While several teams have withdrawn from bowl games, Tuesday’s slate remains remarkably untouched. Five games are in play for bettors, and those include two teams each from the SEC, ACC, and Big 12.
Houston vs. Auburn and West Virginia vs. Minnesota could end up being wonderfully competitive contests, the day’s other three games offer the most intriguing sides, and in every case, we recommend laying some points with some of the best NCAAF odds. Here’s why:
AutoZone Liberty Bowl: Mississippi State vs. Texas Tech
The Bet: Mississippi State -9.5 (-112, FanDuel)
One of the most fascinating off-the-field subplots of the entire bowl season comes from the AutoZone Liberty Bowl as Bulldogs coach Mike Leach goes up against the team he coached from 2000-2009, the Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Feel free to Google the details of his firing there, but needless to say, it was acrimonious. The two sides are still in litigation over the situation – more than a decade later – and while it’s hard to put a number on pure hatred when assessing points spreads, Leach is the kind of guy who will put up 100 on his former team if given the chance, and Texas Tech is a weak enough opponent in 2021 to give them that chance.
Mississippi State sophomore quarterback Will Rogers quietly had an outstanding year with more than 370 passing yards per game (third in the nation) and 35 passing TDs (ninth in the nation).
Texas Tech ranked 118th in the country in passing yards allowed per game, and on offense, they’re down to their third-string quarterback, Donovan Smith. And while he has played fairly well over the second half of the year, the team still went just 1-3 with him at the helm, and in this game, he’ll be without his top pass catcher, Erik Ezukanma.
It’s a big spread, but there are fewer coaches you should trust more to cover those than Leach, and no team you should trust his motivation against more than Texas Tech.
San Diego Credit Union Holiday Bowl: UCLA vs. #18 NC State
The Bet: NC State -2
The San Diego Credit Union Holiday Bowl moves to Petco Park, the home of the San Diego Padres, for the first time in its history. The game’s small spread suggests a squeaker is imminent, but there’s reason to believe the Wolfpack and its prolific passing attack could run up the score against UCLA and the Bruins.
Devin Leary might be the best quarterback in college football that you never heard about. His 35 passing touchdowns for NC State on the year was tied for ninth best in the nation. He had the 15th most passing yards per game and the 18th best passing efficiency numbers on the season.
UCLA, meanwhile, will try to keep up with the Wolfpack on the ground behind running backs Zach Charbonnet and Brittain Brown, as well as dual threat quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, but NC State’s 24th-ranked rushing defense should be able to generate more stops than UCLA’s 110th-ranked passing defense.
With both teams over .500 against the spread and relatively hot over their last few games (UCLA won their last three, while NC State has taken four of five), your best bet is to lay just a couple on the team that matches up much better.
In the SERVPRO First Responder Bowl, the Air Force Falcons and Louisville Cardinals meet for the first time in each school’s history. It’s both teams’ first appearance in the First Responder Bowl.
The game plan for both teams is fairly simple. For Air Force, they’ll run, run, run. They ran this season for a whopping 340 yards per game – 60 more than the next highest total in college football. They only threw the ball as a team 102 times, and by staying on the field and controlling the clock the way they were able to this year, they also own the 13th best scoring defense in the country.
Louisville will need to get out to a lead and force the Falcons to have to throw. Offensively, they do most of their damage on the ground as well, but with 130 fewer rushing yards per game than Air Force, they’ll also need quarterback Malik Cunningham to make some plays through the air.
The problem for Air Force is that they haven’t seen anyone half as athletic as Cunningham under center this season. His 2,700 passing yards and nearly 1,000 rushing yards might create problems for Air Force early, which gives Louisville the window it needs to win this game script. With such a small spread, lay the point and a half and assume the Cardinals make the one or two plays they’ll need – on offense or defense – to build and keep a lead.
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