College Football Bowl Game Betting Guide

While all of the major sports have loyal and passionate followings, there’s just something extra special about the traditions attached to college football. The pomp and circumstance, pageantry and spectacle all combine for a memorable experience.

That’s true throughout the college football regular season, and it carries right through to the postseason festivities. Bowl season is a reward to programs for a job well done, and it’s also quite the bonus for viewers and bettors.

Each year, there are more than 40 bowl games to dissect and analyze, not to mention watch and wager on. Now that sports betting has been legalized in numerous states, including right here in Michigan, even more folks will be climbing on board.

For those looking to join the party, you’ve arrived just in time. We’re going to take a look at everything you need to know about bowl season — from how to bet to the best games to focus on and all points in between, it’s right here.

We’ll even arm you with some handicapping tips you’ll be able to use right away. Read on as we explore everything you need to know about betting on college football bowl games, starting with the top spots to place your bets.

Sportsbook apps in Michigan for college bowl games

A mobile app is a fantastic way to stay on top of the action throughout the various bowl games, and we have listed out the top destinations for you to use up above. Signing up is a piece of cake and can be completed quickly.

Click through on our exclusive links to get started. You’ll get some awesome sign-up offers for doing so, and after entering a few details your new account will be all set. Next, download the app for your device from the site and log in on mobile to have access to a live sportsbook on the go.

How to bet on college football bowl games

The legality of sports betting in the United States has been a topic of debate for decades. In May 2018, the US Supreme Court provided some clarity and deemed it a matter for the states to decide for themselves.

Since that point, several states have leapt into action and have thriving sports betting industries to show for it. Michigan passed legislation at the end of 2019 and the official, legal rollout happened in 2020.

Residents can now place bets on college football and college football bowl games, as well as other major sporting events legally and safely. Before getting started, it’s helpful to understand how everything works. To that end, let’s take a look at one of the items at the top of the list.

College football bowl odds

Once the matchups for bowl games are officially announced, sportsbooks will begin releasing odds for each contest. There’s a dedicated section at major operators for NCAAF, and games for the day are often included among the featured listings.

There’s a lull of time in between the release of the betting odds on college football bowl games and the actual games. Therefore, that affords you plenty of time for handicapping the proceedings. We’ll be walking through some college bowl betting tips you can use in a bit.

For now, let’s focus on what the odds board is telling us. Each game on the docket will be listed with a series of numbers attached on both sides. Here’s what a listing for one of the bowl games might look like.

  • USC             +140                +3.5 (-110)                  O 52.5 (-110)
  • Michigan   -120                 -3.5 (-110)                   U 52.5 (-110)

Reading the listing from left to light, here are what the numbers represent: moneyline, point spread and totals.

This is how each of them work:

Moneyline: The moneyline odds tell us which side is favored to win the game. The favorite will have a negative number next to their name, while the odds are positive on the side of the underdog. In our example, Michigan is favored over USC.

  • USC                  +140
  • Michigan        -120

Point Spread: The point spread goes beyond just favorites and underdogs. A spread is attached to each game which represents the estimated difference between the two sides. You can place a bet on the favorite minus the points or go with the underdog plus the points.

  • USC                  +3.5 (-110)
  • Michigan        -3.5 (-110)

Totals: This bet type has to do with the total amount of points that the two teams will combine for in the game. Oddsmakers will set the bar with a projected number, and bettors then get to pick which side they think the total will fall. This wager is also known as over under betting.

  • Over      52.5 (-110)
  • Under   52.5 (-110)

As mentioned, there’s a lag between release of the betting odds on college football bowl games and kickoff. In between, betting action will be flowing in. As a result, there will be some movement on odds and betting lines on college football bowl games. So keep that in mind and take the time to research how much of a shift there has been.

If the odds become more favorable on one side and less attractive on the other, you can interpret that as the money has been flowing towards the latter direction.

Also, keep in mind that the odds won’t be exactly the same in each sportsbook. While the major operators are generally in range, a little line shopping for better odds can help you spot ticks of difference here and there. Therefore, don’t be shy about looking for more attractive prices.

Popular bet types for NCAAF bowl games

College football bowl season offers up plenty of games for bettors to choose from. Additionally, there are several ways to wager on each contest on the docket. Here’s a look at the major bet types you’ll have to consider, starting with the trio we touched on earlier.

