Many serious college and professional football bettors have long believed that it’s imperative to consider injuries before pushing the cash across the counter or hitting the “make bet” button on the phone app or computer. Others believe bookmakers have built injuries into the offered betting lines, rendering monitoring of injuries a waste of time and effort.
Although injury information can sometimes be sparse or inaccurate, perhaps attributable to coaching gamesmanship, lots of experienced bettors believe when money is at stake, you’d better pay attention.
Right now in collegiate athletics, there is no conference that provides injury information on its players, in part due to concerns over privacy laws. However in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling in May striking down the federal ban on full-fledged sports wagering outside Nevada, numerous coaches and NCAA athletic directors in major and minor conferences have signaled a tide turn and the possible if not likely future sharing of injury reports.
Sports Betting And College Football Injuries: Reporting Not Yet Mandated But Coming; What to Do With Available Information and ‘Cluster Injuries’ When Betting CFB
The NCAA has not yet announced formal plans for a new injury reporting protocol, as legal experts and university compliance officers study this issue that’s certainly more complex for college football than the NFL, which has a mandated reporting system. A similar system of regular in-depth reports in the NCAA would have the obstacle of privacy for younger athletes.
Savvy bettors when studying the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) have, for the past ten years, relied on that conference’s official injury report. The ACC was the only major conference that did so each week before league games. However, the report’s release was regarded as a gentlemen’s agreement and not an enforceable rule. The league coaches voted in May to stop issuing the injury report to see if and when the NCAA makes a decision on requiring the release of such information by all member schools.
To address college football injuries (we’ll tackle the pro game in an additional installment), Sports Handle spoke to veteran Las Vegas handicapper, bettor, radio host and sport wagering historian Arne K. Lang. (Lang is author of “Sports Betting and Bookmaking – An American History” and current editor of “The Sweet Science,” a boxing website.)
“More and more head coaches, such as Mike Leach at Washington State simply deflects all injuries questions acting like it’s a Pentagon secret and now more and more coaches are following suit,” Lang said. “On the other hand, Florida State would give out an injury report that downplayed injuries treating a broken leg as if it were a hangnail. But their long laundry list of injuries was not trustworthy.”
The Most Underrated, Under-appreciated Unit In College Football Handicapping
In today’s world, every team has dedicated reporters who puts out all manner of information, Lang said. After you find various bloggers you trust and have allowed for the fact that many are “homers,” viewing all team information through that lens, then you have to learn what to do with the information.
“In college football the most underrated unit is the offensive line, so I advise new bettors to pay close attention to that,” Lang said. “A key element in processing your injury information is ‘cluster injuries,’ especially those along the offensive line. That doesn’t mean players next to each other on the offensive line, that means any starter(s) on the offensive line.”
Lang cites a key element pointed out by the handicapping publication “The Gold Sheet” from 50 years ago that more often than not, injuries to linemen, linebackers and the defensive backs can be more detrimental to a team than an injury to a key player because those players work together as a unit and a loss of that teamwork can really hurt the team. “I’d advise bettors to look for these kinds of injuries,” he said.
“To me, two injuries to starters on the offensive line really devastates a team because cohesion is needed for solid play,” he said.
Lang further advises to read (online) the local papers and even the school papers of college teams you may want to bet on to help gather injury information.
Putting Your Fingers on the Right Beat
Regarding specializing on a league or team, Lang said if you want to beat college football that’s a solid tact to take. He said, “There are so many teams and leagues now, it’s impossible to pay close enough attention to all of them. New teams on the betting board such as Coastal Carolina and many others almost make specialization for the serious player a necessity.
“In theory, your bookmaker is going to have a bad line on a Coastal Carolina or a Louisiana Lafayette rather than on a big name school,” Lang advised. However, he said he is reminded of the thoughts of the late Las Vegas handicapper Dave Malinsky who always said “randomness” seems to have a great impact on the lesser teams than the better ones. “That works against you when betting the lower-level teams,” Lang said.
“If you can find a league that’s not prominent where the local paper allows free access to its stories, that’s a good path to follow.”
Lang also addressed the question of whether there’s a formula that gives you a set number of points to deduct for an injured quarterback. “There’s no formula. Some quarterbacks are worth four points and some are only worth half a point.”
“The linemaker always has built the injury to a key player, such as a quarterback into his line, so he’s already done that part of the handicapping equation. My theory is to bet a team that has lost a key player, not the next week, but the week after that. The team with the injuries will overachieve that next week to win or cover. But, if they do, they are likely in for a letdown after that, if those players are out. Then, it’s time to come in against them.”
Other advice for bettors from Lang includes keeping in mind that handicapping college football is an “inexact science.” He also warns that sometimes watching the games themselves can be counter productive. A team is usually not as good as it may have showed the week before or as bad as it was the week before. Thus, studying statistics (a box score) can be more valuable, sometimes, than watching all the games, he said. Often a box score and play-by-play can better reveal the flow of a game, so it’s important to look beneath the obvious to decipher exactly when scoring was produced and the score at the time.
But don’t be fooled by cheap stats recorded when a game was already out of hand, he cautions.
Next time: Handicapping injuries in the NFL.