Q: With 40 to 50 games on any given weekend during the season, what are the top three variables that you look at when handicapping a weeks lineup? I realize there are 100’s of variables, I’m asking what are your top three in starting the process for the week? - Denny H.
A: I don’t know that I can reduce this number to just three, but I believe I can trim it down to a handful of useful variables (or filters) that can be implemented.
With as many as 50 games on any given weekend, that means you have 100 sides to consider ATS, and that doesn’t include totals, first half wagers, team totals, etc, which we will address at another time.
The first thing I do is eliminate teams from the list. I do this by using five filters that I have found to be beneficial throughout the years.
1. Avoid double digit road favorites
This is just a personal preference and I know plenty of good college football handicappers who wager on double digit road favorites. However, my thought process is since you have so many betting options available each weekend, why worry about wagering on a double digit road favorite?
As I mention in our 7- part email series “7 essential tips for betting on college football,” when considering wagering on an away team there should be a “higher burden of proof” before making the wager. Teams typically do not play as well on the road as they do at home, and therefore laying double digits away is a risky proposition in my eyes.
2. Avoid road favorites that are coming off double digit straight up wins
I read this suggestion on another site several years ago and I have been tracking its effectiveness ever since. For example last year had you wagered against road favorites coming off double digit SU wins you would have went 37-31 ATS over the last 10 weeks of the season for a solid 54.4%.
I do not have a large enough sample size to advocate wagering against road favorites coming off double digit SU wins, but I certainly consider each one of their opponents.
3. Avoid statistically marginal defenses that are favored by double digits
To me this is just common sense. A team that struggles defensively tends to have a more difficult time “pulling away” from their opponent. I use 400 ypg allowed and/or 30 ppg allowed as my cutoff points.
4. Avoid teams who are favored by a TD or more who struggle to score
A great example of this from 2011 was Penn State. The Nittany Lions were favored by 7 or more points in four games last season. They won all four games but failed to cover the spread in each. They struggled to score all season and therefore were never able to pull away from their opponent.
5. Avoid bad quarterbacks on the road
As I have referenced on several occasions, a team’s weaknesses and personnel issues (players and coaches) seem to get exposed on the road more so than they do at home. Since the quarterback position is such an important part of the college game, it is just not a good idea to wager on bad quarterbacks, especially when they are on the road.
At this point you have more or less quickly eliminated half of the possible sides and several games altogether. What about the remaining 50 possible sides?
First, it would only stand to reason that the opponents of the teams you eliminated using the five filters listed above should be considered. And while it is true that I consider several of these opponents in these situations, you need to keep in mind that the teams that find themselves as dogs in these games are quite often not very good themselves.
Therefore, when considering the “opposite” side of the teams that have been filtered, it is very important to look at and analyze that team very closely.
Obviously with 4 of my 5 “Avoids” eliminating favorites, your remaining list is comprised of a lot of underdogs. There are still several good favorites available, however my personal preference is to wager more “quality” underdogs than favorites.
My thought process on wagering a higher proportion of underdogs is that I am already winning before the game even starts, so now the other team not only has to go out and beat my team outright, they also have to do it by more points than the spread.
I am sure these two “filters” come as no surprise to anyone who has read our email series about betting on college football.
I am a big fan of teams that can run the football on offense and who can play good defense, especially against the run. On the road this combination is almost always a requirement.
This is my final filter, I eliminate any road team that cannot effectively run the football and play good defense, especially good defense against the run.
Now I begin capping the games in detail, which will typically eliminate another 5 or 10 teams/games, leaving me with my final card for the weekend.
In conclusion I want to point out that everyone has different filters and methods on how they choose which games to handicap. Some people filter and cap strictly based on numbers that they use. Some use models and others use a power rating system, either their own or someone else’s.
The filters mentioned in this article are just some of the methods that I have “accumulated” throughout the years that I have found helpful.
I also want to emphasize that I use these filters as guidelines, but nothing is set in stone. However, for me to deviate from these “rules” there really has to be a compelling reason (or two) in order to do so.
Please share with us some of the filters you use when betting on college football in the comments section below. Thanks – Pez.