Studying Pace on the College Gridiron
College football totals are an area where sharp bettors can find a significant edge with the right approach. Handicappers are constantly looking for change. Why? Change leads to opportunities to find an edge. When a team is playing differently than the market has them pegged, the bettors that realize it before everyone else are going to get rewarded. With totals in college football, there are plenty of changes from year-to-year. The biggest change we see is with new head coaches and offensive and defensive coordinators. New coaches bring in new systems. Those new systems often change the style of play and that directly impacts scoring (and totals!).
Everyone remembers how Chip Kelly turned Oregon into a fast-paced scoring machine during his brief tenure. OVERS in Ducks games were an astounding 34-16 during the four years Kelly was at the helm. Had you identified this dynamic shift taking place early on, you would have been greatly rewarded as a bettor. Not all schools experience drastic overhauls like this, but there are lots of smaller changes every season that reward those who pay attention.
There were 21 head coaching changes for the 2018 college football season and more than twice as many coordinator changes. All of those moves have the potential to change the dynamics of an offense or defense. Take the time to study each coach’s resume to figure out what approach he may take for the upcoming season. These guys don’t change very much throughout their career. They find a successful system they like and they are hired to implement it. Admittedly, most of the catalysts for scoring changes will come from the offensive side of the ball where teams can control the pace of play. There are a few different variables to focus on early in when studying a team’s offense under a new coach. First off, we want to get an idea of the run/pass splits. Running plays obviously eat up more clock than passes, so we want to know how much this ratio differs from last season. Pace is also huge. How many seconds are teams using between each play. The easiest way to calculate this is to take time of possession and divide it by the total plays ran. There are more sophisticated ways to calculate pace, but this is good enough to get you the data that you need. Play calling is the third major variable. Is the new coach aggressive in taking shots downfield or is he intent on just moving the chains methodically? The players on the field may also be a lot better or worse than projected, so we need to focus on efficiency as well.
Looking at the data in the first couple of games will give you a feel for what’s to come for the rest of the season. Try not to pay too much attention to how many points are being scored, however. There is a ton of noise when looking solely at points. Yards per play is much more predictive than points, but it’s the pace that is the real key to betting totals. It’s likely that the linesmakers and betting markets are focused too much on what happened last season and not enough on the changes that have taken place. You have to track these new systems and get a feel for how things are going to play out before the rest of the betting markets do. The early bird gets the worm.
One head coach to keep an eye on in terms of changing the pace is Willie Taggart at Florida St. He has a great offensive mind and a lot of talent to work with. Taggart will certainly pick up the tempo and keep the opposing defenses on their toes the entire game. His track record has been phenomenal and he’ll likely outperform the already high expectations placed on him. Keep in mind that his predecessor Jimbo Fisher was extremely conservative offensively.
Look for new head coach Taggart to help cash some OVER tickets in Seminoles games this season.