By Ron Jumper
Everyone seems to get so much enjoyment out of bowl season, no matter who you are. For the coaches, it is a wonderful recruiting tool and an opportunity to get an extra month of practice in. For the players, they get all those nice gifts on the house (PS3, Xbox, etc.) and one last opportunity to showcase their talents on the national stage. For the universities, they cash in on a pretty hefty payday from whichever bowl they were selected to play in. For the local media of each team, they basically get a free vacation to wherever the game happens to be played at so they can “cover” the game. For the advertisers, they get one more chance to stick their logo on something and help give the bowl they are sponsoring a name that offers such great prestige and tradition (you know, like the Meinke Car Care Bowl). For the fans, because if there weren’t bowl games the men would have to actually make casual conversation with the rest of the family over the holidays instead of staring intently at the television. But most importantly…
FOR THE DEGENERATE GAMBLERS OUT THERE!!!
During bowl season, college football bettors have daily action instead of patiently waiting for Saturday to roll back around. That doesn’t mean you should get action down on every bowl game, as several of these games you might as well flip a coin. Here are some basic tips to get you started:
Avoid Big Spreads
In most cases, just deciphering who is going to win the game during bowl season is tough enough and favorites have been miserable covering double digit spreads. Many times, the heavy underdog embraces the role which leads me to…
Which Team Cares More
Not every team is happy to just make a bowl, maybe they got snubbed and could care less about the game while their opponent is making a bowl appearance for the first time this century. This can also be impacted by the status of the coaching staff, as the head coach fighting for his job will probably get more out of his troops than the lame duck interim coach.
Location, Location, Location
Many bowls, for the purpose of selling tickets, are not above selecting a local team to participate in their game. Take into account which team had to travel further and how many fans will be accompanying them.
Conference Power Ratings
I always go through and chart every conference from best to worst. Then I chart every team within a conference from first to last. Now, I can go through matchups and, for example, see that the #2 SEC school is matched up against the #5 ACC school. In this example, we have a team higher in the standings from a tougher conference against a slightly above average team in a lesser conference so the edge clearly goes to the SEC #2.
Alright, time for picks!!!
Utah Utes (+17.5) covers vs. Boise State Broncos
The Utes aren’t all that great, but they ALWAYS show up in bowl games. Also, referring back to our basic rules, the Broncos don’t care about this game. They had national title aspirations and now have to settle for a third-tier bowl. I expect Utah to get out to an early lead and for Boise State to wake up just in time to win the game. Boise State 34-31
Toledo Rockets (-1.5) covers vs. Florida International Golden Panthers
Here we have a 6-6 Sun Belt school basically playing in an 8-4 MAC schools back yard. Toledo to Detroit is just a hop and a skip. The Rockets have a much more impressive resume, including a nice win at Purdue (relatively speaking…this is MAC vs. Sun Belt we are talking about) plus a 7-1 record in MAC play. Eric Page is a dynamic playmaker at wide receiver and in the return game for the Rockets. I like Toledo to win comfortably here. Toledo 31-20
Iowa Hawkeyes (+3) covers vs. Missouri Tigers
I love taking teams that have a senior QB and an “Us Against The World” mentality. Everyone is saying what a disappointing season it was for Iowa and how this set the program back. While that is all well and good, senior QB Rick Stanzi will play terrific one last time. Consider Stanzi threw 25 touchdowns compared to only 4 interceptions. On the other side of the ball, I like Iowa’s talented defensive line, led by Adrian Clayborn, to wreak havoc. Most would consider this a major upset but I think they were a good team that suffered an unfortunate 3-game losing streak at the end of the season. My power ratings didn’t change that much. Iowa 27-24
Baylor Bears (-1) covers vs. Illinois Fighting Illini
Neither team player well down the stretch, but I like Baylor for two reasons: the game is being played in Houston and Robert Griffin is a beast. I could lie about it and pretend to look up a bunch of cool stats but that is the cold, hard truth. The team with the better record, better quarterback, and home field advantage is only a 1-point favorite? Yeah, I’ll go with Baylor. Baylor 34-24
Tennessee Volunteers (+1.5) covers vs. North Carolina Tar Heels
The Vols are not perceived as a good team, but they played very strong down the stretch winning their last 4 games and covering their last 5 spreads. Due to consecutive coaching changes, time was needed to transition to a new scheme. Not that they are a great team yet, but they are moving in the right direction where as the Tar Heels are a complete mess. I don’t expect them to show up here. Oh, did I mention this game was in Nashville? Tennessee 28-21
Florida Gators (-7.5) covers vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
Neither Florida nor Penn State had the season we are accustomed to, however there is a big difference between a 7-5 SEC school and a 7-5 Big Ten school. Sorry, facts are facts. Also, this will be Urban Meyer’s last game coaching Florida so I would anticipate a motivated bunch. With the game being played in Tampa, there should be just a few Gator fans. Florida 38-17