Best Bowl Games to Bet On: Handicapping Primer
by Trevor Whenham - 12/11/2013
There is no such thing as a bad bowl game in my eyes. Some games are obviously better than others, but every game has something to offer, and watching them is better than a lot of things you could be doing with your time. That being said, there are certainly some games that are more intriguing and compelling from a betting perspective than others. Here are five of the more compelling betting bowls coming at us over the next month (all odds are from Sportsbook.ag):
Championship Game, Florida State (-7.5) vs. Auburn, Jan. 6
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This one goes without saying. The two best — or at least hottest — teams in the country playing for all the marbles. Florida State has looked almost immortal all year, and they will almost certainly have a Heisman winner at the helm on game day. Can they humiliate the Tigers like they have everyone else? Or can Auburn find another miracle and humble the Seminoles just like they did an Alabama team that many thought was the best in the country? The spread is big, so there is plenty of room to make a good case for each team. So far the public has been very solidly on Auburn, so we could see some interesting line movement in the coming weeks. It should be a great game, and it is definitely a great betting puzzle.
Rose Bowl, Stanford (-4.5) vs. Michigan State, Jan. 1
These guys should play this game with leather helmets, because this is going to be old-school football. Both of these teams like to play very stout defense, pound the ball, and get dirty. The team that can be tougher will come out on top. Michigan State’s defense has been ferocious — as Ohio State learned. They have been rightfully criticized for playing in a terrible conference, though, and their nonconference schedule didn’t prove much. They also lost to a Notre Dame team Stanford beat — albeit on the road. Stanford, on the other hand, plays in a ridiculously-deep and increasingly-respected conference. Neither of their losses was great — especially Utah — but they are viewed as the better and more proven team. Are they really? Or are they riding the coattails of their conference? Which talented-but-inconsistent QB can have the better day? This is the best BCS Bowl game aside from the big one, and it is going to be fun to handicap.
This one is tainted a little bit by the coaching change at Washington. It was pretty seamless, though, and they upgraded in the end, so I don’t expect that to be too much of a factor here. What makes this one so much fun is the offenses. Both are Top-15 units, and together they average well over 1,000 yards per game. Unless either team makes a renewed commitment to playing defense — something that seems unlikely given what is the norm in bowl games — we should see a crazy one here. The balls will be flying, the scoreboard could get worn out, and excitement will be in full supply. Games like that are all sorts of fun to handicap because you can focus mainly on which offensive unit is more potent, how they match up, and who can score last. Handicapping the total here should be a blast, too.
Las Vegas Bowl, USC (-6) vs. Fresno State, Dec. 21
I love games like this where you get to decide just how good a superstar player is. Derek Carr has been absolutely incredible at quarterback for the Bulldogs this year — 48 touchdowns and nearly 5,000 yards. He hasn’t played competition anywhere near this, though. Has he been feasting on weaklings? Or will he shine in this step up in competition? That’s not the only handicapping question, either. The Trojans are working under their second interim coach and third overall coach of the season. Will they play as well for this one as they did Ed Orgeron? Or has all the drama worn them down and broken their will?
Holiday Bowl, Arizona State (-13.5) vs. Texas Tech, Dec. 30
On paper this is a mismatch, and unless Texas Tech is much better than they were in the second half of this season, that’s what it will be. Arizona State has been very good this year and played in their conference championship game. They haven’t enjoyed a lot of recent success, though, so will they be able to maintain their momentum? Or will the last loss be a setback? More significantly, Texas Tech has had a chance to get healthy, and Kliff Kingsbury has a month to sit in his laboratory and scheme. What can he come up with having this much time to plan and so little to lose? A strong performance here would be a big boost for his program, and he knows it. Creativity is not going to be in short supply, but will it be enough to cover? Or to pull off a shocker at a fat moneyline price?
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