College Football Bowl Game Betting Advice: Biggest Mismatches
The first thing I like to look at when the bowls are set are the biggest mismatches - at least according to the odds . There can be good opportunities in these games - sometimes jumping on the favorites and running with them, and other times by backing the big underdogs. This is a strange year because two of the three biggest mismatches in the eyes of oddsmakers are actually in the championship games - Alabama is a two-touchdown favorite over Oklahoma, and Clemson is favored by 11.5 points against Notre Dame. We'll ignore those two games here for now and look at the other five games in which a team is favored by more than a touchdown.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, BYU (-12) vs. Western Michigan, December 21: Western Michigan lost QB Jon Wassink for the year with three games left for the season. Since then, the offense has had one good game, one bad one, and one moderate one. Now they face a Top 20 defense from BYU, so there is a decent chance they will have some scoring issues. Here's the thing, though - BYU's offense is completely inept, ranking 109th nationally in total yards and 95th in points scored. They are going to need to score a fair number of points to cover a spread this big, and against a healthy Western Michigan defense - a unit that is far from dominant but has been adequate at their best - that is a lot to ask. I am legitimately surprised that this line is as big as it is, and I am not excited about BYU at this price.
Sugar Bowl, Georgia (-10.5) vs. Texas, January 1: Georgia was a playoff team in the eyes of many, so it's no surprise they are favored here. They are the better team, and there is little doubt of that. They also didn't play all year dreaming of the Sugar Bowl, and they didn't wake up the Sunday after losing the SEC Championship Game hoping that they would get a shot at Texas. The chances for a letdown are really big for the Bulldogs. But it is no guarantee that Texas will be here at full strength, either. They weren't a playoff contender and would have wound up in this game win or lose to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship, but falling short to their biggest rival, in a game that they were in good shape in the first half of, has to hurt. If Texas plays angry, prepares well, and lets it all hang out, then they can make this one interesting - especially if Georgia isn't at full strength. But if Texas is lackadaisical and Georgia is motivated, then it could get ugly.
New Mexico Bowl, Utah State (-10) vs. North Texas, December 15: On paper, Utah State is a much better team than North Texas and could easily justify this price. But it can't be that simple, of course. Utah State coach Matt Wells has taken the job at Texas Tech and has taken his offensive coordinator and one of his co-defensive coordinators with him. The other co-defensive coordinator has been named the interim coach for this game. But it gets more complicated. Wells is obviously not coaching the game, but he still intends to be involved in the game planning and even plans to be on the sideline for the bowl game. And the interim coach has no real shot of being the full-time coach. Further, the search for a head coach could be a distraction leading up to the bowl game. Former coach Gary Andersen is one guy rumored to be up for the gig, and his hiring before the game would be a distraction. Seth Littrell is a good coach, and he will have North Texas ready. If Utah State is distracted, or if too many voices muddy the messages, then things could get ugly. The price is right, but the Aggies are tough to judge.
Liberty Bowl, Missouri (-8) vs. Oklahoma State, December 31: Oklahoma State is a tough team to judge - they are only 6-6 but have big wins against West Virginia and Texas, so they are capable of nice wins. They can be dangerous when they can overcome their flaws. But they have lost their last three bowl matchups against SEC teams. Missouri QB Drew Lock is playing his final college game before quite possibly becoming a first-round draft pick. He should be motivated, but that doesn't always work out that way for guys with an eye on their pro careers. The Tigers offense has been strong lately and should be in for a big day. But the Missouri pass defense isn't strong, either, so Oklahoma could match up in a shootout. Again, I'm not crazy about this price.
Fiesta Bowl, LSU (-7.5) vs. UCF, January 1: LSU is a tough team to judge - they crushed Georgia then didn't even show a pulse against Alabama. And UCF is shockingly disrespected for a team that has won 25 straight games. But none of those 25 wins have been against a team of this caliber, and they are playing with a backup QB. If LSU is ready for this game, they will win comfortably. But if they couldn't get up for Alabama, then they might struggle to get up for an AAC squad.
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