There is no preseason in college football, so it can be hard for sports bettors to get a sense of how ready teams are before they play their first regular season game. Fall practice It also doesn’t help that the media and fans are so excited for the season to start that they can’t help but be excited about any college football team that looks like they could be good. The trick for NCAA bettors who want to be successful is to be able to avoid that excitement and hype when a football team ultimately isn’t worthy of it. Here are five potential warning signs that a college team might not be quite as good as some sports bettors might think they are heading into the season:
Extra secrecy – There is always a little secrecy around a football program during fall practices. Sometimes, though, it will seem as if a team is in total lockdown. The coaches aren’t talking to the media, the players aren’t visible, and it’s hard to have any idea at all of how the team is developing or what is going on. Sometimes good teams shut down like this, but as a general rule the more secretive a program is during the fall the more concerned I am. There’s a good reason behind this – coaches are ego freaks. They like being heard, and they like it when people are talking about their program. If they aren’t engaging with the media and are being secretive then there is probably a pretty good reason why, and for bettors it’s probably not a reason to be optimistic.
Adjusting of expectations – The only thing worse than a college coach and a program that isn’t saying anything is one that is taking steps backwards every time they speak. If a coach is trying to play down expectations and limit hope around their team then there is a pretty good chance that they aren’t feeling particularly optimistic about what is to come. A coach who is reducing expectations isn’t going to be building confidence among the players and the fans, so they have to have a good reason for doing it. Some coaches are just eternally negative, but if a coach who doesn’t typically have a negative outlook can’t seem to see the bright side of things for his team then it could be a sign that the team isn’t all that they seem to be.
Muddy depth chart – Astute college football handicappers know that the more uncertainty there is around who will be playing and who will be starting as the season nears the more concerned you should be. There will inevitably be a few positions that require a new starter each year because of graduations and early departures. When teams have more than a few open races, though, then there are issues – especially if players aren’t stepping up to grab the job. It’s especially a concern if the open races that aren’t obviously being won are at key positions like quarterback, left tackle, defensive tackle, and so on. The longer NCAA coaches have to focus on which player is going to be the starter the less time they have to get that starter ready to play, and the less time that player has to get comfortable with what he has to do and the players around him.
Abnormal player losses – Players get hurt – that’s an inevitable part of football. Players also get homesick or realize that they don’t have a future in the program and move on. If a lot of football players are getting hurt or leaving the program in a short time in fall practice, though, then it could be a sign of bigger problems. A lot of injuries could mean that the training program wasn’t as good in the offseason as it should have been. Player desertions to an abnormal extent could be a sign of chemistry issues, or a sign that the coaches and players aren’t on the same page.
Hype out of control – There are few things that can be more destructive to the chemistry and focus of a team than reading headlines before the season starts that they are headed for big things. If a college football team isn’t completely ready for the season and the challenges they face then high expectations and rampant hype can be very damaging. The 2007 Michigan Wolverines are a perfect example. They entered the season ranked fifth in the country, and there were many headlines before the season that they were the most underrated team in the country at that spot. They seemed to believe that they didn’t need to play hard to win because they were so good, and it obviously didn’t go well for them. They opened the season with an impossible loss to Appalachian State, then lost 39-7 to Oregon the next week. They crushed Notre Dame 38-0 in week three, but by then the season was lost and coach Lloyd Carr’s career was all but over. Any time a college football team is being anointed before they have played a game I am very concerned about their ability to live up to expectations and I tend to be wary of betting on them especially ats.