2020-21 College Football Bowl Betting Guide

College football bowl season is jam-packed with games and plenty of compelling matchups. There are barnburner games featuring smaller schools, heavyweight showdowns between national powerhouses and intriguing crossover games between programs in both categories. When you add in the College Football Playoff to cap things off, betting interest truly goes through the roof.

While there are lots of bowl games to consider betting on, the bowl schedule is also spaced out more than the regular season. That’s a huge bonus for sports bettors as that directly translates into more time to analyze the lines.

This page covers everything you need to know about betting on college football in VA, from the bowl schedule to how the odds work and all points in between. We’ll also point you in the right direction for the best places to legally and safely place your bets online.

Latest Virginia sportsbook odds on college football

Can I bet on college football in Virginia?

Let’s start off with the good news. It is legal to bet on college football in Virginia, and you’ll have plenty of bowl games to choose from. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to bet on any games that involve teams from Virginia.

The law as it stands now specifically prohibits betting on VA-based college teams. That means if Virginia, Virginia Tech, Liberty, or Old Dominion get invited to a bowl game, you won’t be able to bet on it. However, all of the other contests on the docket are fair game.

For example, if your favorite school is in neighboring West Virginia or Maryland, betting on those games is no issue. It’s a quirk in the law that we’ll have to get accustomed to, and there is some precedent for it.

New Jersey was one of the first states to give sports betting a green light, but legislators also made sure to bar bets on NJ-based college teams. However, neighboring Pennsylvania has no such restrictions on in-state teams.

How do you read college football bowl odds & lines?

Soon after the bowl game pairings are announced, sportsbooks will begin releasing college bowl odds for each of the matchups. Generally, the games are announced a few weeks in advance, so that affords some extra time to digest what the oddsmakers have to say.

For each game there will be a main line that lists the odds for the three big bet types. It’ll look something like this.

 SpreadMoneylineTotal
Ohio State+2.5 (-110)+120O 54.5 (-110)
Clemson-2.5 (-110)-140U 54.5 (-110)

Next to the two names is a series of numbers. Starting from the left, these are the lines for the point spread bet, moneyline bet, and totals (over/under) bet. In this case, Clemson is favored by less than a field goal on the spread.

Clemson is also the overall favorite on the moneyline and the total combined score for the game is estimated to be in the mid-50s.

For the point spread and moneyline, negative numbers point to favorites, while positive numbers indicate underdogs. On the total, oddsmakers set a benchmark number, and bettors then get to choose the over or under.

Next to the numbers for the spread and total are the actual odds for the bets. At most sportsbooks, the starting point for odds is -110 on both sides. The numbers can move as betting action comes in. The same holds true for the moneyline odds, as well as the spread or total.

As an example, let’s say that Clemson attracted a lot of betting action. In response, the sportsbook tweaks the numbers a bit so that they now look something like this.

 SpreadMoneylineTotal
Ohio State+2.5 (-105)+135O 54.5 (-110)
Clemson-2.5 (-115)-155U 54.5 (-110)

Since the book has taken in most of the action on favored Clemson, it has responded by making the wagers on the Ohio State side more attractive. The hope is that it will be able to even out the action a little more, thereby reducing the liability on its end in the case of a Clemson win and cover.

In order to make sure that you are getting the best possible prices, a good habit to get into is what’s known as line shopping. This simply means that you are checking out the college bowl game odds at multiple books to find the best ones.

Bets you can make on college bowl games 

For each of the games, you’ll have several options to consider for your wagers. Let’s begin by taking a closer look at the big three bet types.

Moneyline bet

This is a bet in which you simply choose the winner. Odds are negative for favorites and positive for underdogs. When the two numbers are close, it could be a tight game. If there’s a big difference, that means a mismatch on paper.

  • Michigan +190
  • Alabama -240

For this fictitious matchup, Alabama is a pretty big favorite over Michigan. A winning $100 bet on Alabama would return a total of $141.70. If you bet $100 on Michigan, the return would be a total of $290 should Michigan win.

Point spread

Oddsmakers install a spread on each game that reflects both the perceived difference between the two sides and an estimated margin of victory. For bettors, the choice is to go with the favorite minus the points or the underdog plus the number.

  • West Virginia +4.5 (-110)
  • Maryland -4.5 (-110)

In order to cover this spread, underdog West Virginia would have to keep the margin to four points or fewer or win the game outright. Maryland has to win by five points or more to cover. A winning $100 bet at odds of -110 returns a total of $190.90.

