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Tuesday's Bowl Tips College Football Odds
NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS (9-3) vs. MISSISSIPPI STATE BULLDOGS (8-4) Line & Total: Pick ‘em & 54.5
Opening Line & Total: MSU -2.5 & 51.5
Northwestern tries to end an enormously long bowl drought when it takes on Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville on New Year's Day.
Northwestern looks for its first bowl win since 1949, as the school has lost nine straight bowl games by an average margin of 13.4 PPG (42 to 29 avg. score). Mississippi State is just the opposite, riding a five-game bowl winning streak by an average margin of 12.6 PPG (29 to 16 avg. score). The Wildcats are just 4-3 SU since October, but are 11-1 ATS for the season. Venric Mark (109 rush YPG) leads the nation’s 11th-best ground game (231 YPG). The Bulldogs have dropped four of five (SU and ATS), surrendering 37+ points in each of the four losses. But they have a +17 turnover margin, forcing 3+ TO in seven games. It's hard to look past Northwestern's 11-1 ATS mark this season, or its quality wins at Michigan State, at Syracuse, and home versus Vanderbilt. Mississippi State's best win is tough to decipher, as its seven FBS victories have come versus Middle Tennessee State (8-4 record) and six others with sub-.500 record (21-52 record combined). Star RB Venric Mark (eight 100-yard rushing games) should be able to have his way with a Bulldogs defense that just surrendered 233 rushing yards in a 41-24 blowout loss to Ole Miss.
Northwestern hasn't been able to win any of its four straight bowl appearances, but it has covered the spread in three of those SU defeats. If it can finally end its nine-game bowl losing skid, it will win 10 games for the first time since the 1995 season. The game plan for Northwestern will likely be another heavy dose of Venric Mark who has eight 100-yard rushing games this season. He's also a great special teams contributor with two punt returns for touchdowns and 171 all-purpose YPG (9th in nation). Mark is the biggest reason why his team averages 231 rushing YPG on 5.0 YPC, but QB Kain Colter also knows how to scramble, rushing for 820 yards with a team-high 12 TD scampers. Although he attempts just 11.2 passes per game, Colter doesn't waste his opportunities with a 69% completion rate and 3 TD tosses in the regular season finale versus Illinois, a resounding 50-14 victory. Northwestern also uses sophomore QB Trevor Siemian under center for a good chunk of the time. He's played in every game, totaling 1,192 passing yards, 6 TD and 2 INT. The Wildcats defense is a bit underrated, especially in stopping the run where they rank 18th in the nation with just 124 rushing YPG allowed on 3.6 yards per carry. Although Northwestern allows a robust 262 passing YPG, it has picked off six passes over the past three contests.
Mississippi State began the season 7-0 SU (5-2 ATS), but ran into major trouble against elite SEC teams, losing to Alabama, Texas A&M and LSU by a combined score of 113 to 37. The Bulldogs also gave up 41 points in the season finale at rival Ole Miss. But when it comes to winning bowls, the Bulldogs are tied for the nation's longest streak with five straight wins, having not left a postseason game with a loss since 1999. Current head coach Dan Mullen has guided the team to two straight bowl wins, crushing Michigan in the 2011 Gator Bowl, 52-14, and edging Wake Forest 23-17 in last year's Music City Bowl. The big injury question for MSU is the status of QB Tyler Russell's sprained ankle he sustained in the loss to Ole Miss. He will start this game, but it's unclear how effective he'll be. Freshman QB Dak Prescott has proven to be a capable backup with four touchdown passes and four touchdown runs. Both quarterbacks will be looking for WR Chad Bumphis as the first option in the passing game, as the All-SEC performer has 904 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns this year.
MSU's ground game isn't anything to brag about (140 YPG, 4.3 YPC), but LaDarius Perkins can be a dangerous ball carrier with 940 yards and 8 TD for the season, but he has gone four straight games without scoring a touchdown. One of Perkins' backups, sophomore RB Nick Griffin, tore his ACL in practice on Dec. 8, which could allow more carries for RBs Josh Robinson and Derrick Milton. On defense, MSU leans heavily on its secondary to make plays, most notably Jim Thorpe Award winner Johnthan Banks (59 tackles, 4 INT) and fellow senior Darius Slay (5 INT).
