College Football Bowl Betting Guide

Sports betting has been growing in popularity ever since 2018 after the Supreme Court overturned a law that effectively banned it in most of the US. Since the decision, multiple states, including Illinois, have legalized sports betting. Sports betting has been fully legal in Illinois since mobile sports betting became available in June 2020. One of the most popular sports to wager on in Illinois is college football. While the regular season generally sees solid action, it’s the bowl games that are the main attraction for many bettors.

Football, whether the NCAA game or the NFL, is a popular sport for betting on in the US. One thing that sets the two games apart, though, is their postseason structures. College football has roughly 40+ bowl games each year for teams to compete in. This is because there are so many teams in college football, and the actual playoffs are reserved for only four teams. To still reward other teams for a well-played season, they have bowl games to compete in.

This page will break down the basics of college bowl games. We will look at how they work and different ways to wager on them.

Top college bowl betting apps in Illinois

Betting on college football is legal in the state of Illinois. The only exception to this is that you cannot wager on teams that are based in Illinois. This automatically excludes placing wagers on Northwestern University and the University of Illinois. Luckily, there are 120-plus other schools you can wager on. As previously stated, college bowl season is one of the biggest times of the year for sports bettors, and in Illinois, you have plenty of sportsbooks available to take your wagers. Here are some of the most popular sportsbook apps in Illinois:

DraftKings Sportsbook app IL

DraftKings Sportsbook offers competitive odds on all college football games. It also has a simple and smooth website and app that makes placing wagers easy. If you are looking to get started with betting on college football bowl games, DraftKings is a solid option.

FanDuel Sportsbook app IL

FanDuel Sportsbook offers odds boosts, which allow you to get better odds on certain college football games. It also runs a blog called The Duel, which provides excellent gambling analysis for almost every college football game.

PointsBet Sportsbook app IL

PointsBet Sportsbook is an up-and-coming sportsbook in Illinois in part thanks to its PointsBetting feature. PointsBetting rewards users more the more their wagers cover. It also penalizes them more the more a bet does not cover. This can be fun when betting on bowl games.

NCAA bowl game odds and lines

Sportsbooks calculate bowl game odds and lines the same way they figure them for other sports. The oddsmakers use algorithms and simulations that help them predict how a game will unfold to set the initial numbers. College bowl betting lines and odds will move though for a variety of reasons. Injuries, weather, and certain media stories can all cause them to shift.

The most common reason for college bowl odds to move, though, is when the sportsbook seeks to entice bettors to wager a certain way. Sportsbooks are a business, and they need to minimize their risk. They do this by trying to attract an equal amount of money on both sides of the bet to protect themselves. If too many people are betting on one side, the sportsbook will adjust the lines to be more favorable for the other side.

Best bets for college football bowl games

Here are the most common bets you can place on college football games:


You wager on the side that you think will win. With moneyline wagers, there is always a favorite and an underdog. Favorites are always represented by negative odds, and underdogs almost always have positive odds. It is important to note that the odds will not be even on both sides. This is to help minimize the risk of the sportsbook.

Point spreads

Point spread bets introduce the margin of victory into your wager. The favorite has points subtracted from its total score, and the underdog has points added. Bets on the team that covers that margin will win. Both sides generally have odds around -110.

Totals (over/unders)

Totals betting is a fun way to wager on bowl games if you don’t want to wager on individual teams. You are betting whether the total points that both teams score in the game will be over or under a number that the sportsbook sets, regardless of which team wins. These bets typically have odds of -110.


Parlays let you combine several selections in a single wager. This, in turn, gives you better odds. But the risk increases, as well. If even one of your picks loses, the whole parlay loses, so keep that in mind when wagering.

Prop bets

Prop bets are side-wagers that typically focus on individual stats and other aspects of the game separate from the final score. A variety of prop bets are available for bowl games, including the first player to score, over/under rushing yards, and many more. Various live and online sportsbook sites offer different prop bets, so check to see what’s available.


Futures are bets that you can place far in advance of the actual event. Futures betting typically involves uncertainty and correspondingly high odds. For college bowl games, a common futures bet is selecting which team will win the national championship. There are several others available, depending on the sportsbook you use, so check it out.

