Thursday, Dec. 31st: Our College Football Bowl Game Predictions

Football Dec 30, 2020

First of all, wishing you all an early Happy New Year!

Now that most of the lesser bowls are out of the way (a total of 26 post-season games where scheduled), now it's time for actual championship-level games between winning teams that deserve to be in the post-season.

With a dozen games still to be played starting today, December 31st (Thursday), through January 2nd (Saturday), such variety gives us some wonderful betting opportunities.  

So, let's begin with today's lineup, which includes three games, which are tempting for bettors.  

Note the night game, which was Arkansas vs. TCU (in Houston) was cancelled due to COVID-19 related issues.

Armed Forces Bowl:

Thursday at Noon EST
Mississippi State (3-7) vs. Tulsa (6-2)
Spreads Line:  Tulsa by 2.5
Total:  46

Analysis:  The most glaring discrepancy between these two teams is their win-loss records.  So, why is a 6-2 team laying less than a field goal to an opponent that went 3-7?  Easy answer – MSU plays in the brutally tough SEC and faces a gauntlet of tough competition.  Playing Alabama, LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M (a win and three loses) is bound to result in some ugly numbers.  Meanwhile, Tulsa rolled up 8 wins against much weaker opponents.

MSU's big question mark is on offense.  They out up an SEC-record 623 yards passing against LSU in a shocking upset, but where also shut out against Kentucky and Alabama.  Mike Leach hasn't been afraid to make changes and get younger players involved even during midseason, so look for the extra prep time to help the Bulldogs here.

For Tulsa, they will be without their dominant defensive player.  Linebacker Zaven Collins is one of college football's top defenders, but he's going to the 2021 NFL draft and will not play.  Collins did it all and will certainly be missed.

Mississippi State is going to throw early and often.  Tulsa will have to outscore the Bulldogs, which is apparently what oddsmakers think will happen with them being installed as slight favourites with a very high point total.


  • Tulsa outstanding 7-1 vs. line this season, 11-3 last 14 vs. number since late LY.
  • Golden Hurricane has covered last three bowls (not since 2016, the last two of those for Montgomery).
  • MSU played better down stretch, covering 3 of last 4 after dropping five in a row vs. number.
  • At that point, Leach was 5-16 his last 21 vs. spread.
  • Bulldogs “under” 7-3 this season.
  • Leach only 2-4 SU and 1-5 vs. spread in bowls with Wash State.

Betting Prediction:  Bulldogs head coach Mike Leach has a chance make a statement here, and he'll use this bowl game to motivate his players and add to MSU becoming a recruiting attraction amidst so many other strong programs.  Tulsa is always an exciting team to watch, but they aren't built to stop a power SEC team that's on the rise.  The recommendation is to take Mississippi State +2.5.

Arizona Bowl:

Thursday at 2 pm EST
Ball State (6-1) vs. San Jose State (7-0)
Spreads Line:  San Jose State by 9
Total:  64

Analysis:  San Jose State used to be one of the worst college football programs in the nation.  Now, the Spartans are among the rising attractions for players outside the big power conferences and are primed for what is likely to be an undefeated season based on this spread.  Indeed, the Spartans are a perfect 6-0 against the spread and average 35 points per game.

Meanwhile, the Ball State Cardinals won their final six games and beat Buffalo 38-28 to win its first MAC championship since 1996.  The Cardinals are seeking their first win ever in a bowl game (0-9).

SJSU looks strong on defence.  The Spartans were 13th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing just 18 points per game.  On offense, they have a proven leader an winner at QB with Nick Starkel.  The former Texas A&M and Arkansas starter brought 19 games of combined FBS experience to the table with his transfer for San Jose State's offense.  Starkel, the conference leader in passing efficiency and a second team All-Mountain West selection, threw for 452 yards against always-tough Boise State with 453 yards and three touchdowns a few weeks ago.

That 1-2 punch with a solid QB and great defence should carry the Spartans to a win and cover.


  • San Jose 6-0 SU and vs. line in 2020
  • Now 15-4-1 vs. spread since late 2018.
  • Spartans also “under” last seven since late 2019.
  • Cards won and covered last four in 2020 after dropping 5 of previous six vs. spread.

Betting Prediction: As long as this line stays under -10, SJSU is worth a play.  The Spartans will throw the ball, move the ball, and likely score points.  It's tough to see how the Cardinals can match that talent on either side of the ball, although they've certainly enjoyed a breakthrough season.  The recommendation is to play San Jose State and lay -9.

Liberty Bowl:

Thursday at 4 pm EST
West Virginia (5-4) vs. Army (9-2)
Spreads Line:  West Virginia by 7
Total:  41

Analysis:  The Army Black Knights will face the West Virginia Mountaineers in the 2020 Liberty Bowl to be played in Memphis on Thursday.  

Army (9-2) enjoyed an impressive season, mostly on the back of a great rushing attack that averaged 281 rushing yards per game.  Meanwhile, the Mountaineers (5-4) have an outstanding defence, combined with a prolific pass attack led by quarterback Jarret Doege.  Things might not be easy for WVU in this game since they face an Army defence that's ranked second in the nation in both total yards and points allowed.


  • Monken 3-0 SU in bowls for Army, also “under” 7-4 this year.
  • Mounties failed to cover their last six bowls (all Holgorsen).

Betting Prediction: Although many trends do favour wagering on the UNDER in this game, the total may have overreacted just a bit, since it's now all the way down to 41.  That's the lowest total of any bowl game this year.  Let's remember these are two experienced quarterbacks and solid offenses that can score points.  I see WVU having some success here and Army playing catch-up which could lead to a higher-scoring outcome that's predicted.  Contrarian alert!  The recommendation is to go OVER 41.