Burke: Betting bowl games early

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

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Yes, I know that it’s an NFL Sunday, but the College Football Playoff will be announced before the NFL slate starts and the other bowl game announcements will come later. Lines get posted almost immediately and we’ll have the global Circa openers and then get everybody else’s numbers.

You’ll see a lot of movement tonight and tomorrow morning on the games, even though limits are low and uncertainty is high. Those that dedicate their betting lives to getting the best of the number will be firing away based on their projections, models and knowledge of where the line is likely to move.

This bowl season, like all bowl seasons, will be made tougher by trying to figure out which players will sit out in order to prepare for the NFL Draft. For example, will Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson actually play for the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl? Will Pitt’s Kenny Pickett take one last chance to impress the scouts in the Orange Bowl? These are players that can significantly move a point spread if they opt out.

COVID also throws another wrench into the system. We have no way of knowing which teams will be bothered by the illness, either in the lead-up to the bowl game or on game week itself. It can be like herding cats to have these college athletes together with the holiday break and the conclusion of the season. Will players and coaches remain vigilant?

These fears won’t stop bettors from shaping the market tonight and tomorrow. They may also speculate a bit on the players that skip their respective games. Getting the best of the number is really important, as we know, but so is having a lot of information to process.

My rule of thumb for bowl games is that you have to have a high degree of confidence in which way a line will move in order to bet early. That way, you’re getting the best of the number. If you don’t, you can sacrifice getting the best of the number to feel more certain about your pick.

These games are lined for a long time before they are actually played. The first bowl game isn’t until Dec. 17, so this is a really unique time. Lines have a long duration with which to move around and for news to break. This is much different than having a few days during a traditional week. Betting limits are progressively increased in the lead-up to the game, so you’ll have some bettors that bet now, others that bet later and also one really important angle to consider – market manipulation.

We will see “head fakes” or “setups” during the bowl season. Groups will bet enough to move a line at lower limits and then come over the top on the other side at a desired line with a higher-limit bet. This happens a lot because these lines are posted for so long. Not every early move is a true position. Some are grabbing numbers, but others are massaging the market to play the long game.

There are a lot of moving parts, so if you aren’t ready to fire away, keep your bankroll holstered. But, try to watch the markets as much as you can to get a feel for what is happening in these matchups. That information will help and give you more to process when you are comfortable with making a wager.

We’ll have a lot of helpful information in our College Football Bowl Betting Guide on Dec. 13.

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