  •  Moneyline Betting: The moneyline bet is all about picking winners and nothing else. Oddsmakers set the field with odds on both sides, so the job for bettors is to choose if they like the favorite or underdog. The closer the odds, the tighter the matchup is, while a wide range indicates a matchup advantage for one side.
  • Point Spread Betting: The point spread levels the playing field between the two sides, or at least that’s the goal when betting lines on college football bowl games are set. It’s helpful to think of the spread as an estimated margin of victory which needs to be factored into your handicapping. Is the favorite minus the points the right call or should you roll with the underdog plus the points?
  • Totals Betting: A totals bet isn’t concerned with which side is going to win or by how much. It’s all about the total points scored in the game. As such, this can be a good spot for beginners to get in on the action, but there’s also lots to like for experienced bettors. You simply need to choose the most likely outcome on the benchmark number set by sportsbooks.
  • The three bet types up above will bring plenty of bettors to the window for each game, but you’ll also have several other popular options to consider. 
  • Prop Betting: Prop bets open up even more possibilities for the individual games. These are additional side wagers that can be placed on specific circumstances from the perspective of a player, team or the game as a whole. Offerings will vary, but you can see the options by clicking on “more wagers” in the individual game listings. 
  • Parlay Betting: For a parlay, you’re including multiple outcomes on a single slip in a quest for even greater returns. This is a popular bet that can provide lots of bang for the buck, but they get tougher to hit with each selection added to the ticket. Parlays can be appealing when you have a slate of games in which you have multiple contests you feel good about.
  • Teaser Betting: The teaser bet plays off of the point spread and affords bettors with more flexibility. Handicappers can shift the spread on a series of games to a level they are more comfortable with. Teasers for football typically revolve around key numbers such as 6 or 7, so you could move a 9-point spread down to two points, for example.
  • Round Robin Betting: The round robin is kind of like a parlay in that you include multiple selections on the same slip, but the format of the bet varies. For example, you could include three selections on a slip and make three separate two-team wagers as opposed to just one single parlay bet.

For an overall strategy approach to CFB bowl season, there are a number of different ways to go about it. You can choose a volume approach and bet on as many games as you can handle with an eye towards more wins than losses, or you can be much more selective and just zero in on the contests you find most appealing.

The same holds true for bet types. For example, you can focus on moneylines or point spreads and add in another option for more profit potential, or spread your wings even further by exploring several different wagering opportunities. It’s all about turning a profit at the end, so keep your eye on the prize and think through an approach that works best for you.

Live betting on college football bowl games

You can kick the excitement level up several notches for bowl season by engaging in what’s known as live betting. This is an incredibly popular feature at online and mobile sportsbooks which allows you to place bets in real time as the game is playing out.

The markets move fast and offerings can go by in a flash, but that only enhances the appeal for many. Mobile apps make for a great way to stay on top of the action.

Here’s a sample of some of the offerings that might pop up.

  • What will be the outcome of Michigan’s next drive – TD/FG/TO/Punt/Downs?
  • Who will have more rushing yards in the first half – Michigan State or Oregon?
  • How many TDs will Western Michigan score before halftime – Over/Under 2.5?

Live betting is yet another way to potentially profit on the games, but it’s important to head in with a game plan and budget in mind. It can be easy to get swept away in the excitement, so use caution and only bet on the most appealing choices at an amount you’re comfortable with.

College football futures market

Thanks to the futures market, you can make the call on how the season as a whole will play out, and hopefully earn a profit for your efforts. Futures wagers are bets you can place on events that will take place at a later date.

Here are some of the most popular futures markets for NCAAF.

  • National Championship Winner
  • Team to Make Playoffs
  • Division and Conference Winners
  • Team Regular Season Win Totals
  • Heisman Trophy Winner
  • Other Individual Award Winners

Using the national title winner as an example, odds are released soon after the current champion is crowned. Sortsbooks will unveil odds for all teams, and bettors then get to hunt for appealing opportunities. Here’s what the top of the odds listing might look like.

  • Clemson +250
  • Ohio State +300
  • Alabama +500

That list will go from the highly-touted teams all the way down to the longshots. You can place your bets at any time and hold your tickets, or remain engaged throughout the year to find intriguing teams to bet on. Futures can be a great way to scope out the lay of the land for a college football season.

How does the NCAAF bowl season work?

Division I is the highest level of college football in the nation and includes 130 teams spread across 10 conferences with a handful of independents sprinkled in. The top teams in the individual conferences will move on to play in the conference championship games.

That’s not the only reward for a job well done. All teams that make it to at least six regular season victories are eligible to be invited to bowl games, of which there are typically more than 40. The bowls range in significance from the small variety all the way up to the premier events.

Of the latter category, six are recognized as the best of best and have come to be known as the New Year’s Six.

