Five Things I Learned About Picking Bowl Games

The 2013-2014 bowl season and the final year of the BCS was a success. I finished 21-14 against the spread picking every game and finished strong going 10-2 in games on New Years Day and after. Picking and trying to handicap each game gave me a reason to watch every bowl even if it was a minor one. I learned many things about picking bowls. Here are the five biggest takeaways that I will remember when picking games next season.

1. Football in the Midwest is down- I will always look to pick against the Big 10 and MAC next season. It’s no secret the Big 10 has struggled for the last two seasons and they seem to be overmatched by other conferences during the bowls. Big 10 teams finished 2-5 straight up and 3-4 against the spread. Not horrible records but it’s not very impressive if you look closer. The Michigan State win and cover in the Rose Bowl was a terrific showing by the Spartans and they proved why they were one of the most balanced teams in the country. Nebraska won and covered against Georgia and Iowa covered by half a point in a seven-point loss to LSU. However, Georgia and LSU were both missing their draft-bound quarterbacks with injuries. Minnesota lost to 6-6 Syracuse and Michigan had no shot against Kansas State. Wisconsin and Ohio State dropped their bowls to South Carolina and Clemson respectively. The Big 10 is adding Rutgers and Maryland next season, which will make the conference even more mediocre. Rutgers covered but lost by 13 to Notre Dame and Maryland lost to Marshall. Maryland’s 11-point loss came in their home state, against a Marshall team that lost to Rice in the C-USA championship game. That Rice team lost by 36 points to 6-6 Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. The MAC gets a lot of attention for a non-BCS conference because ESPN shows their marquee November games on Tuesday and Wednesday nights when there is no other football on. It was on these “Maction” broadcasts where Northern Illinois and their Heisman nominee quarterback Jordan Lynch got national attention. When teams like the Huskies and other MAC schools played in bowl games it wasn’t pretty. The conference was 0-5 straight up and against the spread. The bottom of the conference is weak so most of the MAC teams beat up on bad teams to gain bowl eligibility. With Lynch gone, the conference might have a hard time finding national headlines from any of their teams next season.

2. The spread usually doesn’t matter- In 35 bowl games, the point spread only mattered four times. That means in the other 31 games, the team who won the game straight up also covered the spread. The Notre Dame-Rutgers, Texas A&M-Duke, LSU-Iowa and Florida State-Auburn games were the bowls where the favorite won the game but didn’t cover the spread. The Florida State-Auburn game was the first time in the modern BCS era where the point spread mattered. The previous 14 National Championship games didn’t matter. So if you feel strongly about an underdog covering a spread, you might want to pick them to win outright if you are in a straight up pool. The double-digit underdogs that won straight up were Texas Tech, UCF and Oklahoma.   Continue reading