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College Football Bowl Game Betting Tips: Has Following Big Line Moves Worked?

College Football Bowl Game Betting Tips: Has Following Big Line Moves Worked? article feature image
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Wesley Hitt/Getty Images. Pictured: KJ Jefferson.

Between opt-outs and COVID absences, bowl game spreads and totals can move in big ways.

But there’s no formal CFB injury report like in the NFL, so those with insider info can often move lines before the rest of the country even knew a player would miss the game.

If you’re reading this, you probably don’t have insider injury info. But can you still make money tailing the big line moves? It’s a small sample, so there’s nothing predictive about this “trend.”

But it’s still been a better idea to follow and not fade these line moves.

Since 2005, teams that see the spread move 3+ points in their favor during bowl season are:

  • 53-36 ATS (59.5%) vs. the opening line
  • 47-40-2 ATS (54%) vs. closing line

Data via Bet Labs

In recent years, since more key players started opting out and COVID has run rampant throughout bowl season, it’s worked out even better.

  • 6-3 ATS in 2021
  • 14-4 ATS last two years
  • 25-13 ATS since 2017

Is there a way to beat the line moves, or get close?

At Action Labs, you can track steam in real-time. Steam refers to sudden, uniform line moves across the betting market often as a result of a betting syndicate getting down action all at once.

(Most American sportsbooks will move their lines if they see other books move without taking any action).

Take this example: Ten days before its bowl game vs. Maryland, the market started telling us something about Virginia Tech.

We tracked a steam move on Maryland pick’em on Saturday night, Dec. 18, then another on Sunday afternoon, Dec. 19, at Maryland -1.5. Then two more on Terps -3.5 and -3 Sunday night.

On Dec. 20, Hokies QB Braxton Burmeister entered the transfer portal. Of course, someone knew about Burmeister’s intentions over the weekend and moved the line.

Maryland closed -4.5 and won 54-10 against Va. Tech’s backup QB.

Chasing steam won’t put you in good favor with most American sportsbooks, but it can be a great tool to see what those in the know are doing.

Which games are left this bowl season?

Six bowl games remaining have moved at least three points — and many by a touchdown or more.

The market has already settled on these games after player opt-outs like Pitt’s Kenny Pickett or Penn State’s Jahan Dotson, so you’re not going to beat any of these lines. But in a small sample, it’s still been slightly profitable to tail these moves.

  • Tennessee +2.5 to -7.5 vs. Purdue
  • Michigan State +3.5 to -4 vs. Pitt
  • Utah +7 to +4 vs. Ohio State
  • Kentucky +1.5 to -3 vs. Iowa
  • Arkansas +4.5 to -2 vs. Penn State
  • Kansas State +2.5 to -3.5 vs. LSU
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