Conference Championship Primer
LAS VEGAS, NV (TheSpread) - College football conference weekend features seven games including four being played on neutral sites.
When you handicap these games, make sure you understand several key factors before making your selection.
The first key tip in handicapping these conference championship games is making sure these teams didn't play in the regular season. This week for example, there's just one game that features a rematch. Stanford (-6.5) beat Arizona State 42-28 at home on Sept. 21. It's difficult for a good team to beat another quality opponent twice in one year.
Another important factor is playing neutral site games. Most teams do not play neutral site games during the regular season so this will be the first neutral site game for most teams. Arizona State actually lost to Notre Dame from Arlington, TX. but they are playing the Pac-12 Championship game from Tucson, Ariz.
Rice played Houston at Reliant Stadium, but they are playing the Conference USA Championship game at home in Houston.
Make sure you check the neutral sites and whether they are much closer to one school than another. If they have the edge in fans, that could be give them a distinct advantage.
Another key factor is determining how important this game is to the team. In other words, if they already have a bowl spot locked up, they might not be playing for much other than the pride. But for the most part, these games are extremely important for each team. It's not just about winning a trophy. Auburn and Missouri, for example, are playing for more than just another bowl game. The winner could be playing for the BCS Championship depending on how Ohio State performs against Michigan State and Florida State does against Duke.
There are also teams with nothing to lose. Some might be a huge underdog (Duke), where nobody expected them to make it this far. If they lose, everybody expected them to lose and they'll wind up in some decent bowl game.
Injuries are a factor in every college game, especially this late in the season. But one thing handicappers tend to overlook is the experience of the coaches. Experienced coaches understand what it's like to prepare their teams mentally and physically for a big game, while inexperienced coaches may not have the same grasp on what their team needs to get prepared for this situation.