College Football Bowl Betting Strategy
Motivation in the Minor Bowl Games
When college football players show up for spring practice, they’re dreaming about playing for the National Championship in January – or at the very least, a trip to the Rose Bowl or one of the other traditional big games. Nobody dreams about playing in the Las Vegas Bowl. But after a long and grueling FBS regular season, most players on qualifying teams will have to settle for a minor bowl game.
At least they get to play.
That’s motivation enough for some programs. Many of the teams we’ll see in December are happy to be there, having entered the 2016 campaign with low expectations. However, for those who had visions of reaching the College Football Playoff, a minor bowl game isn’t much consolation. Identifying and fading those teams should be a top bowl betting strategy when you’re betting on college football.
Take the aforementioned Las Vegas Bowl as an example. The Houston Cougars (9-3 SU, 5-7 ATS) are 3-point favorites against the San Diego State Aztecs (10-3 SU, 6-6-1 ATS), but the Cougars had much higher hopes for 2016. They were No. 15 in the preseason rankings, and vaulted to No. 6 after upsetting Oklahoma (–13) 33-23 in Week 1. Navy and SMU dashed Houston’s championship dreams in October after road losses when favored by +16.5 and +23.
The Aztecs were hoping for bigger things, too, but they won’t be lacking motivation in Las Vegas. San Diego started the year outside the preseason rankings and briefly cracked the Top 25 here and there before eventually winning the Mountain West title. Now they have their sights set on showcasing RB Donnel Pumphrey, who could finish on top of the FBS in all-purpose yardage with a big game on December 17 (3:30 PM ET, ABC).
This is the kind of scenario sharp bettors love to see. The under-motivated Cougars are small favorites, as well, and casual fans tend to put too much stock in the favorites during these December bowl games. There’s every chance the line will move to San Diego +3.5 before kick-off, giving Aztec supporters a valuable half-point in what figures to be a close contest on paper.
The Las Vegas Bowl isn’t the only matchup where motivation will play an outsize role. Before you place your bets this year, take the time to consider how each team made it to the postseason, what their goals were going in, and whether you can expect them to give it the old college try.