The Monday following the final week of the college football season is one of the busiest and frustrating days for oddsmakers.
Not only are they called upon to produce spreads and totals for 35 bowl games in a hurry but they also have to decipher how teams will play weeks removed from their last outing. Notre Dame, which faces Alabama in the BCS Championship on Jan. 7, must wait 45 days between games.
“What’s tough for us is the long waiting period,” Peter Korner, founder of the Nevada-based odds service The Sports Club, told Covers. “It can really dull the numbers.”
“You don’t know which team you’re going to get out there,” he says. “It’s a totally different game when you wait five weeks to play. I think you’d get a completely different outcome if these games were played right now.”
We picked Korner’s brain about the toughest games, the widest spreads, the closest contests and the highest totals on the bowl season board:
Toughest line to set
Pinstripe Bowl: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Syracuse Orange (+4, 67)
Korner says his guys had WVU anywhere between -1 and -7 for this matchup at Yankee Stadium on Dec. 29.
“We put this one right in the middle,” Korner told Covers. “You have one team playing really well in Syracuse and another that has played tougher competition, in West Virginia. There’s nothing really motivating either side, which makes it tough.”
Music City Bowl: North Carolina State vs. Vanderbilt Commodores (-6.5, 52)
Korner says his oddsmakers had Vanderbilt between -2 and -8 but eventually settled with -4.5 because of the Commodores’ strength of schedule.
“There are no real motivational factors but there is a difference in schedules played,” he says. “Vandy would have the edge with an SEC schedule and in situations like this, we tend to lean towards the SEC and that’s why Vandy is giving a handful of points.”
Heart of Dallas Bowl: Purdue Boilermakers vs. Oklahoma State Cowboys (-17.5, 69)
The Boilermakers are the biggest dogs on the bowl season board, and Korner says this spread could have easily been higher.
“The Big Ten didn’t have an up year football wise,” he says. “We had this one as high as -20 (OSU). It seems like a ridiculous number for a bowl game but this is a wasted game, we could really see how high we could go.”
Korner says the big spread will draw some action on the underdog and wouldn’t be surprised if it came down before kickoff on New Year’s Day.
GoDaddy.com Bowl: Arkansas State Red Wolves vs. Kent State Golden Flashes (Pick, 62)
This game is the bring-down bowl before the BCS Championship, the same thing as a ho-hum band going on before the headliner. A battle of MAC versus Sun Belt may come down to which program can stay focused with such a long layoff between action.
“Three of us had this at pick,” says Korner. “That one is very, very close.”
The spread for the GoDaddy.com Bowl has been bet all the way up to as high as Arkansas State -5 as of Tuesday morning.
Fiesta Bowl: Kansas State Wildcats vs. Oregon Ducks (-9, 82)
Two offensive juggernauts collide in this BCS bowl, prompting one of the highest totals of the college football season. Korner says the long layoff could hurt the timing off both potent passing games, which rank among the top 10 in points scored this season.
“These lightning-quick, pass-heavy offenses don’t play for all this time,” says Korner. “You saw a high total last week (Baylor-Oklahoma State) go up to 87 and 88 points. I don’t think that happens with this one. If could come down before then.”
Sportsbooks are playing it cool with the total for the Fiesta Bowl, opening the number at 77 points. That number has been bet down to 76.5 at some markets.
Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl: TCU Horned Frogs vs. Michigan State Spartans (-1, 42)
Two teams, known more for their defense this season, collide in Sun Devils Stadium for what should be a low-scoring affair, according to the 42-point total – the lowest on the bowl season schedule.
“We probably could have gone lower,” says Korner. “We’ve seen nothing explosive on offense from either team. It wasn’t a very tough total for us to make. We all had something in the 40’s.”
Books posted a 41.5-point total for the Buffalo Wild Wings bowl.