College football doesn’t get a lot of attention from the general public until the first games are set to kick off. Before that, though, there are weeks of summer practice, and for college football bettors who are willing to pay attention and do a little bit of homework there is a big edge to be gained from paying some attention to what is going on in these practices. Thanks to the marvels of the Internet it is very easy to follow these practices and get good information as well. Local papers provide good information in football-crazy markets, and fan forums and websites are an excellent source of insights and often eye witness accounts.
If you decide to pay closer attention to summer practices than you have in the past this year then here are six things to be on the lookout for as a college football handicapper:
Which teams are the media developing crushes on? – The football betting public is largely directed towards some NCAA teams and away from others based on what the media has to say. Thankfully for sports handicappers who want to outsmart the betting public it isn’t very hard to figure out what the media is thinking. Before each season starts the media will begin to lay out their storylines – the teams they think are going to be very good, the ones they think will be surprising, and the ones they don’t have much hope for. You can get a sense of this by reading as many media outlets as you can. It is also very helpful to read the forums and fan websites to get a sense of which schools national media figures seem to be hanging around at more than you might expect. If a school is getting a lot of attention then the public will likely be drawn to them. That means that the school is worth some extra study from football handicappers because there could be some good value in betting against them if your opinion isn’t as flattering as the media’s.
Which teams are struggling to find a starting QB? – In a perfect world the starting quarterback would be in place well before summer practices start, so the time can be used to implement plays, tweak things that aren’t quite working, and getting ready for the season. If the starter is decided then he can be working pretty much exclusively with the first string offense, and playing against the first string defense. If the starter isn’t obvious, though, then two or more players have to split that time, and coaches have to spend more time evaluating the players to find a starter than they do working with that starter to get him ready for the season. That in turn just puts the football team behind in their preparations, and they could be a potential bet-against.
Which teams are dealing with a lot of injuries? – If a NCAA football team has to deal with a lot of injury issues early on then they are going to be handicapped in their preparations, and could be at less than their best in their first games. If the team is suffering several of the same type of injuries then it could be an indication of issues with their training program, and that could continue to be a problem through the season. If a key star player is injured then a lot can be learned by how they deal with the situation. Do they have a lot of depth, or are they forced to play players out of position to fill in for.
Which coaches are abnormally cocky? – College football coaches generally try to act professionally and come across as reserved and focused. They are human, though, so if they are on the verge of some really big things then they may not be able to contain their excitement. If a coach who doesn’t typically have a lot to say is suddenly chattier or more open with the media then it could be a sign that he really likes what he is seeing on the field and in the weight room, and and that he has particularly high hopes for the football season. That can be very useful when the expectations for the team aren’t as optimistic as the coach seems.
Which coaches are strangely quiet? – The opposite of the last point is true. If a usually open and chatty coach has become more withdrawn and quiet then it could be a sign that he has a lot of issues that he isn’t happy about, or that he isn’t particularly confident about his team or the security of his job. College coaches who seem to be perpetually in a worse mood than normal are a very good indicator of a team that has issues that will show themselves on the field. College football handicappers can use this information.
Which players are getting a ton of hype? Are they up for it? – Just like the media will pick out NCAA teams that they are excited about before the season starts they will also pick out football players that they have high hopes for – whether that’s the ridiculous early Heisman watch talk, talk about other awards, or other kinds of hype. The summer is a good chance to get a sense of how the players are responding to that hype. Are they performing well in their on field practices knowing that the eyes of the nation are on them and will continue to be until they falter? Are there reports that their attitude has changed, or do they seem to be acting and carrying themselves in the same way they always have? Several times I have been able to find a player who is heavily hyped who doesn’t seem to be up to the challenge of living up to the pressure. Jake Locker in 2010 is one who really stands out as an example. He came into the college season being hyped as the potential number one draft pick, but he had a terrible summer and the season was a disaster. It took the public quite a while to catch up to the fact that he wasn’t going to have a good year and that that was going to have a big impact on his team. The Huskies failed to cover six of their first eight games and it was like Christmas in September for college football handicappers who had paid attention during the summer.