How To Run A College Football Bowl Pool

Written By Paul Costanzo on December 5, 2022

People have plenty of thoughts about college football’s bowl season.

There are probably too many games. There’s definitely a wide mix of motivations for players and teams. And in reality, only three of the games actually matter. But that doesn’t mean it’s not fun.

One way to make it even more fun: a college football bowl pool. Whether it’s competing for bragging rights with your family and friends, or organizing something with co-workers, bowl pools add some meaning to games with teams you’ve never seen playing in nearly empty stadiums.

Read on to discover how to run one and what formats are available, including everyone’s (least?) favorite, confidence points.

Select your college football bowl pool platform

Luckily, for anyone looking to start a bowl pool, technology has taken a lot of the work out of it.

Many sports and fantasy websites have options to join or start a bowl pick ’em pool. ESPN is certainly the most popular, which makes sense because it’s home to nearly all of the bowl games. But there are others out there.

Check your favorite site to see if the option is there for you.

Of course, some people still like to work with pencil and paper. It means more work for whoever is running the pool, but there’s something to be said for printing out the list of bowls and circling the winners yourself.

If you’re going that route, make sure to outline the rules explicitly, and try to include some extra info, such as team records or the spread, even if you’re not using it.

How do confidence points work?

One of the more popular types of bowl pools is a confidence pool. In it, players can select which games will be worth the most points for their own entry.

So, for the game you feel most confident in, you would give it 43 points. The game you felt the least confident in would get 1.

If the team you picked wins, you get those points. A loss in a high-confidence game, however, means missing out on a big number.

At the end, the person with the most points wins. So, the winners isn’t necessarily determined by who picked the most games correctly, but by who best distributed their confidence points.

There are plenty of strategies to this. Some like to backload their bigger confidence points games because they’re more familiar with the teams and players. You also get to feel like there’s a chance to make a late run, as you’ll have more points remaining as we get close to January.

The risk there, though, is those games typically feature more opt outs, as more players are NFL bound.

Some will front load, as the smaller schools not only feature fewer opt outs and there are more chances for mismatches. Putting together equal schools from non-Power 5 conferences is certainly an inexact science, so if you’re able to pinpoint where they went wrong, you can build a big lead early.

Or, you could essentially let the computers do it. Advanced statistics aren’t perfect when it comes to handicapping games, but they’re pretty good at telling you where those mismatches could potentially be. You could certainly do worse than putting the highest confidence points on the largest expected margins of victory in the SP+ or FEI ratings.

Bowl pools using spread picks

Confidence pools feature picking the games straight up. But if you’re not comfortable with that or don’t want to do all that math, you could simply pick games against the spread.

Thanks to online sports betting in Michigan being legal for the past two college football seasons, plenty of people are now more comfortable picking games against the spread.

This gives more variance in picks than a straight up picks pool would, so you’re much less likely to get exact matches from participants. When it’s done, the person with the most correct picks wins.

One thing that we’ve become used to with sports betting that goes away in a bowl pool, however, is line shopping. If I plan on betting the Michigan vs. TCU game, I am going to look at multiple sportsbooks and monitor line movement to get the best value. You can see the full list of games with up to date odds on our College Football Bowls odds page.

In your bowl pool, though, you are often picking against whatever the line opened at, or where it was when the bowl pool was created. That makes sure everyone is picking against the same spreads.

Straight up picks for a college football bowl pool

If you really want to keep things simple, your bowl pool can just be picking each game and deciding a winner on who gets the most correct.

While the other methods are sure to add more variance to your pool, you’ll see plenty of it here, too. There are 43 games, after all, and many of them feature teams not a lot of people are familiar with.

Make sure to have a tiebreaker, though, such as total points scored in the championship game. All methods should have a tiebreaker, but this is where it might be most likely to come into play.

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Paul Costanzo

Paul Costanzo is the managing editor of PlayMichigan, the No. 1 source for online gambling news in Michigan. He has covered news and sports throughout the state at various media outlets over the past 20 years. Paul works with a talented team at PlayMichigan to provide the latest news and information on Michigan’s booming sports betting, online casino and online poker industries.

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