College Football Expert Handicapping: Teams Better Than Their Record
We are beyond the halfway point of the college football season. This is where things get really interesting. Every game matters far more than the one played before it for contenders. And the season can feel like it is never going to end for teams that are out of contention and running out of ideas. There is a good opportunity that can present itself for bettors at this point. For teams off the radar, the public relies heavily on their record to judge them. If a team can be better than the public expects then there can be a real chance at value. Here are four teams that are potentially far better than their record suggests:
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Minnesota: The Golden Gophers went through a dramatic and very significant change in leadership when P.J. Fleck came from Western Michigan to teach the team how to row the boat. It hasn't been a smooth start. The team is 3-3 but has yet to win a conference game in three tries. There are two games remaining they likely aren't winning, but the rest of the schedule is potentially manageable, and there are reasons to believe that this team could take a step forward. The reasons for optimism mostly center around the quarterback position. Conor Rhoda was the starter for much of the start of the season, but he was uninspiring at his best and oftentimes just plain ineffective. Fleck wasn't going to make any advances until he got better performance under center. It's early, but in sophomore Demry Croft the coach might have more of what he needs. He took over in the second half of the last game against Michigan State and threw for 130 yards and three touchdowns in the fourth quarter to lead a comeback that fell just short. He's still inexperienced, and it was only one outing, but it was the first swagger the team has had at the QB position in, well, decades. If Croft can build on that then this team will be better - to watch and to bet on - down the stretch.
Air Force: The Falcons are an ugly 2-4, but there are reasons to believe the second half should be much better. Last week was the kind of performance that can signal a real change in direction. They fell down 27-0 with two minutes left in the second quarter against UNLV but fought back to win it 34-30. It was as impressive as the first 28 minutes were ugly. The team has had a tough schedule, playing at Michigan and Navy and hosting San Diego State. They are running the ball well as they always do, their defense has been excellent against the pass, and they are extremely well coached. The second half of the schedule is far softer than what they have endured so far as well. If the team were to reverse their schedule and finish 4-2 in their final six to become bowl eligible then I would be far from surprised.
Florida State: It's almost insulting to put this one here because it should be obvious that Florida State, which started the season ranked third in the country, is better than a 2-3 team. They have tremendous talent, though it is taking more time than they obviously would have hoped for that talent to find their form. Two offensive freshmen - QB James Blackman and RB Cam Akers - have shown real progress in their recent outings, and the upside is very significant for both. The first half of the schedule was brutal, with Alabama preceding N.C. state and Miami. In the second half of the season things get easier. Clemson will be very tough, and Florida is alright but not as good as the two non-Alabama teams the Seminoles have lost to. And the rest of the schedule is manageable. The team is clearly frustrated, and they know that this isn't going to be their year, but they haven't given up yet, and the level of talent and effectiveness of coaching should make them a much more dangerous team going forward than they have been.
Georgia Tech: This is the second straight ACC team - and Boston College could easily be here, too. It must be something about that conference. The team is 3-2 and stuck in the middle of their division standings. It would be easy to just overlook the team entirely. But the truth is that they are two points away from an unbeaten record. They lost in their opener by a point to Tennessee when they went for two in second overtime and failed. And they lost at Miami last time around when Miami kicked the winning field goal with four seconds left. A missed two-point conversion again made the difference - they went for two after taking the lead early in the fourth, and a two-point conversion would have put them up by four and out of threat range for a field goal. The second half of their season is tougher than the first half was, but this is a team playing with more intensity and effectiveness than you would expect from their record. That makes them potentially interesting for bettors going forward.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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