Betting the bowls: Best bets for Tulsa vs. Mississippi State, Ball State vs. San Jose State

Sam Cooper
·4-min read

There’s a little less volume to the 2020 bowl season, but there are still plenty of intriguing matchups to bet on. For this post, I’m focusing on the eight games on tap between Tuesday, Dec. 29 and Thursday, Dec. 31.

There is one New Year’s Six bowl game during that time span, the Cotton Bowl between No. 7 Florida and No. 6 Oklahoma. But the point spread has been all over the place thanks to Florida’s newly depleted receiving corps, so I don’t have a play for that game at this point in the week.

However, there are other games I’ve got my eye on before diving into this weekend’s slate of games, including the two College Football Playoff semifinal games, later this week. I went 2-1 last week.

(Note all times ET, odds from BetMGM)

Cheez-It Bowl: No. 21 Oklahoma State vs. No. 18 Miami

Time: 5:30 p.m. (Tuesday) | TV: ESPN | Line: Oklahoma State -1.5 | Total: 60.5

Miami got destroyed 62-26 by North Carolina in its most recent game, giving up an absurd 778 yards in the process. It was a performance that cost the Hurricanes a chance to play in the Orange Bowl, and it had to have left an awful taste in the mouths of everyone in the program. Miami ended the 2019 season on a horrible note, too, and I don’t think it will happen again.

The program already received the great news that quarterback D’Eriq King is going to come back for another year, and I think Manny Diaz will have his team motivated against Oklahoma State. OSU is a team with a lot of talent, but it didn’t quite live up to those expectations and played unevenly down the stretch. The Cowboys failed to cover the spread in five straight games before a blowout win over a depleted Baylor team in the regular-season finale.

It will be a close game, but I think the athleticism of King is the difference.

Pick: Miami +1.5

Alamo Bowl: No. 20 Texas vs. Colorado

Time: 9 p.m. (Tuesday) | TV: ESPN | Line: Texas -7.5 | Total: 63.5

Several of Texas’ top defensive players have opted out, but I still like this matchup for the Longhorns’ defense. Colorado is a team that relies heavily on the run game with Jarek Broussard. The Buffs run the ball 46 times per game, but I think they’ll struggle to pile up explosive runs against UT, which allows only 3.6 yards per rush. That will force CU to go to the air, and that didn’t go well against Utah.

On the other side, CU’s defense is giving up 4.9 yards per rush. Texas backs Bijan Robinson and Roschon Johnson should have plenty of room to run, opening up chances for Sam Ehlinger in the play-action passing game.

It’s also hard to ignore the success Tom Herman has had in bowl games at Texas. UT is 3-0 ATS in bowls under Herman and have covered by an average of 18.5 points per game.

Pick: Texas -7.5

Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) celebrates a touchdown with teammate Jake Majors (65).
Texas running back Bijan Robinson (5) celebrates a touchdown with teammate Jake Majors (65) during the second half against Kansas State in Manhattan, Kansas, on Dec. 5, 2020. (AP Photo/Orlin Wagner)

Armed Forces Bowl: No. 24 Tulsa vs. Mississippi State

Time: Noon (Thursday) | TV: ESPN | Line: Tulsa -2.5 | Total: 47.5

Mississippi State has played better down the stretch, but this is still a 3-7 team with a depleted roster going up against one of the best teams in the AAC. Sure, Tulsa won’t have All-American linebacker Zaven Collins, but I expect the Golden Hurricane to handle Mike Leach’s Air Raid without much issue. Tulsa played well and beat two other pass-happy teams, UCF and SMU.

Tulsa is 4-1 ATS as a favorite this year, and it’s a team that should be highly motivated to finish out its season with a bowl win over an SEC team. Tulsa last won a bowl game in 2016. Mike Leach has traditionally struggled against the spread in bowl games, going 3-6 ATS at Texas Tech and 1-5 ATS at Washington State.

Pick: Tulsa -2.5

Arizona Bowl: Ball State vs. No. 22 San Jose State

Time: 2 p.m. (Thursday) | TV: CBS | Line: San Jose State -10 | Total: 64.5

This total is just way too high. San Jose State has been one of the coolest stories of the season, going undefeated and winning the Mountain West for the first time. The Spartans have a really strong defense that just put the clamps on Boise State in the Mountain West title game.

Ball State has a better offense than Boise State, but I look at what the SJSU defense did against a much more explosive team like Nevada (a 30-20 win) and it’s hard to envision the Cardinals putting up a bunch of points. San Jose State may not cover the 10-point spread, but this feels more like a 34-27 type of game.

Pick: Under 64.5

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