NCAA Betting Vs. NFL Betting
by Spencer Patton - 10/30/2008
In the betting world, being able to quickly adapt to changes in rosters, team strategies, mindsets, motivations, weather and even your own emotional state is critical to your success. I think it will be helpful to highlight some of the most important points to pay attention to when trying to differentiate NCAA betting and NFL betting in regards to football. There are important similarities and differences that we will touch on below.
1) Avoid the public favorites! - This is a similarity between NCAA betting and NFL betting that really kicks my analysis of games into high gear. If I discover a game in which one team has over 68 percent of the public support against the spread (i.e. Dallas -5, 70 percent; Arizona +5, 30 percent), my interest is immediately piqued. My experience and data supports that heavily backed public plays are extremely consistent losers. The overtired cliché about always betting with the guy that has the biggest parking lot (Vegas), while annoying, must be remembered - DON'T make a habit of betting on heavy public plays.
The interesting thing is that in college football, I tend to see more consistent public support behind the big name programs. It's not just because there are more teams playing on Saturday than in the NFL on Sunday, either. For every Dallas (consistent public money favorite in the NFL), you see a couple of Ohio States, USCs, and Miami of Ohios (shocking resiliency of the money behind this once-relevant team). So next weekend, start by circling the public favorites of 68+ percent, then move into seeing if there are some publicly-hated teams amongst those that you especially like.
2) Underdog Betting - Perhaps one of the greatest differences between how I look at college football and how I look at the NFL is how I treat underdogs. In the NFL, during the regular season, you would be hard-pressed to find many games during an entire season in which a team will pull a great deal of its starters just because it has a commanding lead. In contrast, in any given week of college football, I probably couldn't keep on two hand's worth of fingers all the games that put in all backups by the fourth quarter.
There are two ways to look at this: A) College football underdogs have a significantly better chance of "backdoor covering" once the leading team sits its starters-this is a term used to describe a game in which the underdog covers the spread in the garbage time of the fourth quarter. B) NFL underdogs, if outmatched during one part of the game, will likely be outmatched in the last part of the game. It's for these reasons that in college football I like to find some overlooked, underappreciated underdogs that are going against a heavily-backed public favorite. In the NFL, however, I am much more inclined to find some slight favorites that have some excellent matchups on the field that are likely to be exploited.
3) Money line Betting - Ah, the straight-up win play. Sometimes it's nice to just tip your hat to the linemakers on producing a great line, and tell him that you are still going to win anyways by just picking a straight-up winner. It's extremely rare that I make a play on the ML in the NFL… and just the opposite in college football - I have one per week. There is such a high level of parity and talent in the NFL (it is truly any given Sunday) that you just cannot say with such a high level of certainty that Washington will beat St. Louis that you can lay -500 or -750 type of chalk.
However, in college football, the gaps in talent are sometimes so wide that one team just simply should not be on the field with the other. Usually I will have one solid college football play per week in which I will highlight one of those significant mismatches, and make a 5-unit to win 1-unit play. The question I ask myself when laying that kind of chalk is - "Can I be reasonably sure that I can hit these plays with 80 percent accuracy over the long-haul?" My answer is always a resounding "yes." But please note well, I am not saying I can win against the spread at an 80 percent clip… that is crazy… but what I am saying is that I can find teams of 14-20 point favorites, take them on the ML, and hit that better than 80 percent of the time to lock up a unit. The huge upset hurts (-5 units), but the consistent trickling in of 1-unit per week more than makes up for the losses on my spreadsheet.