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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, December 16, 2011 at 1:32 PM

Last year I started off the bowl campaign with a 13-2 run through the early games. It will be very hard to top that again here in December of 2011, but I surely intend to make a run at it because I’m confident I’ve found important edges in the matchups you’ll be trying to handicap yourself this week and next.

As I mentioned in the video you see here on this website’s homepage, I plan to have a selection in every single bowl game once again this season. I’ll be playing all the early games. I’ll be playing all the marquee matchups centered around New Year’s. I’ve already announced that I’ll have a full 250 units of action on the side and total in the BCS Championship game matching LSU and Alabama.

Today I want to focus on strategies for handicapping the earliest bowls. We have three on Saturday, being played in Albuquerque, New Mexico; Boise, Idaho; and New Orleans, Louisiana. They will feature evenly matched but unheralded programs. When the schedule picks up again next Tuesday and Wednesday, it will be more of the same with schools like Florida International and Louisiana Tech taking the field. Many public bettors will pass those games. I plan on betting them and winning them.

I can’t tell you here in my College of Advanced Handicapping which teams or totals I’ll be hitting. That’s not fair to paying customers (note you can get ALL of my bowl picks for a one-time payment of $150 today at this website). I will outline the general strategies I use for picking these games.

First, as I said in the video, I try to determine which team is there to win. I read online reports from local newspapers to see where the teams are staying, and how much they’re partaking of the pre-game festivities (both official and unofficial). If you can answer the question “Who cares the most about winning this game,” you’ll have most of the work done already in these minor bowls.

Secondly, as also mentioned in the video, I make sure I know which teams are at full health, and which teams are undistracted by coaching issues. Some key players will be out with injuries on Saturday. Do YOU know who they are? There haven’t been any problems yet with academic suspensions in this year’s bowl slate. There’s still plenty of time for that to become an issue. You want to bet on teams who are full speed and full focus.

Now, some keys I didn’t mention in the video:

*Always start with PLAYMAKERS! It’s not uncommon for one athletic star to become a one-man team that steals the show in these minor bowls. In the old days that was usually a running back. But, now that the game has opened up so much more it can be a star receiver. We won’t see a lot of superstar quarterbacks in this first hunk of games (though Kellen Moore will be on the field in Game Six next Thursday in Las Vegas). Be sure you know which of the two teams in every game has the better quarterback.

*Consider seriously how game conditions are going to influence play. You don’t want to back a passing team in cold windy conditions, or on a bad playing surface that will mess up the timing quarterbacks have with their receivers. Put that same team in a dome, and you may see them score 42 points or more in a blowout. It’s the nature of bowls that many teams will be playing outside their comfort zones. Not taking that into account is just foolhardy.

*Be sure you list every game that each team played during the regular season vs. bowl caliber opposition. See how they did against the best teams on their schedule. See how they did against mediocre teams who snuck into bowls. Look to go against teams whose winning record consists entirely of victories over poor teams. There are some early bowl teams this season who don’t have ANY meaningful wins! I really like betting on 7-5 teams who played tough schedules versus 8-4 teams who played very weak schedules. I believe Vegas oddsmakers do a poor job of reflecting how early bowl teams are truly likely to perform vs. the caliber of opponent their facing that day.

*My final tip for today is to look at coaching histories in bowls. There are some coaches who have established that they know how to get the most out of their players with a month to prepare. There are others who are consistently outclassed in bowls because they lack creativity or the ability to inspire. I want to be clear that I’m not talking about “team” histories. I’m talking about head coaches. Track down how every head coach has performed in bowls at all of his stops on the coaching ladder. I’ll admit this won’t matter in the majority of games. The effort will help you find at least three or four extra winners in my view…and the money you make on those winners justifies the effort.

My next written lecture from my College of Advanced Handicapping is scheduled for early next week. We’ll be hopping mostly between bowl and NFL analysis between now and the new year…with the NBA and college basketball becoming the online focus as football comes to an end.

I’d like to thank all of you for working so hard in my College of Advanced Handicapping. Remember that my entire bowl package is available for just $150…and that you definitely want to start RIGHT AWAY given my 13-2 run out of the gate last season. Be sure to check this website through the weekend for additional video updates.

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