College Football New Year’s Eve Bowl Betting Preview

  • Mississippi State is a slight underdog to Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl.
  • San Jose State has -350 odds to win the Arizona Bowl against Ball State.
  • West Virginia has -270 odds to defeat Army in the Liberty Bowl.
  • TCU is a favorite over Arkansas in the Texas Bowl.

LAS VEGAS - New Year’s Eve brings four bowl games to the table, and each of them is a solid betting opportunity.

First, in the Armed Forces Bowl, Mississippi State takes on Tulsa. Then, in the Arizona Bowl, Ball State is set to face off against San Jose State.

The Liberty Bowl is next, hosting West Virginia and Army. Finally, the Texas Bowl sees Arkansas face off against TCU.

Since this column will cover all four, let’s jump right in - there’s no time to waste!

Armed Forces Bowl Betting

The Armed Forces Bowl this year pits Mississippi State against Tulsa, in a matchup that seems quite close on paper.

Mississippi State went 3-7 this year, as first-year head coach Mike Leach got used to the SEC and the team he had. They’re set to face off against a Tulsa team that went 6-2, and is currently ranked 24th by the playoff committee.

This is an interesting matchup, as Mississippi State is nowhere near being ranked, and indeed, nowhere near general relevancy.

However, the narrative of an SEC team taking on a team like Tulsa - and the talent gap between the squads - makes this a compelling matchup.

In the last four years, Mississippi State’s lowest-ranked recruiting class was 28th in the nation, while Tulsa’s highest was 85th. Given that, Tulsa being favored by the online sportsbooks might honestly be a surprise.

Tulsa vs. Mississippi State

  • Tulsa -135
  • Mississippi State +115

Tulsa sits as a -135 favorite on the moneyline, which is a fairly small amount to be favored by, as far as these things tend to go.

Tulsa vs. Mississippi State

  • Tulsa -2.5 (-110)
  • Mississippi State +2.5 (-110)

The spread sees Tulsa as a 2.5-point favorite, which is a fairly negligible amount to be favored by, but still nonzero.

This is a matchup between a team that was a good team this year, and a team that had the talent to be a good team this year. Can Mississippi State put it all together in time for the matchup with Tulsa? That remains to be seen.

Arizona Bowl Betting

The Arizona Bowl comes next in the day, kicking off at 2:00 p.m. EST.

This bowl game features Ball State taking on San Jose State in a matchup that sees SJSU significantly favored.

San Jose State had a great season this year, and they enter this matchup not only as a favorite, but as the 22nd ranked team in the nation. San Jose State is currently 7-0, while Ball State is sitting with only one loss to their name, at 6-1.

ESPN’s FPI sees San Jose State as a team that will win this matchup 63% of the time, with Ball State winning 37% of the time.

Let’s take a look at the moneyline odds, and see if they match those percentages.

San Jose State vs. Ball State

  • San Jose State +275
  • Ball State -350

When accounting for the vig, the odds actually seem more in San Jose State’s favor than ESPN’s FPI does.

These odds give San Jose State an implied 74.47% chance to win the game, while Ball State only has a 24.53% chance to win the game.

Basically, ESPN’s FPI says Ball State is being underrated by the sportsbooks.

The matchup is roughly similar - Ball State is still an underdog, for sure - but the degree to which they are an underdog is worth examining. It is possible that despite their underdog status, Ball State is still a good bet in this matchup.

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Liberty Bowl Betting

The Liberty Bowl pits West Virginia against Army in what should be a solid matchup between two decent teams.

This is an interesting matchup when examined using the methodology previously discussed - comparing implied odds and ESPN’s FPI. First things first: here’s what the moneyline looks like right now.

West Virginia vs. Army

  • West Virginia -270
  • Army +220

These odds give West Virginia a pretty solid chance of winning the game. When the vig is accounted for, WVU has a 70.02% chance of winning.

This gives Army a 29.98% chance of winning this game.

What’s so interesting about this matchup compared to the SJSU vs. Ball State matchup is that this one matches FPI much more. FPI has the Mountaineers with a 73.1% chance to win the game, with Army sitting at 26.9%.

That’s not exactly on the money compared to the implied odds, but it’s very very close. Basically, San Jose State has a lower % chance to win their game than West Virginia does according to FPI. However, according to the sportsbooks, San Jose State is more favored than West Virginia is!

This is a truly interesting discrepancy between the CFB odds and ESPN’s analysis, and which one a bettor goes with is an interesting discussion.

Looking purely at FPI, one would want to wager on Ball State in the Arizona Bowl, and Virginia in the Liberty Bowl.

Both of those teams have better odds - according to FPI - than the sportsbooks are giving them.

Texas Bowl Betting

The Texas Bowl is the last bowl game of the day, and it kicks off at 8:00 p.m.

This matchup is between Arkansas and TCU, and the spread seems squarely in the Vegas Zone.

Arkansas enters this matchup with a 3-7 record, which would see them non-bowl eligible in other years. TCU, meanwhile, reached six wins the old-fashioned way, with a record of 6-4.

Arkansas vs. TCU

  • Arkansas +4.0 (-110)
  • TCU -4.0 (-110)

A four-point spread is a tough one to evaluate, and indicates that the college football oddsmakers are content to let the public drive betting on this one.

The spread opened with TCU favored by 5.5 points, and has since moved to TCU being favored by only four points. One thing to note about both of these teams is that they’ve done quite well against the spread this year.

Both TCU and Arkansas have records of 7-3 against the spread this year. In addition, Arkansas has a 9-3 record against the spread in their last twelve games as underdogs.

TCU, meanwhile, has a 4-0 ATS record this year when they enter a game as the betting favorite.

Arkansas vs. TCU

  • Arkansas +165
  • TCU -190

The moneyline is a bit easier to understand - TCU is significantly favored, although not overly so. The Texas Bowl looks to be a very solid betting opportunity, as do all of these bowl games, frankly.

None of these games have a spread that hits double digits, and each of them provides different angles to approach wagering on.

Happy New Year, and good luck betting!