As bowl season nears college football handicappers are faced with a decision – should they bet on all of the small bowl games that come along, or should they hold out for the bigger games with the big name teams? I’m a bowl junkie, so there has never been a bowl game played that I couldn’t get at least a little excited about. More significantly, though, I would choose to bet on smaller bowls almost every time over the big ones that are played after New Year’s Day. Here are four good reasons why, and one problem with these games that would scare some college football handicappers away:
Less betting action – The betting volume will be many times higher for the BCS Bowls – especially the championship game – than it will be for the New Orleans Bowl or other lesser citizens of bowl world. That’s not great news for the books perhaps, but it is music to my ears and to the ears of many value-seeking bettors as well. Any time the betting volume is low in a game a number of things happen, and all of them are great from a betting perspective. First, books don’t spend as much time and effort setting lines for these games as they would on other games because their potential risk is much less. That means that the lines aren’t likely to be quite as accurate – or at least there is a much better chance that the line isn’t accurate. The lower betting volume also means that the books might not adjust the lines quite as quickly or aggressively as they would with other games. Finally, lower betting volumes mean that there is far less public money involved in a game than in other games, so there is a much better chance of being able to bet on the favorite if you want to without facing an inflated line to compensate for the public bias.
Less mainstream coverage – The networks and the big websites spend a whole lot more time and effort caring about the big games then they do about the smaller ones – especially the ones that are played before Christmas. The less mainstream coverage there is, the easier it is to find storylines that have been under-reported that could have a big effect on the outcome of the game. Having knowledge that the betting public doesn’t have is a great way to find value, and with a little bit of work and digging around – local newspapers, fan forums, and so on – you can have that knowledge in the smaller bowl games.
Crowd impact is easier to assess – For a lot of smaller football games the crowds are microscopic. Even when they are bigger it is easier to assess what the general make up of them will be than it is for bigger bowls – which team will have more fans, which team will get the louder cheers, and so on. Assessing the advantage in neutral site games can be tough, but smaller games make it much easier.
Motivation can be at very different levels for teams – In big bowl games you can usually be sure that – barring extraordinary circumstances – both college football teams are going to be desperate for a win and will do whatever it takes to get one. The same can’t be said for smaller bowls. For lesser programs just making a bowl game – any bowl game – can be a very big deal, and they will be motivated to get a win or die trying. Bigger programs aren’t always happy to be playing in a half empty stadium in late December, though – especially when they started the season with much grander aspirations. When one team wants a win in a game much more than the other then you can could have a recipe for an upset, and upsets pay nicely when smart football bettors exploit them.
Less media coverage – I know I said earlier that this was a good thing, and for bettors who are willing to put in a lot of effort it is. For bettors who prefer an easier path, though, less media coverage is bad news. When games are high profile the mainstream media covers every angle of the game. You can’t always rely on the analysis – or at least you shouldn’t – but you can easily get information about everything going on with the game. On lesser profile games, though, you don’t get that kind of coverage. Mainstream coverage will typically end at a preview of the game written way before the game is played. That means that college football handicappers have to do theirr own digging to find the information they need to make an informed bet. More significantly, if you don’t do your own digging then you can make a costly betting mistake. Bettors looking for the path of least resistance won’t be too attracted to small bowl games.