College Bowl Game Handicapping Tips

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Pinnacle Pulse

On behalf of Pinnacle Sports, I’d like to wish everyone Happy Holidays! With all the festivities it might seem like a natural time for a break, but taking the holidays off completely might mean missing some great football betting opportunities. While college football can be profitable, betting on NCAA Bowl Games can be even more lucrative, but there are a few extra factors to consider at this time of the year.

One of the most significant changes to bowl season play occurs due to grades as players become academically ineligible. Several teams will lose one or more players due to academic problems. Players are occasionally suspended for rules violations as well and these suspensions occur with higher frequency over a Thanksgiving or Christmas break. Significant suspensions will be listed on Don Best and the Pinnacle Sports betting line will usually adjust after Don Best makes an announcement.

One way to get an edge is to research the teams yourself and find the information before Don Best makes an announcement. Local newspapers often announce suspensions days before it gets picked up by the public or released by an injury announcement service. With an increasing number of universities putting their student-run newspapers online, another good sOurce is a college’s own newspaper. Together with injury information, you can adjust both your analysis of a Game or make a “quick hit” on a scalp or middle.

If you stumble across a key injury or a situation where many players are suspended, you can count on the line moving substantially. Whether or not you have an opinion on a Game, fade the team with suspensions. Once the public is informed of a suspension (and the line reacts accordingly) you can take back the other side for a middle.

At there’s also the option to sell several half-points and play a scalp. For example, assume you were studying a theoretical Team Red vs. Team Blue Game. Local news showed that two of Team Red’s starting cornerbacks were placed on academic probation. You immediately play Team Blue -3 -104. After the news on the cornerbacks is disseminated and the public is given time to react, the line drifts up to Team Blue -4.5 -109. You could either play the middle, or take Team Red +3 +109 by selling three half-points to make a guaranteed profit!

Another area you can exploit during Bowl Season is the public’s propensity to overreact to weather. If the weather report calls for snow or rain, public bettors will consistently play the under. If there is a bona fide hurricane or blizzard that will hit the Game, the public are right to play the under. However if there’s only light rain or snow expected to fall before or during the Game, this will not have the impact that under bettors are paying for. Unless weather conditions are truly horrendous, the right play is to fade the public on any total that moves 3 or more points due to weather.

An additional piece of information that is both fascinating and dangerous is how large underdogs have performed in Bowl Games. Double-digit underdogs in Bowl Games have hit at almost a 60% clip for many years. From a psychological angle, the underdog is in a prime position – it has nothing to lose and everything to gain. After having a month to prepare, both teams have time to adapt their Game plans extensively which usually makes for a closer Game than many expect. So why is this knowledge dangerous for the bettor? Like any trend, the market corrects inaccuracies. More and more players blindly play the large dogs and these bettors will continue to do so until the betting market corrects itself.

Consider these factors when you look at the line movements on these Games:

California (-7.5) vs. BYU (Pioneer PureVision Las Vegas Bowl)

These two teams are headed in opposite directions. California started hot at 5-0 but then dropped 4 of its last 6 Games to finish at 7-4 as the Golden Bears’ passing Game has struggled under QB Joseph Ayoob. After limping to a 1-3 start, BYU turned it around and won 5 of its last 7. The Cougars’ first-year coach Bronco Mendenhall has built an offense around QB John Beck, who had 3,357 passing yards and a passer rating of 138.1.

Our opener of Cal -7 -105 was ignored by the sharps. The public likes California, with 80% of the bettors backing the Golden Bears. Public money has forced the line to creep up to Cal -7.5 -105. Sad though it is, this is Our highest-volume NCAA Bowl Game so far this week.

Navy (-2.5) vs. Colorado St. (San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl)

Navy enters this Game with the nation’s #1 rushing offense, averaging 305.9 yards per Game. Colorado St., on the other hand, allows over 200 rushing yards per Game. Despite the amount of rushing, Navy Games tend to be high scoring averaging 55 points per Game. The Rams offense is just the opposite – it relies on a pass-heavy attack led by QB Justin Holland. In 2005 he completed over 62% of his passes for 2,804 yards, and had a 143 passer rating.

When comparing stats between teams, you should be acutely aware of the strength of Schedule for each team. According to Sagarin ratings, Colorado State’s strength of Schedule was the 58th most difficult among Div I-A schools, compared to Navy’s rating of 102nd. This strongly suggests one should adjust Navy’s stats downward when analyzing this Game.

We occasionally have a “sharp vs. public” Game and this is one of them. The wise guys are solidly on Colorado St. The public is favoring the Midshipmen by a 3:1 ratio. Despite the public backing, we are relatively flat due to the larger average bet-size of the sharps.

NY Giants (+3) at Washington

Behind Tiki Barber’s 220 yards rushing last weekend, the Giants knocked off the Chiefs 27-17 and closed to within one Game of winning its division. Part of the Giants’ success has been a consistent running Game, averaging 146 yards/Game. The Giants can clinch the division with a win here, or with a win next weekend at Oakland.

Washington has won three straight Games and will advance to the playoffs if it wins its last two. Due to its 8-2 NFC record, Washington can also secure a wildcard with a win over New York combined with losses by Dallas, Minnesota and Atlanta this week.

We opened at Washington -3 -107, and took a few early sharp hits on the Redskins. As the line crept up, we saw sharp opposition on the Giants at +3 +112. Given the price each took, both sharp positions are “correct”. Thus far, this has been Our highest volume Game of the week. The public favors the Giants and we are presently taking twice as many bets on them.

Minnesota (+2.5) at Baltimore

After winning six of its last seven, Minnesota is in contention for a wildcard spot, but they need to win tough Games against Baltimore and Chicago. Finishing at 9-7 would probably still not be enough; the NFC Conference record is the tiebreaker in most cases with 3+ teams tied for a wildcard spot. With a current NFC record of 7-4, the Vikings would be selected after Washington (8-2) and Tampa Bay/Carolina (both at 7-3).

We initially opened this Game at Minnesota -1 -112. The sharps were unanimous in backing Baltimore even before the Monday night 48-3 blowout of the Packers. The sharps mostly got their bets in on Baltimore as a small dog, playing the Ravens down to -1 -114. After the Monday Night Game the public followed the sharps, driving the price up to Baltimore -2.5 -113. We have accepted three bets on Baltimore for every one on Minnesota.