Jan. 1 College Bowl Betting Preview: Notre Dame’s New Era; Utah Eyes Rose Bowl Upset

The best day of the college football season is here


Here’s a quick betting preview for every college football bowl game on Saturday, Jan. 1.

Outback Bowl (noon ET) — Penn State vs. (-2.5) No. 21 Arkansas, 48.5

One storyline to know: Opt-Out U
Penn State will be up against it, especially on the defensive side of the ball. At least six Nittany Lions are opting out of the bowl game, including five defensive starters. On offense, potential first-round receiver Jahan Dotson is also opting out. Defensive coordinator Brent Pry is gone, too, leaving for the Virginia Tech head job. Penn State opened as the favorite before the exodus and is now catching nearly a field goal.

One trend to know: Underdogs have won the last four Outback Bowls outright (per VSiN)

Pick: Arkansas -2.5
There’s just too much to make up for given all of the Nittany Lion opt-outs. After an ugly 37-0 loss to Georgia, the Razorbacks scored at least 31 points in five of their last seven games, including taking Alabama to the wire as 21-point underdogs. A big bounce-back season for the Hogs ends with a momentum-building win over a marquee program.

Citrus Bowl (1 p.m.) No. 15 Iowa vs. (-3) No. 22 Kentucky, 44

One storyline to know: Who starts at QB for Iowa?
You would think a team playing for a New Year’s Day bowl would have a solid quarterback situation. Not the Hawkeyes, though. It should surprise no one that Iowa scored fewer than 10 points three times this season, including a 42-3 beatdown from Michigan in the Big 10 title game.

One trend to know: SEC teams are 32-10 straight-up and 28-13-1 against the spread as bowl favorites of 3.5 points or less since 2002 (per VSiN)

Pick: Kentucky -3
Iowa’s defense is one of the best in the nation, and Kentucky feasted on a pretty weak schedule, but the Hawkeyes are walking a very thin line with their own offense. If Iowa falls behind at all, it’s hard to see any sort of a comeback, and UK can do enough offensively to put Iowa in such a hole.

NESN Games: Pick & Win

Fiesta Bowl (1 p.m.) — No. 9 Oklahoma State vs. (-1) No. 5 Notre Dame, 44.5

One storyline to know: Does Marcus Freeman make his mark on Irish?
If social media is any indication, the Notre Dame team is absolutely stoked to have Freeman take over for Brian Kelly. It doesn’t feel like a lame-duck team just trying to get to the offseason. The Irish have the look and sound of a team that expects to win this game and use it as a building block for bigger and better things as they enter a new era.

One trend to know: First-time bowl coaches are 18-35 straight-up and 16-36-1 against the spread versus veteran coaches (per VSiN)

Pick: Notre Dame -1
It’s possible Oklahoma State’s defense bottles up the Irish and makes this a frustrating debut for Freeman. But it’s not like Notre Dame hasn’t faced stiff defensive tests this season, having hung 41 on Wisconsin and 27 against Purdue. The Irish will be without running back Kyren Williams, so that must be considered, but don’t sleep on the Notre Dame defense, either. It’s a potentially favorable matchup against an offense that looked flustered in the Big 12 title game when Baylor suffocated OK State, forcing four Spencer Sanders interceptions. Notre Dame in a slugfest.

Rose Bowl (5 p.m.) — No. 11 Utah vs. (-4) No. 6 Ohio State

One storyline to know: The transitive property game
Prior to the Michigan loss, Ohio State had just one defeat all season, and it came at the hands of Oregon. The Ducks, meanwhile, saw their season fall apart after not one but two losses to Utah, including the Pac-12 title game. So, that obviously means the Utes are live here, right?

One trend to know: Utah is 5-1 against the spread in its last six games vs. teams with winning records (per The Athletic)

Pick: Utah +4
The value isn’t what it was at the beginning of bowl season when Ohio State opened as touchdown favorites. And while it’s hard to not get up for the Rose Bowl, Utah probably is the more motivated team. Where the Buckeyes might see this as a consolation game no one really wanted at the start of the season, Utah turned around its entire year and now has a chance to win its first Rose Bowl in program history. The Utes have been dynamite in bowl games under Kyle Wittingham, too.

Sugar Bowl (8:45 p.m.) — No. 7 Baylor vs. (-1) No. 8 Ole Miss, 57

One storyline to know: Matt Corral is gonna give it a go
The specifics vary, but Corral is widely considered the second- or third-best quarterback prospect in the NFL draft. All signs point to him playing in the Rebels’ bowl game despite an ankle injury that hobbled him in November. He’s obviously had plenty of time to rest and recover, but it is slightly surprising in this day and age to see top prospects like Corral opt against opting out.

One trend to know: Ole Miss is 5-2 against the spread in its last seven games vs. Big 12 opponents (per Odds Shark)

Pick: Ole Miss -1
In a relative pick ’em, give us the better quarterback, especially if he’s one of the best in the country. Baylor should be able to run on Ole Miss, but the big-play potential from Corral and Lane Kiffin’s offense is too much to pass up. It’s a game-changing variable that Baylor won’t be able to answer if Ole Miss can break a few.

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