Everyone’s amped up for the BCS Championship Game, but the real college football betting value is in December. Lets look at what the sportsbooks are saying and discuss why we think that they have left some early value on offer.
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It’s one of the simplest rules of thumb when you bet on college football: Focus on teams from the mid-majors and the lower conferences. The betting markets for these games are soft during the regular season, and they get even softer once bowl season rolls around. Thousands and thousands of casual college football fans are going to jump into the market with very little idea of what they’re doing. You can get an immediate advantage on the competition just by brushing up on the teams involved.
Let’s get started with a look at the first three bowl games. Keep an eye on our NCAAF betting board for opening odds as they become available.
Sat., Dec. 21: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Buffalo vs. San Diego State (5:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Formerly named the Humanitarian Bowl (and proving once again that Potatoes > Humanity), this contest has been played every year since 1997 on the famous blue turf of Bronco Stadium in Boise. This year’s game is the first of a regular series between members of the Mountain West Conference, represented by the Aztecs (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS), and the Mid-American Conference, represented by the Bulls (8-4 SU and ATS).
Buffalo is the superior team in this matchup, at least on paper, where Football Outsiders had the Bulls ranked No. 73 (No. 83 offense, No. 67 defense, No. 43 special teams) in FBS efficiency going into Championship Week. That’s using their now-standard F/+ Combined Ratings. San Diego State, playing a much weaker schedule, checked in at No. 93 overall (No. 108 offense, No. 61 defense, No. 110 special teams).
Sat., Dec. 21: New Orleans Bowl, Tulane vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (9:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
This annual matchup at the Superdome pits Conference USA, represented by the mighty Green Wave (7-5 SU, 9-3 ATS), against the Sun Belt Conference, represented by the Ragin’ Cajuns (8-4 SU, 4-8 ATS). Tulane has been the more efficient team at No. 72 (No. 105 offense, No. 36 defense, No. 46 special teams), ahead of UL-Lafayette at No. 84 (No. 53 offense, No. 103 defense, No. 50 special teams).
The Green Wave have rolled over the college football lines, going 7-1 ATS in their last eight games and nearly upsetting the Rice Owls (–10 at home) for the conference title. The Cajuns have dropped the cash in their last five straight, and they looked pretty bad in their last two games, both of them losses. But at least UL-Lafayette has won each of the past two New Orleans Bowls SU and ATS.
Mon., Dec. 23: St. Petersburg Bowl, East Carolina vs. Ohio (2:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Okay, technically it’s the “Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg,” but whatever. In theory, this game at Tropicana Field features the new American Athletic Conference against Conference USA, but The Americans didn’t produce enough eligible teams, so the MAC stepped in with the Bobcats (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) taking on the Pirates (9-3 SU, 6-6 ATS). Both teams have played incredibly soft schedules this year; the superior Pirates have covered three of their last four, while the Bobcats have dropped four of their last five ATS.
There’s a giant gulf between these two clubs in terms of efficiency. East Carolina sits at No. 37 overall (No. 31 offense, No. 45 defense, No. 81 special teams), with Ohio way down the list at No. 104 (No. 101 offense, No. 115 defense, No. 23 special teams). The NCAAF totals could be worth a look here for your college football picks; the Pirates have the OVER at 8-4 on the season and 4-0 in their last four games, powered by the No. 10-ranked passing offense in terms of raw yardage (331.5 per game).