Before the college football season starts each year there is lots of value to be found in betting conference winner futures. You can bet on which team is going to win each of the major NCAA conferences – and typically several of the minor conferences as well – and you can quite often get a very nice price by picking the eventual winner. When you are searching for value in college football conference winner futures here are five things to keep in mind as a sports bettor:
Beware of the hype – The media will pick college football teams each year that they are excited about, and they will write about those programs and their star players far more than the other schools. A team that gets the lion’s share of attention isn’t necessarily the best team in the conference, though. The media is lazy, so they grab onto the obvious storylines, the big stars, and the stories that will get attention. NCAA football games aren’t won by those surface stories, but by the dozens of little details that are far beyond what the media cares about. The media hype will have a big influence on the odds in these futures bets, but you need to be very sure that you don’t let that same hype influence your decisions. If used properly the media hype can be to your betting advantage because it can provide a lot of value on teams that aren’t getting the attention, but if you aren’t careful the hype can be your worst enemy and can lead you down the wrong path.
Study the schedules – Ultimately, how good a college team actually is really doesn’t matter. What is important is whether a team is better than the teams they are playing. For that reason it is far more important to study the schedules that teams will be playing than it is to look at how good the teams are in the conference compared to each other. In bigger conferences all teams don’t play each other, so some teams can have a dramatically easier schedule than others. In conferences with two divisions there is often one division that is weaker than the other. That can make it easy for a decent team in the weak division to make the conference championship, but can make it very hard for a good team in the tough division to do so. You need to look at the schedules of each individual program to see how their path looks and how you expect them to fare. By looking at each team’s schedule individually and assigning them expected wins or losses you can often find that a surprising potential conference winner will emerge, or that a football team that is perceived to be strong according to the odds may not be positioned to do as well as expected.
Depth – Injuries are going to happen. That’s just a fact. The teams that are better able to deal with those injuries are the ones that are going to have a better season. By the time conference play starts most teams have played three or four non-conference games, so they are banged up before things even get going. Spending the time to study the roster and find depth issues is well worth it. Does the team have a viable backup quarterback? Do they have depth on the offensive line? Dow about the defensive line? Do they have several defensive backs who could play? At least half of the opening day starting roster can’t or won’t be starting every game of the season, so smart sports bettors need to get to know which teams are hiding fatal flaws in their depth charts.
Changes in roster – Part of what makes college football so compelling is the constant turnover in personnel as players graduate or leave for the NFL, and freshmen join the team or come off of their redshirt year. Most people are aware of the high profile departures, but likely have far less of a grasp on the freshmen who are coming in, or the key role players who operate under the radar who have moved on. If you aren’t paying attention to the movement of rosters you can be making decisions based not on what a team has to offer now, but rather what they had to offer before. As a college football handicapper, you simply must be sure that the roster you have in your mind is the roster they will have on the field. There can be real opportunities created here as well. Sometimes the public will assume a team is going to be better than it will because they undervalue the significance of a departing player. Other times they will be too negative about a team because of a significant departure if they don’t realize that the replacement player is very capable.
Consider the public – The odds in these futures are set with the whims of the betting public in mind. People assume that odds reflect who the oddsmakers think will win, but they really reflect who the oddsmakers think the college football bettors think will win, and those are often two very different things. You need to be very aware of what NCAA teams are likely to be public teams, and what that means in terms of value in the conference. If you don’t do your homework then public action can lead you towards teams you shouldn’t be on, and away from teams that offer very significant value to the educated college football bettor.