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College FB Rule Changes

   by Scott Spreitzer - 09/10/2007

Handicappers and sports wagerers have been paying very close attention
to the impact that offseason rules changes have been having during first
two weeks of college football action. They want to stay ahead of the
curve as linesmakers continually try to adjust to the changing reality
of the game.

I think the evidence the first two weeks suggests the following:

*A little too much weight was placed on moving kickoffs from the 35-yard
line back to the 30-yard line. Coaches were terrified of that move, but
field position really hasn't changed in a way that's upsetting the
natural flow of the game. I must admit, I thought it would have had more of
an impact.

*Not enough weight was placed on how high scoring certain kinds of games
would get if you put a few more possessions back into the game by
running the clock less often. Crazy shootouts had largely disappeared
last year because of how the clock ran. This season, we've seen several
very high scoring games, including a whopping 100 points in the Middle
Tennessee/Louisville game that barely looked like football.

Now, two weeks isn't enough of a sample to judge. And, we could see
things change during the course of the season anyway. Maybe kickoff
coverage has been stellar in these opening games because coaches
emphasized it so much. That could change if injuries hit special teams
contributors or if the natural "tired legs" that develop later in the
season affect the guys running down to tackle. It could be that early
action represents the best of kick coverage, and it will become spotty

And, we could very well see that coaches on high octane teams don't like
playing 80 or 100 point games, and they get better about running the
clock with a lead so they don't risk getting key players hurt.

For now, I think we should follow these guidelines:

*Be aware that up tempo games are jumping up in scoring much higher than
the Vegas oddsmakers have predicted. Here you have a double whammy where
there are a lot of kickoffs giving better field position, and a lot of
extra plays in the game are working together to light up the
scoreboards. Be careful playing Unders in games with high numbers, and
look for spots where a game could reasonably fly into the 70s or higher
just because of the nature of the teams.

*Don't worry so much about the rules changes in competitive games with
defensive-minded coaches. We're still seeing plenty of low scoring games.
In fact, it's like the "middle" disappeared and every game is either
high or low scoring! Extra plays just mean extra punts in defensive
games. And, the change in kickoffs doesn't matter if the teams aren't
scoring much. You can basically handicap this style of game the same as
you always have. Don't be afraid to bet Under if you see a 16-13 type
game on tap. Don't be afraid to bet defensive dogs.

*Remember that competitive balance hasn't disappeared just because some
rules changes may help teams with talent and depth. Michigan lost to
Appalachian State. Texas lost statistically to Arkansas State and missed the
Vegas spread by 30 points. Louisville was in a dogfight with Middle
Tennessee as a 40-point favorite. The trend we've been seeing in recent
years toward more parity is still in play. Last year's rules changes
with the clock speeded up the process a lot. This year's reversal will
slow it back down a shade. But, it's still headed in the same direction!
Many of the blowouts you saw in the first week occurred because the
losing team had a poor quarterback, not because rules changes were going
to guarantee a year of blowouts for the superpowers.

*The fundamentals still apply. Teams with strong defenses and strong
running games are better bets because they get the job done with a low
risk approach. Public teams are still overpriced because the typical
wagerer just HAS to bet on all the teams that the media is raving about.
Value still exists in the places it always has. Use the evolution of the
rules to help find additional value. Don't stop doing what worked in the
past. It's still going to work over a large sampling of games.

We're coming up on a college football weekend with a lot of dream
matchups. It's been a fun season already. It's about to get even better!

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