Get college football best bets for the Monday slate including expert predictions for this year’s College Football Playoff games. This article features an analysis of Liberty vs. Oregon, Iowa vs. Tennessee, Alabama vs. Michigan, and Washington vs. Texas.
College Football Monday 1/1 Bowl Game Best Bets
We’re onto bowl season in college football, and the Monday slate this week is loaded with juicy matchups. In this article, our staff has you covered with our favorite bets of the day. Check out the Lineups YouTube page where we break down every bowl game in detail. Let’s get to work.
Jacob Wayne’s Record: 30-32-1 (-3.3 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 19-17-1 (+0.3 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 29-11-1 (+17.1 units)
Fiesta Bowl – Liberty vs. Oregon
Oregon didn’t expect to be here. They were expected to be playing in the Rose Bowl against Michigan or the Sugar Bowl against Texas. Instead, they failed to best their rival Washington for the second time this season in the Pac-12 Championship, and they find themselves in Tempe for this game against Liberty, a plucky 13-0 team from C-USA.
Liberty earned the prestigious NY6 spot awarded to the top Group of Five team of the season, and Jamey Chadwell led them to an undefeated record in his first year as head coach. However, it’s easy to poke holes in this team’s resume. Liberty played the easiest schedule in the country by FPI, picking on an incredibly weak Conference USA slate.
The Flames have some impressive season-long offensive metrics, rivaling Oregon as one of the most efficient offenses in the country – Oregon is 2nd in EPA/play, Liberty is 3rd. Quarterback Kaidon Salter lit up the C-USA with 43 total touchdowns. I’m not convinced this offense will be productive against Oregon, however.
Liberty struggled with pass protection even with their incredibly weak schedule, ranking 88th in PFF pass-blocking grades. When Salter was under pressure, his numbers fell off a cliff. His 60.7% completion rate dropped to 37.5% and his 10.3 yards per attempt dropped to 7.4. Oregon ranked fourth in tackling this season, and they should be able to slow down Liberty’s dynamic rushing attack on early downs to force Salter into third-and-long situations.
Meanwhile, I have no idea how Liberty gets any stops in this game. Quarterback Bo Nix and running back Bucky Irving have announced they will play in this game for Oregon before heading off to the NFL, and they’ll lead the best offense in the country by success rate. Liberty had few answers for Diego Pavia in the C-USA championship – imagine what Nix will do to this defense.
Ultimately, this game represents a massive mismatch. Oregon should bully Liberty at the lines of scrimmage and dominate on early downs on both sides of the ball. Salter is a good enough quarterback to generate some explosive plays for Liberty, but they won’t find sustained drives. Meanwhile, Oregon should have no problem generating methodical drives against this defense with Nix and Irving on the field.
Best Bet: Oregon -16.5
Citrus Bowl – Iowa vs. Tennessee
In direct contrast to what’s expected to be a scoring fest in the Fiesta bowl comes the Citrus Bowl, which could be a snoozer. Iowa and Tennessee are currently lined with an over/under of 36 points, and I don’t believe it’s low enough. If that sounds crazy to you, I understand, but check out this stat from Evan Abrams:
Iowa has played 14 games in the last 20 years where the over/under was 36 or less.
The under is now 12-1-1 in those games, cashing in 11 straight 📉 pic.twitter.com/QLQ30PAtwf
— Evan Abrams (@EvanHAbrams) December 3, 2023
When the sportsbooks set the Iowa total low, we go lower. For the season, Iowa is 11-2 to the under, and in all 11 of those games, they would have gone under this total of 36. You don’t often see totals this low in college football, but you don’t often see teams like Iowa.
The Hawkeyes had a clear plan to improve their offense. They transferred in former Michigan quarterback Cade McNamara and his tight end Erick All to pair with star Luke Lachey. Then all three got hurt, and an already underwhelming offense cratered to one of the worst we’ve seen in recent years. Iowa ranks 131st in EPA/play and success rate on that end while scoring 16.6 points per game, the third-fewest in the country.
They’ve reached 10 wins thanks to a dominant defense that held opponents to 13.2 points per game, the fourth-fewest in the country. Iowa ranked third in overall defensive EPA/play and displayed incredible fundamental integrity with third-ranked tackling and coverage units per PFF. Paired with Tory Taylor, one of the best punters in college football history, and this team absolutely smothers opposing offenses.
Tennessee will be starting true freshman quarterback Nico Iamaleava in this game, and while his five-star traits are tantalizing, he’s being thrown to the wolves here. Without running back Jaylen Wright and wide receivers Don’te Thornton and Bru McCoy, it’s going to be an uphill battle for him to find consistent success, especially in a Josh Heupel offense heavily reliant on timing and precision.
Let’s start the new year off right with an Iowa under in a game with a total of 36 points. It’s the right thing to do.
Best Bet: Under 36 Points
Rose Bowl – Alabama vs. Michigan
My colleagues did a great job of breaking down the Sugar Bowl below, and you can find my full thoughts on the Rose Bowl in my in-depth matchup preview, but I wanted to give you a brief overview of my favorite bet in the game, which is over 44.5 points. Let’s break down why the total is the way to go in this Semi Final game.
With the second-slowest offense in the country and a top 20 rush play rate, Michigan spent most of this season sitting on huge leads against inferior opponents. However, I believe we’re going to see them open up the playbook in the Rose Bowl. Alabama’s defense has shown vulnerabilities against the pass at various points that J.J. McCarthy is poised to exploit.
In Alabama’s loss to Texas, Quinn Ewers completed eight passes of 10+ yards downfield for 255 yards and three touchdowns. LSU’s Jayden Daniels had three big-time throws on 20+ yard throws before leaving the game with an injury. McCarthy didn’t throw the deep ball often this year, but he’s quite good at it – he ranked third with an adjusted completion rate of 59.1% on 20+ yard throws.
