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Getting it Right But Being Wrong

College Football Betting: Getting it Right But Being Wrong

By Loot, College Football Handicapper,

As college football bettors, we need to realize that our handicapping only covers a partial scope of the game. There are any number of unpleasant factors that pop up during the course of games we bet that we could never have predicted that throw a winning bet into the category of a loser. The most important thing is to realize what we are really getting into when betting on college football.

Even at the professional level, weird stuff happens. So imagine what it's like in college football, where the players are not professionals, nor are the coaches or the officials who have such a key role in determining the outcome of our wagers. Our levels of confidence can only be as high as the situation calls for and in college football--a lot of bizarre things can happen. The key point to remember is that we knew that right out of the gate. So how bemused can we really become when things don't go according to plan?

The officials are important. They can take an easy winner and render it moot with just a few bad calls. Most of the referees are quality officials. Think of all the levels of football. To be refereeing games at the top levels of college football, while not exactly the NFL, is still very high-level. Nevertheless, they are not pro referees and even in the NFL, bad officiating has cost many a bettor.

Start betting on college football and it won't be long before you get snake-bitten by a slew of bad calls that cost you a winner. Phantom holding and pass-interference calls, ticky-tack personal fouls, and shoddy judgment can all throw a wrench into your wagers. Your team scores a touchdown that gives your bet a big boost, but it gets called back on a holding call that doesn't hold water when looking at the replay. Those kinds of things happen all the time and it's part of doing business in the world of college football wagering.

Let's not forget the players. The percentage of the guys we are watching who will eventually become pros is very small. We're basically betting on amateurs. That makes it important for us to acknowledge the inherent shortcomings that accompany betting on this level of player. Even in the NFL, we will often have our wagers snake-bitten by bizarre or just plain bad individual play, so imagine what happens at the college level.

A player might not get out of bounds when he needs to. A member of the defense that just made a key stop all but ending the game commits an absurd personal foul, giving extra life to the opponent. A lineman commits a holding penalty when he didn't need to, as the ball wasn't even close to his side of the line. The list can go on and on. The key for us to remember is that we can't go to the beach and complain about the sand, which is what takes place when we protest the performance of amateur athletes.

A coach's late-game strategy can be a key consideration. If we're betting on a favorite that figures to be winning the game late, we'd like to see a coach who doesn't go into prevent-mode, which seems to only prevent us from covering the spread. It can be really painful to have a bet that looks all the world like it's going to cover, only to see a pair of garbage touchdowns late cost us our rightful winner.


In college athletics, there is great variance among the different teams and conferences. If you're betting on an Alabama-LSU game, you can have certain expectations as to the quality of the coaches, players, and officials. But can you have the same confidence that everything will shake out right when betting on a Kent State-Western Michigan game?

As bettors, it's imperative that we calibrate our expectations appropriately for the situation. Imposing professional standards on amateur athletes is just going to leave you disappointed, as they will rarely if ever be able to live up to that. The same applies to everyone on a college pigskin gridiron. When formulating our wagers, we need to accommodate or at least take into consideration the fact that we might have it right, but amateurs can go off-script and render our analysis moot.

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