Bowl seasons come and go and each year there you’ll hear a new set of ideas or strategies on how to pick winners.  It’s no easy task.  Every season features upsets and surprising results.

What I am most interested in is finding an edge to help boost my profits in college bowl betting each year.  I’ve identified a few key aspects of bowl games to help you with you bowl handicapping this season.

Underdogs Lose Their Bite in January

Bowl games played in December have traditionally favored the underdogs against the spread.  In fact, going back to 1989, dogs are an impressive 240-195-7 ATS (55.2%).  In January, the favorites start winning again, going 135-117-3 (53.6%) over the same span.

What does this tell us?  It tells us that many of the early bowl games feature teams that even oddsmakers aren’t sure about.  This means that when bowl handicapping, the wrong team may be favored in the game, or the line is set too high.  It also tells us that the right teams are usually favored in January bowls.

These are typically the better teams in the nation. It follows that the favorites would win more often than they lose.  The kicker is that they also beat the spread more often than not. This is due to many factors, including playing on a national stage with the better talent on the field. Remember that when you’re bowl betting in January (or December).

It’s Hard to Account for Motivation

Every bowl season I see articles and hear conversations about motivation in bowl games.  “Just bet the team that wants to be there”, they say about their college bowl betting strategy.  The problem I have with this “strategy” is that there is no basis for it. There is no simple way to quantify motivation.  Are you trying to say you can account for the mental state of an entire college football team?

This makes no sense.  Let’s just think about an example.  Let’s say a team goes 10-2 in the regular season, but makes an early December bowl game against a 6-6 opponent. You could say that the 10-2 will probably lose the game. They lack the motivation to play good football against the 6-6 team, who is just happy to be there.

On the flip side, you could also say that the 10-2 is motivated. They want to show the nation that they are better than the bowl game they are playing in. The 6-6 team is just happy to be there. Considering they are likely the underdogs, their motivation is low. If you’re college bowl betting on based on this, which story do you believe?

The fact of the matter is that teams with more “motivation” don’t perform much better or worse than 50%.  As with the example above, it can go both ways in just about any situation.  The reason people continue to believe in this myth is because upsets are easier to remember.

When a great team loses to an underdog, you remember it. That’s especially true if you’re college bowl betting.  If that team wins the game and covers the spread, it’s easy to forget because that was the expected outcome.  Save yourself some time and look beyond motivational factors in bowl games.

Defenses Are More Prepared

Either defenses are more prepared or offenses are a little rusty.  Teams playing in bowl games usually have plenty of time to prepare. That extra time seems to favor the defense, at least over the past several seasons.

Since 2007, the under in all bowl games is 214-186-4 (53.5%).  Why is this? The teams have a long time to study their opponent’s offensive tendencies. This likely leads to defenses playing better on the whole in bowl games. Remember this in college bowl betting, especially if you’re looking at over/under.