And just like that, we are deep in the heart of the 2022-23 Bowl Season in College Football.
The three-day span from Dec. 27-29 will include a whopping 11 games, with destinations ranging from San Diego to New York and Orlando, with plenty in between. As was the case when we kicked off bowl season, traditional games and matchups will be rekindled this week, while new chapters will also be written.
Our College Football staff at NBC Sports EDGE continue to offer insight on each of the 42 bowl games being played, offering their favorite plays on everything from sides and totals to player props. The group includes Eric Froton (@CFFroton), Vaughn Dalzell (@VMoneySports), Brad Thomas (@MrBradThomas) and Zachary Krueger (@ZK_FFB). This is the third installment and it includes the games from Dec. 27-29, with each segment covering about a quarter of the bowl season (you can view plays and writeups from the first two segments here and here). And yes, we are keeping score - so tail (or fade) as you see fit.
Current Bowl Season (ATS) Records:
Zach Krueger: 17-11
Eric Froton: 14-14
Vaughn Dalzell: 13-15-1
Brad Thomas: 11-17
Buffalo Bulls vs. Georgia Southern Eagles (-3.5) (Over/Under 66.5)
Kickoff: December 27 at 12 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Cramton Bowl – Montgomery, Alabama
Bowl Histories: Buffalo 2-3, Georgia Southern 3-1
Series History: This is the first-ever matchup between these two schools.
Note: This is the second Camellia Bowl appearance for both teams. Georgia Southern beat Eastern Michigan (23-21) in 2018, while Buffalo beat Marshall (17-10) in 2020.
Vaughn Dalzell: Georgia Southern -3.5
This is a battle of two 6-6 teams that want to finish the season with a winning record.
I think the MAC might have been slightly overrated this season and Buffalo losing three of its past four doesn't make me feel any differently.
Buffalo beat Akron in the season finale, 23-22, to earn bowl eligibility and Akron was 2-9 entering that game. For Georgia Southern, they lost three-straight before beating App State 51-48 in OT to earn its bowl bid.
The Eagles' defense is ranked 11th in red zone defense (74.1%) and the Bulls' defense comes in a 88th (.860). Other than that, I see this being a close game, but if Georgia Southern can get touchdowns over field goals, I will take the Eagles at -3.5.
Brad Thomas: Georgia Southern -3.5
This is a fun game to monitor because ex-Buffalo QB Kyle Vantrease faces off against his old team. The senior QB has had a solid season throwing for 3,901 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. This isn't the Georgia Southern of old. No more triple option. Clay Helton has done a great job turning this offense around. I'm backing the better team and better offense in this one. The Eagles aren't particularly great defensively, but Buffalo's offense has been anemic at times. Give me Georgia Southern -3.5.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 67.5
Few teams have been involved in more shootouts than Georgia Southern as their porous 125th-ranked defense was averse to getting stops, while their explosive offense averaged 34 points per game which created an atmosphere conducive to scoring. Throw in their lightning-fast 9th quickest pace of play in the country and it's easy to see why GaSo's Over/Under lines were mostly hung in the 65-69 point range. On the Buffalo side, they've proven quite capable of sparking back-and-forth contests themselves, averaging 29 points per game while getting bludgeoned on the ground, ranking 114th in rush defense. With the over having gone 4-1 over Buffalo's last five games, and Georgia Southern pitching one of the most beatable defenses in the country, I'm taking the Over 67.5 points (opened at 64.5).
Zach Krueger: Game Total OVER 66.5
The over is a combined 6-2 between these two teams when facing teams who are averaging 25+ points per game. The Bulls are averaging 29 points per game on the season, while the Eagles are 30th in the nation in scoring at 33.7 points per game. Additionally, both defenses are allowing over 25 points per game with Georgia Southerns allowing the 18th-most points per game in the nation (32.3), and Buffalo trailing somewhat closely behind at 27.2 points per game. The Bulls will be without running backs Ron Cook Jr. and Al-Jay Henderson due to injury. They accounted for 901 rushing yards and seven touchdowns on the season, but they should still have lead rusher Mike Washington (143-606-7). These teams both rank in the top 25 in pace of play, with Georgia Southern running pace good enough to be ranked as the 10th fastest in the nation. The lack of defense between these two teams could make for high-scoring affair, although we have seen Buffalo's offense stall at various, unexpected points in the season.
Final Result: Buffalo 23, Georgia Southern 21
ServPro First Responder Bowl
Memphis Tigers (-7.5) vs. Utah State Aggies (Over/Under 60.5)
Kickoff: December 27 at 3:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Gerald Ford Stadium – University Park, Texas
Bowl Histories: Memphis 5-8, Utah State 6-8
Series History: This is the eighth all-time meeting between these two schools. Memphis holds a 4-3 edge, including a 31-26 win in 1977 in the most recent matchup.
Note: This is the first appearance in this bowl for both schools.
Vaughn Dalzell: Memphis -7.5
I think this comes down to who is the better team. Memphis out-gains their opponents in yards, while Utah State is often getting out-gained in yardage.
Utah State has the sixth-worst red zone defense, allowing 40 scores on 43 trips from its opponents (93%), and the 118th-ranked rushing defense with 198.2 yards per game allowed. Memphis' offense shouldn't have many problems in this matchup.