PURDUE BOILERMAKERS (6-6) vs. OKLAHOMA STATE COWBOYS (7-5) Line & Total: OSU -17 & 70.5
Opening Line & Total: Cowboys -17 & 70
Purdue tries to keep its late-season surge going when it faces slumping Oklahoma State in Tuesday's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Despite winning its final three games to become bowl eligible, Purdue fired head coach Danny Hope who will be replaced by wide receivers coach Patrick Higgins for this game. Oklahoma State enters this contest having lost two straight, allowing a total of 92 points and 1,233 yards in these defeats at Oklahoma and at Baylor. That dropped the Cowboys to just 1-4 (SU and ATS) in non-home games, as they allow 41.8 PPG and 523 total YPG outside of Stillwater. The Boilermakers are 3-2 ATS in non-home games, but score just 22.8 PPG in these away tilts. Not only are these teams a mismatch, especially on offense, but Oklahoma State also has a significant edge on the sidelines with Mike Gundy matching wits with first-time coach Higgins. Gundy is 42-18 ATS (70%) as a favorite since becoming the OSU head coach. Also, the Cowboys are usually resilient after a subpar game, going 9-1 ATS after an ATS defeat in the past three seasons.
Higgins isn’t running the team totally blind, as he has called plays during each of the past three wins, due to offensive coordinator Gary Nord injuring his back. Purdue scored 103 points (34.3 PPG) with Higgins calling the shots. The good news for OSU is that Purdue's offense is not in the same stratosphere as either Baylor or Oklahoma, surpassing 28 points just once in conference play this year, that being the season-ending 56-35 thumping of Indiana. Senior QB Robert Marve had a career day against the Hoosiers with 348 yards and 4 TD. Marve has shown great courage this season, playing through a torn ACL sustained earlier in the year. Purdue relies heavily on versatile RB Akeem Shavers (778 rush yds), who had season highs in both rushing (126) and receiving (99) yards while scoring three times against Indiana. The Boilers defense has been underwhelming this year, allowing 407 YPG (2nd-most in Big Ten) with 227 YPG coming through the air and 179 yards (4.7 yards per carry) on the ground. However, they do have All-American senior DT Kawann Short who has generated 14.5 Tackles for Loss and six sacks from his position in the middle of the field.
The Cowboys have been a disappointment this year, finishing with a 7-5 record on the heels of those final two defeats to Oklahoma and Baylor who scored 51 points and 41 points, respectively on OSU. But the Cowboys' offense has been potent all season, averaging 549 YPG (5th in FBS) despite having three different quarterbacks start under center. Junior Clint Chelf will start his fifth straight game after replacing freshman Wes Lunt who suffered a concussion. OSU's 333 passing YPG (7th in FBS) was pretty tremendous, but so was junior RB Joseph Randle who led the Big 12 with 1,351 rushing yards, reaching 100 yards in a game eight times. The Cowboys defense gives up 426 total YPG (286 passing, 141 rushing), which pales in comparison to the 600+ yards they have allowed in each of their two straight defeats to the high-powered Big 12 opponents.
Opening Line & Total: Gamecocks -3.5 & 48
South Carolina brings a four-game win streak to Tampa in Tuesday's Outback Bowl to take on a Michigan team that is just 2-4 (SU and ATS) in non-home games this year.
