Expert NCAA Football Bowl Game Betting Advice and Handicapping: Game Location is Big
Bowl games are played in all sorts of locations. From the exotic to the ordinary. From the fanciest of stadiums to the dullest of fields. In front of a crowd of 100,000 screaming fans or in front of 5,000 people who mostly didn't pay for their tickets. Because the location of games can vary so widely, it only makes sense that bettors have to pay close attention to where games are being played and what impact that could have on how the games are played - and how, as a result, we should bet on them.
Here are seven questions to consider when you are thinking about how the location of a bowl game should shape your bet:
Who has the travel advantage? Because bowl games stretch over the course of the holiday season, you have to consider travel arrangements. The less travel involved in arriving at a game, the more time players can spend at school or with their families. And, as significantly, the closer to the school the game is the more likely that more of the players' families will be able to attend. If one team has a very significant travel advantage then that could translate into an overall advantage in the game - or at least could be a deciding factor in how things turn out. In New York's Pinstripe Bowl, for example, Boston College has a sizeable travel advantage over Iowa. And, far more significantly, Florida Atlantic has a massive edge over Akron when the two teams meet in FAU's home stadium in Boca Raton.
Has the team been there before? Playing in Las Vegas, or in the Bahamas, or in the theme park utopia that is Orlando, can be a big distraction for teams getting ready for a game. As a player would you rather get ready for a meaningless game against an equally uninspired opponent or soak up as much of Sin City as you possibly can? Similarly, playing in one of the shiny, massive temples of football in Atlanta or Arlington, for example, can be a huge distraction for players not used to such fancy surroundings. If a team has been in that environment before then it is easier to trust that they will be focused and ready than it is if everything is new and exciting.
How will fanbases travel? The fans and alumni of some schools will travel absolutely anywhere to see their team play. It's why programs like Ohio State and Tennessee always end up in the best possible game they are eligible to play in. Other programs can't even draw well for home games during the season, so they aren't going to pull in a lot of fans at distant bowl games - especially if they are not a national program with alumni all over the country. When a big fanbase matches up against a weaker one then the more popular team will almost have a home-field advantage regardless of where the game is being played. When Michigan has played at Rutgers since the latter joined the Big Ten, for example, it has been basically a home team for the Wolverines even though they are far from home. That has been a big advantage for the visitors - not that they have needed it against the Scarlet Knights.
How loud and responsive will the crowd be? The makeup of the crowd in terms of fanbases is a big factor here, but it's not the only one. Some games have crowds that are fired up and excited. The Rose Bowl will always be a crazy environment regardless of who is in it, for example. Some of the bowl games played before Christmas, though, more closely resemble a funeral than a game. No matter who the fans are cheering for, teams are going to draw more energy from a packed and boisterous crowd than a sparse one.
What kinds of distractions does the site offer? We've touched on this earlier, but it is important enough to reinforce here. A lot of games are played in popular tourist destinations, and players get to spend time at the beach, at amusement parks, or wherever else the host has to offer. That is often the best part of the bowl experience - especially for northern schools that get to escape winter. And, regardless of where games are held, there is always plenty of distractions available - video game tournaments, banquets, goodie bags, sponsor events and so on. Bettors need to look at what distractions players will face and whether one team is better able to handle them.
Is the field a unique challenge? For the most part a field is just a field. Sometimes, though, the field is unique, and it requires adaption. Some teams are potentially more familiar with the challenge and therefore better able to adapt. Playing on the blue turf or Boise State, or in the adapted and iconic baseball environment of Yankee Stadium for the PInstripe Bowl, would be two examples of situations that could cause teams some issues.
Is the location the biggest issue? Location can often be a factor in how games turn out. Sometimes, though, teams are facing so many other issues that the location of the game is the least of their concerns. Coaching changes, injuries to key players, star players skipping the game to prepare for the NFL Draft, and so on can have impacts that make the location considerations basically irrelevant for bettors.
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