In non-conference play it is very common for good college football teams from the top conferences to schedule games against badly outclassed opponents from weaker conferences. Since there is no preseason in college football teams use these games to work out the kinks, build confidence, and give young players game experience in a relatively low stress setting. These games are rarely exciting to watch, and they often feature very high scores. They also typically involve very high point spreads – spreads of 30 points or more are quite common. Point spreads that big provide real challenges for bettors. It is obviously easy to figure out which team is better, and which one is very likely to win the game. You just need to decide how much they are likely to win by. A team can easily win a game handily and still fail to cover a giant spread, and that can cause serious headaches for someone who bet the favorite. Here are 6 things for savvy college football handicappers to look for in how to pick college football games with big point spreads.
What is the team’s ultimate ambition? – In order to cover a huge spread a NCAA football team has to be willing to keep pushing when the game is clearly and totally in hand. The biggest reason why a team would be looking to do that is if they have high hopes for their season. To make it into a high level bowl you need to catch the eye of the voters and make them think you are a dominating impressive team. Whether it is fair or not, one of the best ways to do that is to pile up a ridiculous number of points and some gaudy stats against an outmatched weakling. The more ambitious a college team is, then, the more likely they are going to be interested in winning big and creating a big early impression.
What is the tendency of the coach? – Some NCAA coaches show no mercy – they’ll go for a touchdown on their final drive when they are up by 50 with a minute left. Other coaches are more gentlemanly, and will ease up once the game is won. Some coaches will keep the starters in most of the way, while others will play the starters for just as long as they need to, and then will use the opportunity to get the backups some game experience.
Is the opponent weak or just unknown? – When the favorite is a successful public team from a major conference they will get all of the attention in a game against a lesser known team from a conference that isn’t well regarded. The public often won’t even bother to look at the opponent in these cases – they will just assume that they are going to get crushed. You can sometimes find very nice value by looking at the opponents and getting a more accurate sense of what they really can offer. If they are an experienced team full of seniors, for example, then they aren’t likely to be intimidated by the situation, and they will be able to work well together to accomplish what they can. If the betting favorites have struggled against one particular type of offense or defense then you need to get to know whether the underdog is going to be able to exploit that weakness. If the opponent has played major conference opponents in the recent past you need to look at how they fared and what that can teach us.
Who is the backup QB? – If and when the game starts to get out of hand it is very likely that the starting QB will hit the bench so he isn’t injured. That means that the backup can get a lot of playing time in a game like this. It is crucial, then, to factor in the quality of the backup when you handicap the games. Is the backup experienced, or will he be playing for the first time? Has he had time to learn the system, or is he going to be operating with a short playbook? Will the defense have a tough time adjusting to playing against him after the starter, or will it be relatively easy?
How has the line moved? – In college football games like this you can learn quite a bit from how the line moves. If it starts as a big spread and quickly grows bigger then that’s a good sign that the public is firmly and unquestionably on the side of the favorite. The more the line rises the better the chance that there can be some value on the underdog. If the line shrinks consistently, though, then the line is getting easier and easier to cover, and you have to work harder to prove that the underdog is worthy of being your pick.
What is the public perception? – The more public a team is, the more likely it is that the line is bigger than it should be. The football betting public has teams that they are in love with, and they will bet those teams enthusiastically and blindly whenever they get the chance. The oddsmakers know that, so they set the lines bigger than they might otherwise in an attempt to try to balance the action at least a little bit to minimize their risks. As a loose rule for college football handicapping, then, the more public a team is, the more likely it is that there is value in betting the underdog.