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Early Season College Capping

   by Scott Spreitzer - 08/26/2007

We're now just a couple of days away from the start of the college football season.
Here are some factors to remember when trying to pick winners in the
season openers.

*As I mentioned here two weeks ago, the rules have changed in the
offseason in a way that will favor the powerhouses and hurt lesser
teams. After a one year experiment that shrunk college games, the
clock will run much more like it did back in 2005. Remember to put those
points back on the board when outlining expectations for games in
2007. And remember that moving kickoffs back to the 30-yard line will
help squads that have superior special teams. I won't restate everything
from that prior article. Just remember to include those factors when
handicapping!

*Remember that defenses are ahead of offenses at the beginning of a
college season. It didn't used to be this dramatic. But in recent years
we've seen several offenses really struggle early in the season.
Defenses are much more aggressive than they used to be. If you've got a
new quarterback, and a new running back in charge of picking up
blitzes, your offense will have trouble in the first few games of the
season. Last year's timing changes exacerbated this element, leading to
some very low scoring openers. Remember when both Temple/Buffalo and
Miami of Ohio/Northwestern were scoreless at the half on the first night
of action? This year's rules adjustments will just be giving some
teams more plays to flounder!

*Make note of all the successful teams from last year that lost their
starting quarterbacks. There's a slew of them! The worst thing you can
do early in a season is to bet off last year's expectations. Notre Dame
is going to look like a whole different team this year. The teams that
played in the BCS championship game, Florida and Ohio State, both have
new quarterbacks. Strong finisher LSU does as well. Make the new
quarterbacks earn your respect on the field before investing in them.

*Make note of all bowl caliber teams who return most of their offenses.
There are actually some nice second tier teams who are poised to hit
the ground running in 2007 because they've got so many starters back.
They'll be able to handle blitzes out of the gate. And, they'll be eager
to make even more headlines this year than they did last season. The
worst favorites to take will be last year's powers that lost
quarterbacks. The best favorites to take will be these second tier teams
who return experience in the right spots. Heck, some of these guys will
be dogs at least once early on. Be on the lookout for upset specials.

*Catch up on injuries and suspensions! If you did a lot of research
based on information in those newsstand publications that came out over
the summer, you may not be aware that many top players have since been
injured or suspended. The last thing you want to do is bet on a game,
then find out when the telecast starts that your star running back isn't
going to play…and everyone BUT you seemed to know about it! Check
internet sites for reports on injuries and suspensions. Also be aware that
a few returning starting quarterbacks lost their starting jobs within the last
couple of weeks during late summer practices. You'd hate to bet against a team
because the QB was bad last year, only to find out that a hotshot recruit is
ready to turn the program around.

*Finally, remember that the oddsmakers are behind the
eight-ball a bit because of the rules adjustments. This year more than
ever, you should be looking at the early games Thursday, Friday, and
Saturday morning to get a feel for what football in 2007 is going to
look like. Then you can take advantage in later starts Saturday
afternoon and evening. Really, before last year, you could pretty much
handicap September football with the same old basics. The rules changes
in 2006 caught Vegas napping. Unders were a STEAL for about a month
because scoring dropped so much. And, there were many great underdog
plays because the games had shrunk. Favorites didn't have time to
express their superiority in a way that matched the spreads. The
tinkering and re-tinkering with the clock and kickoffs throws a monkey
wrench into the line making process. If you can read the tea
leaves before they do, you'll be able to take advantage for most of the
month in my opinion. Start reading as soon as the games start!

I have to tell you, I can't recall being THIS excited about the start of
a college season. I've stayed on top of developments day-by-day all
summer long. So, I'm ready to catch the oddsmakers napping once again!

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