College Football Bowl Picks Against the Spread (ATS): Independence, Holiday, Cotton, Peach and Fiesta

Here are picks for the first wave of post-Christmas bowl games, including the College Football Playoff semifinals

College football's bowl season resumes on Dec. 26 with two games that day. The bowls continue through the new year with many eagerly anticipating the College Football Playoff semifinals between No. 1 LSU and No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl and No. 2 Ohio State and No. 3 Clemson in the Fiesta Bowl on Dec. 28. That Saturday also features the Cotton Bowl (Memphis vs. Penn State) and Camping World Bowl (Notre Dame vs. Iowa State). There are 15 bowl games between Dec. 26-30, including the Orange Bowl (Florida vs. Virginia). Here are picks against the spread for each bowl game during that span.

 

College Football Bowl Picks Against the Spread (ATS): Games from Dec. 26-30

 

Independence Bowl: Louisiana Tech (+6.5) over Miami

It's safe to say that Miami didn't plan on ending the first season of the Manny Diaz era playing in Shreveport, La. The Hurricanes put together a nice three-game winning streak — with victories over Pittsburgh, Florida State and Louisville — but limped home with losses to FIU and Duke. Louisiana Tech won eight straight games during one stretch en route to a 9–3 regular season. Louisiana Tech 23, Miami 20

 

Quick Lane Bowl: Pittsburgh (-10.5) over Eastern Michigan

Pittsburgh lost its final two games to finish 7–5 and was shipped north to play in Detroit for the holidays. It will be a short trip from Ypsilanti for Eastern Michigan, which will be playing in a second-straight bowl game for the first time in school history. Pittsburgh 27, Eastern Michigan 14

 

Military Bowl: North Carolina (-5) over Temple

Mack Brown and the Tar Heels gained bowl-eligibility on the final weekend of the regular season, dominating rival NC State 41–10 in Raleigh. With the right quarterback in place, freshman Sam Howell, the future is bright for UNC. Temple beat two Power 5 teams (Maryland and Georgia Tech) and handed Memphis its only loss of the season. North Carolina 28, Temple 21

 

Pinstripe Bowl: Wake Forest (+4.5) over Michigan State

Wake Forest: college football picks against the spreadWake Forest will be seeking its fourth straight bowl win, all under the watch of the vastly underrated Dave Clawson. The Demon Deacons have won 30 games (and counting) over the last four seasons, after winning 15 the previous four. Michigan State needs a win to avoid its second losing season in the last four years. Wake Forest 34, Michigan State 21

 

Texas Bowl: Texas A&M (-7) over Oklahoma State

This game would have been more entertaining if Oklahoma State were at full strength — the Pokes are without QB Spencer Sanders and wide receiver Tylan Wallace — but it still should be an entertaining battle between two schools that played every season from 1996 through 2011 before A&M bolted for the SEC. Texas A&M 34, Oklahoma State 21

 

Holiday Bowl: USC (+2) over Iowa

USC bounced back from its 56–24 loss at home to Oregon by beating Arizona State, Cal and UCLA to close the season. Those three wins no doubt played a role in the school’s decision to retain head coach Clay Helton. Iowa heads to San Diego with wins in five of its last six despite not scoring more than 26 points in any of those games. USC 26, Iowa 17

 

Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force (-3) over Washington State

No bowl this year will feature teams with such contrasting styles. Washington State led the nation with 55.7 passing attempts per game. Air Force ranked second-to-last with 9.5 per game. Air Force 33, Washington State 28

 

Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame (-3.5) over Iowa State

Iowa State lost five games this season, each by 10 points or fewer (and three by three points or fewer). This was a good team that was a few plays away from contending in the Big 12. Notre Dame quietly won 10 games yet again, with losses at Georgia and Michigan. Notre Dame 24, Iowa State 17

 

Cotton Bowl: Penn State (-6.5) over Memphis

The finest season in Memphis history — 12 wins and an AAC title — will end with a trip to the Cotton Bowl, by far the most prestigious postseason destination for the program. The Tigers will have a new coach in place (Ryan Silverfield was promoted to replace Florida State-bound Mike Norvell) but should still present a big challenge to Penn State. Memphis features outstanding skill players and can make the Nittany Lions sweat if it doesn’t turn the ball over. Penn State 33, Memphis 24

 

Peach Bowl/College Football Playoff Semifinal: LSU (-13) over Oklahoma

LSU has put together one of the most impressive offensive seasons in college football history. The defense, a concern early in the year, allowed a total of 17 points (seven to Texas A&M and 10 to Georgia) in its final two games. If the defense continues to play well, LSU will win the national title. LSU 41, Oklahoma 24

 

Fiesta Bowl/College Football Playoff Semifinal: Clemson (-2) over Ohio State

Dabo Swinney has played the lack-of-respect card in the past month. Hey Dabo: Your team is favored over the second-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Your team is very good. Everybody knows it. Clemson 30, Ohio State 27

 

First Responder Bowl: Western Kentucky (-3.5) over Western Michigan

Western Kentucky was one of the most improved teams in the nation in Tyson Summers’ first season in Bowling Green. The Hilltoppers went 8–4 one year after stumbling through a 3–9 campaign that cost Mike Sanford his job. Western Michigan continues to be one of the most consistent programs in the MAC; the Broncos are in a bowl game for the fifth time in the last six years. Western Kentucky 27, Western Michigan 21

 

Music City Bowl: Louisville (+4) over Mississippi State

Order has been restored at Louisville. The Cardinals won seven games in Scott Satterfield’s first season, highlighted by victories at Wake Forest and vs. Virginia at home. Mississippi State reached bowl eligibility thanks in large part to the now-famous celebration penalty by Ole Miss wide receiver Elijah Moore in a classic Egg Bowl battle. Louisville 34, Mississippi State 27

 

Redbox Bowl: California (-7) over Illinois

These two teams ended their respective seasons on opposite ends of the spectrum. Illinois lost 29–10 at home to a bad Northwestern team to drop to 6–6. Cal, on the other hand, won back-to-back road games over rival Stanford and UCLA to get to the seven-win mark. Go with the hot team. California 27, Illinois 17

 

Orange Bowl: Virginia (+14) over Florida

Virginia: college football picks against the spreadHere's a thought: What would the Florida offense look like with Bryce Perkins running the show? The Cavaliers' senior has the ideal skill set to thrive in a Dan Mullen attack. (He's also thrived in Virginia's offense.) Florida 30, Virginia 17

 

Bowls from Dec. 20-24: 6-4*

Season: 83-74-2*

 

*Through games as of Dec. 24

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