College Football Powderkegs
'GETTING THE BEST OF IT'
With handicapping legend Tony Salinas
FIVE COLLEGE FOOTBALL TEAMS
WITH CHIPS ON THEIR SHOULDERS
I've said many teams that if you tell a large group of young men that they 'can't' do something, they'll go out of their way to try and prove you wrong.
That's why I focus much of my handicapping energy on underdogs. A fired up underdog is usually going to get the money. An underdog that's getting disrespected is going to bring peak intensity to a game. An underdog that's developed an 'us against the world' mentality is the kind of team that will make history.
As I was doing my preparation for college football this summer, I noticed that we're going to have a very interesting set of circumstances this season. There are at least FIVE teams who are traditionally favorites who may develop an 'us against the world' mentality. All are dealing with challenges this offseason. All have recruited a lot of talent. Many are now dealing with naysayers within their own alumni who are warning that 2011 better not be a disaster after everything that's happened in the past several months.
Take a look at these teams who have been in the headlines for the wrong reasons, yet might be ready to hit the ground running in September.
*OREGON was the national runner-up last year, losing a heartbreaker to Auburn in the BCS championship game. Since then, they've been dealing with constant reports about fishy recruiting practices, players who sometimes lack a certain respect for the law, and an overall lack of discipline on the team. Some in the media are talking about an implosion this year if the lid blows off. You can bet that the Oregon players who were angered about losing to Auburn will be channeling that energy into on the field intensity.
*OHIO STATE has been in the news almost every week given what happened with Terrelle Pryor, many players, and ultimately head coach Jim Tressel. The Buckeyes will now have to play 2011 with a new quarterback and a new head coach. Locals are telling them they have 'no chance' to win the Big Ten or the national championship as a result. You tell a team they have 'no chance,' and they'll be dying to make you eat those words.
*TEXAS is hoping to bounce back off a stunning 2010 that nobody saw coming. Many in the media think the quarterback still isn't very good (and he threw a big interception right away in the Spring game televised on ESPN). Some thought Will Muschamp was the brains behind the program rather than head coach Mack Brown. There are A LOT of coaches and players with this program who have something to prove in 2011.
*FLORIDA is the new home of Will Muschamp. There are many in Gainesville who don't trust him yet. There's also a lot of concern about the quarterback at this program given last year's poor play. With Meyer gone, and former assistant Dan Mullen now doing great things at Mississippi State, there's a feeling in the Sunshine State that the glory days may be over. You know the great athletes that were recruited within the last few years plan to have something to say about that.
*USC joins the list of national championship contenders from the 2000-2010 era that are now fighting just to maintain some respect. The Trojans plays was embarrassing at times last year, particularly on defense. And, we have another program that has stopped hyping who they thought was going to be a superstar quarterback. Head coach Lane Kiffin is tired of all the bad press he's been getting too.
These are FIVE programs that feature:
*Four embattled head coaches and a brand new guy at Ohio State who's been thrown into the deep end.
*Three oft-criticized quarterbacks, one new quarterback, and only the Oregon signal caller who comes in off a successful season.
*Defenses in Texas and USC that lost their swagger last year, one in Florida that only returns 3 starters, and one in Ohio State that only returns 4 starters.
These teams generally get respected by oddsmakers even in the worst of times. Are we looking at five 'chip on the shoulder' FAVORITES who may be worth backing because of an 'us against the world' mentality this year?
I'll tell you this. I think at least one of these teams is going to have a huge season as they make up for lost time. I think at least one other team is going to struggle even worse than people imagined. And, I think I'll be able to make money on or against ALL FIVE of these spotlight teams this year because I'll be watching them closely out of the gate.
If you plan on making money as a football handicapper this year, be sure you're thinking about the emotional elements that are in play entering the 2011 season. There are going to be success stories from 2010 that fall flat on their faces because they rested on their laurels. There are going to be new coaches who inspire immediate improvement, and others who are in over their heads. Don't just look at returning starters and think you're prepared for the season. Spend July and August digging for the real factors that will determine who's going to win and cover this year.
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