Handicapping the Early Bowls

by Kelso Sturgeon
Contributing Sportsbook Editor

The college football bowl slate begins this coming Saturday with FIVE games that will gobble up more than 12 hours of your viewing/study time. Best to start getting ready NOW because the schedule will get very busy once things get going. Games will run nightly next week except for Christmas. And, then it gets busier!

Today I'm going to talk about handicapping the early bowl slate. We'll have time next week to talk more about higher profile games. And, then right before New Year's we can talk about the real showcase games that involve the national powers. I'm very excited to have actual "playoff" games to talk about this season. Long overdue that college football would go to this format. I'm currently planning a special report that will cover only the Alabama-Ohio State and Oregon-Florida State matchups.

Right now, handicappers and sports bettors are more concerned with lesser known teams. Are you ready to handle Louisiana-Lafayette, UTEP, or Western Michigan? Can you even name a player on South Alabama or Bowling Green? They play each other Saturday night. Here are a few quick tips for getting up to speed with off-the-radar teams most of you haven't been following much this season.

  • First, it's okay to pass! I say this up front because too many bettors get it in their head that they want to bet every bowl game. They treat it like an office-pool where they wonder how they'd do if they had to come up with something in every matchup. You can do that on paper if you want. Don't waste real money! You're not likely to win playing the board, particularly with teams you weren't monitoring during the season. Be disciplined. I don't care if you "miss" college football already because only Army and Navy played last week. Either do it right, or wait another week until the major conferences are more prominent.

  • Second, do your RESEARCH. Study the standings for conferences like the Mountain West, CUSA, MAC, and Sun Belt. Look at respected computer or Power Ratings. Familiarize yourself with general team quality. Do you know where Colorado State and Air Force finished in the MWC standings? Who won when Louisiana Lafayette and South Alabama played each other in the Sun Belt?

  • Third, look at stat breakdowns so you know each team's preferred style of play. Who are the passing teams? Who are the running teams? Who can defend and who just hopes to outscore their opponents. The fundamentals of matchup handicapping that we've talked about over the years are universal. You want to take run-heavy teams against defenses who can't stop the run. How can you exploit that kind of edge in the early bowls if you don't even know each team's strength and weakness?

  • Fourth, isolate each team's PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS. You regulars know this is always of utmost importance to me. In the case of these lesser known programs, you have to do some preliminary work first. Well, I DON'T because I've been following them all season! I mean those of YOU who don't follow these teams need to get caught up, and then isolate the PLAYMAKERS who will mostly likely be determining who wins and covers. Once you know those players, find out how healthy they are, determine how they match up against the opposing defense, and check to see how field conditions or weather conditions might influence action. You don't want to bet on a quarterback in high winds. You don't want to bet on a running back on a converted baseball field where the turf keeps coming up whenever a fast guy plants his foot to cut.

  • Finally, look at THE MOTIVATION FACTOR for each team. The way the bowls are set up now, most early teams are fairly motivated to be there. It's not like the old days where an unheralded dog that was thrilled to be in a bowl was facing a major conference disappointment that was "demoted" to a minor appearance. But, you will still find some teams who may come in flat because they had higher expectations a few weeks ago. Be sure you read online media coverage to get a sense of how fired up or disappointed the players and coaches are about their game. The biggest pointspread covers every season involve fired up dogs winning blowouts over flat favorites. Do your best to find those.

    I'm not going to talk specifics because I need to protect my plays for my paying customers. I can tell you that I will be stepping out in at least one bowl game this coming Saturday. And, then, another monster will be following on the heels in a weeknight game soon afterward. I have great rates for my full college bowl package. If you'd like some help finding the best plays on the board from now through the championship game, I hope you'll sign up for service.

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