There’s a pretty darn good chance that if you read my stuff and also check out the site on a regular basis that you’ll be participating in a college football bowl pool.
These have changed significantly over the years while remaining very much the same. What I mean is that some are still your basic ‘circle the winner’ pool while others have evolved into rating a bowl’s strength versus other bowls.
Because I’m kind of an old school guy I like just picking winners but I also like playing the spreads too. The latter is where you have to be very careful. If you are playing the spreads in college bowl games then you have a lot of work to do.
You can’t just look at the BCS Title game for example and automatically decide you love or hate the 8.5 point spread favoring Florida State. As with any game, there are factors that need to be considered, but bowl games are unique because of a number of ‘other’ factors that play in to them as well.
First and foremost, you must take into account in each and every bowl game the coaching situation. Every year we see mid-major teams that have great seasons make it to bowl games. The problem? Quite often those coaches are scooped up by bigger schools.
Think Cincinnati’s Brian Kelly to Notre Dame or San Diego State’s Brady Hoke to Michigan. This season we already have Mid-American Conference Champion Bowling Green heading into their bowl game in Detroit without head coach Dave Clawson.
Clawson has taken the opportunity to become head coach at Wake Forest, thus leaving his Falcons’ team with an interim coach. Do your due diligence and look back at bowl games where coaches have left their teams to see how they’ve done without them.
Another factor to consider is awards season. You might be surprised to know that more often than not, if the Heisman Trophy winner plays in the BCS Title game his team loses. That trend goes back to even before the BCS.
This year most think Florida State’s Jameis Winston will win the prize. As you know his Seminoles are playing for the title against Auburn.
A third factor to consider is the fan base. While I don’t put as much credence into this one as much anymore, I still take it into account. Take this year’s Orange Bowl match-up for instance. Common sense thought tells you that Clemson being so much closer to Miami geographically than Ohio State will have a larger crowd.
Not so fast my friend… Few teams travel as well as the Buckeyes. Last week at their Big Ten Title game they outnumbered Michigan State fans by a huge margin. Speaking of the Spartans, I expect the green and white to heavily outnumber the Cardinal of Stanford despite proximity. Remember the Spartans haven’t played in this game since the 1987 season.
One final thing to consider that is unique to bowl games is ‘player situation.’ I call it that because it’s pretty broad. Basically, pay close attention to players who have been suspended (see Oregon snowball fight), who are planning to go pro or who have had issues off the field throughout the season or their careers.
All three of those factors can have an undecided bearing on the success of the teams they play for.
The bottom line is that the bowls are unique and they’ll require a little more attention than the usual college football game.