"What a joke!" "Do your experts even watch the games?" "You are pathetic!"
The reviews are in, people, and you are not happy with the Bowl Betting Bonanza this season. Nor should you be. It's been crap. A steaming pile of it, the worst in its three-year history. I'm embarrassed, the experts should be embarrassed and, most of all, the teams they have been picking should be embarrassed. Where is the freaking effort, Iowa? How about you, Virginia? Granted, there have been a couple of tough beats in there: The experts had Washington at plus-9.5 (the Huskies lost by 11). And Nevada at plus-6.5 (it lost by seven). But mostly, they have just been flat wrong (Vandy minus-1.5 in a seven-point loss to Cincy? ASU plus-14 in a 32-point loss to Boise? UNC plus-5 in a 17-point loss to Mizzou? Really?)
But in the new year I am trying to teach my kids to finish what they start, so the BBB will soldier on, even though getting up to write this intro on Jan. 1 is every bit as painful as you could imagine.
As it stands, the BBB experts have gone 5-13 against the spread (they passed on five games) with 12 more games to go (two games, Ohio State-Florida and Nebraska-South Carolina, aren't included, which should make you happy -- means two fewer chances to lose money). Yes, the wiseguys need a miracle to reach .500. But it would be nice if they at least saved face. The victims offering their insights in BBBIV are: Bryan Leonard, Teddy Covers and VegasRunner. Godspeed to them all.
As we have in the first three versions, I am laying out the factors wiseguys generally lean on when handicapping bowl games. Vegas vet Kenny White laid out the first four in BBBI. I listed two more in BBBII and added one more in BBBIII. The final factor is included in BBBIV, at No. 8 below.
1. How a team ended the regular season: "Were they on a run to make the bowl, or did they lose a lot?" White says.
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," White says.
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," White says.
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," White says.
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," White says. "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," Leonard says.
6. Emphasize a team's road performance over its home performance.
7. Consider how the conference is doing in bowls.8. Strength of schedule matters. "Sometimes there is no other way to tell the difference between two teams with identical records," VegasRunner says.