Submitted by Kelso Sturgeon on Wednesday, November 8, 2017 at 11:13 AM
Even though The Dean of Sports Handicapping is always encouraging you to work your butt off, I know that too many of you don't read college football boxscores. You think it's enough to know the pointspreads, know the final scores, watch a few games on TV, and then check out the evening highlight shows to see what happened elsewhere.
You know who does that? What we in Vegas call "squares." They watch games on TV, check out the final scores, and think that they're experts. Then they go out and lose the next week because they don't know what really happened out on the field. Work harder!
Those of you who were working harder surely noticed that several college football defenses fell off the map last week. Some units who had been excellent were suddenly full of holes. Some units that had been mediocre completely disappeared.
*Ohio State earned plaudits for its defense in the second half of the comeback victory over Penn State. It was supposedly one of the reasons the Buckeyes were going to beat Alabama according to "the computer guys" and a few other pundits. Well, Ohio State allowed Iowa's mediocre offense to score 487 yards on 7.0 yards-per-play in a 55-24 loss.
*Clemson's defense was supposedly only second to Alabama in terms of greatness. Nobody could move the ball on Clemson! Somehow, NC State gained 491 yards on the way to 31 points in an ACC battle. That's almost 500 yards against BOTH Ohio State and Clemson last week.
*Notre Dame did allow 500 yards...in fact, a lot more than 500 yards against Wake Forest. The unheralded Deacons offense made it to 587 yards on 6.7 yards-per-play in the slow turf of South Bend. USC couldn't do much on offense there...but suddenly WAKE FOREST looked like USC on steroids.
*How about that Oklahoma/Oklahoma State game? Nobody would confuse those teams for defensive stalwarts. They couldn't even tackle against each other last week. OU won the total yardage battle 785-661, while winning yards-per-play 10.3 to 7.5.
Learning to recognize when defenses are starting to get tired...or starting to get overmatched because of injuries...or are giving up hope on their seasons (which is more common further down in the Power Ratings with teams like UCLA, Florida State, and Nebraska, who allowed 506 yards to Utah, 463 yards to Syracuse, and 475 yards to Northwestern respectively last week) will prove very profitable in your handicapping.
At the very least, it will help you make better assessments because you'll know to throw "season-to-date" stats out the window. There's NO WAY any sort of computer model or stat algorithm is going to show Wake Forest getting to 587 yards on Notre Dame! Yet, it happened right before your very eyes on NBC. If you can think outside the box, you'll outperform oddsmakers and analytics guys who are stuck inside their own thought boxes.
What should you look for?
*Signs in the most recent game that run defense was becoming vulnerable at the point of attack.
*Signs in the most recent game that pass defense was allowing long plays and touchdowns.
*Schedules that haven't had a recent bye week, causing players to get tired because they never get a rest break.
*Schedules that have had a string of high-energy or very physical games played in the last month, without any time off.
*Injury lists full of defensive players.
*Newspaper articles talking about former contending or mid-level teams that are showing signs of strife or disinterest in the rest of the season.
So, that's your homework this week here in my College of Advanced Sports Betting. At the very least, in the games you've already decided are your focal points of interest, review recent boxscores, schedules, injury lists, and newspaper articles for signs that a defense might be about to fall apart (or perhaps, if you're lucky very strong evidence that a defense WON'T fall apart). Ideally, choose a larger cross-section of the schedule (every game in your favorite conference...or every game in the major conferences) so you can find possible bets you may not have noticed before.
KELSO STURGEON'S BEST PLAYS can be purchased right here at the website with your credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered in the office during normal business hours at 1-800-755-2255, or on weekends before the first games get started. Be sure you ask about combination packages that also include basketball. College basketball begins Friday. The NBA has been going strong for a few weeks already.
Thanks for attending this week's class. I trust that you'll be diligent with your homework. I'm grateful that so many of you have been returning for years to stay sharp and improve your game. I try to keep the coursework fresh so that you don't feel like you're studying old textbooks. There's nothing more contemporary in college football handicapping than studying the fatigue rate of defenses. Last week's boxscores make that crystal clear. Sports betting continues to evolve. You can make a good living if you can evolve with it faster than the oddsmakers do. See you next week.