Bettors Beware: Avoid Betting on these College Football Bowl Games
If you want to bet on college football bowl games this season, there are plenty of opportunities among the 42 games.
But not every game is worthy of risking your money. With transfers, injuries and opt-outs, many of the rosters will look vastly different than in the regular season. Here are some of the matchups we would be wary of betting on.
Louisville vs. Cincinnati
Saturday, Dec. 17, 11 a.m. ET
Louisville -1 | Total 40 at DraftKings Sportsbook
The strangest thing about this game is that Louisville’s coach throughout the season, Scott Satterfield, will be Cincinnati's coach next year after Luke Fickell took the job at Wisconsin. He’ll watch his old team take on his future team. It’s worth wondering whom he’d be cheering for.
In addition to the coaching change, the circus at quarterback for both teams is enough to warrant skipping this game.
Cincinnati starter Ben Bryant has been ruled out with a foot injury, giving backup Evan Prater the start. Prater was not great in the 27-24 loss to Tulane, completing 10 of 26 passes for 102 yards and an interception. The Bearcats also will miss out on five of their top six pass catchers, with wide receiver Tre Tucker and tight ends Josh Whyle and Leonard Taylor sitting out and declaring for the NFL Draft, while receivers Nick Mardner and Jadon Thompson entered the transfer portal.
Louisville’s quarterback situation also is far from ideal. Malik Cunningham injured his shoulder in the regular-season finale against Kentucky and opted out of the bowl game. That leaves Brock Domann to start. Domann has not thrown for more than 200 yards in the last three games when he had at least 21 pass attempts. He has thrown for 866 yards this year in relief, completing just 53% of his passes with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
You don’t need to risk your money and stress over bad quarterback play. You deserve better.
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Guaranteed Rate Bowl
Wisconsin vs. Oklahoma State
Tuesday, Dec. 27, 9:15 p.m.
Wisconsin -3 | Total 43.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook
It was a mass exodus for Wisconsin after Paul Chryst was fired during the regular season and the school went with Luke Fickell as its next coach. At least 19 players are expected to miss the bowl game because of transfers, opt-outs or injuries.
The biggest loss is quarterback Graham Hertz, who transferred to Kentucky to take over for Will Levis. That leaves either Myles Burkett or Chase Wolf to start. Wisconsin could go with Wolf, the senior, and give him one final start, or see what it has in the future with Burkett.
Neither has had much experience this season. Wolf completed 2 of 6 passes for 21 yards, while Burkett was 4 for 5 for 84 yards.
Wisconsin will also run out a makeshift offensive line for the Guaranteed Rate Bowl. Center Joe Tippman was a longtime starter and has opted out, and guards Michael Furtney and Tyler Beach were part-time starters who also will not play.
Defensively, nose tackle Keeanu Benton is opting out. The Badgers also have just one remaining starter available at cornerback.
Oklahoma State’s offense will be missing key pieces as well. Quarterback Spencer Sanders entered the transfer portal, leaving Gunnar Gundy or Garret Rangel to start at quarterback. Neither has been good. The two combined to complete 52% of their passes and throw just five touchdowns to seven interceptions. Neither Rangel nor Gundy provides the running threat Sanders did; he finished as the team’s second-leading rusher. Dominic Richardson, the team’s top rusher on the season, entered the transfer portal and also will not play.
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Illinois vs. Mississippi State
Monday, Jan. 2, noon ET
Illinois -2.5 | Total 46.5 at FanDuel Sportsbook
It’s difficult to imagine what the Mississippi State program is going through after the death of head coach Mike Leach. No one would blame them if the team was too distraught to play, but the group has decided to honor him by competing. It’s an admirable decision. But it’s hard to back the team in this game given all the uncertainty it faces.
Illinois also has numerous players reportedly considering opting out, and coach Bret Bielema is attempting to persuade some of them to play.
But would you really want to bet on Illinois even if there weren’t roster concerns? I’m not sure anyone could feel good about betting on the Illini and cheering against Mississippi State anyway. Just seems like a jerk move.
Don’t bet on this game. Cheer for Mississippi State and hope the team can end the season on a positive note.
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USC vs. Tulane
Monday, Jan. 2, 1 p.m. ET
USC -1.5 | Total 61.5 at DraftKings Sportsbook
There’s a strong possibility Heisman winner Caleb Williams sits out this game. Williams suffered a hamstring injury in the Pac-12 title game loss to Utah. Even if he were healthy enough to play, the Cotton Bowl against Tulane isn’t enough of a reason to return and risk reinjury.
The Trojans will also likely be without two starting offensive linemen in center Brett Neillon and guard Andrew Vorhees. Neillon was also injured against Utah, while Vorhees is an NFL prospect and missed that game with an injury, putting his status for the matchup against Tulane in doubt.
Despite the injuries, backing USC still is risky. Just how motivated will the team be after losing the Pac-12 championship game, missing out on the College Football Playoff and now having to prepare for Tulane? This spot screams of a potential letdown.
However, backing Tulane isn’t going to make anyone go crazy, either. The Green Wave did beat Big 12 champion Kansas State 17-10 in September, but it will not have faced skill players and an offensive system like USC’s before this season.
Tulane’s lack of Power 5 competition and USC’s motivation level make this a stay-away.
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