The early bowls are best known for their "surprise" results. In many cases, however, the often aberrational results of the minor bowls are easily predictable by picking losers instead of winners.
Some of you are no doubt saying, "I have no problem picking losers. It's winners that are the problem." The secret to picking the minor bowl winners, however, lies in picking the losers; and there are some secrets to doping out those losers that are completely different from regular season handicapping
The supposedly strange results in many minor bowls can often be explained by four psychological handicapping factors: These factors, listed below, determine losers, which of course determines winners.
When predicting team performance, we must not only consider ability, but also psychological factors affecting the team. Winning is a function of ability. Barring very bad luck or poor officiating, if a team doesn't have the ability, it simply won't win unless the opponent loses. Losing, on the other hand, can be completely a function of psychology. The team with greater ability can always lose.
RULE: There is a limit to how well any team can play, but there is no limit to how poorly any team can play.
FACTOR 1: WOULD THE TEAM RATHER BE SOMEWHERE ELSE
Some teams believe they should be playing in a much better bowl. These teams often complain publicly about their fate. They consider playing in a minor bowl to be an insult. These teams will often ignore game preparation, and simply go through the motions. This bitter psychology is a common cause for poor athletic performance. If they are matched up against a team that is ecstatic to be there, expect the team that is bitter over the placement to lose. In the case of an extreme ability differential, you may not be able to play on the lesser team, but no one ever lost any money by passing the game.
FACTOR 2: HOME CROWD EDGE
Most bettors treat every bowl game as if both teams are playing on a neutral field. This leads to inaccurate handicapping. The biggest home edge does not come from the actual field, but rather from the crowd. The phrase "home field edge" is a misnomer. Teams can only play as well as their physical ability will allow. There is no limit, however, on the disadvantage that can be piled on a team. What we call the home field advantage is, in actuality a road disadvantage for the opponent. Consider whether a bowl team is playing in or near their home state, and be sure to take away a few points from the opponent who is truly playing a road game. Examples of teams with a hidden road disadvantage today are Wake Forest and Memphis.
FACTOR 3: CHAMPIONSHIP HANGOVER
For some teams, winning a hard-fought conference championship is the major goal of their season.. This is particularly true when the team winning the championship was not favored to win. Such teams may still be celebrating their Championship, and care little about winning a minor bowl game that is being thought of and perhaps treated solely as a reward vacation. These teams are psychologically set up to lose.
FACTOR 4: COACHING ATTITUDE
Check the past history of the coach in bowl games. Has he had a large of number of teams that lost as favorites? Some coaches treat bowl games as exhibitions only. They consider these games to be part of free vacation to reward the team for their excellent play during the regular season. These coaches will do little preparation, and will allow the players to treat the trip like a vacation. Such teams are not good bets to win, no matter what their physical ability.
This factor is biggest in bowls held in well-known resorts and party cities, such as South East Florida, Orlando, Southern California, New Orleans, Las Vegas, and Hawaii.
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The Congressional Bowl is being played at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC. As discussed above, Navy has a clear home field advantage in this game. There is no worry about complacency, coaching attitude, or championship hangover when it comes to Navy. The school has a tradition of always bringing their "A" game. The abilities of these two teams are equal, but Navy is getting +3 points and Wake Forest has the road disadvantage. That will be enough for the Navy win.