The tail end of the college bowl season creates a strange scheduling situation. There are five BCS bowl games. The first four bowls – the Rose, Fiesta, Orange and Sugar – Are lumped together and played over a few days. The last game – the BCS National Championship game – exists on an island. It is played in the site of one of those other games, and it comes several days after the other games. In order to fill the gap between the big games and the championship game there are other bowls that are played. There is one thing that these games have in common – no one cares about them. The NFL payoffs are underway, and people are feeling burnt out after a whole lot of bowl games. For bettors that public burnout can create some very attractive opportunities. In fact, the games that fall between the BCS games and the national championship are, from a football betting perspective, my favorite part of the entire bowl season. Here are four reasons why:
Lack of public betting action – During high profile bowl games – especially the BCS games – the public betting action can create some headaches. The public has strong opinions, but they aren’t always objective. If the public action is heavily tilted towards one team then that can have a huge impact on how the line is set and how it moves. That can create great opportunities if you disagree with the public, but can be frustrating and costly if you like the same team. In these games the public action is far less significant. They are looking ahead to the championship game and focusing on the wild card games in the NFL, so they really don’t care about these games. That means that there is a much better chance of getting a fair price when betting on a favorite. It also means that as a college football handicapper you can attach more significance to any line moves that happen because they are more affected by smart money.
Overlooked strong matchup – The Cotton Bowl has moved their date later in the schedule to fill this gap and try to get more attention than they got on the crowded New Year’s Day schedule. The game typically draws a pretty strong matchup, and is consistently an exciting and interesting game. Some years the matchup is almost of BCS quality, but it draws a small fraction of the attention and betting action that the BCS games draw. That means you have the opportunity to bet on a big time game without the big time attention surrounding it. That’s a rare and pleasing opportunity for football bettors.
Long layoff – The gap between the last game of the regular season and the bowl game is always a factor in bowl handicapping. A big one. In these games, though, the gap is longer than any we have seen before. Football teams can have as many as six weeks between games. For bettors who are paying attention and who can get a good sense of the motivating psychology of teams this is a very good thing. There is so much that can affect how a college team plays after a long layoff – how healthy they are, how good their coaching staff is at preparation, the focus and discipline of the team, the excitement a team feels about playing in the game, any changes to the coaching staff since the last game, and so on. The betting public doesn’t typically interpret the effect of these on a team very well, so the better you are at it the more opportunity these games can present.
You know what has been working – By the time these games roll around you have seen more than 25 bowl games, and you have bet on a good number of them. The best way to learn about how to handicap effectively is to look at what has been working for you with college football games in the recent past. When you handicap these games you have three weeks of valuable first hand experience to draw from. If you learn from what has been working and what hasn’t then this should be the best part of your bowl season.
In order to capitalize on these betting opportunities here are three things for college football handicappers to keep in mind:
Do your homework – These football games present such an opportunity because so many people aren’t doing their homework on these games. That means that if you are willing to do your homework then you can have a particularly big edge. If you don’t put the work in, though, then you are throwing away your chance at a betting edge, and you are no better off than the rest of people.
Consider the time off carefully – The biggest factor in these games is the large amount of time off. There are so many benefits that can come from that layoff, and at least as many negatives. If you ignore those impacts then you are not making good betting decisions. Because the layoffs are longer you need to spend more time and effort considering them.
Watch late line movement – Since the public isn’t paying much attention to these college football games you can be reasonably confident that late line movement in these games is because of significant smart money action. When that happens you need to make sure that you know why it happened. It could be that the line movement is in response to a key change in the game – an injured star, for example. If you aren’t paying attention as a college football handicapper to line movement then you could miss out on what happened, or you could miss out on a chance to profit on what happened.