SBR poster SoonerBS is busting at the seems for this season to get underway. With several games already capped, he discusses how he goes about analyzing a season or a single game.
This is kind of a BIG subject with me, but I have been asked by a couple of posters how do I go about capping college football. I want to start my answer by first mentioning that there are different approaches to capping college football for profit and mine is only one approach.
First, my handicapping begins by gathering info and researching teams from the start of April whenever they start their Spring football sessions. You cannot learn everything you need to know from these sessions, but you do get some idea as to what the coaches are going to use personnel-wise for the upcoming season. You can also gather some info on what kind of offensive and defensive schemes they intend to run if they have intentions of changing them from the previous season. From April to the start of the first game, it is also important to keep a log of injuries, suspensions, transfers and other business that causes the absence of key personnel on each team. I usually spend the Summer reading articles about each team from the internet, Phil Steele's magazine, and Blue Ribbon Magazine.
Secondly, I try to find some great situations through the season for each team where there will likely be mismatches, "look ahead" spots, or revenge games that I can play on. This helps me to assess further the strengths and weaknesses of each team so I can increase my knowledge on them. This also helps me to know what teams are likely to be "fade" teams for the season, "play on" teams for the season, "UNDER" teams for the season, and "OVER" teams for the season.
Thirdly, I look for factors that will help me in my evaluation of the strength and weaknesses of teams. Personally, my handicapping of strength and weakness in a team begins with the offensive and defensive lines. Skill players, no matter how great they are, cannot perform without solid offensive lines. A good case of this was Colt McCoy for Texas. In 2006, Texas fans were touting his greatness due to the fantastic season he had as a freshman. What was not observed was the fact that he was playing behind one of the greatest offensive lines ever to play at Texas. Last season, many of those offensive linemen moved on. McCoy's numbers and production took a nose-dive because his protection was not as great with the weakness of the offensive line (that should improve this season by the way).
Defensively, offenses can establish the run game against a weak defensive line. If a team can establish the run game, it opens the entire offense up to success. So, the lines are important to me whenever I start to assess how strong a team will be. Of course, you have to have good skill players as well (QB, RB, and WR). From there the linebacking corps and defensive backs need to be assessed. A team with a piss-poor defensive backfield will be slaughtered when playing a good passing team (Anyone remember Louisville last season?) Also, special team play has become very important in college football and should be assessed for the strength and weakness of a team. Other factors are coaching and roster depth (you can find this in Phil Steele's magazine).
By the time I come to the games and through the season, I look for situations (revenge, look-ahead, previous game let-downs, rivalry, etc.) to help me decide whether a line is worth playing. I am mostly a "situational" player myself. I love to play against teams in "look ahead" spots where they are going to be playing somebody better than their present opponent and I love to play on teams that lost or didn't cover the week before because they played well below their potential. I also like to fade teams in a game where the week before they played way over their heads.
I look at factors such as power rankings and trends in games to see if anything is way out of whack with a line. However, last season wreaked havoc on power ratings. But last season was an unusual season and I don't think we are likely to see it as a norm.
There is also an element that cannot be explained by numbers, trends or situations. It's called the "gut" factor. Last year in Bowl season, I dropped a lot of my normal handicapping (mainly because it didn't produce well last year) and went mostly to the "gut" factor. I relied more on my knowledge of the strength and weaknesses of teams and played on teams that I felt were more powerful and likely to cover the spread. It ended up being vastly productive! Even more interesting is the fact that I used this same factor whenever I switched over to capping the NBA. The results were to end the season at 60% (would have been even better had I quit before the playoffs started -sigh-). I can't explain to you how to go by your gut instincts. In fact, some people's guts stink! (Pardon the pun). My gut instincts are always based on nearly 10 months of continual research and knowledge on college football.
Lastly, how do we judge whether a line is worth playing or not? Let me start by mentioning this – Vegas is very good at setting lines on games. I think (and this is what I learned from last season) that we need to stop analyzing lines as much as simply accepting that the line is right. Now, we need to ask ourselves, since the line is right, which team, because of situations, strengths, weaknesses, offensive and defensive schemes, personnel or otherwise is most likely to play better than the other and cover the line? I know that sounds too simplistic, but I think sometimes we make this more difficult than we need to do.
Again, this has to be done by having knowledge on the teams playing and looking for motivating factors that might give one team an edge over others. Let me help you eliminate some games:
- It's not wise to play on a "road" favorite laying a bunch of points ever, I don't care how good they are and how great the line may look.
- Always play on teams that have a great chance of winning the game straight up and are catching points at home (you will not likely find this situation often, but occasionally it does occur).
- Do not play on teams that are in a "rebuilding" year at the beginning of the season. However, monitor their progress because the losses they had the beginning of the season can easily turn into wins at the end of the season as the team gets more experience and plays better. Vegas usually sets good "dog" lines on these teams because of the way they started their season.
- Do not play on teams that have sucked all season long but catch what looks like a great line in one of their closing games.
- Whenever you have games where two teams of equal strengths and situations are playing and the line is close to a pick 'em, play on the team with the most capable coach. Again, you need to have knowledge of the teams and coaches to implement this.
- Do not play against teams that are playing their last home game of the season. Also known as "Senior Day." These teams are usually highly motivated and need to be played on rather than against.
- Fade teams that are playing their first game on the road with a new starting QB.
Follow the discussion on various forum posters and their capping strategies on the SBR Message Board.