Confidence pool pick for every 2022-23 college football bowl game

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Successful bettors and handicappers have no choice but to have the utmost confidence in their processes and abilities. Everything we do in betting is an educated guess, but the degree of education can often define a bet’s outcome. Believing in what you do, why you do it, and how you do it are critical traits to finding fortune in all walks of life, especially betting.

Whether you have elaborate spreadsheets with weighted stats and metrics or use a blend of handicapping techniques and angles, the bowl season presents ample opportunity to find off-market lines and games that stand out.

 

When it comes to bowl confidence pools, it isn’t as cut and dry as picking all the favorites that are expected to win. You have to use some game theory and analyze what the competition is likely to do. You are, in essence, handicapping the handicapper. You look at the matchup, but you also need to think about the most popular teams, the most likely upset candidates and how you can leverage that information to hang a high score.

What is a confidence pool?

Before going deeper into the weeds with the strategies and my thoughts on this year’s bowl games, it’s important to explain what a confidence pool is. Some will feature against-the-spread picks, but the vast majority are just picking the straight-up winner of the 41 bowl games.

Points are assigned to the games from 1 to 42 based on your confidence in picking the winner. For example, you may be certain that Oregon State (-10.5) will beat a depleted Florida team missing QB Anthony Richardson and others who have opted out. That might be a game to which you assign a point value of 42, as you look to capitalize on a team that seems far more motivated than its opponent. 

On the flip side, a coin-flip game like Fresno State (-1.5) versus Washington State in the LA Bowl is a game you don’t have a good handle on. That might be a game where you assign a point value of 1 or 2, effectively saying you don’t know who will win and aren’t willing to gamble much on it. 

The entry with the most points wins, so the goal is to get as many games correct as possible, but there are additional layers of strategy.

Confidence Pool Strategies

Isolate the Favorites

Even though you are picking straight-up winners, looking at the spreads and using them as a guide is tremendously important. It will be hard to win a confidence pool picking a bunch of upsets and trying to hit home runs when a single or a double will suffice. There are a multitude of reasons why teams are favored in bowl games. 

For starters, one team is better than the other in most cases. The difference in conference strength also plays a big role (i.e., the MAC is awful in bowl games). A team in the SEC will likely be favored over a team from the ACC. Teams from the Sun Belt are often favored over the MAC. Stronger conferences yield better, more tested teams, which can be an important angle for both ATS and SU picks in the bowl season.

Pay Plenty of Attention to the News

In the current era of college football, with NFL Draft opt-outs and the transfer portal, over 1,000 players are changing schools or bypassing the bowl game. The coaching carousel also spins faster than ever before. Head coaches grab the headlines, but I always try to focus on the losses of coordinators as well. Head coaches are point men for the program and the ones that face the media, but the coordinators often put together the gameplans and doing a lot of the heavy lifting with recruiting.

The loss of a head coach can lead to a mass exodus in the transfer portal and a general feeling of malaise throughout the program, but the X’s and O’s between the lines are often what define bowl game outcomes, and the coordinators have their fingerprints all over that aspect of the game.

Going Contrarian, But To A Degree

My colleague Josh Appelbaum often talks about going contrarian and picking against the grain. He’ll extensively use betting splits in that analysis, and many find it a viable strategy. When it comes to bowl confidence picks, the betting splits can be a good way to “read the room”. You won’t win a confidence pool without picking against some popular teams. You don’t want to do it for the sake of doing it, but you want to find some vulnerable favorites that are popular and try to pick on them. 

Some confidence pools will even provide information specific to your contest, or you can look at contest pools for major sites like ESPN, CBS or Fox to see what the consensus is picking.

If you can pick off a favorite that has an average confidence rating of 20 or 25 and have your own value of 10 or 15 on them, that is a huge swing in the context of this type of contest.

Again, that doesn’t mean you want to pick wildly against favorites. You simply want to pick and choose your spots to try and steal an upset victory. If you’re wrong on a popular team, you might find yourself at a big disadvantage. But upsets are inevitable, and identifying the teams with the best chance may be the difference between finishing with a good score and finishing with a great score.

This process also works in reverse. Most pool players will know that they need to pick some upsets. Staying away from the more popular upset picks (or as Josh says, fade the trendy dog) can help. For example, a team like Washington, which finished 10-2 with a six-game winning streak, will be a popular pick against a Texas team that limped to an 8-4 finish. I don’t know if Washington pulls the upset, but we can assume they’ll be a trendy upset selection.

Kansas State over Alabama will be another one under the assumption that the Crimson Tide doesn’t want to be there. Maybe that’s true, and motivation is a factor, but if the Wildcats don’t beat Nick Saban’s bunch, that would be an upset gamble that goes down in flames for a lot of entrants. 

Understand the Competition

Are you in a big pool or a small pool? Are you with friends and co-workers or sharper college football minds? Your strategy will change based on the company you keep in this endeavor. The smaller the pool, the more chalk you want to go with. Taking unnecessary gambles on a bunch of upsets is likely to hurt in the end and playing it with a conservative mindset should be fruitful. 

In a large pool, you’ll have to take some gambles and riskier positions. Unlike a small pool, where conservatism makes sense, there will be a lot of entrants in a big pool that go the safe route. You don’t have that luxury.

Once again, handicapping the handicapper is important. If you’re in a sharper, more high-stakes pool, you’ll have to make some different moves than you would with people that aren’t in the know as much as you might be. 

Every Pick Matters 

If you stop to think about it, 1+2+3+4+5+6+7 = 28. Don’t just throw away a pick because you don’t know. Even your lowest confidence picks will add up in this context. You will get some high numbers wrong, which means that the small numbers matter, too. Leveraging your most confident picks with the highest numbers is important, but every game deserves attention.

This is mostly tailored towards straight-up confidence pools, but against-the-spread pools with stale numbers are going to magnify this point. If you don’t know about a game, but the line has moved from -3.5 up to -6.5, take the stale line value and treat it accordingly. Three points of free line equity is worth moving up a few numbers on the confidence scale. 

Confidence Pool Picks

I was asked to make my confidence picks for the Bowl Betting Guide. Keep in mind that a ton of moving parts still must be figured out in advance of the bowl games, so you’ll want to keep an eye on the news cycle as players and coaches continue to make decisions about their futures. Lines will also move, creating higher or lower implied probabilities for teams. My advice: wait it out as long as you can.