Brad Thomas: Memphis -7.5
The biggest question for Utah State is if RB Calvin Tyler Jr. suits up and plays. He's said he will play, but after declaring for the draft, I'm not entirely sure he should play. That would leave Utah State with their third-string quarterback and running back for this game. This should be a lopsided game for Memphis. They have the statistical advantage in almost every category except defensive success rate against the pass. However, with Cooper Legas under center, I expect Utah State to struggle in this bowl game.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 60.5
It was an ignominious start for Utah State, going 1-4 through their first five games including a resounding 35-7 defeat to Weber State. HC Blake Anderson rallied the troops to go 5-2 down the stretch, with the Aggies' games clearing the current 60-points Over/Under line in each of their last three games. Memphis has once again proven to be a formidable offense, averaging 35 points per game despite dropping five of their last six FBS games due to a lagging pass defense that rates 83rd nationally. Both Memphis (30th) and Utah State (22nd) rank in the top-30 overall in pace of play and are heavily tilted towards pass friendly gameplans. With the Tigers going 5-1 to the Over against the 60-point O/U in their last six games, and Utah State clearing the number in all of their last three contests, I'm taking (you guessed it) the Over 60.5 points.
Zach Krueger: Memphis -7.5
Utah State running back Calvin Tyler Jr. has declared for the NFL Draft but will reportedly suit up to ride with his guys one last time. Tyler accounted for 1,171 yards and 17 touchdowns for the Aggies this season and was the proverbial straw that stirred the drink known as the Utah State offense. Even if Tyler does suit up for this one, the Aggies look wildly overmatched on paper against a Memphis team that should have the majority of its starters intact. Memphis was favored by as much as 9.5 at one point, but that number has since dropped. I think this creates a great buying opportunity for the Tigers, who are 5-6 ATS and 3-2 ATS when favored. Utah State, on the other hand, has gone 1-5 ATS as underdogs.
Final Result: Memphis 38, Utah State 10
TicketSmarter Birmingham Bowl
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers vs. East Carolina Pirates (-7.5) (Over/Under 62.5)
Kickoff: December 27 at 6:45 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Protective Stadium – Birmingham, Alabama
Bowl Histories: Coastal Carolina 1-1, East Carolina 7-9
Series History: This is the first-ever matchup between these two schools.
Note: This is East Carolina's third Birmingham Bowl appearance, having lost to South Florida (24-7) in 2006 and Florida (28-20) in 2015. This is Coastal Carolina's first appearance.
Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total OVER 62.5
Grayson McCall will play his final game at Coastal Carolina before hitting the transfer portal and we could see fireworks from these two teams.
These two teams rank 94th and 98th in total defense with a combined 822.2 yards per game surrendered. Both squads rank top 40 in rush defense but are 124th and 131st in passing defense -- two of the worst 10 in the country, so I am not overthinking this one and taking the Over 62.5.
Brad Thomas: Game Total UNDER 63.5
Trouble is brewing in Conway, South Carolina. Coach Jamey Chadwell has taken the head coaching vacancy at Liberty, and Grayson McCall has entered the transfer portal. Surprisingly, McCall announced he will still play in the Birmingham Bowl. Even with McCall playing, they will be down their starting center Willie Lapkin, their leading pass rusher in Josiah Stewart, and starting corner Manny Stokes. East Carolina will also be down their starting center in Avery Jones, who opted for the transfer portal. With the question marks of how different the game's philosophy will be for the Chanticleers with DC Chad Staggs stepping in as the interim head coach, I'm looking at under 63.5 points in this one.
Eric Froton: East Carolina -7.5
CCU HC Jamey Chadwell moves on and is being replaced by NC State OC Tim Beck. QB Grayson McCall will enter the portal, but will lace up his cleats one more time for the Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina's passing attack has been exceptional, rating ninth overall in FBS with 8.9 yards per pass attempt and 17th in EPA/Play. However their defense is as bad as we've seen from CCU since they moved to FBS, ranking a ghastly 126th in pass defense and 105th overall. They will have their hands full with ECU's balanced offense that ranks 35th in passing performance and 27th in passing. East Carolina has played very well down the stretch, winning four of their last six games against a tough AAC schedule that featured wins over Memphis, UCF, BYU and Temple. Even though they lost, ECU had a 64% win expectancy against Cincinnati, so they've performed extremely well in the second half. With CCU going through staff turnover and fielding an objectively terrible defense, I'm taking ECU to easily handle the Chanticleers and cover the touchdown spread.
Zach Krueger: East Carolina -7.5
Former Coastal Carolina head coach Jamey Chadwell won't be coaching in this game as he has already departed for his new job with Liberty. While the Chanticleers will have quarterback Grayson McCall (2633-24-2) for one more game before he leaves via the transfer portal, I love the group East Carolina has for this one, starting with quarterback Holton Ahlers (3408-23-5) and running back Keaton Mitchell (179-1325-14), who could hear his name called on Day 2 of the NFL Draft if he declares after this game. ECU is allowing 27 points per game on defense, with the Chanticleers allowing over 30 points per game. The Pirates are 6-5 ATS this season, while the Chants are 4-6-1 ATS despite their 8-3 record overall. Absent their head coach and their best starting offensive lineman, Coastal could struggle a bit in this one. I like ECU to go out on top and send McCall packing with a loss in his final game with the Chants.
