The terms “overrated” and “underrated” get thrown around all the time in sports discussions. Most of the time these discussions are simply fodder for bar room arguments or used to create noise from the bobblehead media. But the reality is that it is very difficult to keenly and accurately assess a team’s actual performance against their expectations, which can be more ambiguous.
Being able to spot undervalued teams is one of the most critical components of college football handicapping. And it is also something that can’t be taught. A handicapper needs to have a good pulse on what players, fans, bettors and oddsmakers expect from a given team. And then they need to be able to sift through that noise and find Truth – which is how those teams will actually perform against the college football point spread when the games begin.
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Below I’ve targeted six teams that I think are a bit undervalued heading into the 2012 college football season. I am not trying to predict 10-win seasons, conference championships, or a surprise BCS bowl berth for any of these clubs. But what I am suggesting is that all six of them are a bit better than their current expectation levels and I think that they offer solid value for enterprising and courageous bettors this year.
For my college football betting advice, here are six teams, one from each of the major BCS conferences, that I will be looking hard at when it comes to betting on college football this fall:
Boston College (ACC)
Eagles football has been in slow and steady decline since Tom O’Brien skipped town in 2007. Matt Ryan kept them propped up for a bit, but Boston College football probably bottomed out with a 4-8 disaster last season. The jury is still out as to whether or not coach Frank Spaziani has any idea what he is doing. But what we do know is that this program is proud, tough, and has averaged eight wins per year over the last 15 years. I think they will be tough customers again this fall.
Don’t get me wrong – B.C. isn’t a threat to win anything in the ACC this year. I think they’d be happy with a trip to (and win in) a bowl game. And I think they will get there. This team has 17 starters back, including seven back from a better-than-the-numbers-suggest defense. B.C.’s offense was a debacle last season. But they have 10 starters back on that side of the ball and quarterback Chase Rettig enters his third year as a starter. I am skeptical of the new offensive system that this team is installing. But it can’t possibly be as bad as what we’ve seen the last two years even if the improvement is accidental.
Again, B.C. isn’t going to win more than six or seven games this year. But I think that they will receive a lot of favorable, inflated underdog spreads this season. They have to play all of the big names in the conference – Clemson, Florida State, Virginia Tech – and they also host Notre Dame in November. They will likely be catching double-digit spreads in all four of those games even though three of them are in Chestnut Hill. I think the Eagles will be a very live home underdog and I can see us cashing on several Boston College tickets this year.
West Virginia (Big 12)
It was a tough call between West Virginia and Texas Tech in the Big 12. But I can’t say I’d be completely stunned if the Red Raiders threw up on themselves and went just 6-6 this year. Instead I’ll go with the Mountaineers because I think they have a realistic shot at winning the Big 12 in their first season in the conference.
Dana Holgorsen earned his stripes in Big 12 country, and I expect that he will coach this season with a vengeance. His offense should be absolutely devastating this year – even more so than the unit that hung 70 points on Clemson in the Orange Bowl. The Big 12 is “defense optional,” so WVU’s weakness on that side of the ball should be mitigated by the fact that everyone wants to get into shootouts in that league. WVU will be able to score with the best of them. And that also means that they will be equipped to handle some larger spreads later in the season if this team posts up the Top 10.
I know the storyline will be that the Mountaineers are walking into unfamiliar, uncharted territory this season in the Big 12. But the reverse is also true: Big 12 teams have never seen the type of hillbilly madness that Morgantown breeds on game day. And teams like Baylor, Kansas State and even Oklahoma might not be as prepared as they think they are to deal with the mountain folk of West Virginia. WVU doesn’t scare easily. And I think that this group will be a nice value play until bettors and oddsmakers adjust to WVU’s place within the Big 12 hierarchy.
Connecticut (Big East)
The entire Big East conference is a sleeper conference. This league is obviously the weakest of the Big Six leagues, but the teams aren’t nearly as bad as fans and bettors think they are. Need proof? The Big East has been by far the best against the spread bet in nonconference football over the past 10 years, far surpassing the SEC, Big Ten and other more ballyhooed leagues.
