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60 Essential College Football Bowl Game Betting Trends, Tips, Stats and More

Dec 14, 2018 10:00 PM EST
Credit:

USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jarrett Stidham, J.K. Dobbins and Tua Tagovailoa

  • If you need help cramming for bowl season, you've come to the right place.
  • We've compiled 60 essential betting nuggets, including stats, tips and trends to help you prep for betting college football this month.

Statistics and trends can often change your mind instantly when trying to get a bet down. Watch:

1. There are 11 bowl teams that allowed more yards per play than they gained this season:

  • Pitt
  • Northern Illinois
  • Texas
  • Syracuse
  • Duke
  • Minnesota
  • Baylor
  • Army
  • Virginia Tech
  • Wake Forest
  • Northwestern

2. Northwestern’s -.86 yards per play differential is the worst on that list and 106th of 130 teams nationally, fractions ahead of Liberty and Kansas.

3. But Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald is 50-35-1 ATS as an underdog in his career. He’s won 35 of those outright, and blindly betting him on the moneyline would have yielded you 47.7 units and a ridiculous 55.4% ROI.

4. Utah’s Kyle Whittingham is 11-1 straight-up and 9-3 ATS in bowl games.

5. The Utes are a 7-point favorite over Northwestern in the Holiday Bowl.


See! What a roller coaster. Fade Northwestern, bet Northwestern moneyline, back Utah at -7. I’m a mess, and I wrote it.

It’s hard to handicap 39 bowl games, so we’re offering up some of our favorite bowl betting nuggets — everything from talent mismatches to 2018 improvements to historical coaching trends. For every nugget, you could probably present another that makes a case for the opposition, so don’t take these as gospel in any way.

We’ve hit five nuggets already — here are 55 more bowl facts to help you through this long, windy month. Every bowl game is covered in some way below.

Trends come from our data at BetLabs and KillerSports.com. All advanced statistics from from SB Nation/Football Outsiders’ S&P+, unless otherwise noted.


6. Interim coaches are 28-30 straight-up and 27-30-1 ATS in bowl games since 2005.

7. The 10 best and worst coaches in bowl games.


8. Alabama’s Nick Saban is 15-5-1 to the over in conference championship and bowl games since 2005. Bama-Oklahoma’s total sits at 80.5.

9. Teams that went 4-8 ATS or worse during the regular season have covered in bowl games 60% of the time. Those teams this year:

  • North Texas
  • San Diego State
  • Western Michigan
  • Wake Forest
  • TCU

10. Unpopular underdogs have been successful in bowl games. You can see live betting percentages here.

11. Underdogs are 239-218-6 (52%) against the spread in bowls since 2005. Dogs of more than field goal have gone 163-136-2 (55%) ATS.

12. Underdogs have been successful straight-up in bowl games, winning 38.7% of them outright since 1980. Just 22.8% of dogs win in the regular season.

13. Blindly betting all 62 double-digit bowl underdogs since 2005 would have earned you +24.7 units and a 39.9% ROI.

14. The SEC has historically been the best conference against the spread in bowl games. The Pac-12 has been awful in the last three seasons.

15. A $100 parlay on every Pac-12 team losing its bowl game straight-up besides Utah (Kyle Whittingham is 11-1 SU in bowls) pays $13,115.19 (h/t Max Meyer).

16. The biggest strength of schedule differences, per S&P+:

17. Tulane’s offense hasn’t actually been all that resurgent under new quarterback Justin McMillan.

  • 4 games with Jonathan Banks: 5.81 yards per play
  • 8 games with McMillan: 5.83 ypp

18. Alex Atkins will call plays for Tulane in the Cure Bowl (-3.5 vs. ULL), the first time he’s ever done that.

19. Utah State coach Matt Wells is off to Texas Tech, and he’s taken 80% of his staff with him. They say they’ll be involved in bowl prep (-7.5 vs. North Texas), but the early recruiting signing deadline is four days after the Aggies’ bowl.

20. The Las Vegas bowl pits the Mountain West winner against the sixth-best Pac-12 team each year. But the MWC is 6-6 ATS in this game since 2006. Fresno is -5 vs. Arizona State.

21. Eastern Michigan got smoked by Army’s triple option in September. The Black Knights had the ball for nearly 46 minutes. EMU (+2.5) faces another triple option team in Georgia Southern.

22. Extra prep time hasn’t helped defenses beat the triple option. Option teams are 21-15 ATS in bowls since 2005 and the over is 22-13 in those games.

23. NIU coach Rod Carey is 0-5 ATS and straight-up in bowl games (+2.5 vs. UAB).

24. Ohio (-3) ranks No. 3 in rushing S&P+, but San Diego State’s defense is No. 9 in the same category.

25. Marshall coach Doc Holliday is 5-0 straight-up and ATS in bowl games at Marshall.

26. Marshall (-2.5) will take on USF, which lost five straight to end the year and got a bowl berth in its home stadium. The Bulls will also have a new play caller.

27. Florida International (+5 vs. Toledo) has a Second Order Win Total of 6.9 compared to an 8-4 record. That means FIU won more games than it deserved to based on its statistical profile.

The other “luckiest” and unluckiest teams in the country, per Second Order Win Total.

28. BYU (-12 vs. Western Michigan) averaged more than 5.8 yards per play only twice in its first eight games, but did it three times in its last four.

