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Bowls keep college bettors in action!

Dec 10, 2002 7:18 AM

   With the college football season sadly coming to an end, players can at least take solace that we have a full slate of bowl games to look forward to.

   This bowl season offers a mixed bag of match-ups (so, what else is new?), capped by a so-called national championship game between Miami-Florida and Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl.

   I say “so-called” because, technically, there isn’t a national champion, as recognized by the NCAA, because there isn’t a tournament or playoff, like there is in basketball and virtually every other sport.

   Instead, the BCS stages a top game, in which the winner is crowned the “national champion,” although no such championship is ever recorded with the NCAA.

   In any case, the game opened with an early line of Miami laying 10 points, which has subsequently been bet up to 13 points.

   We’ll take a closer look at all the bowl games as they come up, but for now it’s hard to fault the line move. Miami is undoubtedly the best team in the country, and the ”˜Canes have a knack of cranking it up when it’s time to play.

   About this time of year, players will hear a constant mantra of how bowl bettors should (blindly, I suppose) take the underdog in virtually all contests.

   Let’s take a closer look at how dogs and favorites have faired the past couple of years.

   Over the past two seasons, underdogs have achieved a record of 29-16, for a respectable 64.4 percent against the spread (ATS). But that cumulative record reflects a 17-7 mark in 2000 and 12-9 in 2001.

   Those kind of numbers make it difficult to identify a hard-and-fast trend of simply playing the underdog.

   Instead, players should use their established handicapping tools, whatever they happen to be, and then factor in a team’s bowl history, if there is one.

   With that in mind, here is a glimpse at a couple of early bowl games. We’ll examine other games as they fall within our publishing week.

   North Texas vs. Cincinnati —8.5 over/under 46.5 (New Orleans Bowl): Based on flashes of play this year, the price on Cincinnati looks cheap. Remember, the Bearcats took Ohio State to the gun before losing. Plus, they may have something to prove after two dismal efforts in the last two Motor City Bowls (both losses, SU and ATS). North Texas was blown out of last year’s New Orleans Bowl. Expect more of the same this year. Cincinnati.

   Louisville vs. Marshall —2.5 over/under 60.5 (GMAC Bowl): Marshall takes its post season play seriously. The Herd has appeared in five straight bowls, and has won and covered the spread in four of them. Louisville hasn’t fared as well, losing (both SU and ATS) in three of its last four bowl appearances. This game could be a tremendous match-up between two prolific quarterbacks, Byron Leftwitch of Marshall and Dave Ragone of Louisville. With such high power passing attacks, the 60.5 point total should probably be in jeopardy, thus a bet on the OVER is in order. Given Marshall’s penchant for winning, the Herd also gets the nod.

   (Regular season: 60-42-5)