Totals (Over/under)

This is a bet on the total combined points that will be scored in the game. Oddsmakers set an estimated number, and bettors then get to pick if they think the two sides will combine for over or under that amount.

  • Over 59.5 (-110)
  • Under 59.5 (-110)

If you choose the over, then you’re hoping for 60 or more points to be scored. A final of 31-29 gets it done, but a score of 28-27 misses the mark. For the under, it’s the opposite, as you want the total to come in at 59 points or fewer.

More college bowl bets

Another restriction in VA sports betting law has to do with prop bets on college sports. Props are essentially side bets on things that might happen during a game or by its conclusion. Betting on props for any college game is prohibited in VA, regardless of where the team resides.

As such, you won’t be able to bet on any props during bowl game season. However, that doesn’t mean that the fun stops with the three bet types we walked through up above. There are other ways to get in the game, including via the following:

  • Parlays: Wagers in which you include multiple outcomes on a single betting slip.
  • Round robin bets: Similar to a parlay, but multiple combos of several teams.
  • Teasers: You get to shift the point spread on a series of games by designated amounts.

Each of these bet types can offer up a nice return, but there is risk involved. After all, it can be challenging enough to hit on a single-game bet. When you begin adding multiple outcomes on a single slip, the risk rises accordingly.

That said, there is absolutely a place for each of these bet types in an overall handicapping strategy. When you have a series of games on the same slate that you feel strongly about, then these bet types offer up the chance to get bigger payouts.

College football bowl game schedule 2020/21

The bowl game schedule for the upcoming season remains a work in progress. There are still some final details to be ironed out for many of the contests, but let’s take a look at what we know for now.

DateGame LocationConference Tie-Ins
Dec. 19Tropical Smoothie Frisco BowlFrisco, TXAAC/C-USA/MAC/MWC
Dec. 21Myrtle Beach BowlConway, SCAAC/MAC/Sun Belt
Dec. 21Famous Idaho Potato BowlBoise, IDMAC, MWC
Dec. 22Boca Raton BowlBoca Raton, FLAAC/C-USA/MAC
Dec. 23R+L Carriers New Orleans BowlNew Orleans, LAC-USA, Sun Belt
Dec. 23Montgomery BowlMontgomery, ALAt-Large
Dec. 24New Mexico BowlAlbuquerque, NMAAC/C-USA/MWC
Dec. 25Camellia BowlMontgomery, ALMAC, Sun Belt
Dec. 26Cure BowlOrlando, FLAAC/MAC/Sun Belt
Dec. 26Gasparilla BowlTampa, FLAAC/ACC/SEC
Dec. 26SERVPRO First Responder BowlDallas, TXAAC/ACC/Big 12
Dec. 26Lending Tree BowlMobile, ALMAC, Sun Belt
Dec. 26Radiance Independence BowlShreveport, LAArmy, Pac-12
Dec. 26Guaranteed Rate BowlPhoenix, AZBig 12 vs. Big Ten
Dec. 28Military BowlAnnapolis, MDACC, AAC
Dec. 29Cheez-It BowlOrlando, FLACC vs. Big 12
Dec. 29Valero Alamo BowlSan Antonio, TXBig 12, Pac-12
Dec. 30Duke’s Mayo BowlCharlotte, NCACC, Big Ten
Dec. 30TransPerfect Music City BowlNashville, TNBig Ten, SEC
Dec. 30Goodyear Cotton BowlArlington, TXAt-Large
Dec. 31Lockheed Armed Forces BowlFort Worth, TXAAC/C-USA
Dec. 31AutoZone Liberty BowlMemphis, TNBig 12, SEC
Dec. 31Arizona BowlTucson, AZMAC, MWC
Dec. 31Texas BowlHouston, TXBig 12, SEC
Jan. 1TicketSmarter Birmingham BowlBirmingham, ALACC/AAC/SEC
Jan. 1Chick-fil-A Peach BowlAtlanta, GAAt-Large
Jan. 1Vrbo Citrus BowlOrlando, FLBig Ten, SEC
Jan. 1Rose BowlPasadena, CACFP Semifinal
Jan. 1Allstate Sugar BowlNew Orleans, LACFP Semifinal
Jan. 2TaxSlayer Gator BowlJacksonville, FLACC, SEC
Jan. 2Outback BowlTampa, FLBig Ten, SEC
Jan. 2PlayStation Fiesta BowlGlendale, AZAt-Large
Jan. 2Capital One Orange BowlMiami Gardens, FLACC/Big Ten/SEC
Jan. 11CFP National ChampionshipMiami Gardens, FLCFP finals
CancelledBahamas BowlNassau, BAC-USA/MAC
CancelledCelebration BowlAtlanta, GAMEAC, SWAC
CancelledFenway BowlBoston, MAACC, AAC
CancelledHawaii BowlHonolulu, HIMWC/AAC/C-USA
CancelledLA BowlInglewood, CAPac-12, MWC
CancelledMitsubishi Las Vegas BowlLas Vegas, NVPac-12, SEC
CancelledNew Era Pinstripe BowlBronx, NYACC, Big Ten
CancelledQuick Lane BowlDetroit, MIBig Ten, MAC
CancelledRedbox BowlSanta Clara, CABig Ten, Pac-12
CancelledSDCCU Holiday BowlSan Diego, CAACC, Pac-12
CancelledTony the Tiger Sun BowlEl Paso, TXACC, Pac-12

