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College Football Vegas Power Rating Picks – Bowl Games

The bowl season is almost here. Before we get to that point, Army vs. Navy stands alone this week and it is a game that deserves to stand alone and get all of the fanfare that it deserves. After that, the regular season will be officially over and the bowl season will begin.

Admittedly, this is the time of the year when power ratings mean the least. We’ve spent the last 8-9 weeks making sure that we have these teams properly rated to take on conference opposition. Now, we’ve got a variety of different factors in play. That is why I only update these and the article one time.

Players will declare for the NFL Draft and sit out. Coaches will be leaving their respective programs and I don’t just mean head coaches, but coordinators as well. We’ll wind up with more than a couple interim head coaches (which is about a 50% proposition ATS dating back more than a decade). We’ll have teams that won’t be focused during the bowl prep period. We’ll have suspensions. We’ll have ineligible players. We’ll have it all.

We’ll also get waves of different line moves. The market has already moved a little bit on some games, but there is still value to be had. On the other hand, if you lock in a ticket now, you had better hope everything goes off without a hitch from now until kickoff.

Motivation is something that we cannot quantify. Once the teams get between the lines, instinct will kick in and most guys will be playing hard. For many players, this will be the last time they ever set foot on a competitive football field. Where we see motivation have a huge impact is in terms of preparation. In terms of film study. In terms of picking up new parts of the playbook. These extra practices for coaches can be used in a variety of different ways. Some will coach to win the bowl. Others will coach with next year in mind and use underclassmen in different reps and sets. It is a tough thing to gauge.

So I don’t factor it into my power ratings at all. It is a reason to be on or stay off of a game. It can enhance a position that my numbers like or it can take me off of a game because I’m not sure how that particular set of circumstances will play out on the field. There are a lot of grey areas and unknowns here in the bowl season. These are far from traditional handicaps, especially with a lot of time in between games.

Like I said, this will be my last power ratings update. To make my chart of spreads easier to read, I will delete the games as they get played, but I WILL NOT UPDATE FOR INJURY, SUSPENSIONS, OR DRAFT DECLARATIONS. Make of those what you will. Some players are going to be important enough to affect and alter the line. Many of them will not. That is up to you to decide how much those things matter. I also will not be adjusting numbers for coaches leaving or staying. We don’t know exactly how players will react. Maybe they like the interim. Maybe they hated the other guy. Who knows.

Finally, I did add some HFA where I felt it was warranted. Staying closer to home or playing in a more familiar place can be interpreted in a lot of ways. On one hand, going to a destination and seeing something new is a fun part of the bowl experience. On the other hand, your fan base may be able to come if it’s close. There are some bowl games played in elevation or in different settings that I also felt required a little bit of a bump.

Before we get to the spreads, here is my final 1 through 130 for the season:

Rank Team Conference PR HFA
1 Clemson ACC 103 4
2 Ohio State Big Ten 100.5 4
3 LSU SEC 98.5 3.5
4 Georgia SEC 91 4
5 Alabama SEC 91 4.5
6 Oklahoma Big 12 88.5 4
7 Utah Pac-12 88 3.5
8 Michigan Big Ten 87.5 4
9 Oregon Pac-12 85.5  
10 Florida SEC 85 3.5
11 Notre Dame Independent 85 3.5
12 Wisconsin Big Ten 84.5 3.5
13 Auburn SEC 84  
14 Penn State Big Ten 83 4
15 Baylor Big 12 82  
16 Iowa State Big 12 80.5  
17 Minnesota Big Ten 79  
18 Texas A&M SEC 78 3.5
19 USC Pac-12 78 3.5
20 UCF AAC 77.5 4
21 Memphis AAC 77 4
22 TCU Big 12 77 2.5
23 Washington Pac-12 77 4
24 Texas Big 12 77  
25 Iowa Big Ten 76 3.5
26 Appalachian State Sun Belt 76 3.5
27 Virginia Tech ACC 75 3.5
28 Virginia ACC 75  
29 Kansas State Big 12 74.5  
30 Boise State Mountain West 74  
31 Navy AAC 73.5 3.5
32 Louisiana Sun Belt 73.5  
33 Indiana Big Ten 73 2.5
34 SMU AAC 73  
35 Air Force Mountain West 72.5  
36 Miami FL ACC 72  
37 Washington State Pac-12 72 4
38 UNC ACC 72 2.5
39 Tennessee SEC 72 2.5
40 Cincinnati AAC 72 2.5
41 Oklahoma State Big 12 71 3.5
42 Texas Tech Big 12 71  
43 Arizona State Pac-12 71 4
44 Pitt ACC 71 3.5
45 Kentucky SEC 71 2.5
46 Tulane AAC 70.5  
47 Missouri SEC 70 3.5
48 Louisville ACC 70  
49 BYU Independent 70  
50 South Carolina SEC 70  
51 Michigan State Big Ten 70  
52 Ole Miss SEC 69.5 2.5
53 California Pac-12 69.5  
54 Florida State ACC 69  
55 Wake Forest ACC 68.5 2.5
56 Mississippi State SEC 68.5 3.5
57 Nebraska Big Ten 68.5 2.5
58 Oregon State Pac-12 67.5 2
59 Western Kentucky Conference USA 66.5  
60 FAU Conference USA 66  
61 Boston College ACC 66  
62 Stanford Pac-12 66 3.5
63 Temple AAC 65.5 3.5
64 UCLA Pac-12 65 2.5
65 West Virginia Big 12 65 3.5
66 Utah State Mountain West 65 3.5
67 Purdue Big Ten 65 2.5
68 Duke ACC 64.5  
69 Tulsa AAC 64.5  
70 Central Michigan MAC 64.5 2.5
71 Marshall Conference USA 64 2.5
72 Wyoming Mountain West 64 4
73 San Diego State Mountain West 64  
74 Western Michigan MAC 64 3.5
75 Buffalo MAC 64 3.5
76 Southern Miss Conference USA 63  
77 Georgia Southern Sun Belt 63  
78 Fresno State Mountain West 63 4
79 Illinois Big Ten 62.5 2
80 Ohio MAC 62.5 3.5
81 Houston AAC 62 3.5
82 Arizona Pac-12 62  
83 NC State ACC 62  
84 Colorado Pac-12 62  
85 Hawaii Mountain West 62 2.5
86 Louisiana Tech Conference USA 62  
87 Colorado State Mountain West 62  
88 Arkansas State Sun Belt 61.5 3.5
89 Ball State MAC 61.5 2
90 Kansas Big 12 61 2.5
91 Syracuse ACC 61  
92 Northwestern Big Ten 61  
93 Middle Tenn Conference USA 61 3.5
94 UAB Conference USA 60.5 3.5
95 Georgia Tech ACC 60 3.5
96 Georgia State Sun Belt 59 2
97 San Jose State Mountain West 59 2.5
98 USF AAC 59  
99 Liberty Independent 59  
100 Army Independent 59 4
101 Miami OH MAC 58.5  
102 Charlotte Conference USA 58.5 2.5
103 Eastern Michigan MAC 58.5  
104 Troy Sun Belt 58 3.5
105 Arkansas SEC 58  
106 Maryland Big Ten 58  
107 FIU Conference USA 58  
108 Louisiana Monroe Sun Belt 57.5 2.5
109 Kent State MAC 57.5 2
110 Toledo MAC 57 3.5
111 Nevada Mountain West 57  
112 Northern Illinois MAC 57  
113 North Texas Conference USA 57 3.5
114 Coastal Carolina Sun Belt 57 2.5
115 Vanderbilt SEC 56  
116 East Carolina AAC 55 2.5
117 Rice Conference USA 54 2
118 Texas State Sun Belt 53 2
119 UNLV Mountain West 53 2.5
120 New Mexico Mountain West 49 2
121 South Alabama Sun Belt 48.5  
122 UTSA Conference USA 47 2.5
123 New Mexico State Independent 47  
124 Old Dominion Conference USA 47 3.5
125 Rutgers Big Ten 46 2.5
126 UConn AAC 44 2
127 UTEP Conference USA 43.5 2
128 Bowling Green MAC 39.5 2
129 Akron MAC 35 2
130 UMass Independent 27 2.5

Here are my adjustments following conference championship games:

Up: Louisiana +1, Baylor +1, LSU +1.5, Clemson +1, Cincinnati +1

Down: Memphis -1.5, UAB -2, Oklahoma -1.5, Utah -2

Nothing big or major. A few things to adjust to market. That’s really about it.