The Huskies were stunned last year by the offseason departure of Randy Edsall. The honeymoon with Paul Pasqualoni was not a happy one but things should go a bit more smoothly in Year 2. Like several teams on my Undervalued List, if the Huskies can just find some answers at quarterback they really could exceed their limited expectations.
A big reason I kind of like this team in the Big East is that everything the league favorites Louisville, South Florida and Rutgers do well – play defense and run the ball – Connecticut does well. They match up well with all three of those teams, all of whom they play on the road, and they should be a hefty underdog in every instance. They boast five three-year defensive starters back from the No. 3 rush defense in the nation last year and they have a second team freshman all-American at running back.
I won’t call for a surprise league title, but I think this team will beat the oddsmakers in at least seven of the 12 regular season games they play.
Illinois (Big Ten)
I also like Purdue and Iowa in the Big Ten. I think Purdue will be an excellent ATS team and Iowa is going to win more games than their talent should allow because of a cupcake schedule. But Illinois is the team I am really looking at as a sleeper in the conference.
Ron Zook was a disaster as a head coach. The guy could recruit talent but he couldn’t coach it. Mercifully, he is gone. And Zook left new coach Tim Beckman a full cupboard (just like he did for Urban Meyer in Florida) of talented players. The Illini boast seven starters back from the No. 7 defense in the nation and they have a three-year starter and potential league player of the year at quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase. Illinois has eight three-year starters combined and this team has some breakout potential.
Penn State has been decapitated and Ohio State is serving a postseason ban. That really leaves just Illinois and Wisconsin to battle it out for the Leaders Division crown. I think Illinois will be 5-0 when they go to Madison on Oct. 6, and if they win that game they would have the inside track to the Big Ten title game. I think that this team is going to win nine games this year and they could produce some big money wins for the season.
Oregon State and Washington State will also be interesting teams in the Pac-12. But I really like the Utes.
Utah only had 11 returning starters last year and they lost quarterback Jordan Wynn in their fourth game. They had a rough schedule and still managed to go 8-5 and win a bowl game. Now the Utes have 16 starters returning, they get Wynn back, and they will be much more familiar with their Pac-12 surroundings.
Utah has two weeks to prep for a critical, nationally televised Thursday night home game against USC. I think the Utes will win that game and I think that they are definitely in a position to win the Pac-12 South. I have written extensively in the past about the advantage that Utah has using older, more physically mature players (thanks to eligibility loopholes concerning their religion). I think that this is one of the seasons that it pays big dividends. I am very high on these wacky Mormons this year!
Tennessee was going to be my Undervalued Team in the SEC, but they booted all-conference receiver Da’Rick Rogers last week and it looks like Derek Dooley might be in over his head. Instead, I’ll go with Florida.
I think things will go a little smoother in Will Muschamp’s second season – although the verdict is still out on him as a headman – and if this team can get anything out of the quarterback position they could dominate the East. They have a strong defense, a host of highly-touted athletes, and plenty of experience. They also aren’t really being considered among the SEC elite and barely cracked the preseason Top 25.
The main reason I like the Gators to break out is because of the schedule. They only drew LSU from the West and they get two weeks to prepare for a Tigers trip to Gainesville. Building on that, the Gators don’t leave the state of Florida after Sept. 15! They play six of their last nine games at home, they have a “neutral” site game against Georgia in Jacksonville, and they finish the regular season with a trip to Tallahassee against Florida State. South Carolina has a much tougher schedule and Georgia is overrated. I like the Gators as the “surprise” winner of the SEC East and if they get some confidence (and a passing game) they really could be a real national player this year.
Robert Ferringo is a professional handicapper and has posted back-to-back profitable seasons (college and pro). Robert has turned a profit in three of four football seasons and over the last nine months his clients have earned nearly $10,000 in profit with his football selections. He is looking forward to building on his stellar football handicapping resume again this fall and you can check him out here. Also, you can also get $60 worth of free Robert Ferringo member picks (no salesman, no credit card, no obligation!) by clicking here for more info.