The 2006-07 bowl season kicked off Tuesday with the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, which TCU won 37-7 over Northern Illinois, and ends on Jan. 8 in Glendale, Ariz., with the Tostitos BCS National Championship Game.
In all, 32 bowl games will be played over three weeks. Starting Dec. 26, there will be a least one game for nine straight days, so Super Bowl Betting Tips will want to be well-prepared heading into all the action.
Here are a few handicapping pointers to get you started:
Respect the Ability to Win, But Consider Strength of Schedule
This is the classic NCAA debate, whether in football’s bowl season or basketball’s March Madness. Should a team with a stronger record from a weaker conference be favored over a side with a weaker record from a stronger conference? Or, vice-versa?
Take the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24, for example. This one has Hawaii (10-3) favored by a touchdown over Arizona State (7-5).
The big story from a hype perspective is Hawaii QB Colt Brennan, who finished in a tie for second place behind Ohio State’s Troy Smith for the Associated Press college football Player of the Year. He also needs just one TD pass Sunday to tie the NCAA single-season mark of 54 set by Houston’s David Klingler in 1990.
Brennan’s heroics led the Warriors to their best regular-season record since 2002. Of course, it helped that his team played just one ranked opponent all year. That was at Boise State and it was a 41-34 loss. Not that his five- and six-TD performances against the likes of New Mexico State (4-8) and Utah State (1-11), respectively, weren’t impressive, but the competition was not.
Conversely, that was no creampuff schedule the Sun Devils faced. Three of ASU’s losses came against ranked opponents California, Oregon and USC. The other two defeats came against the only teams in the nation to beat USC: UCLA and Oregon State.
Brennan’s last outing, against Oregon State on Dec. 2, saw the Beavers use blitzes and stunts to rack up six sacks and force him into several bad throws, which included two interceptions. Oregon State won 35-32 as 9-point underdogs.
Watch for Line Moves
Since many of the teams involved in the bowl bonanza aren’t of the high-profile variety, there’s often a great deal of volatility in the lines that oddsmakers release.
Remember that bowl games are attractive to bettors in large part because they’re on TV, not because of the teams involved. Let’s just say a regular-season, non-televised matchup between Utah and Tulsa would draw a lot less action than Saturday’s Armed Forces Bowl between the two sides, which will be shown to a national audience on ESPN. Simply put, it’s not exactly easy for sportsbooks to predict how their clientele will react to a line involving non-football factory schools.
There have already been some notable line moves. In Thursday’s Las Vegas Bowl, BYU opened as a 6-point favorite over Oregon. The Cougars have since been faded to -3.5.
It’s not just sides that move, either; it’s totals, too. The opening number of 58 is now 63.
Bettors hoping to get the best number need to pay attention to line moves. If the play you like starts getting worse, lock it in, because it’s less likely to come back than keep going. And that means if it starts getting better, consider waiting a little longer. Your patience might just buy a point or two.
Happy to Be There or Not?
At most schools, receiving a bowl bid is good news. Of course, most schools don’t have the football tradition of a Florida State.
The Seminoles have won two national championships (1993 and 1999), and finished in the top five of the AP Poll for a remarkable 14 straight years from 1987 through 2000. As always, big things were expected again in 2006. The Seminoles were given a preseason ranking of No. 10 in the Coaches Poll and No. 11 in the AP Poll.
It never happened for the ‘Noles, though. Early losses to Clemson and NC State put a quick end to any national title hopes. Now, at 6-6, they find themselves in the Emerald Bowl on Dec. 27 against UCLA (-4.5). It’s not the kind of game head coach Bobby Bowden promised his recruits when they signed up for the program.
“It may not be the bowl game you wanted to go to,” linebacker Buster Davis told USA Today. “But going 6-6, that’s what happens.”
“At least it will be a different thing,” Bowden said. “We haven’t been out west since the Fiesta Bowl.”
Gee, can you feel the excitement?
Last year in the Emerald Bowl, it was a disappointed Georgia Tech team that showed up to play Utah after a loss to Wake Forest in the ACC championship game. Despite being 9-point favorites, the Yellow Jackets lost 38-10
“We weren’t really that pleased to be out in San Francisco across the country,” fullback Mike Cox admitted to Associated Press.
As for FSU’s opponents, the Bruins have won three in a row and are coming off a huge upset of crosstown rival USC. Plenty of students and alumni are sure to be in the stands to support their side, which makes it quite unlikely UCLA will come out flat.