Picking the bowl games
December 21, 2006
Making correct picks in college football bowl games can sometimes be difficult. Here are some strategies to use when making bowl game wagers.
SOMETHING TO PROVE
Determine which teams are happier to be in their respective bowl games. Some teams have something to prove and will be more emotionally motivated than their opponents. However, if a school is in a lesser bowl than it feels it should be in, or if it must travel to an unwanted place, it is less likely to play one of its better games.
Any home-field advantage can be a good reason to be very happy about a bowl game. If no home-field edge exists, then lean towards picking the club that plays stronger on the road.
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Bet on the teams with the better head coaches. Given a month to prepare, certain coaches will have their squads more ready for victory. Seldom should anyone wager on a team being run by an assistant or lame duck coach moving on to another school or being fired at the end of the game. On the other hand, if a coach has announced his retirement, players will battle harder for him.
Keep track of any major injuries and suspensions. Some teams might be weaker than they were a month ago, and some teams needed the month off to nurse their injuries and get healthy again.
Try to pick teams with strong senior leadership. Some of the students will be playing in their final collegiate game, or final football game ever, and they would like to go out with a bang, not a loss. If key players such as the starting quarterback are entering the NFL draft and they are strong leaders, that typically is a positive motivational factor for the entire team.
Locate and examine any offensive and defensive statistics you can, to help pinpoint mismatches. A team’s strength on offense could be the opponent’s weakness on defense, and vice versa.
Pick teams from stronger conferences over those from weaker ones. Keep in mind, though, that a champion from a weaker conference often can be better than a middle-of-the-pack team from a stronger league, so be selective.
Consider bowl experience and history. Certain schools have made a habit out of winning bowl games, and some have not. The longer the current coach has been in charge, the more accurate these statistics become.
Now let’s take a look at the bowl games being played before next Friday:
New Orleans – Rice finished the season with six consecutive wins in Conference USA, which is a stronger league than Troy’s Sun Belt Conference. Prediction: Rice -4 and Over 53 1 /2.
Papa John’s – South Florida’s victory at West Virginia was a real eye-opener. Prediction: South Florida -4 against East Carolina.
New Mexico – New Mexico is at home. Prediction: New Mexico -4 against San Jose State.
Armed Forces – When it doubt, bet Over in bowl games. Prediction: Utah and Tulsa Over 50.
Hawai’i – Hawai’i is at home and Arizona State’s head coach has already been fired. Prediction: Hawaii -7.
Motor City – The game is being played in Michigan, but Central Michigan has an interim head coach. Prediction: Middle Tennessee +10.
Emerald – Florida State’s Bobby Bowden has been a great coach, but dag gummit, his team can’t be happy traveling to San Francisco. Prediction: UCLA -4 1/2.
Independence – Alabama’s 2-6 conference record is not worthy of a bowl game, and so far its search for a replacement for fired head coach Mike Shula has come up empty. Prediction: Oklahoma State -2.
Texas – Rutgers is clearly the better team, but the Scarlet Knights could be disappointed in missing out on a huge BCS bowl game after their triple-overtime loss at West Virginia. Prediction: Rutgers and Kansas State Over 44 1/2.
Holiday – Texas A&M has won all of its games away from home, including the big one at Texas. Prediction: Texas A&M +5 against California.