Winning football bettors use a tremendous amount of research, data, and work to beat the sports books. They understand that in order to consistently beat the books they have to outwork and outsmart them.
Anyone can accumulate mountains of data and statistics, but just having the information doesn’t make it valuable. The problem is determining which data is useful and which you should ignore.
Here are a few general rules followed by a more in depth look at using historical football data.
How Old is the Data?
The older the data is, the less likely it will help you. With the turnover of players in the current NFL and NCAA cultures, data from four years or older rarely will have any significance to the current season. It’s rare to find more than 20% of a team made up of the same main players from four years prior.
My general rule of thumb is to only consider data from the past two years. Even when considering recent statistics I always consider who the main players were that contributed to the data set I’m looking at and if they’re still on the team, healthy, and not reaching an age where their performance can start suffering.
For example, college teams’ change quarterbacks at least every four years. Most schools change them every year or two. Offensive statistics, particularly passing stats, will change from quarterback to quarterback.
The best sports bettors also know that quarterback play directly affects running back statistics. If a quarterback throws too many interceptions it can put a team behind so much that they can’t run as much. Just because a college team has a good running back doesn’t mean a quarterback can’t change the runners output.
You also have to consider the head coach, offensive coordinator, and defensive coordinator for any research you are doing with historical data. Players have the most to do with on field statistics and trends, but coaches can and do change things to some degree.
Defensive stats are often overlooked by struggling sports bettors. I’m fairly certain this is because offensive numbers are more exciting and more readily available. Winning sports bettors consider everything at their disposal and this includes defensive statistics.
The defensive coordinator has a great deal to do with the performance of the defense. If a defense has a coordinator with a strong track record and average or better defensive players you can expect the defense to play well.
The historical defensive statistics I keep track of include yards per carry, yards per pass attempt, points per game, and time on the field. Time of possession is kept for offenses so you can figure the defenses time on the field by deducting the offenses time of possession from the total time of the game.
Notice that I don’t put much stock on interceptions, sacks, and how many points the defense scored. These are all hard to track in a useful way. Sacks are somewhat trackable and relevant from year to year, but interceptions and defensive points scored can vary a great deal from year to year.
Sacks are often attributed to individual players, but some defensive schemes create more sacks than others. For example, a team that blitzes more will tend to have more sacks. But they also may give up more big plays.
I consider the same types of stats when looking at historical offensive data. Look at the track record of the offensive coordinator and the personnel.
Tracking yards per carry, yards per pass attempt, and points per game from recent years can be helpful.
Don’t overlook the quality of the offensive line. It’s hard to get statistics that tell you how good or bad an offensive line is, but you can consider yards per carry and total sacks allowed.
If a running back doesn’t have any holes to run through and a quarterback is getting hit before he can throw it doesn’t matter how good they are. A good offensive line makes average skill position players look good and a poor offensive line makes good skill position players look average.
Develop a list of the best offensive lineman and follow off season player movement.
Special NCAA Considerations
Even though players come and go every four years in college football, there are certain things that tend to be consistent from year to year. For example, Ohio State has traditionally had strong offensive lines and good running backs. For years Penn State was known for their superior linebacker play.
When big market schools like these maintain the same coaching staffs they’re able to recruit players to replace the ones who graduate. You still need to study the current players, but this is a place where historical data can really pay off.
Historical Player Specific Data
Tracking individual player performance is often easier than figuring out overall team performance when considering historical data. But even player stats can change dramatically from year to year.
I’ve already mentioned many of the reasons individual stats change like different offensive lines or different coaches but players also get injured and wear down as they age.
I always track not only whose teams sign during free agency but also who they draft in the top three or four rounds. It can be telling when a team with a strong running back who is aging drafts a running back. It doesn’t always mean he is getting replaced but the team may be planning to give him a reduced work load in the upcoming season.
Running backs also tend to decline quickly once they start slipping. A back can go from a rushing title contender to out of the league in two or three seasons.
Don’t put too much stock in historical football data, but learn to use the details that can make a difference in the current season. Use the information that everyone else is ignoring to find an edge you can use to make more profitable sports bets.