How to evaluate double-digit point spreads

Handicapping college football during this slowly-evolving “juggernaut” era will involve a lot of garbage-time analysis. With somewhere between zero and a few blockbusters on weekly schedules, bettors will be looking for possible value in games involving double-digit point spreads. 

  • Can ranked favorites cover numbers between two and three touchdowns  against possible potholes? This week, #6 Ohio State, #13 Penn State, and #18 Michigan State will have to keep their eyes on the road against upset-minded opponents Indiana, Pittsburgh, and Arizona State. 
  • Can ranked favorites cover numbers in the 22-28 point range against outclassed competition that still has a shot to get lucky? This week, #1 Clemson, #2 Alabama, and #5 Oklahoma are capable of missing the spread by 14 points in either direction depending on focus and execution against Syracuse, South Carolina, and UCLA. 
  • Can ranked favorites cover numbers between 30 and 38 points against non-threats who are hoping to stay healthy for small programs cashing big paychecks? This week,  #3 Georgia, #7 Notre Dame, #8 Auburn, #12 Texas can do what they want against Arkansas State, New Mexico, Kent State, and Rice. 

How do you handicap games where cashing tickets largely depends on what happens when a game is already in hand in the fourth quarter? Here are some keys to study…

Coaching Histories

Over time, head coaches will show you their priorities in these types of games. Some love running up the score, often under the belief that it helps in the polls and the playoff chase. Others will call off the dogs and let backups run clock once a margin range is reached. Study past results to get a read on the coaches at power programs. Remember to focus on the preferences of the current coach, rather than what the program overall has done through the years. Players perform for their coaches, not history books. 

Opposing Passing Attacks

Trailing underdogs who can keep scoring points from behind have a great chance of coming through the back door even if they’re trailing by more than the number in the fourth quarter. It’s okay to take points with quality quarterbacks who won’t give up. Don’t take points with inaccurate, turnover-prone quarterbacks who will dig bigger holes when forced to pass every play.  

Schedule scenarios

Big favorites are prone to lose a step in both “letdown” and “lookahead” situations. If they just went all out in a rare huge game, or if a rare huge game is coming up the following week, it can be tougher to run up a score. Distractions cause mistakes (usually in the form of turnovers and penalties). Markets price favorites to play clean every week. If you’re the type who loves betting favorites, be sure your chalk choice is as excited as you are about this week’s game. 

While you wait for those rare betting attractions matching ranked powers head-to-head, see if you can get the best of the market by owning the fourth quarter of projected mismatches.

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