College Football Bowl Games: Against the Spread Picks, Best Bets

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It's bowl season! With another college football campaign nearly in the books, this is the last chance we get to bet on this fantastic sport for a long time. 

Below, our staff's writers and editors make their picks against the spread for the biggest bowl games, along with their best bets.

Season-long standings:

Laken Litman: 95-79-4

Ross Dellenger: 91-83-4

Max Meyer: 91-83-4

Molly Geary: 80-94-4

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BEST BETS

No. 8 Wisconsin vs. No. 6 Oregon (+2.5)

After the two College Football Playoff semifinal games, the Rose Bowl between Oregon and Wisconsin is the next best matchup we’ll see this bowl season.

For the Ducks, quarterback Justin Herbert is the key. Not only is this his final chance to impress NFL scouts (before the season he was projected to be a top draft pick after deciding to come back for his final season), but leading his team to a Rose Bowl victory would be a perfect way to cap off his impressive college career. For the Badgers, Jonathan Taylor is the key. The last time we saw him, the star RB passed the 6,000-yard career rushing mark in the Big Ten championship. He heads into this game just 91 yards away from posting consecutive 2,000-yard rushing seasons as a sophomore and a junior.

The biggest determining factor here, though, is the teams’ respective offensive lines. In the Pac-12 championship game, Oregon’s OL was the difference against Utah’s No. 1 rushing defense, opening up holes for running back CJ Verdell so he could go for 203 yards and score three touchdowns. Wisconsin has the eighth-best defensive front in the country, so this will be a test for both sides. For the Badgers, the big guys up front need to help Taylor get going. While he put up 148 rushing yards against Ohio State, most of those yards came in the first half before the Buckeyes’ defense clamped down.

This will be a fun game between evenly matched teams that don’t turn the ball over much. Take the Ducks to win a close one.—Laken Litman

No. 11 Utah vs. Texas (+7.5)

Normally Kyle Whittingham is a bowl god, because when you give the Utah head coach extra time to prep, his teams often deliver. But this is a different type of spot this time around for the Utes, as they saw their CFP hopes dashed in a loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship Game and dropped so far down in the ranks that they aren't even playing in a NY6 bowl.

Playing an unranked Texas team is an unfair reward for a spectacular Utah season, and in turn, this seems like a likely spot where Utah will come out flat. 

The Utes' defensive line grabbed all the headlines this season, and deservedly so. But their secondary was also damn good, and it will be without its two most important pieces—safety Julian Blackmon (injury) and cornerback Jaylon Johnson (skipping for NFL draft). That'll make going up against these Texas wideouts, especially Devin Duvernay and Collin Johnson, that much tougher.

Texas's defense was a disaster this season, and going up against Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss won't be easy. However, this is also a defense that had to deal with several injuries throughout the year. Given the long layoff, this unit will be at one of its healthiest points all season.

So give me underdog Tom Herman in a game where I think Texas stays competitive throughout. —Max Meyer

Mississippi State (-4) vs. Louisville

Louisville's regular season ended on a sour note, as Lynn Bowden Jr. and Kentucky ran all over the Cardinals, racking up 517 yards on the ground in a 45-12 win. What was significant about this? It was the first top-50 rushing offense Louisville had faced in five games, and exposed a weakness on the ground that has been present all season. The 'Cats are fourth nationally in rushing yards per game, while the Cards' bowl opponent, Mississippi State, ranks 18th. The Bulldogs are led by all-SEC running back Kylin Hill, who has announced his intention to play in the Music City Bowl and will be playing his final college game with the single-season program rush record in his sights.

Louisville is ranked 115th in rushing yards allowed per game, and 123rd (out of 130 teams) in rushing yards allowed per attempt at 5.48. Mississippi State is averaging 5.52 yards per attempt on the ground, which is seventh nationally. MSU quarterback Garrett Shrader is a threat to run too—while he's no Bowden, he's picked up 587 yards on the ground in 2019, with six scores and an average of 5.2 per attempt. The Cardinals are especially susceptible to big rushing plays on the ground, ranking sub-100 in nearly every big-play defensive yardage metric.

In short, it's a bad draw for Louisville having to go up against an opponent that can move the ball as well as MSU can on the ground. The Cardinals can certainly (and likely will) put up points of their own, and the Bulldogs' defense has its share of flaws—though it did a good job against Ole Miss dual-threat QB John Rhys Plumlee last time out. It should also be noted, though, that Louisville will be without star offensive lineman Mekhi Becton, who is skipping the game to prepare for the NFL draft.

Season record: 26-33-1