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Tony Salinas: Be Cautious with Bowl Dogs

For years and years, I recommended that bettors focus on underdogs in early bowl games. And, for years and years, that was GREAT advice! But, for many reasons, focusing on underdogs is no longer an auto-pilot strategy you should use in the first couple of weeks of bowl action.

In case you've already forgotten what happened last year, let me remind you how the first few bowls on the schedule played out in December of 2010.

New Mexico Bowl: UTEP (+10) lost big to BYU 52-24
Humanitarian Bowl: Fresno State (+1.5) lost big to Northern Illinois 40-17
New Orleans Bowl: Ohio (+2) lost big to Troy 48-21
Beef O'Brady Bowl: Southern Miss (+2) lost to Louisville 31-28
Maaco Bowl: Utah (+15.5) lost to Boise State 26-3
Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (+3) lost big to San Diego State 35-14

Ring any bells? Dog players were thrashed with an 0-6 start to the bowl campaign. It wasn't until Game Seven when underdog Tulsa broke through at Hawaii with a 62-35 win as a 10-point puppy. Yes, it was a 37-point cover! But, that didn't make up for all the blowout losses underdogs had suffered earlier.

Now, I'm not going to tell you that you should focus all of your money on favorites during Saturday's tripleheader and in next week's early games. Treat each game individually and look for true value. My point today is that the auto-pilot strategy that worked so well during my many decades living out here in Las Vegas no longer applies. Among the reasons:

  • There are so many bowl games in the current era that some REALLY BAD teams get invited. It's much tougher for a team that bad to pull off an upset, even if the opposing favorite is flat. Way in the past, you'd be asking, maybe, the 40th best team to play well for you in an early bowl. Now it's the 70th best team...and they're just not as trustworthy.

  • There are so many bowl games now that favorites in the early games aren't necessarily disappointed to be in a bowl! A couple of decades ago, the "early bowl" favorites were often teams from good conferences who were disappointed to be in a lesser bowl. They wouldn't show up mentally, and you'd clean up going against them. Now, you're seeing many motivated favorites showing up. Maybe the raw caliber of the favorites is worse than 25 years ago...but the motivation is much better. Teams like Northern Illinois and Troy really showed up to play a year ago this weekend.

  • Oddsmakers adjusted to the tendencies of the past, and just don't offer big underdog value the way they used to. Some believe they've overadjusted, and there's actually value on favorites. We'll see how that plays out this year. Right now...it's important to know that the free points that were there for you for so many years aren't really there any more except in very rare circumstances.

  • Public teams don't play in early games any more! One of the hallmarks of my high roller approach is that I bet against the public. Sorry, but the public couldn't care less about Temple-Wyoming, Utah State-Ohio, or Louisiana Lafayette-San Diego State. There's no dumb money to fade! In earlier years, you'd have some great double whammy situations where a public team was laying too many points in a game they didn't care about. Now...there are few public teams playing before Christmas, and many of the favorites are happy to be bowling anywhere they're invited.

In the past, I'd have used this spot to encourage you to focus almost exclusively on underdogs...or to at least shade your action toward underdogs. And, I'd also have been telling you to bet against "public" teams who were getting too much respect in the line. Now, I have to tell you to handicap each game like it's a regular season matchup. What are each team's strengths and weaknesses? Who's likely to have a home area advantage even when there's no home field advantage? Who has a quarterback who can find the end zone...and who has a quarterback who's going to turn the over four times if he falls behind?

I've had some time to study these games since the matchups were announced. I'm really looking forward to this first week of action. You can purchase the exact same plays I'm betting the biggest myself right here at the website with your credit card. Game day releases go up a few hours before kickoff. I do have very affordable rates for the rest of football (college and pro). If you have any questions, call my handicapping office at 1-888-536-8880. Be sure to check on my early season basketball rates when you call.

Saturday's picks will be up by mid-morning Eastern time, and early morning Vegas time. We have a lot of football (don't forget about Dallas-Tampa Bay in the NFL) and college basketball. I'll be back once again this weekend to talk how "need" can be overrated in the NFL during the last few weeks of the season. I'll talk more about my Sunday plans in pro football at that time.

Last year dog-only players certainly took the worst of it in early bowl action. Be sure you're betting smart this time around. GET THE BEST OF IT WITH TONY SALINAS!

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