The college football season officially got underway last week when Hawaii fell to Cal in Australia. For the rest of the country, things get started this week. As you handicap games this season, here are a few things you should consider before placing your bets.
Rankings Are Irrelevant
I can’t tell you how frequently I hear, “how can the no. 17 team in the nation be an underdog to an unranked opponent?” The answer is simple: rankings are neither meaningful nor accurate. If you work for the New Orleans Times Picayune, you follow LSU, Tulane, and several other teams in the region. You probably don’t know a ton about the Pac-12 or Mountain West. Yet, you are asked to weigh in on them when you vote.
If you’re a voter from The Oregonian, you probably don’t dig deep on ACC teams beyond Clemson and Florida State.
Do not factor in rankings when you handicap games. They are more misleading than anything else.
Be Careful with Road Teams
Not only do beginners to sports betting like rankings, they tend to fall in love with road teams. It feels like a bargain to get the better team at a small number. However, homefield is a very significant factor in college football. The point spread swing from home team to road is about a touchdown.
These are 18 to 22-year-old kids, for the most part. Hostile environments have a big impact on confidence and momentum. The “back door cover” is prevalent in the college game, too. Home teams that are getting thumped still want to satisfy fans and often score late, covering the spread.
Be careful laying points on teams playing out of their comfort area.
Everybody knows Nick Saban, Jim Harbaugh, and Urban Meyer make a major difference. Not everybody recognizes the names David Cutcliffe, Doc Holliday, and Matt Rhule. But if you bet on every Duke, Marshall, and Temple game over the past three years, your record against the spread would be 75-43-1.
Before you make a wager, do some research on the coaches. It is amazing how the same people win over and over again. Bobby Petrino might be a bad guy, but his record is 100-39. Having the right guy on the sideline at the end of a game can be the difference between celebration and heartbreak.
Photo credit: Matt Velazquez (flickr) [https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode].