Get college football best bets for the Saturday slate. This article features an analysis of Auburn vs. Maryland, Georgia vs. Florida State, and Ole Miss vs. Penn State.
College Football Saturday 12/30 Bowl Game Best Bets
We’re onto bowl season in college football, and the Saturday 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: 30-31-1 (-2.2 units)
Kody Malstrom’s Record: 19-16-1 (+1.4 units)
Will Schwartz’s Record: 28-11-1 (+16.1 units)
Music City Bowl – Auburn vs. Maryland
The scope of this game changed when Maryland quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa, the Big Ten’s all-time leading passer, opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft. The Terrapins will start Billy Edwards Jr. at quarterback, and he’s getting an opportunity to prove he should be the starter next season. Edwards led the team with six rushing touchdowns this season, including three against Michigan in a narrow loss on November 18.
Tight end Corey Dyches is a big loss – he ranked second on the team with 49 receptions – but Maryland was tied for the FBS lead with four different receivers with 40+ catches this season. Wide receivers Jeshaun Jones and Tai Felton both averaged over 1.9 yards per route run this season, and they’re well positioned to take advantage of a secondary down key pieces.
Cornerbacks D.J. James and Nehemiah Pritchett have opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft, and James is a huge loss in particular – he was 10th in PFF’s coverage grades at the position this season. Auburn will also be without star defensive tackle Marcus Harris, perhaps providing some more opportunities for Maryland to run the ball with Edwards and running back Roman Hemby.
Maryland will be without its top cornerback Tarheeb Still, who has opted out, but Auburn doesn’t exactly have a prolific passing attack. Payton Thorne, a former Michigan State quarterback who Maryland is quite familiar with, averaged just 7.0 yards per attempt. The Tigers ranked just 92nd in passing EPA/play this season and will be without Ja’Varrius Johnson, who led the team with 18.3 yards per reception.
From a motivational standpoint, it’s tough to know how excited Auburn will be for this game with the way their season ended on that last gasp Hail Mary from Alabama’s Jalen Milroe. Auburn didn’t have a win all season over a team with a winning record, and Maryland finished 7-5 with the seventh-toughest schedule in the country per FPI. I’ll take the points with the Terrapins with a spread that’s overinflated due to the absence of Tagovailoa.
Best Bet: Maryland +6.5
Orange Bowl – Georgia vs. Florida State
The spread for the Orange Bowl has been climbing as we get closer to kickoff, and it’s easy to understand why when you look at the opt outs on the Florida State side. The Seminoles finished this season 13-0 with an ACC Championship win, and it was their first undefeated season since 1999. However, they were spurned in their hopes of making the College Football Playoff, and 12 starters have opted out of this game, including all of the following:
- RB Trey Benson
- WR Johnny Wilson
- WR Keon Coleman
- TE Jaheim Bell
- OT Bless Harris
- ED Jared Verse
- DL Fabien Lovett
- DL Joshua Farmer
- DL Malcolm Ray
- LB DJ Lundy
- CB Jarrian Jones
- CB Renardo Green
Florida State will also be without quarterbacks Jordan Travis (injury) and Tate Rodemaker (transfer), leaving freshman Brock Glenn to get the start. Glenn completed just 10 of 25 passes in mop up duty this season with a putrid 3.6 yards per attempt, and he’ll be thrown into the fire here against an elite Georgia defense without all of the top supporting talent in this Noles offense.
Georgia, meanwhile, retains a ton of talent as most of its best players are not draft eligible this year. Quarterback Carson Beck was draft eligible, but he announced he’ll return for another season after an excellent season with 3,738 passing yards and 22 touchdowns. He’ll be facing a Florida State pass defense missing its top two corners in Jones and Green as well as top pass rusher Verse.
Kirby Smart is a master motivator, as evidenced by his stellar 7-3 ATS bowl record, and he said his team is “trying to play to our standard.” If that’s true, this skeleton crew Florida State team will be no contest for Georgia. The CFP committee essentially told the Noles their season doesn’t matter, and their players have responded as such. Mike Norvell will do his best to prepare the team, but it’s hard to imagine them keeping pace here.
Georgia’s 12 wins this season came by an average of just under 24 points per game, and they would have been 7-5 against a 19.5-point spread over the full season. I’d take Georgia up to -21 in this game, and I wouldn’t be shocked if they win by 40+ points here given all of the off-field factors in play here.
