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Public Teams and Bowl Motivation

   by Tom Stryker - 12/30/2006

It's important to understand this time of year what public teams are. Public teams are most often high scoring football teams with national recognition, both in the college ranks and the pros. Notre Dame and the Dallas Cowboys certainly fit that bill. Both have long traditions of being great football programs, and both have flashy offenses.

Notre Dame averages 32 points and 273 passing yards under QB Brady Quinn and coach Charlie Weis. They are exciting and imaginative on offense, which makes for good TV. They also have been overvalued by oddsmakers, at 4-7 against the spread this season (2-5 ATS at home). Oddsmakers will factor in a few extra points here and there knowing that the average betting Joe is more likely to throw money down on the Irish than, say, Stanford, North Carolina, or Purdue, three teams Notre Dame beat but failed to cover.

I used this reasoning last Monday when the Eagles and Cowboys hooked up in Dallas for a pivotal NFC East match-up. All in all, it was an evenly matched game, with winning teams, aggressive defenses, good coaches, hot quarterbacks and the division title on the line. So why was Dallas a 7-point favorite? That's far from an even game in the eyes of oddsmakers.

In my analysis of the game I wrote, “Why is this line so high? The simple reason is that the Cowboys are America's Team. More money will come in on the Cowboys because they have better known players, a high profile owner and a big name coach. But looking at the stats shows that there two teams are virtually equal.

“The true line should be Dallas -3 or -4, not the full touchdown tariff. Philadelphia has only lost one game all season by more than a field goal on the road. Dallas gains 5.7 yards per play and allows 5.2, for a plus 0.5 ypp advantage, very strong. But Philadelphia is even better. The Eagles gain 6.1 yards per play and allow 5.0, for a positive 1.1 ypp advantage. That's the biggest differential in the league. Expect this game to go down to the wire with the 7 point margin never in doubt.â€쳌

Philadelphia was never in doubt about covering the number, leading from start to finish. This can also be applied to bowl games. Many teams from recognizable, big name school are always in bowls, while others are playing in bowls for the first time, or the first time in years.

Motivated and talented lesser-known schools can offer great betting value. Rutgers, for instance, was a big play for me last week. There were ample reasons to expect a strong effort out of the Scarlet Knights who, let's face it, you don't see in bowls or as a national power very often.

Head coach Greg Schiano had the opportunity to bolt to Miami, Florida and take a much higher profile position. He turned the Hurricanes offer down. That shows that he feels that Rutgers hasn't reached its peak as of yet, and that this can become a powerhouse type of football program.

This was just their second bowl game is 28 years! As further proof the Rutgers fans petitioned the local cable provider to add the NFL network to their service so they could see their beloved Scarlet Knights play. Their opponent, Kansas State, was starting an erratic freshman quarterback in Josh Freeman, with a poor 6 to 13 touchdown to interception ratio.

I concluded with, “I expect the Scarlet Knights to have their way on the ground and force the young Wildcat signal caller to beat them. Backing this Kansas State team in a come from behind mode is unhealthy to your bankroll.â€쳌 When you examine bowl point spreads, keep in mind which teams are public ones, and which lesser-known, quality teams might offer excellent wagering value.

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