by Rob Gillespie
Michigan vs. Ohio State. Alabama vs. Auburn. The best rivalries are often the ones that pit neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother. With no pre-season schedule and a built-in rivalry system, college football is about as good as it gets!
Monday's game was supposed to pit in-state rivalries Miami Hurricanes against the Florida State Seminoles - a game that I predicted would be the biggest regular season college football game ever; but, Hurricane Frances has forced its postponement. It had a Monday Night Football time slot and it was scheduled to run on ABC. It was going to be huge.
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The kick-off classic last weekend saw USC taking on Virginia Tech. Although USC struggled through the first half, their talent eventually turned it on and they went on to win the game in the end.
That first game of the year has got to scare the living daylights out of coaches. You have 11 or 12 games in your regular season, six to eight of them will be mandated by your conference, and the other 3 to 5 games you set up on your own. So you've really got to pick that first game wisely.
If you pick a team that isn't very good and you beat them badly, then your respect level is at risk and the BCS polls won't give you any credit because you've simply beat a team that you were supposed to beat.
On the other hand, if you pick a team that's too good and you lose - then you're out of it and you don't have a chance at the national championship. One hour into your season and it's all gone - that's got to be terrifying. The catch is to find that middle ground.
Rock, Paper, Scissors
There's no doubt that football fans in general prefer to watch a good Monday Night Football game to a mediocre college game; but, some of those big college games (like the Miami-Florida State game) are going to be as big a draw as any NFL game this year. With almost 120 college teams to choose from, there is definitely a lot of exciting football to watch.
We take in about 25 to 30 percent more action on the NFL than we do on college football as a total. However, last week's USC vs. Virginia Tech game was really something. We saw more public action for that one game than any other event post-Super Bowl. Considering how high the spread was that game and how much action there was, it's really rather encouraging for the rest of the season (high spreads tend to discourage wagering slightly).
The beauty of college football is that there are so many contrasting styles. With college football, you'll get teams that run the ball 80 percent of the time or throw the ball 90 percent of the time. Styles overlap and it can become a rock-paper-scissors type of a game. Team A will beat Team B, Team B will beat Team C, and Team C will beat Team A.
With the NFL, it's more of a chessboard style of play; you've got the same sort of players on both sides lining up on either side of center field. The team that executes the best game wins. Because teams are so similar, it's kind of easy to compare styles. There is so much parity in the NFL that it's like comparing apples to apples.
NCAA's Busy Schedule: Advice for the Novice Bettor
Let's say, there are 35 games being played on a Saturday. If you try to handicap all 35 games, you'll lose your mind unless you are very experienced. Trying to narrow it down to a few games until you can get a system in place (like a good spreadsheet) will make it easier for you.
Pick a conference or two and really get started on that. In any conference, you're only going to have about four or five games on any given week and that's a pretty manageable amount. If you live in Los Angeles, for example, you will probably want to start with the Pac 10. You've got great rivalries, lots of press, and all the information you're going to need. Then, you can move out from there.
When you pick two conferences you've got about eight or ten games a week and when that becomes manageable, you can bet on three conferences, which puts you in about the same as the NFL where you're looking at 15 games a week.
Using Polls as a Betting Tool
The polls are really the only indicator that a novice bettor has and they're very strong influencers. Of course, what we're talking about here are the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) statistical rating system, the Associated Press (AP) Top 25 Poll, and the Coaches Poll.
The purpose of the BCS is to determine the two top teams who will participate in the Division 1-A national championship game. Effective this season, the AP Poll, Coaches Poll and computer ranking system will each count for one-third of a team's overall BCS ranking.
That said, if an unranked team is playing a number-one team, for example, you can count on seeing their A-game out on the field. And that's the best part about college football - the rivalries. The fight songs (Boomer Sooner is my favorite), the tailgate parties and the exciting styles of play make college football a beautiful thing.
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