The 2019-20 college football schedule features 40 bowls, a loaded slate leading up to the College Football Playoff and CFP championship game.
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Sporting News will pick every matchup leading up to the CFP championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in New Orleans on Jan. 13. The Playoff semifinals are Dec. 28 at the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
SN college football writer Bill Bender will pick those bowls, which are a little more unpredictable than the regular season. Bender finished 226-50 (.819) straight up and 153-123 (.554) against the spread in 2019. He was just 4-16 (.200) on upset picks, however.
Here are our bowl picks, with point spreads provided courtesy of SportsInsider.com. Sporting News will update lines and predictions as the bowl season continues to account for changes in lines and NFL Draft decisions.
With that in mind, here are 40 predictions for 40 bowl games.
MORE: Ranking all 40 bowl games of 2019-20 season
College football bowl game picks, predictions 2019-20
Bahamas Bowl: Buffalo (-5.5) vs. Charlotte
Both teams won five of their last six games to become bowl eligible, and the 49ers are making their first ever postseason appearance. Ben LeMay runs for more than 100 yards in his fourth straight game, and Charlotte celebrates.
Charlotte wins 38-31 in an UPSET.
Frisco Bowl: Utah State (-8.5) vs. Kent State
Jordan Love didn’t have the huge season some expected, but he will close out his junior year with a big performance for the Aggies. The Golden Flashes won their last three under second-year coach Sean Lewis to become bowl eligible.
Utah State wins 33-27 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
New Mexico Bowl: San Diego State (-4.5) vs. Central Michigan
The Aztecs struggled to score in the second half of the season, and they will face a Chippewas’ team under Jim McElwain coming off a loss in the MAC championship game. Central Michigan was 9-4 against the spread this season.
Central Michigan wins 27-20 in an UPSET.
Cure Bowl: Georgia Southern (-5.5) vs. Liberty
Georgia Southern quarterback Shai Werts leads an option attack that will test Hugh Freeze’s Liberty defense in its first bowl game. The Flames have a high-scoring offense, but the defense slipped down the stretch.
SN pick: Georgia Southern wins 38-28 and COVERS the spread.
Boca Raton Bowl: SMU (-3.5) vs. FAU
This bowl game which will feature Sonny Dykes’ high-scoring SMU offense, which ranked sixth in the FBS with 43.0 points per game. The Owls were 9-4 against the spread this season. That over (72.5) looks good, too.
SMU wins 48-38 and COVERS the spread.
Camellia Bowl: Arkansas State (-3) vs. FIU
The Red Wolves are making a ninth straight bowl appearance, and they are up against Butch Davis-led FIU. Panthers quarterback James Morgan threw just three interceptions this season. FIU wins bowl games in back-to-back seasons.
FIU wins 31-24 in an UPSET.
Las Vegas Bowl: Washington (-3.5) vs. Boise State
It’s the Chris Petersen bowl. The long-time coach likely will receive a standing ovation from both sides after this one given his success at both schools. The Broncos can win this game against an inconsistent Huskies team, but we’re going to go with the outgoing coach.
Washington wins 28-23 and COVERS the spread.
New Orleans Bowl: Appalachian State (-17) vs. UAB
The Mountaineers won’t have their coach for the second straight season, and they are up against a tough UAB team led by Bill Clark. Will that affect their mindset? We like Zac Thomas to lead Appalachian State to its fifth straight bowl victory, but it won’t be a blowout.
Appalachian State wins 42-27 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Gasparilla Bowl: UCF (-17.5) vs. Marshall
Marshall has won seven straight bowl games, a streak dating back to 2009. The Knights are out of the New Year’s Day 6 for the first time in three years, but the Thundering Herd are 2-1 against the spread as an underdog.
UCF wins 37-24 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Hawaii Bowl: BYU (-1.5) vs. Hawaii
The Cougars are a short favorite against the Warriors, who were 3-4 against the spread at home but managed to cover in their last two. BYU leads the all-time series 22-5, and the Cougars righted their season with three wins in their last four games. It’s a toss-up.
BYU wins 37-34 and COVERS the spread.
Independence Bowl: Miami (-6.5) vs. Louisiana Tech
The Hurricanes had an up-and-down season in Manny Diaz’s first year, and Miami is just 3-6 against the spread as a favorite. The Bulldogs scored 40-plus points in six games this season. Miami better not come out flat.
Miami wins 30-20 and COVERS the spread.
Quick Lane Bowl: Pitt (-10.5) vs. Eastern Michigan
EMU slipped into a bowl game with a .500 record under Chris Creighton, but it’s a bad matchup against the Panthers. Jaylen Twyman, who led all defensive tackles with 10.5 sacks this season, is a player to watch.
Pitt wins 34-14 and COVERS the spread.
