As I talked about in yesterday’s blurb, bowl games are a unique animal because the lines have a lot of time to marinate and we’re going to get a ton of news between now and then. It is important to note that the oddsmakers aren’t really going to speculate on whether or not a player is going to play in a bowl game. They’ll be ready to move a line quickly based on news, but they’re still going to go off of their numbers and maybe sprinkle in a little opinion.
There are some good examples that I’ll put together here, keeping in mind that these odds are a living organism that will go through stages up until kickoff. We’ve seen some initial market movement from the groups I call the “numbers grabbers”. We’ll see even more today, given that the lines came out on NFL Sunday. Market manipulation, the news cycle and actual positions from bettors and handicappers will also move the numbers, along with increased betting limits.
Here are a few early thoughts:
Bahamas Bowl: Toledo (-9.5, 53) vs. MTSU
The MAC is notorious for being bad in bowl games, but Toledo is nearly a double-digit favorite here. BetLabs has the MAC down for 26-30-2 ATS since 2010, but there aren’t a lot of straight up wins in that time either. The Rockets went 7-5 compared to 6-6 for MTSU, but Toledo is a top-15 offense in YPP and a top-15 defense as well. One team is simply power-rated higher than the other and the perception and results of the MAC in bowl games are not even a thought with this number.
Myrtle Beach Bowl: Tulsa (-9.5, 51.5) vs. Old Dominion
Momentum is kind of an interesting topic going into bowl season. Tulsa won three straight to qualify for a bowl and Old Dominion erased a 1-6 start with a five-game winning streak after not playing last season due to COVID. I’ve actually heard some bettors say that they prefer to bet on struggling teams that can wipe the slate clean instead of teams that have been playing well that lose their edge. Here, we’ve seen a big move to Tulsa, largely because they’re just the better team, but it is a compelling argument.
Hawaii Bowl: Memphis (-3.5, 60.5) at Hawaii
Sometimes you have to be an amateur psychologist with the bowl games. Hawaii got a new lease on life for a bowl game because the NCAA added another one to ensure that all of the six-win teams played one. They have to feel fortunate and may bring a big effort. Memphis is the better team, from the better conference, but a trip to Hawaii may be hard to focus on. The initial move down on this line caught me by surprise, given that Hawaii’s got two key offensive players in the transfer portal and Memphis’s Seth Henigan is as healthy as he’s going to be. I’m not sure this is a true position and this may be a bit of market manipulation.
First Responder Bowl: Louisville (-1.5, 54.5) vs. Air Force
These games lined around a pick-em are interesting because scalpers can bet both sides of the game at plus money if they move the line right. I’m genuinely surprised that this line has moved in favor of Louisville. Service academy teams are 20-8 ATS in bowl games dating back to 2005-06. We know the perils of prepping for the option in a short window and many do believe extra prep time helps, but Air Force, Army and Navy have done well in bowls. I think this is a line to follow very closely.
I’ll try to do these throughout the bowl season as we get some line movements, but just wanted to throw a few thoughts out there for Monday.