The media loves to talk about the potential of a good college football team looking past a weak opponent towards a stronger opponent in their next game. They’ll often suggest that a team in this circumstance could lack focus and intensity and could be vulnerable to an upset or a less impressive win than they otherwise might get. It sounds like a decent theory, and sometimes it is even true. The trick for sports bettors is to know when a NCAA team could really be at risk of overlooking an opponent, and when it isn’t a big issue. Here are six factors to consider in your college football handicapping when trying to figure it out:
How old is the team? – Age is such a big factor in college football. Young players can be experiencing things on the big stage for the first time in their lives, while older football teams with a mature core are more likely to have faced a situation like this before, and will have a better sense of how to handle it and what is needed of them. College teams will obviously have some older players and some younger ones. For this purpose there are two basic areas to look at. First, how old is the quarterback? The QB sets the tone for the team on the field, so his composure and confidence is crucial. If the QB is young, or if he hasn’t really shone in pressure situations in the past, there can be concerns about his ability to do so here. Second, as a sports bettor you need to look at the leadership core of a team. It’s typically not hard to figure out which players are the heart and soul of a squad. If those players have a lot of experience it can be far easier to trust them in this situation than if they are young.
Where is the game being played? – The home crowd – especially if it is a loud and enthusiastic crowd – can be a big influence on keeping a college football team on track regardless of the opponent. A team won’t want to disappoint a vocal home field crowd, and the crowd can motivate and inspire the crowd if they get off task and aren’t focused. A game like this is far more of a concern on the road than at home, then. On the road the opponent’s home stadium can fire up the home team and give them a boost if they sense the better team is vulnerable.
What is the coach like? – Some college football coaches have issues with keeping their team on task when the outside motivation is low, while others excel at having their team fully prepared and ready regardless of who they are playing or what the game means. Getting a sense of what can be expected from the head coach and his staff can be significant in cases like this and can influence your betting.
How important is the win? – If the NCAA football team has major ambitions – a conference or national championship – then a win is important regardless of how weak the opponent is. In those cases it is less likely that a team will overlook the opponent because each game is important. If the team doesn’t have an incentive like that to aim for, though, then they might be far more vulnerable to overlooking an opponent. An example of this could be if the game they are at risk of looking forward to is a big rivalry game, or a revenge game after a loss last year.
Does the team have history with this opponent? – It is far less likely that a team will overlook an opponent if they have history with that opponent. If the team plays every year, or at least somewhat regularly, then a team will want to avoid losing against them because of the embarrassment of the loss. As a general rule, then, it can be easier for a football team to overlook an opponent in non-conference play than in conference play, and easier to overlook a new conference rival than one with a long established history.
How significant is the next game? – A college football team isn’t going to be at high risk of overlooking an opponent if the next game really isn’t that significant. The media tends to attach too much significance to a lot of games in situations when it isn’t warranted. A team is only at risk of looking past an opponent if the next opponent is a major rival – something along the lines of Michigan – Ohio State or Texas – Oklahoma, if the stakes are extremely high for the football game, or if the game has major national hype or national significance. Anything less than that is likely not really major enough to put a team at risk of not focusing on their game at hand and so won’t influence your sports bet.