College Football Bowl Betting Guide: Thursday 12/29/22

There are only three games on Thursday, but the Valero Alamo Bowl gives us a game that features two ranked teams for the first time this bowl season. Washington and Texas square off in that one, and even though some significant Longhorns have opted out -- such as Bijan Robinson and DeMarvion Overshown -- this should be the best matchup of the bowl season so far.

The other two games are the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl between Syracuse and Minnesota and the Cheez-It Bowl, which pits Oklahoma vs. Florida State. The Pinstripe Bowl always has some intrigue despite a duller matchup because it’s played at Yankee Stadium.

There are some solid value bets, according to our model, for Thursday. Let’s get into the games.

Note: All college football odds are from FanDuel Sportsbook. Lines are subject to change throughout the day after this article is published. All ratings are out of five stars. Please check numberFire's model to make sure you're seeing the most updated information.

Texas Longhorns vs. Washington Huskies

Texas -3.5: 3 Stars

The Alamo Bowl will be played at the Alamodome, which means it will be as close to a home game as it gets for Texas outside of Austin. The Longhorns will be without a couple of their stars, but they’ll still have quarterback Quinn Ewers throwing to Xavier Worthy and Jordan Whittington, both of whom ranked within the top 10 in the Big 12 in receiving yards.

Washington has arguably the best passing offense in the country as they lead the nation in passing yards gained per game. Michael Penix Jr. has had a monster season after transferring from Indiana; he’s second in the country in passing yards and has thrown 29 touchdowns to just 7 interceptions.

Penix and the Huskies will be difficult to contain, but Texas has a stout defense, ranked 14th in ESPN’s SP+ metric. However, the game will likely be decided when the Longhorns have the ball, since Washington’s defense is much weaker, ranked 59th in SP+. The Huskies rank 91st in opportunity rate, per Football Outsiders, while the Longhorns are 9th in the same metric on offense. Even without Bijan Robinson, Texas should be able to move the ball on the ground and create openings for Worthy and Whittington to gain chunk yardage through the air.

Our model projects Texas to cover with a probability of 64.0%, good enough for a three-star rating. We’ve seen Texas at their best earlier this season in a close game against Alabama, and that wasn’t them at their healthiest (Ewers left the game in the first half). The Longhorns will need to make do without star players, but they should be able to score enough on Washington’s defense to win what could be a shootout.

Syracuse Orange vs. Minnesota Golden Gophers

Over 42.5: 3 Stars

Neither of these teams is an offensive juggernaut; Minnesota is 89th in SP+ while Syracuse is 62nd. The Gophers’ defense is fifth in SP+ and yards allowed per game, which is likely why the total was set so low. Still, Minnesota employs one of the Big Ten’s best running backs in Mohamed Ibrahim as well as an offensive line that has been particularly good in short-yardage situations, ranking second in power success rate, according to Football Outsiders.

Syracuse, meanwhile, had the second-best passing defense in the ACC and was much worse against the run, allowing 150.1 yards per game. Their defensive line generated some pressure on the quarterback (26th in sack rate) but struggled to limit opposing rushers (117th in average line yards and 124th in opportunity rate).

The obvious mismatch shows why our model’s projection makes sense. Our algorithm has the over winning out 63.1% of the time. Ibrahim should be the MVP of this game and will hopefully deliver another winning bet on Thursday.