College football bowl betting trends and key stats to watch

Two weeks out from the Cotton Bowl, 70 percent of the money wagered on the game was on Clemson to defeat Notre Dame. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

It's college football bowl season, which means there are more games than casual bettors can research. Feeling lost?

Fear not, as we're here with our annual list of bowl betting nuggets, including how the betting action has gone so far, injury information, every coach's against-the-spread record and more.

Early action on College Football Playoff semifinals

• As of Dec. 13, more money had been wagered on the Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic between Clemson and Notre Dame than any other bowl game at the Westgate SuperBook. Seventy percent of the money that had been wagered on the game was on the favored Tigers. "I do expect Notre Dame support as we get closer to Dec. 29," Westgate Superbook Race & Sports Director John Murray said.

• As of Dec. 13 at William Hill sportsbooks, 60 percent of the bets on the Cotton Bowl point spread were on Notre Dame, but 59 percent of the money that had been wagered was on Clemson.

• Twenty-one of the first 23 money-line bets on Notre Dame-Clemson were on the Fighting Irish at Las Vegas sportsbook operator CG Technology.

• As of Dec. 13 at the SuperBook, the number of bets on the Capital One Orange Bowl between Oklahoma and Alabama is equal, while the underdog Sooners attracted 64 percent of the money wagered.

• CG Technology took a $10,000 money-line bet on Alabama to beat Oklahoma at -500 odds. The bet would pay a net $2,000.

• As of Dec. 13 at CG Technology, there were 2.2 times more tickets on Oklahoma and 2.2 times as much money on the Sooners in the Orange Bowl.

• As of Dec. 13 at William Hill sportsbooks in Nevada and New Jersey, 78 percent of the money wagered on the Orange Bowl point spread was on the Crimson Tide.

• The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas took a $16,546 two-team parlay on Clemson -11.5 and Oklahoma +14 the day after the playoff matchups were released, according to Murray.

Other early action on bowl games

• A bettor placed a bevy of bowl wagers ranging between $2,000 and $5,000 on Wednesday at the sportsbook at the South Point Casino in Las Vegas. When he was done, his bets totalled approximately $151,000. "I don't think he played the Cotton Bowl," said South Point sportsbook director Chris Andrews. "He played a couple totals, a pretty good mix of favorites and dogs. Listen, if you're betting $150,000, you're no dummy. We might beat the guy, he might beat us, but he's no square."

• A bettor at the William Hill sportsbook at Monmouth Park racetrack in new Jersey placed a $35,000 bet on Fresno State -4.5 against Arizona State in the Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl on Dec. 15.

• More money had been bet on the Las Vegas Bowl than any other bowl game at William Hill books as of Dec. 13.

• CG Technology took five limit wagers on Fresno State. "All the bets on Arizona State are 20 bucks, 40 bucks, 50 bucks," Simbal said. "We're a big lopsided there."

• CG Technology took $5,400 money-line bet on Fresno State at -180 to win $3,000.

• A regular customer at MGM sportsbooks in Nevada placed a series of five-figure bowl bets on some underdogs. The non-local bettor put $55,000 on Louisiana Tech +1.5, $44,000 on Eastern Michigan +2, $55,000 on Middle Tennessee +7 and $44,000 on North Texas +8.5, according to supervisor Scott Shelton.

• The line on the Rose Bowl Game Presented by Northwestern Mutual climbed all the way from Ohio State -4.5 to -7 in the first 10 days it was on the board at CG Technology. Jason Simbal, vice president of risk for CG Technology, said they took limit bets on the Buckeyes at -4.5 and another limit bet Monday at -6.5 to push the line to -7.

• As of Dec. 13, five times as much money had been bet on Ohio State as had been bet on Washington at CG Technology. "I don't really expect the public to bet Washington at all in this game," Simbal said. "You usually know when one of these dogs is going to be a popular money-line team. I don't really see Washington being that. I think we're going to need this game for quite a bit."

• The SuperBook reported sharp action on: Georgia Southern +1, Louisiana Tech +2, Arkansas State PK, Virginia Tech +6, Western Michigan +12.5, Georgia Tech -4, Iowa State +4, Virginia +4.5 and Pittsburgh +7.

• "There's also been sharp money on the under in Saturday's New Orleans Bowl between Middle Tennessee and Appalachian State," the SuperBook's Murray said. "The total moved down from 50.5 to 48 here."

• The South Point reported taking bets from respected players on Temple, Boston College, Texas A&M and Utah in early December. Temple opened as a 3-point favorite over Duke. The line grew to -5, before settling back at -4. Boston College has gone from +3.5 to +2.5 against Boise State. Texas A&M, after opening at -4.5, has grown to a 6.5-point favorite over NC State. Utah opened at -6.5 and grew to -7 against Northwestern.

