Bowl season is popular among recreational bettors, as it coincides with the holidays. Betting on bowls is fun, but it can also be profitable for astute bettors. The core components of sharp betting are all heightened during the three-week bowl period, when information is king, analysis reigns supreme and an ability to judge what has and hasn’t been factored into a line is paramount.
Getting ahead of the market is important. Here are five tips to consider when handicapping bowl games.
1. Assess motivation
Understanding the motivation of the respective teams in a bowl matchup is critical to measuring the level of effort that will be put forward. The size of the program or the bowl game itself doesn’t usually matter. What does matter is the significance of a specific bowl relative to the expectations of a program. Alabama is playing in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. But after appearing in the College Football Playoff every year and beginning the 2019 season as the No. 1 team, the Tide don’t figure to have ample motivation. By contrast, No. 18 Minnesota should be thrilled to be back in a major bowl, playing Auburn in the Outback Bowl on the same day.
2. Forecast notable absences
Bowl games have become less relevant over the years for many players, particularly in the CFP era. NFL-bound players don’t want to risk getting injured or damaging their draft stock. Players with even minor injuries will likely sit out. It’s a similar story for those entering the Transfer Portal. Keeping abreast of who’s playing is critical. Alabama, Florida State and UCF are three teams that have all been hit hard by injuries in 2019, while Bama and Georgia each have multiple draft-bound players who are strong candidates to pull out of their respective bowl games.
3. Monitor coaching changes
The college football coaching carousel has already begun, and it means some coaches won’t be leading their teams into their bowl game. Lane Kiffin won’t be leading Florida Atlantic. Willie Taggart is out at Florida State. Rich Gunnell has assumed interim head coach duties for Boston College following Steve Addazio’s firing. Teams with talent deficits are further exposed when missing their regular head coach.
4. Consider travel factors
Both travel and destination need to be factored in to one’s handicapping. Teams like Hawaii and Florida Atlantic are playing de facto home games, while other teams like BYU are traveling a very long distance. Teams like Illinois and Iowa are facing cross-country trips, whereas their opponents are not. Long travel has an impact, particularly when the trip is to a destination that’s not overly desirable.
5. Don’t discount bowl history
Do not underestimate the pride some programs take in performing at a high level during bowl season. Utah is 16-4 all-time in bowls, which is to say the Utes can always be counted on to show up. USC is 34-17, while Ole Miss is 24-13. Florida State, Oklahoma State and Syracuse have also consistently performed well.