College football inspires a ton of passion, and that’s even more of the case when the stakes get high. The NCAAF regular season has plenty of those moments, and even more come our way courtesy of the packed postseason of bowl games.
A college football bowl game is the reward for a job well done during the regular season. There are more than three dozen of these games each season. Once they do, it’s a whole new ballgame as some are up to the task, while others aren’t.
That’s just part of the intrigue, all of which is made even better by the fact that you can bet on it. The legal and regulated sports betting environment continues to grow across the U.S., and that includes right here in Michigan.
When college football bowl season rolls around, you’ll have plenty of games to choose from. You can stick to the marquee matchups, or dig even deeper for the games involving the smaller and lesser-known programs. Of course, with the global pandemic, there may not be a full bowl season until 2021.
Our complete college football bowl betting guide will walk through everything you need to know, including the best spots for you to get in the game legally and safely. We’ll also have some insight on the best bet types to make, as well as some tips you can use while breaking down the games. Let’s get to it.
Yes. As sports betting has been legalized in Michigan, there have been questions about the legality of wagering on college sports. For example, in New Jersey, while a green light has been given to wagering on NCAA events, bettors are prohibited from placing wagers on games involving NJ teams.
Here in Michigan, it’s not an issue. Sports betting legislation was passed in 2019, and the official rollout took place the following year. Betting on college sports is allowed, including in schools located in the state. That’s great news for fans of Michigan and Michigan State, as well as all of the other programs that make their home here.
College bowl season attracts lots of betting interest, so it’s an active time for sportsbooks. The odds and lines for the games often move as a result. Staying on top of the movements is a key part of the handicapping process, and our live Michigan odds feed makes that a non-issue.
After the college football bowl game matchups are announced, sportsbooks will release the betting lines for each contest to the public. Bettors quickly begin to weigh in, and the action will stay strong right up until kickoff.
There are several different ways to bet on the game — each of which we’ll touch on in a bit — but the default listing for the game centers around the three-bet types which attract the most wagers. Here’s what a random line might look like:
|Oregon||+3.5 (-110)||+150||O 52.5 (-110)|
|Michigan||-3.5 (-110)||-130||U 52.5 (-110)|
For this fictitious matchup between the Ducks and Wolverines, the game listing shows the team names and a series of numbers next to each of them. From left to right, these numbers represent the following: point spread, moneyline, and total odds.
A glance at the line tells us that Michigan is a 3.5-point and the overall favorite and that the game projects to have a decent amount of scoring with the bar set at 52.5 points.
After the public begins weighing in, it’s not uncommon to see some movement in the bowl game odds and lines. For example, a rush of point spread bets on Oregon plus the 3.5 points could lead the spread to be adjusted by a half-point or more. The odds attached to that bet could also shift based on the action.
The same applies to the moneyline and total. If we use the former as an example, a good amount of action on the Oregon side could lead the moneyline odds to be adjusted to something like this.
Oddsmakers have responded to the public’s assessment of the game by adjusting the odds. The Ducks side of the equation has been made less attractive, while the odds for Michigan have improved in terms of the potential return for successful bets.
This is done in a bid to even out the action a bit more to the sportsbooks’ liking. If they wind up too lopsided on a game, that opens up a greater liability on their end. Since the operators are for-profit entities, steps are taken to avoid that.
The movement in the college bowl odds and lines can tell you a lot about the public sentiment on a game, so it certainly bears watching. Also, keep in mind that the numbers aren’t necessarily the same at each book. As part of your handicapping process, take the time to check out the offerings at multiple operators to find the best prices on the games.
For each game on the docket, you’ll have some different options to consider. The main bet types will see tons of action, and clicking on the ‘more wagers’ option in the individual game listings will open up even more possibilities.
Here’s a rundown of the most popular bet types, starting with the big three.
The moneyline bet is one of the most straightforward wagers you’ll come across. All you need to do is pick the winner out of the favorite and underdog, which are represented by negative and positive odds respectively.
For a spread wager, oddsmakers install several points that need to be accounted for. You can choose the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number. Whichever side you pick has to cover the spread for a winning bet.
This wager is based on the total combined points scored in the contest by the two teams. Sportsbooks set a benchmark number upon the initial release of lines, and bettors then get to decide where they think the total will fall.
As mentioned, there’s lots more to consider. Here are three other types of wagers that generate lots of action at the betting window.
A parlay is a wager in which you include two or more outcomes on a single betting slip. The rewards can be high, but the risk also rises with each selection added. For example, you could place a parlay bet on three moneyline picks.
Props are found under the ‘more wagers’ link in the individual game listings. These are side bets on things that might happen during the game or at its conclusion. Here are some examples of what you might come across.
