College sports present some different challenges from the pros in that turnover is typically much greater with rosters, and even coaching staffs, from one season to the next. Evaluating these changes properly is one of the most crucial aspects to season-long success for bettors. A lot of factors can affect a team’s strengths and how much different it might wind up being from the previous season. Among the factors to consider are personnel losses, coaching changes and momentum lost or gained. Sometimes the change is immense. Adding to the difficulty is that many programs are taking players right out of their most recent recruiting classes and plugging them into starting spots.
The 2021 college football season will be different from any in recent memory because the COVID-19 pandemic and its repercussions have introduced some new variables into offseason handicapping. First, and perhaps most importantly, players were granted an extra year of eligibility. This has resulted in a greater number of returning experienced players, or essentially starters. This season could provide an answer to the age-old argument of what means more — raw talent or experience? Second, teams played a widely varying number of games in 2020, anywhere from zero to a full season. How are bettors supposed to accurately judge the mostly incomplete 2020 campaign and the impact it will have this fall? Third, with most games last season played in environments resembling scrimmages, how will the full return of fans affect the players’ motivation?
A couple of weeks ago, I released my College Football Stability Scores for the season. As usual, I was inundated with questions. Most stemmed from the eligibility-rule change and how I thought that might affect the season. No one can tell for sure, but I have been answering with my belief that the gap from the elite to the second-tier teams could close a bit. Teams not affected as much by the loss of talent to the NFL could benefit the most, as they are getting players with an extra year of experience back on the field. Other questions I have fielded usually revolved around changes in coaching staffs and how to interpret won-lost records for teams that didn’t play complete seasons in 2020. The answers are impossible to predict, and we’ll just have to see how the 2021 season plays out.