College Football Bowl Betting Tips

FairwayJay provides insight into handicapping and betting college football bowl games.

Betting Strategies and Tips Handicapping and Betting College Football Bowl Games

College bowl season has arrived with 40 bowl games to watch and wager on nearly every day from Dec. 20 through Jan. 6. That includes the college football playoff semi-final games Dec. 28 and the National Championship game Jan. 13, 2020 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. Will Clemson advance and win a second straight national championship?

The Tigers were terrific to us as an outright underdog winner in the 2019 National Championship game win over Alabama to complete one of my best ever bowl seasons providing a rated play or opinion on every bowl game. Last seasons bowl games 18-5 ATS on rated plays, 14-4 ATS opinions for a 32-9 ATS (78%) mark on all plays and opinions with selected game analysis. 

Betting the bowls brings out more bettors and college football bowl pools are also popular. Many big bets at the leading online sportsbooks and other sportsbooks offering cash bonuses and contests are posted through social media and Twitter. Recreational bettors may feel like the college bowls are a great time to be betting more when reality is that it’s a time to be selective and understand the factors involved of handicapping the bowl games and the extra time between games from the end of the regular season. 

You're going to see market moves at the leading online sportsbooks as both lines and totals move, including the opening Bahamas Bowl where 20-30 MPH winds and higher gusts have seen a sharp downward move on the total between Buffalo and Charlotte. 

While fundamental match-ups and statistical profiles are still part of the handicapping process, other factors including motivation play a significant role in your point spread prognosis and evaluation of the games and betting lines. 

Additional factors are in play in handicapping the bowl games:

- Motivation and excitement of selected bowl
- Point spreads, adjustments and major market moves
- ATS situations and profiles
- Injuries, suspension, distractions, players sitting out for draft
- Under-performing and Over-performing teams and season expectations
- Coaching success, changes, preparation
- Location of bowl, regional or home field advantage

Look for coordinator changes, not just head coaching changes. First time play callers, offense or defense, are not in as good a situation to have success. For example, Mike Norvell will not coach Memphis in the Dec. 28 Cotton Bowl against Penn State. Norvell took the head coaching job at Florida State, and his longest tenured assistant coach Ryan Silverfield will coach Memphis is the Cotton Bowl. Norvell was exclusively the Tigers' playcaller for the past three seasons, but Silverfield is most familiar with the offense as assistant coach and run game coordinator. 

External factors can affect bowl games and betting. Travel difficulties, discipline and suspensions, key players skipping bowl game for NFL draft prep, and coaching changes as mentioned (see Boston College for a number of these external factors).  

Recognize that betting every bowl game is not an optimal strategy. It's difficult to do it successfully. Even with my strong bowl season a year ago rating plays for betting on nearly half the bowl games, it's a pretty rare occurrence to hit winners at such a high rate.   

You are going to read and hear hundreds of mostly meaningless trends related to college bowls and match-ups. While they may sound good or offer some Against the Spread (ATS) support, understand that following trends is not the way to cashing more tickets over time. 

For example, here is a conference trend that should be recognized as mostly meaningless.

In bowl games between the ACC and Big Ten, underdogs are 17-6 SU and 19-3-1 ATS over the past 20 seasons since 1999. If you just bet on that trend this year, it would be a play on bet on Wake Forest (+3.5) over Michigan State, and Ohio State (+2) over Clemson.

Pac-12 teams are 14-20 SU and 9-25 ATS in theirlast 34 bowl games versus Power 5 conference foes. So what, I say. Conferences and teams change. But it's worth noting that Utah had a sensational season going 11-2. But the Utes were beaten badly as a favorite by Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship game ending their hopes of a College Football Playoff bid. Utah also was on a 8-0 SU/ATS run prior to losing to Oregon. Now Utah is not even playing in a New Year's Day bowl, but instead taking on Texas in the Alamo Bowl Dec. 31 in San Antonio. Some motivational concerns for the Utes, who are a 7-point favorite and also playing the Longhornes in their home state of Texas. 

Twenty five years ago, there were just 18 bowl games. Now there are more than twice that and the product on the field for bowl games has become diluted. But betting continues to be big business at the sportsbooks, and the games generate much interest during college bowl season, despite more distractions including for the players with exams, bowl festivities, holiday season and New Year. 

Regardless of the results or your pursuit of profit and some extra cash over the holiday and New Year, enjoy all the games including the College Football Playoff and National Championship.    

FairwayJay is a leading national sports handicapper and is recognized as one of the sports industry's most insightful analysts. Read more great insights from Jay here and follow him on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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