Computer models have become all the rage these days when making college football picks. However, what has gotten lost in the game is the human element intrinsic in every matchup throughout the college football season.
Below we focus on forces that we might not consider when making wagers on teams comprised of elite athletes playing a kid’s game.
Root – Root – Root for the Home Team
Having home-field advantage is a big deal regardless of the sport or the level at which it is being played. But playing D-1 college football in front of a partisan crowd infuses the home team with a big emotional advantage. And yes, emotions can play an enormous role in athletic competitions.
And it is because of that crowd support, in addition to the home team’s familiarity with their playing surface as well as the environment in general, that oddsmakers generally assign three points in their line to the home team.
For example, if Team A would be -6 on a neutral site, then the oddsmakers would make them -9 at home. It is intangible to be sure, but the college football odds that you see being offered at all of the best online sportsbooks routinely incorporate it into their lines whenever they are released.
There is nothing more human than getting injured and those injury reports are critical to making informed decisions. Scouring the names of skill players on the list is something every knowledgeable college football handicapper does, however, we can’t forget about the starting linemen and even their backups.
I would take a mediocre running back with an All-Star offensive line than an All-Star running back with a terrible offensive line all day long and twice on game day.
Tailbacks can’t hit holes if there are none to hit nor can quarterbacks find their targets if they are too busy getting beat up by a relentless pass rush. Offensive linemen matter and so too do their defensive counterparts.
The matchups are predicated on the starters playing so make sure they are suited up before you wager even a nickel.
But there is a more subtle dynamic that is often overlooked when discussing injuries. What we should do is make note of the Monday and Tuesday reports and find out which players are limping early in the week or compromised by some other physical ailment.
More often than not, these players will be removed from the injury list as gameday approaches because they are important to the success of the team. But that doesn’t mean they will be at full throttle and that is something to consider as you decide whether or not to bet the game.
The team you are siding with may not be at 100 percent, or even 80 percent, because of what you don’t see behind the curtain. But the only inkling you will have is the early week injury reports while reading about team practices and what the coach is saying…or not saying.
The Alabama Crimson Tide, under Nick Saban’s regime, has more talent on their third-string than many team’s starters.
And while we all want every advantage when betting college football, we should also be aware that the Tide might still be an excellent bet if a starter can’t go, causing the oddsmakers to drop the line (assuming Alabama is the favorite – and when aren’t they?).
There is a mountain of talent on a nationally ranked team and some positions are more stacked than others. Get acquainted with the backups if an issue arises and ask yourself if the injured starter has such a special skill set that he can’t be replaced.
Only you can make that call but it’s never a bad idea to seek opinions from fellow college football fans.
And let’s also consider injuries to starting players on teams not ranked in the Top 25.
If we see an injury to a starting player on a middling team from a non-Power 5 conference like the MAC’s Ball State Cardinals, then we can assume that the depth of talent behind these starters is not nearly as skilled as those from Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, or any number of major college football powers.
Ultimately, you want to make certain that the team you are betting on is suiting up the same players that brought them to this point and convinced you they were worth betting.
And while we will never know if the quarterback is hungover from the night before or the wide receiver is having girlfriend issues, all we can do is do as much due diligence as possible and exploit every advantage the oddsmakers give us.