I’ll start by laying out the six trends that you can use to help you handicap high-profile NCAA football games:
- A team’s overall record in their previous seven games
- A team’s record ATS in their previous seven games
- A team’s overall record vs. their opponent in their previous twenty matchups
- A team’s overall record vs. their opponent in their previous ten road/home matchups
- A team’s record in their previous seven games on the road/at home
- Game totals trends in the team’s previous seven in-conference games
You can use these six trends to handicap any NCAA football game, but I’ve found them to be the most useful in games between two top-25 ranked teams. The higher profile the game, the more these trends help me look at the game in black and white, without emotion or prejudice.
This post lays out the details of how to use these trends to help you handicap a big college football game. And hopefully, avoid the nightmares of other college football gamblers.
I’m going to use a real game between two top-10 teams from Week 10 of the 2019 season.
Georgia brought their 6-1 record and young QB Jake Fromm to Florida to face a streaking Kyle Trask and the Florida Gators in Gainesville. Florida was 7-1 at the time, and for both teams, National Championship whispers were getting hard to ignore.
Florida scored with 6:50 to go. Georgia expertly drained the clock, including a crucial 3rd down conversion with 2:45 remaining, a long dagger pass from Fromm to Eli Wolf that sealed the Georgia win, and the protection of the point spread.
How Trends Help You Handicap High-Profile College Football Games
This game was tough to handicap for a lot of reasons.
This is one of those neutral-site games in which nobody’s necessarily the home team, although since the game is played in Jacksonville, Florida, you could say that UF has a slight home advantage.
Also, Week 10 is still relatively early in conference play for most teams, and the betting action on high-profile games with major national title repercussions like this one is dizzying and difficult to read. Neither team seemed to have an advantage on paper.
You have to dig deeper than ESPN stat boxes to make an intelligent bet on a game like this.
This was one of the biggest regular-season games of the year, and a lot of dumb money flowed in. By considering each team in light of its opponents, through a manageable slate of six trends, you strip away any feelings you have heading into a game and can think about the game from a deeper perspective than the general public.
Let’s use my six tends to handicap the game and see how my method would have turned out:
Overall Record in Previous 7 Games
Georgia entered the game 6-1, while Florida was 7-1.
This didn’t have a big impact on my betting at the time and it still wouldn’t. Both teams had a weird loss.
If I had to give one team an edge, I suppose Florida had the “better loss,” since LSU were national champions that season, while the team that beat Georgia (South Carolina) would go on to lose to both Tennessee and Appalachian State.
Record Against the Spread in Previous 7 Games
Georgia headed to Gainesville 6-4 ATS, while Florida was 7-3. Again, this one’s a little bit headache-inducing because they seem fairly evenly matched.
In situations like this, it may help to compare the schedules in those previous ten ATS performances.
Georgia’s only big resume-building win in those previous seven games was a 23-17 squeaked at home against then-No. 7 Notre Dame. They’d won their first three cupcake matchups (at Vanderbilt, and then hosting Murray State and Arkansas State) by a point total of 148-23, a stat that makes me gulp a little bit. Too many cupcakes make that 6-4 performance a little more suspect.
Florida’s previous 7 games included a big win at home against then-No. 7 Auburn, 24-13, which sounds closer than the game played out. Their other wins were nothing to write home about—at Kentucky, at home against FCS Towson and Tennessee, and a 45-point beatdown of tiny UT Martin.
The Towson game is worth talking about, because the Gators beat the spread by exactly 0.5 a point, covering with about four minutes to play. You could almost hear the collective sigh. Interesting to note that the game came in under by almost 30 points.
Both teams beat a high-profile opponent, but their performance ATS was too similar to really give either side an edge.
Overall Record vs. Opponent in Previous 20 Matchups
These two teams had seen each other 98 times before, with Georgia up overall 53-44-2. Florida has the edge in their previous 20 matchups, winning 13 of them.
The fact that Georgia was favored by pretty much everybody balanced out the previous-20 matchup edge you’d have to give the Gators. This category didn’t swing me any particular way on its own.
Overall Record vs. Opponent in Previous 10 Road/Home Matchups
Here’s how this trend works: Look at the previous ten matchups in which Florida was the home team and Georgia the visiting team.
The problem with the World’s Largest Cocktail Party, as the annual game between Florida and Georgia is known, is that neither team is technically home or away. It’s considered a neutral site, though it’s about a six-hour drive from Athens and less than two hours drive from Gainesville.
For this matchup, a look at the overall record in these team’s previous road/home contexts would be redundant. It’s essentially the same as the previous 10 matchup category but cut in half.
It’s fine to skip certain trends if they don’t fit into the context of a particular high-profile NCAA football matchup.
Record in Previous Seven Games on the Road/At Home
For this category, let’s say that the University of Florida was the home team and that Georgia can be considered the away team.
In their previous seven home games, Florida was 6-1, with the one loss being a really weird one in November 2018 against a Missouri team that ended with a 4-4 SEC record.
This trend had me sniffing harder at UGA and their 6.5-point favorite status. It seemed to me that a hungry Bulldogs team with something to prove had an edge against a Florida team that appeared to be essentially untested in recent home game situations.
Game Totals in Previous Seven In-Conference Games
This is the category that tipped me over into backing Georgia.
The total of Georgia’s previous seven SEC games went Under five times. Georgia’s defense was notoriously stingy that season, holding opponents to under 300 yards per game of offense on the road. Florida was gaining about 430 yards per game in their wins, and I wasn’t sure that they had any weapons that could make up for the 130-yard difference between what they needed and what the Bulldogs D would allow.
Florida’s totals were more balanced, with four overs and three unders. The 2019 Gators were not a defensive powerhouse, especially not against ranked teams. They were giving ranked opponents about 400 yards of offense per game, and the Bulldogs were only needing about 330 yards to beat even the best defenses in the league.
Researching this stat led to me making what would ultimately become a correct pick. I backed the Bulldogs at -175 to beat the spread and took the under for reduced juice (-105) at 47.5.
Our Final Thoughts on These Trends
In the hour or so that it took me to dig deeply into these six trends, I gained a lot of insight into how the game would play out, and it turned out exactly as advertised. The Gators haven’t beat Georgia with a point total below 21 points since 2005, and Florida’s 17 points would prove far too few in this game.
If you hate some of my trends or doubt their effectiveness, feel free to research and insert your own. My real purpose in looking at these six trends is to take some of the fire out of a high-profile handicapping strategy and to force me to slow down and really consider a hyped NCAA football matchup.
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