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College Football Yo-Yo Effect

   by Scott Spreitzer - 10/11/2007


October is the month of college football action that’s most susceptible
to the “yo-yoâ€쳌 effect.

By that, I mean that teams will often alternate peak and valley
performances in dramatic fashion. They’ll look like national contenders
one week, then they’ll be turnover-prone and flat right afterward. We
saw a little bit of that on the last Saturday of September. You’re going
to see a lot of it in October.

Why is that?

Teams tend to be fairly consistent in the first and last months of the
season. In September, teams that have the pieces in place will string
together strong performances. This is helped by home-heavy friendly
schedules that magnify a team’s strengths and hide its weaknesses.
Conversely, bad teams can take a long time to get things figured out.
They may be breaking in a new offense after a coaching change. They may
have to go through two bad quarterbacks to find a backup who can move
the ball. They may be one of those programs that have to play mostly on
the road to earn money for their whole athletic departments. September
is a month of streaks.

November isn’t quite the same. But, it’s a month where you can usually
figure out where the high and low spots are going to be. Bad teams are
resigned to their fate, but they will still get up for a hated rival.
Good teams start to focus on the prize and grind out victories to stay
in the conference or BCS races. Bad teams will mostly be bad…and good
teams will mostly be good in the final third of the season.

October can get crazy! Teams that started hot finally run into real
competition, and they become very erratic. Losers who find that
quarterback threat buried on the depth chart suddenly start playing 7-10
points better than their power ratings. And, you’ve got the natural
tendency for emotions to wreak havoc. Elite programs just can’t maintain
their intensity for 12 straight games. October is when they lose their
focus a couple of times. The worst programs refuse to throw in the towel
this early, and they’ll bring some peak efforts when the public least
expects it.

As handicappers, we’ve got to be looking for this stuff now! Don’t be
part of the general public that scratches its heads when reading the
Sunday morning newspaper wondering why there are so many crazy scores.
If you do a good job, you’ll find your selections beating the Las Vegas
pointspreads by very large margins because you’re zigging when the public is zagging.

Here are some tips:

*Look at the top 15 teams in the current wire service poll, and try to
find which October game is most likely to feature their flattest effort.
It’s not that hard to notice a game or two each will really get up for.
Look for a lookahead or letdown spot surrounding that big game,
preferably one that occurs on the road at a dangerous site. You’ll want
to go against the elite teams in those ugly schedule spots.

*Pay special attention to any team that failed to cover its first three
or four board games, but now they’ve started covering. These teams often
made a key personnel change that led to better productivity. Or, they
got over a brutal schedule and were able to rest up. These are the teams
you’ll want to take in October. They probably won’t sweep the month
because the yo-yo effect hits everybody. But, they will offer great
value more often than not.

*Look to go against any non top 15 team that just scored a huge upset the week
before. The yo-yo effect hits them the hardest. They got sky high for
the marquee matchup…and they just won’t have anything left in the tank
the next week.

*Pay attention to travel sequences. Don’t ask a team to play two good
road games in a row. Don’t ask a team to play two bad home games in a
row. The October yo-yo effect is often connected to something this
simple. Kids don’t want to get embarrassed at home two weeks in a row.
Kids aren’t disciplined enough to travel well two weeks in a row.

Each of these factors is important. History suggests you’ll find a few
games a week where they do line up in the same game in a way that will
just crush the line. You’ll have an improving team that took awhile to
get going hosting a flat visitor playing its second straight road game.
You’ll have a home team coming off a home loss that’s lying in wait to
catch somebody who just upset a national power, or to nail a national
power that’s looking ahead to a showdown game the next week. These
combinations can be pure gold!

Start digging through the schedules and stats now so you can find these
great bets!

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