Bowl season begins on Friday, December 17, with the Bahamas Bowl and runs through Tuesday, January 4, with the TaxAct Texas Bowl in Houston, followed by the College Football Playoff (CFP) national championship on Monday, January 10, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.
The early bowl action primarily involves unranked teams from the Group of Five conferences, but the first week of games features a few appearances by Power Five squads and some that were included in the CFP top 25.
Between coaching changes, player opt-outs, and different philosophies regarding how to approach bowl games, results can be very unpredictable, making wagering difficult. Here are a few highlight games and picks for the early round of contests with College Football Bowl Betting Odds provided by MyBookie.
Top Picks for First Round of College Football Bowls
Friday, December 17, 6:00 pm EST: Tailgreeter Cure Bowl, Orlando, Florida
Northern Illinois Huskies (9-4 overall record) (+305 moneyline) vs Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (10-2) (-10.5 spread) (-390 moneyline) (63.5 o/u): Coastal Carolina spent much of the season as the favorite to win the Sun Belt, but after a 6-0 start, they suffered a 30-27 loss to Appalachian State and then were upset 42-40 by Georgia State three games later that eliminated the Chanticleers from the East division race.
Northern Illinois qualified for the MAC championship game by virtue of a tiebreaking victory over Central Michigan and took advantage of the opportunity with a 41-23 win over Kent State to capture the title.
Pick: Northern Illinois +10.5
Saturday, December 18, 7:30 pm EST: Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, Inglewood, California
Utah State Aggies (10-3) (+230) vs Oregon State Beavers (7-5) (-7) (-280) (67): Oregon State represents the first appearance by a Power Five team, as they take on a Utah State team that is coming off a big 46-13 upset of then 19th ranked San Diego State in the Mountain West championship game.
The Aggies enter their bowl contest after outscoring their last two opponents 81-23, while Oregon State fell to number 11 Oregon 38-29 to close out a good season that resulted in a contract extension for head coach Jonathan Smith.
Pick: Utah State +7
Tuesday, December 21, 7:30 pm EST: Tropical Smoothies Café Frisco Bowl, Frisco, Texas
UTSA Roadrunners (12-1) (-2.5) (-135) vs (24) San Diego State Aztecs (11-2) (+115) (49.5): UTSA jumped out to 42 – 13 lead over Western Kentucky in the Conference USA championship game, then withstood a furious Hilltoppers’ comeback to finally prevail 49-42 to capture their first conference title.
The Aztecs will be looking to atone for last week’s debacle against Utah State after running up an impressive record, but six of their 11 wins came by one score.
Pick: UTSA -2.5
Thursday, December 23, 7:00 pm EST: Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl, Tampa, Florida
UCF Knights (8-4) (+195) vs Florida Gators (6-6) (-6.5) (-245) (55.5): First-year UCF head coach Gus Malzahn finds himself in familiar territory, playing Florida from the SEC after spending 2013 – 2020 at the helm of Auburn.
Florida will be led by interim coach Greg Knox, who also was on the sideline for the Gators’ season-ending victory over Florida State following the firing of Dan Mullen and the announcement that Billy Napier from Louisiana would take over in Gainesville.
Pick: UCF +6.5