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College Football Bowl predictions: Are rushing yards the key?

College Football Bowl predictions: Are rushing yards the key?

College Football Bowl season is a unique time of the year for sports betting. Between December 15 and January 7 this year, there will be forty bowl games played between NCAA Division I schools. How can rushing yards help with your College Football Bowl predictions? Read on to find out.

College Football Bowl games explained

Before examining the College Football Bowl odds and trying to make accurate College Football Bowl predictions, the first step is to understand what College Football Bowl games are and what makes them unique to other NCAA or NFL games.

While College Football Bowl games originated as end of season exhibition matches, the format is now used to determine the overall winner of the College Football National Championship via playoff games. Because a committee determines the rankings of teams in NCAA Football (those that make the playoffs), there are only six competitive bowl games. Also known as the New Year’s Six, these games will change each year depending on the rankings.

The other College Football Bowl games are invitation based and agreed between two teams. These games will still have a prize pool to compete for and will be shown live on television but there is nothing official on the line.

List of College Football Bowl games

Below is a list of some of the most well known College Football Bowl games:

Bowl name

Bowl venue

Inagural year

Rose Bowl Game

Rose Bow, California


Orange Bowl

Hard Rock Stadium, Florida


Sugar Bowl

Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans


Cotton Bowl Classic

AT&T Stadium, Texas


Citrus Bowl

Camping World Stadium, Florida


Peach Bowl

Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Georgia


Fiesta Bowl

State Farm Stadium, Arizona


Holiday Bowl

SDCCU Stadium, San Diego


Outback Bowl

Raymond James Stadium, Florida


Alamo Bowl

Alamodome, Texas


Texas Bowl

NRG Stadium, Texas


What to consider for College Football Bowl predictions

From a player perspective, bowl games are a chance to play in front of a dedicated national television audience. This can be both a positive and a negative.

If you are a team like the North Texas Mean Green from Conference USA, the chance to play on ESPN is a rare opportunity. On the other hand, if you are a team like the Stanford Cardinal, representing the mighty Pac-12 Conference in the Alamo Bowl three days after Christmas can be an embarrassment and an inconvenience.

From a bookmaking perspective, bowl season is a ton of work. Every game is played on a neutral site. Teams are coming off different preparation schedules and typically three to four weeks break from the end of the regular season - this makes it a lot more complicated than NFL betting.

Having to deal with isolated nationally televised games each day for three weeks during the holiday season requires accurate trading and odds compiling because the handle is inflated in every market.

From a bettor’s perspective, bowl season can be an easy way to lose a lot of money. College football is very conference-centric. Statistics on each team can be very misleading because the style of football played in each conference varies drastically.

Bowl season slates teams against out of conference opponents which means extreme due-diligence must be done to spot which team’s metrics hold true, and which won’t hold up.

How to find value in College Football Bowl odds

All hope is not lost when it comes to betting bowl season. Despite all of the horror stories, there is one statistic which tends to hold up better than any other when it comes to finding an edge in the market. Surprisingly, it is straightforward: rushing yards.

The logic behind the stat is simple. NCAA teams are full of student-athletes. The “twenty-hour rule” which states that players cannot officially practice or train for more than four hours per day and a total of twenty hours per week limits teams. This is certainly a factor to consider in your College Football Bowl predictions.

Teams playing in bowl teams will go at least three weeks between their last regular season game and their bowl game, and with no games played in-between, teams tend to lose timing, which is critical in the passing game. Rushing the ball, however, often comes down to sheer strength, speed and athleticism. This is a factor that is consistently undervalued in the betting market and more specifically, in the College Football Bowl odds.

Teams that rush the ball with great success have a history of performing very well in bowl games against the point spread. In the last seven seasons, 59 of 70 teams which have ranked in the top ten of rushing yards per game in their respective season have qualified for bowl games.

Of the 59 teams, 35 teams have covered the point spread in their bowl game - a win rate of 59.32%, 6.92% above break even. To further press the market inefficiency, bettors can put these teams into teasers. The same 59 teams teased 6.5 points have resulted in a win 47 times - a win rate of 81.35%, 10.25% above break even.

I am not an advocate for betting trends; I think they are often the lowest common denominator of betting analysis. Many trends have little meaning or application to the bet being placed. The only time I do consider a trend or angle is when there is strong meaning that ties into the play on-field.

There is no denying that the unique situation that bowl games put teams in creates an opportunity. As the collective mindset of the betting market bleeds over from professional value and puts more value on the pass play than days before, this rushing angle that is entrenched within the college football game will continue to deliver profits.

Before you make your College Football Bowl predictions this December, remember to look at the yards gained on the ground.



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Adam Chernoff
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