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Tip # 4: The Cupcake Factor

In our previous email we talked about the importance of conference familiarity when handicapping college football games. Today we are going to talk about a related topic that I like to refer to as the cupcake factor.

Teams stepping up or down in class

The cupcake factor is a really easy concept.  Come late September and early October, be on the lookout for:

  • Teams that lost games early in the season against good competition who are now taking an apparent step down in class with their next opponent. Being competitive in their losses is an added bonus.

A great example I have from my notes is from September 20, 2008. Tulane had just played at Alabama (who finished the season 11-2) & home to East Carolina (who went on to win C-USA that year) and were competitive in both games (losing 20-6 & 28-24). Their next game was at home versus UL-Monroe, a Sun Belt school and a major step down in competition level. Tulane won easily 24-10 as a 6 point favorite.

  • Teams that won games early in the season against poor competition who are now taking a major step up in class with their next opponent. Struggling against these lesser foes is usually, but not always, a bad indication of things to come.

A lot of schools, especially BCS schools will schedule an easy win or two early in the season. The SEC is notorious for doing this. This type of scheduling can accomplish several objectives.

  • It usually guarantees 2 or 3 wins before entering the tougher conference schedule. These wins are usually needed to qualify for bowl games.
  • Some of the bigger schools have 70,000 or 80,000 seat stadiums (or larger). By scheduling a few non-conference cupcakes each season they don’t need to schedule a home and away series with other BCS-schools, thus assuring themselves of a larger payday at the box office each year.
  • It usually guarantees a few pre-season type games whereby they can work out the kinks in their offense, defense and special teams in preparation for tougher conference opponents.

Sometimes this type of scheduling does not prepare teams for the rigors of conference play. As we discussed in our conference familiarity lesson, the intensity levels get ramped up several notches when conference teams get together. This is the time of the year where several teams are very much overrated because they have put up big numbers vs inferior foes.

And then reality set in

College football, like any other sport, will eventually expose a team’s weaknesses. It still amazes me each year how poorly many “hot” September teams play in October and how much the public bought into the hype. This is where doing your homework and knowing these teams before the season starts can be a big advantage. You just have to have tunnel vision and not pay attention to what the public is saying in building up these teams that are sure to fall.

“There’s probably far too many teams and players that are anointed way too early in the season and far too many teams and players that are condemned too early in the season” – former-Virginia coach Al Groh, giving his impressions of the college football landscape after watching plenty of games during the Cavaliers’ off week (October 3, 2009). This statement epitomizes the concept of the cupcake factor.

In conclusion, the cupcake factor, like any other college football betting strategy needs to be approached with care. Make sure you have reasons as to why you believe a team is overrated or underrated based on their early season schedule. Just because a team plays a weak early season schedule does not necessarily make them a bad team, and vice-versa. It is the performance against that schedule that should be more important to you.



Get here via a link from a friend, or Twitter? This tip is part four of a 7-part FREE email course on essential do’s and don’ts for betting college football, Saturday Edge – style. We talk about college football betting strategies that work. To learn more about it sign up here.


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