How do teams qualify for bowl games?

An invite to a bowl game is similar to a postseason berth in other sports. In order to get one, college football teams will have had to earn it. For a normal season in which the Division I schools are playing a 12-game schedule, schools need to have at least six wins to qualify.

If a season happens to be shorter than originally constructed, then the rules for qualification are adjusted accordingly. For example, five wins might be enough to get it done for a 10-game season, or four wins for eight games, and so on.

Beyond the college bowls, a new wrinkle has emerged in recent years. Starting in the 2014-15 season, the College Football Playoff was introduced to determine a true national champion. The four best teams in the land make it this far, and the games are part of bowl season. We’ll cover the details on how teams make the cut in a bit.

What are the New Year’s Six bowl games?

The marquee matchups for college football bowl season have come to be known as the New Year’s Six. These are the biggest contests featuring the best teams, and each of the games has a strong tradition and rich history. Here’s the scoop on each.

  • Sugar Bowl: The inaugural Sugar Bowl was held in 1935. Tulane was the host and took down Temple by a score of 20-14. These days, the game is held annually at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans. In the last edition, Georgia got the better of Baylor to the tune of a 26-14 win.
  • Fiesta Bowl: The first edition of the Fiesta Bowl came in 1971 as Arizona State defeated Florida State by a score of 45-38. State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, is now the host for the annual affair. Last year, the game did double-duty as a College Football Playoff semifinal tilt in which Clemson took down Ohio State by a score of 29-23.
  • Orange Bowl: The Orange Bowl also made its debut in 1935. In the inaugural game, Bucknell took Miami to the woodshed and won in a 26-0 laugher at Miami Field. The game is now held each year at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Florida. Florida defeated Virginia last time out by a score of 36-28.
  • Peach Bowl: The first Peach Bowl was held in 1968. LSU upended Florida State by a final of 31-27 in a game that was held at Grant Field in Atlanta. Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the same city serves as the permanent venue these days. LSU smoked Oklahoma by a score of 63-28 last year in a game that was also a College Football Playoff semifinal.
  • Rose Bowl: The first incarnation of the Rose Bowl took place in 1902. It was then known as the Tournament East-West Football Game. It’s held annually at the aptly named Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. For last year’s game, it was Oregon over Wisconsin in a 28-27 thriller of a matchup.
  • Cotton Bowl: The first Cotton Bowl was played in Dallas in 1937 as TCU defeated Marquette by a score of 16-6. The venue changed to AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, in 2009 for the annual game. For the last edition, it was Penn State over Memphis in a 53-39 affair that lit up the scoreboard.

2020-21 College Football Playoff

A few years back, the powers that be in college football took steps to ensure that a true national champion would be crowned each season. The College Football Playoff was introduced following the 2014-15 campaign. Let’s just say that it was a wise choice.

The four top teams, as decided by the College Football Playoff selection committee, get to settle it on the field. Semifinal matchups are held at two of the New Year’s Six bowls, while the national title tilt is a standalone game that’s held afterward.

About midway through the regular season, the committee begins releasing a top 25 poll for teams in the running. The final edition of that poll gets unveiled when the season is in the books. The order determines the playoff participants, as well as which squads will fill out the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl game spots.

The playoff has been a smash hit. Ratings are generally through the roof for all three games, each of which takes in a ton of wagering action. Be sure to circle these contests as ones to bet on during bowl season.

