Submitted by Richie Baccellieri on Thursday, December 31, 2015 at 11:00 AM
Even after the National Semifinals are in the books, there are NINE more bowl games to be played on Friday and Saturday January 1 and 2. We have the traditional New Year’s Bowls on Friday (including the blockbuster Ohio State/Notre Dame game), followed by four slightly lesser attractions that will still garner plenty of betting interest here in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Let’s see how sharps have been betting the final nine games on the official bowl schedule. We’ll have one more college report just before the National Championship game that will be played a week from Monday.
NEW YEAR’S DAY BOWL GAMES
OUTBACK BOWL: NORTHWESTERN VS. TENNESSEE (in Tampa on ESPN2)
The opener of Tennessee -8 is up to -8.5. That’s not a key number of course. But that’s a fairly high number to attract early sharp betting. Both the Big 10 and SEC are off to very strong starts vs. market expectations. Plenty of appearances for both conferences over these last two days. The Over/Under is up from 45 to 47.5, with some stores looking to test 48. That suggests nice weather in Florida. The SEC is usually better positioned to thrive in great conditions, while the Big 10 teams are better mudders.
CITRUS BOWL: MICHIGAN VS. FLORIDA (in Orlando on ABC)
Still painted Michigan -4. Sharps are really down on Florida because the team had such a horrible offense this season. But, loving Michigan became more difficult after the Wolverines played so poorly in their season finale against Ohio State. A lot of sharps misread that one badly. If the public comes in on Michigan before kickoff, the Wise Guys may not fade that move until they see Gators +5. The total is down from 41.5 to 39. That’s partly from the quants…and partly because some sharps chose to “bet Michigan” by taking the Under on the assumption that Michigan’s strong defense will keep Florida’s poor offense off the board.
FIESTA BOWL: OHIO STATE VS. NOTRE DAME (in Glendale, AZ on ESPN)
This will be an extremely heavily bet game because both programs have big followings in Nevada (and all over the country for that matter). The money is mostly off-setting so far, with Ohio State -6.0 or -6.5 up on the board. Sharps generally prefer Notre Dame here. Many are deciding that +6.5 is the best they’re going to see. Oddsmakers know that the Wise Guys would jump in big at +7. Unlikely that will come into play because square money is split here rather than piling up on the favorite. The Over/Under is up from 54 to 57. Quants were projecting more of a shootout than the oddsmakers were. Can’t emphasize this enough…this is a BIG attraction here in Las Vegas even if it’s not a Final Four game.
ROSE BOWL: STANFORD VS. IOWA (in Pasadena on ESPN)
The Rose Bowl is always heavily bet as well thanks to that exclusive TV window and the proximity of the game to Las Vegas. Iowa has been getting the early look from sharps as an opener of Hawkeyes +7 is down to +6 in many spots. The Big 10 won and covered their first three bowl games with Nebraska, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (the first and last winning outright as dogs over Pac 12 opponents!). The total has flown up from 49.5 to 53.5. You wouldn’t normally expect that in an Iowa game. But, Stanford just played a very high scoring game with Notre Dame amidst a declining defensive stage. Plus, weather should be nice, though a bit chillier than normal in the second half.
SUGAR BOWL: OLE MISS VS. OKLAHOMA STATE (in New Orleans on ABC)
I mentioned earlier that the SEC was off to a strong start. With LSU, Auburn, and Mississippi State all winning blowouts, it became much easier to like Ole Miss here. An opener of -6.5 has moved past the key number of seven to -7.5 in many stores. You regulars know that’s a BIG move even though it’s just one point. Moving through a key number without strong interest in a buy back is something that matters. The opening total of 66 is up to 68 or 69 at last report. I’m hearing that Texas Tech’s inability to stop LSU has convinced more than a few sharps that Oklahoma State will have similar trouble stopping Ole Miss.
SATURDAY’S BOWL GAMES
TAXSLAYER BOWL: PENN STATE VS. GEORGIA (in Jacksonville on ESPN)
Another meeting between the Big 10 and SEC kicks off the final day of “bowl” action. Georgia is in the midst of a coaching change after a disappointing season. That may be part of what’s generating more sharp interest in the dog. An opener of Georgia -7 is down to Penn State +6.5. Not likely to see a tug-of-war because there aren’t great obvious reasons for sharps or squares to take the favorite. The total is down a tick from 43 to 42.5.
LIBERTY BOWL: KANSAS STATE VS. ARKANSAS (in Memphis on ESPN)
No respect for Kansas State! Arkansas opened at a whopping -11 but has been bet up to -13 despite the general old school tendency to like big dogs in bowl games. The quants and the “matchup” guys see this as a one-sided laugher. It might take +14 to bring in meaningful underdog money unless some news breaks between now and kickoff. The Over/Under is down from 59.5 to 55.5 on the assumption that Arkansas will run clock with a lead, while K-State struggles to get much on the scoreboard.
ALAMO BOWL: OREGON VS. TCU (in San Antonio on ESPN)
As I write this Thursday, news has been breaking about TCU quarterback Trevone Boykin getting into a bar fight. Best to let the dust settle on that. Prior to the news, the game had centered around pick-em. The Over/Under had been bet up from 75 to 77.5. One reason many sharps wait until game-day to place big bets is because BAD headlines have become so common in the college football postseason!
CACTUS BOWL: WEST VIRGINIA AT ARIZONA STATE (in Phoenix on ESPN)
Note that this will be played at Chase Field in Phoenix, where the Diamondbacks play baseball in the summer. Not a “home” game for Arizona State, though they’ll have a good sized crowd. Of course, West Virginia usually travels very well. We’ve flipped favorites off the opener, as Arizona State -1 has moved to West Virginia -1. The total is down from 66.5 to 64.5. That Over/Under might be in conflict with your general impression of these teams. Perhaps there’s a turf issue that sharps have been alerted to. Not uncommon at baseball sites.
You can purchase my last two batches of bowl selections right here at the website with your credit card. Don’t forget to check on college basketball Saturday (my favorite sport to handicap) and NFL Week 17 on Sunday. If you have any questions, call the VSM office at 1-888-777-4155.
Back Saturday with our final NFL report of the regular season. Tuesday we’ll look at Super Bowl Futures prices at the close of the 2015-16 campaign. Not too far down the road, a look at Wildcard Weekend and the college championship showdown.
Thanks for reading. Happy New Year!
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