Clock Management Helping Unders


When most football fans talk about clock management, they're discussing what happens in the final seconds of a half or game when coaches either make the right decisions, or make BONEHEAD decisions that cost their team a loss.

I'm going to talk about clock management today, but it has nothing to do with the final minutes of a half or game. I'm discussing the tendency we're seeing in both college and pro football for teams to run the clock with a lead in a way that shortens games and cuts down on the number of injuries.

The NFL has been focusing on this for awhile, which is why we rarely see Over/Unders in the 50's any more. In fact, totals at 45 or Over have shown an Under tendency for many seasons now because the market hasn't adjusted.

When something works in the NFL, the best college teams copy the approach. So, you're seeing that with the college powers too, particularly those with strong running games and good defenses. Oregon and Stanford may have played a shootout last week. Alabama/Florida was an Under. Iowa/Penn State was an Under. Ohio State/Illinois was an Under. Shootouts have been the exception rather than the rule.

It doesn't hurt that many coaches with NFL experience have come back to the colleges and installed this mindset. Once you see the advantages of protecting a lead and keeping your stars healthy, you're very enthusiastic about the prospect.

Here are the handicapping ramifications of this trend:

*You want to shade your action to Unders, particularly in the games involving good defenses on one side of the ball, and offenses who focus on moving the chains on the other side. They all won't go Under. But, you'll be GETTING THE BEST OF IT with this approach.

*You want to shade your action to UNDERDOGS if your offense has any talent at all. Shortened games means points are at a premium. You regulars know I make my living focusing on underdogs. I'm very happy at this recent development in the sport of football!

*You want to avoid underdogs with poor offenses though. If superior teams know how to erase the clock, then inferior teams never have a chance to get any rhythm going in the first half, and won't have enough garbage time to rally in the second half. Think about Florida and Penn State in the prime time action last week. Those games went quick, and both ended up with fewer than 7 points. If your underdog can't get on the board, it doesn't matter what the spread is.

*You want to bet on the teams who are best at this new approach in games with low spreads. This is how you win these days. And, the top teams can FORCE this style on opponents. That's the important thing. A smart team that can move the chains and shut down opponents is a steal in the +3 to -3 range against an opponent that fires away and hopes for a big play. You're not going to see many superpowers in that price range. Look for mid-level teams under smart head coaches who are just now climbing the ladder in the sport. You can get them cheap. Connecticut would be an example of this in the past few seasons before the line finally caught up. Navy was money in the bank for a few years there for the same reasons.

Think about this as you handicap this weekend's college and pro games. Are you playing too many favorites and Overs (most of you are probably having substandard seasons because you can't help it!)? As you watch all the action on TV, pay attention to which coaches eat up game clock in the second half. Watching all the action this past Saturday Night on the big screen TV's in Vegas really brought home the point. Oregon/Stanford felt like it was out of control. Alabama/Florida was like watching paint dry in comparison. You can win a lot of money at a sportsbook betting on the paint to dry!

by two-time Las Vegas contest winner Tony Salinas


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