive backs coach Aaron Henry is now the defensive coordinator, so he has additional responsibilities.
Mississippi State is the side for me here at -1 or -1.5. It’s a really tough handicap, but we’re trying to provide a pick on every bowl game and the Bulldogs likely have the higher ceiling, particularly with the opt-out of Illinois star RB Chase Brown.
Pick: Mississippi State -1.5
1:00 p.m ET
Adam Burke: Points aplenty should be in the forecast at AT&T Stadium for the Cotton Bowl between Tulane and USC. The Green Wave has a really creative offense with head coach Willie Fritz and a strong QB in Michael Pratt. Tulane finished the season 24th in yards per play with 6.38 and racked up 10.13 yards per play in the AAC Championship Game against UCF. The USC defense has been under a lot of suspicion all season long, and I wouldn’t expect that to stop now.
Remember in last season’s opener when Tulane had 35 points and nearly 400 yards of offense on Alex Grinch’s Oklahoma defense? It’s not like the Trojans' defense looks any better than that, and Fritz has a better team this time around.
Caleb Williams keeps insisting that he will play for USC, so the Heisman Trophy winner should have a chance to put an exclamation point on a terrific season. Tulane was a top-15 defense by yards per play, but also faced the 28th-ranked schedule per Jeff Sagarin. USC goes into this game as the No. 15 team in Sagarin’s rankings.
Only Ohio State and Tennessee had more yards per play than USC. The Trojans' offense is missing Jordan Addison, but there are plenty of other weapons. The offensive line has some opt-outs and injuries, but as long as Williams has some measure of mobility, this Lincoln Riley offense should cook up some explosive plays.
Pick: Over 63
1 p.m. ET
Youmans: The Boilermakers are without former coach Jeff Brohm, senior quarterback Aidan O’Connell, leading wide receiver Charlie Jones, top tight end Payne Durham and several more starters. Former NFL star Drew Brees has returned for the bowl, but he’s an interim assistant coach and not the quarterback, and he’s mentoring quarterback Austin Burton, who’s making his second start of the season. Unless Burton plays like Brees, Purdue will struggle to score.
While the Tigers will miss starting defensive linemen BJ Ojulari, Ali Gaye and Jaquelin Roy, who have opted out to prepare for the NFL, coach Brian Kelly has the far better defense and his star quarterback. Jayden Daniels, who recently announced plans to return next season and play in the bowl, should be the most dynamic player on the field. DraftKings opened LSU -6.5 and the line steadily climbed to 15 as it became obvious Purdue would be working with a skeleton crew, but it’s late to lay an inflated number. Under the total should be the better bet.
Pick: Under 56.5
Youmans: After DraftKings opened this as a pick’em game, money showed on the Pac-12 champions. The Utes displayed their toughness in Las Vegas, falling behind 17-3 and outscoring USC 44-7 the rest of the way as Cameron Rising passed for 310 yards and coach Kyle Whittingham’s defense dominated. Whittingham’s team is making back-to-back bowl trips to Pasadena after blowing a 14-point lead in a 48-45 loss to Ohio State, and he has talked about how much it would mean to him to win the Rose Bowl.
The Nittany Lions are not as talented as last year’s Buckeyes, and Penn State’s top defensive player – cornerback Joey Porter Jr. – is skipping the bowl for the draft. I’ll go with Whittingham over Lions coach James Franklin any day. Penn State will probably put up a good fight in sixth-year quarterback Sean Clifford’s final game, so I expect to sweat this one out.
Pick: Utah -2