Every spring college football fans are inundated with news from spring games. We can even watch more and more of them every year as they show up on TV to satisfy hungry fans. Calling most of them games is being generous – they feature adapted rules and even scoring systems at times, and coaches typically don’t hesitate to get right on the field if they need to. A lot of what happens at a spring college football game doesn’t mean much, but there are a few things that smart bettors will want to keep an eye on because they can give us clues about how prepared a team might be for the start of the season. Before we look at those elements, though, there is one thing to keep in mind – you need to remember who isn’t playing in the game. Starters who aren’t healthy aren’t going to play, and incoming college freshmen may be expected to start once they make it to campus. Before you draw any conclusions as a college football handicapper from the spring game you need to look at how closely the lineup that is playing the spring game is related to the one that we’ll see in the fall.
Here are six things to keep an eye on in spring games:
Defensive dominance – If a football team is going through changes to the coaching staff or a turnover at key positions then there is a good chance that the offense or defense won’t be operating at full capacity yet. If neither unit is at full strength then the defense should be expected to be better than the offense. There are a few reasons for that including the fact that defensive players just have to react while offensive players have to enact a plan, and an offensive play can fall apart if one college player makes a mistake while on defensive several players can make a mistake and still be saved by the good play of one player. If an offense that isn’t fully established is able to rip apart a defense then that could be a bad sign for the team because the defense isn’t as talented as it probably should be.
QB order of play – QB stats are totally meaningless in the spring because you don’t know how much of the playbook they are working with, what directions the defense has been given while playing against them, and even the personnel they are playing against. What is interesting to watch, though, is the order in which quarterbacks get to play. If a college football is facing a transition at the QB position then the order players play in and how much they play can give you a clue to how the race is shaping up and who might have the edge. The sooner you can get a sense of what’s going to happen the better your edge.
Defensive players who seem to be everywhere – The overall play of the defensive unit is hard to judge or learn much from. What can be important, though, is if a single defensive player had a particularly impressive, active day. That’s especially important when that a football player isn’t already a star that people are on the lookout for. A spring game big performance could be a sign that he is ready to break out, and could show that he is going to be a bigger contributor to the defense than people are expecting.
Play selection – Chances are pretty good that players aren’t operating with a full playbook in a spring game, so you don’t want to draw too many conclusions from what you see from the play caller. There are some things that can be interesting, though. Did a football team that typically passes heavily rely heavily on the run in the spring game? That could be a sign that they are actively working on the run and could be looking for more balance in their offense – a useful piece of information for early total plays. Anything that a team does that is far different than expectations is good for the college bettor to know.
How disciplined a team looks – The plays won’t be polished, but the coaching staff has had 15 or more practices to work with the football team. That should have a big impact on their attitude and their discipline. If a team looks to be out of control or undisciplined then it could be a sign that the coaching staff isn’t running as tight a ship as perhaps they should be.
Special teams – There are a lot of aspects of a spring game that are different from a real game. The one thing that is standard, though, is the size and location of the uprights. That means that if a kicker is capable of hitting field goals and extra points in the regular season then he should certainly be able to do the same in the spring. If a football team had troubles with kicking last year and then struggle in the spring then it’s a pretty clear sign that the issues haven’t yet been resolved.