The bowl game schedule is once again jam-packed. From the end of December through early January, we have 40+ postseason contests to potentially look forward to. The exact dates and start times are still being finalized for many of the contests, but the locations are set. Let’s take a look.
|Dec. 19, 2020||FBC Mortgage Cure Bowl||Orlando, FL||TBD||CBSSN|
|Dec. 29, 2020||Valero Alamo Bowl||San Antonio, TX||TBD||ESPN|
|Dec. 30, 2020||Goodyear Cotton Bowl||Arlington, TX||TBD||ESPN|
|Dec. 32, 2020||Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl||El Paso, TX||2 p.m. ET||CBS|
|Jan. 1, 2021||Vrbo Citrus Bowl||Orlando, FL||1 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Jan. 1, 2021||Outback Bowl||Tampa, FL||1 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Jan. 1, 2021||Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl||Atlanta, GA||4 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Jan. 1, 2021||Rose Bowl Game||Pasadena, CA||5 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Jan. 1, 2021||Allstate Sugar Bowl||New Orleans, LA||8:45 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|Jan. 2, 2021||PlayStation Fiesta Bowl||Glendale, AZ||TBD||ESPN|
|Jan. 2, 2021||Capital One Orange Bowl||Miami Gardens, FL||TBD||ESPN|
|Jan. 11, 2021||CFP National Championship||Miami Gardens, FL||8 p.m. ET||ESPN|
|TBD||Academy Texas Bowl||Houston, TX.||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||AutoZone Liberty Bowl||Memphis, TN||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Bahamas Bowl||Nassau, BA||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Cactus Bowl||Phoenix, AZ||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Camellia Bowl||Montgomery, AL||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Celebration Bowl||Atlanta, GA||TBD||ABC|
|TBD||Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl||Boca Raton, FL||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Duke's Mayo Bowl||Charlotte, NC||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Famous Idaho Potato Bowl||Boise, ID||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Fenway Bowl||Boston, MA||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Gasparilla Bowl||Tampa, FL||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||LA Bowl||Inglewood, CA||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Lending Tree Bowl||Mobile, AL||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Lockheed Armed Forces Bowl||Fort Worth, TX||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Military Bowl||Annapolis, MD||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Mitsubishi Las Vegas Bowl||Las Vegas, NC||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Myrtle Beach Bowl||Conway, SC||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||NOVA Arizona Bowl||Tucson, AZ||TBD||CBSSN|
|TBD||New Era Pinstripe Bowl||Bronx, NY||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||New Mexico Bowl||Albuquerque, NM||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Quick Lane Bowl||Detroit, MI||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||R=L New Orleans Bowl||New Orleans, LA||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Radiance Independence Bowl||Shreveport, LA||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Redbox Bowl||Santa Clara, CA||TBD||Fox|
|TBD||SDCCU Holiday Bowl||San Diego, CA||TBD||Fox|
|TBD||TBD Servpro First Responder Bowl||Dallas, TX||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||TBD SoFi Hawaii Bowl||Honolulu, HA||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||TaxSlayer Gator Bowl||Jacksonville, FL||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl||Birmingham, AL||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||TransPerfect Music City Bowl||Nashville, TN||TBD||ESPN|
|TBD||Tropical Smoothie Frisco Bowl||Frisco, TX||TBD||ESPN|
An invite to a bowl game is a reward for a job well done. As such, teams have to hit a certain mark to gain eligibility. For a standard NCAAF season in which teams play a 12-game schedule, they must at least have as many wins as losses.
Six wins is the magic number. A record of 7-5 or 6-6 gets it done. Also, teams just can’t rack up wins against lower levels of competition and call it day. In general, just one win over an FCS school would count towards bowl eligibility.
Beyond the bowls, there’s also the matter of the College Football Playoffs, which involves the four best teams in the nation as judged by the CFP selection committee. The semifinal matchups take place at two of the marquee bowl games, while the final is a standalone contest.
Polls are a big part of NCAAF from the preseason throughout the regular season, and it’s the same story for the playoffs. At about the midway point of the regular season, the CFP poll starts getting released weekly.
When the final poll comes out after the campaign, the top four squads qualify for the CFP. This poll also has a bearing on the teams that wind up playing in the New Year’s Six Bowls, which are the biggest of the bunch on the postseason menu.
While each bowl game on the docket is special in its own right, some just carry more cache than the others. That’s especially true these days as two of the biggest bowls also serve double duty as CFP games.
The most highly-anticipated bowl games are known as the New Year’s Six. Each of them has a special legacy that has spanned decades. Let’s take a quick look.
The Sugar Bowl is held annually at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in New Orleans, Louisiana. The game traces its roots back to 1935, which makes it one of the oldest bowl games still going strong today. In the last edition, Georgia took down Baylor by a score of 26-14.
Last appearance by local team: 2012 – Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20
The Fiesta Bowl first came our way in 1971 and currently makes its home at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, taking over for Sun Devil Stadium in 2006. The last edition saw Clemson take down Ohio State 29-23 in a CFP semifinal game.
Last appearance by local team: 1986 – Michigan 27, Nebraska 23
The Orange Bowl is also one of the oldest traditions on the menu with the inaugural game taking place back in 1935. The current venue is Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Last season, Florida defeated Virginia by a score of 36-28.
