Every year since 2010, I have used a formula of my own devising to project the scores of every college football bowl game. It has proven to be fairly accurate, going 62.8% correct straight up and 55.1% correct against the spread in the seven combined years. It’s my understanding that 55% right is the threshold for making money off of picking games — I don’t do it and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else — but I’ve bested 55% ATS in five of eight years.
Here is a link to my 2015 post about the projections with links to the first five years if you want to look at the track record by year. The site I posted the projections on in 2016 and 2017 is no longer with us, so here’s a spreadsheet of them if you are so inclined.
The formula is fairly simple, using points scored and allowed. It largely ignores FCS games and throws out points scored in overtime. The latter isn’t important to most teams, but consider that LSU allowed 17% and Texas A&M 13% of all points they gave up this year in solely the seven overtimes they played against each other.
The point spreads below are the consensus spread from the Las Vegas casinos as reported by OddsShark on Tuesday afternoon. I will update them as necessary on Friday, as it’s my custom with these to use the spreads available the day before the first bowl kicks off. The changing spreads may alter some picks but the projected scores won’t change from now on. (Update: This is me on Friday afternoon, and I have updated the spreads. They will not change again. None of the line moves ended up changing the picks ATS.)
One last note: the team specifically mentioned in the “Projection” column is the one picked to win straight up. I round off the scores to the nearest point to make it easier to read except when doing so makes the ATS pick look wrong or it’d make the projected score appear to be a tie. In the “Pick vs. Spread” column, I add a “+ points” signifier when the formula has picked the betting underdog to make such instances easier to see.
If you want to see the scores, just scroll down to the table. Before then, I’m going to make a few comments on some select games. Happy bowl season!
Cure Bowl: The formula has UL-Lafayette over Tulane by 0.36, the smallest projected margin of victory in the bunch. The only other game under a point is the Belk Bowl, with South Carolina over Virginia by 0.88 points.
Gasparilla: Marshall is about a field goal favorite, but the formula likes South Florida to win by about nine points. Such big disagreements between my numbers and Vegas are unusual, and I don’t even take into consideration that this is basically a home game for the Bulls.
Armed Forces: I have Army beating Houston 37-32, but that seems like way too many points when the Black Knights have been known to bleed 12 minutes off the clock with a single drive.
Independence: The formula has Temple beating Duke by two touchdowns, but keep in mind I don’t have any adjustments for head coaches being gone (whether poached or fired). The Owls can well underperform that projection without Geoff Collins and still cover the field goal line, though.
Camping World: The formula has West Virginia by five, but again — you guessed it — there’s no adjustment for things like Will Grier deciding to sit the bowl out. It’s a very simple formula, and any futzing I’ve tried for things like coaches or players being missing has only made things less accurate.
Peach: The formula likes Michigan by 11, easily covering the touchdown spread against Florida. The reasons are UM’s excellent defense and the fact that UF’s offense looks less impressive without the two FCS games.
Semifinals: The formula likes the two favorites to cover double-digit spreads. That goes for Georgia in the Sugar against Texas as well. A preliminary run of the numbers likes Alabama over Clemson by 2.81 points, though I will re-run it once all other bowls are done to get a proper score projection.
Gator: Texas A&M is a 6-point favorite midweek, but the formula likes NC State by almost four points. This along with the Gasparilla and Fiesta are the two biggest disagreements between my numbers and Vegas.
Outback: I have a score of Mississippi State 18 – Iowa 15, and if I told you that all scoring in this game would consist of a combined 11 field goals, you’d probably believe me.
