College Football Betting Guide: Wednesday 12/30/20

The heart of bowl season is upon us, and Wednesday marks the first of the New Year’s Six, with a compelling matchup between Oklahoma and Florida. The Music City Bowl was cancelled after Missouri pulled out due to COVID cases amongst their players, but that leaves two bowl games to bet on for college football fans.

numberFire has built comprehensive algorithms to pinpoint the bets with the highest probability of returning money, whether you are betting on the total, the spread, or the moneyline. For those new to numberFire, we use a five-star system to show which bets you should be targeting for any given game. Stars represent how much you should risk on a wager relative to what you would normally bet.

For example, if you would normally bet $110 to win $100 on a -110-spread wager, if we give a 3-star ranking, we suggest risking three times that amount: $330 to win $300. Here are the best bets for this weekend with guidance from our model.

Please note that lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you are seeing the most updated information.

Cotton Bowl Classic: Florida vs. Oklahoma

Oklahoma -3.5: 2-Star Rating out of 5

The Sooners started the season with a 1-2 record, losing to Kansas State and Iowa State, and then rattled off seven wins in a row, including revenge against the Cyclones in the Big 12 Championship Game. Oklahoma is renown for its explosive offense, but this year’s iteration is much more balanced, ranking eighth in both offense and defense, according to ESPN’s FPI. The defensive line has been especially strong, helping the Sooners to allow a third-ranked 90.6 rushing yards per game. Oklahoma ranks sixth in line yards and fifth in stuff rate, per Football Outsiders.

Florida has a Heisman finalist in quarterback Kyle Trask, and the Gators have one of the best offenses in the nation. However, the Sooners will have an advantage if they force Trask to make plays on his own to move the ball, because they can get after the quarterback, ranking 19th in sack rate. Trask is second in the nation in ESPN’s QBR with 90.4, but Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler isn’t far behind at 81.3. Oklahoma also has Rhamondre Stevenson -- who is a top five NFL prospect at running back, according to CBS Sports -- to take some of the pressure off Rattler.

Our model projects Oklahoma to cover the 3.5-point spread 57.62% of the time, which would net bettors a 10.00% return. There also seems to be signals toward sharp action on the Sooners; the line opened at Oklahoma +3 and then moved all the way to -3.5 despite the majority of the bets having been placed on the Gators, per oddsFire. That line movement suggests that some large bets were made on Oklahoma from professional bettors.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl: Wake Forest vs. Wisconsin

Wake Forest +7.5: 4-Star Rating out of 5

After crushing their first two opponents, Wisconsin struggled this season, losing their last three of four games. In all three losses, the Badgers scored seven points or fewer, leading to a staggering 3-3 record despite owning the nation’s leading defense in fewest yards allowed per game.

Wake Forest also finished an up-and-down season with the same number of wins and losses, which featured an upset of Virginia Tech and a close loss to North Carolina. The Deacons aren’t particularly special, but they do have an elite pass rusher in Carlos Basham, Jr., who led the team with five sacks. Basham typically had to carry the pass rush for the Deacons, but he and his teammates shouldn’t have much difficulty getting to Wisconsin’s signal-caller, as the Badgers have a sack rate that ranks 68th in the country.

Wake Forest might not be able to score much on the vaunted Badger defense, but they should have enough balance to move the ball when they need to. Wisconsin quarterback Graham Mertz has struggled after a magnificent performance against Illinois to open the season. After a 95.4 quarterback rating against the Illini, Mertz failed to break 70 in all of the Badgers’ remaining games, including the blowout win at Michigan. Wake Forest is by no means a dangerous team, but they’re capable of beating the version of Wisconsin that lost three straight games after starting 2-0.

The Badgers are still projected to win, according to our model, which is a testament to how dominant their defense has been. However, the Demon Deacons are projected to cover the 7.5-point spread with 66.76% probability. Wisconsin has the ability to win on the strength of their defense alone, but their offense has struggled too much for bettors to rely on them to cover a spread of more than a touchdown.