The college football regular season is just about over, but a lot of important games are left. The College Football Playoff picture needs some clarity. Some conference championship games are already set, but others are not, and a chance to play for a conference crown is a big goal for most programs. A bowl game appearance is usually one of the bare minimum goals for a team and a lot of four and five-win teams are still out there.
A couple weeks ago, I asked about bowl season and you both said it was too early. With two games left to play and bowl eligibility hanging in the balance for multiple teams, how much of a factor is it now?
Powers: As always it is a case-by-case basis. Generally speaking, it’s not a big handicapping tool for me. Maybe 20 years ago it would have been, but there are 40 bowl games so a majority of CFB teams go to bowl games and go to them regularly. Obviously, if you’re looking to bet into it, I’d say look for teams that haven’t bowled in a long time. Bowl eligibility certainly meant something to Kansas, Connecticut and Bowling Green, who recently got there and haven’t been to one in several years. I’d focus more on the Group of Five teams that are trying to build something in the first year or two of a coaching staff, like Southern Miss, Arizona, Georgia Southern or UNLV.
Hunter: It certainly matters more now, but the problem with this is the oddsmakers clearly know this as well. It isn’t like you are going to get some kind of great deal on a team fighting for bowl eligibility. Also, these teams who are 4-6 or 5-5 right now aren’t great teams, so you have to at least question how much you should be trusting them.
Lots of intangibles at this time of the season – Senior Day, teams “quitting”, playing hard for an interim they want to get the job, etc. How much of that do you take into consideration? Are there any examples for Week 12?
Powers: Not much. I’m 20 years out of high school and college now. Speculating on how today’s generation is feeling and thinking seems like grasping at some straws a bit. I guess it could be a factor, but never really “the” factor unless it checks several boxes. Unlike last season, I haven’t seen a ton of “quit”. Senior Day doesn’t move the needle at all for me by itself. With that being said, my absolute best example of combining bowl eligibility, possible quit, Senior Day, etc. is my best bet below.
Hunter: Yes, I think these matter more than the bowl season angle. The quit factor is one I like to take a look at this time of the year. In fact, an angle that supports this is backing big favorites of -14.5 or larger in conference games late in the season (game 9 or later): the favorite in this angle is 542-451 (54.6% ATS) since 2006. If you tighten this angle up to include only teams who are against an opponent with a win percentage below 50% on the season the angle jumps to 437-324 (57.4% ATS) since 2006. That is an ROI of 11.5%. I think a solid example of this is Liberty (going against Virginia Tech). Virginia Tech really has very little to play for and Liberty is in a bounce back spot after being upset by UConn.
Which underdog of a touchdown or more has the best chance to win?
Powers: My power ratings don’t call for it, but I can make a strong case for Oklahoma State +7.5 over Oklahoma. If Spencer Sanders plays, Oklahoma State has the better QB and the much better head coach. Of all the first-year coaches, Oklahoma head coach Brent Venables might be the most disappointing (along with Mario Cristobal). There just aren’t a lot of redeeming factors for the Sooners. They’ve lost back-to-back games outright as a favorite. Last week, they were +2 in TOs, got an extra three points off a blocked extra point and still lost to a West Virginia team that is likely firing their coach at the end of the season.
Hunter: Honestly, I feel like there are less to choose from than there have been many of the other weeks. I’ll take Kansas. It looks like there is a decent chance Jalon Daniels could play in this one, and Texas has been wildly inconsistent this season.
What is your favorite bet this week?
Powers: Utah State +1. San Jose State is on a 0-4 ATS run, falling short by double-digits each game (60.5 total points or 15 ppg). Right now, San Jose State is one-dimensional on offense, as the last four games, they are averaging 43 rushing ypg. Meanwhile, San Jose State’s defense has allowed season-highs (468 yards to Colorado State and 425 yards to San Diego State). The Spartans haven’t been the same since a tragic loss to one of their players in a scooter accident. Meanwhile, Utah State is 5-5…going for bowl eligibility. The Aggies are 4-1 SU in their last 5 games and had a fourth-string QB in that one loss. Also note, it will be 16 degrees at kickoff for the California kids.
Hunter: I’m going to take Temple +17 against Cincinnati. The Bearcats have played six conference games. All six of those games have been decided by ten points or fewer. Temple is +23 in sack margin on the year. EJ Warner and the Temple offense have been getting going the last couple games.