Since losing star RB Marcus Lattimore to a knee injury, the Gamecocks have rushed for just 136 YPG on 3.2 YPC, but the defense has saved them by giving up just 14.7 PPG with eight forced turnovers in these three games. Wolverines star Denard Robinson will likely play running back again, trying to build on his 117 rushing YPG (14th in nation). Both defenses are fierce with South Carolina allowing 312 total YPG (12th in FBS) and Michigan giving up 311 total YPG (11th in FBS). One of the few things more disparaging than Michigan's 6-16 ATS mark over the past three seasons against opponents with a winning record is the team's 0-8 ATS mark over that same time frame against teams that average 8 or more passing yards per attempt. South Carolina is firmly above that mark, ranking 17th in FBS with an average of 8.4 yards per attempt. The Gamecocks are also 8-1 ATS this season after a straight-up win.
Michigan has played a brutal schedule with three of its four losses coming to the top-three teams in the nation (Notre Dame, Alabama and Ohio State). But its offense went south in its last game against OSU, failing to score a single point after halftime in a 26-21 defeat. The Wolverines will once again lean on Denard Robinson, who capped off a brilliant career (4,395 rush yds, 42 rush TD) with 1,166 rushing yards and 7 TD, plus 1,319 passing yards and 9 TD this season. He missed a couple of games due to an injury on his throwing elbow, which is why he's been stationed in the backfield instead of under center. Robinson has done pretty well as a running back, chewing up 220 yards on the ground in these past two games, but he may actually be able to throw the football in this game too with such a long layoff since Michigan's last game on Nov. 24. But if he can't throw very well, QB Devin Gardner has proven himself worthy of the starting job, passing for 1,005 yards with 8 TD and 4 INT since replacing Robinson. Defensively, Michigan allows just 155 passing YPG, but it will be missing starting CB J.T. Floyd who was suspended for this bowl game.
South Carolina also has a bit of a quarterback dilemma with Connor Shaw expected to be nearly 100 percent recovered from his foot injury. But Dylan Thompson had a great performance in the 27-17 win over Clemson in the regular season finale with 310 passing yards and 3 TD. Head coach Steve Spurrier has not announced his decision yet on who will start under center, but that player has the added burden of not having a star running back to keep the Wolverines honest. Marcus Lattimore was lost for the season a few games ago after suffering a major knee injury. Stud sophomore DE Jadeveon Clowney anchors a stout front four on defense, trying to build on his two school records of 13 sacks and 21.5 Tackles for Loss this season. He amassed 4.5 sacks in the win versus Clemson.
NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS (10-3) vs. GEORGIA BULLDOGS (11-2) Line & Total: UGA -8.5 & 62
Opening Line & Total: Bulldogs -10 & 57
Conference title game losers try to rebound on New Year's Day when Nebraska and Georgia match up in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando.
Nebraska was humiliated 70-31 in the Big Ten title game, whereas Georgia nearly upset No. 2 Alabama in a 32-28 loss in the SEC Championship. Both schools are also coming off two straight bowl defeats, with the Bulldogs losing in triple overtime last year. Huskers QB Taylor Martinez has led his team to just 20 points during the bowl skid, totaling a mere 229 total yards of offense with 2 INT. Bulldogs QB Aaron Murray has thrown 4 INT over his two bowl losses, but has 31 TD and 8 INT this year, ranking 2nd in FBS passing efficiency. Georgia NT John Jenkins will not play on Tuesday due to academic issues. The loss of Jenkins, the D-Line anchor of a stout defense, will certainly help the Huskers, who love to pound the football with Rex Burkhead. The magic number here is 28, as Nebraska is 102-52 ATS (66%) since 1992 when it scores 28+ points, and Georgia is just 11-28 ATS (28%) in non-home games when it allows 28+ points in this same time frame. Considering the Huskers average 35.1 PPG in a conference that plays tough defense, they should be able to reach this number on Tuesday.
Nebraska has plenty of motivation, as it's playing in this Capital One bowl for the second straight season, losing 30-13 to South Carolina last year. The Huskers are more likely seeking redemption from the 39-point pasting they received in the Big Ten title game when Wisconsin ran over them for 539 yards, the most-ever allowed by a Blackshirts defense. Before that contest, Nebraska had won nine of 10 games with the only loss coming to undefeated Ohio State. The Huskers have an excellent ground game, averaging 254 yards per game (8th in nation) on 5.4 yards per carry. Martinez and RBs Rex Burkhead and Ameer Abdullah are all capable of gaining big chunks of yards. And although Georgia has a decent run defense (178 YPG, 4.1 YPC), it did allow Alabama to rumble for 350 yards on 6.9 YPC in the SEC title game. Nebraska's defense gives up 26.2 PPG and 195 rushing YPG on 4.8 YPC, but the Blackshirts boast the nation's top passing defense at 148 YPG.
