Betting on halves in college football can be more attractive in a lot of ways than betting on whole games. When you are only betting on 30 minutes instead of 60 then there is less time for the unexpected to occur, and fewer things that can work against you. First half bets can be particularly attractive because, unlike betting the second half, you have several days before the game to handicap and look for value spots. When you are betting on the first half in college football the easiest way to find value is to look for situations that are likely to create at least a temporary mismatch. If you can predict that one team is likely to be off balance and somewhat unprepared early on then you may be able to predict that they are going to have a substandard start to the game, and that betting against them in the first half could be advantageous. The advantage of betting the first half instead of the whole game in these situations is that the coaches have the opportunity at halftime to make adjustments and get the game back on track, and that can minimize the advantage over the whole game. Here are seven common situations in which first half bets can be attractive to college football handicappers:
Unique schemes that the opponent hasn’t seen – One of the great things about college sports is that there are so many different and totally unique schemes used by teams on both offense and defense. It’s not like the NFL where most teams look basically alike. If a team is exposed to playing against a particular scheme for a long time then eventually the superior skill and talent will win out. Over the short term, though, a unique scheme can leave a team feeling frustrated and confused, and that can give the team using the scheme at least a temporary edge. If a defense is struggling on the field with a tough offense they may be unable to adjust and improve over the short term, and that can have an impact on the outcome of the first half. You need to be sure, though, that it really is the first time that a team is seeing this approach, and not just the first time that they have seen this team use it.
A key player returning after a long injury – If a key player like a quarterback or a defensive captain is returning to action after a long layoff then it can be hard for their opponent to prepare for them because they don’t know how well the player will return. This is especially significant if the replacement player plays a different style than the returning player because recent video of the team will not be as useful as it could be. If you are confident that a college football player is going to return strong then you could have a good situation for a play on your hands.
Situations that could be particularly intimidating – If a team is intimidated early on then they are likely to perform at less than their best until they get comfortable and get their feet back under them again, and by that time they could already have lost the first half. There are many common ways this could happen. For example, the first time a small school plays in the Big Hose or the Rose Bowl they can’t help but be overwhelmed by the people and the history that surrounds them. A small school playing an elite program or a star player could have the same problem. A team could also struggle if they are playing in a building after having played horrifically the last time they were there, or if a key player was injured the last time they were there and is now playing there again.
Unexpected weather conditions – Weather can have a big impact on games – especially if a team hasn’t expected it and hasn’t been able to prepare for it. If it is particularly harsh weather and if the teams come from different areas of the country then the home team could be much better equipped to handle the weather than the visitors, and that could be a big early advantage in the game.
Teams that often get out to a fast start – This one is fairly obvious – if a team has a tendency to get out to a fast start in games then they should obviously be looked at closely in these situations – especially when their opponent isn’t generally a strong starting team.
Teams that often get off to a slow start – This is another one that fits into the obvious-but-important column. If a team tends to get off to slow starts then they could be a strong team to bet against in the first half. There are some very successful programs which win a lot of games yet don’t seem motivated to perform their best in the first half. They seem to know they can win it in the second half, so they are just biding their time until they get there.
Size advantage – It the second half of games it is stamina that is more important than size because of the strain that teams have gone through. In the first half, though, size is a much bigger factor because stamina isn’t nearly as much of a factor. If one football team is significantly bigger than the other on the lines then they are going to be able to assert that strength early on, and that can have an impact on the flow of the game early on as the smaller team gets pushed around by the bigger team that has not yet been worn out.