By the time we get about halfway through the college football season it’s about time to start taking unbeaten teams seriously. Expert college football bettors know when a NCAA football team wins six or seven games in a row they have started to show that they are serious, and that they have some potential to make some real noise down the stretch. Still, for bettors unbeaten teams can also be a bit of a headache. The betting public will pay more and more attention to a team the more games they win in a row, and that means that they will draw more betting volume, and likely face inflated spreads. When you consider betting on an unbeaten team in the second half of the season, then, there are some factors that you definitely need to consider. Here are five important factors:
Who have they beaten? – This should be an incredibly obvious question to any college football handicapper, but it is one that gets overlooked time and time again. If a football team plays a weak non-conference schedule and then plays the weaker teams in their conference first they have real proven little more than that they are generally competent. If they have played most or all of their games at home then they have proven little as well. Before you can reasonably become impressed by a team you need to see them play challenging football teams and perform well against them. The sports betting public can be blind to that, though – especially if the team has been winning by wide margins while their star players put up big numbers.
Who do they play next? – This is the obvious next extension of the last question, and one that is also often overlooked. If the competition gets tougher in later games, or if the style of play of upcoming opponents is significantly different than those that they have beaten, then the fact that they are unbeaten could be all but meaningless, and the public could easily give them too much credit.
How are the key players doing? – It’s important to look closely at how the best players on the football team are performing. You need to look at how their performance so far compares with reasonable expectations about their play. If the best players have not played as good as they are capable of then you could have a very attractive betting situation because the team clearly has the capability to be better than they have been. What you don’t want to see, though, is that the star players are playing much better than expected. If the quarterback is averaging a pile of passing yards a game, or if a running back has regularly run for 200 yards a game, for example, then that almost certainly isn’t sustainable the rest of the way, so it can be hard to gauge what we are likely to see from the football team in the future as the players get more banged up and opposing coaches have more time to prepare for them.
Does the team know how to handle the pressure? – The more games in a row a team wins the more pressure they are inevitably going to feel as the media scrutiny and fan frenzy intensifies. Some college football teams are used to that kind of pressure, and have the experience to handle it and still perform well. Other teams aren’t used to the success, and don’t know how to handle the pressure. The more experience a NCAA team has with dealing with pressure, the more likely they will be able to perform well in the face of pressure now.
How is the public reacting? – From the perspective of the sports betting public not all undefeated teams are equal. Some college teams are very high profile and will get a lot of attention as they are seen as legitimate national championship contenders. Other teams don’t draw the same respect for their unbeaten record – either because they play in a lesser conference, because they have played a weak schedule, because they started the season unranked and are only slowly climbing the rankings, or for other reasons. The public will obviously treat the higher profile unbeaten teams with more respect than they do the others. That means that betting volumes are higher, bettor loyalty is stronger, and the potential impact on lines is more significant. It’s important, therefore, to get a strong sense of how the betting public is viewing the team and what that means for lines. One good way to get a sense of how the public is feeling is by looking at what the media is reporting and covering. As a college football handicapper, you need to remember that the media is in the business of getting attention, so they are going to spend more time reporting on the more popular teams.