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College Football Odds & Picks: 2 Betting Previews for Bahamas Bowl & Cure Bowl

College Football Odds & Picks: 2 Betting Previews for Bahamas Bowl & Cure Bowl article feature image
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James Gilbert/Getty Images, Pictured: Cure Bowl signage.

  • College football bowl season is finally upon us.
  • Friday's college football slate features two games: the Bahamas Bowl and Cure Bowl.
  • Check out how our college football writers are betting both opening bowl games below.

Bowl season is officially upon us.

We’ve been betting, parlaying, hedging and cashing since the college football season began at the end of August. Now, we enter the final magical stretch.

Bowl season is unlike regular-season college football betting for many reasons. First, we’ve been taking in conference games for months, but now, we’re handicapping nonconference exhibition games between some of the most deserving teams in the country.

And with the addition of the transfer portal and players’ ability to opt out of bowl games to focus on the NFL Draft, rosters are constantly changing more than ever. So, before betting a bowl game, be sure to check out our tracker that follows every opt-out, injury and transfer portal entry for each bowl team.

But at the end of the day, college football is college football, and we have two stellar bowl matchups on deck for Friday.

Miami (OH) and UAB kick things off in the Bahamas Bowl with some early-morning action (11:30 a.m. ET kickoff). Then, to close out the day, UTSA and Troy meet in the only bowl game between two conference champions in the Cure Bowl.

Read on for both of our bowl picks for Friday’s games — and be sure to check back on Saturday for our best bets for the massive six-game bowl slate.


Friday’s College Football Bowl Game Best Bets

The team logos in the table below represent the two bowl matchups that our college football writers are targeting from Friday’s 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
11:30 a.m. ET
Under 45
3 p.m. ET
UTSA +2
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.

Miami (OH) vs. UAB

Friday, Dec. 16
11:30 a.m. ET
ESPN
Under 45

By Matt Wispe

What’s a better way to kick off bowl season than with sunny skies in a warm, tropical location? Bowl season gets underway Friday, as the Miami (OH) RedHawks take on the UAB Blazers.

Miami enters this game after a 6-6 season that left it fourth in the MAC East. The RedHawks finished the regular season 5-7 against the spread and went over in just three games.

UAB comes into this game following a 6-6 regular season and a third-place finish in the West Division of Conference USA. The Blazers went 4-8 against the spread and went over in six games.

As you’d expected for a game in the Bahamas, the weather will be nearly perfect during this game. Temperatures will be around 78 degrees, and there’s no precipitation forecasted. Winds range from 10.4-13.7 MPH, which could impact special teams and passing.

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Miami RedHawks

The RedHawks closed out their season with two wins to become bowl-eligible for the second straight season despite many offensive struggles.

Miami averages 20.2 points per game and 4.9 yards per play to go along with a 36% Success Rate and 3.29 points per opportunity.

One glaring problem for the offense is its 26% Havoc Allowed Rate, which ranks 130th nationally. It doesn’t help when the team plays at the 109th-slowest pace, running a play every 28.8 seconds.

Adding to these offensive concerns are key injuries. One of the RedHawks’ starting offensive linemen, Caleb Shaffer, entered the transfer portal and will not play.

Quarterback Brett Gabbert is also expected to miss this matchup after suffering what many thought to be a season-ending injury earlier in the season. Aveon Smith will now likely start this game in his place.

Smith completed just 48.7% of his passes this season for an average of 6.0 yards per attempt. As a team, Miami owns a 38% Passing Success Rate and averages just two passes over 20 yards per game.

Only Smith eclipsed 500 yards rushing during the season, but four players finished the regular season with more than 250 rushing yards. As a team, Miami has a 34% Rushing Success Rate and averages 4.6 rushes over 10 yards per game.

Up front, the offensive line generates an average of 2.77 Line Yards per attempt and has allowed a 21.8% Stuff Rate.

As you’d expect for a bowl-eligible team with Miami’s offensive struggles, the defense is very good. It has allowed 22.5 points per game and 5.4 yards per play while also giving up a 40% Success Rate and 3.1 points per opportunity.

Its 25% Havoc Rate ranks fourth nationally.

