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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, December 20, 2011 at 12:51 PM

One of the trickiest elements for Advanced Handicapping in bowl games involves tinkering with the concept of home field advantage. There aren’t any games this season where a bowl team is playing on its actual home field (there were two last year, in games hosted by Hawaii and SMU). But there are some games where contributors to what we normally consider to be part of home field advantage are in play.

*In a moment, I’ll show you a long list of teams that will be playing in front of “home crowds” because the travel distance is so short. The first game with that phenomenon was this past Saturday Night when Louisiana Lafayette played in the SuperDome for the New Orleans Bowl. We have another example Tuesday Night when Florida International makes a short trip to St. Petersburg for the Beef O’Brady Bowl.

*Part of home field advantage is considered to be “familiarity with the locale.” Maybe that’s only worth a point or so. But, when you’re trying to pick winners in Las Vegas, every point counts! There are several games this bowl season where one team is more familiar with the site than the other. That didn’t help Wyoming when they played in New Mexico this past Saturday against Temple (both Wyoming and New Mexico are in the Mountain West conference). And, it didn’t help Utah State much in Boise either (though the Aggies covered for almost the entire game on a field they had seen before when Boise State was in the WAC). I do expect it to matter, though, at some point through the bowl campaign.

Let’s run through the bowls this year where these two factors may matter:

*BEEF O’BRADY BOWL: Florida International is playing in St. Petersburg.

*POINSETTIA BOWL: San Diego hosts this game, and TCU has played San Diego State on this field in Mountain West wars in the past. In fact, THIS TEAM played on this field back in early October.

*LAS VEGAS BOWL: Boise State played in this very same bowl last year, and also had a regular season game at UNLV this past season in early November.

*HAWAII BOWL: Nevada played in this bowl in a game they’d rather forget against SMU not too long ago, and made regular trips to Hawaii when both teams were in the WAC.

*LITTLE CAESAR’S BOWL: This one is played in Detroit, the home state of competing school Western Michigan.

*BELK BOWL: Here North Carolina State gets to play in Charlotte against Louisville.

*HOLIDAY BOWL: California will have a home state crowd in San Diego for a game against Texas that has the whole university fired up because of what happened to Cal at the hands of Texas in the BCS process a few years ago.

*CHAMPS SPORTS BOWL: Florida State will be playing in Orlando against Notre Dame.

*ALAMO BOWL: Baylor has a relatively short trip to San Antonio for their game against Washington.

*ARMED FORCES BOWL: Dallas is the locale for this game, on SMU’s home field. Tulsa plays here every other year in CUSA West action. They’ll be hosting BYU from out of the region.

*PINSTRIPE BOWL: Rutgers gets to play its second game this season at Yankee Stadium, and will surely have a big home crowd edge over Iowa State. You’ll recall I had Rutgers over Army for a Game of the Year on this field.

*MEINEKE CAR CARE BOWL: This list is getting long! You can see why I’m discussing the topic today! Texas A&M will make a short trip to Houston to take on Northwestern.

*FIGHT HUNGER BOWL: UCLA will have a home state crowd in San Francisco as they battle Illinois.

*LIBERTY BOWL: Vanderbilt from Nashville gets to play in Memphis against Cincinnati.

*TICKET CITY BOWL: Houston makes the manageable trip to Dallas to face Penn State, and they’ll have strong crowd support.

*GATOR BOWL: Florida travels from Gainesville to Jacksonville for a marquee showdown against Ohio State.

*COTTON BOWL: Arkansas gets to play again in the Dallas Cowboys home stadium. They’ve been facing Texas A&M there in a recent contractual series. Here they’ll play Kansas State.

*BCS CHAMPIONSHIP: Both Alabama and LSU have experience in the SuperDome. You’d have to give LSU some consideration for home field and home crowd though given the short distance between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.

Most of the article has been taking up by showing you how important this theme could be this year! Here are some quick tips.

*Use “home crowd” and “familiarity” possibilities as bonus kickers when evaluating motivation. Don’t blindly assign 1 or 2 points for it. If you see that the team in question is likely to be fired up…THEN add in 1-2 points for it.

*Spend some time thinking about “unfamiliarity” for the visitor. That’s where a lot of these games are actually going to be won. The team from out of region, or that’s not used to the playing surface, is going to make mistakes that cost them the game.

*As I’ve mentioned in the past, think about how the game conditions could help or hurt each team’s preferred style of play. A wide-open team travelling halfway across the country to play on a bad surface could be in real trouble. That same team will be fine in a dome, or on prescription turf in good weather wherever those games are being played.

Advanced Handicapping means you really pin down the edges. You have time to think through all the games given how the schedule is laid out. Do the work!

My next written lecture from my College of Advanced Handicapping is scheduled for later this week. Be sure to check the home page for additional videos. My daily selections can be purchased online at this website with your credit card. Check the purchase page for special offers regarding the rest of football through the college bowls and NFL playoffs. See you next time!

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