There are many similarities handicapping NCAAF and NFL as well there are many differences. Much like starting pitchers in baseball the QB in football can make or break your bets.
Top tier teams obviously recruit the best from the high school ranks so although there will be some growing pains the drop off from prior years will not be as great as the market thinks. Secondly when the previous years starting QB has graduated teams that have been able to promote their back-up usually have an advantage. Continuity and knowing the playbook is an especially big advantage early in the season.
When a star QB leaves and there is no viable back-up. This team will experience major growing pains and they will simplify the playbook. This is a team that will be overvalued based on prior reputation.
Turnover of rosters in college football is huge. Look for teams with many returning starters to get off to quick starts, especially when they go up against teams with many freshman starters. However be wary of teams with low turnover who were bad the year before. It is very likely unless there was a coaching change that this team will be bad again.
Strength of schedule is critical when handicapping college football. Many high ranked teams play cupcakes prior to conference play. Although their stats may look outstanding when this team comes up against their first real competition make sure you adjust for who they have played. Conversely a team that has played a very difficult non-conference schedule maybe undervalued once they take steps down to play teams within their own weak conference.
When assessing the schedule always look for those usual look ahead and let down spots. A look ahead is when a team is a major favorite but has a big rivalry game on deck. The current game could be a simple win and move on playing 2nd stringers in the 2nd half with running up the score or covering a spread inconsequential. There are also sandwich games that fall in the same category. Off a tough game now a cupcake team that does not motivate them at all with another big game on deck the next week.
Remember new coaches even at the coordinator level means new systems and perhaps a new philosophy on how this team will play. Look at teams where the existing coach is on the proverbial “hot seat” coming off a bad year. It is now win or be fired so pay special attention on how the coaching staff is handling the situation.