If you are a college football fan then you can surely think of cases where David has killed Goliath – where a heavy, heavy favorite has fallen in a very unlikely and unexpected way to an underdog that didn’t seem to have any chance of winning the game. The media understandably loves situations like these, and the football games typically get a whole lot of coverage – especially if the team that was upset had national championship aspirations that were derailed by the loss. One of the big challenges for sports bettors is to figure out how the team that shocked the world with the upset is going to come back in their next game. The betting public is likely to pay more attention to the team in their next game than they otherwise would – and to give them much more respect as well. Sometimes that respect is warranted because the team really is good and was just underappreciated. Other times, though, the win was really a fluke in every way, and there will be real value in betting against the team next time out. Here are five questions that can help college football handicappers determine which situation is more likely:
How did they win the game? – This is the single most important factor to consider. It’s a whole lot easier to trust a football team that won because of their strong play than it is to trust one that won because their opponent was unprepared, made a lot of mistakes, and generally didn’t play well enough to win. There is one potential exception to that, though. If the college team won the game because of performance that was outstanding but not likely sustainable – gaudy offensive stats or a defense that caused a huge number of turnovers, for example – then it isn’t likely that they will be able to perform at the same high level again, and it therefore isn’t easy to trust them. The key, then, for football bettors is to look for play that is strong, but in which the college team played within themselves.
Do they have anything left to play for? – A big reason why upsets like this happen is often because the underdog is fired up because they are playing their biggest game of the year while the favorite is looking past the game and taking it for granted. After pulling off the upset, then, it can be very hard for the team to get their emotions in check and focus on the next game – especially if it isn’t against an opponent of the same caliber. The best thing to keep a college football team on track is if they have something to play for – bowl eligibility or a spot in a conference championship game, for example. The more that is on the line down the stretch, the better the chances that the team can rebound and find a way to maintain their momentum.
Do they have other big opponents coming up? – This is an extension of what we just talked about, but it is important enough to look at closer. When a team beats a huge opponent in an upset that makes national news it can be like winning the national championship for a team that doesn’t have a whole lot going for them. It’s the biggest thing they will accomplish all year no matter what, and nothing else all year will come close. One of the few ways that this won’t be the case is if there are other huge games left to play – maybe a huge rivalry game, or another game against a highly ranked opponent. Those are the rare types of football games that can allow a team to maintain focus and intensity.
Have they shown improvement? – Sometimes an upset in NCAA football will look like it came totally out of the blue, but when you look at the team’s season with the benefit of hindsight you’ll realize that they had consistently improved and were playing better than their record indicated. In a sense they had been building all year towards the effort. Other times, though, the performance will be far less predictable – almost as if it appeared by magic. In those cases it is far harder for the expert sports bettor to believe in the continuation of what has happened.
How is the public reacting to the upset? – As is so often the case in sports betting the reaction of the public is at least as important as any other factor here. If the sports wagering public was impressed by the upset and expects strong play again then there is a good chance that they will bet the team too heavily, and there could be more value for the smart college football handicapper in their opponent than there might otherwise be. If the upset is widely viewed as just a fluke, though, then they won’t be as inclined to bet on the team, and there won’t be as much impact on the odds or line movement.