One of the fundamental beliefs many successful bowl game handicappers share is that in many games, one team shows up and the other team doesn’t. In these contests, the point spread is generally rendered meaningless, as the game is sometimes so decisive that the favorite bettor never has to worry or the underdog bettor is left wishing he would have chanced it on the moneyline instead.
In bowl games, outright winners are far more successful on point spreads than they are in the regular season. For instance, outright winners covered the spread in 22 of 26 games last bowl season. Six winners were underdogs. The previous season, the winners’ ATS record was 34-6-1. Of those 34 ATS victors, 12 were underdogs.
What I’m hinting at is that moneyline underdogs are typically strong wagers at bowl time. The unfamiliarity of opponents combined with the varying excitement and motivational levels for the teams involved sometimes means these lines are just flat misses. Be sure to take advantage of that aspect in the next few weeks.
Let’s look at some of the more definitive trends of outright winners affecting this bowl season. The first group deals with previous bowl performances, the next details unusual angles in specific bowl series and the third shows which teams displayed the most decisive point-spread performances in 2021.
If you picked up the VSiN 2021-22 Bowl Guide, you’ll recognize some of these trends from that library of pertinent bowl betting information. If you didn’t get yours, what are you waiting for? The bowls start Friday night!
NOTABLE OUTRIGHT WINNER BOWL TRENDS
Outright winners are …
— On an 11-game ATS winning streak in Kansas State bowl games.
Since the line for the Texas Bowl was pick-’em, this trend will gain another win, and the game against LSU will be decisive one way or the other.
— 18-1 ATS in Louisville’s last 19 bowl games.
Five of Louisville’s last seven bowl games have been decided by double-digit margins. The Cardinals lost one as 7-point favorites, and they pulled an upset in another as 14-point dogs. Results can be that drastic in bowl games when one team doesn’t come to play. The Cardinals will face Marshall in the New Orleans Bowl.
— 9-0 ATS in Maryland’s last nine bowl contests.
Maryland is a Pinstripe Bowl underdog of about 2.5 points to Virginia Tech, but there is a very good chance that if the Terps cover the point spread, they’ll win the game. That combination has been the result for nine straight Maryland bowl games.
— On a seven-game ATS winning streak in Missouri bowl games.
The Armed Forces Bowl is intriguing, as the line is about 3 points in favor of Army. In six of the last seven Missouri bowl games, the winner beat the point spread by at least 13 points, not even close to what the oddsmakers thought.
— On a streak of 13 straight ATS wins in Ohio State bowl games.
Do you think Utah has a shot at beating Ohio State in the Rose Bowl? The Buckeyes’ recent bowl history suggests they won’t win if it’s close. It’s either OSU decisively or Utah in an upset.
— 13-0-1 ATS in Ole Miss’ last 14 bowl games.
The Baylor-Ole Miss Sugar Bowl line doesn’t leave much wiggle room in the point spread, sitting at -1.5 points for the Bears. This trend figures to see another notch added to the win column. If you like QB Matt Corral and the Rebels, don’t waste your time with a point-spread wager — go all in.
NOTABLE OUTRIGHT WINNER BOWL SERIES TRENDS
Outright winners are …
— On a 22-2 ATS surge in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl series.
Usually played in inclement weather, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, is a series in which it has been pretty obvious that one team wants to be there more than the other. In most cases it’s the Mountain West team, which is used to playing in that area. With only one of the last nine games being decided by fewer than nine points, it’s a good bet that Wyoming or Kent State will win handily.
— 19-2-1 ATS in the previous 22 Music City Bowls.
Louisville’s 38-28 upset of Mississippi State as a 5-point dog in the 2019 contest continued a trend of point-spread dominance by the winners. Purdue is the dog this year. Can the Boilermakers pull the upset, or is favored Tennessee a lock to cover as well as win?
— Have covered the point spread in 13 straight Cheez-It Bowls.
