Jay Christensen covered college football, among other sports, for the Los Angeles Times and produces the popular college football blog TheWizofOdds.com.
Nothing can match the end of the year.
If you’re one of the fortunate to still be employed in these tough times, chances are you’ll be enjoying a sizable chunk of time away from work. There will be gatherings with family and friends and your caloric intake is likely to increase substantially. Really let yourself go and the New Year will include a shopping spree to buy new clothes because the old ones suddenly don’t fit.
But let’s not dwell on the negative.
Saturday marks the start of the college football bowl season, with 34 games in 19 glorious days.
It’s the opportunity to put all that knowledge gained from the season to good use, right from the comfort of your couch.
There are twists and turns, but to help navigate this minefield, I sought the sage advice of Covers Experts’ Ted Sevransky.
“I don’t have a lot of overall system trends and angles that I look for,” he said. “Instead, I try and concentrate on each individual matchup.
“When it comes to conference play versus non-conference play, I certainly factor in conference stats a lot more than non-conference stats. But you don’t want to penalize a team when they step up in class. You certainly want to look at their stats when they played another bowl team.
“Of course, that comes with a caveat. Sometimes you’ll find a team that has played Florida, LSU and Ole Miss and now they’re playing Middle Tennessee.”
Since 2006, no Bowl Championship Series league can match the Southeastern Conference’s record against the spread. SEC teams have gone 19-7 ATS, with the Pac-10 second at 10-6-1. Then comes the Big East at 8-7-1.
The Atlantic Coast (11-13-2), Big Ten (10-12) and Big 12 (7-16) have been postseason losers.
As for the non-BCS leagues, Western Athletic Conference teams have gone 7-6 ATS and the Mountain West 7-7. Other records: Conference USA (8-9), Mid-American (3-9), Sun Belt (3-2) and Independents (3-2).
Sevransky says he puts little emphasis on strength of a league, even if a conference’s lesser teams get off to an impressive start in the postseason.
“I might regard that as a secondary factor, but it’s not going to be my primary reason for betting one team in a bowl game,” he said.
“The first thing you got to look at is motivation. And that means really looking at it. Not just saying, ‘Well, they should be excited.’ I mean going and reading the articles and making the contacts and finding out whether a team is actually excited about where they’re going. That factors above all.”
Last year, Florida State suspended 36 players involved in an academic cheating scandal only nine days before the Music City Bowl. The line moved as much as 10 points, and those who backed the Seminoles early had to wager on Kentucky late to cut their losses.
Still, Sevransky says it’s best to place a wager early.
“One of the biggest differences between a professional bettor and an amateur gambler is the amateur is much more likely to make a bet the day of the game,” he said. “The pro is going to have his money down from the beginning. If somebody gets suspended from one team or two teams, so be it.
“It’s not like every team is going to lose 20 guys to suspension or something horrible is going to happen like Florida State last year and the line is going to move a touchdown. If it does, a good bettor will be able to get off that bet in time hopefully. If you’re serious about betting, you have to bet when the numbers open because you’re going to miss opportunities that aren’t going to be there later on.”
As for value in the postseason, Sevranksy said it’s best to look at the minor bowls.
“A game like Southern Mississippi versus Middle Tennessee State, it doesn’t juice up anybody, but it juices me up. I think that’s a great matchup. I don’t know how I’m going to bet it. Maybe I’m going to bet the over.
“Games like that, the general public doesn’t get. But if you’ve been watching football and following these conferences all year, it’s a good matchup.
“That national championship game, that’s hard. That’s a hard game. That’s not an easy game. Whoever you’re betting against, you’re betting against a darn good football team. But in some of these bowl games, not so much. I’ll guarantee you that there will be 15 or 20 bowl games that I’ll have as much or more money on than the national championship game.”