There are 28 bowl games during this year’s college football postseason. The College Football Playoff semifinals are set and the other bowl matchups are also locked in place.
More than 20 schools declined to participate in the bowl season, which is how you wind up with things like Houston at 3-4, Western Kentucky at 5-6, Mississippi State at 3-7, Tennessee at 3-7, Kentucky at 4-6, and the crème de la crème of South Carolina at 2-8 in a bowl game.
It has been a weird season to say the least. Bowl officials and conferences tried to hold to their agreements and conference tie-ins, but it wound up being a real challenge.
This will be the last Opening Line Report of the season, as, well, this is the last set of opening lines we’re going to get. The College Football Playoff National Championship Game will get plenty of coverage here on its own. Odds and line movements will be updated in the College Football Sharp Money Odds Report on Fridays as we move forward.
Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this article and have gotten some good betting value out of it. We look forward to covering the start of the new season in August.
Here is the College Football Opening Line Report for Bowl Season:
Boca Raton Bowl (12/22): UCF vs. BYU (-7, 72)
BYU opened a modest four-point favorite for this trip to Boca Raton, but a lot of sharp money as widely available markets opened up poured in on the Cougars. UCF doesn’t have to leave the Sunshine State here and the bowl game experience is watered-down this season without the fanfare and the team-building events and all of that stuff, so maybe this just feels like another game. Whatever the root cause, BYU took the early money with a very well-defined position from those grabbing early numbers. The total has also moved up a couple of points from 70 to 72.
New Orleans Bowl (12/23): Georgia Southern (-6.5, 50) vs. Louisiana Tech
The total is coming down and the side is going up. Georgia Southern has taken the early money to drive this line up from -4 to as high as -6.5 in the marketplace. We knew about these early bowls a couple days ago and these lines have had some time to marinate. The Georgia Southern side has actually been relatively popular this season. That hasn’t been true of Louisiana Tech, as bettors have faded them pretty often and they are doing it again here. This total is as low as 49.5 in the markets after opening more like 51.5.
New Mexico Bowl (12/24): Hawaii vs. Houston (-13, 60)
Houston opened more like -10 or -11 in some places before betting action molded the number to look more like 13. There are some 12.5s and some 13.5s in the global markets, but most places are sitting 13 with a total of 60. This is the New Mexico Bowl, but it will be played in Frisco, Texas because of COVID restrictions. There is some HFA baked in for Houston, especially with Hawaii coming to the mainland. I do think a little bit of buyback will come in on Hawaii as we get closer to kickoff, but early numbers grabbers are on Houston.
Gasparilla Bowl (12/26): South Carolina vs. UAB (-4, 45.5)
South Carolina went 2-8 during the season, but they’ll be in a bowl game here against UAB. This one will be played in Tampa. UAB clearly has the better body of work and just won the Conference USA Championship Game. The Blazers opened as high as -5.5, but the markets have been on South Carolina early, as some US sportsbooks are as low as 3.5. Most of the market is 4.5, so we’ll split the difference and call the consensus -4. I think a lot of people are so surprised to see SC in a bowl game that there is some shock value to this game. Also, it is still a SEC team against a C-USA team, so that will entice some action on the underdog Cocks.
Cure Bowl (12/26): Liberty vs. Coastal Carolina (-6.5, 59.5)
We finally get the game we were all anticipating a few weeks back. Coastal Carolina was supposed to play Liberty the week that BYU came to town. The Chanticleers got royally screwed by the College Football Playoff committee. They should be playing a Power Five opponent here and a good one at that. Instead, they get a good Independent team in Liberty. The Flames will have gone almost a month without playing a game. Coastal will have gone two weeks because the Louisiana game was canceled. Hopefully Coastal’s COVID-stricken players will be okay for this one.
Cheez-It Bowl (12/29): Oklahoma State (-2.5, 60) vs. Miami (FL)
There were a lot of -3s when this line opened up, but it would seem that early interest is on Miami. It makes sense, as Oklahoma State has been all over the place this season, but they are a pretty one-dimensional offense that Miami now has a few days to figure out. This one will also be played in Orlando, so Miami has the shorter travel. There are probably some questions as to who will actually play for both of these teams and maybe Oklahoma State’s opt-outs are expected to be worse. You have to consider that with this year’s bowl season as well. There is a LOT of speculation going into these games.
Cotton Bowl Classic (12/30): Florida (-3.5, 68.5) vs. Oklahoma
There are a lot of opt-out questions for both teams here. One was already answered when Florida TE and matchup nightmare Kyle Pitts said he was taking his talents to the NFL. It seems as though Florida QB Kyle Trask will play here in an attempt to elevate his draft stock a bit. Oklahoma’s defense has kept this total a little bit lower than most would probably expect after Alabama and Florida just pushed 100. Florida has taken early money here to go from 2.5 up to 3.5 and some places are even showing higher in the US markets. Most of the global books are chilling on -3 for now. This will be a game that draws a ton of action and should move around a good amount before kickoff.
Peach Bowl (1/1): Cincinnati vs. Georgia (-7, 50)
This will be an interesting line to follow. Georgia has been extremely popular in the betting markets since JT Daniels took over at quarterback. Cincinnati gets a premier opponent, but the Bearcats will also get that team in Atlanta, so you can chalk up a little HFA for the Bulldogs. Cincinnati’s defense is great, but the AAC doesn’t have the athletes of the SEC. Many would love to see Georgia vs. Florida again now that Daniels has taken over, so the perception of the Bulldogs has risen. That being said, any places that opened north of 7 have taken a step back to the key number early in the betting process.
Rose Bowl (1/1): Notre Dame vs. Alabama (-19.5, 66)
The Rose Bowl has moved to Texas because of COVID restrictions in California. Notre Dame and Alabama will play in Arlington and Alabama will be in a big favorite role against an Irish team that was dominated by Clemson in the rematch. Some places did open 20 or 20.5, but widely available lines almost all came out at 19.5. The hope here would be for Notre Dame’s quality defense to keep the game close. We haven’t seen any significant movements one way or the other as of yet, but I’m sure we will. And it will probably be on the Alabama side, despite the non-cover against Florida.
Sugar Bowl (1/1): Ohio State vs. Clemson (-7.5, 65)
Ohio State has had a weird season. The rules have been changed twice to give them the best chance possible and the rule change to a 17-day COVID period should help for the January 1 game against Clemson. That means that the Buckeyes, barring more cases, should be back closer to normal. That hasn’t stopped the line from coming out above a touchdown. Ohio State hasn’t been this big of an underdog since beating Alabama on January 1, 2015 to advance to the National Championship Game. The last time it happened before that was back in 2011 when Ohio State was +7.5 or higher three times. I’m not sure people will be rushing to back the Buckeyes here, though. In fact, it will probably be more of an anti-Buckeyes sentiment from the public. We’ll see what sharp bettors do.