There is a big gap between the last game of the regular college football season and the bowl game for a lot of teams. Football teams that don’t play in a conference championship game could be off for well over a month if they play in a post-New Year bowl game. There are lots of practices to be held in that time, and typically some time off for the team as well. Astute college football bettors can learn a lot about teams – and can spot a whole lot of opportunities – by paying close attention to how teams are acting during this time. Here are five things for college football handicappers to keep an eye on in the pursuit of bowl game value:
Has there been coaching changes? – In one of the most unfortunate quirks of timing , the period between the end of the regular NCAA football season and the start of the bowls when teams are supposed to be preparing for their game is also the time when teams are looking for new coaches. That means that a surprisingly large number of teams will go into their bowl game either having lost a coach, hired a coach, or with their coach the subject of intense speculation and rumors. Any of these situations will have a big impact n their team, but that impact isn’t always easy to determine. Some football teams will react very poorly, using the change or potential change as a reason to quit on their season. Other teams will use it as a rallying point, and whether playing for their regular coach or an interim they will use the adversity as a motivating factor. Some teams will hardly be affected at all. The more time you put into considering what the reaction is likely to be and what that means for the team, the more success you’ll have betting on their games. You’ll also want to make sure that you don’t overlook changes in coordinators as well. A hot college coordinator could easily be hired before a big game, and that could have a big impact n the preparation he and his players did and the attitude of the team in the game. Because coordinators often work much more closely with the players than the head coach the impact can actually often be more significant, and it can easily be overlooked by casual sports bettors.
Have non-starters transferred? – One good indication of the atmosphere around a team is if players have transferred before their bowl game. That’s when a lot of players will look to transfer so that they start at their new school after Christmas and participate in two sets of spring practices before being eligible to play. While that is understandable, a college football team that has had more than one or two players transfer away at this time is clearly not a team that has a great internal atmosphere. That can have a big impact on the attitude of the team, and their ability to play at full strength and beat the spread.
Has the team stayed out of trouble? – The time between the regular season and the bowl games can be a time with far less structure for the players than they are used to during the season – especially if their bowl game comes later on and there is some time off before practice starts. For most football teams that isn’t a problem. Teams that have discipline issues – both from the coaches and internally within the players – can have trouble at this time, though. If a team gets into trouble during this time then it’s a big warning sign in my eyes that there are bigger problems with the team, and it becomes harder to trust them and bet on them than it might otherwise be.
Did they need the time to get healthy? – Watching the injury reports, reports from practices, and fan forums during the long break between games can be very valuable because it can give you a sense of whether the team has been able to use the break to get healthier. By the end of the regular football season health can be a real issue for teams, so it’s quite possible that the break can lead the squad to look like a whole new team when they hit the field again.
Have they been talking to the media? – Some teams will totally shut themselves off from the media during their break. Other coaches will be very visible and talkative. You can learn a lot about how a coach carries himself during this period – especially if he behaves in a way that isn’t consistent with what we have come to expect from him over time. A college coach who is normally quiet who is talkative now could be feeling particularly confident, or he could be looking to adjust expectations to better match what he expects the outcome to be. A coach who is normally talkative who isn’t saying anything could be nervous or frustrated by his team, or he could be working on new things he doesn’t want to talk about. Expert picks comes from college football handicappers who can acurately interpret these signs.