Final Result: East Carolina 53, Coastal Carolina 29
Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Wisconsin Badgers (-3) vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (Over/Under 43)
Kickoff: December 27 at 10:15 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Chase Field – Phoenix, Arizona
Bowl Histories: Wisconsin 18-15, Oklahoma State 21-11
Series History: This is the first-ever matchup between these two schools.
Note: This is Oklahoma State's third appearance in this bowl, which dates back to 1989. They defeated Indiana (49-33) in 2007 and Washington (30-22) in 2015. Wisconsin beat Utah (38-10) in 1996 in their lone prior appearance.
Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 43
Finally, an Under to bet! Wisconsin remains one of the best defenses in the country, while Oklahoma State took a step back this year on that side of the ball.
However, both squads rank inside the top 25 in third-down defense, and with backup quarterbacks in this matchup, we should expect both defenses to reign supreme and both offenses to struggle for 20 points. I will take the Under 43.5 or 43.0 down to 41.5.
Brad Thomas: Game Total UNDER 43
I like the under in this game. Wisconsin plays excellent defense, and Oklahoma State is without its starting quarterback Spencer Sanders and leading running back, Dominic Richardson. They will be forced to rely on either Gunnar Gundy or Garrett Rangel under center. Both have little experience and should struggle against a Wisconsin defense that is 18th in defensive FEI and 11th in defensive success rate. Wisconsin will also be without starting quarterback Graham Mertz, who has committed to Florida. I expect a heavy dose of Braelon Allen and controlling this game on the ground. It's hard to imagine either team eclipsing the 20 points, and the total going over 43 points, mainly since the game has stayed under 40 points in Wisconsin's last four games.
Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 43
It has been a season of transition at Wisconsin with former HC Paul Chryst getting fired early on and DC Jim Leonhard taking over as interim HC before Wisconsin hired new HC Luke Fickell. The Badgers will also be without QB Graham Mertz who piloted their 81st passing offense and is the new signal caller for Florida.Their replacement QB, Myles Burkett, has thrown just five collegiate passes. Despite having Braelon Allen, Wisconsin still rates just 55th in rushing performance with their offense struggling against upper echelon defenses, losing to Minnesota/Iowa/OSU/Illinois and even Wazzu. Allen missed Wisconsin's season finale and his playing status is in doubt at the time of print. On the defensive side, the Badgers were stout against the run, ranking fourth in rush defense and 9th in EPA/Play allowed. They also rank 11th in yards per play (4.8) and 19th overall with a 37% success rate.
Oklahoma State has had a massive list of transfer portal entries and opt-outs thus far which they've already replaced with some in some spots with talented transfers like Wazzu WR D'Zhaun Stribling. However those new arrivals won't be on hand to help the Cowboys when they take on Wisconsin, instead neophyte QB Garret Rangel will lead OSU's 89th ranked offense that somehow ranks 112th in rushing performance and 89th in explosiveness. Not the kind of numbers we're accustomed to seeing from HC Mike Gundy led offenses. Their defense pales in comparison to their third overall 2021 unit, ranking 74th against the run and 79th versus the pass.
As a team Wisconsin has posted a game total under 40 points in each of their last four contests, scoring just 16, 14 and 10 points over their final three. Not to be outdone, Oklahoma State has produced game totals under 44 points in all of their last four games. With each of these programs starting inexperienced and ineffective quarterbacks, I'm backing the Under 43 points in this lackluster matchup.
Zach Krueger: Game Total UNDER 43
Weather won't impact this game, as Oklahoma State and Wisconsin are playing this one indoors in Arizona. What will impact this game are the 30+ combined players that will miss this one due to either opt out, transfer or injury. Chief among these absences are Oklahoma State starting quarterback Spencer Sanders (2642-17-9) and their lead running back Dominic Richardson (149-543-8) and Wisconsin Starter quarterback Graham Mertz (2136-19-10) and running back Braelon Allen (208-1126-10). Both of these teams are great on the defensive sides of the ball, and should excel against one another's backup squads. I hate this game because of all the player absences, but it feels like a good excuse to take the under with so many top players out.
Final Result: Wisconsin 24, Oklahoma State 17
Duke Blue Devils (-3) vs. UCF Knights (Over/Under 62.5)
Kickoff: December 28 at 2 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Navy Marine Corps Memorial Stadium – Annapolis, Maryland
Bowl Histories: Duke 6-8, UCF 6-7
Series History: This is the first-ever matchup between these two schools.
Note: This is the first Military Bowl appearance for both schools.
Vaughn Dalzell: UCF +3 and Game Total UNDER 62.5
UCF will be down both quarterbacks in this game, but I am not as confident in Duke as most people. The Knights' defense is still one of the best units in the country allowing 23.1 points per game (T-39th) and fifth in red zone defense (68.5%).
Duke hasn't played in a bowl game since 2018, while UCF has played in a bowl game every year since 2016. While the Knights will be down some playmakers, I still don't think they should be the underdog versus Duke, but more of a pick-em.
I will take the +3 with UCF and roll with the Under 62.5 as only five out of 13 teams scored 22 or more points on the Knights all year.
