A couple of years ago I went to Vegas and met a gambler/writer named Brian Edwards. He went to Florida, walked around with a Gator beer cozy and loves the SEC. It made me realize something: The biggest hole in my sports fan résumé is college football. It's not the kind of sport you pick up a favorite just by watching games on TV. True love in college football comes from proximity to campus or your parents making you wear "Go State" onesies at tailgates or because the college you went to had an outstanding program.
Well, I grew up outside Chicago in the 1980s. The closest school to me was Northwestern, which endured an epic losing streak during my younger days. Meanwhile, my parents weren't sports fans, and then I went to Indiana. During my years there, the Hoosiers were consistently the best 6-5-1 team in the country. My buddy Matt and I may have been the only people I know who attended every IU football game during their four years at school. Never, ever, no matter how many years they play football in Bloomington, will we see a scene like this after a Hoosiers win.
Because of this glaring weakness in my résumé that has developed over the years, I have never attended a college football bowl game. And that's a shame, because with all this talk about should we keep them, should the BCS presidents ditch the BCS and should the NCAA institute a playoff, I may never get to one. More importantly, what would I do with all this Bowl Betting Bonanza information?
Betting on bowls is different from betting on games during the regular season. Some teams are happy to make a bowl; others are pissed about the bowl they made. Some teams get healthy during the time off; others lose their coach. The week-to-week circumstances that wiseguys rely on from September through November are no longer relevant.
So, for the past couple of years, during the nearly monthlong bowl season, I have offered up the multipart Bowl Betting Bonanza. It's a primer that outlines the factors that professional bettors consider when wagering on bowl games. Each column in the next several weeks will unveil new factors, delivered by Vegas veterans.
In BBB, Kenny White, who used to run the oddsmaking service Las Vegas Sports Consultants, reveals the first four:
1. How a team ended the regular season: "Were they on a run to make the bowl, or did they lose a lot?"
2. How much excitement a team will have headed into the bowl: "You're looking for a team that is thrilled to be there and looking forward to the game."
A subset of No. 2 is bowl experience, but not for the reason you think: "I'm more likely to give a team a higher ranking if it hasn't been to a bowl for a while, because that will generate excitement amongst the program and fans."
3. How much time off a team has had before the bowl: "When you are not playing, it's hard to simulate game speed. It's like driving on the highway at 30 miles per hour."
4. The weather on schools' respective campuses: "The SEC, Pac-12, even the ACC tend to do better in the bowls than the Big Ten, Big 12 and Big East. I think the warm weather has a lot to do with that. Thirty days of practice in warm weather before a bowl game helps you get a lot more done than practicing in a bubble or outside in a cold climate."
Over the next few weeks, I will unveil the BBB in three more parts. Before the BCS title game, we'll take everything we've learned from the BBB and apply it to the rematch between the Alabama Crimson Tide and LSU Tigers.