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Preparing for the New College Football Season

The college football season is relatively short. Most teams start their competitive schedule in late August or early September, and play a maximum of 12 regular season games between then and the end of November. After the leading teams compete in their conference championship game, it’s time for bowl season.

Since the most recent changes to the college football system, bowl season now incorporates the College Football Playoff. The season ends with the College Football Playoff National Championship Game, which is typically played in early January.

All in all, there are around four to five months of competitive NCAA football each year. With so many teams involved, there are obviously a lot of games during this period. This means there are also plenty of opportunities to get their money down and hopefully make some money.

For most people who bet on college football, August to January is the only period that matters. They don’t pay much attention to what’s going on before the regular games start, or after the playoffs have finished. This is a mistake. A lot happens in the months between one season finishing and another starting, and we absolutely SHOULD be paying attention. Otherwise we risk going into the new season completely unprepared.

Making money from betting on football is naturally challenging, which is why we can’t give the bookmakers any unnecessary advantages. They WILL be prepared for the new college football season, and we need to make sure we’re prepared too. The best thing we can do is spend our time during the off season wisely.

Not sure what you should be doing with your time? We’re here to help! In this article, we detail eight things you should be doing during the offseason. Follow the advice we’ve offered here and you’ll be in great shape to profit from your college football betting year after year.

Review Previous Season’s Betting

Now we don’t mean to brag, but we are experienced bettors and we are good at what we do. We’ve had a lot of success over the years, especially with the sports that we know the most about. College football is one such sport, but we never make the mistake of thinking we’ve “cracked it.” There is ALWAYS room for improvement, and even with all our experience we’re still more than capable of making mistakes.

This is why one of the first things we do when a season ends is take some time to review how our betting went. We keep detailed records of our betting and we go over those records very closely to examine what went wrong and went right. This enables us to clearly see which strategies worked the best and which ones we need to substitute in the upcoming season. This process often highlights where we need to improve and in some cases, we can start making those improvements right away.

There are several different ways you can go about reviewing your previous season’s betting activity. We can’t offer a precise blueprint for what you need to do, as it depends on a number of factors. Ultimately, it’s your responsibility to come up with a system that meets your unique betting needs. Here are some steps you’ll definitely want to incorporate though.

  • Separate the serious wagers from the casual ones
  • Categorize wagers by type
  • Categorize wagers by conference
  • Categorize wagers by odds
  • Track performance at different stages

Most bettors find themselves making several wagers throughout the college football season that are not based on proper handicapping or sound reasoning. Maybe you find yourself placing a wager to make watching a game more exciting or maybe you decide to place a wager based solely on a hunch. Separating these wagers from the serious ones achieves two things.

First, you’ll know which wagers you need to actually analyze. There’s no point in over analyzing the casual ones, as this won’t actually teach you anything. Second, you’ll find out whether your casual wagers are costing you too much money. There’s no harm in placing a few casual wagers throughout a season, as betting should always remain fun. Just make sure they’re not causing too much damage to your bankroll.

Categorizing wagers by type, conference and odds will provide some insight into where you have the most (and least) success. For example, you might discover that your results when betting totals are very good, or that your results when betting moneylines are inconsistent. You might find that there’s a particular conference you tend to do well with, or that you don’t have great success when backing underdogs. This kind of information can be invaluable when trying to assess where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Tracking your performance at different stages of the season can also provide some useful insight into your strengths and weaknesses. If you find that your early season results are quite poor, for example, that might suggest that you need to spend more time preparing for the off season. If you find that you started the season well but then results started to get worse, it might be that you were putting too much emphasis on current form and not enough on the underlying information.

Basically, reviewing the previous season’s betting will give you some excellent pointers on what to do for the following season. You can choose to concentrate on what you’re clearly good at, or work on making improvements to the weaker parts of your betting. Ideally you should do a combination of both these things.

