College football bowl season is one of my favorite group of events to bet on throughout the entire season. There are a lot of differences between these bowl games and betting on regular-season football games, and I think that these differences are relatively underrated.
Let’s get into things to look for during bowl season to make you a big winner.
Only Attack What You Know
A few years ago, we started to see a trend where top-end draft picks would sit out a bowl game if it was not in the College Football Playoff to avoid injury risk before the draft. Projecting this can be difficult at times, and I would suggest avoiding betting these games until you think that you have a feeling for who will or will not sit.
On the other side of the coin, when this news does break, you can often take advantage of this news early before your bookie moves the line too much.
If you love a betting line early when bowls are announced, I do not mind jumping on the line before the news simply because the line can move more without any news right away. If you do not get into these spreads within the first 24 hours, I would likely avoid them until you get breaking news or just before the game starts.
If you want to get a little frisky, you can attack bowl lines quickly in anticipation of this news, but I would only do this if you tend to like the line anyways. Don’t get stuck chasing imaginary news, but you can attack situations that you already like,
I would just understand which teams have first- and second-round talents before bowls are even announced, and you can jump on the other sides of these teams if that is the side you want, and you like the line. There will be multiple matchups each year where one team has a player or two that could sit, and the other team doesn’t really have anyone of that caliber.
Taking advantage of a few of these spots can easily get you four to seven points depending on the players sitting, particularly quarterbacks.
Motivation is incredibly unpredictable when discussing 18- to 22-year-olds playing college football, but that doesn’t mean that you should not factor it in. Identifying motivation is not easy, and I would generally try to listen to reports and interviews surrounding the team if you are looking to find motivation.
It’s not easy to find motivation, but the things that I would generally look for is potential coaching changes, any sort of emotional team event that has occurred, or a large/impactful senior class that is leaving. While these things are not easy to identify, the biggest difficulty is identifying what this motivation will do to a team leading into the game.
A large and impactful senior class is generally easy to identify, and there is basically no downside to this angle. I generally like taking senior-laden teams in bowl games simply because we know that they are going to show up.
Coaching changes are the most conflicting and debatable situations to monitor leading into these games, and this is where the coach/player speak really tells a lot about a team’s mindset. If you can find the team talking about the move a lot, I would generally take that as a good thing, but you will still have to use your judgment in evaluating this concept.
Understand the Bowl Dynamics
Every bowl game is different, and every bowl setting is a little different than regular-season games, with the longer travel times and the events leading up to the bowl. This doesn’t even account for going into different environments for teams, both good and bad.
Weather makes a huge impact on games all over the country, but this changes from week to week and year to year. I have found that particularly when there is a lot of bad conditions throughout the country or for a particular region, we can find the offense to be undervalued or the defense to be overrated because they have played multiple weeks in 35 degrees and windy instead of in a dome somewhere.
This also means that you need to identify teams’ strengths and weaknesses that may be exploited or helped by new conditions that have not been prevalent in their last few games. This can lead to a really bad line because people look to recent results a lot when betting on these games.
There are plenty of good coaches and plenty of bad coaches in college football, and I love attacking elite football minds in bowl games because of the extra time to prepare. Some coaches are good at motivating, developing, evaluating talent, or other things that can make them a good coach without being an elite game planner.
Before you snap bet on a team because you like the line, understand the coaching matchup in the game. I want to avoid bad coaches even more than normal unless they have too many other advantages working for them.
Talent Matters Too
With extra time to prepare, teams can often find ways to get the ball to their best players more often on the offensive side of the ball while also trying to limit the other team’s best weapons at the same time. With so many bowl games in play every year, you can often find a few matchups where the talent just does not match up.
An example of this was in 2018 with Auburn vs. Purdue, where Auburn won by approximately 105,049 points in a game with a touchdown spread. Purdue drastically overperformed expectations, and its best games were with bad weather in its favor.
On the other side, Auburn was a preseason top 10 team with multiple NFL players on both sides of the ball. While Purdue probably had better results and didn’t project to get blown out, the massive talent gap was able to shine through with the great weather and the extra time to prepare.
Purdue relied heavily on one player, and the extra time allowed a talented team to focus on him heavily, while Auburn had too much talent for Purdue in a setting where the Tigers could complete 50-yard passes with ease. Identifying the motivation of Auburn in this spot was difficult, but once you knew that the best players were playing, this was a great example of a talent mismatch popping up in these bowl games relatively undetected.