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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Monday, December 23, 2013 at 2:00 PM

The first four games of the college football bowl schedule have already provided important reminders for handicappers who are serious about understanding the full process of picking postseason winners. Today I’m going to post my first “read and react” assessment of the 2013 bowl season here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping.

Keys that have mattered already, and will continue to do so in the bowls…

 

THE RUNNING GAME MATTERS

As much as everyone loves to talk about quarterbacks, it’s still the dynamics at the point of attack that determine a high percentage of bowl winners straight up and against the spread. So far, all four teams that won straight up covered their spreads…and all four had big edges in rushing yardage.

 

Colorado State outrushed Washington State 226 to negative 10

USC outrushed Fresno State 155 to 37

San Diego State outrushed Buffalo 249-113

Louisiana Lafayette outrushed Tulane 171-103

 

What’s most important for you to notice is that it wasn’t “rushing offense” that was ruling the day. It was “rushing defense” that was imposing its will on the scoreboard. Teams who can’t run the ball are forced to pass to try and stay in the game. This lack of dimension is a bit easier to defend…and often leads to high impact mistakes like turnovers or sacks.

So, as you study upcoming games, remind yourself to spend a lot of time on the ground game. And, focus particularly on rush defense. You’re going to win and cover spreads if you can force opponents to pass the whole day.

 

PASS DEFENSE WILL DETERMINE SCORING VOLUME

If you bet Over/Unders, you really need to pay attention to how each quarterback (particularly if he’s a PLAYMAKER and GAMEBREAKER) is likely to perform against the other team’s pass defense. Soft pass defenses just get abused in bowl games as long as the game isn’t being played in bad weather.

We haven’t seen many elite quarterbacks so far. The signal caller with the best reputation was Derek Carr of Fresno State. He had the misfortune of running into the very strong defense of USC, leading to one of the worst games of his career. The single worst pass defense of the weekend teams belonged to Colorado State. Their game with Washington State had 58 points by halftime! The full-game Over/Under was only 64…on an afternoon destined to see 93 points scored in that matchup.

On the other side of the coin…you saw mediocre or worse quarterbacks for Buffalo and Tulane struggle with turnovers while posting poor third down conversion percentages.

To this point…when playing out the game in your mind…use run defense to determine who’s better suited to win a bowl game…and then pass defense to help you visualize how the game is going to play out in terms of scoring volume.

 

THE MOTIVATION FACTOR IS MOST POWERFUL WITH THE SUPERIOR TEAM

A lot of folks here in Las Vegas were expecting Fresno State to have a big motivational edge over Southern Cal. This was a statement making opportunity for a team that imagined itself a BCS contender a few weeks ago. USC was dealing with off-the-field turmoil and didn’t play with much fire in their rivalry finale with UCLA.

Well, there was a lot of disappointment for dog bettors when it became clear early on that USC’S PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS had showed up in the mood to score touchdowns. USC grabbed control of the game early, and didn’t let up until the afternoon was well in hand.

I’m still convinced we’ll see a few bowl upsets in the coming days when the underdog shows up with more motivation. But, my very biggest bets will come when the SUPERIOR team also has PEAK motivation. We haven’t even seen any truly elite teams take the field yet. I can assure you a few of those are loaded for bear.

If you’d like some help finding winners from now through the end of the college bowl slate, you can purchase my nightly BEST BETS right here at this very website with your major credit card. If you’d like more details about available packages (that also include basketball), talk to one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters home office at 1-888-777-4155.

Back with you again later this week to talk about the final Sunday of NFL action. This will be our last class time before Christmas…so I merrily wish all of you a great holiday…and I look forward to seeing you again in a few days. The football schedule lightens up a bit these next few nights in a way that allows you to spend quality time with your loved ones. Things will get VERY busy right after that. Enjoy the holiday….then be ready to hit the ground running in the dash through New Year’s…the BCS Championship…and the NFL playoffs!

Merry Christmas from the Dean of Sports Handicapping!

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