College Football Betting Guide: Saturday 1/1/22

New Year’s Day is traditionally the most important day of the college football season; before the BCS, the national champion would typically be decided by the bowl games played on the first day of the year. In the new era of college football, there is still the New Year’s Six, in which the teams that were close but ultimately didn’t qualify for the College Football Playoff have a chance to win a prestigious bowl game and close their seasons on high notes.

For bettors, the cupboard is bare as our model has only one pick against the spread of the five games on the slate. We’ll shift our focus to betting on the totals on a couple of these traditional college football staples.

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 after this article is published. Please check here to make sure you are seeing the most updated information.

Fiesta Bowl: Notre Dame Fighting Irish vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys

Over 44.5 (-110): 5-Star Rating out of 5

Notre Dame spent most of the season on the outside looking in after losing a must-win game to Cincinnati. The Bearcats finished undefeated and grabbed the last spot in the playoff while the Irish needed lots of help since they wouldn’t jump Cincinnati in the rankings. Notre Dame had to settle for being the fifth-ranked team, which comes with a bid to the Fiesta Bowl against Oklahoma State.

The Cowboys also were on the outside of the College Football Playoff rankings due to a loss to Iowa State. They finished the season with a loss to Baylor in the Big 12 Championship, but they’ve had a successful year in large part due to an elite defense. Oklahoma State’s defensive line is in the top 10 in just about every metric on Football Outsiders, including third in average line yards and first in sack rate.

Bettors shouldn’t fear that the Cowboys’ defense will keep the score under the total. Notre Dame, even without running back Kyren Williams, will have opportunities to score because Oklahoma State’s weakness on defense is that they don’t force turnovers (100th in turnover rate, per Football Outsiders). Jack Coan hasn’t been amazing for the Irish, but if he can protect the ball and find reliable pass catchers like tight end Michael Mayer, who leads the team in receptions, Notre Dame should be able to score enough points against Oklahoma State to push the score over the total.

Oklahoma State has relied on their defense all year as their offense hasn’t been particularly dynamic. However, Notre Dame’s star defensive player, Kyle Hamilton, who is arguably the top prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft (along with Michigan’s Aidan Hutchinson and Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux), opted out of this game. His absence should open up the field for quarterback Spencer Sanders to hit his receivers and move the ball down the field.

Notre Dame will be without former head coach Brian Kelly, who took the job at LSU, so defensive coordinator Marcus Freeman will take his place. Freeman was named the permanent head coach after Kelly left and has a great rapport with the Irish players, so Notre Dame shouldn't come into this game ill-prepared.

The total for this game is 44.5, which our model deems too low. The final score has a 75.1% likelihood of surpassing that total, per our numers; both teams should find enough ways to score so that over bettors can cash in.

Sugar Bowl: Baylor Bears vs. Ole Miss Rebels

Over 55.5 (-110): 4-Star Rating out of 5

Baylor qualified for the Sugar Bowl after beating Oklahoma State in the Big 12 Championship. Meanwhile, the Ole Miss finished runner-up to Alabama in the SEC West. The Rebels essentially lost their national title hopes in the defeat against Alabama in early October, but they finished the season with only two losses as Matt Corral turned in one of the best quarterback performances of the year.

Corral is arguably the top quarterback prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft, but he’ll suit up to lead the Rebels one last time, which bodes well for over bettors. Ole Miss has been productive on offense with Corral under center, especially because he’s a threat both as a passer and a runner. According to ESPN, Corral is sixth in expected points added (EPA) through rushes, and Ole Miss is first among Power Five teams in rushing yards per game.

Baylor also has a prolific rushing offense, which should dominate an Ole Miss defensive line that ranks 124th in average line yards and 127th in opportunity rate. Running back Abram Smith has averaged 6.2 yards per carry en route to 1,429 rushing yards this year.

Bettors shouldn’t sweat the high total; both teams have enough offense to push the score over the line. Our model projects a 68.7% likelihood that the score exceeds the total, and with Corral on the field, college football fans can expect an exciting game.