The College Football National Championship is one of the biggest sporting events of the year, and that means that there is a ton of speculation and betting to be done on a huge scale. You can often find props and bets that aren’t offered on any given Saturday, and you can see a lot of line movement with so much public money in the pool.
This allows for a lot of different angles to be profitable if you take care of the research leading into the big game.
Understanding the Personnel
This is the singular biggest edge in college football today, and it is something that almost constantly goes overlooked by major outlets and even relatively sharp bettors all over the country, particularly in big games.
Coaching and preparation have a huge impact on the results of the regular season, right alongside talent, but things change in these playoff games.
The talent gap in college football is often understated and not given enough thought when betting on games because people are not really used to utilizing this knowledge in other sports.
There are bad players on the field in an NFL game, but there are very, very rarely guys that cannot handle the environment at all on the field. That is simply not the case in college, and truthfully, most analysts are just too lazy to identify this before they are exploited.
While this kind of research isn’t super easy because you really need to know the rosters of the teams involved, it becomes relatively simple when we have multiple weeks to prepare for a single game.
Understanding rosters can be done by reading up on team reports and recaps, but I have two simple ways to try to identify true talent issues with elite teams.
My go-to strategy is to look at recruiting websites and their rankings and scouting reports of players coming out of high school. You do not need to do this for every single player, but you should know about the players that will be on the field.
High school recruiting rankings are not gospel, but they often do give a little insight into some flaws.
Just because a player is a 3-star recruit playing in the national championship game does not mean he is a liability, but you should probably look into them a bit to find out why they were not highly ranked.
Some guys get hurt their junior year and miss out on the big national events and never get the time of day; others just fly under the radar. It’s nowhere near the end all be all.
What you don’t want to see is athleticism questions or a player that struggled at large camps or big games. Athleticism flaws on an elite team can often be covered up until you face another elite team that forces everyone to play true to form instead of relying on their overall team talent to dominate players.
At this point in the season, the teams that get to the playoff have coaching that will look for and exploit weak links in the playoff, and we see it every single year.
The other major tell for a lower-rated player is to check out his backups to see how they are rated. If the starting middle linebacker was the 890th ranked recruit in the country but is starting over two top 100 players, it is generally safe to assume that the player was not appropriately ranked. But if he is just at a position that lacks talent, it can mean there are real depth issues that have led to that player playing.
Watch the Big Plays
These teams almost never struggled throughout the year, but that doesn’t mean that they cannot struggle in this game. If you want some insight as to what could be fatal flaws in this game, take a peek at the big plays these teams allowed and then look at how they created big plays.
For example, here are a few concerns that pop up with 2019 Clemson that show up on tape more than they show up in the box score. The big plays against Clemson are almost always personnel-related and not due to a mistake by the defense.
Multiple big passing plays have come on post routes on their safety in man coverage, who struggled to turn his hips and run with the receiver.
The thing to understand here is that these teams don’t play many teams that can test their real weaknesses throughout the season, but when this player got tested in coverage, he struggled.
There really isn’t much he can do to fix that over the last month leading up to the game. Defensive communication isn’t something that I want to overweigh because it can get better over time in a big way. Your safety being too slow cannot.
All of their big passing plays tend to come without elite separation. Can they get separation when they cannot win 50/50 balls with ease?
This is simply a question that pops up on tape to me, and it deserved some investigating. Upon further investigation, both Tee Higgins and Justyn Ross are really slow for elite receiver prospects, which raised more flags, because that is a clear reason for a lack of elite separation.
These kind of things can be identified on any big team, and it is rarely done because it’s not super easy. This is, by far, the biggest edge in late-season college football betting.
There are 100 other factors, but those are all talked about all day long, and you are not gaining an edge on the line by talking about touchdown-to-interception rates and yards per carry leaders.
Conference and Schedule Strength Matters
This is the other flaw in college football betting that is often misunderstood. Just because a team plays in a bad conference or because a team has dominated every game does not mean that they are better or worse than the team that they are playing.
What it does mean is that certain issues within a team can often be hidden longer in weaker conferences because they get tested less.
Take a look at every conference and their records in other games and the overall talent. Did the team that dominated face NFL talent?
How did they handle an elite player on the other side of the ball? When they won that game by a touchdown, did they dominate and only win by seven or did they get two fumble recoveries for a touchdown and get lucky?
Look deeper than the first level when betting on this game because the answer will become very clear, and you will begin to see a lot of misunderstandings surrounding each team being broadcast in the media.