In Praise of Canadian Football

You may have missed it (in fact, unless you live in Canada the the chances are pretty high that you did), but the Grey Cup, the championship of the Canadian Football League, was played in Montreal today. The Grey Cup has been contested since 1909, and it is a great excuse for Canadians to get together, have some drinks, and revel in their Canadianism. This year it was played between my hometown Calgary Stampeders and the Montreal Alouettes. The game is played in a different site every year like the Super Bowl is, so it was just a fluke that Montreal enjoyed a home game. It didn’t help. My boys won 22-14 in a game that was a pick ’em, and a party ensued.

I’m not going to spend much time talking about the game, because I fully realize that you almost certainly don’t care about three down football. I’ll be totally candid – it might make me a bad Canadian, but I much prefer the NFL, and especially college football, to the CFL. What I was struck by as I was watching tonight’s game, though, is that this is a league that more bettors need to be paying attention to. Here are six good reasons why:

1. Soft lines. The CFL is growing in betting popularity, but it still isn’t exactly setting volume records. For bettors who are willing to do a bit of homework that is very good news. A big portion of the betting done on the league is emotionally driven, so it isn’t backed by reason. If you can bring detached reason to it then you can often find lines that don’t make real sense – especially when a popular team like Saskatchewan is playing a less popular one like Hamilton.

2. Lack of information sophistication. This may sound like a bad thing, but it is actually a gift to bettors. When a casual bettor wants to bet on the NFL they can easily find every statistic and analysis they could ever want. In the CFL that’s just not the case. The stats are out there, but you have to look hard for them, and you may have to use a spreadsheet to tweak and calculate the stats you might want. If you are willing to do that little bit of work, you can grab a big edge over the public. That’s a unique and profitable opportunity.

3. Consistency. Calgary was the best team on the league. They won the most games, and they played in the tougher division. They had the top rusher and the top receiver. Montreal was the tops in the other division. Calgary played Montreal three times, and they beat them three times. That’s not atypical. This league has a good habit – the better teams regularly and reliably win.

4. Small league. There are only eight teams in the league. Getting comfortable with the teams and their strengths doesn’t require a big investment of time or effort.

5. Early start to the season. The regular season starts at the end of June. The league can give you something to ease your football itch until the good stuff gets going.

6. Talent imbalance. Teams have a required quota of Canadian players, but the majority of the players, and most of the stars, are U.S. colege players who couldn’t find a home playing under brighter lights. Every so often you see a guy come up here who is incredibly good. Because the general level of play isn’t near the level of the NFL, an NFL caliber player can truly shine in the league. That’s very good news for bettors – those players give their team a huge edge in the right situations. Doug Flutie and Warren Moon were both legends in this league. Jeff Garcia was a star here with the Stampeders. This year, B.C. had a pass rusher named Cameron Wake. He has been in the league for two years, and he has been the league’s outstanding defensive player both years. He’s a 2005 Penn State grad who was undrafted. He’ll get a look in the NFL now after piling up 39 sacks in 36 games, including 23 this year. The guy is a machine, and he absolutely dominated this league. He gave his team a huge edge against weaker QBs, and that was very helpful for bettors.

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