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College Football Odds & Best Bets: 4 Saturday Night Picks, Featuring Boise State vs. North Texas, Rice vs. Southern Miss

College Football Odds & Best Bets: 4 Saturday Night Picks, Featuring Boise State vs. North Texas, Rice vs. Southern Miss article feature image
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Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: The Boise State Broncos.

  • Saturday's college football slate rolls on with a number of evening bowl games on the docket.
  • Our staff came up with four best bets for two games on Saturday night: Boise State vs. North Texas and Rice vs. Southern Miss.
  • Check out all four of our college football bowl best bets for Saturday night below.

Saturday’s impressive bowl slate rolls on as we turn our attention to the evening slate.

Our staff came through with four best bets for two of Saturday’s biggest games: two for the LendingTree Bowl between Southern Miss vs. Rice and two for the Frisco Bowl between North Texas and Boise State.

Whether you’re looking for two experts aligned on a pick or hoping to bet a late-night over, we have you covered.

Read on for all of our best bets for Saturday evening’s college football bowl games below — and be sure to check out our top picks for Saturday afternoon’s kickoffs.


Saturday Evening College Football Bowl Best Bets

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

Game
Time
Pick
5:45 p.m. ET
Southern Miss -6.5
5:45 p.m. ET
Southern Miss -6.5
9:15 p.m. ET
Boise State -10.5
9:15 p.m. ET
Over 59.5
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.

Southern Miss vs. Rice

Saturday, Dec. 17
5:45 p.m. ET
ESPN
Southern Miss -6.5

By BJ Cunningham

Southern Miss comes in at 6-6 but covered five of its last six games and was one of only two teams to beat Tulane this season.

USM has a fantastic defense, which is the main reason why it made its way to a bowl game. The Golden Eagles allowed only 5.2 yards per play and ranked 14th in Success Rate Allowed and 22nd in EPA/Play.

Rice has been shuffling through a bunch of different quarterbacks throughout the season.

It started out with Wiley Green in the opener. Then, he got hurt, and the Owls went to TJ McMahon, which is when they went on their run in the middle of the season. However, McMahon got knocked out of the game against Western Kentucky in mid-November and has not returned.

It’s been a mixture of a couple of freshmen in Shawqi Itraish and AJ Padgett the past few games, which has not worked out well. Since McMahon went down, the Owls have scored just 24 points in their last two games and averaged only 4.6 yards per play.

Defensively, Rice has been putrid all season. It has allowed a whopping 6.2 yards per play while ranking 123rd in EPA/Play Allowed and 120th in Finishing Drives. It’s been bad against both the pass and the run, as it sits outside the top 100 in both Passing and Rushing Success Rate Allowed.

Southern Miss’ offense runs the ball on 54.9% of offensive plays. It also lost starting quarterback Ty Keyes in October for the season, but Trey Lowe has filled in nicely as a starter for three games.

Lowe has put up an 80.6 PFF passing grade with nine big-time throws compared to three turnover-worthy plays. He should be able to throw on a secondary that ranks 114th in EPA/Pass Allowed.

Pick: Southern Miss -6.5 (Play to -7)


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Southern Miss -6.5

By Mike Ianniello

Southern Mississippi lost three of its last four games down the stretch but covered in five of their last six games. Rice also lost three of its last four contests but managed to cover just two of the last six games.

They are also heading in different directions health-wise.

For the second straight season, the Golden Eagles have played musical chairs at quarterback. Trey Lowe has played just six games all year, but he should be back and healthy and give them some stability under center. Jason Brownlee is a stud receiver and averaging over 15 yards per reception.

Running back Frank Gore Jr. was the heart and soul of the team once again, averaging over five yards per carry and throwing multiple touchdown passes as the wildcat quarterback as well.

The Owls have had to use four quarterbacks, and with injuries to Wiley Green and TJ McMahon, will continue to deploy freshman AJ Padgett. Padgett is completing just 50% of his passes and could continue to be without leading receiver Luke McCaffrey — who has missed the last three games — although that isn’t expected.

Southern Miss has an elite defense that ranks 14th in the country in Success Rate and top-25 against the run and the pass.

