Betting on the college games

Making correct picks in college football bowl games can sometimes become difficult. Here are some strategies to use when making bowl game wagers.

• Determine which teams are happy to be in their respective bowl games. Some teams have something to prove and will be more emotionally motivated than their opponents. However, if a school is in a lesser bowl than it feels it should be in, or if it must travel to an unwanted place, it is less likely to play one of its better games.

• Any home-field advantage can be a good reason to be very happy about a bowl game. If no home-field edge exists, lean towards picking the club that plays stronger on the road.

• Bet on the teams with the better head coaches. Given a month to prepare, certain coaches will have their squads more ready for victory. Seldom should anyone wager on teams that are being run by assistants or lame duck coaches who are moving on to other schools. On the other hand, if a coach has announced his retirement, players tend to battle harder for him.

• Keep track of any major injuries and suspensions. Some teams might be weaker than they were a month ago, and some teams needed the month off to nurse their injuries and get healthy again.

• Try to pick teams with strong senior leadership. Some of the students will be playing in their final collegiate game, or final football game ever, and they would like to go out with a bang, not a loss. If key players such as the starting quarterback are entering the NFL draft and they are strong leaders, that typically is a positive motivational factor for the entire team.

• Locate and examine any offensive and defensive statistics you can, to help pinpoint mismatches. A team's strength on offense could be the opponent's weakness on defense, and vice versa.

• Pick teams from stronger conferences over those from weaker ones. Keep in mind, though, that a champion from a weaker conference often can be better than a middle-of-the-pack team from a stronger league, so be selective.

• Consider bowl experience and history. Certain schools have made a habit out of winning bowl games, and some have not. The longer the current coach has been in charge, the more accurate these statistics become.

Now, let's take a look at the bowl games being played before next Friday:

Fort Worth - Kansas has not won away from home all season. The pick here is to take Houston on the money line in Texas.

Hawaii - The bet is on Nevada -2 1/2 of course, and Over 63.

Motor City - Considering Toledo whipped UTEP in Wednesday's GMAC Bowl, and that these teams come from the same conferences, one would think that Akron +6 is a good bet. But the Zips didn't play a single bowl team this season. The pick is Over 48.

Champs Sports - After being outscored 130-22 in his last three games, Colorado head coach Gary Barnett was fired. The choice is Clemson -10.

Insight - Arizona State is an 11-point favorite because it is playing close to home and possesses the No. 4 ranked offense in the nation. The problem with the Sun Devils is that their defense is the second-worst of all the bowl teams. Prediction: Rutgers +11 and Over 63.

MPC Computers - We should know never to bet against Boston College this time of year, as the Eagles have won five straight bowl games. Yes, Boise State will be playing on its home blue turf, but lame duck Bronco head coach Dan Hawkins has been busy recruiting players for his next team at Colorado. The choice is Boston College -1.

Alamo - When in doubt betting on bowl games, take the Over. Prediction: Michigan and Nebraska Over 46 1/2.

Emerald - Defensive-minded Georgia Tech had a better record and much tougher schedule than Utah. The bet is with Georgia Tech -8.

Holiday - Until recently, the PAC-10 always had a representative in the Rose Bowl. Now it seems that the PAC-10 runner-up plays in the "Hose Bowl."

Last year California was snubbed by the BCS and proceeded to lose to Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl. Now Oregon is the disappointed team coming in. Going with Oklahoma on the money line.


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