Dec. 30 College Bowls Betting Preview: Seeking Peach Bowl Value After Big Opt-Outs

And Wisconsin looks for more bowl dominance

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Here’s a betting preview for all college football bowl games on Thursday, Dec. 30.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl (11:30 a.m. ET) — South Carolina vs. (-11) North Carolina, 57.5

One storyline to know: Who gets the mayo cooler?
Sure, you could focus on the actual football part of this game, which is pretty intriguing despite that seemingly one-sided spread. Speaking of spreads, the real draw in this one is the postgame mayo dump on the winning coach.

Yeah, it’s gross, and yes it’s “only” the Mayo Bowl, but don’t tell that to the two head coaches.

One trend to know: North Carolina is 1-6 against the spread following a straight-up loss — UNC lost to NC State in the regular-season finale (per VSiN)

Pick: UNC team total 34.5
Somewhat surprisingly, there aren’t any real opt-out issues for North Carolina, as Sam Howell looks in line to make the start under center. Given his draft stock as a likely first-round pick, that certainly makes him a rare breed in today’s college football. So, if he’s going to play, the Tar Heels are going to try to light up the scoreboard and give Howell one last impression to make on talent evaluators. That should lead to plenty of points, and the only question will be whether Mack Brown eventually calls off the dogs. That theoretically could bring the under and South Carolina with the points into play. Laying the points with UNC is probably still wise, but the line has jumped more than a field goal since opening. Given a clear mismatch on this side of the ball, rolling with the Tar Heel offense feels like a safer option.

Music City Bowl (3 p.m.) — Purdue vs. (-7.5) Tennessee, 66

One storyline to know: Vols on the comeback trail?
Josh Heupel is good at his job. The Tennessee head coach has seemingly turned around the Volunteers in a heartbeat, as his team exceeded expectations in his first season. A seven-win season and a bowl berth is an achievement on its own but winning the Music City Bowl — in Tennessee — seemingly would be a much-needed springboard into the offseason, as Heupel tries to restore the glory days in Knoxville.

One trend to know: Tennessee is 6-0 ATS in its last six games as a favorite (per The Athletic)

Pick: OVER 66
You’re certainly not getting the best value with this number — the total opened at 66 — but these offenses like to push the pace and should have plenty of chances to score. Purdue ranks 23rd in plays per game; Tennessee ranks 35th in the same category. The Volunteers rank fifth in the entire country in Football Outsiders’ OFEI metric, while Purdue checks in at No. 27. These teams scored 40 or more points a combined nine times this season. Neither team has a great defense, especially in the secondary. Weather doesn’t seem to be an issue in Nashville. A lot of signs are pointing to an absolute shootout.

Peach Bowl (7 p.m.) — No. 12 Pitt vs. (-3.5) No. 10 Michigan State, 56

One storyline to know: So, uh, who’s left?
If opt-outs and transfers weren’t a thing, and we could guarantee this matchup would look the same on Dec. 30 as it would have on Oct. 30, this might be the best non-New Year’s or CFB game of the bowl season. However, opt-outs on both sides, including some major superstars, have dampened the mood a little bit. Then again, maybe setting expectations low will make this one enjoyable.

One trend to know: Peach Bowl underdogs are 19-8-3 since 1993 (per VSiN)

Pick: UNDER 56
Both teams have major question marks on offense. Starting with Pitt, the Panthers won’t have quarterback Kenny Pickett, who has opted out and is preparing to be a high draft pick. Not only that, offensive coordinator Mark Whipple is out the door having left for a new gig. That leaves the offense in the hands of junior QB Nick Patti, who has 62 career passing attempts to his name. Pitt does, however, have a strong defense that was overshadowed at times by what Pickett and the offense could do during the season. The Panthers are probably licking their chops thinking about getting a Michigan State offense that also will be without its best player, Kenneth Walker III, who won the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back. Are there really eight touchdowns between these two squads?

Las Vegas Bowl (10:30 p.m.) — Arizona State vs. (-7) Wisconsin, 41

One storyline to know: Can Paul Chryst do it again?
The Wisconsin head coach has a sparkling bowl track record, leading the Badgers to wins in five of his six bowl appearances. If there’s a game to be played, Chryst’s team is probably going to be ready to play, with its only recent bowl loss coming in the 2020 Rose Bowl when it lost by one to Oregon. Take that away, and the Badgers have won their last four bowl games by an average of 16 points.

One trend to know: The UNDER is 5-1 in Wisconsin’s last six December games (per Odds Shark)

Pick: UNDER 41

Scoring against a Wisconsin defense that ranked fourth nationally in scoring and first in yards per play allowed was always going to be difficult for Arizona State. Doing so without its top two running backs make finding the end zone an even more arduous task for the Sun Devils. And the last time we saw Wisconsin, the Badgers were being flummoxed by a stingy Minnesota defense. Herm Edwards and his staff should look to adopt a similar game plan with a defense that allowed just 21 points per game this season. The Sun Devils also have opt-outs on defense, but a general lack of explosiveness on Wisconsin’s offense could ultimately lead to this being a low-scoring affair.

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