Nebraska minus-14, plus more bowl lines 

December, 23, 2010

Motivation is a tricky thing to interpret. It's not like a reflection.

What makes me get up in the morning and want to succeed -- being able to pay my heating bill -- isn't necessarily what drives you, the degenerate (being able to gamble more), or Kobe Bryant (winning more rings than Jordan) or Mitch McConnell (I honestly have no idea).

But as I've spoken to more and more wiseguys during the bowl season, the one factor I hear them talk about more than any other is motivation. Forget stats or records or strength of schedule -- which are all important. When I ask someone which team they like in a game, their first response is, inevitably, "Well, what's so and so playing for?" I swear to God Lee Strasberg didn't examine Brando's motivation nearly as much.

And that's what has me thinking about how to intuit something as intangible as someone's desire to succeed. And I'm wondering, is it wise? I know it's sacrilege for me to question a theory that is steeped in years of history. Wiseguys don't pull these ideas out of the ether and then collude so they are disseminated amongst the masses. The motivation-to-win theory is tried and true in the gambling world, especially in college sports, both during the regular season and the bowl season. Now week to week, I think it makes sense to me. There are natural highs and lows during a season. But please forgive me for asking, does it make sense during the bowl season?

Teams have a month off to recuperate from injuries, coaches' slights and whatever else may ail them. That includes any disappointment they may have about playing in a lesser bowl than expected.