Burke: Rivalry week handicapping tips

By Adam Burke  (VSiN.com) 

November 24, 2021 11:20 AM
USATSI_15119561

This week is very unique in college football because it is Rivalry Week. While there are rivalry games speckled throughout the schedule, the highest concentration of these games is at the end of the regular season.

I love thinking about situational spots. Hell, I write an article about them every week for college football. However, I’ll also be the first to tell you that we often overrate that angle when it comes to these rivalry games. A lot of times, one team is just a lot better than the other team and will take care of business.

Like anything else, we remember the things that weren’t supposed to happen. We remember the big upsets and it affects our thinking and increases our biases. We don’t really consider the domination, like how a team may have won eight of the last nine or 12 of the last 15. We think about that one time when the big underdog won the game. We look at the “throw the records out” mentality.

We also don’t really think about how the favorite also wants to win the game. It’s not like that team wants the stink of losing the rivalry game at the end of an otherwise successful season. They want to maintain that trophy or those bragging rights. Coaches want to maintain the upper hand in recruiting. They also have boosters and bosses to respond to.

I guess what I’m ultimately saying here is that these are still football games. There are still stats to consider and X’s and O’s to analyze. The lead-up to most of these games will feature a lot of subjective narratives brought about by writers, guys on the team beat, pregame shows, and so on.

The betting odds are still going to be the betting odds based on the power ratings and the positions that the sportsbooks may be looking to take. There is no semblance of “Oh, man! It’s a rivalry game! Lower the favorite two points!” That thought doesn’t even come into the equation.

Yes, maybe a team that has looked half-dead for five weeks steps up. Yes, maybe a few favorites stumble. Yes, maybe we get some earth-shattering upset(s). But those things happen every week, just not in a rivalry context.

One of the most nuanced skills of the business is the ability to brush aside the noise. There is a lot of it, too, and even more of it with legalization across the country and more coverage from the mainstream networks.

Just some food for thought on a week where there are lots of thoughts about food.

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