Brad Thomas: Duke -3
This is a difficult bet for me. The total seems correct, and without starting quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and backup Mikey Keane, I would have the Knights as a 3-point dog. With how poor Thomas Castellanos looked under center in the AAC Championship game, I would be shocked to see the Knights come out with a win here. Castellanos will also be without leading receiver Ryan O'Keefe after he entered the transfer portal. The line opened at a pick 'em, but with the slew of opt-outs and injuries, as a UCF AlumKnight, I am begrudgingly backing Duke -3.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 62.5
You cannot say enough about the job first year Duke HC Mike Elko has done with the program, taking the Blue Devils from 5-18 over the past two years to 8-4 this season. Offensively their run game has been exceptional, ranking 24th nationally in rushing performance, while they've been very efficient in averaging 2.8 points per drive (23rd). Though Duke has been very strong on the defensive line, ranking 17th against the run with an 11% havoc rate from their front-seven, their secondary has been very beatable. For UCF's part HC Gus Malzahn once again has them playing fast (35th in pace) and running the ball at an elite level, ranking fifth nationally while posting a superb 49% success rate (15th in FBS). Their defense had been pretty stiff over the first half of the season, but lagged in the second half allowing 28+ points in five of their last six games against non-service academies. I don't think these flawed defenses are going to hold either of these teams under 30 points, so give me the Over 62.5 points.
Zach Krueger: UCF +3
This is the rare occasion where a team is down its top two quarterbacks, and I'm still not sure if they're being overlooked or not. UCF will be without quarterback John Rhys Plumlee and Mikey Keene, along with two starters on the defensive side of the ball, but UCF's defense has been stout all season, allowing the 39th-fewest points per game while ranking 48th in points per play (0.348). Duke has been solid on defense in its own right, allowing just 121.1 rushing yards per game and a little over 22 points per game. Without any major absences, the Blue Devils have the roster advantage from an experience standpoint, but UCF is no stranger to the bowl game spotlight. Even with two key absences on the defensive side of the ball, the Knights could have enough to slow Dukes' offensive attack while grinding the clock with a rushing attack that saw them ranke 37th in the nation in rush rate (53.9%). I'm tempted to take the Under at 62.5, but will go with UCF's experience in a game that could be closer than some expect.
Game Result: Duke 30, UCF 13
Arkansas Razorbacks (-3) vs. Kansas Jayhawks (Over/Under 69)
Kickoff: December 28 at 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Simmons Bank Liberty Stadium – Memphis, Tennessee
Bowl Histories: Arkansas 16-24-3, Kansas 6-6
Series History: This is the third all-time meeting between these two schools, with Kansas having won the previous two editions - way back in 1905 and 1906.
Note: This is Arkansas' sixth Liberty Bowl appearance, having gone 2-3 in the previous five including a win over Kansas State (45-23) in 2015. Kansas lost their lone prior appearance to NC State (31-18) in 1973, and this is the Jayhawks' first bowl of any kind since the 2008 Insight Bowl.
Vaughn Dalzell: Arkansas -3
The Kansas Jayhawks finished their season on an 0-3 ATS and ML streak as a part of a 1-6 ML stretch to end the season (2-4-1 ATS), so they are clearly not playing their best football.
On the other hand, Arkansas went 3-3 on the ML and 4-2 ATS to end the season. All six of the Razorbacks and Jayhawks' losses this season have come to teams that are bowl-eligible, so this spread is pretty sharp.
I will take Arkansas -3 because I think Kansas either peaked too high early in the season or they just took advantage of some mediocre teams finding their grooves early in the year.
Brad Thomas: Game Total OVER 69
69 points is a ton of points for any game, but with how these teams play defense, I wouldn't be shocked to see this one touch the 80s. Arkansas is 60th in defensive FEI, 80th in defensive EPA/pass, and 77th in points per Eckel. They are also down star linebacker Drew Sanders who opted out to prep for the NFL Draft. On the other side of the ball, Kansas hasn't been any better defensively. They are 107th in defensive FEI and 120th in defensive success rate. These teams have smashed overs all season. They are 9-3 and 8-4 to the over, so give me Over 69 points and a shootout.
Eric Froton: Kansas +3
Arkansas managed to field a strong offense behind QB KJ Jefferson and star RB Raheim Sanders who could be the top running back selected in the 2024 NFL Draft. However the Razorbacks are missing several key members of their 2022 team, including multiple rotational receivers and offensive linemen from the offense and First-Team All-SEC LB Drew Sanders. Additionally, their defense ranks 116th against the run and 103rd against the pass and has been the biggest reason why this team failed to reach internal preseason expectations. Kansas on the other hand exceeded even the wildest projections by becoming bowl eligible for the first time since the Mark Mangino era. HC Lance Leipold managed to field the 10th-best offense in the country despite having to start backup QB Jason Bean for an extended stretch. However their defense was objectively terrible ranking 127th in points per drive allowed (3.25), 100th in EPA/Play and 117th overall. With Arkansas losing so many key contributors on both sides of the ball, and Kansas being really motivated for the game, as it is the school's first bowl appearance since 2008, I'm taking the +3 points and the Jayhawks.