Hone Your Handicapping Skills

The next step we like to take during the offseason is also based around self-improvement. We always spend time looking for ways to expand our overall knowledge and enhance our handicapping skills. Again, the fact that we’re very experienced doesn’t mean that we should ever stop trying to learn even more. So, regardless of whether you’re a seasoned bettor or just starting out, you should constantly be looking to learn as much you can.

What’s the best way to improve our skills and knowledge?
Reading, reading and more reading!

There are tons of written resources that are useful for learning more about football betting in general, the strategy involved and the various handicapping techniques that can be applied. You’re reading one of the very best right now! Our football betting guide is packed full of information and advice that WILL help you improve your football betting skills.

We’re constantly updating and expanding it, so it’s something you should refer to on a regular basis. The offseason is a great time to go through the guide in detail. Since the basics are so essential, it never hurts to review them. Who knows? You might learn something new or remember something you had forgotten.

As good as our guide is, we can’t pretend that it’s the ONLY resource worth reading. In fact, we actively encourage our readers to utilize other resources. There are other high quality websites that feature valuable information and advice, in addition to numerous books about football betting. By gathering information from a variety of different sources, we gain a more balanced and complete knowledge base.

We enjoy reading forums and websites that feature in-depth discussions between other people who follow college football closely. For example, we spend a lot of time reading through the dedicated college football section on Reddit. We do this during the actual season as well as during the offseason.

During the season, this helps us understand how others view certain teams and players and their performances. It’s also fun to participate in their weekly betting discussion thread. During the offseason, it’s useful to understand what others are making of any changes the teams are undergoing, and how they rate their chances for the coming season.

We can also try to improve our handicapping skills by testing new theories and strategies.

The offseason is an ideal time to try to come up with new theories and strategies that might help us, and then put them to the test. For example, we once came up with the theory that favorites were almost always overvalued in games that were expected to be a shoot-out. We’d noticed a few spots where both teams had plenty of offensive firepower, but questionable defenses, and the underdog always APPEARED to be getting more points than they should.

Did you notice we said, “appeared?” This was just an instinctive feeling, and not one that was supported by hard data. We needed to put this theory to the test to see if there was actually anything in it. So, we started by identifying a sizable cross-section of relevant games from the previous season. We were looking specifically for games where both offensive lines were highly rated, and defensive units were considered average or worse. Having identified a big enough sample size of games, we then looked at how often the favorite covered the spread and how often the underdog covered.

Our test was inconclusive. The underdogs HAD covered more often than the favorites, suggesting that our theory was sound. It was only marginal though, so it wouldn’t actually have an impact on the way we bet. We played around with narrowing down the criteria to see if we could come up with a working strategy based on the basic theory, but we never managed to do so.

Now, in this instance we didn’t gain anything tangible. It was a worthwhile process though, as we at least had one more theory to rule out. Other times we’ve run tests that HAVE been conclusive, and they’ve helped us develop new strategies and fine-tune existing ones. Don’t be afraid to run some tests for yourself, as you might just learn something valuable that can help you in the seasons to come.

Analyze Performances from Previous Season

This is one of the most important steps to take during the offseason. We put an enormous amount of effort into thoroughly analyzing the performances of teams and players during the previous season. After all, for the most part, these are going to be the same teams and players that we’ll be betting on in the upcoming season.

Although this is something we do each week DURING the season, we typically have more time in the off season to look at performances more closely. By looking at the whole season collectively, we can get a more complete picture of what each team and player is capable of. We’re also likely to spot a few things that we missed during the season, as we’re not working under the same time constraints.

There are three primary sources that we use when analyzing previous season performances. These are as follows.

  • Statistics
  • Game reports
  • Season reviews in the media

The statistics are the best place to start in our opinion. They can tell us a great deal about how players and teams have performed over the course of the season, providing we know to interpret football statistics effectively. We generally focus on the most basic stats first, as they allow us to make an overall assessment of how good each team was. They also provide some insight as to what each team’s main strengths and weaknesses are. We’ll then use the more advanced statistics to gain a better understanding of WHY each team performed as they did.

Top Tip:
Although there are plenty of places to find the relevant statistics, we recommend using the stats section of the NCAA website. We are confident that the data they present is accurate.