Last appearance by local team: 2016 – Florida State 33, Michigan 32
The Peach Bowl has been held annually in Atlanta, Georgia since 1968. Mercedes-Benz Stadium serves as the current venue, taking over for the Georgia Dome in 2016. At the last one, LSU beat Oklahoma by a score of 63-28 in a CFP semifinal game.
Last appearance by local team: 2018 – Florida 41, Michigan 15
Known as ‘The Granddaddy of Them All,’ the Rose Bowl has been held annually since 1916. The appropriately named Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California serves as the location. Last time out, Oregon beat Wisconsin by a score of 28-27.
Last appearance by local team: 2014 – Michigan State 24, Stanford 20
Held annually at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, the Cotton Bowl has a history that spans back to 1937. The Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas was the previous home until 2009. Penn State beat Memphis 53-39 in the last contest.
Last appearance by local team: 2017 – Wisconsin 24, Western Michigan 16
You can apply many of the same tenets you would use for handicapping the NCAAF regular season to bowl games. You want to examine the matchup in full detail, as well as performance against any common opponents they may have faced during the season.
Also, there are a few specific things you’ll want to keep a close eye on as you break down the bowl games.
The two biggest programs here at home, Michigan and Michigan State, have quite the storied record for bowl season. The Wolverines check in with a mark of 21-27 through 48 postseason games, while it’s 13-16 for the Spartans through 29 bowls.
The two programs have had some memorable games over the years, but some have naturally stood out more than others. They’ve also both faced off with other major programs at times. Let’s take a look.
The roots of college football in the state of Michigan go back to the late 1800s. While the two marquee programs capture much of the attention, there’s a trio of smaller schools that have quite the following as well. Here are some of the key details on each.
The 2019 season began with high hopes for Michigan football, which entered the campaign as one of the favorites to win the Big Ten. After opening up with wins over Army and Middle Tennessee, the Wolverines went on the road and got smoked by Wisconsin to the tune of 35-14.
Three victories followed, but a road trip to Penn State delivered another loss, this one by a score of 28-21. Michigan put together a four-game winning streak from there, but Ohio State had their number in the regular-season finale with a convincing 56-27 victory.
There was no Big Ten crown or CFP berth for the Wolverines, which closed out the season at 9-3. They were matched up with Alabama in the Citrus Bowl, falling to the Crimson Tide by a score of 35-16.
The Spartans entered 2019 as a potential dark horse contender in the Big Ten. After two big wins to open the season, the team was ranked 18th in the nation. A loss to Arizona State in the third game was a wake-up call, but Michigan State didn’t answer the bell.
After picking up victories over Northwestern and Indiana, the Spartans dropped their next five in a row with four of the losses coming against ranked conference foes. The team saved some pride to close out the year with two wins to finish at 6-6.
The Spartans were invited to the Pinstripe Bowl to square off with Wake Forest. After a challenging campaign, the club managed to close out on a high note with a 27-21 win. Mark D’Antonio resigned as head coach a few weeks later with Mel Tucker hired to take his place.
It was the middle of the road campaign for the three smaller Michigan programs. Here’s how each of them finished up.
Eastern Michigan Eagles
Central Michigan Chippewas
Western Michigan Broncos
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
Jim Harbaugh took over as Michigan head coach in 2015. While the team has been competitive under his watch, they have yet to get over the hump in the Big Ten. The bowl game record for the Wolverines over that span also leaves a lot to be desired. Since beating Florida in the Citrus Bowl in 2016, Michigan has dropped four bowl games in a row, including a defeat to Alabama in last year’s Citrus Bowl. Harbaugh’s postseason record at Michigan is just 1-4.
The Wolverines have an all-time mark of 8-12 in the Rose Bowl. The program made regular appearances in ‘The Granddaddy of Them All’ from the 1970s through the early 2000s, but it has been a while since the last trip. That came back in 2007 when Michigan fell to USC by a score of 32-18.
It has been a while since either program has turned the trick, but the Spartans were the last of the two to pull it off. Michigan State last won the crown in 2015, finishing up with an overall mark of 12-2 and a record of 7-1 in conference play. The team matched up with Alabama in a CFP semifinal game at the Cotton Bowl, losing by a score of 38-0. Michigan’s last title came in 2004 when they matched Iowa with a 7-1 mark in Big Ten play. The Wolverines finished the year with an overall mark of 9-3, losing to Texas in the Rose Bowl by a score of 38-37.
The number has been steadily climbing through the years and has exploded since the turn of the century. For the 2020 campaign, there are a whopping 43 bowl games scheduled, including the national title game. The games are popular attractions both on the tube and from a wagering perspective, and interest is only expected to grow in the coming years as more and more states legalize sports betting.
The vaunted New Year’s Six bowl games, Cotton, Fiesta, Rose, Orange, Peach, and Sugar, are considered the biggest, and they tend to be the most popular attractions as well. In recent years, the games which have also served as CFP semifinal contests have been the biggest draws. For the 2020 season, the Rose Bowl and Sugar Bowl have the honors on that front. Both of those contests are scheduled for Jan. 1, 2021.