Key Handicapping Tips, Part II

College Football Handicapping Tips, Part II

By Loot, College Football Handicapper,

Dealing with Injuries

In college football, the component of injuries is a tricky one. In the pros, everyone is at a certain level. They might not be as good as the starter, but backups have proven themselves on some level. In the college ranks, you don’t always know what you’re getting. If the team’s best tackle goes down, how confident can you be in his freshman replacement? It can make wagering a little dicey.

When you look at the injury reports when betting on college football, use a discerning eye. Not all injuries or replacements are the same. Looking between the lines can help you get a better handle on the situation. Naturally, the injuries that get the most attention are on the offensive side of the ball– mainly at the quarterback position. Star running backs and receivers also get a lot of publicity when they have to miss games.

And rightly so. The quarterback is the field general and a change in that spot can throw a team off-rhythm. And if a team depends heavily on a player for offensive production, the consequences could be steep if you lose that player. But what if the team is losing? Is a change at quarterback such a bad thing? And who is the replacement? Is he a walk-on of little acclaim or a high school superstar who was just looking for the right spot to start a great college career?

Maybe a receiver or back was struggling prior to missing games. A fresh set of legs could actually be an improvement. But are there other injuries that we tend to overlook? At college, losing a center can be disastrous. Or if there is some major drop-off in form with a replacement offensive lineman, it could change the whole complexion of the offense.

At defense, the ramifications of losing a key player can run deep and treacherous. Losing your best safety or a corner you depend on can lead to major defensive depreciation, particularly if facing a pass-happy team. Losing a key pass-rusher can allow offenses to run wild. If a team loses a linebacker who is always around the ball and a leader on the field–the whole heart of a defense can be diminished.

Don’t just glance at the injury reports and assume it all balances out or that the bookies have already accounted for it. Analyze it. Try to understand the true consequences of every loss in personnel. Whether you’re betting on or against a team, getting a handle on the injury situation can help you keep a leg up on the books.

Betting on Bad Teams

One piece of trendy advice we hear is to bet on the bad teams. The theory is that bad teams get the best betting value on your dollar. No one likes the bad teams. They have no betting support. In fact, the betting morale on these teams could be quite low. That results in bookies going out of their way to get people to bet on these teams. Those teams get undervalued and supposedly cover more spreads than celebrated national favorite teams that everyone likes and bets on.

It seems like the bookies have bridged the gap. Going off some vague system of leaning toward bad teams for better value might be a bit outdated. There are certainly occasions where you will find tremendous value on poor teams, but let’s look at the best and worst teams against the spread in 2011. It’s a bit outdated, but some of this still applies today.


Only 7 teams covered 10 spreads in the 2011 season. Those teams were Arkansas State, Houston, LSU, Louisiana Tech, Michigan State, Stanford, and Western Kentucky. The combined won-loss record of these teams was 77-20.

Look at the worst 7 covering teams against the spread. Those teams were Akron, Florida Atlantic, Maryland, Middle Tennessee State, Ole Miss, Syracuse, and Troy. Those teams’ combined won-loss record is 16-68. Now, this could be less about good teams/bad teams and more about whether these teams over or under-achieved. But look at the worst teams against the spread. No one would ever call these teams “good.” So maybe we should just handicap games and look for good value, without getting too hung up on the “bad teams cover” principle.