Tips & Tricks for the $50K Splash Bowl Pick X Bonanza
College football’s crescendo is at its precipice. Soon, the mayhem of bowl season will begin, and the teams that made it this far will either send 2023 off with fireworks or a fizzle. If you have what it takes to determine who will boom and who will bust, then you could afford to put on your own fireworks display in celebration.
Between now and Dec. 16, you can submit entries to the Splash $50K CFB Bowl Pick X Bonanza. Splash has guaranteed to split $50,000 among the contest’s top 50 entries, with $7,500 heading to first place and at least $1,500 to everyone who finishes in the top 10. That’s quite the opportunity for the cost of $10 per entry and sitting on your couch.
This contest has some wrinkles to it. The 43 games set for this bowl season have been split into five slates: Warm-ups, Holiday, Separation, Semi-finals, and The Natty. Bowls in the Warm-ups and Holiday Slates are worth one point each, those in the Separation Slate are worth three each, and the Semi-finals and The Natty are good for four and five points, respectively, if you pick the correct winners.
To make things more intriguing, each entry can choose one game in each of the Warm-ups and Holiday Slates to be its Best Pick. If you correctly predict the victor in the game you deem your Best Pick, then you will be rewarded with two points rather than one.
Interest piqued yet? Good. Now, it’s a matter of determining strategy.
There are a number of ways in which you can play this contest. Your Best Picks must be made wisely, but don’t get too wrapped up in that - remember that the Separation Slate and College Football Playoff games are all worth more points than your Best Pick. But to come out on top, it’s going to take a well-rounded approach.
Let’s dive deep into the tactics.
The Transfer Portal
College football has undergone tremendous change in the last decade, but especially in the last five years. The combination of NIL and the transfer portal has created a fluid situation in which rosters are ever-changing. Dec. 4 marks the opening of the latest window for players to enter the portal, and some big names have already dropped.
Ohio State’s Kyle McCord, Oklahoma’s Dillon Gabriel, and Washington State’s Cam Ward have all thrown their hats in the ring. That is just the tip of the iceberg of the players who have entered the portal already and a sign of what’s to come for those who will enter in the coming weeks.
There is no rule stating that players who are actively in the transfer portal cannot play for their current teams, including in bowl games. Obviously, it creates a bit of an awkward situation, but unless stated otherwise, you can’t know for sure if a player in the portal will play this winter. Still, even though the NCAA does not outlaw a portal player from taking the field with their current team, it’s something to keep in mind when making your picks.
Let’s use Ohio State as an example. McCord has had his weaknesses, and they were part of why the Buckeyes came up short in Ann Arbor. But you can’t tell me that Ohio State is more likely to beat Missouri in the Cotton Bowl with Devin Brown receiving the snaps instead. Sure, it could still happen - the Buckeyes are an excellent team with more than one player - but is that a risk you want to take when three points are on the line?
These transfer portal dominoes will continue to fall. Before making your picks, consult the transfer portal and see which players the teams are possible to be without. Don’t just assume that the team you watched all season is the same one that will show up in the bowl game. They might be missing a key player or five.
This contest is straightforward with every game worth the same for each entry. Except, players are given two opportunities to set themselves apart from the rest on their own terms: Best Picks.
It’s only two extra points in total on the line here, but those two points could be the difference between prize money and no money, so they must be taken seriously.
In the Warm-ups, the game I’m circling is Utah versus Northwestern in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Utes have had issues on offense since Cam Rising went down with an injury, but there has never been a time that the Wildcats have made their opponents fear what they can do with the ball. Utah has played a much more rigorous schedule in the Pac-12, while Northwestern has tested itself against mainly Big Ten West opposition. The Utah defense has had more difficult attacks thrown at it than Northwestern, and I think the Utes are better prepared to handle the situation.
My eyes are on the Sun Bowl in the Holiday slate. Oregon State had an outstanding season, but everything has seemingly fallen apart over the last couple of weeks. Head coach Jonathan Smith ditched the Beavers in a way that soured many players, their parents, and OSU fans alike, and it left the team woefully unprepared for its final game in the Civil War against Oregon. Quarterback DJ Uiagalelei, who was integral to the team’s success the season, has already entered the transfer portal, and more Beavers could follow.
But Oregon State still has one game left in 2023: the Sun Bowl against Notre Dame. The Irish should be in much better spirits than their counterparts and with a fraction of the drama. Did I also mention that Oregon State’s long-term future remains unknown, outside of a scheduling agreement with the Mountain West for the short term? This all points to a Notre Dame win in El Paso.
Don’t just take my word for it. Look into games and find whose offensive line can’t protect its quarterback, whose defenses force turnovers, and whose coach has been poached. Those are generally good indicators of how a team will perform come bowl season.
The coaching carousel begins to spin right around now, and in modern college football, it starts even sooner. Some teams will be without the head coach who led them all season long, either because they were fired or hired for green pastures. This can be especially harmful for teams that have their coach poached.
Many of those dominos are yet to fall, but they are coming. Already, Duke, Oregon State, James Madison, and Tulane have had their head coaches stolen, and they won’t be the last with each of those programs now hunting for heads and more surely to come.
How motivated will players who have been abandoned be for their bowl game? That answer won’t be consistent across every team facing this situation, but for many examples from years before, we know that some are in for a stinker. Keep that in mind when making your picks.
Separation Slate Value
There are 43 games to pick in Splash’s Bowl Bonanza contest, but they are not all worth the same. The games in the Warm-ups and Holiday slates are valued at one point each with an additional point slapped onto one outing of your choosing from each category. That means the maximum you can get out of the Warm-ups is 19 points, and the best you can do in the Holiday slate is 16 points.
But the ceiling in the Separation slate is 21 points, making it the most valuable portion of the contest. There is a reason this section was given its name.
When you are filling out your picks, be sure to pay extra special attention to the Separation slate. Doing the best you can with those games will serve you more than even properly predicting how the College Football Playoff will unfold. You only need to get two-thirds of the Separation games correct - that’s five of seven - to exceed the 13 possible points you could squeeze out of the Semi-finals and National Championship Game.
Absolutely do your homework on all 43 pairings placed in your way. But give those Separation slate showdowns more attention, because one correct pick there is worth three correct picks in most of the other games.
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