5 best predictions for this the early bowls. What are the best bets and picks for the bowl games from December 27th through the 30th?
5 Best College Football Bowl Predictions December 27th-30th Games
Results So Far: 79-68-1
Bowl Season: 5-5
I know … I KNOW.
You could flip a coin and hit .500 on your picks – we’ve proven that every year with the Clucko the Chicken selections.
Anyone can go .500. My dead grandmother could hit .500 randomly guessing pick, and make a mean pierogi while doing it. That’s not the content you’re here for.
However, I’ll take the 3-2 rally in the last batch to get me up to the 50% mark, because this bowl season is insane.
Bless your heart if you were on the wrong end of Houston -6.5 in the final moments against Louisiana your 2022 Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl.
Merry Christmas to all those who assumed that a San Diego State team that held Middle Tennessee to -66 rushing yards would not only fail to cover, but lose outright.
Last second opt-outs, key players getting hurt right away, bad weather, worse play calling – welcome to the bowls so far. Almost everything we know from the regular season now means a fat load of jack squat.
But there’s a chance this might get a whole lot easier as we head into the finishing kick. There’s a better handle on who’s actually playing in these things and who isn’t. Start with that, assume the teams with the regular starting quarterbacks will somehow prevail, and even then, good luck.
I’ll do the final batch for the New Year’s Six and College Football Playoff games for Thursday night – I’m going to break something tasteful if my No. 1 for that isn’t nailed dead cold.
Until then, here are five that should work, starting with one that might be going on just as you’re reading this …
Click on each game for the game preview
Tuesday, December 27, 12:00 ESPN
ATS Line Georgia Southern -3.5
Pick Georgia Southern
I’m not going to lie, I’ve hit a wall with some of these bowl games and trying to guess whether or not some random guy who’s third on the depth chart is about to rise up and rock. I’m going to keep this simple.
Pick the teams that have the most key starters from the regular season still around. That sounds obvious, right? However, sometimes there are just enough good parts on the rest of the team to make up for the missing pieces, so that goes with Part Two of this simple way of doing this.
If all things were totally normal for a neutral site game in mid-October, who would you take?
Georgia Southern -3.5 against Buffalo if everything was even would be the call. Now throw into the mix that UB’s backfield is very, very thin, as is the offense isn’t steadily high-powered enough to keep up, and the Eagles are far better equipped to hang around in a back-and-forth shootout.
Buffalo’s defense takes the ball away in bunches, though. As long as Georgia Southern doesn’t get slaughtered in the turnover margin fight, this shouldn’t be a problem.
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Tuesday, December 27, 6:45 ESPN
ATS Line East Carolina -7
Pick East Carolina
Yeah, all that stuff I mentioned in the Georgia Southern pick over Buffalo about taking the team that has more regular starters returning – take that and throw in a head coach.
East Carolina is missing a few guys, but nothing to get into a big twist over. On the other side, Coastal Carolina lost head coach Jamey Chadwell to Liberty, new head man Tim Beck isn’t around, and the team is missing some key parts on the lines.
And then there’s Grayson McCall.
He’s in the transfer portal and going through the whole process, and the star Coastal Carolina quarterback is preparing to play in this, and he’s still trying to get back up to speed after missing time hurt, and his team got rocked by James Madison 47-7 to close out the regular season and was rolled by Troy 45-26 in the Sun Belt Championship.
All of that, and the East Carolina offense should throw at will as it tries to win the program’s first bowl game since 2013.
And now I’m about to make a pick that totally contradicts things …
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Wednesday, December 28, 8:00 FOX
POINT TOTAL 75
There’s a bunch to unpack here.
Usually when I make the final call for the game picks in the previews, I pick the final score, lock it in, don’t look at the line until after, and don’t change it unless it’s right on the line or unless something wacky happens – like weather, injury, etc.
My original thought was that this would be a wild shootout.
Both Oregon and North Carolina have their star quarterbacks who are coming back next year – Drake Maye for North Carolina and Bo Nix for Oregon – and both defenses are losing key guys and/or were putrid to begin with.
1) If you’ve been with me for the last 25 years, you know my rule – if the world gives you a college football total of 70 or over, you take the under, say thank you, and move on no matter what. It’s really, really hard to push past a point total of 70 or more.
2) These bowl games – in general – have been low scoring and brutally ragged. All of the missing parts matter.
3) No Josh Downs for North Carolina. Drake Maye doesn’t have his top receiver, Oregon is missing a whole lot of offensive depth, and …
4) I know, be careful here. Oregon is losing a ton of defensive talent, and North Carolina’s defense that can’t afford any defections basically lost almost anyone who can play. There’s a chance both offenses will look like they’re throwing against defenses with eight guys on the field.
After all of that, I’m a little spooked that both teams don’t have their offensive coordinators – North Carolina’s Phil Longo is off to Wisconsin and Oregon’s Kenny Dillingham is the new Arizona State head coach – and again, these games aren’t quite the offensive shows they should be.
Again, if it goes over, enjoy the show and move on. Short memory, because there’s more bowl work to do …
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Wednesday, December 28 2:00, ESPN
ATS Line Duke -3
First and foremost, Duke is actually good.
Get past the school name. If Miami went 8-4 with one of the four losses by a touchdown-and-2 and the other three by three points each, it would be the hottest thing around going into the 2023 season.
Duke beat Miami 45-21 in Miami Gardens, by the way.
Mike Elko’s team doesn’t beat itself with penalties or turnovers, it’s steady, and it’s just okay enough defensively to get by in a game like this.
All of that, and Duke gets everyone who matters back for this bowl. UCF doesn’t.
Of course UCF has the coaching and the talent to rise up in a game like this – it’s what the program lives for. But the quarterback situation is going to be interesting depending on whether or not John Rhys Plumlee really is okay to go, and there are enough lost starters to the transfer portal – top target Ryan O’Keefe hurts – to matter.
It’s all a long-winded way of saying in a bowl year without a whole lot of things to go on based on what happened in the regular season, Duke is as close as it might get to being normal. That also goes for …
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Thursday, December 29, 2:00, ESPN
ATS Line Minnesota -10
Oh do I so hate giving away double-digit points in a bowl game.
In this flake-fest of an exhibition season, when in doubt, take the underdog, especially if it’s catching ten or more points. But at least in this you should know exactly what you’re getting.
Syracuse won’t have star RB Sean Tucker. That’s okay – he wasn’t used as much as he should’ve been this year – but it’s still going to sting to not having him around. Even with him, Syracuse totally fell off the map over the second half of the season.
It got blown out by ten or more in four straight games before closing with a win over a putrid Boston College team.
And it’s not just Tucker.
Part of the reason for the slide was a defense that was decimated by injuries. That didn’t exactly get better going into this, with a line that’s already thin to go along with a secondary that got hammered by the transfer portal.
On the other side, Minnesota is missing some parts in the secondary, too, but the offensive line is still amazing – John Michael Schmitz is probably the best center going into the draft, and he’s playing – and it’s going to pave the way for Mohamed Ibrahim and the rotation of Gopher backs that will keep on pounding.
At least Ibrahim is expected to play.
The program has won four straight bowl games, PJ Fleck’s team took down West Virginia 18-6 last year, and the Gophers should show up large to this, too.
Expert Picks Dec 28-Jan 2, NY6, CFP