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Bowling for dollars: Florida State, UNLV big underdogs in bowl games

Updated December 4, 2023 - 4:46 pm

It’s time for college football fans and bettors to go bowling again.

There are 43 bowl games on the schedule this season, starting with seven on Dec. 16. It all culminates with the College Football Playoff national championship Jan. 8.

One team that won’t compete for the ultimate prize is Florida State, which became the first undefeated Power Five conference champion to be left out of the CFP on Sunday. Coach Mike Norvell said he was “disgusted and infuriated” with the decision.

The oddsmakers, based on the line of Florida State’s matchup with two-time defending national champion Georgia in the Orange Bowl, seem agree with the selection committee.

The No. 6 Bulldogs opened as 13-point favorites over the No. 5 Seminoles. The consensus line quickly shot up to 14 and as high as 14½.

“I knew it would be double digits but now it’s getting north of two touchdowns, which is saying something,” Caesars Sportsbook assistant director of trading Adam Pullen said. “I’m not surprised the early money is on Georgia. Florida State’s offense has struggled since (quarterback Jordan) Travis was injured. But they do have a solid defense.

“Georgia’s defense is not as solid as it was in years past. But they’re just power rated way more superior than Florida State. Georgia can feel like it was given the short end of the stick as well.”

Several other lines moved quickly Monday after a few star quarterbacks entered the transfer portal, including Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel and Ohio State’s Kyle McCord. It also was announced that reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams will sit out Southern California’s bowl game.

Arizona opened as a 1-point favorite over Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl but the line shot up to 3½ when Gabriel entered the portal.

Ohio State plummeted from a 6½-point favorite over Missouri in the Cotton Bowl to 2½ after the McCord news broke.

Louisville shot up from a 6½-point to an 8-point favorite over USC in the Holiday Bowl when Trojans coach Lincoln Riley announced Williams will skip the game as he ponders entering the NFL draft.

“That was almost a given,” Pullen said. “Having that information earlier definitely helps when setting odds.”

Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei entered the portal last week, which is the main reason why Notre Dame was installed as a 10½-point favorite over the Beavers in the Sun Bowl.

“That’s another game I can see going higher,” Pullen said. “That line would’ve been maybe a touchdown. But it’s no surprise Notre Dame is in double digits now.”

Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith left to take the coaching job at Michigan State and Beavers backup QB Aidan Chiles entered the portal as well. That leaves Ben Gulbranson, who threw one pass this season, as Oregon State’s starting QB.

“That’s a tough spot against Notre Dame,” Pullen said.

Rebels double-digit underdogs

UNLV opened as an 11-point underdog to Kansas in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl before the line quickly shot up to 12½, one of the largest spreads on the board. The total also is one of the highest at 64½.

The Rebels (9-4, 10-3 ATS) had the nation’s best spread record at 10-1 before losing and failing to cover their final two games. They lost 37-31 at home to San Jose State on Nov. 25 and were defeated 44-20 by Boise State in the Mountain West championship game Saturday.

“Kansas is better than the last two teams they’ve seen,” Pullen said. “Judging by how Boise moved the ball, it’s going to be a big challenge for UNLV. Kansas has a great offense. But it’s a just reward for a great season for the Rebels.”

UNLV doubled its season win total of 4½ at sportsbooks.

Las Vegas Bowl

Utah dropped from a 9-point to a 7-point favorite over Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl on Monday after Bryson Barnes joined fellow Utes QB Nate Johnson in the transfer portal.

Contact reporter Todd Dewey at tdewey@reviewjournal.com. Follow @tdewey33 on X.

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