When it comes to handicapping college football bowl games conference strength can either be a big help or a very misleading factor depending on the circumstances. Later in bowl season chances are pretty good that for each team playing in a game there will be have been several other teams from the same conference that have already played their games. Here’s a look at three ways in which that can be useful, and three ways that it can be not helpful and potentially costly:
Can be a clue to surprising conference strength – In most cases the last eight games a team has played have been against conference opponents. That means that teams have evolved and changed quite a bit since they last played an opponent outside of the conference. It can be tough to have a good sense of how good the team is compared to teams in other conferences – especially if the team has seemed to have improved as the season went along. If other teams in their conference have beaten good teams in bowl games then you can feel more confident about the team in question – especially if the team has beaten those conference opponents that have gone on to perform well.
Can lead the public to overreact – There is nothing I love more than when the public overreacts. When the public falls in love with the idea of betting on a team they will do it very enthusiastically. That can have a big impact on lines, and can create massive value if you don’t share the same opinion as the public does. If a conference starts out playing very well in their bowls – especially a major conference – then the public is going to have an inflated opinion of the rest of the teams in that conference. The stronger teams in a conference generally play later in bowl season, so it is easy for the public to convince themselves that the team can’t lose. If you don’t agree then conference strength has created some nice value for you.
Can turn the public off a team – The opposite of the last point can also be true. If the teams in a conference have played very poorly in their bowls – and especially if there has been a high profile upset or two – then the public can definitely lose confidence in the remaining teams in that conference. If you are confident in one of the remaining teams, though, then the lack of public confidence will only help you because it will make the public less likely to bet on the team. That means that value will be easier to find. Successful betting is all about value.
Can be deceptive if opponents are weak – There is nothing more frustrating than seeing the odds for a team you like bet up because the public is reacting to misleading information. If the conference is winning their bowl games by wide margins and looking impressive doing it then the public is going to take notice and bet the rest of the teams in that conference. If the opponents that the teams have faced aren’t particularly strong, though, then the conference can look better than they have actually been, and the public betting can be more enthusiastic than it probably needs to be.
Favorable scheme advantages can create an inaccurate picture – A team can look very good if they face a team that doesn’t match up well against them. That same team can look lousy if their opponent matches up well with them. If the teams in a conference that have already played their games have enjoyed favorable matchups then they are going to look better than they probably are, and that will likely lead to inflated lines for the rest of the teams in the conference. That’s great news if you plan to bet against the remaining teams from that conference, but can destroy your value if you plan to bet on them.
Can let the public in on something you already knew – Sometimes heading into bowl season you will have an opinion that you feel strongly about and that you look forward to making a lot of money from. For example, perhaps you feel strongly that a conference is underrated and will be very tough to beat in their bowl games. After the first couple of games a conference have played, though, the strong play could cause other people to take note, and could elevate the prices on the remaining teams in the conference. That could mean that it could be a bit tougher for the teams you like to cover the spreads because they have been inflated.