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Betting on College Football – Game Selection Filters

Betting on College Football – Game Selection Filters

Friday Mailbag

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.                                                                                                                   

Eliminate Teams

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?

Teams to Consider

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.

Good Defenses and Good Running Teams

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.

Final List

Betting on College Football - USC CheerleadersAt this point you will have between 15-20 teams/games remaining, which is a much more manageable number to thoroughly handicap than 100.

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.

13 Responses to “Betting on College Football – Game Selection Filters”

  1. Matt says:

    The filter I use is to look at the games were the public is betting heavily on one side. Last year this gave me 10-20 games to cap per week. After capping if I liked the team that the public was agienst it would be a play. If I liked the team the public was on it was a no play. Betting agienst the public without capping gets you a win rate around 53-55% . I hit 59% last year. My theory is Capping from something that hits 54% of the time is much better than capping from a 50% win rate.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      Matt, great comment. Thanks for the idea. I don’t think I spend as much time as I should looking at how the public is viewing/wagering a particular game. I know GoSooners likes and follows that kind of stuff.

      What site(s) do you use to determine the public percentages?

      Thanks again for stopping by and sharing your capping thoughts and ideas.


  2. says: is a good free site to check betting %.sportsinsights is another but it’s a pay site. Also you messaged me on SBR (venture). Look forward to having some good football discussion.


  3. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    Matt, I definitely look at the Bet Tracker. It’s not just about public betting percentages. it’s about resistance. If a line opnes at -21 and it’s bet up to -24 with little or no resistance, in all liklihood I’m probably not going to bet the dog in that game. It’s also a good idea to not take the first part of the week too serious when it comes to the bet trackers since the majority of the public isn’t going to start laying down the big pools of money until later in the week after their pay services or tip sheets have given them their picks. But I think it can be a useful tool. When 75-80% of the public is on a side, but the line isn’t moving, or moving the other way, I start to have concerns. On the other hand, you can’t let it sway you too much if you really like one side. Just as an example, about 75% of the public was on Okie State a couple years ago when they played Arizona in the Alamo Bowl. It’s one of those bets that I was very sure I was on the right side with OSU. But the majority of the public being on the Pokes chased a lot of bet tracker “junkies” off that game. And the football forums were all saying the same thing, “too many people on OSU, I’m going with Zona.” It was a case of the public overthinking the game.. Bet trackers should be used as a tool, not as a final decision maker.

    • says:

      I totally agree with everything you say. Reverse line movement and a stagnic line are what I look for. 70% or more is the ratio of bets I look for to fade the public. Betting agienst the public is not the end all of sports betting strategy. Like I said above it usually hits around 53-55%. So you still loose 46% of the time. I just use it to narrow down what games to cap. I don’t have the time or mental stamina to cap every game. What web site’s do you use to track betting %?

      • GoSooners GoSooners says:

        I use Two Minute Warning and Wager Tracker. But those two usually aren’t far off from each other. My main goal is just to get a general idea of the way the bets are moving. I’m not that concerned if one site is a couple percent off from the other.

  4. ERockMoney says:

    For me, three areas seem to drive most of my wagers: value, perception and experience.

    The base or foundation of my process is my unadjusted line versus the bookmaker. Typically, if our numbers align or are fairly close I would view these games as having minimal value and would pass. I’m looking for overall value, especially if the difference in our line crosses key numbers. If there is too great a difference it raises a red flag to me that my analysis is off, because it’s highly unlikely the bookmaker is off by that degree.

    Next, I’m looking at perception, not necessarily just the public, but the media, those who I feel have a good handle and those that don’t – all the while watching line movement and public percentages. I’m looking for areas where my analysis disagrees with common perception. This carries over into match up analysis, as well. Team A can stop the run and Team B can only run, therefore Team A wins. I’m looking to trump this type of perception because the line will be overstated or inflated due to the perception of the matchup or the public action based on that perception.

    Lastly, I look at my own personal history with the teams involved. I like to chart my personal experience a look at different intervals of time, i.e., seven, five, three years, etc. I’m looking to see which teams I have success with and which teams I struggle with. For teams I have had success with, I find it validates my analysis of the team and gives me some level of comfort I have a good handle on how the teams transitions year over year. I’m not above fading myself either; there are certain teams I struggle with, consistently year over year. When they match up I may fade my analysis and go the other way.

    If all three areas align it’s a certain play. If two of the three align its likely a play and even one area shows really well through my analysis, it will likely be a play.

