Betting the 2018 Bowl Games Based on Strength of Schedule

Date | AuthorDavid Laferriere

Last Updated: 2018-12-04

You have heard it on the pod, Strength of Schedule (SOS) matters for the bowl games. If you have not, then you should seriously start listening. Some NCAAF teams skated by with an easy schedule and wound up with 10 wins, UAB. Other teams struggled through difficult schedules to 8 wins, Northern Illinois. Some of these bowl games feature massive SOS differences. Every bettor should include these metrics, as calculated by Jeff Sagarin, in their bowl season handicapping repertoire.

The data has been broken up into three sets. The first set is the bowl games from Dec 15 through the 21. The second includes the games up until December 28, and the last set includes the remaining bowl games.

Rules of the Table

The average discrepancy of the strength of schedule ratings is in the top right corner.

The teams are broken up into sets of two based on who is playing.

The far right column shows the discrepancy.

If the number is negative then the bottom team played the stronger schedule than the bottom team.

If the number is positive (green) then the top team played the stronger schedule.

The darker the color, the more significant the advantage.

Analyzing the Data

The biggest mismatch here is UAB against Northern Illinois. However, there are still significant differences in every game except NC A&T against Alcorn State. Compare these differences with the spreads. The spreads are driven by market perception. A team rolling through an easier schedule could be perceived as a better team. Arizona State played a top fifty most difficult schedule. However, they are getting 4.5 points against Fresno State. Wins are more readily available data than the strength of schedule and advanced analytics. Find edges, and be more informed than other bettors.

Analyzing the Data

A really fun matchup here is Iowa State against Washington State. Two of college footballs best coaches will square off in Matt Campbell and Mike Leach, respectively. What most people do not realize is that Iowa State played the 29th most difficult schedule. However, they are 4 point underdogs to the Cougars. Iowa State hung tough in most of their difficult matchups, while Washington walked over inferior competition.

The biggest discrepancy is Memphis against Wake Forest in the Jared Birmingham Bowl. Memphis is 3.5 point favorite, despite blowing a big time championship contest to UCF. How motivated will this Memphis team be? How ready to play will they be after playing lighter competition all season?

Analyzing the Data

A great example here is Michigan State against Oregon in the Redbox Bowl. Michigan State sure looked bad at times, but they had an absolute monster of a schedule. Oregon could barely get to eight wins despite a significantly easier schedule. Michigan State had a far more difficult schedule, finished with just one less win, and is now an underdog. It may not have been a pretty season, but the Spartans sure fought hard to finish above .500.

There are a quite few games with large SOS discrepancies. Bets should not be made on this data alone, but the numbers can help bettors find that last needed edge to make a decision. Happy hunting, it’s Bowl Season!

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