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College Football Odds, Picks: 5 Monday Best Bets for Illinois vs. Mississippi State, Tulane vs. USC & More

College Football Odds, Picks: 5 Monday Best Bets for Illinois vs. Mississippi State, Tulane vs. USC & More article feature image
Credit:

Keith Birmingham/MediaNews Group/Pasadena Star-News via Getty Images. Pictured: USC quarterback Caleb Williams.

  • Monday's college football bowl slate is the last full NCAAF schedule until the National Championship.
  • With four games on deck, our staff came through with five best bets, including picks for Illinois vs. Mississippi State and Tulane vs. USC.
  • Check out all five of our best bets for Monday's college football bowl games below.

Monday marks the final day of bowl games before the National Championship.

Today’s schedule features four games, including the Granddaddy of Them All when Utah and Penn State meet in the Rose Bowl. However, we also see betting value on two other games: Illinois vs. Mississippi State and Tulane vs. USC.

We have two of our college football writers aligned on the total in the Cotton Bowl, while another is betting a player prop for Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams. So, we have you covered from the first game of the day through the last.

Check out all five of our best bets for Monday’s college football bowl games below.


Monday College Football Bowl Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent each of the matchups that our college football staff is targeting for Monday’s slate of bowl games. Click the team logos for one of the matchups below to navigate to a specific bet discussed in this article.

Game
Time
Pick
12 p.m. ET
Over 45.5
1 p.m. ET
Over 63.5
1 p.m. ET
Over 63.5
1 p.m. ET
Caleb Williams Under 29.5 Rushing Yards
5 p.m. ET
Over 52.5
Specific bet recommendations come from the sportsbook offering preferred odds as of writing. Always shop for the best price using our NCAAF Odds page, which automatically surfaces the best lines for every game.

Illinois vs. Mississippi State

Monday, Jan. 2
12 p.m. ET
ESPN2
Over 45.5

By BJ Cunningham

The secondary for Mississippi State has been pretty good this season, ranking 37th in Passing Success Rate Allowed and 40th in EPA/Pass Allowed while owning the 19th-best coverage grade, per PFF.

However, the biggest problem that Mississippi State has faced this season is its inability to generate a pass rush. The Bulldogs are 82nd in sack percentage and 123rd in terms of pass-rushing grade, per PFF.

DeVito plays best from a clean pocket. When he’s not under pressure, his PFF passing grade sits at 86.0, and he’s averaging 7.5 yards per attempt. When he is under pressure, however, his PFF passing grade drops to 57.0, and his yards per attempt drops to 5.2.

Since Mississippi State doesn’t have a great pass rush, DeVito should be able to find some success.

Reggie Love III will be the main back for this game, and he had a pretty decent season in limited action. He averaged 4.7 yards per carry on 59 attempts and posted an 83 PFF rushing grade. So, Illinois’ offense should be just fine.

Defensive coordinator Walters has left to become Purdue’s head coach. And on top of that, the nation’s leading secondary in yards per pass attempt allowed has already had two of its best members — Devon Witherspoon and Sydney Brown — opt out of this game, which is not good news against Mississippi State’s pass-happy attack.

Separating the emotions of the game from the actual matchup, I think the total is a tad low here. Illinois will be going up against the most pass-happy Power Five offense in the country without its two best players in the secondary and its defensive coordinator. That’s not a good recipe.

The flip side is DeVito is an outstanding quarterback with a clean pocket, and Mississippi State’s inability to generate a pass rush will allow him to pick apart the secondary. Plus, Love is a very capable running back, so there won’t be a massive drop-off for Illinois without Brown.

Our Action Network projections have the total at 49.9, so I like the value on over 45.5 points.

Pick: Over 45.5 (Play to 47.5)



Tulane vs. USC

Monday, Jan. 2
1 p.m. ET
ESPN
Over 63.5

By Action Analytics

The Cotton Bowl should be an absolute barnburner, especially if Caleb Williams is playing at full strength.

USC has one of the most porous defenses in the country, ranking 125th in Rushing Success Allowed and 115th in Passing Success Allowed. This will be a problem against a Tulane team that is above average in both of those metrics on offense.

However, the big mismatch will be when the Green Wave crosses the 40-yard line on offense, as USC is a bottom-10 team in Points per Opportunity Allowed. This means Tulane should be scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals on offense.

Meanwhile, USC is a juggernaut of an offense, ranking in the top-10 in Success Rate when passing and rushing. It’s worth noting that the Trojans will be without two starting offensive linemen, as well as running back Travis Dye and wide receiver Jordan Addison.

I’m going to reference Points per Opportunity again, as USC ranks eighth nationally. This is also an area where Tulane struggles, ranking 81st in Points per Opportunity Allowed. So, both teams will be scoring touchdowns and not settling for field goals.

I’m expecting this to be a high-scoring affair, especially with Williams playing. Tulane will be playing to prove that this season wasn’t a fluke and USC will be attempting to wash a sour taste out of its mouth. I’m taking the over here.