Rice should really struggle to move the ball, as this Golden Eagles front seven is going to eat the Owls’ offensive line all game. USM sits 32nd in creating Havoc against a Rice offensive line that’s 118th at preventing Havoc and 124th in run blocking.

With the Southern Mississippi defense having a great matchup against a weak Rice offense, the Golden Eagles should have no problem shutting the Owls down.

On the other side, USM’s strength is creating big plays, while Rice has allowed a ton of explosiveness.

Rice is only playing in a bowl game because it had a better Academic Progress Rate score than Auburn. I’m not sure that equates to being good at football. Southern Miss is the better team here and should match up well against the Owls.

Pick: Southern Miss -6.5 (Play to -7.5)



North Texas vs. Boise State

Saturday, Dec. 17
9:15 p.m. ET
ESPN
Boise State -10.5

By Patrick Strollo

Boise State has been an effective road team this season, going 4-2 against the spread. It’s gotten even better away from home as the season has progressed, covering its last three as the chalk.

As the Broncos hit the road one last time, they look to be close to full strength for the Frisco Bowl against North Texas, with only two notable defections since the portal process opened up.

Tight end Tyneil Hopper has announced his intention to join Michigan State’s squad, and backup quarterback Hank Bachmeier is still in the portal with his final destination unknown. The absence of these players will have no impact on lines due to their limited participation this season.

The Broncos are contending with some injuries on the defensive side of the ball. However, at the time of writing, it appears that the second-ranked scoring defense (18.5 PPG) in the Mountain West should be close to full strength

North Texas enters the game without any material roster changes of note, but it does lack a head coach after Seth Littrell was shown the exit at the conclusion of a losing effort in the Conference USA Championship.

Look for the difference in this matchup to be the elite Bronco defense. They rank 11th in the nation in scoring defense, featuring equally competent rush and pass defenses that rank 25th and fifth in the nation, respectively.

On offense, Boise State will face one of the worst defenses it has seen all season. The Mean Green rank 110th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up 31.5 points per game. North Texas has been equal parts bad against both the run and pass game.

My model has Boise State as 14-point a favorite at a neutral site. Even though North Texas is playing close to home, I anticipate the combination of an interim head coach and a weak defense being too much to overcome.

Pick: Boise State -10.5 or Better


Over 59.5

By Stuckey

Two teams that lost in their conference championship will square off in prime time to close out Saturday’s six-game bowl slate.

I really fancy the over.

If you look at Boise State’s overall advanced metrics, it would suggest its pass defense has been stout all season.

However, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll notice the Broncos allowed 27, 28, 31 and 34 points in four losses to UTEP, Fresno State (with Jake Haener), BYU and Oregon State, respectively.

In their nine wins, they faced the following passing offenses:

  • Air Force
  • UT Martin
  • New Mexico
  • San Diego State (with Braxton Burmeister)
  • Fresno State (with Logan Fife)
  • Colorado State
  • Nevada
  • Wyoming (with fourth-string QB Jayden Clemons)
  • Utah State (with Cooper Legas)

That list includes an FCS program and seven FBS schools that rank outside the top 100 in passing yards per game. The only competent passing offense it defeated was Fresno State when the Bulldogs started their incompetent backup quarterback.

Meanwhile, Wyoming started a fourth-string quarterback who went 3-of-16 for 30 yards and three interceptions, and San Diego State had yet to make the switch at quarterback that jump-started its offense. Even Legas threw for over 300 yards for Utah State in the regular season finale.

This Boise State secondary is more exploitable than its season-long statistics suggest, as evidenced by its coverage grades against competent passing attacks. North Texas quarterback Austin Aune should connect on plenty of explosive passing plays against a secondary and pass rush that isn’t at full strength.

On the other side of the ball, North Texas can’t stop the run. The Mean Green rank in the bottom five nationally in both Line Yards and Opportunity Rate. They simply get no push up front and allow way too many yards at the second level.

That spells disaster against a Boise State offensive line that ranks in the top 25 in both categories. Dual-threat quarterback Taylen Green and running back George Holani should have a field day on the ground.

I also expect a few wrinkles from legendary offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter in his last hurrah before retirement.

For comparison, against another Mountain West opponent with a dynamic mobile quarterback and running back, the Mean Green allowed UNLV to run for 365 yards in a 58-27 loss earlier this season.

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