National signing day in college football is becoming a bigger and bigger media spectacle every year. For those who aren’t obsessed with the sport, national signing day, which falls early in February each year, is the first day that recruits for the next season can sign a letter of intent and officially accept their scholarship to a school. Up to that point their commitment – if they have made one – is only verbal and non-binding. College football coaches work furiously to secure their players, and to steal players away from other schools, and they can’t rest until the letters are faxed to their offices on that day.
For sports bettors this is an important day on the college football calendar – Just like the draft is in the NFL. It’s the day when teams can restock their cupboards, and when you get a sense of what they are going to have to work with for the next four or five years. That means that bettors who are seriously committed to college football should be paying attention to what is going on. Unfortunately, it’s also a day on which bettors who aren’t being careful can really make some serious mistakes that can lead them to believe in football teams they shouldn’t and ignore teams that are worthy of their attention. Here are six of the bigger mistakes that sports bettors make when evaluating national signing day:
Assuming every player will be a star – If you read a lot of scouting reports or troll the forums on recruiting sites then you’ll know that pretty much every well regarded prospect sounds like he is going to be a college star. He’ll be fast and athletic, he’ll have put up serious numbers in high school, and he’ll have massive impact and the chance to make an immediate impact. Of course, in reality, very few players are able to become stars right away, and a good portion of players signed by every NCAA team will never become stars – or even starters – at any point. If young recruits were a sure thing then a team wouldn’t need to bring in 25 of them every year to fulfill their needs. It’s very important to keep a cool head when evaluating prospects and signing classes. Any given player could become a star, and most have real upside, but smart bettors will let recruits start to proven themselves in practice and on the field before crowning them the next big thing.
Assuming every player will make an early impact – Even football players that are very likely to become star level players aren’t always going to make an impact early in their freshman year. In fact, the number of players each year who do make a big impact in their first few games can be counted on just a couple of hands. Despite that reality, though, fans, media members, and casual sports bettors will expect pretty much any recruit that they heard buzz bout to make a splash early on. That’s a big mistake. If you watch college football closely then you’ll almost always have time to watch a player and notice that he is is ready to make some noise before he actually does. In fact, it would be safer as a college football handicapper to assume that no freshman will make early impact – you’ll be right far, far more often than you will be wrong.
Assuming recruiting success will translate into on field success – As a general rule NCAA teams that recruit better have a better quality of players so they are able to be more successful on the field. That’s not always the case, though. Teams like Boise State always perform well beyond what their recruiting would suggest they could. Other teams always seem to be able to pull in top level classes, but they never seem to be able to translate that success onto the field. You can’t just judge a team by how good their recruits were in high school and how heavily they were recruited. There is so much more that goes into success for the team – coaching, the talent of the older players, the strength of the conference, the difficulty of the schedule, and so on. Letting recruiting success color your college gridiron betting perception of a team can be very costly.
Ignoring holes in otherwise strong classes – If a class is mostly impressive then it can be far too easy to ignore a glaring issue with the class. It may not matter, though, that a college team hauled in all sorts of four and five star studs if their biggest need was on the offensive line and their offensive line recruiting haul was lacking. Depth is the single biggest factor in college football success, so you can’t let flashy players distract you from that.
Only looking at the top of classes – Similarly, you can’t be distracted by the few big name stars at the top of a class if the overall depth of the class isn’t strong and the quality drops off quickly. Those highly regarded players may turn into big time football players, but college football is the ultimate team sport, so if they don’t have a good caliber of players around them then they aren’t going to be able to single-handedly win games no matter how highly regarded they are.
Caring too much – Ultimately, this is the biggest trap that NCAA bettors can fall into on national signing day. It’s an important and exciting day, but ultimately it doesn’t really prove anything. Teams still have to get their recruits to campus and get them ready to play. The new players will have to adjust to a much higher level of play, will have to adapt to a dramatically tougher workout regimen, and will have to deal with being away form home and in a very high pressure situation. Because of all that football handicappers can’t get too excited by what they were able to do in high school. Signing day is only the very first step in the long process of developing young football players and turning them into a winning team, but it can be easy for sports bettors to assign to much significance to that step because of the attention it gets.