Well, that was ugly, wasn't it?
Last week, in Bowl Betting Bonanza I, I laid out four factors that wiseguys think about most when betting on the bowls. At the top of the list was motivation, in all of its forms. Is a team happy to be at the bowl it's playing in? Or is it sad? Does it feel it is playing for a coach who is on the way out? Or is it playing in spite of a coach who is on the way out? "What has worked for me year after year is finding out which team wants to be there and betting on those teams while finding out which teams could care less and fading those teams," says Sal Selvaggio of madduxsports.com.
All of these small mental hurdles are supposed to have an impact on every moment of bowl preparation, affecting the way players practice, study playbooks and generally think about their playoff game. And yet, at least in the first round of games broken down in BBBI, it didn't play out as expected. Utah State? Certainly thought they would be motivated. "This squad has won five in a row and is returning to the postseason for the first time since 1997," Brian Edwards told us in BBBI. "The Bobcats, meanwhile, have to fly out West into a different time zone while still suffering a hangover from the loss to NIU. Therefore, Utah State clearly has the motivation/location advantages."
I love Brian. He is usually spot-on. And this was a bad beat, as he had Utah State covering the 1.5-point spread only to lose the game and the cover on a last-minute drive by Ohio. Meanwhile, he pinpointed that Louisiana-Lafayette would be super-motivated to play in a bowl for the first time in school history, but went against that factor to pick the more athletic San Diego State minus-5 in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Turns out motivation was the primary reason the Ragin' Cajuns stayed in the game.
The point is that it's never one thing that determines which way you should go in a game. The key is finding the right mix from the buffet of factors that wiseguys are thinking about.
So, in addition to the four factors Kenny White laid out in BBBI, I am adding two more -- Nos. 5 and 6 -- to BBBII:
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."
5. Throw away any games against non-bowl competition. "What you want to do is see how a team stepped up in class," Vegas vet Bryan Leonard says.
6. Emphasize a team's road performance over its home performance.
For the BBBII breakdown I asked Selvaggio to give me his breakdown for the bowls taking place between Thursday and next Wednesday. He added one more thought that isn't listed above: "Just like the regular season, I also like to play dogs getting a field goal or more that have good rushing attacks."