College Football Best Bets: Saturday 12/17 NCAAF Bowl Game Predictions & Picks

Saturday kicks off a slate of College Football Bowl games. Get College Football best bets for Florida Vs. Oregon State, Washington State Vs. Fresno State, Rice Vs. Southern Miss, Boise State Vs. North Texas.

College Football Best Bets: Saturday 12/17/22

Bowl season is officially upon us! The slate of bowl games this year is fantastic, and I’ll be providing coverage throughout the season on my favorite bets on the board. My final regular season college football record is shown below, and I’ll be tracking my bowl plays separately. Check out the Lineups YouTube channel for further coverage of every bowl game this year. Let’s get to work and find our College Football best bets.

College Football Best Bets 2022 Record: 167.5-138.5-4 (54.7%)

Las Vegas Bowl: Florida Gators vs. Oregon State Beavers Best Bets

Florida got hit hard by opt-outs and transfer portal entrants this bowl season. Quarterback Anthony Richardson was the big one, particularly with backup passer Jalen Ketna arrested on child pornography charges. Jack Miller will get the start, but that isn’t as bad of news as you might expect.

Miller is a former heavily recruited four-star recruit who had been committed to Ohio State, and he was 247’s 13th-ranked pro style quarterback in the 2020 class. I love some of what I’ve been reading about Miller, and it sounds like his teammates are fully bought in. He’s expected to be the team’s starting passer next season.

Florida will be able to support Miller with its run game led by Montrell Johnson Jr. and Trevor Etienne. They combined for 1,532 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns during the regular season. Oregon State ranks outside the top 80 in rushing EPA and success rate allowed, so the Gators should be able to run the ball.

The Beavers will also be able to run the ball in this game. Damien Martinez is expected to play after leaving the game against Oregon with a leg injury, but even if he isn’t at 100%, this is a deep and talented backfield.

The Gators’ defense ranks outside the top 100 teams in the FBS in rushing EPA and explosiveness, and they’ve allowed 179.5 rushing yards per game. Oregon State, who runs the ball at the 12th-highest rate in the country, will have success.

However, the Beavers are facing a step up in competition here, as I don’t think anyone would argue the SEC is in a different class than the Pac 12. While several front seven players will be absent for Florida, stud defensive tackle Gervon Dexter will solidify the middle of the defense.

I need the full ten points to make this an official play, and if you don’t have that number accessible, I’ll be waiting for that number or better live. There’s a good chance Florida starts slow given Miller’s inexperience, but they won’t go down without a fight. If you’re feeling frisky, throw a Moneyline sprinkle here.

College Football Best Bets: Florida +10 or better (can wait and play it live)

Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl: Washington State Cougars vs. Fresno State Bulldogs Best Bets

Jake Haener is poise. Moxy. Bravada. He’s the underdog story everybody needs and nobody deserves. And on Saturday, he’s playing in his final college football game.

It’s been an up and down year for Haener. During a Week 3 game at the Coliseum against USC, he was carted off the field with an ankle injury, and we wondered if the senior quarterback would ever suit up again.

However, he returned to the field on October 29 against San Diego State, and the Bulldogs are 6-0 since his return. In those six games, Haener has thrown for 1,762 yards and has 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions.

In Washington State’s final game of the season, they allowed Michael Penix Jr. to throw for 485 yards. While they rank top 50 in EPA and success rate against the pass, they’ve been vulnerable at times, and they’re under difficult circumstances here.

The Cougars enter this game without defensive coordinator Brian Ward after he accepted the same position at Arizona State, and they’re also down Travion Brown and Francisco Mauigoa, two of their top six leading tacklers.

While Haener was out earlier this season, Fresno State learned how to be more of a run-heavy team. Jordan Mims finished the year with 1,163 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns, and he’ll be ready to take advantage of that weakened linebacker corps.

Cameron Ward was one of the most hyped transfers before the season, but he’s been pretty average as a passer. The Cougars rank 2nd in pass play rate but just 105th in EPA and 72nd in success rate.

Ward will be without receivers De’Zhaun Stribling and Donovan Ollie, who combined for over 30% of Ward’s completions this year, as both entered the transfer portal. They combined for over 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns.

Fresno State’s secondary improved as the season went on, particularly once safety Evan Williams returned, and they rank 16th in PFF’s coverage grades. They also rank 43rd in passing success rate allowed, and Ward will likely have some difficulties.

Head coach Jeff Tedford talked about how the Bulldogs wanted to play in this game at SoFi as several of their players are from Southern California. They have a significant coaching edge in terms of continuity as Washington State head coach Jake Dickert will be without both of his coordinators.

