Insights into College Football Handicapping – with MEGALOCKS – Phil Roeder

College Football was always intriguing to me and I also capped it on my own at times in the past, but I never completely got into it. Back in the years when I was still posting my NFL picks and write-ups in the Covers NFL forums, I often checked out the College Football forums on Saturdays to get some quick information. One poster name always popped up immediately: MEGALOCKS. That guy flat out dominated College Football and posted incredible analysis on a lot of games. Nowadays he runs his own website where he posts all his write-ups, team previews and picks and also interacts with his members – equally to this website for the NFL. Well, I wanted to get to know more about College Football handicapping and got him in for an interview: 

MEGA, how did you get into college football handicapping?

First of all, thanks for the opportunity to share my thoughts with you! I was introduced to the NFL and College Football at a pretty young age. Football was on TV every Sunday as were the college games on many Saturdays and during bowl season. When I wasn’t outside playing all kinds of sports, especially Football and Hockey, I was often watching Football with my dad and whomever else was around. I loved numbers and stats even back then and took advantage of all the reading material my dad would supply thanks to his client that produced Football programs. As I moved into my teens I still loved the NFL but found the excitement of College Football to be pretty addictive, and I loved the fact that there were so many teams, and almost nobody where I grew up (outside Toronto) knew much at all about College Football. It felt cool to be an “expert”, or at least a legend in my own mind!

I started picking games against the spread in my dad’s office pool back when I was around 10 years old. For real, I remember sneaking into the TV room at the hospital after getting my tonsils out checking in on the Monday Night Football score and paying no attention to the books and toys. The Eagles were up big. Nice. They ended up beating the Giants 35-3 and I went 12-2 ATS. Too easy, right?

A favorite hobby growing up was playing sports simulation games (stat based) and especially College Football. I handicapped College Football on and off starting in my late teen years and really started to develop a passion for it in my 20s. The number of games and variety of styles of play, not to mention the passion and excitement, had officially hooked me for life. I have seen over 60 FBS teams play live, been to a National Title game (Florida,Oklahoma) and eight Orange Bowls.

So here I am today, running a website and talking College Football with an incredible community of passionate fans and friends. I feel truly blessed to be able to do this full-time. Handicap games, write season previews, do game analysis, chat with other handicappers, help people out. It’s just really cool.

There are so many teams and games each Saturday. Do you narrow the card down at the beginning of the week or do you look at each game each week?

That is a great question, and one that I get a lot! The number one key is doing your research before the season starts. In my opinion there is no way to handicap all the games every week without having a solid foundation before the season starts. Know the teams. Pick out favorable and unfavorable scheduling spots. Make note of teams you think will be underrated and overrated. There is a lot to do before the season starts. Once you have a solid foundation to build upon, it is relatively easy to eliminate a bunch of games right away. There are different ways to filter the potential list of games, but I usually eliminate horrible mismatches, games between FBS and FCS teams, games that involve teams that I am not sure about, match-ups where the point spread looks right and there are no strong intangibles for either side. Those are just some examples. That usually cuts the list down nicely. Then I go to work and start my detailed work on all the games. It takes a long time but I really enjoy it. When I started out I only focused on a couple of conferences and that made things easier to manage.

In your opinion, what are the biggest differences between NCAA and NFL handicapping?

There are a number of key differences, the most significant of which in my view is the variety of offensive styles that are used throughout the college game. It makes things really challenging but really interesting. Not to mention profitable if you can understand match-ups. There are fast-paced passing attacks, triple option teams, ground-and-pound, and numerous versions and combinations. Quarterback mobility is also a much bigger factor in my handicapping than it is in the NFL. It is critical to know the teams and their strengths and weaknesses. Another big difference is the gap between the top teams and bottom feeders. It is not uncommon to see 35+ point spreads in College Football. Other important distinctions include the increased importance of motivation in College Football and the fact that they are just kids and cannot be expected to operate with the ruthless efficiency of NFL players. There are many other differences but that is a good start. The good news is that there are well over a hundred FBS teams to look at and it is much easier (but still difficult!) to find weaknesses in the point spreads and totals. I don’t know how you NFL guys find value in the marketplace with the abundance of information and the limited number of teams.

When it comes to the NFL, I use a lot of psychological and situational approaches – letdown, scheduling, travelling etc. In College Football, most athletes are between 18 and 21 years old. I would imagine there is a much higher impact on the psyche. Do you incorporate that in your handicapping process?

Absolutely. In fact I do a detailed schedule analysis of every team before the season starts so that I do not lose sight of some potential “bet on” and “bet against” situations. In my view, that is the biggest edge you can find over the point spread in College Football. Teams can have a significant talent edge but completely misfire due to motivational and scheduling factors.

I always notice that College Football markets are very volatile each week. More volatile than NFL for sure. Do you think it’s an advantage in regard of getting the best lines or can it also be to your disadvantage?

In my view, there is a lot of volatility in College Football lines for a couple of reasons. First, people overreact to injuries because there is not a lot of information on the quality of the backups. Second, people are just not as knowledgeable about College Football teams and they overreact to “news”, “steam” and other similarly overrated factors in terms of covering the number. You always want to to get the best number (positive closing line value; +CLV) but it is not the reason why you win or lose an individual bet. The line moves in my direction most of the time but not all of the time! I just do the work, ignore the noise and watch the game. Things work out!

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