Key Handicapping Tips

College Football Betting: The Match-Up Component and Knowing Your Limits

By Loot, NCAA College Football Handicapper,

The Importance of Match-Ups

When analyzing college football, we tend to dwell on stats–both for individual players and the rankings of the offenses and defenses. We see a player as an individual entity. We perhaps say he’s fast, he runs hard, or he bowls over defenders. And we get all caught up in analyzing a player as if he stands on his own.

In college football, it’s about how that player will do in a certain game, not how good he is in an overall sense. When you look at the game-by-game spread of a player’s season, there are peaks and valleys. We’re not dealing with constant variables here. Any number of factors can contribute to both good and below average performances. And that’s where the focus should be.

Rather than trying to pinpoint how good a player is in an overall sense, hone in on how well he will do against the specific team he is facing. In football, we have a bunch of individual players of varying quality and importance to the team. All these players collide on the field to create one particular dynamic. It’s not enough to merely say a player is good or great, but try to pinpoint how he will do on a given week against a certain “D.” There are a lot of variables that could affect a player’s importance and we need to account for the peaks and valleys in every player’s season.

That goes for team rankings too. We can sometimes get mesmerized by offensive and defensive team stats. We look at the rankings for offense and defense in both the pass and the run. If we see a huge gap, we tend to try to capitalize on it. If a team is the number-two rushing team in the nation facing a defense that is ranked 118th, we definitely become interested.

Again, those rankings were compiled under completely different circumstances. While the stats can tell you a story, it gears you to analyze opposing entities as individual forces. We begin overgeneralizing like “Oh, that defense is good. That defense is bad. They’re good against the run. They’re a tough team against the pass,” If only it were so easy.

Try to bet using team rankings as your guiding light and see what happens. After that number-two rushing team in the nation stinks it up against the supposedly-weak run “D,” you might try something else. It’s never as easy as merely looking for gaping differences in team stats.

A team that troubled one defense might not be as potent against another unit. And that unit could be lower-ranked or a team with a worse record than the team they just smashed. There is no ready-made conversion chart to determine any of this. It all comes down to the inner-workings of each specific match-up and that can never be determined by merely glossing over player stats and team rankings.

Knowing Your Limits

We all need to remind ourselves from time to time that we might not know it all. Everyone at the sportsbook thinks they’re the champ. No one in there will ever say they don’t know what they’re doing. They all think their opinions are the soundest. And of course, that can’t be true. In the world of college football betting, we’re thousands of baby mice squirming to find a teat. The percentage of those who succeed at college football betting is astoundingly low. A wise man knows the odds of what he’s up against. And college football bettors should know there are those who know a lot more than they do. That goes for all of us. We could be well-informed, have fantastic analysis, and there is always someone out there who is more on-point. It’s a big world out there.


A little knowledge is usually a dangerous thing. We see this in other walks of life. Someone reads a book on something and now they’re the world’s foremost authority. It’s very human to jump the gun in nominating ourselves for expert designation. And that is really the truth when it comes to sports. It’s important to not get intoxicated with our own supposed expertise. We must continue working and striving to get better. Thinking you have it all figured out can just turn into an excuse to stop working hard.