Best college football bowl handicapping tips

As you get set to bet on bowl season, you can break down the games just like you would normally. For example, you’ll want to look at the overall matchup and find edges while realistically assessing the strengths and weaknesses on both sides.

Beyond the basic stuff, there are some other factors you’ll want to really zero in on this time of the year. Here are three tips to keep in your back pocket as you get set to place your bets.

1. Watch for line moves

Bowl game odds come out well in advance of the contests, so there’s a good chance there will be some movement before kickoff. Take some time to examine the opening college bowl lines versus where it stands at the present time, and pay particularly close attention to really big shifts in the numbers.

2. Pay careful attention to players who are in or out

Many Division I college football players have aspirations of playing in the NFL. Those who are in a prime position to be selected in the next NFL Draft may have their sights more set on the future. As such, it’s not uncommon for players to opt-out of playing in bowl games as opposed to risking injury. Closely monitor the news for developments.

3. Dive deep and examine team mindset

While a bowl game is a reward for a team having a solid regular season, there can be times when the contest a team is scheduled for isn’t quite what it had in mind. On the other hand, some clubs can be more than tickled with where they have landed. Try to gain a sense of the overall motivation level as it can be a difference-maker on the field.

Handicapping the games can be a very worthwhile endeavor, especially for those who enjoy doing research. There’s always the chance you might find something that others have missed, and that can be the difference between winning and losing wagers. For those who don’t have time or simply are not fans of breaking down the contests, there are free and paid resources that you can lean on. When looking at those in the latter category, shop carefully and stick to trusted resources with good reputations.

History of college football in Virginia

The roots of college football in Virginia go all the way back to the early days of the sport in the late 1800s. These days, there are four schools playing at the top FBS level, and a handful of others that play in the FCS. Here are some of the key details about the schools that fall into the former category.

  • University of Virginia
    • Nickname: Cavaliers
    • Established: 1888
    • Location: Charlottesville
    • Conference: ACC
    • Home games: Scott Stadium
    • All-time record: 668-612-48
    • Bowl game record: 8-12
    • Conference titles: Five, last in 1995
  • Virginia Tech
    • Nickname: Hokies
    • Established: 1892
    • Location: Blacksburg
    • Conference: ACC
    • Home games: Lane Stadium
    • All-time record: 752-477-46
    • Bowl game record: 13-20
    • Conference titles: 11, last in 2010
  • Liberty University
    • Nickname: Flames
    • Established: 1973
    • Location: Lynchburg
    • Conference: Independent
    • Home games: Williams Stadium
    • All-time record: 260-242-4
    • Bowl game record: 1-0
    • Conference titles: Eight, last in 2016
  • Old Dominion University
    • Nickname: Monarchs
    • Established: 1930
    • Location: Norfolk
    • Conference: Conference USA
    • Home games: S.B. Ballard Stadium
    • All-time record: 119-92-4
    • Bowl game record: 1-0
    • Conference titles: 0

Unfortunately, you can’t bet on any of the local college teams here in VA. The sports betting law specifically prohibits betting on contests involving programs from the state. However, there’s nothing stopping you from rooting along whenever they take the field.

FAQ

Why are college football bowl games played?

Bowl games are essentially the postseason for college football. Programs that perform well during the regular season are rewarded with an invite. The top programs for the season will be off to the College Football Playoff in marquee games, while there are a number of other bowl contests that are highly sought after due to their tradition and history.

How many college football bowl games are there?

This is a number that has been steadily climbing through the years. Many moons ago, it was just a handful. Fast forward to the advent of cable television, and the number began a steady upward trajectory. For the coming season, there are 43 games on the bowl season docket when you include the national title game.

What’s the schedule for bowl season?

Typically, the bowl game schedule begins December 19 and wraps up with the CFP National Championship game on January 11.

What are the most popular college football bowl games?

In recent years, the two New Year’s Six bowls that also serve as College Football Playoff semifinal games have been the runaway favorites. Generally, the six bowls in that category are the ones that draw the biggest audiences. From a betting perspective, each of the games has some appeal, but some will naturally move the needle more than others.

Are any bowl games held in Virginia?  

No college football bowl games are currently played in VA, but there is some good news for those in the mood to take a road trip. The Military Bowl is played annually in Annapolis, Maryland. The Music City Bowl takes place at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee, and the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, formerly known as the Belk Bowl, is held each year at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.