Best Bet: Georgia -19.5
Kody’s Two Team Moneyline Parlay
In a weekend full of large spreads and totals that have drastically shifted from the opener, value is starting to run thin as we near Saturday’s kickoff. Penn State has also seen a shift from the opening number, opening at -3 and getting bet up to -4.5. That zaps value out of the current spread, yet they still pose as an intriguing team for a different betting angle.
That betting angle is tying in their moneyline with another short favorite, getting to cut through the juice on two teams I believe are in a position to win. This helps avoid getting burned by the hook on a dead number, just needing both Penn State and the Texas Longhorns to win outright.
Starting with Penn State, they shockingly bring a good amount of continuity into a high profile bowl game against Ole Miss. The Rebels are following suit as of writing, meaning both teams metrics are pretty concrete heading into the matchup which helps handicap this game.
The continuity bodes well for Penn State’s offense as they are in a position to take advantage of a weak Rebels front seven. Ole Miss ranks below average in Def Rush Success Rate, Def Rush EPA, and Def Rush Explosiveness, being prone to getting beat at every level of the field. That sets up their pass attack for Drew Allar to stretch the field, using an all around attack to stay ahead of the sticks.
On the other side of the ball for the Nittany Lions, this unit remains elite with next level talent at every level of the defense. Every ounce of that production will be called upon against a well rounded Rebel offense while also having a massive advantage in the Havoc department. Penn State ranks first in Havoc while Ole Miss ranks 85th in Havoc Allowed, bringing a high chance for a back breaking turnover in PSU’s favor.
As for Texas, they take on the high powered Washington offense in the CFB Semi Finals. A contest where they have massive advantages when on offense, getting the opportunity to dominate time of possession with their ground attack against a weak Huskies front seven. Washington ranks 129th in Def Rush Success Rate and 125th in Def Rush EPA.
As for the Longhorns defense, they boast the best front seven in football who will play a major part in their efforts of pulling this out. The Washington ground game will be held to practically nothing while the Texas front four routinely collapses the pocket to help limit Michael Penix Jr. At -4.5, Texas makes for the perfect compliment to tie in with Penn State in a two team moneyline parlay.
Best Bet: Penn State / Texas Moneyline Parlay
Peach Bowl – Ole Miss vs Penn State
With the exception of a few key figures, like star Penn State edge rusher Chop Robinson who is heading to the NFL, this bowl has thankfully been less hampered by transfers, opt-outs and injuries than others. That leaves two great teams intact for a fascinating matchup, one that should feature plenty of points.
Most specifically, the offenses are generally going to be at full force, as Robinson is by far the biggest opt-out. He’s just one player, but as we’ve seen against some of the best teams in the country, his presence can meaningfully change the script of a game, so his absence is not one to be taken lightly.
With or without opt-outs, these are some strong offenses, especially the Lane Kiffin-led Ole Miss attack. With transfer QB Jaxson Dart at the helm, the Rebels were a top-20 unit in the country in terms of EPA on pass plays, while running back Quinshon Judkins had another great year with over 1,000 yards and 15 touchdowns.
Penn State’s defense is one of the best in the country, especially against the run, but they haven’t faced many multifaceted, dynamic attacks like the Mississippi offense. Michigan would be the closest comparison, and the Wolverines hung 24 points on the Nittany Lions without even the brilliant football innovation popularized by Knute Rockne, the forward pass. Ole Miss will hit Penn State with more pace and variety they’ve seen all year, and it should open things up for them.
On the other side of the ball, Penn State will be ecstatic to escape the stout defenses of the Big Ten and face an Ole Miss unit that has often been eviscerated by elite offenses. They allowed 52 points to Georgia, 35 to Texas A&M, and 49 to LSU, showing the potential for top teams to run up the score against them.
Of course, in today’s era of college football, and more specifically bowl season, we need to evaluate motivation. As evidenced by the relatively low number of transfers and opt-outs, both of these two teams should be fired up and ready to go. James Franklin needs every big win he can get, as he struggles year after year to defeat the top teams in his own conference.
On the opposite sideline, Lane Kiffin seemingly always has something to prove. In year four, he has a chance to win the first New Year’s Six bowl for Ole Miss since Hugh Freeze, Chad Kelly, and the rest of the Rebels topped Oklahoma State in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Day 2016.
Both offenses should have plenty of opportunities to move the ball and score, providing us with a great football-viewing experience. The number of 48.5 gives us access to three of the four most significant totals in college football, providing us with a great opportunity to find value amidst all of the on-field action.
Best Bet: Over 48.5