Strategies for picking bowl games |

Strategies for picking bowl games

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

Staff Reports

Making correct picks in college football bowl games can be difficult. Here are the strategies I use when making bowl game choices:

• Look for teams that are more emotionally motivated than their opponents in each particular game. Some smaller schools want to show the country that they belong on center stage with the big boys. Some bigger schools feel disrespected or had disappointing regular seasons, and they want to take out their frustrations on the opposition in that one final game.

• Determine which teams are happy to be in their respective bowl games. If a club 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 good reason to be very happy about a bowl game. But if no home-field edge exists, lean towards picking the squad that plays stronger on the road.

• Bet on the teams with the better coaches. Given a month to prepare, certain coaches will have their clubs more ready for victory. As a rule I never take teams that are being run by assistants or lame duck coaches that are moving to other schools. But if a coach has announced his retirement, players tend to battle harder for him.

• Pay attention for any key 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, so they want to go out with a bang. 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 conference, so be selective.

• Consider bowl history. Certain schools have made a habit out of winning bowl games. The longer the current coach has been in charge, the more accurate these statistics become.

Now let’s take a look at this week’s bowl games:

Tangerine – Kansas is lucky to be in a bowl game. The Jayhawks finished eighth in the Big 12 with a 3-5 record that includes a loss to also ran Texas A&M. Kansas limps into this bowl, having lost four of five games.

North Carolina State is led by senior quarterback Philip Rivers, who completed a remarkable 71 percent of his passes this year and finished seventh in the Heisman Trophy balloting. The Wolf Pack underachieved in the win column this season, but they are now healthy again at the running back position. N.C. State should light up the scoreboard. I’m taking N.C. State -11 and Over 63.

Fort Worth – Boise State passed up on its home Humanitarian Bowl bid in order to gain more national respect here. The Broncos are 42-8 in their last 50 games, average 43 points a contest, and won their last 7 by 14 or more. Boise’s talented roster is full of players who were overlooked by bigger schools, so the team always carries a chip on its shoulder.

The best thing going for Texas Christian is that they are playing at home. I’ll take Boise State -10 1/2.

Las Vegas – There’s no reason to care for this one, so I’ll guess Under 52 1/2.

Hawaii – Being at home wasn’t an advantage for Hawaii in this bowl last year, as the Rainbow Warriors lost to Tulane 36-28. This should be an entertaining game, as evidenced by the huge total of 76. I’m going with Houston +11.

Joe Elllison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Contact him at