Zach Krueger: Game Total OVER 69
Arkansas has several key players out for this one, including wide receiver Jadon Haselwood (59-702-3), tight end Trey Knox (26-296-5), center Ricky Stromberg and starting linebackers Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool – to name a few. Fortunately, they should have lead receiver Matt Landers (44-780-7) and most importantly, quarterback KJ Jefferson, who threw for 2361-22-4 on the season while rushing for another 510 yards and seven touchdowns. The combination of Jefferson, Landers and running back Raheim Sanders (21-1426-10) should be more than enough for the Razorbacks to flourish on offense, while Kansas' offense should enjoy a productive day in its own right with Sanders and Pool sidelined. Even with an absurdly high total of 69, both teams are built perfectly for a shootout in one could be one of the highest-scoring games in all of bowl season.
Game Result: Arkansas 55, Kansas 53 (3OT)
San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
Oregon Ducks (-14.5) vs. North Carolina Tar Heels (Over/Under 73.5)
Kickoff: December 28 at 8 p.m. ET (FOX)
Site: Petco Park – San Diego, California
Bowl Histories: Oregon 15-20, North Carolina 15-21
Series History: This is the first-ever matchup between these two schools.
Note: This is North Carolina's first appearance in the Holiday Bowl, which dates back to 1978. Oregon won two of its three prior appearances, beating Texas (35-30) in 2000 and Oklahoma State (42-31) in 2008.
Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total OVER 73.5
Since 2013, there have been 15 Bowl Games that have featured a total of 73 or more -- 11 of those 15 went Over their total (73.3%, +6 units).
Drake Maye and Bo Nix? I like the sound of points in this matchup. While the Oregon Ducks' defense is without a question worse than North Carolina's, the Tar Heels' defense is so bad Oregon should score at least five touchdowns.
North Carolina ended the season on a three-game losing streak and allowed 21, 30 and 39 points to Georgia Tech, NC State and Clemson -- two of three offenses that shouldn't score 30 on many Power 5 teams.
Brad Thomas: Oregon Team Total UNDER 41.5
Bo Nix over rushing yards is the play you should focus on when the lines are released. He's hit the number in seven of the last eight, and books can't find the right price. It's not listed yet but consider it when it's available. I am still playing Oregon's team total Under 41.5 points. This will be sweaty, but I have this closer to 38-30, with Oregon having blowout potential. Giving me plus odds on this is enough for me to take the risk against the worst defense in the ACC and one of the worst defenses in the country. North Carolina will be without their top receiver Josh Downs and a handful of members in the secondary. This game, on paper, screams shootout, but both teams will be without a few weapons and their offensive coordinator. We could expect Oregon to milk the clock in the second half if a blowout happens. Please give me the sweaty team total Under 41.5.
Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 73.5
I'm especially excited about this contest since this San Diego-area bowl is the first football game ever to be played in Petco Park (and I will be in attendance). UNC QB Drake Maye and Oregon QB Bo Nix are both set to play but will be working with new OCs following the departures of Oregon OC Kenny Dillingham to ASU and UNC OC Phil Longo leaving for Wisconsin. Defensively UNC will be without half of their starting secondary while Oregon loses likely first-round draft choice CB Christian Gonzalez. Neither defense showed the ability to stop quality opposition, ranking 90th (Oregon) and 117th (UNC) in defensive performance. While Oregon's offense steamrolled opponents to the tune of 40 points per game, UNC has failed to clear 17 points scored in two of their last three games. Can the Tar Heels sustain the loss of their primary offensive weapon, Josh Downs, who has opted out? Despite the well-earned reputations these programs have for lighting up scoreboards, UNC is 4-1 to the Under over their last five, while Oregon has gone Under in three of their last four games because the O/U lines have been set exceedingly high. With this game's O/U hung at 73.5 points, I'm bucking the popular trend and taking the Under.
Zach Krueger: UNC +14.5
For Oregon, the story would have been how they'd deal with the loss of Bo Nix (3388-27-6), but he's opted to return for one more season and will play in this one. A player who won't be playing in this game is UNC wide receiver Josh Downs (94-1029-11), who has already declared for the NFL Draft and opted out of this one. For an offense as high-scoring as North Carolina's (35.0 points per game), it's hard to imagine them as 14.5-point underdogs to an Oregon defense that's allowing just over 27 points per game and will be without its star cornerback in Christian Gonzalez. I think Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (4115-35-7) is a future No. 1 overall pick in the making, after the freshman wowed the nation not only with his arm, but also his rushing ability (172-653-7). The absence of Downs doesn't help. Nor does UNC's 105th-ranked defense. But I'm a believer in Maye's ability to carry a team, even if it is devoid of key talents on both sides of the ball.
Game Result: Oregon 28, North Carolina 27
TaxAct Texas Bowl
Ole Miss Rebels (-3.5) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (Over/Under 69.5)
Kickoff: December 28 at 9:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: NRG Stadium – Houston, Texas
Bowl Histories: Ole Miss 25-14, Texas Tech 15-23-1
Series History: This is the seventh all-time meeting between these two schools. Ole Miss holds a 4-2 edge, including a 47-27 win in 2018 in their most recent meeting.
