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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, November 8, 2013 at 4:00 PM

We’ve reached the point in the college and pro football seasons where the media is going to be talking incessantly about teams who “need to win” in the BCS race, college football conference races, and the NFL Playoff chase. Because the public listens to the media…and public action influences Las Vegas pointspreads…all that talk finds its way into the betting lines for better or worse.

Typically, if you like playing favorites, its worse! You will only occasionally get true line value when betting on a favorite that “needs” to win. There will be anywhere from 1-5 points already in the line for that in college football…and 1-3 points in the NFL. If you like playing underdogs, you’ll be picking up free points that you can put in your pocket as long as your confident your dog is going to show up with some bite.

Most of you prefer betting favorites. I understand that. I’m not going to tell you to pass college and pro football for the next two months. I do suggest these guidelines though for those of you who insist on betting favorites.

*Don’t bet on favorites who lack PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS. That’s always point #1 with me. You need to invest on athletes who are going to find the end zone. It’s an absolutely horrible strategy to lay points because of “need” with a team that lacks big play potential. They have trouble covering regular numbers, let alone inflated numbers. You want to beg against those teams, not back them.

*Don’t bet on favorites who have soft defenses. Even if their skill players put a lot of points on the board, those inflated lines leave you vulnerable to backdoor covers. Remember, teams focusing on college conference races or the NFL Playoff picture “need to win,” they don’t “need to cover.” There aren’t bonus points for running up the score outside of style points at the tip-top of the BCS picture. The last thing you want with a favorite bet is a team that’s relaxed on defense in the fourth quarter as their offense is more worried about running the clock.

*Do bet on favorites who are facing demoralized non-contenders who look to have thrown in the towel. This is where you can step in and still invest heavily in a great favorite As I discussed last week, the key to finding the very best football bets involves isolating the right “go against” teams. Even inflated numbers don’t really matter in games where a bad team has given up. Oddsmakers just can’t put the right number on that situation. I’ve been proving that for years! If the final score is going to be 52-10 or 55-14, it doesn’t matter if a Vegas line of -24 was inflated to -27 because of “need.”

If you’re like most public bettors, almost every “need to win” team is going to appeal to you at first glance. You’ll think of the blowouts you witnessed in the past where your heroes “lifted” their game when they absolutely had to. Well, for every one time that happens, there might be three or four where it doesn’t. And, what you thought was “lifting” their game was just the opponent giving up and lying down.


To get a full sense of this issue’s scope in the coming weeks, I strongly advise you to make the following lists:

*Teams who need to win in the BCS race

*Teams who need to win as they challenge for first place in college conferences/divisions

*Teams who need to win to become bowl eligible

*Teams in the NFL who need to win to earn a bye week

*Teams in the NFL who need to win to stay in the playoff race

It’s not as simple as Alabama and Florida State needing to keep winning to play for the national title. There are races in every college conference. There are divisional races to win the East or the West or the Atlantic or the Legends. And, even losing teams in the NFL still have mathematical shots to reach a Wildcard. You’re going to be dealing with “need to win” quite a bit through November and December.

Here’s my list of questions to ask yourself before every matchup that falls in this area:

*Does the favorite the talent to run up the score?

*Does the favorite know how to protect a big lead?

*Does the underdog have MOTIVATION FACTOR of their own for any reason?

*Has the underdog already shown signs of throwing in the towel?

*Is the underdog exhausted from a brutal recent schedule?

*How many points has the line adjusted for “need?”

Answer those questions successfully…and you’ll have a handful of great “Game of the Year” caliber bets you can really step out on. And, you’ll also have a lot of great value underdog bets where you’re fading teams who are getting to much market respect.

If you’d like some help finding the best plays on the college and pro football schedules (plus basketball!), you can always my top daily selections here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions can be answered by my representative in the home office at 1-888-777-4155.

I make my living as a professional handicapper, and have done so for decades. You know what that means? I NEED TO WIN! Kelso Sturgeon needs to win, and you’ve proven you want to win. That’s why the Dean of Sports Handicapping appreciates all the hard work you’ve been putting in here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping. See you again next week for more coursework.

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