For fans of college football bowl games, your holiday season is here. Below, we’ll break down college football bowl odds for the opening weekend slate.
What teams are facing coaching and coordinator changes? What star players are opting out? Which bowl game has a sponsor you’ve never heard of until now?
We’ve also already published College Football Playoff odds and analysis. Bookmark TheLines for updates to opt outs, injuries, and coaching changes throughout the college postseason.
This Week’s College Football Bowl Odds
Bahamas Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Toledo ()
Friday, December 17, 12:00 p.m. ET, ESPN
Middle Tennessee runs a two-quarterback offense. The Blue Raiders (6-6) secured bowl eligibility with a win over a struggling FAU in the final regular season game. Toledo (7-5) relies on the run, led by Bryant Koback. Koback and the Rockets’ run game goes up against MTSU’s run defense that didn’t allow a 70-yard rusher in the month of November. Toledo is one of the heaviest-picked teams in national pools, holding a 91% national pick rate on ESPN’s bowl pick ’em.
Tailgreeter Cure Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Coastal Carolina ()
Friday, December 17, 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN2
Quarterback Grayson McCall hasn’t played for Coastal Carolina since October, but returns from injury for this game. The Chants posted a top-four scoring offense in points per drive and a strong defense this season. Northern Illinois fielded one of the worst defenses in the nation this season, leading to them being steep underdogs in this game. After winning the MAC, the Huskies extended head coach Thomas Hammock.
Roofclaim.com Boca Raton Bowl: Western Kentucky vs. Appalachian State ()
Saturday, December 18, 11:00 a.m. ET, ESPN
The nation’s leading passer, Bailey Zappe, will play this game for the Hilltoppers. Zappe is four touchdowns away from breaking Joe Burrow’s passing touchdowns record (60). However, the Mountaineers field one of the nation’s better passing defenses, ranking 13th nationally in opposing passer rating. Mountaineers leading receiver Corey Sutton will not play this game after undergoing surgery.
Co-offensive coordinator Bryan Ellis for WKU was hired by Georgia Southern and will not coach in this game. Leading WKU receiver Mitchell Tinsley announced he was transferring, but will play in this game.
PUBG Mobile New Mexico Bowl: Fresno State () vs. UTEP
Saturday, December 18, 2:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Fresno State head coach Kalen DeBoer will not coach in this game after being hired for Washington’s head job. However, star quarterback Jake Haener announced he would not be transferring and instead will stay with the program. He will likely play in this game. UTEP recorded zero wins this season against teams that finished over 0.500. Their first four wins came against FCS teams and New Mexico; against FBS teams above 0.500 this year, the Miners went 0-3 with an average scoring margin of -25.7 points.
Fresno State is one of the heaviest-picked teams in ESPN’s national bowl pick ’em, with 93% of entries riding with the Bulldogs.
Radiance Technologies Independence Bowl: UAB vs. #13 BYU ()
Saturday, December 18, 3:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Head coach Kalani Sitake was extended by BYU amid rumors he was being considered for the Oregon head job. UAB was among the worst teams in the country in allowing long scoring drives this season, ranking 25th in points per drive on drives that began inside the opponents’ own 20. The Cougars excel in long drives predicated on the run behind lead back Tyler Allgeier. This bowl could feature adverse weather, with the forecast calling for rain.
As of Dec. 13, BYU is the heaviest-picked team in ESPN’s national bowl pool at 96%.
LendingTree Bowl: Liberty () vs. Eastern Michigan
Saturday, December 18, 5:45 p.m. ET, ESPN
Malik Willis, many of whom project to be a first-round draft pick, will play in this game. The Flames relied on the run heavily this year and will likely again in this game. Eastern Michigan struggled up front on both sides of the football, leading to a stagnant offense at times. The Eagles haven’t won a bowl game since 1987– not predictive, but something that may be on EMU’s mind going into this game.
Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl: Oregon State () vs. Utah State
Saturday, December 18, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Oregon State rosters one of the best offensive lines in the nation and were nominated for the Joe Moore Award (given to the nation’s best offensive line). Utah State fields a smaller-than-average defensive front, giving them a major disadvantage on the line of scrimmage. The Aggies have been hot and cold so far this season, having pulled upsets against Washington State early on but also getting blown out by Wyoming late in the season. The Beavers are one of the lightest-picked favorites in ESPN’s national bowl pool, with just 34% of entries riding with Oregon State.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: #23 Louisiana () vs. Marshall
Saturday, December 18, 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN
Louisiana head coach Billy Napier will not coach this game after being hired by Florida to be their head coach and is taking a chunk of the Ragin’ Cajun’s staff with him. Offensive coordinator Michael Desormeaux was promoted to be the head coach and will coach in this game. New Orleans is two hours away from the Lafayette campus, making this an extended Louisiana home game. Marshall quarterback Grant Wells will play in this game, but struggled with turnovers at points this season.