Five Betting Tips for Handicapping SEC Football
by Taylor Jordan - Strike Point Sports - 8/19/2011
In college football, the Southeastern Conference is a monster. On an annual basis this league proves why scouts, general managers and pro personnel from across the NFL come hunting here for the best set of talent in the country.
The SEC takes the mantle as the toughest, deepest conference in the nation and represents the last five BCS National Champions. But from a gambling standpoint it might be the toughest cookie to crack for bettors. Because there is so much talent the disparity from the best team to the eighth-best team is as slim as any league in the nation. With all of these closely-grouped schools to sort through someone not well versed in how to bet college football could very easily get lost in the woods of the Deep South.
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Here are five college football betting tips for handicapping the SEC this 2011-12 season:
1. Keep An Eye On Look-Ahead and Trap Games.
Ask any college football handicapper and they will tell you that dealing with look-ahead spots and trap games is a key factor of handicapping games.
Take a glance at the Alabama football schedule or the LSU football schedule, or float your eyes down the list of opponents for Florida or South Carolina. As you scan through your eyes will most likely gravitate toward the “big games” like Alabama-LSU, South Carolina-Georgia, Florida-Florida State. But if you read between the lines you will find some spots that could be difficult for these big-time favorites to get up for.
For example, on Sept. 24 LSU has a big nonconference game at West Virginia. This is a revenge game from a close contest in Baton Rouge last year, and Morgantown can be one of the toughest places in the country to visit. Then on Oct. 8 the Tigers host Florida, a hated rival that LSU managed to upset by just four points last year. Those are two of the most important and most emotional games on the LSU slate.
But in between the West Virginia and Florida games is a home date with Kentucky. The Wildcats don’t have a strong national program. But they hold their own in the SEC and they have played in five straight bowl games. It is a veteran team and they should be catching a ton of points (I would say the line wouldn’t be lower than 16.5 if the game were tomorrow). So knowing that LSU is in a “trap” situation that might be a game where LSU wins, but doesn’t cover the spread.
Know the schedule for this league. It will be your friend. Who your team is playing a week from now, or even two, can have just as much of an impact on this week’s game than the others down the road.
2. Beware The Mad Hatter
Whether you love his brash tactics or despise the level of arrogance that comes with his coaching decisions, LSU’s Les Miles impacts his games in a big way. And that impacts your wallets if you have action on or against his Tigers.
Since coming from Oklahoma State, Miles has won an average of 10 games per season, scored a National Championship and he has gone 5-1 in bowl games. So however you view this whack job of a coach, he knows exactly what he’s doing. But LSU is just 14-23-1 against the spread the last three years, so while Miles is winning, backing him isn’t making your bankroll any bigger.
You can’t predict or handicap what bizarre decision Miles will make next. But just make sure you are aware that this guy’s craziness can singlehandedly win or lose your wager on a given Saturday.
3. Rivalries: Don’t Forget To Handicap Emotional Factors
The SEC is an exceptional college football league, and with that comes great matchups. Alabama v. LSU and Florida v. South Carolina will be two of the best this season. But that is just the tip of the cattle prod. There is the Iron Bowl, the Egg Bowl, and the Cocktail Party, just to name a few. And some of the best rivalries in the nation take place below Mason-Dixon.
These are always difficult games to handicap. The majority of the time, you’ll get tight odds: pick-em situations, field goal numbers, as well as lines sitting somewhere inside a touchdown. The slim separation of the talent in this conference gives you something to grovel about on a daily basis. But as long as you never forget about the emotional aspect of these marquee games you should find the right side more than you don’t.
4. Early Nonconference Tests Will Dictate Season Win Totals
Several big boys in the SEC have BCS-worthy opponents to begin the season. Simply put, the results of these games will go a long way, not just for success this season and possible BCS berths, but also eclipsing win totals props for certain teams.
Look no further than LSU’s game with Oregon (in Dallas). We all know the Ducks are a legit national title contender, but how about the Baton Rogue Bengals? They have the hype of a preseason Top 5 team, but this will be quite the test to see if they are legit BCS material. It will also dictate if the Tigers can chase down double-digit wins for yet another season and the LSU ‘over/under’ is 9.5 wins for the season.
Georgia may not have the expectations of an LSU, but they get a similar fight on their hands in their opener against Boise State. The Bulldogs are 8.5 ‘over/under’ wins for the season, and considering they host South Carolina the very next week, an 0-2 start might prove too big a hole to climb out of, especially considering their rocky 2010 season.
Some other crucial nonconference games to consider: Alabama at Penn State (Sept. 10), Auburn at Clemson (Sept. 17) and Arkansas v. Texas A&M (Oct. 1).
5. Replacing Key Players Is Always Tricky
No Cam Newton for Auburn. No Mark Ingram for Alabama. LSU must find replace all-world cornerback and return man Patrick Peterson. You could argue some SEC teams have the largest individual shoes to fill this upcoming season.
The defending National Champion Tigers almost have to start from scratch without Heisman winner Newton. They have no experience in Barrett Trotter, Clint Moseley or Kiehl Frazier, and the main question seems not if, but how much will Auburn fall off?
Alabama at least has the luxury of Trent Richardson, although now he is the certified No. 1 tailback and needs to carry the load. That is because in the SEC there is so much talent that sometimes stars can leave and then be replaced by other star athletes. But also consider The Tide can’t rely on their proven leader Greg McElroy under center either. And replacing him won’t be nearly as easy.
What I’m getting at here is that while the SEC has a lot of great players year-in and year-out, don’t forget that when these players leave that changes the dynamic of their teams. I know that college football is all about the names on the front of the jersey. But don’t forget about the guys filling them in and never underestimate the intangibles (leadership, etc.) that some players added while they were in school.
Strike Point Sports is a professional handicapper for Doc’s Sports. They are renowned for their college football success over the last half-decade and have earned the nickname “Mr. Saturday” for their incredible college football picks. Strike Point Sports is looking forward to another incredible college and NFL season and you can check out their Insider’s Page here.
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