Sports Betting

Here are some good tips on how to place bets this bowl season

Though the college football bowl season is well underway, the games you’re MOST excited about betting are still ahead. Virtually everyone reading this is embarking on their first journey through “legal” bowl betting. Be sure you don’t fall into the following traps …

Don’t bet every game just because you want to have something to root for. That’s fine for an office pool with low stakes. It’s extremely unlikely that you’ve followed college football closely enough this season to make a smart “investment” in EVERY game. When you’re betting real money, focus on your strongest opinions in games involving the teams you know best.

Don’t bet parlays hoping to hit a jackpot. Same principle as above in terms of your handicapping. And parlays don’t pay off at true odds. Yes, we know betting bowls is supposed to be fun and playing parlays is fun. But parlays are fun until your lightest leans start losing … messing up what you might have earned with your best opinions.

Don’t bet “money-line parlays” where you link up a bunch of favorites figuring all they have to do is win the game. Sure, favorites won all five games on the first big Saturday of the postseason. That doesn’t mean there won’t be upsets. Did any of you try that this past Sunday in the NFL? You thought Washington had no chance to win in Jacksonville given its injury situation. You thought red-hot Seattle would beat out-manned San Francisco. No way Tom Brady and the Patriots would lose two in a row. Rams over the Eagles? Why would they even bother playing the game? Stuff happens. And some crazy stuff happens every year in college bowls.

Don’t bet “teasers” in college football ever. (Teasers are bets where you move the line at least six points in your favor in multiple games, but you have to SWEEP your choices to cash the ticket). They’re tough enough to win in the NFL. College football is much more high scoring than the pros, generally speaking. But, you’re still only getting six points. Would you pay $20 for a gallon of milk? Don’t “buy” six points in a game that might see 60, 70, or 80 points scored. Those points aren’t worth what you have to pay.

Don’t “chase” if things start out poorly for you. We hope that doesn’t happen to anyone reading this. But, it’s bound to happen to some of you. Nature of the beast. The worst thing you can do is start over-betting because you figure your luck is going to turn. Your future opinions aren’t smarter because you started off with some losses! The urge to get out of a small hole often just digs a deeper, much more dangerous hole. Bet patiently and responsibly.

Bowl games are about to come flying at you in bunches. There are four bowls set for Saturday…three apiece for the first two days after Christmas…four-a-day on Friday and Saturday Dec. 28-29 … six on New Year’s Eve … and then five on New Year’s Day. Busy days are when you’re most likely to get caught up in the excitement and make mistakes. Keep a level head.

Other college football notes:

It’s important to focus on the point of attack when handicapping bowl games. That was a key to the favorites sweeping the first big day of major college action. Tulane out-rushed Louisiana 337-84, Utah State out-rushed North Texas 197-120 (on 4.9 to 2.9 yards-per-carry), Fresno State out-rushed Arizona State 260-164, Georgia Southern out-rushed Eastern Michigan 331-97, and Appalachian State out-rushed Middle Tennessee 233-62. Can you find any likely rushing mismatches in this weekend’s games?

We promised to monitor the final four markets for you. Not much to report in Alabama/Oklahoma, as sharp bettors wait for word on the health of Crimson Tide quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. The point spread will likely stay around -14 until much closer to kickoff. Clemson has been receiving sharp and public support in early betting, with an opener of -10.5 rising to -13. It might take the key number of 14 to bring in serious underdog money on Notre Dame.

Many of you are looking ahead to the Outback Bowl featuring Mississippi State and Iowa on New Year’s Day. Sharps loved the Bulldogs at the opening point spread of -5. That line rose relatively quickly to the key number of -7. It could soar further if the SEC shows well in early bowl appearances, or the Big 10 shows poorly. Pro bettors have also been pounding another SEC team playing on January 1. Georgia is up from -11 to -13 over Texas in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. This despite Longhorn head coach Tom Herman’s stellar point spread history as an underdog.

Jeff Fogle writes the daily VSiN newsletter. Sign up at