There are few things more satisfying for college football bettors – and potentially profitable – than spotting a big upset and cashing a winning ticket on the underdog. If you aren’t careful, though, then chasing underdogs who don’t turn out is a quick way to go broke. You need to be very cautious when betting on big underdogs to be sure that they actually have a real chance of pulling off the upset. Here’s a look at six ways to help college football handicappers spot a heavy favorite that could be vulnerable and an underdog that could come out on top:
Team winning without covering consistently – NCAA sports bettors have a pretty powerful tool to look back at – the betting performance of the team in past games. If a favorite has been winning – even against big name teams – but hasn’t been winning enough to cover spreads with any consistency then we should face them with some skepticism. There are a few things we can know about a football team that doesn’t regularly cover spreads. First, the public has an inflated opinion of them – something that isn’t likely to have changed when they are a heavy favorite. That means that the line is probably higher than it should be – and harder to cover. Second, while they have been good, they haven’t been great. Great football teams can win and win easily despite expectations, while good teams win by narrower margins. A great college team would be much harder to upset than a good one. Third, a team that doesn’t consistently cover spreads has some problems of one sort or another. As NCAA football handicappers you may be able to figure out what those problems are, and they could prove to be nicely profitable.
Team winning while being outgained consistently – This is far from an iron-clad rule, but generally if a team outgains their opponent significantly in total yards then they are going to win the football game. If a team has established a pattern of winning without outgaining their opponents then they are potentially vulnerable. On the flip side, a football team that has lost games while consistently outgaining their opponents could be one to keep an eye on as a strong underdog. Yardage isn’t the only area to look at here. Another area of interest could be turnovers. Teams will struggle to win consistently if they lose the turnover battle, so a favorite who keeps winning despite giving up more turnovers than their opponent is one to potentially view as vulnerable.
Badly disrespected underdog – Sometimes an underdog just doesn’t get enough respect. There are NCAA teams that the public loves, and others that they are totally unaware of. If the favorite is a popular public team from a major conference and the opponent is a lesser team from a smaller conference that doesn’t get a lot of media attention then the public is likely to have a very strong bias towards the favorite. Sometimes that is deserved, but it is far from rare to see an underdog that is actually pretty solid get almost no attention or respect from the public. If you can deduce through your handicapping that an underdog is far better than a glance at the odds would lead you to believe then you could be looking at a potential upset situation – or at least a situation to investigate further.
Overly loved favorite – This is the opposite of the last point. If the favorite is a big name football team from a major NCAA conference and the underdog is a little known team from an obscure conference then it would be very easy to be drawn towards the favorite. Sometimes, though, the reputation and name of the favorite is far greater than the way that they are actually playing at this moment. It’s important to look at what the team is actually doing and what they are capable of, not what they have done over time or what conference they are in.
Clearly declining performance from top players – In college football it is very common for a team to be offensively driven by the outstanding play of a quarterback or running back who opposing defenses can’t contain. As those players go through their season, though, they are inevitably going to get increased attention from opposing football teams. That means that they are likely to be more banged up and sore as the season goes along. The more they have played the more opposing defenses have had a chance to see them on tape and work on ways to counter their capabilities. Sometimes that all won’t have a big impact on performance, but other times it definitely will. If star players are showing signs of declining performance the sports betting public might not catch on, but it could have a big impact on the team’s ability to perform up to expectations, and could make them more vulnerable to an upset. Obviously, the more a team’s success is focused around one key player, the more vulnerable they are.
Serious scheme issues – As college football handicappers know, NCAA football is very much about matchups. There is a lot of creativity employed surrounding styles of offensive and defensive schemes. Teams that don’t have as much talent as bigger, better opponents have to rely on creativity to overcome their disadvantages. Sometimes those creative schemes they employ create real problems for their opponent. If you look at big upsets that happen in college football you’ll find that the large majority of them featured a scheme that the underdog employed that the favorite struggled to handle. If an underdog uses a creative scheme and they have a coach that is known for his aggressiveness and creativity then they could be worth a closer look. Be sure to consider this in your handicapping.