    As an example, looking back at week eight of last season there were 50 lined games. I was able to exclude 15 immediately because my line was nearly identical to actual line, simply no value. There were another 13 games that were pretty close, but I left on the outside radar to see if they pooped up anywhere else in my process. At this point my focus is down to 22 games with another 13 off to the side.

    As I went through my standard process only one of the 13 outside games jumped off the page – that was Texas A&M (-20.5) at Iowa State. I had the line pegged at -23, but my historical experience with both teams was incredibly poor and I was beginning to sour on A&M based on coaching and overall effort, especially late in games. The Aggies were fresh off a drilling of Baylor while Iowa State came in off three consecutive blowouts versus Texas, Baylor and Missouri. Everything I found, heard or discussed seemed to be screaming the Aggies and the public was aligning to back A&M as well. Although my number was actually pointing to A&M, I faded this based on my personal perception which differed from the masses and my poor historical record with both teams led me to believe my line was not credible and questioned its accuracy. Iowa State became a play. A&M won by 16, and I was lucky to cover with the Cyclones who were dominated and the Aggies could have easily covered, but that is not uncommon for a team like the Aggies to show better in the stats than on the scoreboard.

    The rest of the card focused on the remaining 22 games, of which I found four that aligned the three main areas I’m looking at and another four that showed well in two areas or really well in one for nine total selections. I tend to play a lot of games weekly and am looking to grind profit versus hitting for a better percentage over a smaller segment of games.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      ERock, great info. Thanks for leaving such detailed info.

      I also use my own version of line value, but I apply it after I have eliminated a good majority of the games with some of the “filters” I mention in the article.

      And I definitely agree with your statement “If there is too great a difference it raises a red flag to me that my analysis is off, because it’s highly unlikely the bookmaker is off by that degree.” When my numbers are off by large margins I either eliminate that game or try and figure out why there is such a large discrepancy.

      Somewhat related to your personal history idea where you just seem to have a better handle on certain teams as opposed to others, my personal experience has been that for whatever reason, I seem to get a really good handle on certain conferences each year. And they seem to change from year to year.

      Last year I killed the Big 10 and the year before that it was the Big 12. By mid-season I just seem to have good “vision” on a certain conference or two and my confidence increases accordingly (or vice-versa on conferences that I am struggling with that particular year).

      Lastly, as GoSooners will attest, I also tend to play a lot of games myself. My card usually includes anywhere from 5-10 sides and 5-10 totals each week.

      Thanks again for the great info.

  5. GoSooners GoSooners says:

    ERock…Those are some interesting and very on the money comments. Interesting thoughts also on the ISU/Texas A&M game. I remember that game well because I had just come off a big win on Texas A&M the week before against Baylor. So it was not easy getting off the Aggies after they just trounced the Bears by 27. And I also had a similar line on the ISU game. But two things made me play ISU in that spot. The superior coach getting 3 TD’s at home. And Texas A&M didn’t have any kind of history as this big a road favorite. Which ALWAYS brings up red flags with me. It still surprises me that people think this still isn’t enough reason to not play the favorite. But I have never liked teams put in situations they aren’t familiar with, and expected to cover that big of a spread in a conference game setting. As you pointed out, and that I’ve pointed out to the people who have followed my threads in the RX, you have to consider the “Dominance Factor” in football. And teams like the Aggies don’t have a history of dominating teams on the scoreboard on the road. You can follow the college football handicapping guide by the letter, but there comes a time you have to think outside of the box if you really want to stay ahead and win at college football.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      GS, I agree with your “teams in the unfamiliar role” theory. Some teams just don’t respond well in those types of situations. A great example is a team who is constantly a dog being placed in the role of a favorite. They tend to struggle. I think the opponent feels disrespected that the are underdogs to a team that is almost always an underdog.

      I have absolutely zero sample size to back that up, so it may be something worth researching.

  6. Terry says:

    What about poor or good situations? Wouldn’t you eliminate a team that was in a look ahead situation, or look at their opponent, even if the opponent could be eliminated by one of your filters?

    I just feel emotion and situations are important in college football.

    • Pezgordo Pezgordo says:

      Terry, like I mentioned in the article, I just use these filters as guidelines. If a game and/or team really stands out or appears to be in a really good situation/match up, I will definitely consider them even if they had “qualified” as a team to be eliminated via my filters.

      I agree with you about emotions playing a huge role in college football. It is sometimes the great equalizer when a less talented teams plays one of the big boys.


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