College football can be a very unforgiving sport for teams. The season is so short and the postseason opportunities so limited that one high profile loss can entirely derail a season and spell an end to the hopes and ambitions of a team. If that loss comes early in the season then it can be particularly deflating because it can feel like the team has nothing left to play for. For college football handicappers one of the biggest challenges after a crushing loss like this is trying to figure out how the team is going to rebound. Are they going to be able to focus and play their best in the next game? Or are they going to feel sorry for themselves in stead of moving on and getting ready for the next game? Here are nine factors for NCAA football bettors to consider when analyzing the oddsmakers line and trying to determine how a team will respond after an ugly loss:
Who did they lose to? – The simple rule here is that a loss is harder to take the worse the opponent is. If the football team in question is a top foe team and they lost to another top five team then that can be crushing, but it’s easier to get over because of the opponent’s quality. It’s also easier to rebound from because that’s as close to a good loss as you can get. If the opponent was a weak opponent that the team should have been able to beat easily, though, then the loss will have more impact for poll voters, and will be harder for the team to recover from.
How did they lose? – The easiest kind of loss to handle is one in which both teams played hard, and a good game could really have gone either way. The further the game deviates from that model, the harder it can be on football teams. If the team was blown out then confidence can be in short supply. If they lost because of a questionable call, a bad break, or an officiating error then it can be very hard for the team to forget about the game and move on.
What impact does it have on their season? – A loss always seems like it is the worst thing possible when it happens, but with a little perspective it often turns out to be not nearly as bad. If the loss comes in a non-conference game then that is really only fatal for a team that had legitimate national championship hopes – and even then it can be overcome if other top teams lose and the team goes on to have a strong conference schedule. If the loss is in a conference game then it doesn’t necessarily limit the chances of making the conference championship game and the BCS. Coaches will work hard to educate their football players on the real impacts if they aren’t as negative as they seem, so you should make sure you aren’t overreacting.
How are they responding publicly? – You can get a good sense of where a college team is at by how the players, coaches, and other associated people are reacting in the media. The more positive and focused they are, the more positive and focused they are likely to play. If they are being negative or looking to make excuses then the team could be in some trouble going forward.
Are they healthy? – This one is pretty self-explanatory. A bad loss coupled with a bad injury situation can compound the problems a team has heading into their next game.
Who do they play next? – As strange as it seems the team may actually be better off in a lot of ways if they play a good team next than if they play a weaker one. When they are facing a weak opponent it can be easier for them to prepare less effectively and wallow in their misery because they aren’t as worried about the next opponent. When they are playing another good team it can be easier for coaches to get the football team motivated and back on track.
How have they handled adversity? – Even college teams that have been winning every game have faced plenty of adversity at points during the season. It could be that they fell behind and had to rally impressively to win a game. Or maybe they lost an important starter to injury and had to find a way to over come his absence. Maybe a coach left the team, a player was suspended, a a starter was benched – there are countless possibilities. What you want to look at is how well the team dealt with those situations. Were they tough and determined in these circumstances, or did they get tentative and play at less than their best?
How old is the core? – The longer the core of a college team has been in place, the more that they have been forced to deal with and they better they can draw from that experience to deal with the situation that faces them now. A young football team could easily feel like this is the worst possible thing that could ever happen, while teams with veteran leadership are more likely to have valuable perspective on things.
What’s the track record of the coach? – Some coaches are very good at keeping their team on track and focused no matter what happens. There are other coaches who seem to have a loose grasp on control. When things start to go badly those coaches seem to have a tendency to see them go even worse. Don’t forget the impact that a coach can have on your handicapping and how you make your football picks.