2021 College Football Bowls Confidence Guide: A Cheat Sheet For Your Pools

Written By Mo Nuwwarah on December 14, 2021
bowl game pool picks

It’s college football bowl season, and that means hundreds of thousands of fans will participate in bowl game pools. Whether making picks against the spread, straight up, or with confidence points, TheLines’ handy bowl game pool guide can help you make your picks.

We’ve collected market prices on each team to help you gauge win probability. For confidence players — and even those looking to differentiate in spread and straight up contests — we’ve also collected publicly available pick percentages from ESPN’s confidence contest.

All market prices and win probability info comes from DraftKings Sportsbook as of Monday morning.

Be sure to join TheLines’ free ATS bowl pick’em contest, where you can win a $250 Amazon gift card and TheLines gear. Just follow this link to enter, and make sure you’re following TheLines on Twitter and have joined the Discord channel to be eligible for prizes.

Bowl Game Picks Cheat Sheet

You can sort each column, most notably market win probability and pick percentage, to go from highest to lowest. The table defaults to sorting by bowl game schedule.

DateFavoriteMarket Price (Win Probability)ESPN Pick%UnderdogMarket Price (Win Probability)ESPN Pick%
Friday, Dec. 17Toledo-380 (75%)93Middle Tennessee State+290 (25%)7
Friday, Dec. 17Coastal Carolina-410 (77%)86Northern Illinois+310 (23%)14
Saturday, Dec. 18Appalachian State-150 (58%)85Western Kentucky+130 (42%)15
Saturday, Dec. 18Fresno State-435 (78%)95UTEP+330 (22%)5
Saturday, Dec. 18BYU-285 (71%)97UAB+225 (29%)3
Saturday, Dec. 18Liberty-335 (73%)75Eastern Michigan+260 (27%)25
Saturday, Dec. 18Oregon State-290 (71%)38Utah State+230 (29%)62
Saturday, Dec. 18Louisiana-200 (64%)95Marshall+170 (36%)5
Monday, Dec. 20Tulsa-350 (74%)87Old Dominion+270 (26%)13
Tuesday, Dec. 21Wyoming-145 (57%)52Kent State+125 (43%)48
Tuesday, Dec. 21UTSA-135 (55%)45SDSU+115 (45%)55
Wednesday, Dec. 22Army-180 (62%)73Missouri+155 (38%)27
Thursday, Dec. 23Miami (OH)-155 (59%)33North Texas+135 (41%)67
Thursday, Dec. 23Florida-240 (68%)57Central Florida+195 (32%)43
Friday, Dec. 24Memphis-280 (71%)81Hawaii+225 (29%)19
Saturday, Dec. 25Georgia State-200 (64%)85Ball State+170 (36%)15
Monday, Dec. 27Western Michigan-155 (59%)21Nevada+135 (41%)79
Monday, Dec. 27Boston College-155 (59%)64East Carolina+135 (41%)36
Tuesday, Dec. 28Auburn-150 (58%)47Houston+130 (42%)53
Tuesday, Dec. 28Louisville-125 (53%)28Air Force+105 (47%)72
Tuesday, Dec. 28Mississippi State-320 (73%)91Texas Tech+250 (27%)9
Tuesday, Dec. 28NC State-115 (51%)74UCLA-105 (49%)26
Tuesday, Dec. 28Minnesota-170 (61%)88West Virginia+150 (39%)12
Wednesday, Dec. 29SMU-125 (53%)74Virginia+105 (47%)26
Wednesday, Dec. 29Maryland-110 (50%)27Virginia Tech-110 (50%)73
Wednesday, Dec. 29Iowa State-125 (53%)21Clemson+105 (47%)79
Wednesday, Dec. 29Oklahoma-200 (64%)75Oregon+170 (36%)25
Thursday, Dec. 30North Carolina-280 (71%)81South Carolina+225 (29%)19
Thursday, Dec. 30Tennessee-180 (62%)44Purdue+155 (38%)56
Thursday, Dec. 30Michigan State-125 (53%)59Pittsburgh+105 (47%)41
Thursday, Dec. 30Wisconsin-275 (70%)88Arizona State+220 (30%)12
Friday, Dec. 31Texas A&M-280 (71%)75Wake Forest+225 (29%)25
Friday, Dec. 31Miami-135 (55%)64Washington State+115 (45%)36
Friday, Dec. 31Boise State-320 (73%)84Central Michigan+250 (27%)16
Friday, Dec. 31Alabama-550 (81%)88Cincinnati+400 (19%)12
Friday, Dec. 31Georgia-335 (73%)63Michigan+260 (27%)37
Saturday, Jan. 1Penn State-130 (54%)30Arkansas+110 (46%)70
Saturday, Jan. 1Notre Dame-135 (55%)55Oklahoma State+115 (45%)45
Saturday, Jan. 1Kentucky-145 (57%)52Iowa+125 (43%)48
Saturday, Jan. 1Ohio State-250 (68%)83Utah+200 (32%)17
Saturday, Jan. 1Baylor-120 (52%)46Ole Miss+100 (48%)54
Tuesday, Jan. 4Kansas State-125 (53%)33LSU+105 (47%)67

General Tips For Bowl Game Pool Picks

Before we go a little deeper into highlighting some notable games you should have on your radar, there are a few general things you should keep in mind. Additionally, read over TheLines’ seven tips for bowl game betting.

Is Late Swap Allowed?