For this matchup, the stat to keep an eye on is the RedHawks’ 38% Rushing Success Rate Allowed. That mark ranks 22nd nationally and will be critical against a UAB offense that averages more than 40 rush attempts per game.

miami (oh) vs ball state-odds-picks-predictions-betting-college football-tuesday november 22
Dylan Buell/Getty Images. Pictured: Miami (OH)’s Jack Coldiron (89), Keyon Mozee (3), and Rusty Feth (60).

UAB Blazers

After starting the season 4-2, UAB struggled down the stretch but still finished its regular season with a win over Louisiana Tech.

The Blazers average 30.6 points per game and 6.8 yards per play with a 45% Success Rate and an average of 4.11 points per opportunity. The Blazers also allow Havoc on 16% of plays.

Due in large part to their preference to lean on the running game, they average 29.2 seconds per play, which ranks as the 119th pace of offense. Considering that Miami (OH) ranks 109th in pace, expect the clock to tick early and often.

UAB strongly prefers the run game behind star back DeWayne McBride. McBride has handled a heavy workload with 1,713 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns on the ground. However, reports surfaced Thursday afternoon that McBride is no longer expected to play.

Luckily for UAB, he’s not the only threat on the ground, as backup Jermaine Brown also managed to accumulate 832 yards on the ground and six touchdowns.

The Blazers average 40.8 rush attempts per game for an average of 6.0 yards per attempt, which ranks second in the country. As a team, UAB owns a 47% Rushing Success Rate behind an offensive line that has generated 3.36 Line Yards per attempt and allowed a 13.9% Stuff Rate.

That success on the ground has led to a decrease in passing numbers. The Blazers throw the ball 24.4 times per game on average, as their 38% passing rate ranks 124th in the country.

Quarterback Dylan Hopkins has completed 62.8% of his passes for an average of 8.9 yards per attempt. As a team, the Blazers own a 44% Passing Success Rate, and they average 2.67 20-plus yard passes per game.

On the other side of the ball, UAB allowed an average of 23.4 points per game and 5.4 yards per play while also giving up a 43% Success Rate and 3.23 points per opportunity.

The Blazers’ 18% Havoc Rate ranks 59th nationally, and they give up 4.5 20-yard plays per game.


Miami (OH) vs UAB Betting Pick

UAB enters as an 11-point favorite with the total sitting at just 45 points as of writing. The RedHawks are the sharps’ play, as 65% of tickets but 93% of the money has landed on the underdog.

As for the total, 97% of the money has come in on the over, which explains the line moving from an opening number of 44.5.

It may seem unwise to go against the line movement, but my preferred play is the under. Miami (OH) games have gone under 45 six times during the regular season, and this matchup appears primed for another low-scoring affair.

This matchup to open bowl season features two slow-paced teams — including one fairly inept offense — against defenses equipped to get them off of the field. That should keep scoring at a premium and keep the clock moving.



UTSA vs. Troy

Friday, Dec. 16
3 p.m. ET
ESPN
UTSA +2

By Collin Wilson

Bowl season starts off hot with two of the best teams at the Group of Five level meeting in the Duluth Trading Cure Bowl.

Both UTSA and Troy finished the season as conference champions with an 11-2 record. The brawn of these teams come on different sides of the ball, with the Roadrunners having an elite offense and the Trojans riding a Havoc-minded defense.

Both teams finished hot down the stretch, with Troy covering every game away from home this season.

The Cure Bowl has existed since 2015, with a Sun Belt squad playing in every iteration. Weather will not be a factor, with rain forecasted in the Orlando area on the days before and after kickoff and temperatures nearing 70 degrees.

UTSA has yet to win a bowl game in three attempts throughout the history of the program. Head coach Jeff Traylor has lost the First Responder Bowl and Frisco Bowl over the past two seasons.

Troy is 5-3 all-time in bowl games, winning four straight since 2010. Head coach Jon Sumrall is in his first year as a head coach but has plenty of bowl experience as an assistant at Kentucky and Ole Miss.


UTSA Roadrunners

Roadrunner nation was energized by the announcement that quarterback Frank Harris will return for 2023.

The Texas native had his best season since committing to the program in the summer of 2016. Harris cut his turnover-worthy play rate nearly in half while posting 31 passing touchdowns to just seven interceptions.

The results were similar on the ground, cutting his fumbles in half while logging 63% of his rushing yards from scrambles. With 31 rushing attempts exceeding 10 yards, containing UTSA on third down can be an impossible task.

