College Football Bowl Game Best Bets – December 21 to 23 Picks

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College football bowl games are underway and we've got our first set of picks in from our experts for the games going from this Thursday (12/21) to Saturday (12/23).

We'll have other picks articles for the 12/26 to 12/30 bowl games, New Years Day and College Football Playoffs semi-finals games, and the National Championship picks.

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Remember, you can always compare college football lines and odds by sportsbooks here. You can also see all of our current and past college football betting picks here.

College Football Bowl Game Best Bets – December 21 to 23 Picks

South Florida +3.5 vs. Syracuse – Boca Raton Bowl – 12/21 @ 8 pm ET

Rob O'Connor
Rob O'Connor

Rob O’Connor is a veteran sports handicapper. He broke into the industry in 2002 and has continued to provide high quality sports handicapping advice ever since.

Things are trending in the right direction for South Florida heading into this game. QB Byrum Brown has indicated he will not enter the transfer portal and will stay at USF and play in the bowl game.

That is a huge lift as Brown is the leader of the team and has had an incredible season. He threw for over 3,000 yards and rushed for another 745 yards this season.

Meanwhile, Syracuse will be without their QB Garrett Schrader after he had season-ending shoulder surgery. They also have 16 players in the portal following the firing of head coach Dino Babers.

So these are teams that are in very different spots right now. South Florida improved from 1-11 last year to reach a bowl game and is excited to be playing, while Syracuse has gone through a coaching change and lost their QB for this game.

South Florida has a big advantage on offense averaging nearly 10 more points per game then Syracuse.

The issue for South Florida is defense, where they were one of the worst teams in the country in terms of yards per game allowed. But the fact Syracuse is without their starting QB should help them. Syracuse without their offensive leader will not be able to score enough to keep up with South Florida.

South Florida has covered in 6 of their last 10 games, while Syracuse has failed to cover in 7 of their last 10 games.

Finally, the travel advantage is clearly with South Florida. They are playing only a few hours from campus and should have the crowd support advantage in this one.

Take South Florida to cover against Syracuse on Thursday night. Be sure to shop around for the best line on this one. There are some +3.5 spreads still floating around out there but I think South Florida wins outright.

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Air Force +2.5 vs. James Madison – Armed Forces Bowl – 12/23 @ 3:30 pm ET

Kyler Wolff
Kyler Wolff

Kyler Wolff is a sports writer with a passion for football & statistical analysis. He uses his knowledge of the game and ability to break down stats to make the best picks.

Air Force started out hot this season, winning their first 8 games on the back of their strong run game. They overwhelmed teams like Sam Houston State, San Jose State, and Wyoming.

Down the stretch, though, they lost their last 4 games straight and could not control the pace of the game. They only scored 15.3 points per game in those games, compared to 33.6 points per game in their first 8 games.

On the other side of the ball, Air Force gave up 27 points per game in their last 4 games compared to only 13.4 points given up per game during their 8-game winning streak.

The majority of the blame for the wrong 4 game skid can be put solidly on the fact that their star quarter back, Zac Larrier, had been out with an injury, throwing a big wrench into their entire identity and the rhythm of their game.

James Madison has had a much more consistent season than Air Force, only losing 1 of their 12 games this season. Their only loss came to a very good Appalachian State team by only 3 points in a very competitive game.

JMU is a very well-coached team, or I should say was very well-coached, because their head coach announced last week that he is leaving the team to go and be the head coach at Indiana University.

This move was followed by both coordinators leaving the team and then nearly a dozen starters all entering the transfer portal, including their star QB Jordan McCloud. With these players out, JMU will enter this bowl game with the second-string team and an assistant coach at the helm.

With the return of Air Force's star running back, the absolute decimation of the JMU roster due to the transfer portal, and the loss of their coaching staff, there isn't much question in my mind that Air Force is going to not only win but dominate this game.

After all, this is the Armed Services Bowl, and it would be weird if a military school didn't win.

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Utah -6 vs. Northwestern – Las Vegas Bowl 12/23 @ 7:30 pm ET

Rob O'Connor
Rob O'Connor

Rob O’Connor is a veteran sports handicapper. He broke into the industry in 2002 and has continued to provide high quality sports handicapping advice ever since.

This is not a good matchup for Northwestern as they take on a Utah team that loves to run the ball. Utah averages over 186 yards per game rushing, while Northwestern gives up almost 160 rushing yards per game.

While Utah QB Bryson Barnes has entered the transfer portal, he will still lead the Utes in this game and that will be a big advantage to the Utah offense overall.

Utah is simply a better team on both sides of the ball and they played a much tougher schedule this year too. Utah is only giving up 308 yards and 19.8 per game compared to Northwestern who is allowing 351 yards and 23.8 points per game.

Utah is averaging 359 yards and 24.5 points per game while Northwestern is averaging only 305 yards and 22.8 points per game.

The Northwestern offense will not be able to score enough against Utah to keep it close. Look for Utah to run the ball early and often, controlling this game on the ground.

The spread opened at Utah -9.5 and has since dropped to -6, mostly due to the fact people are getting caught up in what a great story Northwestern is this year—from firing their coach over a hazing scandal before the season to making a bowl game.

However, every time Northwestern has played up in competition this year, it has not gone well. They got blown out by Penn State 41-13 and lost to Duke 38-14.

Utah, meanwhile, is battle-tested, picking up wins over USC and UCLA, and taking playoff team Washington to the wire on the road before losing.

With this line being under 7, there is plenty of value on Utah, grab them -6 on Saturday night.

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Georgia Tech vs. UCF Under 68 – Gasparilla Bowl – 12/22 @ 6:30 pm ET

Kyler Wolff
Kyler Wolff

Kyler Wolff is a sports writer with a passion for football & statistical analysis. He uses his knowledge of the game and ability to break down stats to make the best picks.

68 is an awfully high point total to hit.

Georgia Tech scores over 31 points per game on average and allows over 32 for an average game score of just 63. UCF scores a tad over 32 points per game and allows 26.5 points per game on defense, for an average game score of just 58.5 points per game. Combined, Georgia Tech and UCF are 7 for 24 (29.2%) in scoring over 68 points in their games.

Both of their offenses do play at a fast pace, resulting in a lot of 50+ games (16 of their combined 24 games have gone over that number), but 68 points is just too much for even the most efficient offenses and lousiest defenses.

These offenses have found ways to score mostly through their ground game this season. They both rank top 20 in the FBS in rushing yards (UCF ranks 5th with 233.2 yards a game and Georgia Tech ranks 17th with 197.1 rushing yards per game). The running games for these 2 teams, while super effective, still have the potential to drain the clock a lot quicker than a pass-heavy offense would.

Neither Georgia Tech nor UCF are premier offenses in the country, nor do they have the worst defenses in the country. UCF has the 33rd-highest-scoring offense, and Georgia Tech has the 41st-highest in FBS.

On the defensive side, UCF has the 63rd-best defense (out of 133 FBS teams), and Georgia Tech ranks 105th. These aren't like the PAC-12 games where the teams are in the top 15 scoring offenses and the bottom 15 for defense.

This game should stay relatively low-scoring; I've got the under.

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