College Bowl Picks 2017-18: Recent Odds and Predictions Against the Spread

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistDecember 10, 2017

CHARLOTTE, NC - DECEMBER 02:  C.J. Fuller #27 of the Clemson Tigers runs the football against the Miami Hurricanes during the ACC Football Championship at Bank of America Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Charlotte, North Carolina.  (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
Mike Comer/Getty Images

College football bowl season is nearly upon us, so it's time to take a look at every game and offer a prediction. And you'll also find a more in-depth preview of the College Football Playoff semifinals below.

Note: All picks are against the spread and in italics. Odds via OddsShark.com.


Saturday, Dec. 16

Celebration Bowl: North Carolina A&T vs. Grambling State (+9.5) 

New Orleans Bowl: North Texas vs. Troy (-5.5)

Cure Bowl: Georgia State vs. Western Kentucky (-4.5)

Las Vegas Bowl: Oregon vs. Boise State (+5)

New Mexico Bowl: Marshall vs. Colorado State (-5.5)

Camellia Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Arkansas State (-3.5)


Tuesday, Dec. 19

Boca Raton Bowl: Akron vs. Florida Atlantic (-17)


Wednesday, Dec. 20

Frisco Bowl: Louisiana Tech vs. SMU (-5)


Thursday, Dec. 21

Gasparilla BowlTemple vs. Florida International (+8)


Friday, Dec. 22

Bahamas BowlUAB vs. Ohio (-7)

Famous Idaho Potato BowlCentral Michigan vs. Wyoming (even)


Saturday, Dec. 23

Birmingham Bowl: Texas Tech vs. South Florida (-2.5)

Armed Forces BowlArmy vs. San Diego State (TBD)

Dollar General BowlAppalachian State vs. Toledo (-7)


Sunday, Dec. 24

Hawaii Bowl: Houston vs. Fresno State (+1.5)


Tuesday, Dec. 26

Heart of Dallas BowlUtah vs. West Virginia (+4.5)

Quick Lane Bowl: Northern Illinois vs. Duke (-2.5)

Cactus Bowl: Kansas State vs. UCLA (+3)


Wednesday, Dec. 27

Independence Bowl: Southern Miss vs. Florida State (-14)

Pinstripe Bowl: Boston College vs. Iowa (-3)

Texas Bowl: Missouri vs. Texas (+1)

Foster Farms BowlPurdue vs. Arizona (-4.5)


Thursday, Dec. 28

Military Bowl: Virginia vs. Navy (TBD)

Camping World BowlVirginia Tech vs. Oklahoma State (-6.5)

Alamo Bowl: Stanford vs. TCU (-2)

Holiday BowlMichigan State vs. Washington State (4.5) 


Friday, Dec. 29

Belk BowlTexas A&M vs. Wake Forest (-2.5)

Sun BowlNC State vs. Arizona State (+5)

Music City BowlKentucky vs. Northwestern (-6.5)

Arizona BowlUtah State vs. New Mexico State (+3)

Cotton BowlUSC vs. Ohio State (-6)


Saturday, Dec. 30

TaxSlayer BowlLouisville vs. Mississippi State (+5.5)

Liberty Bowl: Iowa State vs. Memphis (-3)

Fiesta Bowl: Washington vs. Penn State (-4.5)

Orange Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Miami (+5.5)


Monday, Jan. 1

Outback Bowl: South Carolina vs. Michigan (-7.5)

Peach Bowl: UCF vs. Auburn (-8)

Citrus BowlLSU vs. Notre Dame (+1)

Rose Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal)Georgia vs. Oklahoma (+1.5)

Sugar Bowl (College Football Playoff semifinal): Alabama vs. Clemson (even)



ATLANTA, GA - DECEMBER 02: Jake Fromm #11 celebrates with Malik Herring #10 of the Georgia Bulldogs after beating the Auburn Tigers in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 2, 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C.  Cox/Getty Ima
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let's preview the two most anticipated games: the College Football Playoff semifinals.

Georgia vs. Oklahoma is the most fascinating game of the bowl season, mostly because the two teams couldn't be more different.

