Eight bowl games and the College Football Playoff National Championship remain for what has been a unique and challenging bowl season in so many ways. Opt-outs and COVID outbreaks have provided new degrees of uncertainty to what can already be a difficult and overwhelming process.
Following the money worked a lot in the early bowl games. It hasn’t been the case as frequently of late, but if you’ve been watching the line moves and the news cycle, you’ve been able to have a very successful bowl season.
With the Christmas holiday last week, I failed to get this article out and I apologize for that, but looking at these games through any sort of long-term lens has been less effective than usual with the late-breaking news. Nevertheless, with games today and games tomorrow, it’s a great time to take a look at how the betting markets are setting up.
Here is the College Football Sharp Money Odds Report for the January 1 & January 2 bowl games:
Peach Bowl: Cincinnati vs. Georgia (-10, 53)
Some money really hit hard on Georgia late Thursday and into the early hours of game day. Some of the sharpest global offshores made the move to 10 and a lot of other books followed suit. This is a case where bettors probably wanted to be sure of who, exactly, would be playing the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl for Georgia because there have already been some opt-outs. Cincinnati could simply be outmanned and outgunned in this game by a program that recruits at a top-five level. Hopefully you got in on this game when it was lined around 7 and picked up some line value because now you’re paying a premium on UGA.
Citrus Bowl: Auburn vs. Northwestern (-4.5, 43.5)
Some morning news on Friday bumped this line up another half-point in Northwestern’s favor. Auburn’s leading rusher Tank Bigsby was ruled out of the game. This was a game that hadn’t gotten much love in the betting markets as it was because of Auburn’s messed up coaching situation. The total of 43.5 is an extremely low one for a bowl game, but nobody seems to have interest in betting the over in this one, even though a lot of this season’s bowl games have gone over the total. With a 1 p.m. kickoff, we’ll see some more money float in on this game and it looks to be on Northwestern as of now.
Rose Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Alabama (-19.5, 66)
We’re still waiting to see what happened with this line. Over bets are coming in faster than under bets, but the total has come down to as low as 65.5 at some places after being up in the 67 range. The sharp vs. public split on the total is really the only interesting thing about this game from a betting standpoint. Otherwise, the line has moved very little. There is probably more sharp action on Notre Dame, but public bettors and the expectation of additional public money on Alabama have been enough to hold the line in place. It could come down if enough big bettors come in on the Irish, but I’d be surprised to see any sort of grand move on the side for this game. Alabama first half, however, will be a popular derivative play for many people and that could be a line that ticks up, even if the full game line doesn’t move.
Sugar Bowl: Ohio State vs. Clemson (-7, 68)
Over and Ohio State are the two popular plays right now as far as influential money goes. This total keeps getting bet up and took a wave of pretty impressive action Thursday night into Friday morning. Perhaps bettors are pleased with where Ohio State stands offensively after missing some key guys in the Big Ten Championship Game. Maybe the expectation is for a little more aggressive on offense for Clemson without offensive coordinator Tony Elliott. Most of the 7.5s on the Buckeyes are gone, replaced with 7 at regular juice or even reduced juice. If you look hard enough, you might find a stray 6.5 on the Buckeyes, an indicator of sharp money on the underdogs. Remember, Ohio State led this matchup 16-0 last year and had left points on the field before a targeting call and two quick Clemson touchdowns changed the whole game.
Gator Bowl: Kentucky (-2.5, 48.5) vs. NC State
We’ve seen minimal interest and activity in the side for this game, but we have seen ample under money. This total was up in the 53.5 range when it opened, but it has been bet down rather significantly. Weather isn’t expected to be a major factor in Jacksonville for this game, so this is simply a true position from sharp money. They had a lower-scoring expectation of this game and now we’ll see how that plays out. As far as the side goes, 2.5 has been the holding number for a while now, as we wait to see if there are any COVID concerns or opt-outs.
Outback Bowl: Ole Miss vs. Indiana (-8.5, 65.5)
The Ole Miss Rebels are on the cusp of not even really being able to play. Opt-outs, COVID, and injuries have left Lane Kiffin with a pretty bare bones roster, but the underdogs seem committed to playing this game no matter what. As more news about the Ole Miss roster came out, Indiana money came in, driving the line up from 6.5 or 7 to 8.5 and even 9. The total has started to come down a bit, likely with all of the players that Ole Miss will be missing. We’ll see if this line keeps moving, especially if we get more clarity as to who is in and who is out for the Rebels.
Fiesta Bowl: Oregon vs. Iowa State (-4.5, 58)
This one is pretty split in the marketplace between 4 and 4.5, as Iowa State takes on Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl. To this point, the Big 12 has fared well in bowl games this postseason, though West Virginia had some issues with Army on New Year’s Eve. Iowa State should be sufficiently motivated for this game and it is a bit of a surprise that more money hasn’t hit the board on the Cyclones. Perhaps the fact that this line hasn’t moved is saying a lot, especially since it would seem that the volume of bets has been on the favorites. The total hasn’t budged much for this game either. Maybe there are some behind-the-scenes questions holding this line in place and influential bettors are seeking some clarity before they get involved.
Orange Bowl: North Carolina vs. Texas A&M (-7.5, 65.5)
Opt-outs on the UNC side made an impact on this one, as the Tar Heels will be missing some stars on both offense and defense. That being said, this line still only narrowly crossed over the -7 threshold and then stopped. That would suggest to me that bettors are not all in on Texas A&M here in the Orange Bowl. There are some really big, key names sitting out for a UNC team that does not recruit at a SEC level, but the Aggies only went to 7.5. I think that says something about what the sharp bettors are going to do on Saturday. Don’t be surprised if this line does come back to 7 based on what we’ve seen thus far.