Fiesta: My formula had UCF beating Auburn outright by a point last year. It has the Knights beating LSU by a full eight points this year. Given how many Tiger defenders are expected to be out, it wouldn’t shock me.
|Bowl||Teams||Favorite||Projection||Pick vs. Spread|
|New Mexico||Utah St. vs. No. Texas||USU -7.5||Utah St. 40-30||Utah St.|
|Cure||UL-Lafayette vs. Tulane||Tulane -3.5||UL-Lafayette 30-29.6||ULL + points|
|Las Vegas||Fresno vs. Arizona St.||Fresno -6||Fresno 29-17||Fresno|
|Camellia||GA Southern vs. E Mich.||GSU -3||GA Southern 23-19||GSU|
|New Orleans||App State vs. MTSU||ASU -7||App State 29-16||ASU|
|Boca Raton||UAB vs. Northern Ill.||UAB -2.5||UAB 20-13||UAB|
|Frisco||Ohio vs. San Diego St.||Ohio -3||Ohio 34-20||Ohio|
|Gasparilla||USF vs. Marshall||Marshall -2.5||USF 31-22||USF + points|
|Bahamas||Toledo vs. FIU||Toledo -6||Toledo 39-37||FIU + points|
|Potato||BYU vs. Western Mich.||BYU -12.5||BYU 33-24||WMU + points|
|Birmingham||Memphis vs. Wake||Mem -4||Memphis 46-34||Memphis|
|Armed Forces||Army vs. Houston||Army -3||Army 37-32||Army|
|Dollar General||Buffalo vs. Troy||Buff -2||Buffalo 28-25||Buffalo|
|Hawaii||LA Tech vs. Hawaii||Haw -1||LA Tech 41-26||LA Tech|
|First Responder||Boise State vs. BC||BSU -3||Boise State 33-22||Boise|
|Quick Lane||Georgia Tech vs. Minn.||GT -5.5||Georgia Tech 34-32||Minn + points|
|Cheez-It||Cal vs. TCU||Even||Cal 16-14||Cal|
|Independence||Temple vs. Duke||Tem -4||Temple 36-21||Temple|
|Pinstripe||Miami (FL) vs. Wisc.||Mia -4||Miami (FL) 22-19||Wisc + points|
|Texas||Vanderbilt vs. Baylor||Van -4.5||Vanderbilt 30-21||Vandy|
|Music City||Auburn vs. Purdue||AU -4||Auburn 24-23||Pur + points|
|Camping World||WVU vs. Syracuse||WVU -1.5||WVU 40-35||WVU|
|Alamo||Wash St. vs. Iowa St.||WSU -3.5||Wash St. 30-23||WSU|
|Peach||Michigan vs. Florida||Mich -7||Michigan 32-21||Michigan|
|Belk||S Carolina vs. Virginia||SC -5.5||S Carolina 27-26||UVA + points|
|Arizona||Arkansas St. vs. Nevada||ASU -1||Arkansas St. 30-26||ASU|
|Cotton||Clemson vs. ND||Clem -12.5||Clemson 34-19||Clemson|
|Orange||Alabama vs. Oklahoma||Bama -14||Alabama 52-35||Alabama|
|Military||Cincy vs. VT||Cincy -6||Cincy 33-15||Cincinnati|
|Sun||Stanford vs. Pitt||Stan -6.5||Stanford 30.2-24||Pitt + points|
|Redbox||Oregon vs. Michigan St.||Oregon -3||Oregon 23.1-20.4||MSU + points|
|Liberty||Mizzou vs. Oklahoma St.||MIZ -8.5||Mizzou 42-32||Missouri|
|Holiday||Utah vs. Northwestern||Utah -7||Utah 25-16||Utah|
|Gator||NC State vs. Texas A&M||TAMU -6||NC State 30-26||NCSU + points|
|Outback||Miss State vs. Iowa||MSU -7||Miss State 18-15||Iowa + points|
|Citrus||Penn State vs. Kentucky||PSU -6||Penn State 24.1-18||PSU|
|Fiesta||UCF vs. LSU||LSU -7||UCF 32-24||UCF + points|
|Rose||Ohio St. vs. Washington||OSU -6.5||Ohio St. 31-24.1||OSU|
|Sugar||Georgia vs. Texas||UGA -13||Georgia 37-21||Georgia|
|CFP Championship||Alabama vs. Clemson||Bama -5.5||Alabama 33-30||Clemson + points|