MAD WAGERIN', BOWL SEASON EDITION (VOLUME ONE)

Peter has grand plans for the bowl season. Read on, wager accordingly, and follow our resident mad wagerer at @clevelandfrowns on Twitter and read him at Cleveland Frowns.

Okay, Bowl Season. Shit gets no realer than this. For starters, that my duties as resident Mad Wagerer require me to hold down certain strategic positions in opposition to some of those mapped by Fearless Leader Swindle in his essential 2010 Bowl Season Primer. Which is fine, and actually exactly why one keeps a Mad Wagerer around.


Beginning with the fundamental departure, which is where Swindle says that the Bowl Season is "cut into tiny bite-size sections [in part] to give the impression that something is actually happening all the time (which is not happening at all)." Of course, the very job of a Mad Wagerer is to ensure that something will in fact be happening all the time, or at least most of the time. There's no questioning Swindle's characterization of Bowl Season as "probably eight or nine games qualifying as essential couch-rides, [plus] a few surprises, [and loads of] chaff." My job is mostly to figure out what to do with all the chaff, and certainly isn't to argue with the soundest of principles set forth by Swindle, that "you will watch it, so some planning and tactics will be needed for the long haul."  Which is just another way to say that this is America, we have a long and serious tradition to uphold (of turning fecal matter into fuel and jewelry and things, intestines into medicine bags and whatnot), and it's time to get to it.


The plan is to pick 27 bowl games here in three different frames. Five this week to take us through December 26; Fifteen for the explosion between December 27 and January 2nd; and a nice long goodbye making all seven stops from January 3-10. After having finished the regular season with a 4-1 flourish, the record sits at 39-36-6 (-1 unit), within easy sniffing distance of the Professional-Plus 54% benchmark.

Remember, we should expect to do best at the season's end (and have actually done so, historically), because the approach here uses english, not math. This is counter to conventional wiseguy wisdom holding that lines "tighten up" as a season culminates. The idea is that as the math tightens up, it becomes easier to do more with the english, especially as the season's narratives reach their endpoints. It's not just that math can't solve everything and that the pertinent narratives are easiest to read at season's end, but also that as the math "tightens up" it gets easier to see what it is and isn't saying. Case in point:

MAACO Las Vegas Bowl: Boise State -17 over Utah (9 units) (Wednesday, Dec. 22, 8:05 PM, ESPN)
: If the math is locked in and wiseguys have "tightened up" against dumb public money on supposedly-deflated Boise, that Utah, ranked as highly as 19th to Boise's 10th, wouldn't be getting nearly three touchdowns here. I'd buy the "Boise is deflated" line if instead of Boise we were talking about, say, Alabama playing Utah, but the Broncos, arguably this season's biggest victim of the current system, still have plenty to prove by blowing Utah away. Plus, football is more fun in Boise than it is anywhere else, and this is a football game. Only the hardest-boiled cynic takes the points with Utah here. If Tino Sunsieri and Tommy Rees can combine to hang 44 points on Utah in eight quarters, Kellen Moore should go for about 60 in four.

Actually, wait: 

BEEF 'O BRADY'S BOWL: Louisville -2.5 over Southern Mississippi (6 units) (Tonight, 8:05 PM, ESPN):
Forget it about Sunsieri, because sound wagering reasonable living requires that results against Wannstache-coached teams be thrown out no matter which way they cut. Which means that Louisville's worst loss this season, 20-3 to Pittsburgh, has no bearing here (that Louisville lost star running back Bilal Powell for the second half of this game gives it even less than zero relevance). So looking at the Cardinals' revised second-half schedule, we see that the young first-year-coached team (Charlie Strong) came together as the season wore on. Close losses to West Virginia and South Florida appear to be due much more to an inability of Louisville's offense to keep up with a combination of a decent offensive counterpart and a JV-plus defenses, but Southern Miss doesn't have one of the latter (The Golden Eagles' are the 11th ranked defense against the run because in Conference USA nobody wanted nor had to run on them to score 50 points). Bolstering our hopes for Louisville's offense is the return of starting quarterback Adam Froman, who missed the Cardinals' last four to injury. If Bowl Season is for anyone, it's for Sausage Kings, which is another one of those things that nobody's going to be able to fit into a calculator. 