Note: This is Ole Miss' first appearance in the Texas Bowl, which dates back to 2006. Texas Tech split its two prior appearances, beating Minnesota (34-31) in 2008 and losing to LSU (56-27) in 2015.
Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 69.5
When a total is set between 70 and 72.5 in Bowl Season, the Under is 9-5 (64.2%, +3.18 units) since 2013.
I think this Rebels defense has been underrated all season, but over the last six games, their game Overs have hit four out of six times. For the Red Raiders, they are 8-4 to the Over this season but three of those Overs came from Overtime and
Texas Tech ended the season on a three-game winning streak to garner bowl eligibility, but I am not sure I would back them against Ole Miss. I will take the Under and bet on one or both of these offenses to struggle.
Brad Thomas: Game Total UNDER 69.5
I'm sorry, but I have to take this under out of principle. Over 70 has only hit in two Ole Miss games this season. One was against a Vanderbilt team who could not stop a nosebleed, and another at home against Auburn, who are 73rd in EPA defense. Despite being involved in a few shootouts this season, Texas Tech is better defensively than their box scores suggest. Give me Under 69.5 points.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 69.5
The opt-outs/transfer portal impact for these two teams are fairly light compared to some of the bowl game rosters we've seen so far in the new “transfer era”. Ole Miss won their first seven games against a soft early-season slate thanks to RB Quinshin Judkins and their fourth-rated rushing offense, before running into an LSU defensive line that was talented enough to overpower them at the line of scrimmage. Though the Tigers lost four of their last five games, Ole Miss had post-game win expectancies of 58% against Alabama and 85% in their Egg Bowl loss to Mississippi State. Texas Tech enters the game riding high off three straight wins over Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma which allowed first year HC Joey Maguire to post a winning season for the Red Raiders faithful.
The Tech rushing attack checks in at 45th nationally while turnover at the QB position hurt their overall passing performance, opening week starter Tyler Shough is healthy after missing a significant swath of the season and will handle the first reps, with former four-star QB Behren Morton questionable with an injury tag. What tilts this game for me is that both of these teams play at a “hair-on-fire” pace of play, ranking 3rd (Ole Miss) and 4th (TT) nationally in plays per minute. The trends clearly point to an Over 69 points play here, with Ole Miss and Texas Tech going 11-5 to the Over down the stretch.
Zach Krueger: Ole Miss -3.5
Most of the players who are expected to be out for this game were lost prior to bowl season. Texas Tech's record 6-5 record ATS is the same as it's overall record on the season, as they look to take on a 7-4 Ole Miss team that's gone just 3-7-1 ATS. Texas Tech ranks 82nd in the nation in offensive success rate (41.8%), while Ole Miss' offense is 21st (47.4%) and is 28th in the nation in scoring at 34.2 points per game. Tech is narrowly behind at 33.6 points per game. Tech's SOS ranked fifth in the nation this season and includes tough losses against Baylor and TCU. This line opened at 4.5 points and has since dropped to 3.5. Neither of these teams have been particularly strong defensively, but an explosive SEC offense feels hard to go against even in a game that may feature a lot of points. I will back the Rebels in this one, although neither side gives me much confidence.
Game Result: Texas Tech 42, Ole Miss 25
Minnesota Golden Gophers (-9.5) vs. Syracuse Orange (Over/Under 42)
Kickoff: December 29 at 2:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Yankee Stadium – The Bronx, New York
Bowl Histories: Minnesota 10-12, Syracuse 16-9-1
Series History: Minnesota holds a 3-2 series advantage, having last won in 2012, but Syracuse won the most recent meeting in the 2013 Texas Bowl (21-17).
Note: Syracuse is 2-0 in the Pinstripe Bowl, having beaten Kansas State (36-34) in 2010 and West Virginia (38-14) in 2012. This is Minnesota's first appearance.
Vaughn Dalzell: Game Total UNDER 42
Minnesota replaces its quarterback and could be without its top rusher, Mohamed Ibrahim, so I don't expect many points from this Gophers' offense. The Gophers' defense though is legit and held its past five opponents to 16 or fewer points in all five.
On the Syracuse side, the Orange lost five of its last six games, beating Boston College to snap a five-game losing streak. This Syracuse team is playing its worst football, but without Ibrahim's status, we have to go with the Under 42.5 or 42 -- and if he is out, this number will drop somewhere between 39.5 to 41.0.
Brad Thomas: Minnesota -9.5
We gave out Minnesota at a better price on our Betting the Big Ten segment, but I still like the Gophers to cover this number. I'm not sure if QB Tanner Morgan plays this game, but it shouldn't matter. This game will be won on the ground with Mohamed Ibrahim and in the trenches with Minnesota's dynamite defense. The Orange will be down their best player after Sean Tucker opted for the draft. Even with Tucker, I don't see Syracuse staying competitive. Not against a top-10 defense who have held their last five opponents to an average of nine points per game.
Eric Froton: Game Total UNDER 42
It was a tale of two seasons for Syracuse - through the first six games they were undefeated with wins over Purdue, Louisville and NC State. The next six games they wilted however, dropping five of their last six, with their lone win against a Boston College team that was breaking in a freshman quarterback. The Orange are also dealing with the departure of OC Robert Anae who was a key figure in Syracuse averaging 8.1 yards per pass (24th in FBS) and drastically improving their passing attack. Their biggest bowl season loss is RB Sean Tucker, who opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft and is the heart and soul of their offense. Defensively this matchup with Minnesota is a tough draw, as the Cuse pass defense ranks 20th in the country, while their rush D slots in at 64th.