Despite the talented Cornhuskers secondary, there are not many passers in the nation better than Georgia QB Aaron Murray who threw his 90th career touchdown pass (2nd all-time among SEC quarterbacks) in the 32-28 loss to Alabama, a game where the Bulldogs needed just five more yards to pull out the victory. Now they will look to regroup and set the goal of winning a dozen games for just the third time in the history of the school. They will do so with a balanced offense that averages 274 passing YPG and 185 rushing YPG. Murray's 7.8 YPA leads all FBS throwers, as he's tallied 31 TD and just eight picks for the season. He also has the luxury of handing the football off to freshman RB Todd Gurley, who led the SEC with 1,260 rushing yards, thanks to a gaudy 6.3 YPC average and 16 touchdowns. The defense will miss star NT John Jenkins, but it still possesses a few NFL-caliber players, most notably SEC Defensive Player of the Year LB Jarvis Jones who has 12.5 sacks, seven forced fumbles and 22.5 Tackles for Loss in 2012.
WISCONSIN BADGERS (8-5) vs. STANFORD CARDINAL (11-2) Line & Total: Stanford -6 & 47
Opening Line & Total: Cardinal -6.5 & 47.5
The Rose Bowl kicks off Tuesday when Big Ten champion Wisconsin faces Pac-12 title winner Stanford.
Wisconsin makes its third straight Rose Bowl appearance, but not with head coach Bret Bielema who surprisingly took the Arkansas job, leaving AD and former coach Barry Alvarez to guide the team. The Badgers are the first five-loss team to play in this bowl, but three of their defeats came in overtime, and they just crushed Nebraska 70-31 in the Big Ten title game. Stanford has been rolling since a controversial loss at Notre Dame, tallying seven straight wins (5-2 ATS). This matchup features two excellent runners in Wisconsin RB Montee Ball (133 rush YPG) and Cardinal RB Stepfan Taylor (111 rush YPG). The Badgers are kind of a mess here. Not only are they putting AD Barry Alvarez back on the sidelines to cover for departed coach Bret Bielema, but they also have a subpar quarterback in Curt Phillips who was allowed to attempt only eight passes in the Big Ten title rout of Nebraska. Wisconsin ran the ball 50 times for 539 yards against Nebraska, but that’s not going to happen with Stanford, which allows 87.7 rushing YPG (3rd in nation). The last time the Badgers faced a run defense in the same class as the Cardinal -- Michigan State (8th in FBS) -- they ran 37 times for 19 yards, with Montee Ball limited to 46 yards on 22 carries.
Wisconsin has lost back-to-back heart breakers in Pasadena, falling 21-19 to TCU in 2011 and 45-38 to Oregon in 2012. However, Alvarez has won all three Rose Bowls he's coached in, and has an impressive 8-3 bowl record. As this could be the final coaching game for Alvarez, it will definitely mark the final collegiate game for Montee Ball, who is the all-time FBS rushing touchdown leader with 76, and his 82 total touchdowns are also an NCAA record. But he wouldn't have these gaudy numbers if he tried to run against a defense like Stanford has (87.7 rushing YPG, 3rd in nation). Wisconsin has yet to determine whether first-string QB Joel Stave will be recovered enough from his broken collarbone sustained on Oct. 27, or if senior Curt Phillips will start under center.