Here are my bowl game spreads, including HFA where necessary:

Date Away Home My Line
12/14 Army Navy (N – Philadelphia) -14.5
  Bahamas Bowl Nassau, Bahamas  
  Buffalo Charlotte +5.5
  Frisco Bowl Frisco, TX  
  Kent State Utah State -8.5
  New Mexico Bowl Albuquerque, NM  
  Central Michigan San Diego St (1 pt HFA) -0.5
  Cure Bowl Orlando, FL  
  Liberty Georgia Southern -4
  Boca Raton Bowl Boca Raton, FL  
  SMU FAU (full HFA) +4
  Camellia Bowl Montgomery, AL  
  FIU Arkansas State -3.5
  Las Vegas Bowl Las Vegas, NV  
  Washington Boise State +3
  New Orleans Bowl New Orleans, LA  
  UAB App State -16
  Gasparilla Bowl Tampa, FL  
  Marshall UCF (1 pt HFA) -14.5
  Hawaii Bowl Honolulu, HI  
  BYU Hawaii (full HFA) +5.5
  Independence Bowl Shreveport, LA  
  Miami FL LA Tech +10
  Quick Lane Bowl Detroit, MI  
  Pitt Eastern Michigan +12.5
  Military Bowl Annapolis, MD  
  UNC Temple +6.5
  Pinstripe Bowl Bronx, NY  
  Michigan State Wake Forest +1.5
  Texas Bowl Houston, TX  
  Oklahoma State Texas A&M -7
  Holiday Bowl San Diego, CA  
  USC (1 pt HFA) Iowa +3
  Cheez-It Bowl Phoenix, AZ  
  Washington State Air Force -0.5
  Camping World Bowl Orlando, FL  
  Iowa State Notre Dame -4.5
  Cotton Bowl Arlington, TX  
  Memphis Penn State -6
  Peach Bowl Atlanta, GA  
  Oklahoma LSU -10
  Fiesta Bowl Glendale, AZ  
  Clemson Ohio State +2.5
  First Responder Bowl Dallas, TX  
  Western Michigan Western Kentucky -2.5
  Redbox Bowl Santa Clara, CA  
  Illinois Cal -7
  Orange Bowl Miami, FL  
  Virginia Florida -10
  Music City Bowl Nashville, TN  
  Miss State Louisville (1 pt HFA) -2.5
  Sun Bowl El Paso, TX  
  Florida State Arizona State (1 pt HFA) -3
  Liberty Bowl Memphis, TN  
  Kansas State Navy (1 pt HFA) PK
  Arizona Bowl Tucson, AZ  
  Georgia State Wyoming (1.5 pt HFA) -6.5
  Alamo Bowl San Antonio, TX  
  Texas Utah -11
  Belk Bowl Charlotte, NC  
  Kentucky Virginia Tech -4
  Citrus Bowl Orlando, FL  
  Michigan Alabama -3.5
  Outback Bowl Tampa, FL  
  Minnesota Auburn -5
  Rose Bowl Pasadena, CA  
  Wisconsin Oregon -1
  Sugar Bowl New Orleans, LA  
  Baylor Georgia -9
  Birmingham Bowl Birmingham, AL  
  Boston College Cincinnati -6
  Gator Bowl Jacksonville, FL  
  Tennessee Indiana -1
  Potato Bowl Boise, ID  
  Ohio Nevada (1 pt HFA) +4.5
  Armed Forces Bowl Fort Worth, TX  
  Tulane Southern Miss +7.5
  LendingTree Bowl Mobile, AL  
  Miami (OH) Louisiana -15
  National Championship New Orleans, LA  

I would never play a bowl game solely on a power rating stance without a really, really big overlay. We have strength of schedule differences and a lot of other factors that come into play. I would consider them and would consider getting in front of a line move whenever possible, but I was out of town for the weekend when lines posted, so some of the games have moved already. Some have moved with my PRs and others have moved against them.

I do have an overlay on Army/Navy, but keep in mind that an option game with a running clock often suppresses offense, which means that you have to consider that with a projected spread. My number is a pure power rating. Considering the teams and the very low total, my line is more like 12 or 12.5 when adjusted for the scoring environment.

Bowl game lines to consider:

Central Michigan +4.5 vs. San Diego State

BYU -2 vs. Hawaii

USC +1.5 (watch for NFL declarations here) vs. Iowa

Utah -6.5 vs. Texas

Michigan +7 vs. Alabama

Minnesota +8 vs. Auburn

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this article this season and I hope that it has been beneficial for you in terms of creating your own numbers or at least getting a feel for the process. I think it is an important and useful skill and hopefully you will give it a try over the summer to get ready for the upcoming season.

Good luck in bowls, y’all and thank you for reading!

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