Wiz of Odds: Capping motivation key to betting bowl games

Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.

It’s bowl season, and that can only mean one thing — it’s time to run up the bankroll!
 
Now I’m not going to rattle off all the winners in this column. You’ll have to wait for that classified information at a later date. But I want to present general guidelines on how to become a pigskin profit in the postseason.
 
The first rule is to identify teams that do not want to be in the postseason. That might sound a little fishy because coaches, administrators, recruiting analysts, bowl officials and nearly everyone else profiting off this scam of a system will tell you all the benefits of playing in a bowl game. Simply not true.
 
Sometimes the unpaid employees in this con game — the players — really don’t give a darn. They are the ones who have to strap on the gear one last time whether they want to or not. Often times they have other things on their minds.
 
Take, for example, the bowl game in Boise. Nearly every year one of the participating teams has absolutely no interest in spending the holidays locked up in a hotel room in snowy and cold Boise.
 
I often think back to the 2006 game between the Hurricanes of Miami and Wolf Pack of Nevada. Miami earlier had fired Larry Coker as coach, but for some reason, he stuck around to guide the team one last time.
 
Think about it. Where would you rather be in December of any year — Boise or Miami, soaking up the sun under a palm tree and hanging with your homies?
 
Athletically, Nevada never stood a chance, but the Wolf Pack nearly pulled off the biggest victory in team history, losing 21-20. Nevada had a first down at the Miami 36 in the final minute, but the Hurricanes intercepted a pass to secure the victory. Nonetheless, it was an easy cover for the 3.5-point underdog Wolf Pack.
 
This year’s Boise bowl features Ohio vs. Utah State. It didn’t take long for the Boise bashing to begin. Ohio punter Paul Hershey tweeted, “Idaho?? Who the (bleep) wants to play there in December?”
 
A writer at the Idaho Statesman newspaper re-tweeted Hershey’s missive, which resulted in every Idahoan rushing to their computer or smart phone to send the punter a nasty message. Hershey tried to smooth things over, sending out one tweet that said: “I’m getting a lot of hate for my tweet on the bowl bid. Punters don’t like the cold. That’s all I’m sayin.”
 
But it ended up being too much for Hershey, who eventually removed his account from twitter altogether.
 
Hershey’s chances of getting the key to the city are the same as his chances of being named the game’s most valuable punter — zero.
 
Two other factors in the postseason are academics and suspensions. Key players will be academic casualties and others will do something stupid and get suspended.
 
This usually isn’t revealed until the team arrives at the bowl site and is a reason I hold off on picking a side until a day or two beforehand. For whatever reason, I’ve always been on the wrong side when a suspension is announced.
 
Then there is the issue of a coach being fired or leaving for another job. Let’s tackle the firing business first.
 
I mentioned the Coker firing in 2006. Last season, Pittsburgh sent Dave Wannstedt on his way, but he was allowed to coach the bowl game against Kentucky. The team responded with a convincing 27-10 spread-covering victory.
 
Every situation is different so you need to tap into local media reports and get a gist for how players are responding to the departure of a coach.
 
As for a coach taking another job but hanging around to guide his soon-to-be-former team in a bowl game, it’s usually a great time to load up on the opponent.
 
Who can forget Mike Price hanging around to coach Washington State against Oklahoma in the 2003 Rose Bowl. Price had agreed to become Alabama’s coach in the weeks leading to the game, but negotiated to be on the Cougar sideline one last time. It failed miserably, as Oklahoma face-planted Washington State, 34-14.
 
Now this season’s dilemma: the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco features Illinois and UCLA, with the unique situation of both teams already having fired their coaches. Let me get back to you on this one.
 
You can follow The Wiz of Odds on Twitter @JayChristensen.

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