College Football Betting Traps
by Trevor Whenham - 08/04/2008
This is a dangerous time for sports bettors who love football. NFL training camps are underway, and college football preparations are just around the corner. There's nothing of note to bet on yet, but we're so hungry for football that we read every article, watch every report and listen to every opinion that's out there. For the most part that's a good thing - the preparation gets us ready to make good decisions and avoid bad ones. There's a downside, though. The media has a bad habit of locking onto things that just aren't that important and not letting them go. If you aren't objective and analytical of what you read and hear then you can get caught up by their enthusiasm and buy into a costly and regrettable line of thinking (anyone believe that maybe last year was the year of the Arizona Cardinals?). Here's a look at three gigantic traps just begging for college football bettors to step into:
1. Georgia is unbeatable - It seems to have already been decided that this is the year of the Bulldog. Many view Matthew Stafford as the top quarterback, and perhaps the top player, in the draft next year, and Knowshon Moreno has been crowned as one of the top running backs. I don't doubt that Georgia is going to be good. Perhaps really good. I just have a problem with giving them the title before they play their games. They play a tough schedule, with Arizona State added to the deep SEC. Their coach, Mark Richt, is obviously good, but he hasn't yet been able to take the step to the highest level of success. Stafford has an impressive pro style, but he isn't exactly a proven giant killer in college. Last year he had 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, he completed less than 56 percent of his passes, and threw for 2,523 yards. Decent, but not the numbers of a player guaranteed to lift his team to the highest heights. Moreno is the real deal, and the SEC Freshman of the Year had a fantastic debut season. More than one back has burned brightest in their first year, though. I'm not saying he won't be good, but I do want him to prove that he will be. Georgia will be good, but it would be a mistake to blindly jump in and support them because they are the preseason No. 1 without seeing what they do on the field.
2. West Virginia is the class of the Big East again - This one seems ridiculous to me. I know that Pat White is a very good quarterback, and that Noel Devine showed flashes of brilliance last year. I just don't understand how that is supposed to translate into a top-eight preseason ranking. This team has undergone a ridiculous amount of change, with most of their coaching staff moving to Ann Arbor. New coach Bill Stewart was with the program as an assistant, and he kept some people around him, but even a move like that is rarely smooth unless it is carefully planned in advance. The team will have new systems to adjust to, and Stewart won't want to do everything the same way that Rich Rodriguez did. On top of that, the change in coaches definitely impacted recruiting. Their conference schedule keeps getting tougher as teams continue to rise and build. Rutgers and South Florida particularly stand a chance of being pretty good this year. Their non-conference schedule is harder than it has been in a while. Colorado is continuing to improve, and Auburn is never easy. This team wasn't invincible last year, and they certainly aren't significantly better this year. They could win their conference, but it seems ridiculous to me that a lot of people are writing and saying tat they are heavily favored to do so.
3. The Big Ten is terrible - I'm a fiercely loyal Big Ten fan, so I get sick and tired of hearing everyone kick on my conference. Sure, Ohio State has been lousy in two straight championship games, and I'll admit that the 2-6 ATS mark for the league in bowl games wasn't that impressive, but that's not a complete picture. This is a better conference than people give it credit for, and forgetting that will be costly. Ohio State is a top-five team, and if Todd Boeckman advances this year and Beanie Wells continues to grow as a player then they could be very dangerous. Michigan will have some bumpy moments, and they lack a QB, but they have a coach who can be creative on offense, they will be fit like never before, and they have a schedule that should still get them at least eight wins. Wisconsin doesn't have a QB either, but they have more running back depth than anyone, and stand as the biggest threat to Ohio State. Penn State is ranked, and despite the fact that Joe Paterno is older than the dirt his players play on they remain tough to beat. Illinois was a surprise to many last year. They lose Rashard Mendenhall, but still have the dangerous explosiveness that makes them a challenge. Five of the conference's 11 teams appear in the preseason poll. The mighty SEC only has four of 12. The Pac-10 has just three. This is not a bad conference. The thing to take from last year's bowl performance was not that only two teams covered, but that eight teams were eligible. Disrespect the Big Ten at your own risk.