FRANK. HARRIS. IS. BACK!

"I just think it’s best for me to come back for one more season at UTSA and lead them into the AAC."

Can’t wait to see what this stud does in 2023… MEEP MEEP 🥶

pic.twitter.com/CqZdGMONht

— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) December 7, 2022

Running back Brendan Brady is questionable for this game after leading the Roadrunners with 154 rushing attempts on the season. UTSA is blessed to have another option with more than 100 attempts in Kevorian Barnes, who averages 3.1 yards after contact and owns a higher elusiveness rating than Brady.

The issues for UTSA come on the defensive side of the ball.

Defensive coordinator Jess Loepp struggled to make the Roadrunners improve their tackling fundamentals. UTSA had consistent issues allowing explosive plays off missed tackles, ranking 124th in that area, per PFF. The defense finished in the bottom 15 of all FBS teams in defending the big play in standard and passing downs.

Despite the issues with taking down opponents, UTSA finished as one of the stingiest defenses in scoring opportunities. The Roadrunners allowed just 3.3 points to opponent drives that crossed the 40-yard line. UTSA finished the season 28th in red-zone defense, a change from midfield efficiency for the 3-4 defense.

utsa vs utep-odds-picks-predictions-betting-college football-november 26
Ronald Cortes/Getty Images. Pictured: UTSA head coach Jeff Traylor.

Troy Trojans

With a resume that includes a stint as a linebacker and assistant at Kentucky, Sumrall was prepared to transform this Trojans defense in his first head coaching position.

Troy turned into a nightmare for Sun Belt opponents, finishing the season top-10 in coverage grading. The Trojans stymied opposing offenses, finishing top-15 of all FBS teams in limiting ground and air explosives.

Linebacker Carlton Martial led the team in tackles and stops with the lowest missed tackle rate on the team, sliding into the Action Network All-American team.

CARLTON MARTIAL laying down the LAW! Massive hit causes the incompletion! pic.twitter.com/tWDdUOBpdS

— The Trojan Wall (@TrojanWallF5) October 2, 2021

Troy finished the season as the best defense in the nation in limiting standard downs explosiveness. Junior cornerback Reddy Steward finished with the third-highest mark nationally in forced incompletions, spending the majority of snaps lined up on the outside receiver.

While the defense was the primary driver for a conference championship, the offense had an awakening in the Sun Belt title game.

TROY!!! Gunnar Watson ➡️ Deshon Stoudemire 65 yards to the house!! #FunBeltChampionship pic.twitter.com/FJjv00Z5Dm

— 𝗙𝗢𝗟𝗟𝗢𝗪 @𝗙𝗧𝗕𝗲𝗮𝗿𝗱𝟳 (@FTBeard7) December 3, 2022

Quarterback Gunnar Watson had his best day of the season in the Sun Belt Championship, throwing three touchdowns with his highest average depth of target recorded of any game.

Slot receiver Tez Johnson leads the team in receptions and is the most flammable weapon in the passing game. At an average of 3.6 yards per route run, Johnson is the most explosive wide receiver in college football above Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt and Ohio State’s Marvin Harrison Jr.

A lack of a run game has stalled the offense in several games. The Trojans finished outside the top 100 in Rushing Success Rate and third-down conversions.

The offense consistently fell behind the chains and relied too heavily on big plays through the air. Those inefficiencies were never more present than in the red zone, where the Trojans finished outside the top 100 in touchdown rate.


UTSA vs Troy Betting Pick

The Action Network projection makes this game between two conference champions a pick’em.

Neither team has significant drops in production due to injury. Troy should generate yards off explosive plays, a consistent issue for the Roadrunners defense.

From the advanced analytics, UTSA’s top-25 rank in defensive red zone efficiency will get stops against a Trojans offense that’s more comfortable scoring from midfield than from in close.

The showcase in this game is UTSA’s offense against Troy’s defense, with the Roadrunners having a hidden advantage in the rush game.

The Trojans have deleted every passing attack this season but struggled against dual-threat quarterbacks. LSU’s Jayden Daniels and Liberty’s Kaidon Salter dominated the Trojans defense with zone reads and quarterback keepers, a scheme Harris is expected to run frequently.

Look for Harris to shred the Troy front seven while avoiding Martial and Steward in the passing game.

Pick: UTSA +1.5 (Play to PK)

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