Sometimes in college football it can seem like parity has a conference in a stranglehold. Strong teams win or lose from week to week as if games are determined by the flip of a coin, and everything handicappers think they know gets thrown out the window at the end of every game. It can be very frustrating for sports bettors because the landscape is always changing. In order to give yourself the best chance of success when things seem unclear and as if any team can win at any time here are five factors to consider. Understanding one of these factors is one important concept – you need to be sure that parity (relatively equal levels of strength form the teams in the conference) is actually the issue, and that there isn’t other ways to explain what is actually happening. Quite often the explanation will be something other than parity, and understanding what the cause actually is can make it much easier to handicap effectively:
Has home field been a big advantage? - When college football teams are reasonably well matched in a conference then the home field could be a defining advantage – especially if the home stadiums in a conference are particularly loud and intimidating. If football teams tend to be winning at home and losing on the road then that’s a pretty good sign that teams really are evenly matched and there is little to separate them. If home field is the defining characteristic in the outcome of a lot of games then it also can make it much easier for sports bettors to deal with than it might initially seem to be.
Did the teams with big expectations deserve them? – Sometimes it can appear that there is a lot of parity in a NCAA conference because the teams with the biggest expectations are losing games that they were expected to win. Before you get too worried about the effects of parity, though, you really need to consider if the football teams that came into the season with hype and high expectations actually deserved them. The sports betting public and the mainstream media can easily get carried away with their love of a team. Things like a high profile quarterback, a high profile coach, or several returning star players can get the public and the media very excited, but it doesn’t always lead to success on the field. It’s very important to analyze whether the teams that had high expectations should have. If the expectations weren’t totally deserved then the problem could really be that the expectations were wrong and not that the conference is overly competitive. If you handicap college football based on reality and not the perceptions of expectations you’ll have an easier time making accurate predictions.
What’s the ATS record of the bigger teams? – You can learn a lot from high profile teams by their ATS records and their general performance against the spread. If a team doesn’t seem to be performing as well as expected but are still covering spreads then the public perception clearly doesn’t match the perception of the oddsmakers and the smart money. In that case there really isn’t too much for college football bettors to worry about – you just have to be sure you are basing your opinions on an accurate view of the team. If a team is more hit and miss when it comes to covering spreads, though – they easily cover one week and then fail to cover by a long way the next time – then it could be a sign that there are indeed issues of consistency, and the perceived parity in the conference could really be an issue.
Have there been big upsets? – One of the surest signs of parity and conference chaos is if big upsets are happening with some frequency. If double digit underdogs are winning games – especially on the road – then it is a sign that things are uncertain. If underdogs aren’t coming out on top with any real regularity, though, then the league could be more consistent than it seems, and the parity could be more of a media storyline than an issue for bettors to be too worried about.
Why have teams been losing? – It’s dangerous to generalize, but you can often draw some meaningful conclusions about the state of the conference by looking at how teams have been losing games. If a college football team with high expectations has failed to meet those expectations because of inconsistent offensive play, for example, then the issue could be something other than actual parity. Sometimes expectations will be high because of a young but potentially explosive offense. Youth often means inconsistency in football, though, so the expectations could have been a year or two premature. The reason the team is losing when they should have been winning, then, is not because of parity but because they are not reliable able to perform at a high level.