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NCAA Football Handicapping Tips: Food For Thought

NCAA Football Handicapping Tips: Food For Thought

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper,

It seems like momentum and inertia are bigger factors in college football than it is in the pros. There is a ton of factors that account for that. But the bottom line is that it needs to be accounted for when handicapping college football. If a team in college is just rolling over teams, scheduling can help it continue. There is less parity in college.

Conversely, a team that is in the dumps in college often times stays there. These are very young men, without the professionalism or giant contracts to keep them at least somewhat on-point. Once a coach loses a team, that team tends to stay lost. So when handicapping games, don’t assume that struggling teams are due to turn it around. Even if they’re coming back home after a draining road-run and facing a longtime rival--a dispirited team that might have mentally checked out for the season could be immune to these customary catalysts for better play.

Don’t forget to take mental note of “sandwich games.” A sandwich game is the middle game in a 3-game stretch. For it to be considered a sandwich game, it needs to be a relatively unimportant game that is between two much more significant games. Obviously, good teams are the ones that have significant and meaningful games, so this is only a dynamic that exists with teams that are at least considered “good.”

Here’s an extreme example: Alabama is playing LSU, Florida International, and then Auburn. LSU and Auburn are long-standing and intense rivals--games that could have huge ramifications. So isn’t it natural that they would be a bit down for the Florida International game? Keep an eye on situations like this.

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If the game against LSU was a draining game, which it usually is, they will be a bit down, especially as they approach the Florida International game knowing they have Auburn looming on the horizon. They might say all the right things to the press, but how can Florida International be getting Alabama’s full attention and concentration in the midst of a run of games that will likely determine whether the season was a success?

This is not a system. It’s an observation. People jump on favorites anyway. So even if the books are making allowances for the sandwich game theory, the favorites will usually get bet up regardless, leaving you with potentially good value. But make sure it stands up to your handicapping first. And if it does, the sandwich game dynamic can just serve as a little extra ammo for you to justify making a wager.

Weather is yet another item on a long list of things we need to consider. It’s a little more of a concern in college. More games are played outdoors. Some kids are facing certain types of weather for the first time. Sure, a lot of players stay near home, where they will face weather which they are accustomed. But travel is a big part of the game and key players can be thrown. A California running back could find handling the ball a little more difficult in balmy Florida. An Arizona quarterback could be completely off his game playing a cold-weather team on the road.

Professionals have been through this stuff by the time they get to the NFL and we still make allowances for them with the spreads, so be extra careful betting on teams who could be rendered impotent by the weather conditions.

While we want to handicap games, we have to be careful not to handicap our own picks too much. Make it simple. A lot of bettors have different layers they use to categorize their wagers in terms of their confidence. They might have bets they feel super-confident about, ones they feel pretty good about, and ones where they merely have a good inkling. There should really only be 2 categories of bets: ones you make and ones you don’t make.

It’s hard enough to handicap games. Now you’re going to handicap your own picks? If a game has enough of the conditions you look for to make it “bet-able,” go ahead and make the wager. If it fails to live up to your standards--leave it alone.

A lot of times, the bets we felt less iron-clad about are the ones that win at a greater clip. So keep your amounts the same. And don’t take the 2 or 3 games you feel strongest about and stick them on a parlay. This is a sure way to mess up an otherwise decent Saturday. Keep it consistent.

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