Game reports can be very useful too, especially the detailed ones. We rarely go over every single game for a team, unless there’s a very good reason to do so. Instead, we focus on a selection of games that are likely to give us the most insight. We tend to look at the biggest victories and/or the biggest defeats, for example, to see what led to these results.

We also look at the games against opposition that was either on a similar level or better. This helps us understand how teams perform when they’re being challenged. Any big rivalry games, or games with a lot riding on them, are worth examining too, as they can tell us how well teams perform when the pressure is on.

Because we’ve been betting on college football for so many years, we can remember a time when we used to save newspaper reports on games to go through at the end of the season. Thankfully, we don’t have that hassle these days. Most of the major sports media outlets publish game reports on their websites, and it’s easy to go online and find the ones we want during the offseason. For games outside of the biggest conferences we often have to rely on the local media. Still, just about any information we need can be found online.

We use both the national sports media and the local media for finding season reviews too. Again, just about any review we’re looking for can be found online and the best ones can provide us with valuable insight. We typically find the most value in season reviews that focus on a specific team, but those that summarize an entire conference can be useful too.

Analyzing previous season performances can be a very time consuming affair. This highlights why it’s important to be selective in terms of the number of teams or conferences you focus on when betting on college football. It’s simply not realistic to think that you can properly analyze every single NCAA football team each and every year.

Assess Changes to Rosters & Coaching Staff

Although the previous step is undoubtedly one of the most useful things we can do during the offseason, we do want to point out that it is somewhat limited. It’s obviously beneficial to understand as much as possible about how well or badly each team performed during the previous season, but there’s one key point that you should always keep in mind.

College football teams can undergo A LOT of changes between seasons.

All college football teams make some adjustments to their roster during the close season. There will be players who are moving on from college, maybe even making the NFL draft, and of course there’ll be a new intake of players too. Some teams even undergo changes to their coaching staff.

Changes to the roster and coaching staff obviously have an impact on a team. It’s vital that we assess those changes at some point during the offseason, and try to understand just how big that impact will be for each team. Unfortunately, this is not an easy task. If the changes are minimal, we can usually make an accurate prediction about whether those changes will have a positive or negative impact. But when there are lots of changes, determining their effect becomes even more difficult.

Let’s say a team lost most of its best players for example. Without an influx of fresh talent, it’s reasonably safe to just assume that they’re not going to be at the same level. But what if they have some promising new players coming in? Or some quality existing players that are about to become starters? It’s tough to know whether those players are going to start performing right away. One of the biggest challenges we face when betting on college football is trying to assess first year starters.

A similar principle can apply when a team changes its coaching staff. Even when a new head coach is very good at what he does, it’s rare that he will have a positive impact on his team’s performance right from the start. It’s even more rare if he’s part of a complete overhaul of the entire staff. It can take time to get a team to adjust to new ideas.

While we recognize that assessing what kind of impact the changes college football teams undergo in between seasons is extremely difficult, you still have to try your best. This is a key part of your preparation for the upcoming season, and one that should not be ignored or undervalued.

Don’t jump to conclusions! If a team has lost some good players, don’t automatically assume they’re going to be awful. If a team has a well-respected and talented head coach coming in, don’t automatically think he’s going to make instant improvements.

There’s one final point to make here too. If you’re genuinely struggling to work out what kind of impact a team’s changes are likely to have, don’t be afraid to leave your assessment until they’ve played a few times in the upcoming season. You don’t HAVE to bet on their early games if you can’t make an accurate prediction about how that team is likely to perform. It’s much better to save your money, and wait until you have more confidence in your views.

Pay Attention to Spring Practice

We’ve discussed how it can be difficult to assess the annual changes that all college football teams make. There’s something we like to do to make this process a little easier, and that’s to pay close attention to what happens during spring practice. This can give us some additional insight into how a team is looking and how strong they are likely to be in the upcoming season.