Last year’s 37-34 win by Oklahoma State over Miami snapped a stretch of lopsided games in this series, as the average margin of victory in the previous seven games was 19.4 PPG. Only two winners in that span were underdogs, so give Clemson and Iowa State equal shots at a decisive victory in 2021.
— On an 18-0-1 ATS run in the last 19 Cotton Bowls.
This trend will truly be put to the test in 2021, as Alabama is nearly a two-touchdown favorite in the first of the two College Football Playoff semifinals. The average margin of victory in the last six Cotton Bowl games has been 23.2 PPG. Can Cincinnati stay close? If so, give the Bearcats a shot at an upset.
— On a 20-0 ATS run in Citrus Bowl games since 2002.
It has been 20 straight point-spread victories for the outright winner in the Citrus Bowl, as one of the teams has failed to answer the alarm, typically on New Year’s morning. This year’s game pits Kentucky and Iowa. Which will come to play?
— Have lost ATS just twice in the last 29 Fiesta Bowl games.
This is the longest-running trend of the bowl series outright angles, as it dates all the way to 1993. There have been 12 outright upsets in that span. You can pretty much count on Notre Dame or Oklahoma State getting the win/cover combo.
— Boast a record of 20-1-1 ATS since 2000 in the Sugar Bowl.
None of the last nine Sugar Bowl games have been decided by less than a touchdown. Whichever team wins in New Orleans almost always covers. Will it be Baylor or Ole Miss?
— 18-1-1 ATS in the history of the Texas Bowl series.
This is another angle suggesting that one team will show up and win decisively. This is the last regularly scheduled bowl on this year’s slate, pitting LSU and Kansas State.
OUTRIGHT WINNER TRENDS FROM 2021 SEASON
For 18 teams that qualified for bowl games this season, outright winners lost one or zero games in the regular season. This is another sign of teams you can potentially count on showing up or not in bowl games. These teams have shown that when they’ve won, they’ve done so decisively — but when they’ve lost, they’ve done so in the same manner.
— Kent State: OWs 11-1 ATS (+ 3 vs. Wyoming in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl)
— Liberty: OWs 11-1 ATS (-9 vs. Eastern Michigan in Lending Tree Bowl)
— Memphis: OWs 10-1-1 ATS (-7 vs. Hawaii in Hawaii Bowl)
— Michigan: OWs 12-1 ATS (+ 7.5 vs. Georgia in Orange Bowl)
— Michigan State: OWs 11-1 ATS (-1.5 vs. Pittsburgh in Peach Bowl)
— Middle Tennessee State: OWs 12-0 ATS (+ 10.5 vs. Toledo in Bahamas Bowl)
— Minnesota: OWs 10-1-1 ATS (-4 vs. West Virginia in Guaranteed Rate Bowl)
— Northern Illinois: OWs 11-1-1 ATS (+ 10.5 vs. Coastal Carolina in Cure Bowl)
— Oregon State: OWs 12-0 ATS (-7 vs. Utah State in LA Bowl)
— Pittsburgh: OWs 12-1 ATS (+ 1.5 vs. Michigan State in Peach Bowl)
— Purdue: OWs 11-1 ATS (-4.5 vs. Tennessee in Music City Bowl)
— Texas A&M: OWs 11-1 ATS (-5 vs. Wake Forest in Gator Bowl)
— UAB: OWs 10-1-1 ATS (+ 7 vs. BYU in Independence Bowl)
— UCLA: OWs 12-0 ATS (+ 1 vs. NC State in Holiday Bowl)
— Utah State: OWs 12-1 ATS (+ 7 vs. Oregon State in LA Bowl)
— Virginia: OWs 11-1 ATS (+ 1.5 vs. SMU in Fenway Bowl)
— Virginia Tech: OWs 11-1 ATS (+ 0 vs. Maryland in Pinstripe Bowl)
— Western Michigan: OWs 10-1-1 ATS (+ 3.5 vs. Nevada in Quick Lane Bowl)