We’ve got 35 chances this year to bet on college football bowl games. Some of those games will have more betting value than others – but which ones?
It’s really easy to be grumpy these days if you’re a college football fan with half a brain. But don’t let the NCAA corporate overlords grind you down; if they insist on expanding the bowl season every year, that just means we’ll get more and more opportunities to bet on college football when the market is at peak exploitability. The 2013-14 bowl season features 35 games – 37 if you include the Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl. Still not enough for you? Don’t worry, they’ll be adding four more bowl games next year.
You could wager on all 35 bowl games if you wanted. Volume is important when you’re building a bankroll, naturally. But you’ve only got so many hours to do your homework and make smart football bets, so picking and choosing your spots might be prudent. I’ve already pointed out the value in the National Championship Game between the No. 1 Florida State Seminoles and the No. 2 Auburn Tigers (reminder: it’s with Auburn). Here are three other games I have on my radar screens.
Little Caesars Bowl: Pittsburgh vs. Bowling Green (Dec. 26, 6:00 p.m. ET, ESPN)
You’ll often find good value taking the mid-major team with something to prove against the disinterested larger program with the iffy record. In this case, we’ve got the MAC-champion Falcons (10-3 SU and ATS), and we’ve got the Panthers (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS) in their first season representing the ACC. Not too difficult to see why our consensus reports show nearly 60 percent support for Bowling Green as a 5-point favorite on the NCAAF lines.
There also happens to be a considerable gap in quality between the two teams. The Falcons check in at No. 41 (No. 39 offense, No. 72 defense, No. 7 special teams) on the F/+ Ratings at Football Outsiders, well ahead of the Panthers at No. 59 (No. 62 offense, No. 36 defense, No. 109 special teams). Pittsburgh has also lost back-to-back bowl games by wide margins. Pretty simple value play here for your NFL picks.
NCAAF Bowl Pick: Take the Falcons –4.5 at Heritage
Armed Forces Bowl: Middle Tennessee vs. Navy (Dec. 30, 11:45 a.m. ET, ESPN)
Betting on Navy has become a holiday tradition for sharps, although the Midshipmen (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) have dropped the cash in three of their last four bowl games. However, things are looking up this year with the development of sophomore QB Keenan Reynolds (4.5 yards per carry, 26 rushing TDs), who guided the Navy triple-option to an FBS-leading 47 TDs on the ground.
Navy is ranked No. 66 overall (No. 26 offense, No. 115 defense, No. 13 special teams) in efficiency, compared to No. 78 for Middle Tennessee (No. 72 offense, No. 78 defense, No. 86 special teams). The Blue Raiders (8-4 SU, 5-7 ATS) have won five straight games heading into this matchup at 3-2 ATS, but they’ll have a difficult time containing the exotic triple-option. The S&P Ratings have Middle Tennessee ranked No. 106 out of the 125 FBS teams in rushing defense.
NCAAF Bowl Pick: Take the Midshipmen –6 (–105) at Sportbet
Sun Bowl: Virginia Tech vs. No. 17 UCLA (Dec. 31, 2:00 p.m. ET, CBS)
The Trojans? They’re so 2008. The Bruins (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) are the new Kings of Los Angeles, upsetting USC 35-14 at the Coliseum for the first time since 1997. Jim Mora has done a fantastic job revitalizing this program; UCLA has climbed all the way to No. 13 on the efficiency charts (No. 21 offense, No. 23 defense, No. 8 special teams), and the Bruins are on a 3-1 SU and ATS mini-run going into El Paso.
Virginia Tech (8-4 SU, 4-7-1 ATS) has the No. 1-ranked defense in the FBS, but that’s about all the Hokies (No. 21 overall, No. 77 offense, No. 91 special teams) have to offer in this matchup. They’ve dropped the cash in four of their last five games, including losses at home to Duke (+12) and Maryland (+14) that kept the Hokies from reaching the ACC title game. Getting up for the Sun Bowl will be a challenge after all those major bowl invitations over the past decade.
NCAAF Pick: Take the Falcons –7 (–106) at Matchbook