It’s the start of the college football bowl season, but a lot of games will be played before the big ones – the BCS games – get underway. In a lot of ways the BCS games are just like every other bowl game. Those five games are unique in some keys ways, though, and recognizing how they are unique can help college football handicappers avoid mistakes and make it easier for you to cash in some winning bets. Here are five things to keep in mind when you are handicapping and thinking about betting the BCS games:
Much more public action – The betting volume for these games will be dramatically higher than almost any other college football game. In some cases it will be 10 or 20 times higher than for the smaller games. The betting public will also be drawn to these games in far greater numbers then they will be for the small games. The more public action there is in a game the more potential there is for some unexpected and strange line movement, and the more aware sports bettors need to be of where the money is coming in, how the books are likely to have responded to that likely action, and what it means for value in the games.
Teams are fired up to be there – In lesser games you can never be sure of motivation factors. Some college teams will be less than motivated because the game that they are playing in is not the one they were hoping for when the season began. Football teams that are disappointed about their location aren’t necessarily going to put their best effort forward. In the large majority of cases in the BCS, though, teams are very happy to be where they are. The only obvious situations where a team might not be happy are if they feel like they should be in the championship game but they aren’t, or if the coach has moved on before the game like Brian Kelly did with Cincinnati in 2009. It’s always easier to handicap a game when you know both teams will be trying their hardest, so the BCS games are the most attractive of the bowl season in this regard.
Matchups don’t always make as much sense as others – The BCS games don’t have quite as much range as other bowls when it comes to the teams they can chose to have play. In smaller bowls the bowl committees can often choose the football teams they want to play based on the fans they will bring or the matchup of playing styles or something else that will maximize the intrigue in games. BCS games can often be locked into a particular matchup because of the limitations they face, though. Sometimes that can lead to great, exciting pairings, but from time to time it also leads to games that people just don’t need to see.
Stage favors experienced teams – The pressure of the BCS games is intense. they are nationally broadcast. All eyes of the media are on the games. The stakes are very high for the teams involved, and the demands on the players and the coaching staffs leading up to the game will be intense. If a team hasn’t been through something quite like this before then they might not know how to deal with it, and that could affect their preparation and therefore their play. For some teams, though, the BCS is close to an annual tradition, so they are fully comfortable with what they face, and they are going to be better prepared and more relaxed going into the game. In the case of the BCS perhaps more than any other time in college football experience really counts in these games. That doesn’t mean that you should blindly bet on the team that has been there before, but if two teams appear well matched then experience could certainly be a deciding factor when you make your picks .
Mismatches are surprisingly possible – You might be tempted to think that these games are going to be close and competitive. After all, these should be 10 of the truly elite teams in the country playing. It’s important to remember, though, as a college football handicapper that not all of the teams in the BCS are necessarily elite. Each year there is a conference or two that just isn’t particularly strong, and they won’t necessarily create an exciting game or a strong matchup. If the weak teams come from the ACC or the Big East then they are likely going to play an at-large team, and there is a very good chance that the at-large team will be a much stronger team than the conference champion is. In short, it can be a costly mistake for sports bettors to give teams too much credit just because they have qualified for the BCS.