College Football Betting Advice: Wagering on Championship Week Games
When it comes to the keys to betting conference title games in college football, we can all figure out the basics. Which team is more talented? Which team is in better recent form? How do the coaches match up? Is the neutral site really neutral, or does geography or familiarity give one team the edge? How do the teams stack up in terms of big game experience? What are the big public biases in the game, and how accurate are they? What stakes are the teams playing for in the game, and what impact could that have on their performance? I could go on, but you get the point. One big factor that is so important, so relatively rare in the sport, and so easy to mishandle, is one that I want to spend some time looking at - how to deal with it when teams have already played this season.
It is very rare in college football that we see teams play each other twice in the same season. It obviously never happens in the regular season, so this weekend, and potentially in the playoff, are the only times it can happen. And when teams do meet for the second time, we have to be careful in dealing with it.
We don't have as much of this to deal with in the major conferences as we have in recent years. The AAC is particularly intriguing when it comes to past meetings between the teams, though - Cincinnati and Memphis meet this week after playing last week. In the five major conferences the only teams that have played each other already this year are Ohio State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten and Baylor and Oklahoma in the Big 12. The other three are fresh matchups.
When you look at the first time these teams met, you have to do a balancing act. You can give that result too much credit, but you can just as easily give it too little. How long ago the game was played is obviously a major factor in attaching significance - the older the result, the less relevant. You also need to look at situations where injuries were a factor then that won't be now. In both of the cases this year, the key players on both teams are the same as they were for the most part, but if a quarterback had missed the prior game, for example, the result would mean a whole lot less.
As a general rule, what is much more significant than the score in prior games is any mismatches that emerged. When Wisconsin and Ohio State met, for example, Wisconsin all-World running back Jonathan Taylor just could not move the ball on the ground, running for just 52 yards on 20 touches. When you are looking at that game, then the biggest questions have to be about the running game. Why did Taylor struggle so badly when he has been so dominant this year? Was the problem something Wisconsin is likely to fix, or is this going to be a problem again? If it is a problem, is Wisconsin capable of overcoming it, or will it have a major impact on the outcome?
Similarly, in the prior Baylor and Oklahoma matchup, the big questions have to do with how that bizarre game played out. Baylor sprinted to a 31-10 lead in the first half, but then they didn't score again, and Oklahoma won by a field goal in the end. It was crazy, and we have to ask what was real about it. Why did Baylor look so good early on? What adjustments did Oklahoma make to completely shut down the Bears in the last half? Why was Oklahoma so ineffective offensively early on and so solid later? What should we reasonably expect this time?
Asking those kinds of questions will allow you to extract the most meaning out of past games. If, instead, you just look at things on a much more basic level - Ohio State won that time, so they should win again - you are not doing yourself any favors when it comes to handicapping. You have a choice here, then - dig deep into what happened last time and what it means or ignore it entirely. There is no useful middle ground.
One thing you will hear people talk about in these situations is that teams will have an edge somehow because they have seen the tricks and wrinkles an opponent has. That is absolutely and utterly meaningless. People will argue that there is no better way to understand a team than playing against them, so things that were surprising or required adjustment last time won't this time around. Given the time, effort and expense that these teams put into scouting, video, preparation and coaching, though, the idea that this makes any sense is just plain silly. And it's not like teams are going to take the exact same approach in a second meeting as they did in the first and hope it works just as well. Coaches and organizations are chess players, and ones who get to these games are better at it than most. Don't fall into this trap.
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