Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, December 6, 2017 at 3:00 PM
The two-week window between Championship Weekend in college football and the start of the bowl season creates the perfect opportunity for smart handicappers to review what they’ve learned from the regular season so they can make informed bets once the deluge starts.
Too many of you reading this will relax and take two weeks off from college analysis…then just start winging it. You think you already know everything. When the games start, you’ll just see the line…then bet the line. Maybe one out of every thousand of you can get away with that!
Today I’m going to give you some homework that will help you utilize this time more wisely. The time spent will definitely pay for itself several times over. I will leave it up to YOU to determine how many games you want to handicap. If you don’t follow the Sun Belt, or Conference USA…it’s too late to start now and expect to pick winners in games involving those conferences. At best, you’ll go 50/50, which is still a drain on your bankroll because of vigorish. Focus on the conferences you know best. For most of you, that’s the Power 5 leagues you’ve been watching on TV all season. Only if you naturally follow the whole board should you dig in for the entire card.
*First, update your lists of PLAYMAKERS and GAMEBREAKERS to account for late season injuries, and any news reports about stars who have decided to sit out their bowl games. Pay special attention to new stars who may have come to the forefront in the final month of the season. Your preseason lists won’t suffice! I said UPDATE your lists. November stars are often December stars too.
*Next, evaluate THE MOTIVATION FACTOR for every team playing in a bowl. I haven’t talked about this is much in recent weeks as in past years. But, it’s vital we focus on this now. Many teams are excited about going to a bowl, and will play with enthusiasm. Others are disappointed about the bowl they’re going to, or the season behind them, or an opponent that doesn’t get their juices flowing…and they won’t bring much intensity. Past history has shown that this factor BY ITSELF can be worth as many as two, three, or even four touchdowns. Fourteen-point favorites will lose outright. Small favorite might win by 30 points. Now, I’m not saying this is going to happen all over the schedule. It’s worth your while to find the four or five times that it does. (And, be aware, that in some years it DOES happen all over the schedule!)
*Go back and review how teams have performed straight up and against the spread over the past month or so. Year-to-date stats or trends may be frontloaded by a great September or a great first half of the season. Hardly anyone plays now like they did in September. Teams who closed the season playing well will likely continue to do so (unless they lack THE MOTIVATION FACTOR). Teams who limped home have already mentally ended their seasons, and probably won’t shine in December. Look for mismatches in “recent form” you can exploit. If you see a bowl where BOTH teams have been playing great lately, think about betting Over on the total. At a first glance, I see many intriguing matchups featuring relatively hot teams. This could be a very entertaining month for college football fans.
*Finally, in today’s instructions, evaluate the defensive strengths and weaknesses for every team. I’m talking about the run/pass breakdown. Teams who are great defensively against the run will win and cover vs. opponents who like to run the ball most of the time. But, teams who are poor at stopping the run will get steamrollered by a smash mouth offense. Some of these lesser bowls feature some awful pass defenses matched up against talented quarterbacks. I trust you’ll know how to bet when you see that. Too many handicappers and casual bettors ignore basic matchup fundamentals, and try to pull winners out of a hat. That’s not how the pros do it. Professional wagerers break down the matchups in depth. Students here in my College of Advanced Handicapping should do that too.
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Thanks again for your continuing attendance and hard work. It’s gratifying that so many of you have returned week-by-week through these many years to improve your handicapping skills. The future of sports betting in the United States is only going to get brighter and brighter. I know you’ll be well prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that will come your way. See you again next week.