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How to Handicap a College Football Bowl Game

By: AC Dinero
Date: Dec 17, 2015
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One of the questions I get at this time of year is what is the difference between handicapping a bowl game versus a regular season game? And it is a good question because there are differences. The top one is, without question, motivation. The first think I look for when looking at the bowls is who is in a game they don’t want to be and and who is. At least a quarter of the games will fit into this category. Either a team had big expectations for the season and end up playing a non-power five team early in the bowl season, or they lost their last game to their rival or championship game and aren’t playing in the game they were eying. The second thing to look at is coaching. Remember, except for the two playoff games, these are still exhibition games. But with the new system, they could be taking more importance as conference strength is a criteria of the selection committee.

How seriously they look at prior year bowl games remains to be seen. I think the non-conference schedules are more important. But there is no doubt bowl games are more important than they use to be, at least in the eyes of public perception. And the members of the committee are humans. They can’t help but notice that, especially in this era of 24 hour news cycle and social media. There are two aspects to consider when looking at coaches. The first is how seriously they take the games. Do they treat them as a reward to the season or as a regular season game. Joe Paterno always took them seriously, and therefore, his Penn St teams always played well. The second is coaching changes.

Not just head coaches, but the coordinators as well. This is the time of year where coaching jobs open, and they looked to be filled as quickly as possible in order to prepare for the recruiting season. Finally, once in a while you get a long time coach in his final game. Expect a strong effort in those games. The last thing I look at are senior laden teams. Teams that brought back a lot of starters usually play well in bowl games. I hope this helps, as there are definitely some different angles in bowl games that you do not see throughout the year.

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