  • Cotton Bowl – Arlington, Texas
  • Fiesta Bowl – Glendale, Arizona
  • Orange Bowl – Miami Gardens, Florida
  • Peach Bowl – Atlanta, Georgia
  • Rose Bowl – Pasadena, California
  • Sugar Bowl – New Orleans, Louisiana

In rotating fashion, two of those bowl games also serve as the venue for the semifinals of the College Football Playoff. Clubs that make it to the playoffs are the four best squads in the nation, as deemed by the CFP Selection Committee.

The winners of the semifinal games move on to play for the national title, a game which gets the primetime treatment on a Monday night in early January. All told, bowl season runs from the latter part of December into early January. There are plenty of games to enjoy every step of the way.

Betting tips for college bowl season

Bowl season is a great time for CFB handicappers, as there’s plenty of extra time to dig into the betting lines on college football bowl games and look for inefficiencies. Those new to the game will find lots to like as well, as the games can be wildly entertaining.

On the handicapping front, normal rules apply, but you’ll also want to take a few extra steps for this time of year. Here are some tips to keep in your back pocket.

  • Pay close attention to line moves: From the timelines are released right up until kickoff, bettors are weighing in with their calls. That leads to movement in the odds, which can provide you with some valuable clues. When you see big shifts, you can discern the direction the money has been flowing and factor that into your overall breakdown.
  • Consider motivation of the two teams: Bowl games are a reward, but there are times when the contest a program is headed to is a bit of a letdown in comparison to their goals at the beginning of the year. Watch out for situations like this as it can impact the product in the field. The same applies in reverse for teams that surprise and make it further than they expected.
  • Monitor player news: There’s lots of turnover in college football, and many players have their sights set on the next year’s NFL Draft. As such, it’s not uncommon for players to skip Bowl Games to avoid risk of injury. Keep your eyes peeled for information on who may be sitting out as this can have an impact on game plans and matchups.

College football in Michigan

There are five programs playing at the DI level in Michigan, so local fans will have plenty of games to tune into throughout the season. Here are some details on each program and their history in bowl games.

Michigan Wolverines

  • Location: Ann Arbor
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Titles: 11 National, 42 Conference
  • Bowl Game Record: 21-27
  • Last Bowl Game: 2020 Citrus Bowl; Alabama 35, Michigan 16

Michigan State Spartans

  • Location: East Lansing
  • Conference: Big Ten
  • Titles: 6 National, 11 Conference
  • Bowl Game Record: 13-16
  • Last Bowl Game: 2019 Pinstripe Bowl; Michigan State 27, Wake Forest 21

Central Michigan Chippewas

  • Location: Pleasant
  • Conference: Mid-American
  • Titles: 16 Conference
  • Bowl Game Record: 3-9
  • Last Bowl Game: 2019 New Mexico Bowl; San Diego State 48, Central Michigan 11

Eastern Michigan Eagles

  • Location: Ypsilanti
  • Conference: Mid-American
  • Titles: 10 Conference
  • Bowl Game Record: 1-3
  • Last Bowl Game: 2019 Quick Lane Bowl; Pittsburgh 34, Eastern Michigan 30

Western Michigan Broncos

  • Location: Kalamazoo
  • Conference: Mid-American
  • Titles: 4 Conference
  • Bowl Game Record: 1-9
  • Last Bowl Game: 2019 First Responder Bowl; Western Kentucky 23, Western Michigan 20

College Bowl FAQ

Alabama is atop the all-time list with 42 victories in bowl games. The Crimson Tide have appeared in 71 bowls all together with a record of 42-26-3. USC is next on the victory list with a 34-19 record, while Georgia sits in third place with a mark of 32-21-3.


There’s a tie atop the all-time list between the legendary Bear Bryant and Nick Saban, both of whom lay claim to six national crowns. Bryant won all of his titles with Alabama, while Saban won five with the Crimson Tide and one with LSU. Bernie Bierman and Woody Hayes are next on the list with five each.


We have to go back to 2001 to find the answer. The GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, played host to a contest between the Marshall Thundering Herd and the East Carolina Pirates. The game would go on to double overtime with Marshall on the right side of a 64-61 win when all was said and done.


Yes, the Quick Lane Bowl is held annually at Ford Field in Detroit. The game first made its debut in 2014 and essentially replaced the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl, which was also played at the same location. For the most recent edition, Pittsburgh beat Eastern Michigan, 34-30, in 2019.


The Michigan Wolverines are alone at the top with 42 Big Ten crowns. Ohio State sits in second place with 39, followed by Minnesota in third place with 18. Michigan State holds down the seventh spot with nine Big Ten crowns on its resume.