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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Sunday, December 20, 2015 at 5:00 PM

There were some very important lessons to be learned for new college football bowl handicappers on Day One of the 2015-16 slate this past Saturday. And for veterans, some helpful reminders. Be sure you spend some time today absorbing those key analytical factors. The first homework off the top of my head is for you to go review those boxscores. Too many of you are delaying your work too long.

I was happy to go 2-1 on the day, highlighted by my big 50-unit winner on San Jose State (-) over Georgia State 27-16. Sharps made a big mistake there jumping on the underdog. All you heard about was how it was a short trip for Georgia State and a cross-country trek for San Jose State. Georgia State was 2-4 straight up at HOME this year. If they can’t win at home, why would playing near home be much of a help? Focus on PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS people!

I do regret, though, that I only had 10-units on Louisiana Tech (-) in the nightcap. Once it was clear by early evening that the Sun Belt had been overrated in the markets, there was a good chance Arkansas State was going to get steamrolled. Wish the games had been spaced out a bit better. If Appalachian State and Georgia State had lost on a Saturday, with Arkansas State playing on a Monday or Tuesday night…we likely would have had 50 units (or more) on Louisiana Tech instead of 10.

The Sun Belt conference ultimately went 0-3 ATS on opening day:

Appalachian State (-7) only beat Ohio 31-29 (on a field goal at the final gun)

Georgia State (+1) lost to San Jose State 27-16

Arkansas State (+1.5) lost to Louisiana Tech 47-28 (and it wasn’t that close)

If you weren’t watching, Louisiana Tech outgained Arkansas State 687-323 and won yards-per-play 9.3 to 4.8. And they didn’t turn the ball over a single time. All this against the Sun Belt champion! Sometimes champs show up flat for their bowl because they already climbed a mountain. Definitely happened here to Arkansas State and its outclassed defense.

So, there’s your first key lesson, oddsmakers (and too many professional wagerers) don’t have a firm read on the differences between conferences. Some are better than believed. Some are worse. The Sun Belt was given too much respect out of the gate, and missed their spreads by 5, 10, and 17.5 points. Stay on the lookout for overrated and underrated conferences from this point forward. The Sun Belt only has one more game. That’s Wednesday when Georgia Southern plays Bowling Green. The problem there is that the MAC might also be overrated! Ohio did cover vs. Appalachian State, but needed some cheap points to do so.

And, that brings us to your second key reminder…there are so many cheap points! The Las Vegas Bowl turned out to be a massive dud because BYU kept handing away free touchdowns in the first quarter against Utah. Huge disappointment here locally because there was so much excitement about that game. And, those of us rooting for the Under know we had the right play that ran into bad luck. Utah managed only 197 yards and 3.1 yards-per-play, yet the game flew Over because of BYU’s five early turnovers.

Be sure you’re adjusting for this in your boxscore reviews (meaning the Pac 12 isn’t necessarily about to go on a cover spread just because Utah lucked into a blowout of BYU). And, try to anticipate with your handicapping which offenses are most likely to self-destruct. Mistake-prone quarterbacks in particular can have horrible games under bowl pressure, particularly if they’re playing good defenses.

The third and final point for today’s discussion is that bowls are “designed” to go Over their totals. Oddsmakers adjust for this as best they can by inflating the numbers. But, yesterday showed that they can still undershoot the mark. Four of the five games went Over. If you lifted all the games three more points, four of the five still would have gone Over! If you lifted all the totals a touchdown, it still would have been 3-2 to the Over!


*Many teams open up their offenses

*Many teams add in trick plays

*Trailing teams play with a sense of urgency

*Cheap points off turnovers are more likely in those scenarios

*Special teams TDs are common too because return men want to make big plays

*See-saw battles amplify scoring potential

*Many games are played in nice weather or on fast tracks in domes

There are still some great Under bets out there. The most conservative coaches still try to run clock and grind out wins. A few outdoor grass fields don’t have great traction, which cuts down on big play potential. Occasionally bad turnover counts will take points off the board (at the end of long drives) rather than put cheap points on the board.  

Remember this. Louisiana Tech gained 687 yards and scored 47 points. There are some offenses out there who are very similar (or better), and they will post big numbers too in good conditions. There’s another piece of homework for you…figure out which remaining bowl offenses are most similar to Louisiana Tech!

Only one day in the books…so we still have plenty of bowl action ahead. KELSO STURGEON’S best bets can always be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the Vegas Sports Masters’ office during normal business hours at 1-888-777-4155. I know many of you are do-it-yourselfers. But, if you’d like to supplement your own selections, top plays from the Dean of Sports Handicapping are very easy to get.

See you again in the middle of the week for our next class discussion. I have yet to determine whether that will be a college football, pro football, or basketball topic. I always try to keep things fresh and responsive to headlines here in the coursework. Thanks for your attendance!


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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