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College Football Fatigue Factor

   by Scott Spreitzer - 10/22/2007

Last year I noticed that the element of fatigue in college football was
playing a much smaller role than in years past.

You used to always be able to count on undersized programs wearing out
in the final third of the season, often getting steamrolled except when
playing their big “rivalryâ€쳌 game. Many tend to focus on underdogs when
handicapping football. But, THESE dogs needed to be avoided at all
costs. If I was betting a late season favorite, you could rest assured
that part of the reason involved attrition or fatigue.

In 2006, the bad teams really didn’t collapse at all. Well, a few did.
For the most part, they hung tough through the full season, and
continued to offer value at big underdog prices in the final weeks. In
retrospect, this wasn’t a big surprise.

*Games had been “shortenedâ€쳌 in 2006 because of rules affecting how the
clock ran in college football. There were fewer plays per game, which
meant fewer injuries and less fatigue.

*The “seasonâ€쳌 was therefore shortened because the games themselves were
shorter. The cumulative toll of physical pounding just wasn’t the same
as it was before. This allowed lesser teams to stay competitive from
start to finish.

*Much of the country saw unseasonably cool weather. You may remember
those low scoring games in the Northeast and Midwest that were played in
nippy, rainy conditions. That helped as well. Heat takes its toll on
athletes. It’s as if much of the country didn’t have to deal with the
heat at all in 2006.

What a difference a year makes!

Based on what we’ve seen so far in 2007, I think we’re going to see
DRAMATIC effects on the field because of fatigue.

*The rules changes were abolished, meaning the games are once again back
to being as long as before. Since fatigue and attrition were consistent
elements of the college game before the rules changes, I’m sure they’ll
be back again this year.

*Everybody’s playing 12 games per season now, when it was much more
common to play 11 in years past. Games are back to being long again, and
the season is longer!

*Temperatures have been unseasonably warm this year. Even in October,
the sideline reporters in Big Ten games were dressed like it was a July
4th celebration. Down south, the heat and humidity have been consistent
from the get-go. Lesser teams who have had to deal with warm
temperatures will be particularly likely to wear out in the final third
of the season.

*Furthermore, many teams have gone to variations of the “spreadâ€쳌 offense
which lengthens games even more! We’re back to seeing occasional
marathon matchups that take all day to play because the clock seems like
it never stops. Incomplete passes stop the clock. Receivers make a catch
and run out of bounds. First downs stop the clock. Some programs are
running hurry up offenses to boot.

We’re virtually seeing a “perfect stormâ€쳌 of fatigue elements that
will have a significant impact in the coming weeks. Be sure you know
which programs have depth, particularly on defense. Be sure you know
which programs have played several games without a week off. They’ll be
at a disadvantage against anyone who had a bye in the last few weeks. Be
sure you look to go against poor run defenses when they match up against
strong run offenses. If they couldn’t stop the run when fresh, they’ve
got no chance now!

I’d strongly encourage you to shape your entire handicapping approach
with this as a backdrop. Things like “revengeâ€쳌 or a “needâ€쳌 to win just
don’t matter if the team is out of gas. Fatigue will spike trends, it
will spike systems, it will spike personnel matchups, it will spike
series histories in the rivalry games. In the south, where it’s been hot
all year, it could literally lead to monster blowouts where teams with
depth and a recent bye just absolutely squash an undersized team that
hasn’t had any breaks in the schedule.

The Las Vegas lines can’t possibly adjust fully for this factor because
it’s going to be worth two or three touchdowns when it occurs. Maybe
more if the favorite is trying to impress the pollsters and has other
intangibles in its favor. This is going to be a big deal the rest of the
way. Start incorporating it into your handicapping now!

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