This weekend marks one of the most exciting times of the year for college football fans – the start of bowl season. With 41 games across 15 gamedays capped off by the New Year’s Six, playoff semifinals, and finally the National Championship game, there’s no better time to be a college football fan. Continue reading for some insights to turn a profit betting on the early bowl games!
Be sure to keep up with our college football odds series with the latest across the NCAA.
All college football odds courtesy of FanDuel.
Cincinnati – Louisville
Cincinnati: -1.5 (-105); ML (+108)
Louisville: +1.5 (-115); ML (-130)
This season, Cincinnati’s offense is averaging 28.2 points scored per game, while Louisville is scoring exactly one point less on average, at 27.2 points per game. Louisville is allowing 20.2 ppg to opponents, while Cincy is giving up 21.3 ppg. This game is a take on your classic “elite offense versus elite defense” matchup that everybody loves, but instead, it is two perfectly average, almost exactly evenly matched teams competing.
Louisville averages 5.8 yards per play, Cincinnati 5.5. (For context, Ohio State leads the nation with an average of 7.2 yards per play).
Louisville has the slight edge on third down offense, converting at a 36.81% rate while Cincinnati converts their third downs at a 36.65% rate. I weighed the third-down conversion rate very heavily since that is one of the best indicators of a team’s ability to sustain drives and move the ball down the field. More often than not, it also means that the team is putting itself in a good position by playing efficient football on first and second down, putting themselves in a third and short scenario where it is easier to convert.
Louisville is also better on third down defense, ranking 27th in the country and holding opponents to a 34.59% conversion rate, while Cincinnati ranks 49th and allows their opponents to convert these crucial downs at a 37.43% rate. This is one of the few categories where there is a noticeable difference between these two teams.
I think this game is going to be close to a coin toss, and based on the currently available lines the books seem to agree. The topline numbers also support that. However, looking deeper into each team’s metrics, according to my system Louisville’s slight advantage in yards per play offsets their slightly lower-scoring offense, and their edge on third down will give them a key advantage during crucial times in this game.
Although topline numbers indicate a toss-up, if Louisville can outperform Cincinnati on third down, both keeping their own drives going on offense and getting off the field on defense, they’ll have a much better than 50% chance of winning this football game.
Prediction: Louisville moneyline (-130)
Florida – Oregon State
Florida: +9.5 (-115); ML (+270)
Oregon State: -9.5 (-105); ML (-345)
This is a very tough matchup to decide. At first glance, Florida looks like a great value play here at +300 on the moneyline. However, Anthony Richardson declared for the NFL draft and will not be playing in this game. That throws everything into a bit of a craze, and three other Florida starters will likely be sitting this game out as well. Jack Miller III will get the start for Florida. The former Ohio State QB wasn’t even the primary backup during the season, but he is getting the start after the backup QB was dismissed from the team for his off-field conduct.
Oregon State is 10-2 against the spread this season, the second-best record in the nation. Florida is 7-5 against the spread, and undefeated ATS as an underdog, but the absence of Richardson throws everything off balance in analyzing this team.
At the end of the day, you don’t control who you play. Oregon State has been rolling this season, and I expect them to maintain form and keep rolling in this game. Look for Oregon State to improve to 11-2 ATS by dispatching a younger, less experienced Florida team with relative ease.
Prediction: Oregon State -9.5 (-105)
SMU – BYU
SMU: -4 (-115); ML (-188)
BYU: +4 (-105); ML (+155)
SMU is averaging 37.8 points per game and allowing 36.4. BYU is averaging 30.1 points per game and allowing 30.4.
SMU would have gone over this total five times this season, with one push. Their highest-scoring game this season featured a whopping 140 total points, a 77-63 win against Houston. SMU throws the ball all over the field and racks up points on offense, and then gives those points up just as quickly on defense. That’s what they do, and BYU should make a good partner for this over as a team that doesn’t have any trouble scoring the ball themselves. Take the over in this game, sit back, and enjoy the shootout.
Prediction: Over 64.5 (-110)