Colleges now about motivation

Nov 15, 2005 12:54 AM

The college football season is winding down and this is the time of year when some teams are more emotionally charged up, while others have packed it in. This is something for sports bettors to note.

Some teams are fighting for conference championships, possible bowl berths or engaged in battles with heated rivals. This weekend we have rivals Oklahoma and Texas Tech, Penn State at Michigan State, Alabama at Auburn, and Virginia Tech at Virginia.

Sometimes teams that have poor records this late in the season will not show up to play, or they can decide to take out some frustration against a big rival. Sometimes one game late in the season will be a team’s bowl game, in a sense. Sports bettors need to look carefully on where a team’s focus and interest lies. Will it be the gridiron or on Thanksgiving turkey?

One of the interesting late games Saturday will be Fresno State at USC. The Bulldogs will have eight days to prepare after a WAC showdown last week with Boise State. There really isn’t a lot of recent precedent with Fresno as far as taking on the No. 1 team late in the season. Fresno did play at Oregon of the Pac 10 earlier in the season, losing 37-34, with 418 passing yards! USC also played at Oregon and won 45-13 as a 19-point favorite after falling behind early 13-0.

Do you remember back in the 2001 season when USC hosted San Jose State of the WAC? You probably don’t, and will be even more shocked to discover that USC won that game 21-10 as a 15-point favorite. Sometimes teams can get so fired up emotionally for a homecoming or rivalry game, that they have nothing left the next game. That’s why it’s going to be worth watching the emotional state of Fresno after the showdown with Boise.

It can work the other way, too: Teams that lose a big showdown can come back with fire. This has happened to Texas the last six years. Mack Brown’s teams often struggled against rival Oklahoma, yet Texas went 21-7-2 against the spread from 2000-04 the rest of the regular season after losing to Oklahoma. Losing to the Sooners was a sore spot for Brown, so it was no surprise that last month the Longhorns reveled in running it up on Oklahoma in a 45-12 rout.

Other times, teams can be flat after a big win or a tough loss. This has been evident at Purdue the last two years. In 2004, the Boilermakers had a sizzling 5-0 start with a red-hot offense that turned it into the kind of public team that bettors love to back. But along came a crushing 20-17 loss at home to Wisconsin, blowing a late lead. That defeat, combined with injuries, caused the Boilermakers to go 1-3-1 ATS. This season, Purdue started 2-0 before a crushing loss to Minnesota started them on a 6-game skid.

Another factor this time of year is whether teams are interested in playing hard or packing in the season? Handicappers utilize this angle as the season winds down. A good handicapper keeps tabs on all the possibilities and motivations this time of the season.