In order to get value from this process, it’s extremely important that you fully understand how spring practice works. Yes, analyzing spring practice can offer you some valuable information but there are some aspects to it that you just simply can’t read too much in to.

Take the spring games that most teams play for example. These can be useful for gauging how far along a team is in its development, and which players are likely to be getting the most game time during the upcoming season. They can also tell us whether a team is trying to correct any weaknesses that were exposed in the previous season, or whether they’re focusing on their strengths. They give us some idea of how disciplined a team is, and what kind of playing style the coach is promoting.

However, these spring games typically feature imbalanced teams and very basic play-calling. Since no coach wants to risk their players being injured this early on, they never ask their players to go above and beyond. That’s why it’s difficult to use these games to judge individual player performance or a team’s intensity and work ethic.

So the spring games are useful, but only to a certain extent. What about the rest of the practice period? If the games are very limited in what they can tell us, then it must be safe to assume that everything else that happens is even less important. We understand how people come to this conclusion, but it’s not very accurate. A lot of what’s going on is actually very useful when it comes to forming our views for the following season, providing that we have access to the right information of course.

This is where the top beat writers can provide real value.

Most college football teams, even the smaller ones, have at least a couple of beat writers who follow them closely. These writers typically know everything there is to know about “their” team, and often have direct links to the players and coaching staff. The pieces they write during spring practice can be very insightful, and well worth reading.

We always have to be a little wary of relying too heavily on the opinions of others of course, but there are some occasions when other’s opinions need to be taken into consideration. Spring practice is one of those occasions. The best beat writers REALLY know their stuff, and their opinions can be very valuable. Ignore them at your own risk!

Check the Preseason Polls

Before the college football season starts each year, a number of preseason polls are released. These basically reflect the views of certain groups of people, in terms of how they rank teams for the upcoming season. Some of these polls are informal, while others are considered to be very important. The two most respected polls are as follows.

  • Associated Press Poll (AP Poll)
  • Coaches Poll

Both of these polls rank the top 25 teams from the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision. So they’re essentially ranking the best college football teams in the country. As well as being released during preseason, they’re also updated on a weekly basis as the season progresses. Prior to the College Football Playoff System that was introduced in 2014, they were used as part of the voting system to determine which teams would play in the National Championship Game.

The AP Poll is carried out among 65 chosen sportswriters and broadcasters. The Coaches Poll is carried out among 62 head coaches of Division I teams. It’s safe to say that the people contributing to these polls are extremely knowledgeable, and that their views have merit. That’s why we like to look at these polls in the preseason and compare them to our own assessments.

Of course, if our own assessments are significantly different from what the polls say, then we don’t automatically assume that we’re wrong. We will typically revisit things though, to make sure that we haven’t missed anything vital or got things horribly wrong.

Another advantage of looking at these polls is that they’ll help us predict how the public are likely to be betting during the early part of a season. A lot of recreational bettors view these polls as a reliable guide to which teams are going to do well and which teams are not, and they make their betting decisions accordingly. This can affect the odds and lines, which can often create value in going against the popular opinion.

Here are some other points to bear in mind when checking out the preseason polls.

  • It’s not just the major polls that have value
  • No poll should be considered 100% accurate
  • Things can change AFTER the polls are released
  • The list of “others receiving votes” can also be useful

As we’ve already mentioned, the AP Poll and the Coaches Poll are the two most respected polls. That’s why they usually get the most attention. There are several other polls released during the preseason too though. For example, a number of sports media outlets compile their own rankings. These can have some value too, and so can polls that are based on specific conferences.

Regardless of which polls you’re looking at, don’t ever put your trust in them entirely. Polls are another example of where expert opinion is worth taking into account, but always remember that your own opinion is valuable too. Although the people voting for these polls are obviously very knowledgeable, their views are always going to be subjective to some extent. And just as you only have so much information to go on before a season starts, so do they.

It’s also important to remember that some of these polls are released well in advance of the new season. Things can certainly change between the time the polls are released and the start of the next season. This reinforces the fact that they shouldn’t be considered 100% accurate.