29. Memphis’ offense ranks 11th in explosiveness, and the Wake Forest defense ranks 73rd.

The other biggest explosiveness mismatches, per Football Outsiders’ IsoPPP+:

30. Memphis (-3.5) will be without star running back Darrell Henderson, but has two running backs that averaged at least 5.7 yards per carry behind him.

31. Houston (+3) runs more plays per minute than anyone in the country and averages the least time of possession per game. Army is second-to-last in plays per minute and first in time of possession.

32. Buffalo (-2.5) is one of just 12 MAC teams in the last seven bowl seasons to be favored. The previous nine are 3-6 ATS, and the MAC as a whole is 23-37-3 ATS since 2005.

33. Hawaii (-1) rose from an S&P+ rating of 129 preseason to 100 now. Louisiana Tech fell from 69th to 95th.

34. Boston College coach Steve Addazio is 5-0 to the over in bowl games. His total vs. Boise State (-3) sits at 56.

35. News of Minnesota suspending players has moved the Quick Lane Bowl line from Georgia Tech -3.5 to -5.5.

36. The biggest line moves this bowl season (at least 2.5 points):

37. TCU (+2) lost a quarterback to transfer, has two injured and the fourth has thrown 43 career passes. The starter will face a Cal defense that’s allowed the 18th-fewest yards per pass attempt.

38. Duke coach David Cutcliffe is 8-2 ATS in bowl games, and 6-1 as an underdog. The only loss? First ballot Bad Beat Hall of Famer, the 2012 Belk Bowl. Duke is +3.5 vs. Temple

39. Miami (-4) hasn’t thrown for more than 205 yards in a game since September, and didn’t top 260 all season. This Wisconsin defense ranks 43rd in S&P+ and 50th in yards per pass attempt allowed.

40. Vanderbilt (-3.5 vs. Baylor) lost two games all year by double-digits — Georgia and South Carolina. The ‘Dores lost by five points each to Notre Dame and Missouri.

41. Purdue’s offense ranks No. 7 in explosiveness, while Auburn’s defense (-3.5) is 87th.

42. There’s a growing list of players sitting out bowl games. We’re tracking them all here. The biggest line mover has been West Virginia quarterback Will Grier; the Mountaineers dropped from -7.5 to -1.5 against Syracuse.

43. His backup, Jack Allison, was a 4-star, top-150 player out of the top level of Florida high school football.

44. The biggest talent gaps this bowl season, per the 247Sports Talent Composite:

45. Mike Leach is 2-7 ATS in his last nine bowl games and 1-3 ATS at Washington State (-3.5 vs. Iowa State).

46. SEC teams are 16-4 ATS with 11 straight-up wins in their last 20 bowl games as 6-plus point underdogs. Florida is +7.5 vs. Michigan (h/t Chris Fallica).

47. Nevada (+1.5 vs. Arkansas State) lost 26 turnovers this season, the most of any bowl-eligible team.

48. Clemson’s offense (-11.5 vs. Notre Dame)…

  • In 4 games with QB Kelly Bryant: 7.49 yards per play
  • In 8 games with QB Trevor Lawrence: 7.34 ypp

49. Notre Dame’s offense…

  • In 4 games with QB Brandon Wimbush: 5.53 yards per play
  • In 8 games with QB Ian Book: 6.52 ypp

50. Alabama’s offense (2) vs. Oklahoma’s defense (89) is the biggest offense/defense matchup of bowl season, per S&P+. The Tide are -14.

The other biggest offense/defense mismatches:

51. Virginia Tech (+5 vs. Cincinnati) had a postgame win expectancy (how many they’d win if the game was played 100 times) in just four games this season.

52. Stanford (-6.5), strangely enough, ranks No. 7 in passing S&P+ and 105th in rushing. Pitt is the opposite — 11th in rushing and 93rd in passing.

53. Mark Dantonio is 5-1 ATS and straight-up in his last six bowls, with the only loss coming to Alabama in the 2015 playoff. Michigan State is +3 vs. Oregon

54. Oklahoma State was 4-0 ATS as an underdog this season, and 2-6 ATS as a favorite. The Pokes are +8 against Missouri.

55. Texas A&M (-6 vs. N.C. State) has lost three straight bowl games. Prior to this year, the Aggies had won just 5 of 15 games in November and December over the last three years.

In 2018, they won three straight to end the season.

56. Penn State’s defense (11th) vs. Kentucky’s offense (92nd) is one of the biggest defense/offense mismatches of bowl season, per S&P+. The Nittany Lions are -6.

The other biggest defense/offense mismatches:

57. Kentucky averaged more than 5.0 yards per play in just three of eight SEC games. Their vaunted defense allowed at least 6.3 in three of the last four.


58. Against Memphis with backup quarterback Darriel Mack Jr., UCF (+7.5 vs. LSU) had its highest yardage total (690) and third-highest yards per play (7.8) of the season.

59. Ohio State (-6) allowed 64 plays of 20-plus yards, 30th-most in the country. Fortunately, Washington ranks 86th in offensive explosiveness.

60. Texas coach Tom Herman is 10-2-1 ATS as an underdog. He’s won seven of those games outright for a ridiculous 16.4 units and 126.5% ROI. The Longhorns are +11.5 vs. Georgia.

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