Stanford is playing in its third straight BCS bowl, crushing Virginia Tech 40-12 in the 2011 Orange Bowl and covering the spread in a wild 41-38 overtime loss to Oklahoma State in the 2012 Fiesta Bowl. The Cardinal enter this game red-hot, taking down four straight ranked opponents -- including No. 1 Oregon on the road -- as part of their seven wins in a row. No offensive player is more valuable than Stepfan Taylor who rushed for 1,442 yards this season. It won't be easy adding onto that pile of yards though, as Wisconsin ranks 22nd in the nation in run defense (124.5 YPG). His punishing style of running, and durable frame has allowed Stanford to tally a 32:57 time of possession this year. QB Kevin Hogan has been strong since taking over the starting role, throwing 8 TD and 3 INT while leading his team to 30.8 PPG and 394 total YPG.
NORTHERN ILLINOIS HUSKIES (12-1) vs. FLORIDA STATE SEMINOLES (11-2) Line & Total: FSU -14.5 & 58.5
Opening Line & Total: Seminoles -14 & 58
Heavy underdog No. 15 Northern Illinois carries a long winning streak down to Miami to take on No. 12 Florida State in Tuesday's Orange Bowl.
Northern Illinois enters this game with a 12-game win streak (8-4 ATS), whereas Florida State is 11-2 SU for the year, but just 4-9 ATS. The Huskies, who have crushed their past two bowl opponents by a combined score of 78 to 37, will face a 'Noles team with a four-game bowl win streak, but three straight losses in the Orange Bowl (2001, 2004 and 2006). NIU is led by dynamic dual-threat QB Jordan Lynch (43 total TD) whose 364 total YPG rank 3rd in the nation. FSU also has a strong signal caller in EJ Manuel (261 total YPG), but its defense is excellent, allowing 254 total YPG (2nd in FBS) and 15.1 PPG (7th in nation). This game means a whole lot more for Northern Illinois than it does for Florida State, which has been one of the worst wagers in the nation this year, going 2-8 ATS in its past 10 games and 0-6 ATS in non-home games in 2012. Although FSU’s defense has the gaudy national rankings facing cupcakes both in and out of the ACC, the ‘Noles have been scalded by good offenses, allowing 37 points to both Clemson and Florida at home. The NIU offense is legitimate, having just hung 44 points and 524 yards against a Kent State team that was unbeaten in the MAC. FSU will find a way to win, but not by two touchdowns.
Northern Illinois is 21-1 in its past 22 games spanning two seasons, so it gives no apologies for becoming the first MAC school to earn a BCS bowl berth. And the Huskies can also take comfort that non-BCS schools are 5-2 all-time in these marquee bowl games. QB Jordan Lynch is a truly incredible player with 2,962 yards and 24 TD through the air and 1,771 yards (NCAA record for QB) and 19 TD on the ground. Lynch has rushed for at least 100 yards in 11 straight games, and is the biggest reason his team scores 38.2 PPG and gains nearly 500 total yards of offense (486 YPG). Senior WR Martel Moore remains Lynch's favorite target, catching 71 passes for 1,054 yards and 12 TD this year. Junior RB Akeem Daniels also makes this offense go, especially in the past two games where he's rushed for 240 yards and five scores. The defense isn't too shabby either, allowing just 19.0 PPG and 139 rushing YPG on 3.3 yards per carry this season.
Florida State still has a lot to prove, as it barely beat 15.5-point underdog Georgia Tech in the ACC Championship by six points, needing an interception in the game's final minute to secure the victory. The 'Noles are certainly capable of putting up points, averaging 39.9 PPG thanks to seven 40-point efforts this year. QB EJ Manuel has been consistently good all season, throwing for 3,101 yards and 22 TD, while adding another 284 yards on the ground. He also has three running backs with more than 550 rushing yards, led by James Wilder Jr.'s 583 yards and 11 touchdowns. Wilder was named MVP of the ACC Championship after rushing for 69 yards and 2 TD on just 10 carries. Florida State's defense has been fierce, but it will no longer be led by defensive coordinator Mike Stoops who took the head coaching job at Kentucky. FSU continues to be anchored by DE Bjoern Werner (13 sacks, 18 TFL).

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