Bowl Host Motivation a Concern

With handicapping legend Tony Salinas


I think the general public places too much weight on teams who get to play bowl games on their home field. They assume a big, boisterous crowd will be on hand. And, they figure the hosts will be super-motivated to play one of their best games of the year.

Let me ask you this. How excited can anyone get about playing Army?

I've been looking very closely at the three upcoming games that involve home field bowls to try and determine how motivated the host is going to be. I think it helps to look over their other home games from earlier this season for some context. Let's take them one game at a time.

SAN DIEGO STATE (hosting Poinsettia Bowl tonight)
Nicholls State
Utah State
Air Force
Colorado State
Navy (tonight's opponent)

Navy actually represents a high quality opponent for a home slate like that. Utah is the best team that came to visit during the regular season, and Air Force is obviously pretty good too. Navy is in a class with those teams...and is a program that should get the juices flowing. Given the large Navy presence in the San Diego area, the home team may actually feel like they're fending off an invasion!

I won't penalize SDSU for motivational issues here. If I take the dog for my clients, it will be for other reasons.

(hosting Tulsa Friday night)
Charleston Southern
Louisiana Tech
San Jose State
Tulsa (Friday's opponent)

Obviously Southern Cal is the showcase game there in terms of a national audience. That was a national TV game. Nevada was a big game, and turned out to be even bigger down the road. Hawaii's victory kept Nevada from winning the WAC outright. Tulsa is a decent team, but probably not somebody that's going to get the juices flowing. It's a team that didn't win its conference...and it wasn't a good conference. You've already seen Southern Miss and UTEP lose from Conference USA in bowl play. Hawaii is in danger of becoming overconfident here. I would have concerns about their intensity and motivation. So, I'll have to consider the underdog in that light...and possibly the Over too because a flat Hawaii performance would mean points on the board for Tulsa.

SMU (Hosting Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 30th)
Washington State
Army (next week's opponent)

Sorry...but TCU was a HUGE game because it was a cross-town rivalry that happened to involve a national power. That was a TV game. Houston was also big because it's a state rivalry within Conference USA. Tulsa obviously was a bowl caliber opponent that SMU got up for. There's a real danger SMU comes out flat for somebody like Army because they aren't taking them seriously enough as a threat. In terms of marquee value, it's one of the weaker games on that slate.

Other keys to consider:

  • Will the CROWD be fired up for the opponents? Part of home field advantage is having a great crowd cheering you on.
  • Will the home players lack a sense of excitement because they missed out on all the "road trip" festivities that are usually involved in a bowl appearance? How special can a game feel when you're going through your usual preparations for another appearance at your home stadium?
  • Will the ROAD teams develop an "us against the world" mentality that leads to peak performance? We've seen this time and time again in the bowls. After an upset win, the players will be saying things like "Nobody gave us a chance in this one, but we proved everybody wrong!" Will Tulsa feel like that in Hawaii? How about Army at SMU?

That will give me something to think about for this week and next. I hope you're cautious with your own handicapping in terms of wanting to take the home favorites. Maybe they'll all win and cover. You don't GET THE BEST OF IT in the bowls by laying points as a general rule (the early results so far notwithstanding). Be sure you're confident of getting a motivated effort before pulling the trigger.

You can always purchase the exact same games I'm betting the biggest myself here at the website with your credit card. Bowl action goes up a few hours before kickoff on game days. Thursday's card will also feature Carolina-Pittsburgh in the NFL. Don't forget that Saturday will feature an NFL game this week with Dallas at Arizona as a Christmas Night special.

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Mark my words...some college bowl favorites are about to take the worst of it. Make sure you're GETTING THE BEST OF IT with TONY SALINAS!


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