Motivation matters in bowl games

Originally Published: November 26, 2004
By Rich Podolsky | Special to ESPN Insider
This week's games have a few perfect examples of how incentive can play the deciding factor in a bowl game. After losing its beloved coach and having to vote on even going, can Notre Dame be excited to play a red-hot Oregon State team in the Insight Bowl? After losing a chance to play in a BCS bowl, can Colorado be excited about playing UTEP in the Houston Bowl? The same could be asked of Boston College – after blowing what looked like a sure chance to play in the Fiesta Bowl, can the Eagles care about playing North Carolina in Charlotte, N.C., in the Continental Bowl?

The questions continue with the Cal Bears. After losing their BCS spot to a suspect vote at year's end (not even on the field), and losing their star receiver, how happy can they be to play in the Holiday Bowl? Texas was in the exact same spot last year and lost the Holiday Bowl to Washington State as a big favorite. And what about Ohio State, after defeating arch-rival Michigan, how up will the Buckeyes be to play Oklahoma State in Texas after learning their star quarterback has been suspended? These questions lead us to some obvious answers in games where emotion and incentive usually overtake talent.

After starting the year at 1-8 in best bets, we have now pulled even at 21-21-1. This week's best bets include Oregon State, Purdue, Troy and Louisville, the latter being the year's best opportunity.

Rich Podolsky

College Football
Since 1989, Chris Fowler has been ESPN's primary college football and men's college basketball studio host. He's anchored College GameDay, the network's award-winning Saturday morning college football preview show, since 1990.