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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Tuesday, August 14, 2012 at 12:29 PM

I’d have to say that almost 100% of the time, when I’m referring to PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS in football, I’m talking about offensive players or kick returners. Note that I said “almost.” There are very few defensive players who can break a game open by forcing turnovers or even by scoring points on turnovers they force. But, they do exist. And, one such example from college football just got kicked off his team!

Of course, I’m talking about Tyrann Mathieu of LSU. He had an amazing knack for making big plays on defense and special teams last year, particularly when it was needed against tough opponents. He was one of the few players I would consider as a GAMEBREAKER even though he wasn’t an offensive skill position performer.

Will his absence this year change how I think about LSU? You bet it will! I’m not saying that he was so important that LSU will fall out of the national championship picture. This team has a ton of talent. But, I do believe that they will find it more difficult to cover medium and tall spreads this year for a few reasons:

*The defense won’t be quite as good as it had been…which makes it harder to win big blowouts.

*There will probably be fewer “bonus” points scored by the defense and special teams, which takes away part of the margin for error you have when making a 50-Unit, 100-Unit, or 200-Unit bet in Las Vegas. I’d rather have three GAMEBREAKERS than two…I’d rather have four GAMEBREAKERS than three. I may still have a big release or two this year on LSU, but it’s less likely.

*Guys like Mathieu play a big role in how college defenses develop swagger. You want to bet on teams who can completely shut down mediocre opposing offenses…well, not only who “can,” but who LOVE doing that. Will the absence of Mathieu take away too much of the Tigers’ killer instinct?

You’ll remember that my biggest plays from last year involved DOMINATING edges that would allow a team to name the score. It just got tougher for LSU to name the score.

There are some real college studs out there on the defensive side of the ball who I will be looking at for investment purposes this year. I can’t say that there’s anyone like Ndamukong Suh, who could just take over the point of attack and crush people the way Godzilla tore through buildings in Tokyo. But, several teams are going to have defenses who help them generate points. I’m not going to name those teams here because they’re very likely to show up on my September card right out of the gate when they face outmatched foes in non-conference slaughters. If you’re trying to compile a list for yourself…my best advice is:

*Look through the best defenses from last year in the stats in terms of yards allowed per game, yards allowed per play, points allowed per game, and rushing touchdowns allowed. You can do all of this in less than an hour at the best sports statistical websites.

*Devote special attention to forced turnovers. You want AGGRESSIVE defenses who make high impact plays that will help magnify your advantage when making a big bet. Some defenses are “bend but don’t break,” which is fine for grinding out victories and close covers. When you’re looking to take the rubber band off your bankroll and really step out…you want defensive points and field position points off turnovers adding to your victory margin.

*Once you have last year’s data handy (which will tell you right off the bat quite a lot about coaching philosophies and athletic general athletic ability), look over the number of returning defensive starters for this season. Clearly any great defense that’s also very experienced needs to be on your short list of potential big play nominees. Teams who are rebuilding may be teams to pass in September…but then you can step out with them in October and November if the new starters have proved themselves.  

Again, most of your work this year in the colleges will involve PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS on offense and special teams. Spending a day finding the defenses who also deserve serious investment consideration will be well worth your time. All serious handicappers study defense. Those who mastered my principals of Advanced Handicapping know how to maximize the value of their studies at the pay window.

Even though the NFL Preseason is officially underway, that doesn’t mean you can ignore the colleges until the season starts! You must continue your preparations now so that you’re ahead of the game when those first games kickoff. Remember that Vegas lines are the softest before anybody’s played any games. Do your work now so that you’re ready to attack those bad lines.

If you’re afraid that you won’t be able to put the proper amount of work in, you can take the easy way out and sign up for my personal service. The cost for the full season of my Football Investment Club is just $275. That does include the rest of the NFL Preseason.

I’ve mentioned a few times that we won’t have time in the coursework for the time being to talk much about baseball in the coming days. Be aware that I am still posting the best plays on the board daily for online purchase. All the principals we talked about in May, June, and July here in my College of Advanced Handicapping will continue to pay off through August and September on the diamonds. You can sign up for my games if you don’t have time to pick your own.  

I’ll be back with you on Friday to talk some more football. I’m VERY excited about the coming season. I’m sure you are too. Thanks again for your continued hard work!

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