Early College Football Bowl Game Betting Market Report: Public Picks, Line Moves & Sharp Action

Early College Football Bowl Game Betting Market Report: Public Picks, Line Moves & Sharp Action article feature image

Tim Fuller-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Jim Harbaugh

  • With bowl games having had two days of availability in the betting market, bettors have already started picking out their favorite plays and moving lines.
  • Below you'll find the most popular bets, significant line moves and see a few games that are already drawing sharp action.

Bowl season is finally here … sort of. We may have to wait another week and a half to start actually enjoying the games, but we do at least know the matchups, which means bettors have already started picking out their favorite spots and moving lines.

We’ve even seen a few games attract some early action from sharps.

Of course, it’s still very early in the lifespan of these bowl game lines, especially the ones that won’t kick off until the turn of the new year. Plenty can change between now and then, but for those looking to get ahead of the game, let’s take a look at how the bowl season market is shaping up after its first couple of days.

Odds as of Tuesday, Dec. 10 at 11:30 a.m. ET. Check out PointsBet, where Action Network users can access an exclusive promotion to get a 200% deposit match (deposit $50, bet with $150). No strings attached. No rollover required.

Public Picks

Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama

Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET | ABC | Orlando, Fla.

  • Spread: Alabama -7
  • Total: 58

In a game featuring two coaches on opposite ends of the “comes-through-in-big-games” spectrum, it’s no surprise to see the public all over Saban and the Tide, even as touchdown favorites, and even without Tua Tagovailoa.

Eighty-five percent of current bets have landed on Alabama, though that backing hasn’t provoked a reaction from sportsbooks, most of which opened at the current number. The 15% of Michigan bettors have been making slightly bigger bets, as they’ve generated 29% of money.

Orange Bowl: Virginia vs. Florida

Dec. 30, 8 p.m. ET | ESPN | Miami, Fla.

  • Spread: Florida -13.5
  • Total: 55

The public can’t get enough of the SEC favorites in these Florida fruit bowls, apparently. In this case, the Gators are dominating the ticket distribution, attracting 82% of bettors despite being almost two-touchdown favorites.

Once again, the line hasn’t had much reaction to the heavy early Gator popularity. My guess is that books are assuming that a move to 14 would invite some sharp Virginia money — something they aren’t quite ready to do just yet.

Peach Bowl: Oklahoma vs. LSU

Dec. 28, 4 p.m. ET | ESPN | Atlanta, Ga.

  • Spread: LSU -13.5
  • Total: 75.5

It may not be in Florida, but the first College Football Playoff semifinal is following along nicely with the early public betting pattern that’s been established.

LSU is drawing 78% of bets in the Peach Bowl, even as a 13.5-point favorite in a playoff game. And that might not even be the most interesting story of this game so far.

The total opened at 76 — the highest on the bowl game slate — and 73% of early action has taken the under on the lofty number. In response, oddsmakers have decided to nudge this total down by a half-point to its current listing of 75.5.

Line Moves

Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M

Dec. 27, 6:45 p.m. ET | ESPN | Houston, Texas

  • Spread: Texas A&M -6
  • Total: 53.5

Only one of these teams finished the year in the CFP Top 25 rankings, and it’s not the one that’s favored to win the game. Opening numbers varied based on timing (which is almost always the case), but Texas A&M was released as low as -4 against the No. 25 Cowboys.

And even though the number 5 is a pretty meaningless one in football betting, moving from one somewhat key number (-4) to another (-6) is worth taking note of, especially given the slight majority of bettors (54%) on Oklahoma State.

Music City Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Louisville

Dec. 30, 4 p.m. ET | ESPN | Nashville, Tenn.

  • Spread: Mississippi State -3.5
  • Total: 62

Not all half-point line moves are can be treated the same way, and this game is a perfect example of one that means a bit more than most.

Mississippi State opened as an even 3-point favorite, which is obviously an important number given the amount of games that end in a final-score margin of three. That also means it’s one of the hardest numbers off which to move in the betting market.

With all that in mind, the Bulldogs’ shift from -3 to -3.5 is a pretty significant one, and especially so with a 41% backing.

Alamo Bowl: Utah vs. Texas

Dec. 31, 7:30 p.m. ET | ESPN | San Antonio, Texas

  • Spread: Utah -7
  • Total: 55

Like the game above, this one hasn’t moved a whole bunch, but the line shift is still one worth noting given the importance of the current number. Most books opened Utah as a 6.5-point favorite and have tacked on the half-point to create an even touchdown spread.

The Utes are still taking in a slight majority of bets at 54%, but it wouldn’t shock me to see that figure drop a bit with Texas bettors able to get a full seven points.

Citrus Bowl: Michigan vs. Alabama

Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET | ABC | Orlando, Fla.

  • Spread: Alabama -7
  • Total: 58

The Citrus Bowl is making its second appearance on the early market report as a result of its rising total.

Once again, pinpointing an exact opening number is a bit tough in this case, as openers ranged from 54.5 to 57 (for the most part). What’s clear, though, is how this line is trending across the market as a whole.

The 67% of bets on the over have accounted for an impressive 91% of money, and the total is now up to a consensus 58, with some shops even extending the move to 58.5.

Gator Bowl: Indiana vs. Tennessee

Jan. 2, 7 p.m. ET | ESPN | Jacksonville, Fla.

  • Spread: Tennessee -1.5
  • Total: 49.5

Both the spread and total have seen a bit of movement in the Alamo Bowl, which missed the “Public Sides” section of this report only because it’s not been quite as heavily bet as some of the bigger matchups.

Tennessee is attracting 77% of bets to this point, which have pushed the Vols to 1.5-point favorites after the line opened at a pick’em.

A similar 1.5-point adjustment was given to the total, which opened at 48.

Sharp Action

Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. Miami

Dec. 26, 4 p.m. ET | ESPN | Shreveport La.

  • Spread: Miami -6.5
  • Total: 50

Louisiana Tech will just have a quick, one-hour drive east from Ruston to Shreveport for this game, and whether or not sharp bettors are using that as the reason, they certainly think the Bulldogs are a bit undervalued in this matchup.

After opening at Miami -7.5, this spread has come inside the key number to -6.5 behind four Sports Insights Bet Signals (indicators of sharp action) hitting Louisiana Tech at +7.5 and +7.

Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force vs. Washington State

Dec. 27, 10:15 p.m. ET | ESPN | Phoenix, Ariz.

  • Spread: Air Force -2.5
  • Total: 67

The opening number of Washington State +3 didn’t last long, and given the way oddsmakers reacted, as well as how they juiced up that number, it almost gave the impression that they were ready for smart money to take the three points right away.

The lone SI Bet Signal on this game came at Washington State +3 (-114), and since that point most books have remained inside the key number.

Liberty Bowl: Navy vs. Kansas State

Dec. 31, 3:45 p.m. ET | ESPN | Memphis, Tenn.

  • Spread: Navy -1.5
  • Total: 52

As you just read, Navy is listed as a short favorite in this game, but that wasn’t always the case. Most books opened Kansas State at -1, and the Wildcats have even been the popular side, getting 61% of bets. But sharps have taken the contrarian route.

Even with Navy’s focus elsewhere for the next four days, the 39% of bets on the Midshipmen have generated an impressive 72% of money, and two Bet Signals have confirmed pro action to be a cause for this line flip.

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