Seven high-stakes games make up the biggest events for college football. There is, as everyone knows, the National Championship, but then there are six major bowl games that both count toward the college football playoff on a rotating basis and as their own standalone titles. Among those high-stakes bowl games is the Cotton Bowl, a college football betting staple since 1941. Every season, sportsbooks display plenty of Cotton Bowl odds for the bettors.
Anyone who places stock in NCAA football betting trends should have a gambling stake in the Cotton Bowl every year. It is immensely popular, and a great opportunity for sports bettors to explore newfound depths of wager types in a meaningful setting. Of course, as with every major college football event, it's important to pin down the ins and outs of how to best spend your money. That's where we come in.
Best Betting Sites for Cotton Bowl
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Sussing out the best betting sites for the Cotton Bowl isn't just a matter of picking out a sportsbook at random. Yes, the Cotton Bowl spreads are available everywhere. Again: This is a mainstream competition. But not all Cotton Bowl betting lines are created equal.
Ideally, you want to land with a sportsbook that publishes odds in a timely fashion, doesn't dilly dally when it comes to processing deposit and payout requests, and enhances your overall experience with elite customer service and a variety of wager types from which you can choose. Fortunately, we've done the research so you don't have to. All of the below sportsbooks receive our total stamp of approval if you're looking to bet on the Cotton Bowl:
Now, because the Cotton Bowl is like a title, newly minted college football bettors might be looking for some future lines. But it doesn't work like that.
The NCAA enters each season not knowing which two teams will participate in the Cotton Bowl. It varies depending on whether the game will count toward the college football playoff, and more importantly, how the final standings shake out.
2021 College Football Cotton Bowl Betting Odds
Rest assured, you will usually be seeing two top-12 schools wage battle in the Cotton Bowl. But until the final AP standings are hashed out at year's ends, you'll instead want to bet on college football playoff futures or college football National Championship futures.
This year, though, you'll encounter one problem: The fate of the 2021 college football season itself. The coronavirus pandemic has forced a few conferences to postpone their scheduled until at least the spring, and the expectation is that the rest of the country will eventually follow suit.
Sportsbooks have removed their national championship futures as a result. On the bright side, we still have the opening lines from this past spring for the forecasted top-25 schools, courtesy of our friends at BetOnline. The odds were last updated on January 11, 2021:
2021 Cotton Bowl winners odds
|Ohio State Buckeyes||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|Alabama Crimson Tide||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|Penn State Nittany Lions||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|Texas A&M Aggies||TBA||TBA||TBA|
|Notre Dame Irish||TBA||TBA||TBA|
There are many scenarios on the table. If the season goes on as planned, schools from conferences that have deferred their games—like the Pac-12 and Big 10—won't make the cut, because they won't be participating in the National Championship push. Conversely, if the season is delayed until the spring, there will inevitably be some movement from programs that lose high-end prospects who decide to sit out the season in favor of preparing for the NFL draft. The LSU Tigers, an elite program year in and year out, already have some marquee names who have opted out of the season—assuming it even takes place. Remember to recheck these odds once there's a resolution reached about the college football season. Chances are the pecking order will change, perhaps even significantly.
And that's the other thing: There remains the distinct possibility that the current odds to make the college football National Championship are meaningless because the season could be cancelled. In the event that happens, those who have already placed wagers should make sure their sportsbooks have credited them with the balance of their bet slips.
Betting Strategies for the Cotton Bowl
The first part of any successful Cotton Bowl betting strategy is determining whether this is a year in which the game has a bearing on the college football playoff bracket. Its status changes annually.
Each year, a selection committee decides which four teams will make the playoffs, a process that has received criticism for its general ambiguity—though we do know the judges heavily weight strength of schedule. Anyway, once those final four teams are selected, they are separated into two different bowl games, with the first-place school playing fourth place and then second place tussling with third place.
These two bowl games rotate between college football's New Year's Six, which in addition to the Cotton Bowl includes the following five:
For the years in which the Cotton Bowl is a part of the college football playoff, there isn't much that changes. The lines may change quicker than normal—more on this later—but you should have access to the same deep well of props.
The main difference is really the specials. Sportsbooks build entire promotional offerings around the college football playoff and National championship—incentives like deposit bonuses, free entry tournaments, special line buybacks, etc. We recommend taking advantage of them when you can.
Many sites won't run these types of programs in years during which the Cotton Bowl doesn't impact the college football playoff. That's ultimately fine. The winner of the Cotton Bowl is still viewed as a champion in their own right. And like we said, the betting options shouldn't change. It's still a major bowl, so it's treated like the closest thing to the National Championship.
Just so there's no confusion: This doesn't hold true for all bowl games. Certain ones, while nationally televised, are known as mid-major tilts. Sportsbooks won't offer as many betting options on them. The list of mid-major bowls is incredibly extensive, but these are the most important and commonly wagered on ones:
- Celebration Bowl
- Las Vegas Bowl
- Holiday Bowl
- Citrus Bowl
- Alamo Bowl
- Music City Bowl
- Belk Bowl
- Outback Bowl
- Army-Navy Game
The main distinction between these and the New Year's Six is the level of competition. In the Cotton Bowl, you're always going to have schools like Georgia, Penn State, and Alabama, even when they're not competing for a National Championship spot. By comparison, in something like the Belk Bowl, you're looking at a matchup between lower-tier teams from the Atlantic Conference and the Southeastern Conference or sometimes the Big 10.
Our Favorite Cotton Bowl Betting Tips
Though there is no universal set of Cotton Bowl betting tips that applies to everyone, we've plucked out a few of our favorites that should be able to help out gamblers of all experience levels.
Chief among them: Place your wagers early. Opening lines are going to move quickly as oddsmakers adjust to the initial public action. These have the most impact on the moneyline and spreads, and the second- and third-wave lines are usually less bettor-friendly. So, the quicker you submit your bet, the higher your potential payout on the wager you're making. Granted, if you're waiting on a critical injury report, then you by all means shouldn't rush your decision.
Bowl-game props are also a major favorite. They give you a way to branch out from the typical run-of-the-mill moneyline, spread and over/under wagers. As already alluded to, sportsbooks tend to pull out all the stops around the Cotton Bowl, so you'll have no shortage of options.
Sure, there are the spreads and moneylines by half, and you can obviously bet on the coin toss. But that's normal stuff. Cotton Bowl props are more nuanced.
What's the over/under on the number of yards Clemson's running back will rack up? Which receiver from Ohio State and Utah will be the first to reel in a touchdown pass? Will the TCU kicker hit a field goal from further than 40 yards? How about 50 yards? How many yards will Iowa State amass from penalties? Will there be a safety in the fourth quarter?
The above examples are but a taste of the prop-betting selection typically available during the Cotton Bowl. Sportsbooks also show a similar inclination to deepen their live-betting offerings. You won't just be betting on moneylines and spreads there. They'll have live props, and their odds are usually updated even more often than if it were a normal regular-season game.
That's another area we'd endorse tapping into. Live betting is under-utilized in the industry. It's easier to place wagers on games that have yet to kick off, but you also have a better chance of capitalizing on market inefficiencies mid-game—like the heavy favorite who falls behind in the first half and is suddenly even money-or-better to win when they entered as a -190 or something. Check it out. You won't regret it.