Inside the stats: Best trends and numbers for pre-New Year's bowls

Dec 12, 2013 |
For the longest time College Bowl games played before New Year’s Day were deemed minor bowls. Those played from January 1st out were the main or major bowl games.

That all changed when the Go Daddy’s and other lesser, lightweight bowl games were created to fill a need for cable television broadcasting rights.

Hence, none of the bowl games on the docket prior to New Year’s Day are considered of the heavyweight variety.  Instead they are largely populated by two classes of teams: those who suffered disturbing late losses and fell out of major bowl consideration, and those who scraped and clawed and earned a bowl bid thanks to a strong second-half effort.

Let take a look this year’s pre-New Year’s Day bowl card shapes up.  All stats are from the 2013 PLAYBOOK Bowl Stat Report.

Conference Call

Like teams and coaches, conferences too develop bowl personalities.

Our database dug deep and found these noteworthy pre-New Year’s Day conference trends.  All results are ATS dating back as far as 1980, unless noted otherwise.

ACC: 19-8 as dogs versus an opponent off a win (Miami Florida, Pittsburgh and Virginia Tech).

Big 10: 12-3-1 off back-to-back losses (Michigan and Minnesota).

Big 12:  2-8 as dogs versus .750 or greater opponent (Texas and Texas Tech)

CUSA: 10-3 as dog 7 or more off a win (Rice)

MAC: 1-7 off loss of 8 or more points (Buffalo and Northern Illinois)

MWC: 1-6 versus .800 or greater opponent (Utah State)

PAC 12: 1-11 favorite 6 or more points versus opponent off a loss (Arizona, Arizona State and Oregon)

SEC: 1-8 as a favorite of 8 or more points (Texas A&M)

Second-Half Ups and Downs

The pre-New Year’s Day bowl team whose second half overall stats (from Game 7 out as opposed to the first six games of the season) improved the most was Middle Tennessee State, whose +108 net yards per game improvement tops the pack.

Nipping at the Blue Raiders’ beak were Colorado State and Rice, each showing +83 net stat YPG improvement over the 2nd half of the season.

The pre-New Year’s Day bowl team whose overall team stats regressed the most from Game 7 out was Miami Florida, who slipped a whopping -130 net YPG during the 2nd half of the campaign.

Other teams going backward dramatically after the midway point included Texas Tech (-105) and Oregon (-101).

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

It’s important analyzing pre-New Year’s bowl contestants on a performance scale in games against teams that owned a winning record at the time of the meeting this season.

The best pre-New Year’s Day bowl teams from a straight up perspective this year were Fresno State (3-0) and Louisiana Lafayette (3-0).

On the opposite end of the SU ladder was Boise State (0-3).

When the money was on the line, this year’s pre-New Year’s Day best spread beater in games against winning opposition was Boston College (5-0).

And the only minor-bowl squad still looking for its first paycheck in games against a winning opponent this season is East Carolina (0-3).

Tale Of The Tape

Another interesting slant is weighing teams and their performance in games against other fellow bowl teams this season.

The best pre-New Year’s Day bowl spread beater against other bowl foes was Bowling Green (4-0). 

The biggest pre-New Year’s Day bowl spread money loser was Texas Tech (0-5), followed closely by Pittsburgh (1-7-1).

In games “In The Stats” (net overall yards versus opponent’s net overall yards), the biggest pre-New Year’s Day bowler Yards Per Game stat winners were: Cincinnati (+184), Bowling Green (+156) and Oregon (+111).

Pre-New Year’s Day bowlers that got trounced on the field, or the biggest Yards Per Game stat losers, were: Rutgers (-179), Buffalo (-171) and Ohio U (-166).


Speaking of stat performance this season, two bowl teams head into the postseason having been pushed all over the field to conclude the 2013 campaign.

We’re speaking primarily of teams who have lost the overall yardage stats in at least their last three games.

This year’s contingent of pushovers includes Arizona and Texas A&M, both of whom are laying points, making them ‘leaking oil’ favorites. Amazingly enough the Wildcats have been out-yarded in each of their last four contests. 

Incidentally, last year’s bowl card featured two teams - Duke and Kansas State - that were outgained in each of their final four games of the season.  They went 0-2 SUATS, losing by 14 and 18 points, respectively. 

Are You Kidding Me

Notre Dame is 0-10 SU and ATS in bowl games when facing an opponent off a win.

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