Editor's Note: Steve Makinen and hist StatFox crew have offered up their expert insight this bowl season with their College Football Bowl Blast. Below is a snapshot of the 81-page Tip Sheet that provides instant analysis on all 35 bowl games. If you're serious about making money this bowl season, then be sure to invest in this guide. Click here!
I am convinced that players and coaches know the point-spreads in their bowl games. I am NOT convinced however that they follow line moves like professional bettors too. As they say, things like this are best left for the pro's. I also inferred earlier that it is impossible to quantify the distractions a team faces in its bowl preparations. Perhaps line movements are the best and only way to even think about doing it. Therefore, while I wouldn't actually consider a line moving a lot in a bowl game a motivating factor for a team, the move itself should stand as a red flag for you when wondering if some unusual situation might be "distracting" a team.
In general, oddsmakers are sharp enough at this point in the season to set lines that stay steady over the month-long period of bowl games. In fact, only 19 of about 525 bowl games over the last 20 years have seen line moves of greater than 4-points from their opening number. That is just one of every 33 games on average, so if we're lucky, we will see one or two this year.
I use the word "lucky" because the experts are basically paving the road to bowl winnings by telling you which team to bet on. As I just mentioned, 19 games over the last 20 bowl seasons have seen line movements of more than 4-points. Here is the trend:
In bowl games between 1992-2012 that had closing lines more than four points off of their opening line, the team that the line moved towards is 12-6-1 ATS.
In most cases, line moves of this big are typically caused by some distracting factor, such as a coaching change, suspension, or injury, and rarely due to a "miss" by oddsmakers. In short, with a 66.7% ATS success rate, let the experts interpret the impact that the distraction.
It is generally accepted, most early betting action during the regular season is done by sharps, either finding a number they believe is soft or working to influence situations they can later take advantage of. With essentially five weeks from the initial numbers are released until a BCS champion is crowned, the majority of the most knowledgeable sports bettors lets the market settle before making determinations. Here is our first look at how the sports betting marketplace has evolved.
(209) EAST CAROLINA vs. (210) UL-LAYFAYETTE: Despite both teams sporting an 8-4 record and having fairly similar statistics, Louisiana- Lafayette has been elevated from a 4.5 to 6-point favorite. The first aspect you thing about in the initial line is the oddsmakers perception of the Sun Belt versus Conference USA. This was arguably the strongest SBC season top to bottom with excellent quarterback play. Another factor is the strong showing of Cajuns fans in New Orleans which gave Lafayette an edge. ULL is 11-3 ATS in road turf games.
(213) SMU vs. (214) FRESNO STATE: First-year coach Tim DeRuyter promised a new attitude in raisin country and Fresno State played with renewed enthusiasm in securing nine victories and a distinguished 11-1 spread record. The Bulldogs are the superior team, while SMU's .500 record befits a club which was inconsistent all season, making them unreliable to follow. Fresno State was released at -10.5 and jumped to -12.5 as favorites. Besides the statistical edges, football bettors also understand the Mustangs are 1-4 SU and ATS away from home.
(221) BAYLOR vs. (222) UCLA: UCLA opened as a two-point favorite at many wagering outlets and have come back to a Pick versus Baylor. Why the switch? It has to be the Bears uncovered a potent running game in the last part of the season, which averaged 298 YPG in Baylor's last five contests (4-1 and 5-0 ATS). This helped keep one the worst defensive units in the country off the field by chewing up more clock and kept them fresher.
BUFFALO WILD WINGS
(237) TCU vs. (238) MICHIGAN STATE: The college football bettors have spoken and they are thinking "DEE-FENCE" for the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl. Both these squads have gone through their offensive issues in various forms and relied on their defenses to at least keep them competitive, if not as successful as they would have preferred. The total of 43 has fallen like the temperature on an Arizona winter evening to 41 or lower. Michigan State is 9-2-1 UNDER in 2012.
(241) GEORGIA TECH vs. (242) USC: This bowl battle has two disappointed participants who thought they would be at warmer locales. Both Georgia Tech's and USC's defense did not play close to expectations and the offenses either fumbled too frequently or threw the pigskin to the wrong colored jersey. Those betting on football seem to believe the turnovers will deter, not enhance the scoring and sent the total form 66 to 64. These squads are a combined 15-0 OVER when both score and allow 28 or more points since last year.
(251) MICHIGAN vs. (252) SOUTH CAROLINA: Whether it's the power of the SEC or the weakness of the Big Ten, South Carolina bolted from -3.5 to -5 over Michigan. The Gamecocks are equipped defensively to hold the Wolverines in check. Statistically speaking, the two teams are similar if their leagues were not. Each squad really fell off offensively on the road and Michigan has to find ways to complete passes, since they are 0-7 ATS away when they gain 150 to 200 passing yards.
(253) NEBRASKA vs. (254) GEORGIA: In the conflict of conference championship losers, points are presumed to reign. The total in this Big Ten/SEC confrontation has seen the total spike like a credit card bill this time of year from 57-60.5. Both offenses score in the mid- 30's and have every reason to dig into the bag of gadgets from the coaching perspective, to help their teams overcome their previous setbacks and enjoy the bowl experience. If the weather is good, it should be a shootout in Orlando.