Cram Session: Have you upped your game?

David Payne Purdum

Why are you a better handicapper this year compared to last? How have you improved your game?

For most sports bettors, the kick off of college football is like New Year’s. Last year’s wins and losses are in the books. It’s the perfect opportunity to assess your handicapping strengths and weaknesses.

Do you have a tendency to try to play catch-up after a bad day? Are you managing your money poorly with erratic and unnecessary changes to the base unit (amount) of your wagers?

Maybe, like me, you lack discipline and often play too many games.

Well, what are you doing about it?

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Covers Community Q&A with Nostradamus12

Q: Nos, why are you a better handicapper this year compared to last? How have you improved your game?

A: I plan on emphasizing this more. If a team has got the better of a matchup on only one side of the ball, I’ll bet the team total instead of the side, assuming the number is fair.

Example: Last year, I made the mistake of taking Miami -17 over Central Florida.

A better play would have been to take UCF under 15 points, because, at the time, UCF’s offense was horrible.
They ended up with 14 points on an interception returned for a touchdown and a kickoff returned for a TD. They had 78 yards of total offense.

Miami’s offense was inconsistent (still is) and therefore the team total was the play.

Later in the year, putting this into practice, I took the Central Michigan team total over 37 against Eastern Michigan. I believed CMU would score, however, I did not trust their shaky defense. CMU lost 56-52, yet was still solid winner on team total.

Q: How long have you been handicapping?

A: Twenty-five years, if you can call the first five handicapping

Q: Three teams to back this year.

A: I don't normally get locked into for or against any teams for that period of time. With that said, possible undervalued teams could include Arkansas, UAB and Arkansas St.

Q: Three to fade.

A: Possible overvalued teams might include Iowa, Utah and Oklahoma St.  They're very good, but still overvalued in my opinion.

Q: Credibility check: What kind of car do you drive?

A: 2006 Cadillac DTS, smooth yet with some power, considering the new Camaro sometime next year.


Movement: Line movements early in the week indicate sharp action. We’ll track the biggest early line moves each week to see if oddsmakers are adjusting appropriately.

As of noon EST Wednesday, the biggest line moves were:

•Purdue has dropped from a 14-point favorite over Toledo to as low as 10.5 at some books
•LSU has gone from a 14-point favorite at Washington to 17.5-point favorite.
•Boise State opened 6.5-point favorite over Oregon, but dropped all the way to 3.5.

Fact: Last year, Washington, Michigan, Fresno State, Wyoming, Auburn, LSU, Indiana and Western Kentucky each finished at least five games under .500 against the spread.

In the last 10 seasons, only three teams have ever finished at least five games under .500 against the spread in consecutive years. Expect ATS improvement from those eight teams.

Advice from a pro: “If you pre-determine how something is going to play out, you can run into trouble. Everyone looks at the season and tries to isolate teams that they think they could be play-on or play-against teams. That’s part of the process. But be cautious and don’t be too rigid in having made that decision. If you’re too stubborn, it can lead to compounding mistakes.” – Covers Expert Larry Ness.

Question: USC has lost three defensive starters, its second-leading receiver and named a true freshman its starting quarterback in the last week. But books have been hesitant to drop the line on Saturday's opener against San Jose State.
The Trojans opened as a 34.5-point favorite. Some books have dropped it down to 33.5, but it's still hovering around 34 for the most part. What gives? Was this line too low from the beginning?

Quote: "There's a lot of unknown factors. You've got to throw in a new offense and new defense and on top of that you've got to throw in 10-12 freshmen that are going to be playing, and I mean playing. Not just hitting two snaps a game.” – Auburn coach Gene Chizik in the Birmingham News.

Who the hell is David Payne?

I’m a sharp without the discipline, time or money to be a professional.

Does that make me a square?

As a member of the sports media for the last 10 years, I’m sharp in my knowledge of college football.

More than 15 up-and-down years betting sports, including two years on the other side of the table, helped me weasel a job out of, which I believe has made me a better handicapper.