Military Bowl: North Carolina (-5) vs. Temple
The line dropped a point from its open, which shows some confidence in the Owls and first-year coach Rod Carey. We’ll stick with the Tar Heels and freshman quarterback Sam Howell, who as a true freshman record threw 35 touchdown passes this season. Mack Brown caps off a 7-6 season in Year 1 back at Chapel Hill.
North Carolina wins 31-24 and COVERS the spread.
Pinstripe Bowl: Michigan State (-3) vs. Wake Forest
Michigan State’s offense sputtered at times, and Wake Forest has an offense that can challenge the Spartans on the perimeter. The Demon Deacons, however, limped to the finish with three losses in their last four games. The Spartans complete a third straight winning season.
Michigan State wins 28-21 and COVERS the spread.
Texas Bowl: Oklahoma State vs. Texas A&M (-6)
The Aggies lost five games to top-10 teams, so they are tested. This old Big 12 rivalry will reheat, and it’s another chance to look at the nation’s leading rusher in Chuba Hubbard. The Aggies finally beat a ranked team.
Texas A&M wins 38-30 and COVERS the spread.
Holiday Bowl: USC vs. Iowa (-1.5)
The Hawkeyes pose a physical test for the Trojans, but bettors should watch out for a fresh attack from USC knowing that Clay Helton was retained as head coach. The Trojans’ receivers will be a mismatch for the Hawkeyes’ secondary, too. Iowa was 2-2 against the spread this season when favored by single digits.
USC wins 34-27 in an UPSET.
Cheez-It Bowl: Air Force (-2.5) vs. Washington State
The Cheez-It Bowl made sure to get an entertaining matchup after the interception festival between Cal and TCU last season. The Cougars were 4-8 against the spread this season, and they are playing a team that finished season on seven-game win streak. Still, Mike Leach will throw a wrench in that.
Washington State wins 44-41 in an UPSET.
Camping World Bowl: Notre Dame (-3.5) vs. Iowa State
The Irish were 7-3 against the spread as a favorite this season and covered in each of their last four games. They can complete a 11-win season by knocking off the Cyclones, who are 19-8 against the spread as an underdog with coach Matt Campbell. This could be one of the more entertaining games, but we’re sticking with the Irish.
Notre Dame wins 40-26 and COVERS the spread.
First Responder Bowl: Western Kentucky (-2.5) vs. Western Michigan
Former Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey steadily improved in Tyson Helton’s offense, and the Hilltoppers have a chance for nine wins in Helton’s first season. Western Michigan, however, will pull the upset behind running back LaVante Bellamy, who rushed for 1,412 yards and 23 touchdowns this season.
Western Michigan wins 38-35 in an UPSET.
Music City Bowl: Louisville (-3.5) vs. Mississippi State
The Cardinals’ resurgence under first-year coach Scott Satterfield was amazing, and he is 3-0 in bowl games. The Bulldogs won the TaxSlayer Bowl between these two teams three years ago, but this one goes the other way.
Louisville wins 38-34 and COVERS the spread.
Redbox Bowl: Cal (-6.5) vs. Illinois
Lovie Smith has the Illini back in a bowl game, and they enjoyed a string of six straight covers before an inexplicable loss to Northwestern in the season finale. Cal, meanwhile, closed the season with big wins against Stanford and UCLA. Still, we like an upset here.
Illinois wins 24-23 in an UPSET.
Belk Bowl: Virginia Tech (-3) vs. Kentucky
The Hokies are favored, but it’s a tough spot after losing a rivalry game to Virginia. The Wildcats are 9-3 against the spread this season and closed with a convincing victory against Louisville. Any excuse to watch Lynn Bowden, right?
Kentucky wins 28-24 in an UPSET.
Sun Bowl: Arizona State (-5.5) vs. Florida State
Herm Edwards has the Sun Devils in their second straight bowl game, and they will face a Florida State team that is 1-3 against the spread as an underdog this season. Go with the team with more to play for in the moment.
Arizona State wins 30-21 and COVERS the spread.
Liberty Bowl: Kansas State vs. Navy (-1.5)
The Wildcats had a season to build on under first-year coach Chris Klieman but the Midshipmen were 5-2 in games where the spread was fewer than 10 points. This is another chance for Malcolm Perry to have a big game, and he takes advantage.
Navy wins 34-31 and COVERS the spread.
Arizona Bowl: Wyoming (-7) vs. Georgia State
Both teams lost three of their last four games. Georgia State opened the season with the upset against Tennessee but was 5-5 against the spread as an underdog this season. The Cowboys struggled with offense in those four games with 21 points or fewer.
Wyoming wins 24-19 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Alamo Bowl: Utah (-7) vs. Texas
The Utes have to travel to the Longhorns’ backyard, and it’s worth knowing Texas was 0-5 straight up as an underdog this season. That said, how are we going to hype Texas in the offseason if they don’t win the bowl game?