Offensively, the Bulldogs grind teams down with a fantastic rushing attack (263.5 run yards per game, 11th in the nation), led by the dynamic duo of Nick Chubb (1,175 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns) and Sony Michel (948 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns)

That has helped ease the responsibilities on freshman Jake Fromm, who has generally managed games well, throwing for 2,173 yards, 21 scores and five interceptions while completing 63 percent of his passes. The key to stifling Georgia's offense is simple: shut down the running game and force Fromm to beat you through the air. 

Easier said than done: Only Auburn has done so, holding Georgia to 46 rush yards in the Bulldogs lone loss this season. In the rematch between the teams in the SEC title game, Georgia rushed for 238 yards.

Defensively, Georgia is stout, allowing just 13.2 points per game, fourth in the nation. The Bulldogs allow just 158.3 passing yards per game, second in the nation, and 112.6 rushing yards per contest, 12th in the country. 

But Georgia hasn't faced a passing attack like Oklahoma's, led by Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield, who is second in the nation in both passing yards (4,340) and touchdowns (41). Mayfield also completed 71 percent of his passes this season, tops in the country.

Suffice to say, Mayfield has had a dynamic season.

He has no shortage of playmakers, from Rodney Anderson and Trey Sermon at running back to Marquise Brown and CeeDee Lamb at wideout and Mark Andrews at tight end. That group helped lead Oklahoma to the No. 3 passing attack (367.4 PPG), No. 27 rushing attack (215.9 YPG) and No. 4 scoring offense (44.9 PPG). 

Oklahoma wins shootouts—the defense allows 25 points per contest, 52nd in the country. More importantly, it is 40th in run defense (144.2 YPG), which means Georgia should be able to move the ball on the ground.

That's the top reason to pick Georgia. The Bulldogs present the best defense Oklahoma will have seen all season, and while Mayfield will be able to move the ball, Georgia's defense will prevent the game from becoming a shootout. Georgia should be able to control both lines of scrimmages and the time of possession, and the Dawgs should be able to wear the Oklahoma front seven out late in the game with their physical running attack.

In a clash of styles, look for Georgia to impose their will on Oklahoma. Mayfield will keep things close, but Georgia wins. 

Alabama vs. Clemson should be decided in the trenches as well, which favors Clemson and its elite defensive line. That group allows just 112.8 rushing yards per game, 13th in the nation, and should be able to give Alabama's No. 10 run offense (265.3 yards per game) issues. 

The secret to beating Alabama in the past two years has been somewhat predictable (but hard to pull off, as Alabama has just two losses in that span): force Jalen Hurts to beat you through the air and have a quarterback that can make plays both through the air and on the ground. 

In last year's national championship game against Clemson, Deshaun Watson played out of his mind, throwing for 420 yards and three scores while also rushing for 43 yards and another touchdown. 

Alabama rushed for 221 yards, meanwhile, though 88 of those yards came from the combination of quarterback Jalen Hurts and wideout ArDarius Stewart. Clemson forced Hurts to beat them through the air and he couldn't come through, finishing just 13-of-31 for 131 yards and a touchdown.

This season, Alabama fell to Auburn in the Iron Bowl, and the game plan was similar. Jarrett Stidham had a strong game, finishing 21-of-28 for 237 yards while rushing for another 51 yards and a score. Alabama's running backs were held to 122 yards on the ground and Hurts was 12-of-22 for 112 yards and a score in the passing game (though he did rush for 82 yards). 

The play of Clemson's defensive line will be key, but so will quarterback Kelly Bryant. He's certainly a dual threat, rushing for 646 yards and 11 scores this year as well as throwing for 2,678 yards, 13 touchdowns and six interceptions while completing 67.4 percent of his passes.

Bryant doesn't need to have an epic game like Watson did last year, and it's hard to imagine him having that level of poise. But if he plays like Stidham, managing the game and making big plays at key points—he converted seven of his 10 third-down passes for first downs, moving the chains and keeping Alabama's dangerous offense off the field—Clemson will be in a good position.

In turn, the Tigers held 36 minutes in time of possession. 

Clemson is capable of pulling off a similar game plan, which is why you'll see them picked against the spread above. Ultimately, however, it will all come down to the play of Hurts and Bryant.