But I readily admit to being an undisciplined recreational bettor, I will probably bet too many games this year, because, well, it’s more fun. And I’m sure sooner or later I’ll play a game just because it’s on TV, whether I’ve researched it fully or not.

So let’s call me square-ish.

Who the hell are you and what do you want?

My guess is the majority of the Covers Community is in my boat.

All but a select few of you have real jobs, and do not rely on the success of our wagers for income.

But frequenting this site suggests you’re little bit above the average guy, who bets solely off of what Lee Corso says on ESPN. (Corso is recovering from a stroke, so proceed with caution.) 

A lot of you are much better handicappers than I. A select few of you make have even reached the vaunted status of tout. If so, thank you for blessing us with your presence.

Some of you might be new to our little hobby and eager to learn.

Regardless of your handicapping stature, I’ll be here to serve you throughout the season. I’m not here to pound you with picks, although I’ll make a few. My goal is to simply provide a reliable handicapping resource and a forum for bettors to share their local knowledge.

Now, I just have to figure out how do to that. If you’ve got suggestions, leave a comment or email Cram Session at or follow me on Twitter @Payne_Covers.

PAYNEFUL PICKS from a guy who drives a 2001 Oldsmobile Alero.

Last season: 34-28-1

South Carolina at North Carolina State (-5, 46.5)

I was eyeing this one since early August and actually jumped on it when it opened at three.

South Carolina is without three defensive starters. Neither cornerback has ever played a game in college. There are only seven seniors on the entire Gamecock roster.

Add in major revenge for the Wolf Pack, after getting embarrassed 34-0 last season, and this was no-brainer for me.

Pick: N.C. State

Nevada at Notre Dame (-14.5, 61)

Loving the Wolf Packs this week. Nevada’s defense led the WAC in sacks last year and its secondary is loaded with seniors. It looks like a good matchup against Notre Dame’s offense.

The last three seasons, the Irish have looked sluggish in their opener (0-3 ATS), including last year’s embarrassing performance against a dreadful San Diego State team. They always play Michigan in Week 2, so they may have a tendency to look ahead.

Pick: Nevada

It’s on. Let’s get ‘em.

If you have any feedback or suggestions for our Editorial Team, please contact us at Editorial

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Posted by loudcoach
7 years ago

Im going to disney land with the money from the Baylor win. Went surfing on the net at 3:00 am in the morning found a website that seemed pretty honest. bought a week of picks the guy said take baylor as his game of the century. he promised Baylor would win outright stucj 5 G on it and im going to disney land with my family. Thank You Prideside

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

Coooler ... not that I remember, unless I set up an early one and changed later. Western Kentucky will be missing its starting middle LB and starting center against the Vols ....

Posted by Cooler999
7 years ago

David, Was your handle...... Payne34 last year in Covers??

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

UGA QB Joe Cox has been battling flu-like stuff. He says he'll play, but he didn't fly out to Stillwater with the rest of the team. Doesn't look like line is being affected much ...

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

Thanks, Le Tigre ... I've somehow managed to avoid parlays for the past several years. From my short stint on the other side of the table, I remember how so few cashed. Plus, it's hard to do it on the Web ... in other words, I'm lazy. Appreciate you reading ... Oregon's Blount done for the year and deservingly so ... I'm starting to like Tennessee. It's pretty clear Lane Kiffin wants to make a big splash. I don't see Western Kentucky scoring against the Vols defense, which is very good last year. But this one's all about emotion. Any thoughts?

