Saturday, December 17, 2011

Anatomy of a Bowl Pick 'Em

It's that time of year again-- time for about 32 bowls that have 0 compelling factors and perhaps 3 that do. Time for loyal college football fans to road trip to glamorous locales such as Boise, Idaho; Mobile, Alabama, or exotic Ft. Leavenworth (ok, the last one's a joke... bonus points if you can name the movie reference.). Time for us to see a thousand commercials promoting, shall we say, unique title sponsors such as Beef "O" Bradys and

While all of these reasons are surely compelling enough on their own to tune into all 140 (give or take) hours of college football glory(ish), even the most diehard sometimes need an extra incentive. Enter: College Bowl Pick 'Em.

This is my third year to participate in the Pick 'Em. And you'd think, being the genius of the game that I am, that I would be vying for an unprecedented 3rd Pick 'Em Title. Truth be told, my performance has been abysmal in both previous years, but hey, if we apply the QB rule of thumb, I shouldn't be winning it all until Year 4, right? Regardless, I am trying my darndest to win it all, or do at least respectably this go 'round.

But enough about my (lack of) success, let's take a closer look at the anatomy of a Bowl Pick 'Em. It is certainly not for the faint of heart-- you are forced to make a point blanc 'this-or-that' decision 35 times over, and than rank how confident you are in that choice. The chronically indecisive need not apply.

The Head

When picking team vs. team, there's plenty of logic to be applied to the selection, if you so choose. There are stats, records, and standings galore that can be compared and taken into consideration. For instance, when a team like 10-2 TCU is pitted against an 8-4 Louisiana Tech, common sense dictates that you bet the farm on the Horned Frogs, who have the vastly superior resume. Sometimes the choices seem so obvious, and you're suddenly so pumped for your "guaranteed" points. In the words of the oft-quoted Lee Corso, "Not so fast, my friend." Take the 2010 Holiday Bowl. Nebraska walloped Washington on the road early in the regular season. So the rematch should end in a similar result, right? Wronnng... the Cornhuskers end up losing 7-19. Bam! Major blow to the points balance. In my rookie Pick 'Em season, I studied up a storm, trying to learn about each team and match up records, personnel, etc. Long story short, it did not work out. At all. The head is an important tool in the Pick 'Em process, but it is not infallible.

The Heart

This little nugget may come as a surprise, given the pristinely unbiased nature of this blog, but I believe college football to be a game of intense pride and loyalty. You believe your team will win, no matter what the odds or the stats say- all that 'head' stuff goes right out the window. For me, that team is the Oklahoma Sooners *gaspbigreveal*. I so fervently want them to win, and for teams I hate, such as Texas, to lose, that it clouds my ability to objectively pick who I predict will win. And it happens to even the best of us-- you let your heart get in the way of a sound selection. The heart can make you a great fan, but when used without temperance, it makes you a poor picker. If you've gotta make a pure 'heart' pick, it behooves you to use some discretion on the confidence rank.

The Gut

Ah, instinct-- the primal tool used by great football players, and occasionally, by great Pick 'Em players (I do not fall into such a category). Some people just get a feeling that a certain team will win. It can be somewhat informed by the head and the heart, but often it's just an inexplicable inclination. It bucks the notion of labored, analytical picking by quickly and deliberately committing to a choice. I think this comes into play most with the nobody teams. Seriously, how many of us have closely (or at all) followed 10-2 Arkansas State or 10-3 N. Illinois? You just have to make a gut pick. This was a large part of my overall strategy choice this year-- it's nervewracking. It's a high-risk, high-reward strategy (as high-risk as a $5 buy-in game can be) that gives you little ammo to justify your picks when they go scarily right or horribly wrong. We'll see how this one works out.

The Butt

I think the most successful pickers are probably the ones who can pull the obscure picks out of their butt- the one everyone else thinks is a fool's choice on a "guarantee" game, or a high confidence pick on one of the Nobody State games. This is where dumb luck plays the equalizer- you can't pick these games with your head. Whether it's deliberate strategy or fortuitous chance, the payoff can be great when you bet big on the win that no one else saw coming. It's frustrating, because sometimes it just flat out works out for the smartass picker.

Other considerations:

NEVER bet the Big 12. That's what I told myself after last year's debacle of a bowl season for my home conference. We went 3-5 in what should have been many winnable games in my book, and I think I picked all but 2 teams to win. And for as long as I can remember, the story has been similar for this beleaguered conference. I vowed to myself that I would not make the same mistake this year. And what do I do? I pick them to go 6-2. Damnit, Big 12.

So happy bowling everyone! May all your Pick 'Em wishes come true, as long as mine come true more. I need to crack the top 10 this year and gain some street cred. Best of luck to all.

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