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Old 12-12-2003, 09:26 PM   #1
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Default Handicapping College Bowl Games Checklist


1. POWER RATINGS - The oddsmakers are in business to make money, NOT to predict the scores of football games. They set a bowl line based on a number they think will split the wagering action, NOT what their computerized power ratings indicate the true point spread should be. They would MUCH, MUCH rather make money by having balanced action, than to be dead-on correct with a number, resulting in a "push", and a refund of all wagers. This is why formulating and updating your own power ratings throughout the season is very important. If you don't have your own set of numbers, you are already a step behind. Don't make the same mistake next year. In the meantime, consult as many on-line power ratings as you can to get a better and more clear picture of what the actual spread should be.

2. INFORMATION - Determine which teams are taking their bowl game seriously and which aren't. Many schools really turn up the heat at bowl time in hopes of playing their best football, as they are showcased on national television. Others use the bowls as a reward for a season well done and really donít care whether they win or lose. Get as much information as you can on the teams in each game from the schools' local sources, in addition to info from local sources in the city where the bowl is being played. Do your homework, and you may find some team is doing nothing but "enjoying the sights", while their opponent is staying at some hotel 50 miles away and going through two-a-day practices. When scouring the local teams' and host cities' sports pages for quotes and information, READ BETWEEN THE LINES as to whether teams are going all-out to win or just taking pleasure in the gratis vacation. This will tell you what the mindset of the respective teams are entering the game. No, you won't read a coach or player say flat-out "we're just here to party and could care less if win or lose the game", but you can often sense such an attitude behind a quote if you are perceptive and pay attention.

3. UNDERDOGS - Traditionally, December bowl underdogs have done quite well, while January bowl favorites have the edge. For every over-confident favorite, there's a motivated underdog. If you read one or more players making comments about how easily they will defeat their opponent, you can bet (pun intended) this will be read by the opposing team and inspire them to play at a higher level. If the team with the better defense is getting points, you may also have a "live dog" on your hands, especially if they are getting more than a field goal's worth of points.

4. LETDOWNS - Going against traditional powers in consolation bowls has always been a big money maker. This is especially true if a team lost their national championship hopes late in the season. Some recent examples include Kansas State, when they were a win in-the-Big-12-Championship-game-away from playing for the national title several seasons ago. After choking away a big second-half lead and collapsing in OT, K State went from a shot at the national title to a non-BCS game against Purdue. The Boilermakers led by Drew Brees were on their way back to prominence and they took care of business, winning 37-34 as 2-TD dogs! UCLA was another recent team a win away from having chance to play for it all, but had to play a rescheduled game at Miami, Fl at the end of the season. A horrific call led to a bogus Hurricane touchdown and left the Bruins understandably bitter and heartbroken. They were then not surprisingly beat 38-31 by Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl as a 9-point fave.

5. RESPECT - Small college teams (non-BCS conference teams) will certainly show up to play, ESPECIALLY against BCS opponents. That is not to say the small conference teams are automatic locks, but there is rarely any need to worry about the MACs and WACs when it comes motivation. Teams with something to prove can be an either/or proposition. In general, they are a "play on" team as a favorite and a "play against" team as a dog. It makes sense that the superior team, be it the team that feels slighted or the one tired of hearing their opponent whine about earning a right to play in a better bowl game, will have all the motivation it needs to win by a large margin.

6. HISTORY - Study the bowl history of each school and each coach. How they have performed in previous post-season games may certainly be an pre-cursor of how they will perform this year. Some schools and coaches definitely have a past performance indicator that will tell you how successful you should expect them to be this year.

7. MATCH-UPS - If teams are playing each other for the first time, see how they fared against common opponents and similar-type foes. If a team is preparing to face an option attack, see if they have played such an opponent during the regular season and how well they defended the unusual offense. This applies to other rare offenses and defenses that only a few teams employ. Also, look at the strength of the schedule the two teams played. The team that played a tougher slate of games during the regular season will have an edge.

8. STREAKS - A classic trap is believing that one should focus on teams that finish the season on winning or losing streaks and to bet those streaks to continue. The truth is nothing can break a teamís momentum more easily than several weeks off. Some high-powered offenses require precise timing that can be thrown off with a long break. Conversely, nothing is more valuable to a struggling team than to have an extended time to regroup. Look at why a team performed the way they did down the stretch. Was a hot team really improved or just "in a groove?" Did several players really improve as the year went on or did the team over-achieve down the stretch? Did injuries play a big part in a cold team's skid to end a year, and did the time off help heal them? Last year, for example a Tulane team had lost 2 of its last 3 games and went to Hawaii to play a Warriors team off winning 7 of 8 games. The Green Wave came in determined to end the season on an up note and shocked the over-confident Warriors, 36-28 as a double-digit dog on Hawaii's home field. Southern Cal was an example of a team though that truly did improve as the year went on last year. They were 3-2 after 5 games, but behind Heisman-winner Carson Palmer and a stout defense, they got dramatically better and steam-rolled their way through the rest of the season and their Orange Bowl opponent, Iowa, 38-17 as a 6-point favorite. These streaky situations must be considered when handicapping the teams. If there was a huge dichotomy between a team's play in November as opposed to September, one can't simply assume that they progressed and got much better as the year went on. Do significant analysis and look further.

9. INJURIES - Late season injuries, or injuries suffered getting ready for the game, take their toll every year. Some teams will come limping into their bowl games with injuries to key players at season's end that hurt them in their final game(s). Check the injury reports to see if these skill players are healed and completely healthy after the long layoff. They may be ready to make a statement in a bowl game; however, if they are NOT 100%, they may just be along for the ride. While injuries to "superstar" players get all the press and are known to the betting public, there may well be a very capable back-up who has been living for an opportunity. Now he gets his chance to impress in a nationally televised game. You think he might be a little pumped up? Meanwhile, the opponent could easily have a letdown, knowing they won't be facing the "superstar", thus further improving the sub's and his team's chances of having a strong game. Another injury situation to look out for is depleted units. Stay away from teams that have several starters or key players out from one unit of the squad, such as the secondary, offensive line, or defensive line, especially if their weakness can be easily exploited by the opponent. A team with both starting cornerbacks and a safety out probably won't fare too well against a team with a great passing game. A team that relies on the run and is facing a strong defense, probably won't have much success if both starting guards and a tackle on the O-line. are out

10. WEATHER - Check the forecast and how it might impact the game. This is such a handicapping basic, that only a rank amateur wouldn't do it. At this time of year that it can be snowing in El Paso as easily as it can be in Boise.

11. DECISION TIME - Once you have taken all factors into consideration, and made a selection, don't go back and change your mind, unless it's some dramatic late-breaking development, and you are going to go AGAINST a public line move. More times than not, your first educated choice will be the correct one. If there is some well-publicized news like a late injury to a "superstar" player or several suspensions on a team, the public will bet heavily on the other side, moving the spread, and creating some "line value". Last year, Fresno State was a 3-point underdog to Georgia Tech before the news leaked out that several Bulldogs were going to be suspended for the bowl game. The public jumped on the Jackets which moved to the spread to -6.5 and created tremendous line value for the underdog bettors. As it turned out, the extra points, always appreciated, weren't even needed as Fresno State played its best game of the season, forced 7 turnovers, and won outright, handily, 30-21. Don't move off your well-researched selection and follow the public over the cliff.

12. MONEY MANAGEMENT - One of the biggest mistakes that gamblers make is that they feel they "have" to bet larger amounts on bowl games. The serious player wagers postseason games using the same money management techniques used successfully during the regular season.
Bet Wishes,

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Old 12-13-2003, 03:57 PM   #2
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