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Handicapping Offensive Lines

College Football Handicapping Tips: Pay Attention to the Offensive Line

By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com

Neglecting offensive linemen is not something that is done only by college football betting men. Offensive linemen are neglected in all walks of life. A great high school offensive linemen lurks in the shadows of the quarterback, running backs, and well, just about everyone on the field. When is the last time you saw a highlight on TV featuring an offensive lineman? Name the last offensive lineman who was recognized among the the top players in the game? How many college offensive linemen can you even name?

Our whole lives, offensive linemen are put on the back-burner. So when we later morph into betting men, that has a way of resonating badly in the consciousness. Any veteran bettor who knows what he is doing will tell you the importance of the offensive line in college football betting.

In college football, there’s a big difference in what you see out of the various offensive linemen. On the same field, you may see players who are good enough to play in the NFL all the way to fat guys who pushed around bush-leaguers in high school and are now being fed a big reality sandwich of what it’s really all about. That makes it really important for the bettor to determine where within that range the different teams fall.

Keeping tabs on personnel issues and changes on the offensive line is crucial. Not everyone is cut out to be a solid college offensive linemen. Sometimes, they’re going to be going against defenders who are future all-pro players. If they’re not up-to-snuff, you could have a matchup issue which will turn the result of the game on its head.

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When we handicap a game, we need to pay extreme attention to replacement offensive linemen. This isn’t terribly exclusive information, but it’s surprising how often you’ll see unaccounted for nuggets of information along these lines that can give your wagers a big boost. Even if an offensive line isn’t that great, bringing a kid in who has never seen that kind of action can be a real game-changer.

It doesn’t have to be that obvious to get an edge. Obviously, if a high school lineman is playing his first college ball against Alabama, it would be an issue. But let’s say it’s more subtle, like it’s an Iowa-Minnesota game. Iowa has an all-American defensive end--an absolute beast who has been tearing it up lately. Minnesota’s tackle on that side in out and they’re using a freshman. Sure, that kid might be a budding star and it won’t make that big of a difference. That possibility always exists. But usually, there will be an edge to be gained in situations like that.

In college football betting, there is no magic formula for anything. we just try to pick up perceived edges along the way. Hopefully, those nuggets will allow the scale to tip ever so sightly in our favor. It’s not like you see a future NFL superstar DT going against a gimpy guard and it automatically becomes a “lock.” That’s not how it works. It’s just that over time, these edges will make our handicapping stronger.

Looking at the offensive line more seems like good advice for the mass of college football bettors. Not everyone blows it off, but on average, it probably gets less attention than what is required. If the offensive line is off just a tick, it can change the whole complexion of a team. Most of these quarterbacks we are betting on are not future NFL starters and not even those guys can do their thing when getting hammered by the opposing defense. At the college level, all the guys at the skill positions are more or less at the mercy of how well their offensive line plays.

What we want to avoid is a situation where we handicap a game and fire a bet, only to watch the game and see we overlooked a game-changing component that came down to an offensive lineman. It can be anything. It can apply to favorites and underdogs at all levels of college football. Imagine you’re taking a 25-point favorite, then watch the game and see the favorite’s tackle is a replacement and up against the other team’s best player--all unbeknownst to you. It’s going to be hard to cover a 25-point spread, isn’t it? There is simply no game on the schedule where the offensive lines won’t be a main factor in the outcome.

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