College Football Betting Guide: Saturday 1/2/21

Saturday’s games don’t have the same hype around them as the semifinal matchups do, but there are still two New Year’s Six bowls to be played, both of which present intriguing matchups.

Texas A&M takes on the high-caliber offense of North Carolina in the Orange Bowl after being snubbed from the College Football Playoff, and Oregon looks to continue their momentum against Iowa State after they upset the Trojans in the Pac-12 Championship as a replacement for Washington. Our model sees betting angles with value on both games to wrap up a great bowl season.

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.

Orange Bowl: Texas A&M Aggies vs. North Carolina Tar Heels

North Carolina +7.5: 4-Star Rating out of 5

The Tar Heels are getting more than a touchdown in this game, but they rank higher in our power rankings than Texas A&M. The Aggies went through a full SEC schedule and came away with only one loss to the best team in the country, Alabama. Meanwhile, North Carolina has three losses, two of which were upsets where the Heels were favored by more than a touchdown. It might be easy to see why Texas A&M is favored in this matchup, but North Carolina’s offensive prowess gives the Heels a chance to cover and potentially win the game outright.

Running back Michael Carter was an all-ACC first team selection, and teammates Sam Howell (quarterback) and Javonte Williams (running back) were selected to the second team. Behind their pair of 1,000-yard rushers, Carter and Williams, and an offensive line that ranks 10th in line yards per Football Outsiders, North Carolina has an elite rushing offense. Sam Howell provides enough balance under center to keep opposing defenses honest, so the Aggies could have a difficult time slowing down the Heels’ offense enough to win the game. Texas A&M has a good defense, led by defensive lineman Bobby Brown III, who was an all-SEC first team selection, but the Aggies are overmatched against the ACC’s (and would-be SEC’s) top rushing attack even though Williams is sitting out in preparation for the NFL Draft.

North Carolina receives four stars as our model projects them to cover with 69.78% likelihood, which would net bettors a 33.20% return. The Aggies are receiving the majority of the bets (62%) and the money bet (64%), according to oddsFire, so North Carolina is a good contrarian pick for bettors looking for action in the last game before the College Football Playoff Championship.

Fiesta Bowl: Oregon Ducks vs. Iowa State Cyclones

Under 58.5: 3-Star Rating out of 5

Oregon redeemed themselves after two losses in a row to Oregon State and California with a win in the Pac-12 Championship, where they replaced Washington, over USC. The Cyclones just fell short of a conference title of their own with a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship. Both teams are balanced on offense and defense, Iowa State ranking 15th and 12th in offensive and defensive SP+ per ESPN, respectively, while Oregon ranks 20th and 27th on offense and defense.

One aspect both teams have in common is each has multiple all-conference first team selections on defense. Defensive end Kayvon Thibodeaux and cornerback Mykael Wright both made the all-Pac-12 first team for the Ducks, while Iowa State had four first team selections of their own, led by sophomore defensive end Will McDonald, who led the team and the Big 12 with 9.5 sacks. Iowa State has an NFL prospect at quarterback in Brock Purdy, and if the Cyclones keep him upright throughout the game, they’ll be able to move the ball consistently, but Thibodeaux and the Ducks will look to keep pressure on Purdy all afternoon.

Our model sees the game staying under the total, projecting that outcome with a 66.32% likelihood. The line opened at 56.5, per oddsFire, and has moved up with 82% of the money bet, so the under is another solid contrarian pick to cap off a weird but fun college football season before the big game next Monday.