Stuckey’s Early College Football Bowl and Playoff Betting Guide: The Numbers I’m Targeting
Stephen Lew-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Texas head coach Tom Herman
Matchups and motivation play a huge part in handicapping bowls, but in the end, even after factoring in both components, the betting decision still does come down to the value in a number.
Things certainly change this time of the year, especially with news of coaching changes and players sitting out, so stay tuned the rest of the month.
Below are a couple of bowl games I have on my radar and the numbers I’m looking for in each one. I also jotted down my initial thoughts on the current betting market for the College Football Playoff.
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Frisco Bowl: Kent State +8 vs. Utah State
If you’ve been following along with The Action Network Podcast, you know how much disdain I have for the MAC this season. I couldn’t figure out the MAC at all this year.
The good news? There are no more MAC matchups left in the college football season. The bad news? Seven MAC teams made a bowl.
Naturally, my first bet of the 2019-20 bowl season was on a MAC team: Kent State +8.5 I will say the Golden Flashes are the one team that I have got right more times than not this year.
After a devastating two-point loss to Toledo to begin the month of November, the Golden Flashes dropped to 3-6 on the season and any shot of a bowl bid looked bleak at best.
That outlook became even more dire the following week when they trailed Buffalo by a score of 27-6 headed into the fourth quarter. But the Flashes miraculously came back to win that game in regulation, 30-27.
Kent State then pulled out another close win in a shootout with Ball State before closing out the year with a win over Eastern Michigan. The Golden Flashes ended the regular season with three consecutive outright upsets. They were rewarded with an invitation to the Frisco Bowl to take on Utah State on Dec. 20.
I can’t think of a team that will have more motivation than Kent State. Head coach Sean Lewis is slowly turning this program around. The Golden Flashes have never won a bowl game and this is their first postseason appearance since losing to Arkansas State in 2012.
That was one of only three all-time previous bowl appearances with the other two coming in 1954 and 1972 against Delaware (now FCS) and Tampa (which doesn’t even have a football program now) in the Refrigerator (my favorite bowl name ever) and Tangerine Bowls, respectively.
On the other hand, Utah State is no stranger to bowls. The Aggies have played in seven bowls over the past nine years, winning four of the seven. It’s certainly reasonable to wonder how motivated they may be against a .500 MAC team.
There are also swirling rumors surrounding the status of star quarterback Jordan Love, who is contemplating either entering the NFL Draft or a graduate transfer. If he doesn’t play, this line should drop to a touchdown or below.
The Kent State defense is nothing to write home about and may arguably be the worst among all bowl teams, but that isn’t the strength of the Lewis’ team.
The offense really started to come on toward the end of the season and the Golden Flashes also boast an extremely solid special teams unit (top 15, per S&P). A rare feat for a MAC school.
Even if Love does play, I still make this under a touchdown, which means I still like the underdog at the current price. Still, I wanted to get ahead of any news by locking in +8.5.
The MAC has owned me but I have no issues backing a Kent State team that should have full motivation to secure its first bowl win in school history.
Alama Bowl: Texas +7.5 vs. Utah
As soon as Oregon had the Pac-12 championship locked up, I immediately started thinking about the potential Utah bowl fade.
The Utes had their College Football Playoff dreams shattered and that could create a situation where they check out during bowl preparation and come out a little flate.
We all know that the Longhorns are always intriguing as an underdog under Tom Herman. The Texas head coach is 15-5-1 ATS (70.6%) as a pooch, covering by more than 10 points per game. That includes a perfect 3-0 ATS record in Bowl games with three outright wins as underdogs:
- 2015 Houston (+7.5) beat Florida State
- 2017 Texas (+3) beat Missouri
- 2018 Texas (+12.5) beat Georgia
This is an extremely important game for Texas in regards to recruiting, especially after such a disappointing season. One of the primary concerns I have with Texas is the coaching staff shakeup in Austin.
Herman fired both coordinators and a few other key staff members late in the season. So, it’s anybody’s guess where this team is mentally. It’s a legitimate concern, though the ‘Horns did respond nicely in their finale against Texas Tech.
History also suggests I should trust Herman to have his troops ready here for a game in their home state. Plus, some new and unfamiliar looks on both offense and defense from Texas could work in its advantage.
The Longhorns were decimated by injuries on both sides this year but I assume they’ll be as healthy as they’ve been all season for this game. Ultimately, I think Texas is a little undervalued in the market after having their season derailed by injuries. Meanwhile, Utah may have been a bit of a paper tiger that I had overrated after dominating so many inferior Pac-12 squads.
If Texas ever creeps north of a touchdown, I will grab it.
College Football Playoff Line Watch
When it comes to the College Football Playoff, you obviously don’t have to worry about motivation. It mainly boils down to value in the number and each respective matchup, which we’ll dive into over the next few weeks.
I made Clemson a 1-point favorite over Ohio State, so unless the Buckeyes get to +3.5, I doubt I’ll make a bet on the side.
However, I did make the total lower than where it currently sits. I really didn’t want to have an Under in either playoff matchup but it’s hard to avoid it if this Over/Under rises above 65 in the more settled market.
The playoffs matchups are almost unofficially official with my unofficial lines without official adjustments for today, unofficially
Oklahoma vs LSU -10 O/U 69
Ohio State vs Clemson -1 O/U 59
— Stuckey (@Stuckey2) December 8, 2019
I have a similar sentiment in the other matchup between LSU and Oklahoma. Betting the Under in a game featuring these two explosive offenses doesn’t excite me, but the number is a tad high.
That being said, the side really piques my interest in the Peach Bowl.
Since I make this right around LSU -10, I’d certainly jump at the opportunity to bet Oklahoma at a flat +14 or better.
I’m not sure if any defense can slow down Joe Burrow and the Tigers, and the Sooners almost certainly won’t, but I do think Lincoln Riley, Jalen Hurts and that extremely efficient Oklahoma offense can move the ball against LSU. Catching two touchdowns would be too good to pass up — even if I think LSU will eventually win it all.