When it comes to betting on college football, we can pretty much break the season down into four phases.
*Phase One: September
The first month of the season gives gamblers an opportunity to assess their homework from the preseason and get a handle on who's who. Teams offer hints as to who might be overrated/underrated and how handicappers can tweak their evaluations accordingly.
*Phase Two: October
The second month of the season is generally the purest for betting. The unknowns from the preseason are out in the open, and we've seen enough from teams to get a solid handle on them.
*Phase Three: November/Early December
Motivation becomes a bigger factor as the year wears on. Teams that are playing for BCS consideration or conference titles might play with a little more fire. Also, young teams normally start rounding into form, while first-year coaches have had enough time to fully implement their schemes.
*Phase Four: Bowl Season
So here we are.
Bowls are bizarre animals. They're kind of like exhibitions, although they do count for something. They're kind of like a championship game, although winning them isn't nearly that big of a deal. Some players prepare for the games like their lives depended on it; others set up camp at strip clubs.
Ultimately, knowing who wants to play in these games and who's there for the party makes many of these crapshoots. However, if you really study the match-ups, you can find good angles. With that in mind, here are CBR's five favorite bets this bowl season.
1. Gildan New Mexico Bowl: Temple Owls (-7) vs. Wyoming Cowboys
Why not start with the very first of the 35 bowls to be played over the next 14 weeks?
You can normally count on rookie head coaches to have their teams juiced for a bowl game, which is a check for the Owls.
More importantly, Temple also runs the ball well, ranking seventh nationally in rushing yards per game. Bad news for Wyoming, which is 115th in the nation in run defense.
Pick: Temple runs away with it.
2. Insight Bowl: Iowa Hawkeyes (+14) vs. Oklahoma Sooners
Here's a pick as much against my beloved Sooners more so than for Iowa. For a team like OU with national championship aspirations, the Insight Bowl doesn't really fit the bill. In other words, the chances of a no-show performance by OU aren't bad.
Also, the Sooners have suffered greatly at the hands of the injury bug. Now the missing in action will include Jaz Reynolds, the team's No. 2 receiver, and Brandon Williams, who's transferring.
Pick: Two TDs looks like a gift.
3. Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas: Northwestern Wildcats (+10) vs. Texas A&M Aggies
A&M has a new coaching staff coming in to replace Mike Sherman's regime. Think that makes for a good couple weeks of bowl game prep?
The Wildcats live for these games. NU sucked for so long that just getting to a bowl game gives the school celebrate. That kind of enthusiasm shows through in their performances – Northwestern is 3-0 against the spread in bowl games under Pat Fitzgerald, despite losing all three games straight up.
Pick: How about another cover in a losing effort for the 'Cats?
4. New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Rutgers Scarlet Knights (-1.5) vs. Iowa State Cyclones
For Rutgers, bowling in the Big Apple means a short trip up the turnpike to a city the Scarlet Knights see on the regular. The Cyclones are coming across the country. The majority of ISU players have likely never even seen NYC.
Who's going to be more focused?
The Cyclones finished the season on a nice run, covering their final three games, including a win straight up over Oklahoma State. The long layoff actually hurts the 'Clones in that respect.
Pick: Rutgers covers in familiar territory.
5. Tostitos Fiesta Bowl: Oklahoma State Cowboys (-3.5) vs. Stanford Cardinal
With the Pokes getting snubbed from the BCS championship, the potential for a letdown definitely exists. However, programs making their first appearance in a major bowl usually come to play, so motivation shouldn't be an issue for OSU. Cowboy faithful will likely own the crowd, too.
Stanford has struggled with teams like USC and Oregon that have speed and athleticism at the skill positions. The Cardinal will try to punish OSU with their physical running game, but they lack the explosiveness outside to make the Pokes pay for crowding the box, or at least make them pay often enough.
Pick: OSU comfortably.
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