Posted by angrytiger
7 years ago

Hey David, thanks for the article and for the candor. It's especially refreshing in a field where arrogance seems to be the modus operandi. For me, sports handicapping is a fascinating hobby in which it seems no amount of research ever locks down a guarantee. But I love it, have every intention of improving and despite it's volatile nature it does seem to offer many lessons to be learned. Articles like yours make the learning process, simply, a lot more fun. On one hand, who could ever have predicted that Oregon would look that BAD last night. On the other hand I should've known better than to touch the total (taking the over) because obviously, everyone in the world was also on it. But last weekend I cashed in my best trip ever (I've gradually improved with every trip) and I'd love to believe it's because I've learned a thing or two. While, practicing discipline is almost counter-intuitive to the entire idea of "gambling", I've decided it's the only way, beyond pure D luck, to actually be successful at it. For me, that means just a few simple principles: Less is more (just play the one's you feel really good about), Chase not - want not, And if you're going to go small - don't go at all (because you probably don't like it anyway). Oh yeah, and easy on the parlay . . . easy on the parlay. So much more to learn but thanks again and I'll be checking in. Le Tigre

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

Valid point, Tainer ... Definitely shows Spurrier's tendency to have his team's ready in the opener. But at Florida, he posted opening wins over Ball State, Marshall, Arkansas State, Louisiana-Laf. etc .. so, to me, that stat is at least a little big misleading. That said, I was on the wrong side so I should have valued it more. Good discussion ... DP

Posted by TAINER
7 years ago

Payne, Why S.Carolina? Coaching and his habit of winning openers 18-1 after last night!

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

Notre Dame ... I always like to take a close look at my losses. Did I not know something that affected the outcome? I look at the South Carolina team, which has only seven seniors, three defensive starters suspended and two corners that have never played in a college game. I also thought NC State would have some major revenge going after getting clocked 34-0 by the Gamecocks last year. Clearly, I was wrong ... but I feel comfortable that I did my homework ... Were you on the 'Cocks? If so, why? Thanks for reading, guys ... DP

Posted by BroadwayBob
7 years ago

I once picked up a hitch-hiker on my way to the track, where he was going. He gave me a tip, I immediatly said to myself "I don't take tips from someone who's hitching a ride". The longshot horse won!

Posted by ZarleyZalapski
7 years ago

Entertaining comments. Nice call on Boise State.

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

UPDATE: Oklahoma All-American tight end Greshman out for Saturday's game against BYU. Two replacements have a total of one catch for -1 yards between them.

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

Agree, Larojoes ... It's true some of the worst gamblers I know are the richest, and some of the best the poorest. It's all about how much a wager means to you. If you care too much, you probably shouldn't be making it ... unless, of course, you're a pro. Anyway ... thanks for reading. Why do I feel like I'm the only one who likes Boise State?

Posted by larojoes
7 years ago

J_Logan: no, it wasn't supposed to be a joke. It's called an analogy. Sorry I can't be Steve Martin or Bozo the Clown. Maybe you need to darken up, brother. It's all relative. David Payne: I can see your point now, but I still think it's a bit of a stretch (as in, stretch Limo, maybe?). One thing is being a big bettor, another is being a successful one. What about the little guy who might be a good 'capper but drives a moped because he's just starting out? What about the big fat corporate slob who drives a Hummer and sucks at 'capping but throws his money around because he can't think of anything better to do with it? In any case, good luck in the kitchen cookin' up your picks.

Posted by David_Payne
7 years ago

Actually larojoes, I think what kind of car one drives is directly related to how big of a sports bettor they are. Which handicapper would you trust more: A guy who rolls in a Caddy or one who rocks an Alero? I'll try to make better quiche next time ... Good luck this week.

Posted by J_Logan
7 years ago

"Fell flatter than a collapsed quiche." Was that supposed to be a joke? Geez, call the Fun Police. Larojoes and his "linear manner of thinking" is on the prowl. Lighten up brother.

Posted by larojoes
7 years ago

Pardon my linear manner of thinking, but I don't see what type of car one drives has to do with handicapping. Credibility check? Was that supposed to be a joke? If so, it fell flatter than a collapsed quiche.
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Top Response

Posted by angrytiger
7 years ago

"Hey David, thanks for the article and for the candor. It's especially refreshing in a field where arrogance seems to be the modus operandi. For me, sports handicapping is a fascinating hobby in which it seems no amount of research ever locks down..."