Bowl betting is sometimes a race to beat the book or a waiting game to outsmart the public.
With weeks and weeks worth of wagers flowing into sportsbooks, lines for bowl games can go on a crazy ride before the whistle finally blows.
We asked some of Covers Experts’ sharpest minds which bowls are best to bet now, and which ones are best to bet later, depending on where they see the odds moving before kickoff.
New Mexico Bowl: Arizona Wildcats vs. Nevada Wolf Pack (+9.5, 75)
The New Mexico Bowl is the first offering of bowl season and will get a ton of action. For those bettors looking to lay the favorite, sooner rather than later would be the best course of action.
“Bet Arizona now,” says Covers Expert Teddy Covers. “Arizona is going to get hit hard. They could be at -10 by the end of the day.”
As for the total for the New Mexico Bowl, the 75 points is among the highest numbers on the board and will likely climb as anxious public money takes the favorite and the over. Fans of the under should wait on this and see just how high the total will go.
“Both teams are led by inconsistent quarterbacks and I won't be surprised if we see a rather sloppy game between two teams that struggle to take care of the football,” says Covers Expert Sean Murphy.
Poinsettia Bowl: BYU Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs (+2.5, 49)
The Aztecs don’t have to travel far for their bowl matchup with BYU, taking the field at Qualcomm Stadium on Dec. 20. San Diego State rolls into bowl season on a seven-game winning streak (6-1 ATS) while the Cougars back into the postseason with a 3-3 SU mark in their final six games (3-3 ATS).
“The Cougars were 1-5 SU and 2-4 ATS against .500 or greater opponents this season,” says Covers Expert Marc Lawrence. “It doesn't hurt that home dogs in bowl games are 6-3 SU and 7-2 ATS since 1998.”
Las Vegas Bowl: Washington Huskies vs. Boise State Broncos (-5, 46)
Boise State has made a name for itself during bowl season. The Broncos aren’t the high-flying offensive power of years past but will likely draw their share of public money as Dec. 22 draws near. Boise State has leaned on its defense, ranked sixth in points allowed.
“As games get closer, the public loves to bet favorites,” says Covers Expert Matt Fargo. “If there is any value now in some notable favorites, that value could be lost by the time the game rolls around.”
Russell Athletic Bowl: Rutgers Scarlet Knights vs. Virginia Tech Hokies (-2.5, 41.5)
Neither team has lit up the scoreboard this season, with defense as their main crutch. That philosophy has translated into one of the lowest totals on the bowl board. However, the layoff could be all these sides need to fine tune their attack and the public will likely drive this total downward as Dec. 28 inches closer on the calendar.
“Some time off might serve both units well, and I see this as an ideal spot for both teams to take out some of their frustrations,” says Murphy. “Both teams have playmakers on offense and speed to burn. We'll see it here.”
Compass Bowl: Pittsburgh Panthers vs. Mississippi Rebels (-3.5, 52)
Early money has been drawn to the SEC teams, including this matchup between Ole Miss and Pitt. The spread has moved from -2 to -3.5 and should continue to grow through the New Year for this Jan. 5 bowl game. Anyone sizing up the underdog should wait this one out as long as they can.
“With The Rebels an easy-to-like SEC entry and the Panthers out of the struggling Big East, I figure this line to swell by game time,” says Lawrence. “Pitt is looking to make amends for 28-6 loss as 3.5-point favorites over SMU in this same game last year.”
Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Syracuse Orange (+4, 73.5)
The total for this game in Yankee Stadium is already on the rise with high-powered West Virginia taking on a resurgent Syracuse attack that got hot late in the year. Those bettors looking to wager on the under can put this one to sleep until Dec. 29.
“If you like the under, you best sit tight until close to game time because all the late money is likely to be on the over,” says Covers Expert Jesse Schule.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin Badgers vs. Stanford Cardinal (-6.5, 47.5)
The knee-jerk reaction to Wisconsin's coaching change is to bet the Cardinal with both fists. The line jumped only slightly when it was announced head coach Bret Bielema was taking the job at Arkansas and leaving AD and former coach Barry Alvarez to rally the troops on New Year's Day. Covers Expert Steve Merril sees Alvarez as a live coaching underdog and expects the public to fade Wisconsin's 8-5 SU record.
"Many may think the Badgers are a bad team at 8-5, but they are much better than their record," says Merril. "They had four losses by three points and the other by seven points in overtime."