Bowl season is upon us. The 2021-22 college football bowl season gets going on Dec. 17 with a matchup between Middle Tennessee and Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl. In total, 43 bowl games will be played culminating in the College Football Playoff title game on Jan. 10.
With so many games, there are a ton of options for bettors to consider. Let’s take a look at five key things to keep in mind when betting on college football bowl games.
Shop Around At Various Sportsbooks
While odds can be similar from one sportsbook to another sometimes they can vary. For example, the moneyline price on Middle Tennessee in Friday’s Bahamas Bowl is +290 on DraftKings. However, the same bet is listed at +320 odds on FanDuel. This means that a $100 bet would win $290 on DraftKings, but the same wager would win $320 on FanDuel. In this case, if you want to bet on Middle Tennessee to win, it would be more beneficial to use FanDuel, as the payout would be higher.
Point spreads can also vary depending on which sportsbook you are using. In Saturday’s Independence Bowl between UAB and BYU, the spread is slightly different from one betting platform to another. BYU is listed as 6.5-point favorite on FanDuel, but as a 7-point favorite on DraftKings. Sometimes that half a point can be huge.
Whether you are a first-time bettor or a seasoned veteran, it is recommended that you shop around to see the various odds available. This helps to ensure you are getting the best price and odds available for a maximum return.
Understand That The Lines Can Change
One thing that makes bowl game betting unique is the extended period of time that each team has to prepare. In the regular season, teams are used to playing one game each week with six or seven days between games. That is not the case for bowl games.
Each team has several weeks, and sometimes more than a month to prepare for their bowl game. A lot can happen in that time frame. Injuries, coaching changes, opt-outs, and weather forecasts are just a few of the notable changes that can affect each game’s outlook.
Because of this, the opening betting lines can sometimes look far different than the closing lines.
Some bettors prefer to take the opening lines, while some prefer to wait a bit longer to see what changes unfold. No matter your preference, this is another reason why shopping around at various sportsbooks can be beneficial.
Stay Up To Date With Injuries, Opt-Outs, And Coaching Changes
As previously mentioned, injuries, coaching changes, and opt-outs are all factors that could result in odds and lines changing for a bowl game matchup. Because of that, it’s important to know which teams are playing at full strength. Always check the injury report to see who is active and who is not playing in that particular game. Odds will often reflect if a team is losing significant star players.
Opt-outs are also something to keep an eye on. Some players choose to not participate in their team’s bowl game in order to start preparing for the NFL Draft. Perhaps the most notable player to make such an announcement thus far is Oregon DE Kayvon Thibodeaux. Considered a potential No. 1 overall pick, Thibodeaux announced earlier this month that he will forgo Oregon’s appearance in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 against Oklahoma.
Coaching changes can also impact betting on bowl games. For example, Louisiana head coach Billy Napier has accepted the same position at Florida. Napier stayed in Lafayette to coach the Rajin’ Cajuns in the Sun Belt Championship against Appalachian State, but he will not be on the sidelines this weekend for the New Orleans Bowl. New head coach Michael Desormeaux will take over those duties. Other notable bowl-bound teams to lose their head coaches include Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley (USC), and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly (LSU).
When betting on bowl games, be sure to stay up-to-date on any coaching staff changes.
Research Bowl Records For Each Head Coach
Following along with the theme of head coaches, one important trend to consider researching is the bowl records for each head coach. Some coaches know how to get their team ready for these types of games more than others.
Current head coaches who are known to have success in bowl games include Texas A&M’s Jimbo Fisher (8-2 bowl record), Utah’s Kyle Wittingham (11-3 bowl record), and Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy (10-5 bowl record). All three of those coaches are in a bowl game this season.
Before locking in your wager, take a minute or two to look into the head coaching matchup for the game you are betting on. Experience can go a long way this time of year, and researching which coach has the edge in that department is something worth doing.
Records Can Be Deceiving
Another thing that makes bowl season so great is that we get matchups between teams that might not normally happen. Teams from non-Power 5 conferences square up against more nationally-recognized teams, which makes for some very intriguing matchups.
That being said, each conference, and each team for that matter, has a certain level of competition they are used to facing. This means that while some mid-major teams have better records than the big dogs, their records alone may not tell the whole story.
One of the most glaring examples of this is seen in the Birmingham Bowl on Dec. 28 between Auburn and Houston. Auburn has a record of 6-6, while Houston has a record of 11-2. If you were blindly betting this game based on regular-season records, you would probably take Houston. However, that record can be deceiving. Auburn had the 5th-toughest schedule in the nation this season, while Houston’s strength of schedule ranked 75th. This is a major reason why despite having a much worse record than Houston, Auburn is actually favored by 3 points in this matchup.
Now, that doesn’t mean you should go bet the house on Auburn, but focusing on strength of schedule is an important factor when it comes to betting bowl games.
All in all, there are a number of factors to keep in mind when betting on college football bowl games. Take a few minutes to research some of these key topics before placing your wagers.
All odds used were available at time of publishing on Monday, December 13.