College Football Betting: Handicapping Conference Championship Games
by Trevor Whenham - 12/02/2008
We are entering a short but exciting period in college football - the conference championship games. The Big 12, ACC, and SEC, along with Conference USA, and the MAC, all have title games this weekend. Though there are only five games, and they all feature teams in different circumstances, past games have taught us some lessons that can be applied to this year's games. Here are six concepts to explore as you are getting ready for the last weekend of football before we get to go bowling:
Look back to the last game that actually mattered - For several of the teams playing, their spot in the championship game was already secured before their last game or two. That left them with a totally meaningless game to play to end the regular season. There are two things we have learned about these situations - the teams almost never play well in their final game, and that has nothing to do with how they will play in the big game. They will be looking to keep their players healthy and their best tricks under wraps. This year, for example, Buffalo totally took the week off against Kent State, Missouri wasn't anywhere near their best against Kansas, and Tulsa was flat against Marshall. To get a true sense of those teams you need to throw those meaningless games out and look back to when what happened on the field actually mattered.
Don't be seduced by previous meetings - This year we have just one repeat matchup - Boston College and Virginia Tech. Boston College won and covered the first meeting back in October. Time and again, we have been shown that what happened then has little to do with what will happen now. A lot of time has passed since that game, and the teams are both different on the field. That doesn't mean that you can't learn from those past meetings just like you would from any other game. You just can't give it more importance than it deserves. Boston College is perfect proof of this rule. They have a different quarterback under center this time than they did in the first game, so it's a whole new ball game.
Who is going to be in the crowd? - The location of the game and the make-up of the two fan bases can have a big impact on who is in the stands for the game. The games are almost always in a neutral site, but neutral sites are rarely actually neutral. Spending some time figuring out who is likely to be at the game can give you a big edge in figuring out who is poised to step their game up. Is the game significantly closer to one school? Does one school travel particularly well, or notably badly? Are the fans going to be hyped up for their appearance, or is the game just an annoyance on the way to the big game?
Age and experience - The conference championship game will be the biggest game that most of the players will have played, and that some of the coaches will have coached. Teams that have a significantly more experienced coaching staff will have an edge. So will teams that have players who have been in the situation before, or teams that have a significant edge in core seniors. Experience isn't a guarantee of better results, but it is certainly a factor that needs to be overcome if the less experienced team is going to win.
Records don't necessarily mean anything - In many of these games there is a big difference in records between the two teams. That can mean that the team with the significantly better record is the significantly better team, but that's not always the case. Before you can decide if it's true, you need to look at the quality of schedule that both teams have played, where and when the losses came, and their recent form. The one thing you can be certain of is that the public is almost certain to equate record with talent, so if the team with the worse mark is better and you can spot it you can probably find yourself some real value.
It's still just a football game - Sure, it's a big game, but it's still just a game with two teams, a ball, and some two-legged zebras. You need to consider other factors, but you can't ignore that ultimately football is just football. In some ways these games are actually easier to bet than normal games. You can be almost certain that the teams are going to be playing with full intensity and that they will be holding nothing back. Those are the conditions in which the best team wins.