by Rob Gillespie
The Super Bowl is still a couple of months away, but the holidays are here and so is college bowl season! As a bookmaker, I am thrilled with how many bowl games there are, but as a fan….not so much. The New Orleans Bowl this week featured a North Texas team that won 7 games with a schedule that didn't rank in the top 100 for difficulty. They lost 65-0 to Texas and their only two other games against BCS Conference schools, including Baylor, who finished 1-7 in the Big XII. It just seems to me that letting teams into bowl games for being mediocre with a poor schedule takes some of the lustre away.
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Anyways, that's one down and 27 to go. What's your best approach when it comes to betting on college bowl games? Do you need a system or a strategy? What's the difference between betting on college bowls than, say, betting on any other football game? Is there a difference?
Seeing is Believing
Bowl games are vastly different from any other football game - for a few reasons. First, they are almost all nationally televised, and that can create a lot of pressure for teams and coaches that are not used to it. Second, they are very important for recruiting new players. (You can hear the coaches pitch to seniors in high school, "Hey, Johnny! Come play at Big State! We are the defending Grape Bowl Champions!") And that adds pressure as well. Third, they are played mostly at neutral sites, and many times those neutral sites can prove to be very distracting places for young men who have finished exams (at places like New Orleans, Hawaii, Florida, Southern California). Fourth, they are frequently played between teams that do not play each other regularly, or even share a common opponent - and that makes handicapping difficult. Lastly, and in my opinion, most importantly, there is a huge gap between the last regular season game played and the bowl game itself. In some cases this gap is as long as five weeks.
And let's not forget the added pressure of the holidays. You have a bunch of young men who have just completed a tough semester of sports and who are away from home during the holidays in an exciting new city, and with too much time on their hands before a high profile game against an unfamiliar opponent. Enter the coach.
Coaches are used to preparing for games with a one or two-week break in between. They do this all year, every year. They know how much time to spend scouting the opposition, how much time to spend working out in full pads to simulate game conditions without wearing players down, and they know when to start applying subtle pressures to get the players and team as a whole into peak emotional shape when they hit the field on Saturday afternoon.
But not every coach is good at doing that in bowl season. Some coaches simply have no experience at this type of preparation; some get the teams ready too early, some too late. Discipline is sometimes an issue as players break curfew and get into trouble. How do coaches handle that the first time it happens? Well, you get the idea.
So, how does this all translate into helping you pick the right side of a bowl game you ask? It's simple. Be sure to have a look at the win/loss record for each coach in previous bowl games. Other things to consider: How has the coach done overall? How has he done as a favorite or as a dog?
Looking at the coaches will help you pick more winners and make your bowl season a little more enjoyable. In a nutshell, I think coaching is the single biggest factor you can look at when handicapping bowl games, in addition to everything you do during the regular season.
That means not forgetting about everything you do for every other game. Gather your notes, consider those betting strategies that have worked for you over the past 4+ months, and apply yourself. You've got the ammunition, now use it. By the time USC meets Oklahoma in the FedEx Orange Bowl on January 4, 2005, you'll already have plenty to celebrate…unless of course you are an Auburn or Cal fan, but I don't want to get started with my thoughts on the BCS. Enjoy bowl season everyone.
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