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Beware of College Football Rule Changes

   by Scott Spreitzer - 08/17/2007

Prior to the 2006 college football season, the sport made a few rules
changes that greatly helped "competitive balance" in college football.
Most important of these were rules that affected when the clock would
stop, and when it would run. Games were shortened by about 14-15 plays.
Smart, defensive-minded coaches knew how to shrink games even more than
that.

As a result:

*Scoring went down…in some conferences it went way down.

*Victory margins went down…which created some very exciting fourth
quarters across the country.

*The number of upsets went up…leading to a surprise winner in the ACC, a
surprise winner in the SEC West, several near upsets of USC, (with Oregon
State and UCLA taking them out), and a season where the slow,
conservative approach of Rutgers could take the nation by storm.

There were mixed reviews, needless to say. Fans in attendance and TV
viewers liked watching exciting games, but they felt they were getting
ripped off because the games were shorter. Upstart programs enjoyed the
chance to hang with power teams through shorter games. Power programs
didn't like telling some of their younger players that they just
wouldn’t be able to get on the field much until they were older.

Professional wagerers in Las Vegas LOVED the new game because they tend
to bet on Dogs and Unders. It was a Dog and Under year, particularly if
you knew how to pick your spots. The wagering public HATED the new game,
because they love betting big favorites. It was harder than ever for big
favorites run up the score.

Because of the way the different factions fell, it wasn't surprising
that the rules have now largely been changed back to the way they were.
Certainly the biggest "time robber" of running the clock after changing
possessions has been undone. That will make the following very happy:

*TV viewers and ticket holders, who don't feel that they're getting
shortchanged any more.

*Power programs, who now have those 14-15 plays back to further
establish their dominance over lesser teams, and get young backups some
playing time.

*The alumni of power programs who kept losing big money on bets when their
program couldn't run up the score.

Yes, 2006 was a DISASTER for the power brokers of the sport. They all
lost big when they bet on their alma maters. Then teams like Rutgers and
Wake Forest became the stories of the year! The rich don't want
"competitive balance." The rich want to get richer!

Perhaps furthering the boomerang back towards power teams this year is a
rules change that will have all kickoffs coming from the 30-yard line
instead of the 35-yard line. That will greatly reduce the number of
touchbacks, and will mean that special teams' advantages will come
further into play. Which teams are most likely to have great athletes on
their kickoff units? The national powers, or the undersized feisty
programs that caught a break last year?

If you had a lot of success focusing on underdogs and Unders last year,
you'll need to be very careful in the opening weeks of 2007. Those sides
of the equation will still offer some value because the public overbets
favorites and Overs. They just won't be as valuable as they were in 2006.

*Powerhouses won't lose 14-15 plays per game to the clock any more.

*Powerhouses will be able to add bonus points on special teams, either
by returning kicks or forcing fumbles when their bruisers nail an
undersized return guy.

*Powerhouses may have lower pointspreads in their games this September
because the oddsmakers won't have properly anticipated the boomerang effect.

In this environment, I believe underdog players should focus on THESE
situations:

*Take the dog when you believe you've got the stronger defense. If it's
a big edge, then make it a big play.

*Focus on smaller dogs in games matching competitive teams. The increase
in plays and the special teams' issues are less likely to be a factor
when teams from the same class are playing each other. It's probably not
a good time to hope a 28-point underdog loses by 20-24. Better to focus
on TD underdogs who can win the game.

*Look for underdogs with an experienced quarterback. Far too many sports
wagerers bet on the team name rather than the caliber of the
quarterback. Make sure you’ve handicapped this position for all board
teams. If you find an underdog with an edge at QB, it's probably going
to be worth an investment.

I can tell you firsthand that Las Vegas is anxiously awaiting the start
of college football. Make sure you've done your homework so you can beat
those soft early numbers!

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