Expert College Bowl Game Handicapping: Location Important
Location, location, location. It's the mantra of real estate investment, but it is also a big part of a successful approach to college football bowl game betting. Bowl games are in so many different places these days, and some are clearly more exotic than others. Those locations can have an impact on the outcome of games - sometimes for one team more than the other and sometimes for both teams. The impacts can be really positive or really negative. You have to consider several factors when looking at a bowl game - as you do anytime there is a neutral-site game. Here are seven of those factors to consider:
Travel, travel, travel: The impact of travel in bowls isn't as bad as it could be - it's not like the teams arrive the day before the game. But it can still have a big impact on the game when one team has to travel much further than the other. The travel itself takes more effort, time zones could be involved, and the team from further away could have to adapt to a different climate or culture. If the gap between teams is small, then unfamiliarity of their surroundings for one team could make the difference. There are three games that stand out on the slate this year because one team has a clear geographical advantage. In the Gasparilla Bowl, South Florida gets the most boring bowl assignment any team can get as they play in their own home stadium. Marshall has to come 900 miles for the game. Hawaii also plays in their own home stadium in the Hawaii Bowl, while Louisiana Tech faces a long day of travel to arrive for the game. And in the Dollar General Bowl, Troy faces a short 160-mile bus ride to Mobile, while Buffalo has to travel 1,200 miles and go from the harshest of winter climates to the sunny gulf coast.
Has the team been here before?: Many of the bowl game sites are chosen because they are places that people would want to visit during the holiday season. If a team plays in a small town in the middle of nowhere and is suddenly in Vegas, or among the theme parks in Orlando, or the beaches of the Bahamas or Hawaii, it can certainly be a distraction. If a team has been around those sites before and it isn't as big of a deal, then focus will be easier for the coaching staff to achieve leading up to the game.
Distractions?: This goes hand-in-hand with the previous point. I'm sure playing in Boise in December is okay, but it isn't going to be a life changing experience for the players there. But in the exotic bowl destinations, there are all sorts of distractions. On top of that, bowl organizers like to have events like video game tournaments, banquets, gifts and other special events that can keep teams unfocused on the important point. Often this can have a bigger impact on one team than the other.
How will the fanbases travel?: Some team fanbases would travel around the world to watch their boys scrimmage in a Walmart parking lot. Other schools wouldn't draw a crowd if they gave away tickets for free. The more a fanbase will travel, the friendlier the crowd, and the less like a neutral-site game it will be. You have to be careful, though, because circumstances can change expectations a bit. Take Michigan this year, for example. After the humiliating beatdown against Ohio State, fans aren't as engaged as they could be, and this is yet another game against Florida - after the two recent meetings haven't exactly been compelling. Michigan typically travels very well, but likely won't have quite as much support this time around.
Will it be a good crowd?: Empty seats don't make noise. If you have watched a lot of bowl games over the years, you know that tickets are very hot for some and really not for others. Whether a crowd is with you or against you, most teams would likely prefer to play in front of a big, engaged crowd rather than a sparse, lethargic one.
Odd location?: Most bowl games are in pretty standard football stadiums. But there are a few each year that are played in bizarre, less-than-ideal venues that can be a problem for both teams. The Pinstripe Bowl is at Yankee Stadium. The unfortunately-named Cheez-it Bowl is at Chase Field, the home of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Bahamas Bowl is played in a 15,000-seat soccer stadium with a full-size track around the field.
Is the location really the big factor?: It can be easy for the location of games to be a big distraction for bettors. Sometimes, though, it is far from the most important factor. If a team is dealing with a coaching change - either because their coach left or he was fired - or players have skipped the game for the draft, or injuries are a problem, then the location factors in a game are far from the biggest issues to worry about.
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