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Over 63.5

By Patrick Strollo

All signs point to Caleb Williams being a full go in the Cotton Bowl after suffering a hamstring injury in the Pac-12 Championship game. With Williams at the helm, The Trojans offense will be in excellent hands.

USC does face some personnel issues, particularly with leading receiver Jordan Addison opting out. Additionally, starting center Brett Neilon and guard Andrew Vorhees will miss the game because of injuries.

The absence of Addison cannot be rationalized away, but the Trojans should be able to overcome the offensive line woes as they face a Tulane defensive line that ranks 108th nationally in Line Yards.

The Trojans have the edge over Tulane’s defense in nearly every advanced statistic. What is most concerning for the Green Wave, though, is their inability to generate Havoc. Tulane ranks 106th in the nation in Defensive Havoc, and with or without Addison, Williams is going to exploit this with downfield shots.

Defensively, USC looks to be full strength, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The Trojans are questionable at best on defense, finishing the season as the 81st-ranked scoring defense by allowing 27.9 points per game.

Meanwhile, Tulane enters this game fresh off of an AAC Championship and at full strength with no opt-outs of note.

Green Wave quarterback Michael Pratt and the rest of the Tulane offense enter the Cotton Bowl averaging 35.2 points per game. Pratt, a dual-threat signal-caller, won’t have to lean on his speed as he faces a USC secondary that ranks 115th in Pass Success.

My model is projecting the total for this game to be 66.5 points, and I recommend playing this at 66 or lower. Look for Williams and Pratt to turn this into a duel in Dallas with defense taking a behind-the-scenes role.



Tulane vs. USC

Monday, Jan. 2
1 p.m. ET
ESPN
Caleb Williams Under 29.5 Rushing Yards

By Cody Goggin

The last time we saw Caleb Williams on the field, he was nursing a hamstring injury that caused him to lose almost all of his mobility in the Pac-12 Championship against Utah.

While Williams has had a month of rest and is expected to be healthy enough to play, I wouldn’t be shocked if he still takes it easy on his hamstring and doesn’t lean on his legs as much.

Another benefit of this bet is the way that rushing yardage is counted in college football. Being sacked goes against a players’ total rushing yards in college, unlike in the NFL. Williams was sacked seven times against the Utes when his ability to scramble was compromised.

USC will also have to deal with some new faces on the offensive line. Center Brett Neilon was carted off the field in the Pac-12 Championship and will miss this game. Additionally, first-team All-American guard Andrew Vorhees will also miss the bowl game due to injury.

With starting wide receiver Jordan Addison opting out of the game, Williams will have a lot of adversity to overcome and may end up taking more sacks because of it.

Even at full-strength, Williams didn’t put up extraordinary rushing yards this season. He averaged 28.6 rushing yards per game on the year and eclipsed only 40 yards on the ground three times. He has gone under this current total of 29.5 yards six times.

I think with the uncertainty around Williams’ hamstring and the turnover on the offensive line, taking the under on Williams’ rushing yards prop in the Cotton Bowl is a strong bet.

Pick: Caleb Williams Under 29.5 Rushing Yards (Play to 26.5)



Penn State vs. Utah

Monday, Jan. 2
5 p.m. ET
ESPN
Over 52.5

By Mike Ianniello

Penn State and Utah will square off in the Granddaddy of them All, and both should be highly motivated in this one.

The Utes return to Pasadena for a second straight year after a heartbreaking loss in last year’s barnburner against Ohio State. For the Nittany Lions, it will mark their first Rose Bowl appearance since 2016, when they suffered a devastating last-second loss to USC.

While each team will be missing one key piece on offense (Dalton Kincaid for Utah, Parker Washington for Penn State), these offenses still have enough talent to put up points.

Utah quarterback Cam Rising was hobbled down the stretch but should be fully healthy here. He has two young running backs who have stepped up without Tavion Thomas.

Monday will mark the final game of the career for Sean Clifford, and he should go out with a strong performance against a Utah defense that struggles to create a pass rush. Second-leading receiver Mitchell Tinsley and the two stud tight ends Brenton Strange and Theo Johnson are all good to go.

The Nittany Lions have two freshman stars at the running back position in Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen. They both averaged over 69 yards per game and combined for 19 touchdowns. Either of these backs is capable of breaking a home run on any touch.

On defense, both of these teams are not as elite against the run as we are used to seeing. These perennial top-25 run defenses both rank in the 40s in Rushing Success Rate this season. They also both rank outside of the top 70 in tackling on the year and have struggled giving up big plays. Utah ranks 110th in the nation defending explosiveness.

Each team will be without their best player on defense, as Penn State cornerback Joey Porter Jr. and Utah cornerback Clark Phillips II have both opted out. Both defenses should be downgraded a bit without their best pass defenders.

The over has gone 12-4 in the Rose Bowl game since 2006. This game still matters to teams, and I expect to see another high-scoring game here between two experienced quarterbacks against defenses that struggle to tackle and are missing their top guy.


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