Time to be bowled over
Making correct picks in college football bowl games can be difficult. Here are some strategies to use when making bowl game choices:
• Determine which teams are happy to be in their respective bowl games. Some teams will be more emotionally motivated than their opponents. 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 good reason to be very happy about a bowl game. But if no home-field edge exists, lean towards picking the club 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. Rarely should anyone wager on 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’re 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 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 this week’s bowl games:
Hawaii – Hawaii has been outscored and owns the worst defense of all the bowl teams. But it is hard to picture record-setting senior quarterback Timmy Chang walking off his home field with a loss. Take Hawaii -3 over Alabama-Birmingham.
MPC Computers – Fresno State finished the regular season strong, has played on Boise’s blue turf, and skipped its annual trip to the Silicon Valley Bowl to take on a stronger opponent. Will Virginia be motivated playing in Boise? Take Fresno State +5.
Motor City – Connecticut has a nice little team, but it should be no match for Toledo, the champion of the most underrated Mid-American Conference. Take Toledo -3 1/2.
Independence – Even though Miami-Ohio’s lame duck coach will be moving on to Indiana, its 7-1 record in the Mid-American Conference should not be overlooked. Take Miami-Ohio -3 vs. Iowa State.
Insight – Notre Dame has lost its last six bowl games over the last 10 years, and is now being coached by its defensive coordinator. The Fighting Irish own the second-worst pass defense among bowl teams, and Oregon State averages over 300 yards per game passing. Take Oregon State -3 1/2.
Houston – In this battle of formerly troubled coaches, the Big 12’s school should have the physical advantage over the WAC’s. Take Colorado -3 1/2 vs. UTEP.
Alamo – Late in the season, Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith emerged as a serious threat both running and passing. Unfortunately for the Buckeyes, he got himself suspended for the bowl game. Take Oklahoma State -2 1/2.
Continental Tire – North Carolina is close to home, but that won’t help the Tar Heels’ second-worst bowl defense. Take Boston College +3 1/2.
Emerald – Choosing between Navy and New Mexico is tough. The total is a bowl-low 41 points. Just on principle, take Over 41.
Holiday – California is a national championship-caliber team, but the Golden Bears cannot be happy being hosed out of their deserved Rose Bowl bid. So, laying 12 points could be risky. Take Over 66.
Silicon Valley – Northern Illinois was snubbed by the bowls last season and should be highly motivated on Thursday. Troy State is from the lowly Sun Belt Conference, and is making its first-ever bowl appearance. Take Northern Illinois at a Pick’em.
Joe Ellison is the Nevada Appeal Betting Columnist. Contact him at email@example.com.