Our final piece of advice here is to go beyond the top 25 that most polls feature. There will usually be a list of “others receiving votes” included too, so take a look at that as well. It can help direct your attention towards teams that you may have otherwise overlooked.

Take a Break & Reassess

It’s a good idea to take a break from all things related to college football at some point during the offseason. We like to do this AFTER we’ve done everything else we’ve discussed in this article so far. The perfect time to take a break is once we’ve done all the necessary research and analysis, and formed our opinions about each team we’re planning to bet on.

Taking a break every now and then is always sensible, but there’s a specific reason for doing so after we’ve done most of our close season work.  It allows us to come back and reassess our opinions with a fresh perspective. It causes us to notice things that we hadn’t previously noticed, or realize that our thinking is not quite on point in some areas. We don’t change our opinions for the sake of it, of course, but we do find that it helps to take time to reflect on everything we have learned in order to make sure our opinions are as sound as they possibly can be.

Having reconsidered as necessary, we’re very close to being as prepared as we can be for the new college football season. There’s now just one step left.

Form Plans for the Upcoming Season

Preparation and planning go hand in hand, so it makes perfect sense that the final step when preparing for a new season is to form our plans for what we’re going to do and how we’re going to do it. Some of these plans need to remain flexible for practical reasons, but there are some that we like to get locked down. These are as follows.

  • The size of the bankroll we’re allocating to the new season
  • What staking plan we’re going to use
  • Which conferences we’re going to focus on
  • Which teams we’ll be following most closely

Once we’ve made decisions on these things, we’ll only deviate from our plans in exceptional circumstances. There shouldn’t be any need to change the size of our bankroll or adjust our staking plan, unless things go exceptionally badly or exceptionally well. And it doesn’t make much sense to switch our focus from the conferences we’ve planned to bet on, or the teams we’ve planned to follow. So, for the most part, these things should be pretty much set in stone.

We also like to plan the following, but we’re more flexible when it comes to these.

  • Which strategies we’re going to apply
  • Which resources we’re going to use
  • Which betting sites we’re going to bet with

It’s never a good idea to be completely committed to a specific set of strategies. We don’t like to chop and change strategies on a whim, or simply because they haven’t delivered instant results, but there are times when we have to accept that things aren’t working. If a strategy is genuinely proving to be ineffective, then we need to address that. It might just need some minor adjustments, or it might need to be ditched. This can be difficult to do, especially when we’ve had success with this strategy in the past. Unfortunately, all strategies have the potential to stop working for one reason or another, and sticking with them will only end up costing you money.

We always try to settle on what we think will be the best resources to use for our research and analysis, but we have to be open-minded here too. If a resource stops being valuable for whatever reason, or a better one comes along, then clearly we need to make a change.

A similar principle applies to our preferred betting sites too. We always use a selection of different sites throughout a season, and ideally those sites will remain consistent in terms of the service they provide. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case. Even the very best sites can allow their standards to drop sometimes. That’s why we at GamblingSites.com work hard to maintain accurate and UP-TO-DATE rankings of the leading sites. We want our readers to be able to confidently join a site on our recommended list, knowing that it’s one of the top options at that moment in time.

BEST FOOTBALL BETTING SITES

As recommended by GamblingSites.com

Before we bring this article to a close, there’s just one final piece of advice we’d like to offer you. No matter how well prepared you are for a college football season, it’s never going to be easy to take the bookmakers on and win. They’re extremely good at what they do, and they make it as hard as possible for us bettors to find value and make consistent profits.

It CAN be done of course, and the information and advice in this article and the rest of our football betting guide will certainly help you. But as this article is all about preparation, make sure that you’re prepared to lose. Although you should definitely shoot for success, don’t expect it. That can lead to all kinds of disappointment and frustration, which are negative emotions that you can do without.

An unsuccessful betting season can happen to anyone, even the very best bettors, so you don’t want to beat yourself up if one happens to you. Instead, you should just keep working on your betting and try to improve. With the right approach and attitude, you’re very likely to achieve your goals eventually.