Submitted by Jim Hurley on Tuesday, August 30, 2011 at 10:57 PM
College football starts Thursday Night, so it’s time to review some key handicapping fundamentals as you prepare to pick winners this weekend. Remember that college action is on the schedule Thursday through Monday of this week, giving you plenty of day-by-day options.
We hope you were with us in the NOTEBOOK through the summer as we ran our series of college conference previews. We focused on key elements in those previews that absolutely MUST be on your radar this weekend. It always amazes us how many do-it-yourself bettors in Las Vegas rely on systems or methodologies that are disconnected from reality on the field.
*A long term trend is nice. But, if you’re team replaced a great quarterback with a lousy quarterback, that trend probably isn’t going to matter.
*A system is nice. What if one of the qualifiers lost their head coach last year to a better program, and he’s been replaced by a guy who’s in over his head? Shouldn’t that disqualify the system?
*Stats are great. The NOTEBOOK is put together each day for you by the stathead faction of JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK. But, last year’s defensive stats may not tell you much if only three starters are returning on that side of the ball. And, as is always the case in the colleges…stats vs. weak schedules don’t tell you much if a team is about to play a strong opponent (and vice versa).
Today we’re going to run through the factors we think you should be playing the MOST attention to this weekend.
NEW HEAD COACHES
Typically the most volatile year-to-year transitions come after a coaching change. Good programs get worse if their head coach last season either moved on to greener pastures or retired. Bad programs get better if they fired the dead wood and brought in somebody that creates instant enthusiasm. In general, you want to PASS games involving new head coaches until you get a feel for the new environment. We do our best with our scouts and our sources to get Preseason reads in practices. If YOU don’t have scouts and sources, then you need to watch a few games before trusting your reads.
NEW STARTING QUARTERBACKS
This is obviously the most important position on the field. It brings with it as much volatility as the head coaching position when there’s a change. You saw that in Florida last year. John Brantley wasn’t Tim Tebow, and the offense fell apart. THIS WEEK, you want to focus your bets on EXPERIENCED quarterbacks. Now, it could turn out that some of the new starters are going to be very good…and they’ll get you the money through the season. Let them prove themselves before you take any flyers.
Conversely, you want to fade new quarterbacks…particularly if they’re facing a quality defense. It is VERY hard for new quarterbacks to play well in season openers against good defenses. Remember, colleges don’t have a preseason full of exhibition games! Try to take advantage of the very likely sloppiness by betting the right way this weekend in Las Vegas.
OFFENSIVE LINE EXPERIENCE
This is probably the single most important “hidden” indicator in terms of the market. Oddsmakers and bettors know where the coaching changes were (though this factor is still underrated)…and they also know when star quarterbacks have graduated (though “powers” are often given too much “recruit and reload” credit). Hardly anyone is paying enough attention to offensive line experience!
You want to know how many starters are back. If you have time, you want to calculate how many career starts are taking the field at those positions. Sometimes returning starters are just entering their second year. Sometimes, it’s a unit that’s played together for quite a while. We can’t emphasize this enough. Knowing this information will make you money!
DEFENSE VS. THE RUN
This element of play may have been de-emphasized a bit over the last decade because of the rise of spread offenses. Well, modern schematics are dealing pretty well with various of the spread right now…so run defense has once again returned to prime importance. If a team can control the game on the ground, they will. That’s the lowest risk way to move the ball and score points. If there’s a defense on the field that can’t stop the run…it’s very unlikely that they’ll win and cover.
If you’re a dog lover, be sure you’re backing an underdog that’s at least adequate against the run. A lot of ugly dogs are ugly for a reason. They can’t stop the run, and they wear down in the second half after getting pounded up front. A 24-10 halftime deficit turns into a 56-10 debacle. Do you want to be on the dog in a game like that?
Look to back run-heavy offenses vs. poor rush defenses this weekend.
What do we have so far? The braintrust, and the point of attack. That’s the heart of college football.
That’s a nice little check list to peruse for every team you’re considering playing a Las Vegas bet on this weekend. If you think back to prior seasons, you probably spent a lot of time yelling at the TV saying things like:
My coach is an idiot! My quarterback doesn’t know what he’s doing! Will somebody tackle someone!
Wouldn’t you rather sit there calmly enjoying a winner if you’re the quiet type, or enthusiastically cheering a blowout cover if you’re not?
This weekend’s schedule is shaping up nicely for the handicapping strategies we’ve discussed today. We hope you’ll do some homework and find the right teams at the right prices. If you’d like some help doing that, we hope you’ll take advantage of a huge opening weekend from JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!
Our annual Kickoff Special will launch the season in fine fashion. We’re looking at UNLV-Wisconsin on ESPN, Mississippi State-Memphis on Fox Sports, Wake Forest-Syracuse, and Kentucky-Western Kentucky on ESPNU as the strongest possibilities.
TCU at Baylor could turn out to be a great game. TCU lost some talent from last year’s dream run to the Rose Bowl. They’re still planning on being in the BCS mix. Baylor made it to a bowl game last year, and brings a very dangerous quarterback to the field. This may be one of the best Friday Night games all year!
Our annual BACK TO SCHOOL PARLAY will pay 13-5 for you with the two top plays on the board. Among the showcase games Saturday are UCLA/Houston, Minnesota/USC, South Florida/Notre Dame, BYU-Ole Miss, South Carolina-East Carolina, Fresno State/California, Boise State/Georgia, and Oregon/LSU. The BTS PARLAY may or may not involve those games because JIM HURLEY searches for the two very strongest options. We can say that early indicators suggest at least one of those will be in the mix.
There’s no NFL yet, but we do have two national TV games. Marshall and West Virginia renew their rivalry on ESPN…in the debut spot for new Mountaineers head coach Dana Holgorsen. In prime time, SMU visits Texas A&M. Those two have been linked in the news latterly. Should Texas A&M flee to the SEC as expected, SMU might very well be their replacement in the Big 12.
Miami of Florida at Maryland gets more interesting by the day as news keeps leaking out from South Beach. If there’s a game day line once the personnel situation is resolved, we’ll get you the winner!
You can go day-by-day with us here at the website. Or, sign up for the full season at a great rate. If you have any questions, call our office at 1-800-323-4453.
We’ll talk more about the marquee teams and matchups the next few days here in the NOTEBOOK. Tomorrow we’ll put Wisconsin under the spotlight to get you ready for the TV opener. If you want to cash those BIG JUICY WINNERS, the only place to be is JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK!