Each day, one of our experts will offer up a best bet (or two or three) that mobile sportsbooks are offering. It might be a traditional spread bet, a player prop or one of the various odds boosts that books offer.
Here are our best bets for Friday, Dec. 30:
The play: Orange Bowl, Clemson -4½ over Tennessee
The odds/bet: -110 ($33 to win $30)
The book: Caesars Sportsbook
Time/TV: 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Our take: Has there ever been a more appropriate color matchup in the Orange Bowl than Clemson vs. Tennessee? We just need to get Oregon State and Oklahoma State involved next year to have a comparison.
In all seriousness, this is among the more interesting betting games on the college bowl slate. Six weeks ago, had these same teams met, Tennessee almost certainly would have been favored, perhaps by as much as a touchdown or more. But since then, the Volunteers have lost quarterback Hendon Hooker to a season-ending injury and bombed out of the national title picture with a lopsided loss to South Carolina.
Clemson also lost to their rival Gamecocks (in a much different sort of game), but perhaps more significantly, the Tigers discovered Cade Klubnik in an ACC title game rout of North Carolina. After struggling on offense the entire season behind D.J. Uiagalelei, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney turned to Klubnik, who promptly torched the Tar Heels. He was 20 of 24 for 279 yards passing and a touchdown, plus 30 yards rushing and another score. The Tigers’ 6.9 yards per play was their best against a Power Five opponent all season.
On the other side, Tennessee’s offense looked great in its first game without Hooker, but that was against Vanderbilt, not a top-25 Clemson defense. Josh Heupel’s attacks have traditionally struggled when faced with more athletic defenses (see output against Georgia this season), and that seems sure to continue without QB1 in there.
The spread has gone all over the place, so some clearly still like Tennessee. But it’s worth laying the 4½ with Clemson, which will announce its presence as a national title contender for 2023 on the final day of 2022.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, KING JAMES
The play: NBA, LeBron James OVER 30.5 points
The odds/bet: -115 ($23 to win $20)
The book: Caesars Sportsbook
Time/TV: 7:30 p.m. (NBA TV)
Our take: It’s LeBron James’ 38th birthday, and betting on players to go over 30 points in their late 30s isn’t normal, but then LeBron has never really been normal.
The date of James’ birth is irrelevant, of course. This bet is based on data that suggests LeBron knows he has to carry more of a scoring load with Anthony Davis out injured. In the past 16 games he’s played without Davis, LeBron has gone for 30+ in 12 of them. He’s also gone over 30 in three of his past four games against Atlanta, which plays at one of the fastest paces in the league and also is among the NBA’s worst at defending power forwards.
Check the injury report before betting — James is questionable with an ankle injury, though reports suggest he’ll be able to handle a full load. If that’s the case, in a game with a total above 240 and with the Lakers as underdogs, expect King James to have a big game on his birthday.
HOW WE’VE FARED
NFL, Cowboys-Titans UNDER 40 (PUSH)
Cheez-It Bowl, Florida State -9.5 over Oklahoma (LOST $11.40)
Thursday’s profit/loss: -$11.40 (0-1)
Total for the week: -$59.80 (2-5)
Total for December: -$106 (22-31)
Total for 2022: +$104.90 (334-362)
NOTE: If a line or odds are minus, it considers the juice one must lay to place the bet. Ex: Team A is -160 on the money line, one would have to bet $160 to win $100 (or $16 to win $10). OR Team B is a 5-point favorite at -110, one would have to bet $110 to win $100 (or $11 to win $10.)
Conversely, on positive lines, if Team C is +140 on the money line, a $100 would bring in $140 (or $10 to win $14).