We are in the dying days of the college football season – most teams have just one or two games left. At this time of year it can be very profitable to be able to spot teams that have packed it in – those that just don’t care anymore. Those teams are likely to be underdogs, and often serious underdogs, but often times they play badly enough that they easily lose by far more than the spread facing them – especially if they are playing a good team. Here are six ways for college football handicappers to spot a team that could be on the verge of quitting:
Playing players that don’t seem ready – If a college football team is playing players that do not look like they are capable of performing at a high level then there is obviously something going on. Sometimes teams are forced to do this because of injuries, but when a team doesn’t have that problem and still plays players who aren’t obviously their best then they are clearly looking beyond this year to next year. That might pay off for the team in the long term, but in the short term it isn’t going to help them on the field.
Changing schemes – The tenth game of the season is not the time for tinkering with schemes. If a defense is alternating between 3-4 and 4-3 from possession to possession, or an offense is throwing option plays randomly into a pro style scheme, then you can be reasonably confident that they aren’t going to have any real success. Teams that are making changes at this time of year are doing it because they have learned the hard way that nothing else they are doing is working. That just stinks of desperation, and desperation is a bettor’s best friend at this time of the year.
Coaches clearly unpopular and on way out – We have seen a couple of coaches fired already this year, but there will be several more before all is said and done. You don’t have to be in the locker rooms to get a sense of some college coaches that are just playing out the schedule before they pack their bags. It also isn’t hard to spot which ones of those coaches are getting fired in large part because they are connecting with their players and earning their respect. The body language of the players and coaches on the sidelines can tell you a whole lot about what the relationship is like. If a coach is obviously about to be fired and the players aren’t going to be sad to see him go then there is very little chance that the team is going to put any real effort forward.
Coach reducing expectations in media – Coaches will usually try to understate the preparation and capabilities of their team in the media. Most times they don’t believe it and they are just saying it to manage expectations to try to keep his players on task. When a team already isn’t playing particularly well, though, then a coach could be reducing expectations because they know they aren’t likely to win a game. If they can establish realistic expectations early on then they can hopefully spin the poor results so that they don’t look quite as bad for them. In short, if a coach of a bad team s saying pessimistic things about his team in the media then there is probably a good reason for it and football bettors need to take note.
Sudden, uncharacteristically bad performance – When a football team has been performing at a certain level for several games in a row and then performs at a much worse level for no obvious reason then your alarm bells should be ringing. Teams can have bad days if they don’t match up well with an opponent, or if the weather doesn’t suit them, or if injuries become too much to overcome. Those are all acceptable reasons. Sometimes, though, a team will come out and just play an indescribably horrible game on both sides of the ball Nothing they do will turn out even remotely well. It will be ugly. When something like this happens it’s often because the mood of the team isn’t good, their attention to detail is weak, and they just aren’t committed. If that happens reasonably late in the season then those teams often don’t get back on track.
Season way below expectations – If a team has come into a season with high expectations and absolutely nothing has gone right for the team then things can really get ugly down the stretch. You can quickly think of countless examples of teams that were expected to contend for their conference title or a national title that have just crumbled under the pressure of the season. If a team was expected to be at 8-2, 9-1 or 10-0 after 10 games but finds themselves at 4-6 or 5-5 then it is a very good bet that they are going to be disillusioned and performing at far less than what they should be capable of. As a college football handicapper looking to make winning picks, you need to be aware of this.