Make sure you figure out whether your pool allows changes to picks and confidence points after the games start. Obviously, games that have kicked will always lock. But many formats, including ESPN’s, allow players to move things around as long as the games haven’t kicked.

In these cases, you must track how your picks have done in relation to your opponents. If you’ve dug yourself an early hole, don’t be afraid to go all in on some big upsets. You need to make up ground. Having the same picks as the leaders won’t do it. Especially if the prize structure gives all the money to the winner or is very top-heavy, finishing at the median doesn’t get you any extra credit compared to finishing in the basement.

Diversify Your Risk

Leave yourself room to maneuver by spreading your risk on the later games into different point tiers. That way you have the maximum flexibility. If all of your point values on late games are between 20 and 30, for example, you have limited ability to change course.

When To Go More Contrarian

Along the same lines, a principle most pool players should be familiar with: the bigger your pool and more top-heavy the prize, the more contrarian you should pick. Chalky picks are OK in a small group or when you have a sizable lead, but you need to differentiate from the crowd in bigger pools.

Games Where The Public And The Market Don’t Align

First, we’ll highlight some sides that you can potentially set and forget, knowing you’re getting value against the rest of your contest.

Essentially, these games feature a team whose pick percent isn’t congruent with its market value. Either an underdog has a legit shot but nobody is picking them, or a favorite should roll but isn’t getting respect from the public. We’ll include the best available market price. In case you want to wager on the game as well, you can click on the odds to bet now.

Live Underdogs with Low Pick Percentage

  • Western Kentucky — against Appalachian State but getting just 15% of picks
  • UAB — against BYU but getting just 3% of picks
  • Marshall — against Louisiana but getting just 5% of picks
  • Ball State — against Georgia State but getting just 15% of picks
  • UCLA — against NC State but getting just 26% of picks
  • West Virginia — against Minnesota but getting just 12% of picks

Favorites Not Getting Majority Support

  • Oregon State — against Utah State but getting just 38% of picks
  • Miami (OH) — against North Texas but getting just 33% of picks
  • Western Michigan — against Nevada but getting just 21% of picks
  • Louisville — against Air Force but getting just 28% of picks
  • Virginia — against SMU but getting just 26% of picks
  • Maryland — against Virginia Tech but getting just 27% of picks
  • Iowa State — against Clemson but getting just 21% of picks
  • Penn State — against Arkansas but getting just 30% of picks
  • Kansas State — against LSU but getting just 33% of picks

Games With QB Uncertainty Or Upheaval

Whether due to potential opt-outs, injuries or transfers, several bowl games have quarterback uncertainty hanging over them. These games bring more volatility than even your typical bowl game pool picks. You might want to consider limiting your risk or increasing it if you need to introduce more variance into the outcome.

Keep in mind that late opt-outs by potential high picks like Liberty’s Malik Willis could also affect things. Make sure you are at least loosely tracking the news wire. Kenny Pickett of Pittsburgh and Carson Strong of Nevada look likely to opt out based on hard line movement away from their teams.

New Mexico Bowl

Fresno State QB Jake Haener entered the transfer portal but was apparently satisfied with the university’s hiring of Jeff Tedford, long known as a QB guru. According to the Fresno Bee, he has rejoined the team. But, they haven’t announced yet whether he’ll play against UTEP.

Armed Forces Bowl

The Kansas City Star reported that three Missouri QBs are in a “100% open” competition to start against Army. Tyler Macon is the most talented in terms of high school pedigree, while Connor Bazelak is the most experienced by quite a bit. Army does not have a strong defense, ranking 63rd in Football Outsiders FEI.

Hawaii Bowl

Starting Hawaii QB Chevan Cordeiro entered the transfer portal. He threw a large majority of the team’s passes this year. Backup Brayden Schager performed significantly worse in relief: -2.2 YPA compared to Schager with 2 TDs and 5 INTs.

Birmingham Bowl

Starting Auburn QB Bo Nix entered the transfer portal. Backup TJ Finley does have a bit of experience and quarterbacked a near-upset of Alabama. However, he notably lacks the rushing threat Nix brings, making the offense a little easier to defend.

Gator Bowl

Texas A&M looks likely to start freshman walk-on Blake Bost. He attempted seven passes in limited action this season.

Texas Bowl

After two QBs who started games for the program both transferred out, the job looks to have fallen to Garrett Nussmeier at LSU. He played in four games this year and things didn’t go well as he put up 5.8 YPA while barely completing half of his passes.

Bowl Games Close To Home Fields

The following bowl games might have something close to a home field advantage as one of the teams will be playing much closer to its home stadium than the other. We included that team’s spread to link you to the best available line.

  • Independence Bowl — UAB ()
  • New Orleans Bowl — Louisiana ()
  • Frisco Bowl — North Texas ()
  • Hawaii Bowl — Hawaii ()
  • Camellia Bowl — Georgia State ()
  • Quick Lane Bowl — Western Michigan ()
  • Birmingham Bowl — Auburn ()
  • Holiday Bowl — UCLA ()
  • Music City Bowl — Tennessee ()


Mo Nuwwarah Avatar
Written by
Mo Nuwwarah

Mo Nuwwarah got his start in gambling early, making his first sports bet on his beloved Fab Five against the UNC Tar Heels in the 1993 NCAA tournament. He lost $5 to his dad and got back into sports betting years later during a 15-year run in the poker industry. A 2011 journalism graduate from Nebraska-Omaha, he combines those skills with his love of sports and statistics to help bettors make more informed decisions with a focus on pro football, baseball and basketball.

View all posts by Mo Nuwwarah