College Football Betting: A Brief Primer on Handicapping Bowl Games

Teddy Covers

Tuesday, December 8, 2015 7:24 PM GMT

Bowl Season is fast approaching and many bettors make the mistake of capping these games as they would a usual showdown.  But making College Football Picks on Bowl games is a different beast. 

* Motivation is the key factor for any bowl game. Overall talent and team speed don’t mean a thing when the players don’t give a hoot about being there. The favorites are there because they had disappointing seasons, and really don’t care much for spending a good part of the holiday season in places like Detroit, Montgomery and Shreveport. Meanwhile, the underdogs are often smaller conference schools that are excited to play a major conference foe, regardless of the location. If the favorite isn’t likely to be motivated (always check the local newspapers for clues about their level of preparation and intensity), the underdog is almost an automatic play.

* Look for the areas of team strength that are not likely to be affected by a long layoff. In particular, teams that run the ball well are generally good bets in bowl games. Run blocking is not something that suffers dramatically during a layoff, nor do the good running backs suffer from a month of rest. Teams that outrush their opponents cover the spread better than 75% of the time in December and January.

* Know Your Coaches. Some coaches seem to do well in bowl games almost every year, while other coaches treat bowl games like a reward for their squads, with plenty of time devoted to extra curricular activities, and not that much focus on the game itself. Urban Meyer at Ohio State certainly stands out as a ‘bet-on’ coach with extra time to prepare. Bill Snyder at Kansas State is on the other end of the spectrum, a guy who consistently gets his teams to overachieve during the regular season, resulting in ATS problems when they step up in class in late December of January.

* Look for motivated and talented quarterbacks. Most QB’s are team leaders, and the rest of the club will follow their example. If a QB is prepared to make a statement for the scouts in his bowl game, he’s generally the type of quarterback worth supporting with a wager.

* Defense means more than offense. The dominant defensive clubs are strong plays in bowl games almost every year. They create turnovers and hold leads, exactly what you want from the teams you have bet on. Teams that fall behind in bowl games tend to get frustrated easier than they do in the regular season, one of the reasons why bowl season produces more than its fair share of blowouts. Teams with the better quarterback AND the better defense are generally very good bowl bets, even though they’ll usually (not always) be the favorite.

* Look for teams that are searching for respect. When one club gets all the hype and publicity, and the other is virtually ignored by the media, or widely regarded as ‘lucky to be there’, the over-hyped team often comes in overconfident, while the under-hyped squad is usually more motivated. Pay particular attention to this in the later bowl games, when the media glare really heats up.

* Handicap the conferences themselves. When a particular conference shows strength early on in the bowl season, the remaining teams from that conference are often worth a play, or vice-versa. Every year there is a conference or two that does very well in the bowl games, while another conference or two will do very poorly. Catch these trends early, and ride them through the conclusion of the bowl season.

* Don’t be afraid to pass. With so many bowl games, and so many intangible factors to consider during bowl season, there will be numerous matchups that simply don’t offer much value to bet on, either side or total. Remember that the entire bowl season (41 games) has significantly fewer games than a normal Saturday college football card. We don’t make 20 or 25 bets on a normal college football Saturday; there’s no reason to have that many plays when the card is shorter.

 

Using these factors in your handicapping process should help you produce a profit this bowl season with your College Football Picks.