When you are betting on college football one of the big challenges is that there are no preseason games. Training camps often aren’t particularly open to the public or media, either. It can be very challenging, then, to have an accurate sense of what a team is capable of before the regular season starts. It only makes sense, then, that bettors have to assess and adjust their opinions right after teams have played their first games. While that is an important step it can be very easy to make mistakes while doing so while you aren’t careful. If you aren’t careful then you can easily make mistakes in judgement that can cost you in the next game and beyond. Here are five common mistakes sports handicappers make when assessing college football teams after their opening game:
Judging young players too aggressively – Bettors always want to know how young players starting the first time are going to be able to handle the pressure. Often times it isn’t well – at least not in the first game they play. It’s a huge mistake to read too much into poor early performance by young football players, though. They are likely playing in front of the biggest crowd they have ever seen, most will be on TV for the first time, and they are playing against a much higher level of competition than they ever have before. If a player struggles in their first game it’s not a surprise. In fact, we can probably expect them to be well below their best. In short, if you are negative about a player you see in their first game then you are almost certainly making a mistake. This is especially true for quarterbacks, players on both lines, and linebackers because of the amount of new information they need to absorb and adjust to. After half the season you can easily adjust how well a youngster is fitting in, but doing so before then is premature.
Assuming schemes are complete – When football teams are making changes to their schemes because of a coaching, philosophical or personnel change then bettors are eager to see how well the team can handle the change. If it seems to go very well or very poorly in the first game played then sports bettors will often overreact significantly. It’s almost impossible to draw meaningful information about the introduction of a new scheme after just one game. It’s highly unlikely that thefootball coaching staff will have implemented all of the changes for the first game – in part to give the players less to try to figure out, and in part so that they still have some secrets for the next opponents. The first game is also the first time that the players have tried to implement the schemes at full game speed. Patience in judging these changes is crucial for the college football handicapper.
Worrying too much about line movement – Smart handicappers know that a lot can be learned from the ways that lines move in the days before a game kicks off. By looking at line movement and the distribution of bets we can get a good sense of where the public is betting, what the smart money thought, and how the two sides fared in the game. While that kind of analysis is valuable and profitable for much of the season it is far less significant in the opening week. Everyone is going into the season blind, so there is much more guessing and less sound statistical analysis involved in line movements in the opening week than there is once football teams have played some meaningful games.
Giving a new coach too much credit – Handicappers are always interested about coaching changes and the impact they will have on teams. While that is obviously important, it can be very dangerous to draw too much meaning from the first game under a new coach. There are reasons why the performance in that first game could be both better or worse than the new coach will be capable of during the rest of the first season. On one hand in the first game things could go worse than they will later in the season because it’s the first time the coaching staff and players have worked together in a game setting, so growing pains are almost guaranteed. On the other hand, adrenaline can have a strong positive impact on a team in the debut game – especially if that game is played at home in front of a welcoming, enthusiastic crowd. As an astute college football handicapper, you need to be patient and see a few games before you can really know how a coach is likely to do in the first year and how much work they have to do until they are respectable and competitive.
Not factoring in opponent – This just drives me crazy. After the opening game of the college football season you can read media accounts of how incredibly impressive certain teams were and how certain players are on their way to a Heisman. Often times that is totally ridiculous. If afootball team has played an opponent far worse than they are – which is very common in the opening week – then any team or individual statistics are almost certainly inflated. Smart college football handicappers know this.