How to Handicap Thanksgiving Football

As promised, I'm going to talk today about how to handicap "holiday" week football games. I won't get specific about individual teams because I need to protect that information for paying clients. (Thanks, by the way, to all of you who signed up for my 200-unit winner on Navy over Tulsa this past Saturday). I will focus on the elements of THE MOTIVATION FACTOR that typically loom the largest over Thanksgiving weekend.

We're going to see some extreme results this week. Teams who lack motivation against opponents that don't get their juices flowing are going to miss the market by a mile. You already saw a bit of that this past Saturday in college football when big favorites virtually no-showed multiple games (all missing by at least two touchdowns: Michigan over Indiana, Penn State over Rutgers, Ohio State over Maryland in regulation, Utah State over Colorado State, Oklahoma over Kansas to name a few).

With that in mind, here's Part 1 of your homework. Look to fade double digit favorites who...

*Have already clinched what they need to clinch
*Are playing a non-rival
*And, ideally, are playing in a championship game the following week

The third bullet point there isn't essential. It's a strong enough "look-ahead" situation for teams who have already clinched bowl eligibility to think about what's going to happen for them in December or January. Penn State wasn't looking ahead to a championship game. They just didn't bother to prepare hard for a cupcake like Rutgers.

I know a lot of you like betting favorites rather than underdogs. That's a shame...but it's the nature of many part-time bettors. For YOU, I'd suggest at least passing these big favorites. Don't you wish you passed Penn State or Oklahoma last week?. Smart bettors will be looking to value-bet big, ugly underdogs who will be facing disinterested favorites.

What does this have to do with "holiday" football. Overconfident teams with nothing to play for are REALLY mad that they can't be home with their families. They're thinking about all the food they're missing out on because they have a game they don't care about. Happens every year.

I would like to add here the need for you to know the weather forecast. Favorites who already don't want to play...REALLY don't want to play in bad weather. Utah State floundered in the snow this past Saturday after obliterating opponents for weeks. Be on the lookout for temperatures in the 30's, precipitation, and wind. Remember that any big favorite that likes to pass is really going to get frustrated by winds of 10 mph or more (which often gust due to the quirky layout of stadiums).

The next step for this week is to find "live" underdogs who are plenty motivated themselves. Part 2 of your homework is to look for any underdog that...

*Needs to win to become bowl eligible
*Can't go to a bowl, but is playing a longtime rival

I'm going to be very careful here because I don't want to tip my hand on potential "Rivalry Game of the Year" type plays. Some decent talent has a chance to go out strong this week. Any rivalry dog at 5-6 will go even harder to earn bowl eligibility.

It should go without saying that any harmonic convergence of a perfectly situated underdog against a disinterested favorite should be attacked to the fullest.

To this point, I haven't differentiated between colleges and the NFL. To me, you shouldn't consider Sunday games as part of the holiday week. Most teams make allowances for family time over Thanksgiving if they don't have a game on Thursday. Six teams do. Your job is to figure out for those Thursday teams if:

*Chicago is going to be tired off a Sunday nighter
*Detroit at 4-6 is still going to play hard
*Atlanta at 4-6 is still going to play hard
*New Orleans at 9-1 is going to mentally "take a week off"

I expect both Washington and Dallas to show up with peak intensity because that game is hugely important in the NFC East race. Though, I'm aware that Washington is so banged up that it might just punt the game if it falls behind early. Colt McCoy getting a start in his home state might lessen that possibility.

Plenty of you to think about for the holiday week. Do your homework TODAY so you have time to enjoy the holiday with your loved ones as the games are beginning.  

If you need some help finding best bets, KELSO STURGEON'S top plays can always be purchased at this website by credit card. Questions about extended service and combination packages can be answered by calling my office at 1-800-755-2255 during normal business hours.

The Dean of Sports Handicapping has a lot to be thankful for. I couldn't have imagined as a younger man that I would still be picking winners for clients this far into the future. I'm very lucky indeed to have lived a life that so many can only dream of. And, in Las Vegas during its glory! Even though new states are legalizing sports betting...none of them will ever be like Vegas. I just hope Vegas can keep being like Vegas.

I'll be back again Friday for our next class-together. That will either be a deeper dig into handicapping rivalry games, or will be NFL-related. I'll let headlines through the week determine the topic. This has always been a living, breathing study course responsive to real-world betting needs. Have a great Thanksgiving holiday. Save a turkey leg for me to enjoy Friday.