San Diego County Credit Union Pointsettia Bowl: Navy +3.5 over San Diego State (6 units) (Thursday, Dec. 23, 8:05 PM, ESPN): Brady Hoke and the Aztecs have been great and all this season, and against some decent competition (including a 5-point loss to TCU), but bowl-specific logic weighs especially heavily here. If you were at San Diego State would you want to play a service academy in a bowl game? Playing a football game is the most fun thing these Navy guys will do for a full month, and by orders of magnitude. Which has to go a long way to explain why Navy is 26-10 against the spread on the road as an underdog over the last 11 years (Road trip! Woo!). With all three service academies in bowl games for the first time in history, we might be seeing increased military muscle resulting from the US campaign in the Middle East beginning to play out on the football field. For better or worse, the military is on the up. And at least with respect to the new rules for the gays, on the up and up as well.

Finally, again from Swindle's Bowl Season Primer:

For every team with actual football consequences on the line there's another riding out the rotten end of a wasted season in a mid-sized American city whose chief attractions are alcoholism and a few wretched casinos filled with oxygen tank-toting retirees penny-slotting their way to the grave.

This sounds bad, but it's not the worst option. The worst option are the bowls in San Diego, San Antonio, and heaven forbid El Paso, because even if you institute a curfew nothing's stopping the bold scholar-athletes of a given institution from traipsing across the border, buying some cheap tequila and a few souvenir switchblades, and then obliterating themselves in the course of an afternoon before returning infinitely worse for the wear prior to the curfew. (And that's if they don't get into the unregulated Mexican pharma market, and if they do your coach might be talking to the Federales about how anyone could lose a six foot tall 300 pound American a mile off the Mexican border.)

This is San Diego State every day (Christmas Break!), and with very little to worry about with respect to the cadets here, this is about as easy as a bowl pick gets. But the last two are pretty easy as well because it's just true that 2,000 miles is very far. There are no more than six things that make more sense than "home for the holidays."



Like:

Hawaii -11 over Tulsa (6 units) in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl (Friday, Dec. 24, 8:05 PM, ESPN): Look, Hawaii basically wins this thing every time it plays in it. The last time they didn't was when they lost to the Catholics on Christmas Eve two years ago, which was better for the parties that night anyway and was probably planned. It's dumb to overthink these Christmas games when there's so much eating and drinking to do. Plus, Mike McMackin is in his third year as Rainbows head coach, in sort of a sweet spot with "his" guys as they try to pick up some steam to take into the Mountain West. "It's just a fun group to coach," McMackin said, "probably the most fun group I've had to coach in a long time." Alright woo fun! And Rainbows! Perfect.

Little Caesar's Bowl, Toledo -1.5 over Florida International (FIU) (3 units) (Sunday, December 26, 8:35 PM, ESPN):
Let's talk some more about chaff:

While the Sun Belt brass are celebrating their first-ever three-team bowl season, [FIU athletic director Pete] Garcia felt like the conference should have done more to take care of the teams that it got it there ... Garcia said during the bowl bid press conference, during which FIU's president presented the news while wearing a Santa hat. "But do I agree with everything that's happened in this league and the bowl process? No, I do not agree with it."

He was, in fact, so angry that he essentially informed conference commissioners around the nation that his cell phone was on if they wanted to talk. [Snap!]

Now the Panthers are receiving the second part of their lower-tier bowl education -- losing money. The Little Caesars Bowl has historically paid out about $750,000 per team, but travel costs (most ADs have pegged the number for me at an even $1 million) and a team's contractually-bound obligation to purchase its ticket allotment up front will no doubt leave FIU in a very large fiscal hole.


Blah blah blah cry a river. Detroit's actually really interesting when you get to know it. And an underrated fact about Toledo is that it basically actually is Detroit. But yeah still 2000 miles is very far.

OK, that's it for this week. It looks like 5-0 to me, but I'm glad to be talked down from any of it as always. Happy Bowling and everything. I'll be back next week with 15 more.

(Note: One unit is one percent of your season-opening bankroll.)

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