The Daily Sweat: Bowl season is here and there are 10 football games to bet before Sunday

There are plenty of opportunities to get your football betting fix before Sunday.

With eight bowl games across Friday and Saturday and two NFL games, there are 10 football games before Sunday of Week 15 in the NFL. Let’s focus on the Saturday NFL games first, as one of them has seen a huge line shift.

The Cleveland Browns opened as favorites over the Las Vegas Raiders but as dozens of Browns players have been placed in COVID-19 protocol, the Raiders are now 3.5-point favorites. The players in protocols include Browns QBs Baker Mayfield and Case Keenum, so Nick Mullens is in line to start for Cleveland.

The total for the game has dropped to 37.5 and the Raiders are a -185 favorite on the moneyline. The Raiders have not been very good over the past six weeks and just got blown out on the road by the Kansas City Chiefs. Vegas is a rightful favorite given the circumstances, but can you really trust the Raiders right now?

The primetime game Saturday night should be a doozy. The New England Patriots can keep the top seed in the AFC with a win and are 2-point underdogs at the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts will try to run the ball with Jonathan Taylor as much as possible; New England has given up just six rushing touchdowns all season. What gives?

We’re inclined to lean toward the Colts, but it may come down to Carson Wentz’s ability to make a few big plays against the New England defense. And that’s a worrisome proposition. The Patriots have intercepted opposing QBs 19 times already this season.

Friday’s bowl games

Bowl season kicks off with the Bahamas Bowl (Noon ET, ESPN). Toledo (7-5) is a 10-point favorite over Middle Tennessee State (6-6) and the over/under is at 49.5.

If Middle Tennessee State forces Toledo to turn the ball over, the Blue Raiders have a shot. That’s an obvious statement for any football game, but MTSU has forced 31 turnovers in 12 games. Toledo, meanwhile, has only turned the ball over six times. Both teams are on the extreme this season, and if Toledo can hang onto the ball like it has for the entirety of the season, MTSU is going to have a hard time keeping up.

The Cure Bowl follows (6 p.m. ET, ESPN2) with Coastal Carolina (10-2) and Northern Illinois (9-4). The Chanticleers’ offense is fun to watch and Jamey Chadwell should have some new wrinkles for the bowl game. Coastal is favored by 10.5 points against a Northern Illinois team that won the MAC after going winless in 2020.

We like Coastal’s chances of covering here. NIU has allowed opponents to average nearly six yards a carry. Coastal’s option offense has also rushed for nearly six yards a carry. If NIU loads up to stop Coastal on the ground, Grayson McCall is one of the most efficient passing QBs in the country and can slice the Huskies up through the air.

Saturday’s bowl games

Saturday will feel a lot like a normal college football Saturday with six games throughout the day. The first game to kick off is the Boca Raton Bowl (11 a.m. ET, ESPN) between Appalachian State (10-2) and Western Kentucky (8-5). App State is favored by 3 and the total is at 67.5. It’s the highest over/under of the day and we’re fully on board with the over here.

Western Kentucky QB Bailey Zappe can also set a couple of college football records on Saturday. Zappe has thrown for 5,545 yards so far this season and needs just 289 yards to pass B.J. Symons (Texas Tech, 2003) for the most passing yards in a single season. If Zappe throws for five touchdowns he’ll also break former LSU QB Joe Burrow’s record for the most TD passes in a single season (60).

UTEP (7-5) looks for its first bowl win since 1967 in the New Mexico Bowl (2:15 p.m. ET, ESPN) against Fresno State (9-3). The Miners posted their first winning season since 2014 and are 11.5-point underdogs against the Bulldogs. We’re not sure about this line because interim Fresno State coach Lee Marks is being coy about the team’s starting quarterback.

Jake Haener put his name in the transfer portal after coach Kalen DeBoer went to Washington at the end of the regular season. But Haener decided to stick with Fresno State after the school hired Jeff Tedford for a second stint. If Haener starts, Fresno has a great shot of covering. If that’s known well before the game, bet the Bulldogs. If you’re unsure of the QB situation before kickoff, stay away.

BYU (10-2) finished the season at No. 13 in the College Football Playoff rankings and is a 7-point favorite against UAB (8-4) in the Independence Bowl (3:30 p.m. ET, ABC). We’re all about the Cougars in this one as BYU was 6-1 against Power Five opponents this season. UAB played just one Power Five opponent in 2021 and that was Georgia. There’s no harm in getting blown out by the Bulldogs — nearly everyone did in the regular season — but UAB was uncompetitive in a 56-7 loss.

Liberty (7-5) is a 9.5-point favorite against Eastern Michigan (7-5) in the LendingTree Bowl. The Flames are powered by QB Malik Willis, an intriguing QB in the 2022 NFL draft. Willis has 35 total touchdowns and also leads Liberty in rushing with 820 yards. Liberty lost its last three games of the season by a combined margin of 56 points, though its final three opponents — Ole Miss, Louisiana, Army — had a combined 30 regular-season wins. We like under 58.5 points here.

Oregon State (7-5) is a 7.5-point favorite over Mountain West champion Utah State (10-3) in the LA Bowl (7:30 p.m. ET, ABC). The Beavers run the ball over 40 times per game and B.J. Baylor has rushed for 1,259 yards on just 209 carries. If Utah State can hang tough up front it can easily win this game outright. WR Deven Thompkins (96 catches, 1,589 yards) will be the focal point for Oregon State’s defense. We like Utah State and the points.

The last game of the night is the New Orleans Bowl (9:15 p.m. ET) between Louisiana (12-1) and Marshall (7-5). The Ragin Cajuns are just 5.5-point favorites despite being four games better than the Thundering Herd during the 2021 season and will be missing leading rusher Chris Smith (855 yards). With Billy Napier off to Florida, Louisiana will be coached by his successor Michael Desormeaux in the bowl game. Desormeaux played QB at Louisiana and is a native of the state. And his first game as a college football head coach is going to be in New Orleans. That’s a setup for a storybook game on Saturday night.

Who cashed tickets Thursday night?

Chiefs and over bettors were happy with Kansas City’s 34-28 overtime win over the Los Angeles Chargers. Kansas City entered the game favored by three and the over hit late in the fourth quarter when the Chiefs tied it 28-28 on a Patrick Mahomes TD pass to Travis Kelce.

The Brooklyn Nets were home underdogs against the Philadelphia 76ers and won 114-105. The over (216.5) also hit with a minute left.