• The bowl that attracted the most lopsided action at CG Technology in the first 10 days after the matchups were announced was the Outback Bowl between Mississippi State and Iowa. "They're betting Mississippi State," Simbal said. "We took bets over the counter for $8,800 on Mississippi -6. Then, we took another five figures in total on -7. We went to -7.5 and finally sharp guys bet Iowa. But a lot of action on Mississippi State."

• As of Dec. 13 at the SuperBook, 63 percent of the bets and 85 percent of the money was on favored Georgia in the Allstate Sugar Bowl against Texas.

• "The action this year [on the bowls] is probably better than I ever remember it," the South Point's Andrews said.

Bowl notables

• Over the past five seasons, bowl games have been decided by an average of 14 points.

• Alabama is a 14-point favorite over Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl. Before the bowls kicked off, it was the largest point spread of any bowl this season.

• Over the past five seasons, bowl teams favored by 14 or more points are just 8-4 straight-up.

• Teams favored by 14 points or more have won 89.3 percent of regular-season and conference championship games over the past five years.

• Heading into bowl season, there are four double-digit favorites: Alabama (-14) vs. Oklahoma, Georgia -11 vs. Texas, Clemson -11.5 vs. Notre Dame, and BYU -12 vs. Western Michigan. Double-digit favorites in bowls are 20-6 SU and 12-14 ATS over the past five seasons.

• Average total points per game (FBS vs. FBS) this season: 57.7.

• Average total points in bowl games over past five seasons: 59.2.

• Over the past five years, overs are 102-94 in bowl games.

• Teams are 49-49-1 ATS in bowl games after losing in their conference championship game from 2008-17.

• Favorites are 1-7 against the spread in the Pinstripe Bowl. Miami is a 4-point favorite over Wisconsin this year.

• Underdogs are 4-0 against the spread in the College Football Playoff national championship game.

• Nine of the past 10 Military Bowls have gone over the total.

• Ten of the last 12 Russell Athletic Bowls have gone under the total.

• Vanderbilt has covered the spread in its past five games -- the longest such streak of any bowl team.

• North Texas has failed to cover the spread in its past five games, the longest such streak of any bowl team.

• Only one of North Texas' 12 games eclipsed the total, with one push.

Ten-year conference ATS record in bowls

• SEC: 58-43-2
• Big Ten: 43-37-3
• ACC: 49-43-2
• Conference USA: 33-27
• Sun Belt: 19-15
• Mountain West: 30-29
• Independents: 11-12
• Pac-10/12: 34-38-2
• American: 14-18
• Big 12: 29-45
• MAC: 18-35-1

Regular-season, non-conference straight-up record (FBS vs. FBS only)

• SEC: 36-7
• Big 12: 16-7
• Big Ten: 26-15
• ACC: 25-20
• Pac-12: 16-13
• Independent: 33-31
• AAC: 16-21
• MWC: 18-22
• Sun Belt: 13-20
• C-USA: 13-34
• MAC: 9-31

Largest strength-of-schedule mismatches [via Sagarin Ratings]

• Texas A&M (4) vs. NC State (68)
• Northern Illinois (73) vs. UAB (131)
• Michigan State (8) vs. Oregon (62)
• Wake Forest (53) vs. Memphis (103)
• South Carolina (17) vs. Virginia (65)
• Tulane (74) vs. Louisiana (112)

Statistical mismatches

• UAB, fourth in team sacks, vs. Northern Illinois, 113th in sacks allowed.

• Marshall, fifth in team sacks vs. South Florida, 114th in sacks allowed.

• Pittsburgh, 15th in kickoff returns, vs. Stanford, 129th in kickoff return defense

• Minnesota, 26th in kickoff returns, vs. Georgia Tech, No. 126 kickoff return defense.

• Boston College, 16th in punt returns, vs. Boise State, 123rd in punt return defense.

• North Texas, 25th punt return, vs. Utah State 125th,, punt return defense.

• Memphis's No. 15 red zone offense vs. Wake Forest's No. 128 red zone defense.

• Army's 36th red zone offense vs. Houston's 124th red zone defense.

• Georgia Tech, 11th in turnovers gained, vs. Minnesota, 116th in turnovers lost.

• Army's No. 2-ranked rushing attack vs. Houston's 99th-ranked rushing defense.

• Tulane's No. 30-ranked rushing attack vs. Louisiana's No. 107-ranked rushing defense.

