College Football Handicapping: Examining Schedules Key to Profits
by Trevor Whenham - 8/8/2012
College football teams need to be deep, talented and experienced to reach elite heights. As important, though, they need to have a schedule that can help them exhibit their strengths and avoid too many challenges.
The schedule makers have the ability to make a team look and perform better than they are on paper, or they can crush the hopes and dreams of a promising team. Either way, the schedule can often be a very important factor for bettors to consider.
Here are five teams with schedules that could impact their ability to meet — or exceed — expectations:
Notre Dame football schedule
The perception seems to be that the Irish continue to be on the rise. Coach Brian Kelly is in his third year with the program, so he no longer has any excuses. He also heads into this season with the best quarterback situation he has had — the starter is uncertain, but the talent is deep and the players have bought into his system.
The public always loves the Irish, and they should be even more excited as the brutal Charlie Weis era fades into distant memory.
The problem, though, is that The Irish — who typically face a tough schedule — have a particularly hard road to travel this year. In fact, it’s not hard to make the argument that they face the toughest schedule in the sport this season.
They don’t play an FCS team or a particularly bad FBS team. They host Michigan and Stanford. They have to travel to Michigan State, Oklahoma, and USC. BYU will win a lot of games. Miami is tough. Navy is tricky, and the Irish face the added challenge of playing them in Dublin.
If bettors get excited by the potential for progress and ignore the massive challenges of the schedule, they could easily overestimate this team. This squad could have a very solid season and still only win seven or eight games.
Kansas football schedule
For some reason there are still a lot of people out there that think Charlie Weis can coach. There are also people who think that Dayne Crist is still a good quarterback. With those two combining their efforts in Kansas this year people are inevitably going to expect far more than they should from this team.
It’s important to remember not only that this team has massive holes all over the field, but also that they face a very tough schedule.
In one four-week stretch, for example, they play at Kansas State, at home against Oklahoma State, at Oklahoma, and then at home against Texas. It would take a miracle to get a win in that group of games, and it’s hard to see more than two or maybe three wins on the schedule anywhere.
If people get excited about the new additions they could very easily give this team far too much credit.
Georgia football schedule
The SEC has shuffled its schedule thanks to the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M, and no team has benefited more than the Bulldogs. They were facing a game against Alabama, but that inter-divisional contest was scrapped with the changes, and the schedule got easier as a result.
With the possible exception of Georgia Tech, the nonconference schedule is so easy it’s ridiculous. There are still obviously more than their share of tough games — they are in the SEC — but this schedule is easier than it could be since they avoid LSU and now Alabama, and they could be better than expected as a result.
They certainly face an easier schedule than similarly-talented South Carolina.
Penn State football schedule
It’s obviously very easy to be negative about this team, and chances are very good that things will get very ugly. One of the few things this team has going for them, though, is that their schedule is surprisingly easy — at least for a team in the Big Ten.
They avoid Michigan and Michigan State. They get Ohio State and Wisconsin at home. They play the weaker side of the Big Ten in Illinois, Northwestern, Purdue and Indiana.
I’m not saying that the Nittany Lions will win those games, or that they are going to be any good at all. I’m just saying that the schedule isn’t nearly as bad as it could be, so people could somewhat overestimate just how bad they are going to be.
Like Penn State, the new divisions in the Big Ten have led to a very easy schedule for the Badgers in relative terms. The nonconference tilt of Northern Iowa, Oregon State, Utah State, and UTEP is all but certain to lead to a 4-0 start. They don’t play Michigan, and they host Ohio State and Michigan State.
Outside of their opening conference game at Nebraska their road schedule — Purdue, Indiana, and Penn State — couldn’t be any easier. They also get home “gimmies” against Illinois and Minnesota.
This should be a pretty solid team anyway, but given this schedule they are almost certainly going to be a better team than many expect.
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