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Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Friday, September 11, 2015 at 7:00 AM

There are many significant differences between handicapping college football and handicapping the NFL. But, we have a truly unique situation this year in the colleges because the loaded SEC West is very much like the NFL in terms of quality and relative parity. Now, I’m not saying those teams could play in the NFL. It’s still a bunch of college kids. But, handicapping the SEC West is going to be very much like handicapping the NFL for the following reasons.

*A tight range from top to bottom

*A lot of physical play

*Many intensive rivalries that go way back

*Head coaches who know what they’re doing

This isn’t like many college divisions where the difference from best to worst might be as high as 3-4 touchdowns. And, this isn’t a division where everyone plays the same style to create static handicapping approaches. Parity. Quality. It’s the closest thing you’ll see to NFL football in the college game.

Quality? Check out the latest poll rankings…

#2 Alabama

#6 Auburn

#14 LSU

#16 Texas A&M

#17 Mississippi

#18 Arkansas

#25 Mississippi State

There are seven teams in the SEC West. All seven are ranked! Maybe those rankings have it wrong in terms of the current stack (ESPN’s football index thinks LSU is a super-power, for example). And, maybe ONE of those teams is getting too much respect and should be unranked. However you slice it though…with polls, Power Ratings, or computer ratings…you’re going to get those seven teams near the top of the sport. Honestly, it wouldn’t be a shock if all seven teams turned out to be top 15 caliber when it’s all said and done. The problem with that is that the polls won’t show it because these teams will be beating up on each other!

That divisional round robin begins this week when LSU visits Mississippi State. But, all seven teams will play six games against the rest. Somebody’s going to lose. Well, it’s possible to be an excellent team and only go 4-2 vs. that gauntlet. There might be a team that goes 1-5 in the SEC West but wins all of their other games!

What does all of this mean for you handicappers here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting and Handicapping? Some tips…

*Keep your own “neutral field” Power Ratings so that you have a true sense of what the line should be when any of the two teams play each other. Don’t worry so much about the team standings. Focus on team quality…with an emphasis on point differential adjusted for home field advantage. Remember that losing by one point on the road is the equivalent of a neutral field win!

*Review recent seasons to get a sense of how much home field advantage is really worth at each site. Don’t listen to game announcers on this. They’ll tell you all seven schools have great home field advantages! There was a long stretch of seasons many years ago where ESPN kept raving about LSU’s home field advantage as the Tigers were losing (and not covering) vs. every good opponent that came to Baton Rouge. That hasn’t been a big issue with the current coaching staff. Look at conference results in particular over the past two seasons when making your determinations. If you’re uncertain about this, or don’t have the time, a “blanket” value of 3 points will serve you well enough. True professional bettors don’t settle for “well enough!”

*Focus on matchup strength and weaknesses that emphasize the following:

Elite rush offenses vs. vulnerable rush defenses

Spread passing offenses vs. soft pass defenses

Stingy rush defenses vs. offenses who do most of their damage on the ground

Aggressive defenses vs. turnover prone quarterbacks

There is sort of a “rock-paper-scissors” factor in play in the West similar to what you see in March Madness basketball. One team’s style may be perfect for controlling one type of opponent, but has little chance of success vs. another. Be sure you break down offensive and defensive strengths and weaknesses for all seven teams. That shouldn’t take too long. This isn’t the NFL with 32 teams. You should be able to handle this for SEVEN!

*Remember THE MOTIVATION FACTOR when these teams step away from the gauntlet. There will be many “letdown” and “lookahead” situations in play whenever these teams are playing non-conference opponents or crossover games against the SEC East. If somebody goes to war with Alabama and plays an exhausting thriller, the last thing you want to do is invest in them the next week against somebody like Kentucky or Vanderbilt. You want to make smart bets when the West is playing each other, and recognizing great opportunities when they aren’t.

I strongly believe that the race in the SEC West is going to be one of the most talked-about elements of college football throughout the 2015 season. You might as well make a lot of money amidst all the media coverage.

In terms of the entire sports landscape, KELSO STURGEON’S top plays can always be purchased right here at this very website with your major credit card. Questions about extended service can be answered personally by one of my representatives in the Vegas-Sports-Masters office at 1-888-777-4155.

We are scheduled to have three class get-togethers every week during football. I’ll use a “read and react” approach to keep content fresh and connected to real world developments. I’ll be back at the latest Monday afternoon for our next session. I might move it up to Sunday if there’s something worth reviewing discussing that happened in the busy Saturday college slate.

Thanks again for attendance and hard work. Best of luck to you this weekend.


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Kelso Sturgeon on twitter @vsm_sturgeon

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