• Cincinnati's 16th-ranked rushing attack vs. Virginia Tech's 105th-ranked rushing defense.

• Alabama's No. 2-ranked pass efficiency vs. Oklahoma's 105th-ranked pass efficiency defense.

• NC State's 20th ranked pass efficiency vs. Texas A&M's 111th-ranked pass efficiency defense.

• Memphis, No. 5 in yards per play, vs. Wake Forest, No. 97 in yards per play allowed.


• Duke coach David Cutcliffe is 8-2 ATS in bowl games. The Blue Devils are 3.5-point underdogs to Temple in the Walk-On's Independence Bowl on Dec. 27. Cutcliffe is 48-33-2 ATS as an underdog at Duke.

• Florida International coach Butch Davis is 7-1 ATS in bowl games. The Panthers are 6-point underdogs to Toledo in the Makers Wanted Bahamas Bowl on Dec. 21.

• Ohio State coach Urban Meyer is 10-3 ATS in bowl games. The Buckeyes are 6.5-point favorites over Washington in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1.

• Utah coach Kyle Whittingham is 9-3 ATS in bowl games. The Utes are 7-point favorites over Northwestern in the San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl on Dec. 31.

• Marshall coach Doc Holliday is 5-0 ATS in bowl games. The Thundering Herd are a 2.5-point favorite over South Florida in the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl on Dec. 20.

• Northern Illinois coach Rod Carey is 0-5 ATS in bowl games. The Huskies are 2.5-point underdogs against UAB in the Cheribundi Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 18.

• Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly is 3-7 ATS in bowl games. The Fighting Irish are 11.5-point underdogs to Clemson in the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29.

• Texas coach Tom Herman is 12-2-1 ATS as an underdog. The Longhorns are 12-point underdogs against Georgia in the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1.

• All five of Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson's bowl games have gone over the total. The total in the Jared Birmingham Bowl between Wake Forest and Memphis on Dec. 22 is 74.

• All five of Auburn coach Gus Malzahn's bowl games have gone under the total. The Tigers face Purdue in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 28. The total is 54.5.

• Six of Penn State coach James Franklin's seven bowl games have gone over the total. The Nittany Lions face Kentucky in the VRBO Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1. The total is 47.5.

• Sixteen of Alabama coach Nick Saban's 22 bowl games have gone over the total. The Crimson Tide will take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the Orange Bowl on Dec. 29. Eleven of the Sooners' 13 games this season went over the total. The total for this year's Orange Bowl is 81.5.

• All five of Boston College coach Steve Addazio's bowl games have gone over the total. The Eagles face Boise State in the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl on Dec. 26. The total is 56.

Impact players sitting out / injured:

• West Virginia QB Will Grier
• West Virginia OT Yodny Cajuste
• Michigan DL Rashan Gary
• Minnesota OT Donnell Greene
• Houston DL Ed Oliver
• Houston QB D'Eriq King
• Oklahoma State RB Justice Hill
• Oklahoma State OG Larry Williams
• South Carolina WR Deebo Samuel
• Iowa TE Noah Fant
• LSU DB Greedy Williams
• NC State WR Kelvin Harmon
• NC State LB Germaine Pratt
• Arizona State WR N'Keal Harry
• BYU DL Corbin Kaufusi
• BYU RB Matt Hadley
• Baylor WR Jalen Hurd

Injury notes:

• The St. Paul Pioneer Press reported Wednesday that "several" Minnesota players are expected to be suspended for the Gophers' bowl game against Georgia Tech. The names of the players had not been identified as of Dec. 12.

• Houston starting QB D'Eriq King was lost for the season with a knee injury during a mid-season loss to Tulane. King was leading the FBS with 50 touchdowns before the injury. Freshman Clayton Tune started in place of King in a 52-31 loss to Memphis. Tune completed 18 of 43 passes for 256 yards with three touchdowns and an interception against Memphis.

• Tulane senior QB Justin McMillan took over the starting role in late October and led the Green Wave to a 4-1 mark to finish the season. Four of his five starts went under the total. Tulane is a 3.5-point favorite over Louisiana in the AutoNation Cure Bowl on Dec. 15.

• Western Michigan starting QB Jon Wassink missed the past four games due to an ankle injury. Freshman backup Kaleb Eleby was forced into duty. The Broncos went 1-3 straight-up and against the spread with Eleby under center. All four of his starts went over the total. Western Michigan is a 12.5-point underdog to BYU in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 21.

Statistical data was used in this article from: ESPN Stats & Information (h/t Matt Willis), BetLabSports.com, TeamRankings.com, Covers.com