As Big Ten fans are well aware, Minnesota wants to leverage their massive offensive line to grind down opponents with a steady stream of 5-yard rushes while playing at the 3rd slowest pace in the country. It remains to be seen whether RB Mohammed Ibrahim suits up, but RBs Treyson Potts and Zach Evans will be ready to step up as the Gopers' rushing depth chart is far deeper than Cuse. QB Tanner Morgan has dealt with concussion issues but has returned to practice in the lead up to the game, so he could very well play. Morgan's presence would certainly help as Minnesota runs a very efficient operation on both sides of the ball, ranking 5th nationally with a +13.6% Net Success Rate. Their defense is rock solid, ranking 12th against the run and 19th overall in team performance and is the perfect compliment to their power-run oriented offense.
The Over/Under line is 42, which is a number that Minnesota has failed to clear in any of their last five games even when Tanner Morgan was in the game. Without their guru OC and star RB, I don't see Syracuse being able to force the pace of this game, which means Minnesota controls the clock and salts this game away to cash the Under.
Zach Krueger: Game Total UNDER 42
Syracuse will be without top rusher Sean Tucker (206-1060-11) as he prepares for the NFL Draft. Cuse will look to rip off just its second win in its last seven games, but Tucker is far from the only loss the Orange will have to deal with in this game. On the other side, the Gophers will be without quarterback Tanner Morgan (1324-7-5), along with some key defensive players. Running back Mohamed Ibrahim (304-1494-19) has every reason to opt out of this game given his injury history and NFL Draft status, but he has not made an official announcement as of yet. If Ibrahim is ruled out, the total for this game should drop by a few more points. I will go ahead and buy the under in a matchup that does not feature particularly great offensive teams. It's also worth noting that Minnesota's defense allowed the third-fewest points per game this season (13.3) and just 279.5 yards per game.
Game Result: Minnesota 28, Syracuse 20
Oklahoma Sooners vs. Florida State Seminoles (-9) (Over/Under 66.5)
Kickoff: December 29 at 5:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: Camping World Stadium – Orlando, Florida
Bowl Histories: Florida State 28-17-2, Oklahoma 31-23-1
Series History: Oklahoma has won six of seven prior meetings, including the 2001 Orange Bowl that determined the national title. They last played in 2011 (Oklahoma 23-13). Florida State's lone series win came in the first meeting back in 1965.
Note: Florida State is 3-0 all-time in this bowl, including an 18-14 win over Notre Dame in 2011. This is Oklahoma's second appearance, having lost to Clemson (40-6) in 2014.
Vaughn Dalzell: Florida State -9.5
Oklahoma has only been an underdog once this season, and that came against Texas. The Sooners were 7.5-point home underdogs and lost that game 49-0.
Oklahoma has lost five straight games as an underdog and went 1-3-1 ATS in that stretch dating back to 2018. In bowl season, the Sooners are 1-5 on the ML and 2-4 ATS as a underdog dating back to 2009.
The Sooners lost three of the past four contests entering this bowl game with its lone win coming over rival Oklahoma Sate. Give me the Seminoles -9.5 and fade the Sooners as underdogs to close the season.
Brad Thomas: Florida State -9.5
This is one I'm not overthinking. I'm betting Florida State -9.5. They are the better team here and have had a more impressive season. Let's be honest; 6-6 Oklahoma probably didn't deserve an invite to play the Seminoles. Even before looking at the players unavailable for this match, there is a clear advantage for the Seminoles. They are fourth in EPA margin to Oklahoma's 33rd. Their defense is light years better than Oklahoma's as well. What moves the needle for me is that both starting tackles, Wayana Morris and Anton Harrison, will be out for Oklahoma. I expect the Florida State defensive line to cause problems. They average three sacks per game and are seventh in college football in sack percentage. This could get ugly if Oklahoma can't keep their quarterback upright.
Eric Froton: Florida State -9.5
It's been a restructuring year for the Sooners, as new HC Brent Venables turns over the roster in order to bring in players that fit his system. As a result Oklahoma limped to a 6-6 record while lacking the dominance we've been accustomed to seeing in Norman, Oklahoma, beating only Kansas, Iowa State and Oklahoma State from the Big 12. Florida State took a big step forward in their return to national relevance, beating SEC West champion LSU in their opener and Florida in their regular season finale.
The Noles ranked seventh in offensive performance, and third in rushing, which is a real problem for an Oklahoma team that ranked 97th vs. the run. With FSU's stingy pass defense ranking top-10 nationally, OU will try to ride their run game that will be hampered without their 1,000-yard rusher Eric Gray who declared for the NFL Draft. With Florida State looking to reach the 10-wins mark for the first time since 2016 and possessing the more complete roster in Year 3 of HC Mike Norvell's tenure, I'm laying the -9.5 points and taking FSU.
