NCAA Football: Best Early Bowl Odds and Matchups

The most important part of the college football season has finally arrived. All the teams have been chosen for the 40 FBS bowl games on this year’s schedule – including the four teams who will compete in the College Football Playoff. With so many people lining up to bet on NCAA bowl games, this is easily the best time of the year to make some quick cash with sharp picks.

Have you figured out your picks yet? NCAA football odds for all of these games (except the National Championship Game, for now) are available at Bovada Sportsbook; here are the 10 early bowl games we think are most worth paying attention to, with their odds at press time attached.

NCAA Odds: New Year's Six Bowl Preview

If you’re a college football player, there’s nothing better than having your team play in one of the really big bowl games at the end of the season – the New Year’s Six bowls, as they’ve been called since the College Football Playoff debuted in 2014. This is also the best time to bet on NCAA bowl games; millions of fans will be watching on TV and cheering on their favorite teams, with a little money on the line for some added excitement.

While the New Year’s Six format may be new, these bowl games have been around for quite a while. The prestige of playing in one of these major sporting events is big, and players are aware that NFL scouts attend all of them. We’ve listed this year’s bowls in order of importance, and the marquee matchup on the NCAA football lines at Bovada Sportsbook is an absolute must-see event.

NCAA Odds: Best Major Bowl Odds and Matchups

1. Fiesta Bowl: No. 3 Clemson Tigers vs No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes

Saturday, December 28 at 8 PM ET, State Farm Stadium (Glendale, Arizona), ESPN

Clemson –2; O/U 63.5

It’s tempting to call this the “real” National Championship Game. The Tigers (13-0 SU, 10-3 ATS) are the defending champs, while the Buckeyes (13-0 SU, 9-4 ATS) look like the best team in the nation, even if they did slip to No. 2 in the CFP rankings. It’s a classic bowl game betting conundrum: Does Clemson’s path of destruction through the soft ACC measure up to Ohio State’s dominance in the Big Ten – the toughest conference of them all this year?

So far, the NCAA football odds are in Clemson’s favor. But they may have bitten off more than they can chew this time; the Buckeyes have already moved from +3 to +2 since the open, and at press time, none of Ohio State’s top NFL prospects have announced that they’ll skip the Fiesta Bowl to protect their draft status. If that remains the case, OSU’s superior offense and special teams should have the edge against the best defense in college football.

2. Peach Bowl: No. 4 Oklahoma Sooners vs No. 1 Louisiana State Tigers

Saturday, December 28 at 4 PM ET, Mercedes-Benz Stadium (Atlanta, Georgia), ESPN

LSU –14; O/U 75.5

As impressive as these Tigers (13-0 SU, 8-5 ATS) have been this year, their value is concentrated on offense, where QB Joe Burrow, who won this season’s Heisman Trophy after throwing 48 touchdown passes and just six picks, calls the action. That’s why they’re considered a vulnerable team in the CFP – but not in the semifinals, where they’ll meet a truly defensively challenged team in the Sooners (12-1 SU, 5-8 ATS). 

That defense will be even more challenged now that starting DE Ronnie Perkins has been suspended for the Peach Bowl. Perkins will join RB Rhamondre Stevenson and WR Trejan Bridges on the sideline; the reason for their punishment hasn’t been announced, nor whether they’ll be reinstated for the National Championship Game – if Oklahoma make it that far, which appears even more doubtful now.

3. Rose Bowl: No. 6 Oregon Ducks vs No. 8 Wisconsin Badgers

Wednesday, January 1 at 5 PM ET, Rose Bowl (Pasadena, California), ESPN

Wisconsin –2.5; O/U 51.5

This is the oldest of the bowl games, first played in 1902, so even though it’s not a CFP semifinal this year, the Rose Bowl still deserves its moment in the spotlight. It’s always a blast when the Big Ten and the Pac-12 lock horns; either of these two teams could have earned a playoff spot with a lucky bounce here or there.

Again, it’s a case of choosing between the Ducks (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS) with the better record from the weaker conference, and the Badgers (10-3 SU, 8-5 ATS), who are battle-tested after facing Ohio State for the Big Ten title – and covering as 17.5-point underdogs in a competitive 34-21 loss. Wisconsin has some built-in betting value as a regional market, and they’re 4-0 SU and 3-1 ATS in bowl games since Paul Chryst took over as head coach. But at least the Ducks will be familiar with the venue after visiting the UCLA Bruins every now and then in conference play.

4. Cotton Bowl: No. 17 Memphis Tigers vs No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions

Saturday, December 28 at 12 PM ET, AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas), ESPN

PSU –7; O/U 60.5

The Cotton Bowl Classic has been played since 1937; unfortunately, the game was moved from the eponymous stadium to Arlington in 2010, and this year’s matchup features Memphis (12-1 SU, 8-5 ATS), the only New Year’s Six team outside of the Power Five conferences. The Tigers will also have a new head coach, with Ryan Silverfield taking over full-time after Mike Norvell decamped for the Florida State Seminoles.

Will the Nittany Lions (10-2 SU, 6-6 ATS) rise to the occasion? Missing out on the Playoff was painful enough, but getting passed over for a Rose Bowl invitation really stung. Memphis, on the other hand, will be playing in their first-ever New Year’s Six bowl, and while they represent the Group of Five mid-major conferences, the American played at a higher level overall than the ACC this year.

5. Sugar Bowl: No. 5 Georgia Bulldogs vs No. 7 Baylor Bears

Wednesday, January 1 at 8:45 PM ET, Mercedes-Benz Superdome (New Orleans, Louisiana), ESPN

Georgia –6; O/U 41

Motivation will also be a big factor for Georgia (11-2 SU, 7-6 ATS), after they got humiliated by LSU in the SEC title game and saw their own playoff dreams get crushed again. That was enough for OT Andrew Thomas; on Tuesday, he announced he was leaving the team and forgoing his senior season to enter the 2020 NFL Draft – where he’s likely to be selected in the top ten. OT Isaiah Wilson has also declared for the draft, although he hasn’t announced whether he’ll skip the Sugar Bowl.

This is all great news for the Bears (11-2 SU, 9-4 ATS). They’re one of the weakest New Year’s Six teams on paper, but they do have a quality defense, and they’ll match up even better against the Bulldogs now that Georgia’s offensive line has been compromised. As for motivation, this is Baylor’s first Sugar Bowl since 1957, a considerable accomplishment for head coach Matt Rhule as he tries to resurrect the program following the sexual assault scandal that ended the Art Briles Era in 2015.

6. Orange Bowl: No. 9 Florida Gators vs No. 24 Virginia Cavaliers

Monday, December 30 at 8 PM ET, Hard Rock Stadium (Miami, Florida), ESPN

Florida –14.5; O/U 54.5

Playing at the Orange Bowl is almost like a home game for the Gators (10-2 SU, 8-4 ATS), but they’ll be without cornerback CJ Henderson, who is also skipping his senior season and turning pro. Henderson’s presence would have been most welcome against Virginia (9-4 SU, 6-6-1 ATS), who are powered by dual-threat QB Bryce Perkins – and not much else, outside their excellent special teams.

There could be a few more high-profile players declaring for the NFL Draft between now and the kick-off for these games, so keep an eye on the newswires, and for the weather forecasts as they become available for the outdoor venues. Bovada Sportsbook will have updated college football odds for all the bowl games as we get closer to deciding the National Championship on January 13 at the Superdome.

*Odds as of December 27, 2019