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NFL Exhibition and College Football
by Bovada Sportsbook

NFL Exhibition has increased in handle dramatically in recent years. It used to be that the only bettors this time of year were professionals trying to catch a few early wins using information from sources that bookmakers may not have access to. Sharp bettors would listen to local radio broadcasts, read local papers, etc. in an effort to find out how long certain key players would be in the game and bet before the books found out. Now, this information is given willingly by coaches at press conferences and spread across the Internet so quickly that there is little time for anyone to take advantage of it. The result of the wide distribution of this information is a huge increase in the number of people betting on these games. I think betting has made football more exciting for a lot of fans and for them, September is just too far away!

Anyways, with respect to using preseason football to judge regular season success, I pay very little attention to wins and losses, as a lot of that has to do with politics. If a team had a great year, has brought back the same starters and coaches, and has sold out their season tickets, then they really have no reason to have to win their exhibition games. For those teams, the preseason is a time for the starters to run a few plays to work on their timing, work on some new formations, or to evaluate draft picks to build depth on the bench. For teams that struggled last year, or have new starters/coaches, and have loads of tickets left, the preseason takes on a more important role. Going 4-0 or 3-1 might help build confidence for fans (and ownership) and coaches in these situations make more of an attempt to win. Thus a 4-0 preseason team could very easily be worse than the squad that goes 0-4 in their exhibition games. Keep this in mind when you are betting preseason or looking to extrapolate exhibition results across a 16-game schedule.

What I do look for in preseason football are intangibles. How well does a team tackle? Does the offense look like its timing is down? Are there any players getting frustrated or arguing? If there are new coaches, how do the returning starters appear to be adjusting to the new system? I also like to watch specific rookies, to see how they are handling the adjustment to the size and speed of the pro game. Again, the actual score doesn't matter that much to me, but a few notes scribbled in the margin can give you a big edge in September when you are undecided on a bet or a pick for your football pool.

That brings me to college football, where there is no pre - season for most teams anyways. One of the coolest things about college football is that teams have the ability to manipulate their schedules. Some choose to open with easy games (or even stack their whole schedule with soft teams) while others look to make a big splash with a big opponent to kick things off.

College teams don't have any official preseason schedule so in the absence of an unboarded game there is no film to look at prior to making your first bet. There are also no opportunities for new starters to play at game speed before they are playing for real. This makes the number of returning starters a critical factor and as a result that stat is now included in most of the good college preview magazines.

5Dimes Sportsbook