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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, December 30, 2015 at 1:00 PM

We’re coming up on the most important bowl games of the college football postseason over the next few days. The schedule has really flown by this year. Everyone’s been biding their time waiting for the marquee matchups. Then they hit the board FAST one right after the other.

How should you handicap the Final Four matchups, and other big games like Ohio State/Notre Dame, Stanford/Iowa, and Michigan/Florida? I’m not going to get too specific because I need to protect my plays for my customers. I will offer these general guidelines.

First, don’t ignore the MOTIVATION FACTOR! The media will emphasize how “nobody could be flat” for a high profile bowl game. That’s marketing! We’ve actually seen it quite often over the years. A team that’s disappointed it’s not playing for a national championship no-shows a major bowl game. Or, a team that’s been to the same major bowl often in recent seasons doesn’t get as fired up as they should. Arrogance can certainly play a role with clear favorites too.

Some of the most important questions you’ll be answering are:

*Will Stanford care about the Rose Bowl now that the novelty has worn off? Particularly with an unheralded opponent like Big 10 runner-up Iowa?

*Will Ohio State lose focus for the Fiesta Bowl since this has been such a disappointing season after their National Championship campaign?

*Has Florida given up on its offense to such a degree that the defense won’t go hard for four quarters against Michigan?

*Is TCU going to be too nonchalant about its Alamo Bowl meeting with Oregon after winning last year’s bowl so big? Are they disappointed with this invitation after spending most of the year thinking they’d be in the Final Four/

As much as I like to emphasize PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS in important games…we’re still in a scenario where THE MOTIVATION FACTOR can trump everything else. How many bowl games have you seen that in already this season? Go back and review New Year’s type games over the last 10 years and you’ll see what I mean.

Now…to be clear…I don’t expect any of the four teams in the National Semifinals to come in “flat.” They know what’s at stake. “Arrogant?” That’s certainly possible with the favorites. Alabama falling prey to that last year may help them avoid it this year.

Second, look hard at game conditions. By that, I mean weather, the quality of the turf, and the potential influence of the crowd. Do you see any motivated teams that will be playing in front of a large and loud cheering contingent? If it’s rainy in Florida, does that help or hurt a particular team? What about if it’s windy at an outdoor site? Or, does a fast track indoors help accentuate the speed and athleticism of one team.

*Defenses that are great become even tougher to score on in rain and mud

*Defenses that are soft become even easier to score on in a dome or in beautiful weather

I’ve found over the years that oddsmakers do a pretty good job of evaluating the overall talent of the most well-known and closely followed programs…but aren’t nearly as good as interpreting how game conditions will influence game-day performance. Students here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping need to be thinking about that very intently the next few days.

My third point today, take what you’ve been learning about relative conference strengths and apply them to your process. When a major conference gets poor early results in a college postseason, it often means that the whole league has been overrated. When a major conference gets great results, particularly against already high expectations…then its champion may be something really special.

This isn’t a 100% rule of course. Sometimes a league may be overrated but its champion is still terrific. Sometimes a great team in a power league shows up flat anyway. But, it’s vital to shade your action based on what you’ve been learning in your on-the-fly studies. That could mean flipping selections…or it might just be tweaks to your planned unit structure.

And, finally…always remember that it’s okay to pass! Too many bettors try to have something in every game to magnify their entertainment value. Hey, join an office pool for that. Or, throw a party and have the winner get a bottle of champagne. Serious bettors don’t play the board for fun! How can you pass the Rose Bowl? Or the Sugar Bowl? Hey…if the lines are good…you’re supposed to pass! We bet in Las Vegas to win, not have fun.

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. Bring in the New Year with the most tenured man in the sports betting industry.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping will be back this weekend to talk about the final Sunday of the NFL’s regular season. Then we transition to NFL playoff coverage and college basketball next week. We’re at the most exciting part of the road to college football’s National Championship…but the road to March Madness has already begun!

Celebrate responsibly as you bring in 2016. See you on the other side.


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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