College football bowl schedule

The college bowl season begins after the regular season and the conference championship games are in the books. Since there are so many bowls, there are several different ways for teams to make a bowl game. Conference winners, for instance, get auto-bids to bowl games. For the most part, though, having an above .500 record puts a team in a good position to receive a bowl game invitation.

For the bigger bowls and the College Football Playoff, it works slightly differently. The major bowl games invite only the best of the best teams. There are six major bowls, and they take turns serving as the semifinal rounds of the College Football Playoff. Being invited to any of these is an honor. The way to get into these bowls is by finishing the season as one of the top-ranked teams in the country.

How the college bowl selection system works

The college bowl system is designed to reward teams for having successful seasons. This usually means having a record above .500. In a typical year, there are around 40 bowl games, which means roughly 80 teams will receive an invite.

Each bowl will have its own criteria for how it selects teams. Some bowls have agreements with conferences that will place certain final conference seeds in specific bowls. Other bowls go based on national ranking and try to create solid matchups. Other bowls take available teams that are above .500.

Betting on New Year’s Six Bowls games

The New Year’s bowl games are the biggest games in the college bowl season, outside of the national championship. Two of these six bowl games will serve as the semifinals for the College Football Playoff, rotating yearly.

Sugar Bowl

  • Established: 1935
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans
  • Most recent champion: Ohio State Buckeyes (2020)
  • Name: The Sugar Bowl was first played at Tulane’s stadium, which prior to being a university was a sugar plantation.

Fiesta Bowl

  • Established: 1971
  • Location: State Farm Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
  • Most recent champion: Iowa State Cyclones (2020)
  • Name: The Fiesta Bowl was created because, in 1968 and 1969, the Western Athletic Conference champion did not receive any bowl invites. In order to celebrate its conference champion, it created the Fiesta Bowl.

Orange Bowl

  • Established: 1935
  • Location: Hard Rock Stadium, Miami Gardens, Florida
  • Most recent champion: Texas A&M Aggies (2020)
  • Name: The Orange Bowl, which was originally the Festival of Palms Bowl, received its name because it is played in Florida, whose state fruit is an orange.

Peach Bowl

  • Established: 1968
  • Location: Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Atlanta
  • Most recent champion: Georgia Bulldogs (2020)
  • Name: Hosted in Georgia, the Peach Bowl received its name because the state fruit of Georgia is the peach.

Rose Bowl

  • Established: 1923
  • Location: Rose Bowl Stadium, Pasadena, California
  • Most recent champion: Alabama Crimson Tide (2020)
  • Name: The Rose Bowl is the oldest bowl game in college football. The Rose Bowl received its name as it was hosted annually with the Festival of Roses on New Year’s in Pasadena, California.

Cotton Bowl

  • Established: 1937
  • Location: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
  • Most recent champion: Oklahoma Sooners (2020)
  • Name: The Cotton Bowl was originally played at a stadium called Cotton Bowl Stadium. The stadium is located at the Texas state fairgrounds, which used to be a major hub for cotton.

College football rivalries to watch

Bowl rivalries can be sporadic considering the ways in which teams participating in bowl games are selected. But here are some of the biggest rivalries in college football:


  • First played: 1890
  • Nickname: Army-Navy Game
  • Location: Varies
  • Trophy: Secretary’s Trophy
  • Record: Navy, 61-52-7
  • Most recent winner: Army Black Knights


  • First played: 1900
  • Nickname: Red River Showdown
  • Location: Cotton Bowl Stadium
  • Trophy: Golden Hat
  • Record: Texas, 62-49-5
  • Most recent winner: Oklahoma Sooners


  • First played: 1893
  • Nickname: Iron Bowl
  • Location: Varies
  • Trophy: James E. Foy, V-ODK Sportsmanship Trophy
  • Record: Alabama, 46-37-1
  • Most recent winner: Alabama Crimson Tide

NCAA football bowl betting FAQ

What is the purpose of college bowl games?

Bowl games allow for more teams to play for a trophy at the end of the season. They also create revenue for the sport. The College Football Playoff also determines the national champion.

How are bowl game participants decided?

Different bowl games have different methods. Some have conference tie-ins, while others select teams based on their record. The New Year’s Six Bowls generally invite the best teams in the country.

What are the best bowl games in college football?

The best bowl games are definitely the New Year’s Six. These games take place on or around New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day and feature the top teams in the country.