SoFi Stadium will house a pro-Fresno State crowd as their fans travel well, and the Bulldogs are likely the more motivated team in this situation. I’ll back the Bulldogs with Haener under center one last time.

College Football Best Bets: Fresno State -3 (play to -3.5 at -120)

LendingTree Bowl: Rice Owls vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles Best Bets

The Southern Miss defense is nicknamed the Nasty Bunch, and man have they been nasty. They rank 14th in success rate and 23rd in EPA, while allowing just 23.5 points per game, which ranks 44th in the FBS.

Rice limped to the finish line this season with losses in four of their final five games to finish with a 5-7 record, and the only reason they’re bowl eligible is because they had the highest Academic Progress Rating of all five-win teams.

The Owls have dealt with significant injury issues this season, most notably to quarterbacks Wiley Green and T.J. McMahon. With those two expected to be out, A.J. Padgett has been taking first-team reps under center in practices.

Padgett has completed just 50% of his limited pass attempts this season, and he’ll be under heavy fire in this game. Rice ranks 119th in havoc allowed and 97th in sack rate allowed while Southern Miss ranks 34th in defensive havoc and 8th in sack rate.

While star wide receiver Luke McCaffrey is expected to return after missing the final three games of the regular season, he’ll be facing a star-studded secondary featuring all-conference safety Jay Stanley.

Offensively, Southern Miss hasn’t been fantastic, but they can get some scoring going in this game. Trey Lowe has an elite 92.6 PFF passing grade on passes between 10 and 19 yards, and that area of the field will be open against a secondary that’s ranked 105th in coverage by PFF.

Much of the Golden Eagles’ offense revolves around explosive passing set up by play action. That hinges on running back Frank Gore Jr., who has over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns. He’s also been used as a Wildcat passer at times with seven passing touchdowns over the last two seasons.

With that play-action pass game, Southern Miss ranks 17th in pass play explosiveness. Rice ranks 114th defensively in that regard. While the Golden Eagles’ offense isn’t consistently productive, they’ll find chunk passing plays in this game.

The spread for this game should be over seven points in favor of Southern Miss, and the only logical explanation that I have for that not being the case is that there isn’t a high ticket count here. Nevertheless, we’re getting value under the key number here, and I’ll lay it with the Golden Eagles.

College Football Best Bets: Southern Miss -6 (play to -6.5)

Frisco Bowl: Boise State Broncos vs. North Texas Mean Green Best Bets

Boise State opened as low as a 5.5-point favorite here, but the line quickly ballooned out to the current number of 10.5 points. We’ve seen some market pushback at that number towards North Texas, but I’m not totally sold on picking a side ATS.

However, I see plenty of value on the over in this game. Boise State scored just 16 points in the Mountain West Championship against Fresno State, but they generated 321 yards of offense. That result was rather uncharacteristic, though, as they averaged just under 35 points in their final eight games.

There were two catalysts for their offensive improvement. First, starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier was benched, and the Broncos’ offense surged with dual-threat Taylen Green under center. In addition, Dirk Koetter took over as the interim offensive coordinator.

Boise State’s improved run-heavy offense should be highly successful this week. North Texas ranks outside the top 120 in the FBS in rushing EPA and success rate allowed, and they coughed up 186 rushing yards per game. With George Holani back at practice after suffering a shoulder injury, the Broncos’ run game should hum.

The advanced defensive metrics are very kind to Boise State, but they’re misleading. They lead the country in passing downs success rate, and they rank top 12 in overall EPA, success rate, and finishing drives on defense.

However, they picked apart the bottom of the Mountain West, which was full of poor passing offenses. Even still, the Broncos ranked 121st in pass play explosiveness allowed as they were consistently vulnerable to chunk plays through the air.

If there’s any remaining strength of this North Texas team, it’s their explosive passing offense. They rank 10th in pass play explosiveness and Austin Aune averaged 8.7 yards per completion. Aune has 12 touchdowns this year on passes 20+ yards downfield.

In Aune’s final college football game, we can expect North Texas to turn it loose. Seth Litrell was fired at the end of the season and defensive coordinator Phil Bennett takes over as the interim head coach, but that doesn’t mean the identity of this pass-heavy offense will change.

If you missed this play earlier in the week, you can still play it at 59.5. However, 59 is a relatively key number, and it’s not the worst idea to wait for a better number in the live market. Either way, I’m expecting plenty of points to be scored in the Frisco Bowl.

College Football Best Bets: Over 57.5 points (play to 59.5)

I've been a huge sports fan for as long as I can remember and I've always loved writing. In 2020, I joined the Lineups team, and I've been producing written and video content on football and basketball ever since. In May 2021, I graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in sport management. My goal is to tell enthralling stories and provide meaningful insight on the sports I write about while helping you cash some bets along the way.

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