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Handicapping the Bowls

   by Scott Spreitzer - 12/03/2007

You’re probably champing at the bit to bet some of the upcoming bowl
games. But don’t rush into any mistakes that you’ll live to regret!

Here are some tips you should consider as you analyze the card:

*Remember that the style of play in this year's bowl games is likely to
be different than last year. Many handicappers and wagerers were
caught off guard in September of this season because the game had
changed so much. More teams were running those high scoring spread
offenses, adding points and randomness all over the place. Games were
longer than last year because of adjustments in how the game clock
runs. Throw out much of what you remember from last season! Games are
likely to be higher scoring this year, and are more likely to blow up in one
direction or another because of the nature of high risk passing
offenses. Matchup strategies that may have worked for you in the 2006
bowl season might not apply any more. Be sure you take that into

*Remember that long layoffs DON’T help a defense and hurt an offense!
You hear announcers say that all the time. I’ve heard them say that
during bowl games that were ending 45-37 or 52-28! Poorly prepared
teams might have trouble. For the most part, bowls are offensive
showcases. Teams put in gadget plays and trickeration. Running backs
get healthy and find fresh legs. The defenses may get healthy too. But
history has made it clear that the college football postseason is more
about offense than defense. There will be a few defensive struggles,
particularly involving games with inconsistent quarterbacks and
uncreative head coaches. Don’t bet an Under unless you have those
elements in play (along with good defenses!). Look for games where
things may open up more than the Las Vegas oddsmakers realize, so you
can bet the Over.

*Remember that “overratedâ€쳌 and “underratedâ€쳌 labels tend to hold
through the bowls. Teams who aren’t as good as everyone expected don’t
suddenly rise to meet expectations. Teams who are better than realized don’t
hit a wall. The public tends to line up on the same big name teams every
year regardless of pointspread performance. The public tends to ignore
lesser known teams on a roll regardless of how many games they’ve
covered. Check the pointspread results of all bowl teams to see if you
can find some overrated teams (poor ATS the last two months) to go
against, and some underrated teams (good ATS the last two months) to
invest in.

*Remember that emotions matter more than anything in the college
postseason. A team that’s disappointed to settle for a lesser bowl
will often play 1-2 touchdowns below their normal form. They’ll
occasionally play 3-4 touchdowns below their normal form! Be very careful betting
big name favorites who had been shooting for something better than they
got. These are historically great go against teams. Look for up-and-comers
who want to make a statement. If they’re an underdog, consider taking
them on the moneyline to score the outright victory. Bowl “upsetsâ€쳌
are common. They’re so common they shouldn’t be called upsets! When
they happen, they’re typically triggered by a flat favorite.

*Remember that warm weather teams typically have an advantage over cold
weather teams. This used to be automatic every year. Then, some top Big
Ten teams really did improve their play and athleticism (remember when
Ohio State beat Miami for the national championship?). The
past couple of seasons though, things have drifted back to the old
model. Ohio State got crushed by Florida last year in the championship
game. Michigan wasn’t very competitive with Southern Cal in the Rose
Bowl. If the warm-weather team isn’t destined to be flat (as arrogant
Oklahoma was against Boise State), they’re likely to be the right
side. If the game is outdoors in warm weather, the Northern team is likely to
wear down. If the game is played indoors, the speed deficiencies of the
Northern team will be exposed. Now, this isn’t a 100% rule by any
means. But, you’ll be well served to shade your action in this direction.

*Remember that your VERY BEST bowl winners will come when the above
factors line up on the same side! You will find underrated Southern
teams in great position to knock off overrated Northern teams. You will
find underrated Southern teams matched up against flat Northern teams
who are disappointed about the bowl they’re playing in. You will find
wide-open offenses playing each other in a dome (perfect for an Over
bet). You will find underrated wide open teams playing overrated
disappointed teams with vulnerable defenses. Bowl season is famous for
having many games miss the Vegas spread by a mile. These are some of
the reasons why!

Best of luck this bowl season. Several games have already jumped out at
me with huge winning potential. Be sure you take advantage of all the
great opportunities!

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