When it comes to winning a college football bowl pick’em pool, you need to choose your picks wisely. Winning a pool is not just a matter of getting lucky — some picks are clearly better than others from a risk/reward standpoint.
College Bowl Pool Upset & Value Pick Strategy
In the vast majority of bowl pools, if you’re playing intelligently, upset picks will only make up a minority of your picks. The goal, after all, is to score more points than your pick’em competitors. If you pick the less likely team to win in all 39 of the 2014-15 bowl games, you’re probably not going to win the pool, unless it’s a crazy, once-in-a-lifetime year for upsets.
However, making some upset picks — especially in larger pools — should increase your odds to come in first place. But you need to be savvy about maximizing the expected positive impact of the upsets you pick. In addition, in confidence pools you should be on the lookout for teams that are highly underrated, even if they are the Vegas favorites.
In short, you want to identify “sleeper picks” that share both of the following traits:
What an unusual bowl season it was. Huge upsets were the story of the season, and they played out in historic fashion. How about this for a stat, courtesy of @StatsByLopez: Three of the five biggest bowl upsets in the last 20+ years all happened this year. Check out his graph to see it visualized.
With college football now over, it’s time to evaluate how our bowl season pick’em and betting picks did this year. As usual, we’ll start with our bowl pick’em advice and then move on to bowl betting picks.
Betting on bowl games will always be a bit of a crapshoot. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying through their teeth or just doesn’t understand randomness and probability.
Let’s examine why.
(FYI, if you want to see who our computer models are picking to cover the spread in every bowl game, you can check out our 2013 bowl spread picks page — subscription required though.)
Good Bowl Picks Are An SSS (Small Sample Size)
In a 35-game bowl season, especially given that the Vegas sports books have plenty of time to research bowl betting odds and react to early bowl betting action, it stands to reason that there will only be an edge available to bettors on some games.
You may be familiar with this phrase, often used to describe poker tables or business negotiations: “Look around the room and try to find the sucker. If you can’t find the sucker, then you’re the sucker.”
Well, if you look at the point spreads for 35 bowl games and think that Vegas got it wrong on 30 of them, chances are you are the sucker.
With the 2013 college football bowl season just days away, college bowl picks are on a lot of people’s minds right now.
This year’s bowl slate features no less than 70 teams, so if you’re planning on knowing your stuff — and perhaps trying to dominate some coworkers in a bowl office pool, or outsmart a Vegas sports book or two — you’ve got your work cut out for you.
We’re here to help. In this first post, we’ll start out with one of our two premium offerings for bowl season: bowl picks for office pools.
Now that the 2012-2013 college bowl season has ended in a perhaps unsurprising fashion — and I don’t mean Alabama winning, I mean the entire sports world up in arms over something Brent Musberger said — it’s time to look back and grade the performance of our bowl season predictions and contest advice.
For those new to the site, as part of our premium services we offer picks for college bowl pick’em contests, which seem to be getting quite a bit more popular over the years. We also offer computer-determined betting predictions (point spread, over/under, and money line value picks) for every bowl game.
In summary, we had our third straight strong year with our bowl pick’em advice, while our betting pick performance was mixed.
2012-2013 College Bowl Pick’em Results
We published a total of 12 bowl pick’em pick sets this year, 9 for competing in game winner based bowl pick’ems with confidence points, and three for game winner contests without confidence points. As a group, they performed very well, including a few outstanding results.
- 11 of our 12 published pick sets finished in the top 3.5% of ESPN and the top 6% of Yahoo. That generally should be good enough to come in top five or six in a 100-person pool, top two or three in a 50-person pool, and first or second place in a 25-person pool.
- Our non-confidence pick sets did especially well this year on ESPN, with 2 of 3 finishing in the 99.6th percentile. On Yahoo! they were 97th percentile.
- Our worst pick set out of all twelve still beat 85% of the nation, and that was a pick set targeted for a large pool, which uses more of a boom-or-bust strategy.
Before we get started, just a quick reminder that our bowl pick’em picks crushed the public again in 2011-12, notching a second consecutive top-2% finish in ESPN’s college bowl pick’em game. For this year’s bowl picks and contest advice, click the image below or sign up now:
It’s 2012-2013 college football bowls season! Time yet again to become emotionally involved in contests between schools you’ve barely heard of playing in games named after sports bars. For those who love college football, it really doesn’t get much better.
Of course, the arrival of the 2012-2013 college bowls also brings with it the thrills of bowl pick’em contests and bowl betting. And with 70 teams playing in 35 games this year, getting prepared for making bowl season picks can be quite a daunting task. TeamRankings is ready to help, with stats, rankings, predictions, picks and contest strategy advice for all of the 2012-2013 college football bowl games.
Three weeks into the 2012-13 college football season we’re starting to get a clearer picture of teams. Some, like USC or say, the entire Big Ten, have stumbled to open the year. Others, like Alabama, have exceeded even some of our loftiest preseason expectations. It’s still early, but these early results do mean something, even if most people tend to overreact to them.
To get a good picture for expectations going in to conference play, we can use our college football projections page. These numbers use our power ratings to simulate the season thousands of times, while also applying some nifty techniques like error analysis.
(Since it’s still very early in the season, we don’t have very high confidence our current ratings are correct — or very close to correct — for all teams, so when we do our season simulations we also analyze “what if” scenarios that assume our rating for each team is actually wrong by a certain amount. It’s cool stuff.)
Now that the 2011-2012 college bowl season has come to a close, we wanted to recap how we did with our picks and advice for college football bowl pick’em contests.
Overall, we did very well relative to the public this year, although not quite as good as last year’s super performance. Still, we’ve received several emails and comments from customers who either won or scored in the money in their bowl pick’em contests, which is always good anecdotal evidence.
Based on final pre-kickoff predictions, our algorithmic game winner picks went 24-11 (68.6%) overall, their third best performance over the past seven bowl seasons.
Straight Up Winners With Confidence Points
Most bowl pick’em pools are based on picking game winners while also ordering your picks with a “confidence rating” from 35 (highest) to 1 (lowest). Get a pick right, and you get the associated confidence number as points, and the person with the most total points once all the games are done is the winner.
Note that I put “confidence rating” in quotes. In fact, determining optimal strategy for most confidence point based pools is a lot more complex than just actually ordering your picks based on the level of certainty you have in them winning. That’s where we come in, with data-driven strategies to help our users game the system, in effect, to increase their overall shot at winning a pool.
Don’t Worry, There Are More Exciting Bowl Finishes To Come: Expect About 9 More Bowls To Be Decided By A Field Goal Or Less
After Saturday’s exciting bowl season opening act, we’ve had a couple days of rest before things kick back into gear Tuesday in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl.
Over/under on the number of times you or any of your friends actually say “Beef ‘O’ Brady’s St. Petersburg Bowl” tomorrow night: 1.5 (figure on one time minimum, in order to make fun of how long the name is).
You’re forgiven if you think that the closeness of the first few games won’t be topped. We’ve already had a 50-yard game-winning field goal as time expired in the New Orleans Bowl, plus a two minute drive to score a go-ahead touchdown with 13 seconds left in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
But don’t fret. In recent years, nearly a quarter of all bowl games have been decided by 3 points or less:
Last week we compiled a list of Bowl team coaching changes to aid our bowl pick’em analysis. We’ll be updating that list throughout the week, but today we thought we’d take a quick look at how new coaches have done in their bowl games.
You might think that teams with new coaches would struggle in their bowl games, but according to the data, they’ve been just fine.