McCarthy’s improved health will be huge in this game. The ankle injury clearly hampered him to close out the season, but now that he’s fully healthy, he’s a threat to pick up big plays on the ground and extend plays in the pocket. We’ve seen it from him in big games in the past, most notably in Michigan’s win over Ohio State last season.
Michigan should also have success running inside power with Blake Corum and Donovan Edwards. Alabama was most vulnerable against the interior run, and that was a huge reason Auburn nearly pulled off an outright upset over them – Jarquez Hunter and Damari Alston combined for 178 yards at a 7.4 YPC clip despite Payton Thorne offering little threat in the passing game.
Alabama’s offense can also test Michigan’s defense in ways it hasn’t seen this season. Jalen Milroe has been one of the deep ball passers in the country this year with 24 big-time throws to no turnover-worthy plays, and he’s a constant threat with his legs. Michigan will attempt to contain him in the pocket and limit the big plays, but his growing confidence and chemistry with Tommy Rees have raised the ceiling of the Alabama offense.
Ultimately, this total is priced too low at 44.5 given the upside both offenses possess in this game. McCarthy and Milroe can both pose threats as runners and passers, and we should expect Michigan’s pace and pass play rate to pick up in this game after spending the entire season nursing big leads. I’m betting on this game turning into a sneaky shootout between two undervalued offenses.
Best Bet: Over 44.5 Points
Sugar Bowl – Washington vs. Texas
What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? That question has been asked for centuries and we may finally get that answer when the Michael Penix Jr led Washington Huskies face off against the Longhorns defense. Both dominant units in their own right, now battling it out to get one step closer to a national championship.
Starting with the Longhorns defense, their front seven may very well be the best unit in all of college football. Possessing NFL level talent at nearly every spot, the Longhorns are more than equipped to slow down the Washington attack. Especially if the Huskies try to run the ball, going against a wall that ranks top-10 in Def Rush Success Rate, PPA, and Explosiveness.
Unfortunately for the Longhorns, Washington’s true offensive excellence resides on the arm of Michael Penix and their methodical pass attack. Penix Jr has drastically turned around his career since joining the Huskies, leading them to passing marks of sixth in Pass Success Rate and eighth in Pass PPA.
Their offense can be labeled as methodical as they rank 96th in Pass Explosiveness, relying more on Penix’s ability to pinpoint the ball and shred opposing gaps in coverage. That bodes well for a Longhorn secondary who excels against the short throw but can be beat deep at an alarming rate.
That isn’t to say that Penix will not take his shots downfield when the Texas secondary gets caught selling out to defend the short throw, yet the front sevens ability to generate pressure will force the ball out of Penix’s hands quicker than he would like. That most likely calls for stalled out drives on the Huskies end, slowing the scoring pace in favor of the under.
As for Texas and how their offense shapes out, expect a heavy dose of the run as they come into this contest with massive advantages in that department. The Longhorns rank 38th in Rush PPA, a massive difference against the Huskies 125th ranked metric when defending against it. Better yet, Texas actually dips to 69th in Rush Success Rate, meaning mid field success has come at an inconsistent rate which makes them prone to stalled out drives as well.
Should Washington get out to a lead early, the Longhorns may have to revert to a heavier pass attack. Like Penix Jr, Quinn Ewers thrives with the short throw with a low Explosiveness rating. That means more methodical clock draining drives, all playing towards a high total with value pointing towards the under.
Best Bet: Under 64
Sugar Bowl – Washington vs. Texas
When a team that hasn’t lost all year is an underdog, you have to take notice. Washington picked up their first “upset” win of the year against Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game, and they’ll look to do the same against Texas.
The Huskies are being overlooked once again, despite their status as the first-ever undefeated Pac-12 champion, in one of the strongest years for the conference. Their EPA per play of +0.17 has them ranked just 23rd in the nation, compared to 12th for Texas, but it’s not an opponent-adjusted stat, and the Huskies played a much tougher schedule.
Washington has a few key advantages that should set them apart in this one. The Huskies’ greatest strength is their receiving personnel; the trio of Rome Odunze, Ja’Lynn Polk and Jalen McMillan. They should be able to absolutely dust a Texas secondary that ranks outside of the top-50 in the country as per PFF; they certainly got the job done, twice, against an Oregon group that ranks 20th by the same metric. On the other side of the ball, Texas’s receiving group is a talented bunch as well, but PFF ranks the Washington secondary as the country’s 15th-best.
On a very similar note, winning this game is going to require big plays. Both teams have the ability to find them, we saw Texas hit several in their tremendous win at Alabama, but Washington should be able to do so more reliably. Huskies quarterback Michael Penix Jr. is one of the best deep ball passers in the country, racking up an adjusted completion rate of 48% on those throws, while Texas’s Quinn Ewers has earned a solid but less spectacular mark of 32.5%. Ewers trails Penix in big time throw rate and has a higher turnover-worthy play rate; in a game that could very well be decided on the margins, Penix is much more likely to make the key throws.
Washington’s biggest weakness is their run defense, but Texas may not have the opportunity to take advantage. If the Huskies keep scoring and pushing the pace, the Longhorns will have to match their efforts and put the ball in the air. Similarly, Texas will have a bit of an advantage, although it’s definitely less distinct, whenever Washington tries to run the ball.
However, due to the mismatches the Huskies can exploit in the back end of the Longhorns’ defense, this may never become a factor; Kalen DeBoer is a good enough gameplanner to strategize an effective offense that doesn’t lean on the run. Overall, Washington should be able to emphasize their strengths and escape their weaknesses, while the latter will be on full display for Texas.
Best Bet: Washington ML (+158)