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College Football's Yo-Yo Stage
by Scott Spreitzer - 10/05/2008
You'll often see college football teams start hot, and sweep all of their games in September. On the other end of the spectrum, some inexperienced teams have awful months because it takes them a while to get things figured out.
In November, teams are prone to be streaky as well. Good teams stay focused and storm home with strong performances (though this has been less common in recent seasons). Lesser teams who have been beaten down by attrition limp home with a whimper.
In October, "the porridge is just right" so to speak for yo-yo performances from week to week.
Good teams will alternate great performances with flat performances. Teams you've decided aren't worth paying attention to will jump up and bite someone right after a bad game.
As handicappers, we have to really force ourselves to be aware of this. Our instincts are to play "momentum" on the assumption that what just happened is going to keep happening. The general public is notorious for this, as they have short attention spans anyway. They don't remember the upsets from last year or the year before. They just assume the best teams will always keep winning, and the bad teams will always keep losing. But I've noticed that respected network analysts often fall into the same traps.
*Stat handicappers will rely on their numbers, without understanding that those numbers don't have any way of foreshadowing a flat performance. The numbers always look great after a strong September. That data actually does a poor job of predicting October action.
*Talent analysts make the mistake of assuming that the guys they expected to be impact players will continue making big plays. If you were picking winners because of a highly touted new quarterback, or a stellar young running back, you'll keep picking them to cover just as they hit their flat stretch.
If the best handicappers out there are prone to have miss-steps, what hope do you have of picking winners? Well, you have A LOT of hope because you know the yo-yo influences are coming. You know they trump everything else. You can go back to last October, or October of 2005, or October of 2003, and see the power of that understanding. This will give you the courage you need to back teams that nobody else thinks will have a chance.
Keys to look for:
*Plan on going against any team in the top 15 that's enjoying a winning streak, or is coming off a very strong performance the prior week. The line will be inflated because the public is betting on their recent success. You're getting great value with the knowledge they're due to fall flat.
*Plan on taking any quality team the week after they stub their toe. Top teams learn their lessons about arrogance very quickly once they've been kicked off the pedestal. A team that yo-yoed down one week will yo-yo back up the next.
*Plan on going against any mid-level team that scores an upset the next time they take the field. You've seen time and time again in recent years that this type of team gets sky high for the chance to knock off a powerhouse, but then is flat as a pancake after it's happened. They yo-yoed up in the first game, but will yo-yo back down in the next.
*In general, assume ANY pointspread streak is going to end. I'm normally not a proponent of "the due theory" because you can get yourself in real trouble taking several losses in the hopes of getting one win. October's yo-yo tendencies in college football suggest you should at least be looking for ways to bet on streaks ending in conservative fashion. Lesser teams get fed up with failure and will come up with peak efforts at least once or twice before the season has worn them down. Great teams will get overconfident and lose their focus at least once or twice before the conference and BCS races get their full attention.
October can be a very tricky month to negotiate in college football. But, if you can get in synch with the flow of the season, it can be your most profitable month of the entire calendar year. Oddsmakers will be giving you 2-3 free points a game (sometimes more) when you go against the big name teams who are due to play flat. You can also pick up some nice moneyline payoffs betting on outright upsets. And, you'll also be getting bonus points when you go against those mid-level upset winners the next week too. The public will become "believers" just as the bandwagon is about to ride off the cliff.
You don't have to do any tricks with this yo-yo, you just have to develop a sense for when teams are going to play up or play down!