Zach Krueger: Florida State -9.5
Oklahoma has lost four players to opt out, including lead back Eric Gray (213-1364-11) and wide receiver Theo Wease, who averaged nearly 20 yards per reception while going for 19-319-4 on the season. After Gray, the next biggest player in this game is arguably FSU's Jordan Travis, who announced he will return for the 2023 season. Travis threw for 2,796 yards, 22 touchdowns and four interceptions in his first full season as a starter, and rushed for another 75-367-7. Florida State has most of it's key players intact for this one, while Oklahoma will look to fill key holes on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
Much like their offense, the Noles' defense is no pushover. They rank 17th in the nation in points allowed (19.7) and have allowed the 13th-fewest yards per game (307.3). Given what these two teams showed over the course of the season, and Oklahoma's lack of starters heading into this one, Florida State feels like they should be laying more than they are.
Game Result: Florida State 35, Oklahoma 32
Valero Alamo Bowl
Texas Longhorns (-4) vs. Washington Huskies (Over/Under 67.5)
Kickoff: December 29 at 8:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Site: The Alamodome – San Antonio, Texas
Bowl Histories: Texas 31-24-2, Washington 18-19-1
Series History: This is the fifth time these two teams have played, with Texas winning three of the previous four including the most recent matchup in the 2001 Holiday Bowl (47-43).
Note: Texas is 4-1 all-time at the Alamo Bowl, including wins in 2019 (38-10 over Utah) and 2020 (55-23 over Colorado). Washington lost its lone appearance, 67-56 to Baylor, in 2011.
Vaughn Dalzell: Washington +4 and ML
This will be a fun game that should be full of points.
I like this Washington Husky offense behind Michael Penix Jr. who ranks second in the country with 4,354 passing yards. Penix Jr. has a positive matchup versus a Texas secondary that ranks 90th in the nation with 239.0 yards per game allowed and permits 10.13 yards per completion.
The worst matchup though? The Longhorns' defense ranks 79th in third-down defense (39.7%) and the Husky offense leads the country with a 57.1% conversion rate. Washington shouldn't have problems moving the ball, so give me Washington +4 and sprinkle the ML.
Brad Thomas: Washington +4
This is pretty much a home game for Texas, but they will be without RB Bijan Robinson. To pile on the stress for Steve Sarkisian and Quinn Ewers, they will also be without their backup, Roschon Johnson, as they prepare for the NFL draft. Washington's defense is terrible, but by eliminating the threat of Robinson in the backfield, they can focus on shutting down Ewers. Far too many times this season, Ewers has shown his youth. Washington's Michael Penix Jr. is back and ready to cap off a strong season for the Huskies. I wouldn't be all that surprised if Washington wins outright.
Eric Froton: Game Total OVER 67.5
Texas showed some positive development in year two of the HC Steve Sarkisian era, as their offense rated 15th overall with a 49% success rate (14th) and a 2.9 points per drive average (19th). But their biggest improvement has been on the defensive side of the ball with the Longhorns ranking 7th overall in rushing performance and improving from 87th in PFF tackling grade to 40th. They had some tough luck in losses to Alabama (80% win expectancy) and Texas Tech (84%) where they could have easily achieved victory if things broke a little differently.
Washington HC Kalen DeBoer has rapidly changed the atmosphere on campus after taking over for departed HC Jimmy Lake. DeBouer brought in his former QB Michael Penix from back when he led Indiana to 40 points per game on offense and a 4-2 record during the pandemic shortened 2020 campaign. The pairing worked so well together that despite generating legitimate NFL Draft buzz, Penix opted to return to the great Pacific Northwest in order to capture a Pac-12 Championship. There is no word whether or not their pair of star third-year wideouts Jalen McMillan and Rome Odunze, will return for the bowl or 2023. Their presence in the lineup would be a major boost, as UW ranked top-5 in points per drive (3.85), success rate (53%) and EPA/Play. The Huskies' defense has been brutal against the pass, ranking 121st overall, but were much more effective versus the run rating 44th in FBS.
This should be an exciting game between two potent offenses. With Washington going 8-2-1 to the Over this season, and Texas clearing their O/U line in 4 of their last 5 games, I'm taking the Over 67.5 points in this budding shootout.
Zach Krueger: Game Total OVER 67.5
It's tough scenes for the Longhorns heading into this one, as lead running back Bijan Robinson (258-1580-18) and backup Roschon Johnson (93-554-5) have both opted out for this one to declare for the NFL Draft. Their next leading rusher, Jonathon Brooks, has just 179 yards and four touchdowns on the year in what was a very limited role. Quarterback Quinn Ewers (1808-14-6) will likely be asked to air it out a bit more than usual against a Washington defense that's allowing 241.7 passing yards per game along with 26.3 points per game. Washington quarterback Michael Penix (4354-29-7) has already announced his intent to return in 2023 and play in this game, and will be playing with a near entire cast of starters. Penix emerged as one of the best passers in the nation this season, as Washington ranked fifth in points per game (40.8) while throwing for an impressive 376.7 yards per game on a 61.1% pass rate.
Washington's lack of defensive prowess, coupled with their own offensive strengths has the potential to turn this one into a shootout. The over is a combined 13-9-1 between these two teams this season, with Washington carrying the torch (7-3-1). With both teams also ranking in the top-50 in the nation in pace of play, the over in this one could be ripe for the picking.
Game Result: Washington 27, Texas 20