Texas wins 28-24 in an UPSET.
Outback Bowl: Auburn (-7.5) vs. Minnesota
The Tigers just missed a New Year’s Day 6 Bowl. Auburn has played some thrillers against Big Ten teams such as Northwestern and Wisconsin in the last decade, but this is a game where Bo Nix builds hype for next season with a big-time performance.
Auburn wins 31-21 and COVERS the spread.
Citrus Bowl: Alabama (-7) vs. Michigan
The coaching matchup between Nick Saban and Jim Harbaugh finally materializes, albeit on a lesser bowl stage than both would want. This line could fluctuate based on which Alabama players decline to play while preparing for the NFL Draft. Jim Harbaugh suffers a third straight loss to an SEC school in a bowl game.
SN pick: Alabama wins 41-24 and COVERS the spread.
Birmingham Bowl: Cincinnati (-7) vs. Boston College
The Bearcats will take on a Boston College team that fired coach Steve Addazio. AJ Dillon is not playing in the game, which will hurt the Eagles’ offense. Cincinnati completes back-to-back 11-win seasons under coach Luke Fickell.
Cincinnati wins 28-24 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Gator Bowl: Tennessee (-1.5) vs. Indiana
Indiana won eight games and retained coach Tom Allen, and they face an up-and-down Tennessee team that is back in the postseason for the first time after a two-year break. Both teams should be more than excited to be there. The Vols close the season on a six-game win streak.
Tennessee wins 29-21 and COVERS the spread.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Ohio (-7) vs. Nevada
Ohio is in its 11th bowl game under Frank Solich, and the Bobcats won their last Potato Bowl appearance in 2011. This is Nevada’s first Potato Bowl appearance.
Ohio wins 30-28 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Armed Forces Bowl: Tulane (-6.5) vs. Southern Miss
The Green Wave lost five of their last six games, but they slipped into a bowl game to face a Golden Eagles’ team that was 0-3 against the spread this season. It’s another coin-flip game.
Tulane wins 28-25 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
LendingTree Bowl: Louisiana (-14) vs. Miami (Ohio)
Miami (Ohio) won the MAC championship, but they are being given no respect against the Sun Belt runner-up. The RedHawks cover that spread behind Brett Gabbert and nearly pull off the upset.
Louisiana wins 33-26 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
New Year’s Day 6 Bowls
Cotton Bowl: Penn State (-7) vs. Memphis
The Nittany Lions can finish off another 11-win season under James Franklin, who is in the New Year’s Day 6 for the third time. Mike Norvell will not be coaching in the game. This is the Tigers’ first game as an underdog this season.
Penn State wins 38-28 and COVERS the spread.
Orange Bowl: Florida (-13.5) vs. Virginia
The Gators are heavy favorites against the Cavaliers, who have four losses after a blowout in the ACC championship game. Florida was 4-1 against the spread when favored by double digits this season. Dan Mullen wins back-to-back New Year’s Day 6 bowls, but Virginia hits a back-door cover.
Florida wins 34-23 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Rose Bowl: Wisconsin (-2.5) vs. Oregon
This is a fantastic Rose Bowl matchup with the contrasting styles, and a send-off for Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert and Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor. This will be the most thrilling matchup outside of the CFP.
Wisconsin wins 38-34 and COVERS the spread.
Georgia (-7.5) vs. Baylor
Georgia is back in the Sugar Bowl and will hope to avoid a repeat of last year’s meltdown. The Bears are 3-0 against the spread as an underdog, and that includes covers against Oklahoma and Oklahoma State. Jake Fromm, however, leads a victory before contemplating his NFL future.
Georgia wins 31-17 and COVERS the spread.
Peach Bowl: LSU (-13) vs. Oklahoma
The line has already bumped up two points, a nod to the high-powered offense around LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. The Tigers are 2-2 against the spread when favored between 10-20 points, and that is tough to predict in a game destined to be a shootout. We like LSU to win, but the Sooners can cover here.
LSU wins 41-31 but FAILS TO COVER the spread.
Fiesta Bowl: Ohio State vs. Clemson (-2)
The Tigers dumped the Buckeyes 31-0 the last time they met in a semifinal, but these teams are much closer in terms of talent on both sides of the ball. Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence will put on a show, but in the end the Tigers make enough plays in the fourth quarter to advance to another championship game. This line might be around -3 or more by kickoff.
SN pick: Clemson wins 34-30 and COVERS the spread.
CFP championship: LSU vs. Clemson
What a matchup this would be in New Orleans between the quarterbacks who might be the No. 1 pick in the next two drafts. Both teams have playmakers everywhere, and it would resemble the first two shootouts between Clemson and Alabama. It truly is a matchup where the team with the ball last would win, and in this case we’ll say LSU comes out on top.
LSU wins 38-31.