Time to load up on football guides

Jul 18, 2006 3:51 AM

Like the thundering hoofs of a fast-charging Western posse, here come the football books and magazines. They’re in time, too because the 2006 pro and college football season is just over the horizon.

Among the most sought-after annuals are Phil Steele’s 2006 College Football Preview (328 pages, magazine, $8.95), Phil Steele’s 2006 College Football Scorebook (410 pages, plastic spiralbound, $24.95), and Marc Lawrence’s Playbook 2006 Football Handicapper’s Yearbook of College and Pro Football (247 pages, magazine, $8.95).

Considered one of the best buys for the price for almost 20 years, Steele’s College Football Preview offers among its many diverse features, five years of spreads, lines and results for each team, projected starting lineups for each team, a table showing returning starters and lettermen, the coach’s record straight up and against the line (home and away, as favorite and dog), more than a dozen betting angles for each team, week by week, room to keep records with a weekly schedule, homecoming games, plus a quick statistical look at every game played by that team last season on offense and defense.

Steele also analyzes teams by position (such as the quarterback-running back outlook for teams for the upcoming season) with an eye also on defense, including linebackers, defensive backs and special teams.

His discussions on which teams might surprise this season may be worth the price of the magazine alone if you win extra units based on that information.

Steele, who writes each of the 119 team previews himself, help found Northcoast 25 years ago. The magazine analyzes each conference race, including MAC, Sunbelt, Mountain West and Conference USA. In the analyses, the team power ratings, who plays the toughest schedule, a key chart showing team experience levels for each team in each conference could all prove invaluable to serious researchers trying to save time. Wondering which teams changed coaches and the impact? Steele has it, along with a key essay analyzing the turnover statistic. Anyone betting college football without Steele’s magazine is walking through a vast, hot desert without a proper water supply.

Steele’s College Football Workbook is an extension of the magazine and some folks might not want to buy both. To help with the decision, here’s the information on what the book contains that the magazine does NOT have:

All-time bowl records showing outright wins, record vs. spread, last three years, as a favorite and dog, under the coach ””straight up and against the spread. Bowl game spreads ands results follow, and last year’s statistical leaders by team and individuals.

Perhaps the most valuable section of the book covers over/unders and will help totals bettors. This section goes back to 1993 and covers 24 pages. Some teams freeze, others overheat when their game is on prime time TV. Should you wonder how they did, Steele provides it.

Trying to remember a key game from last season and why a team caught fire or went flat after an upset win or loss? The book has it. If the book is superior over the magazine despite the extra cost, it’s in the type size”” a little larger in the book, and the paper is easier to write on for record-keeping. (The magazine paper is slicker).

Marc Lawrence’s Playbook Football Handicapper’s Yearbook contains pro and college football material (10 years of results, spreads and totals for the pros, 10 years of results, lines for each college team (no totals).

There are more than 5,000 betting angles in this magazine (pro and college) by team, in categories like The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.

The magazine has key box score statistics from each game played in 2005 for each team, schedules and room to keep records for each pro and college team, the web site for each college and pro team, the number of lettermen returning for each college team, the type of surface each college and pro team plays on.

For those interested in pre-season material, there are trends keyed to coach and team performance (since 1983) and a quick look at which teams did best week by week. A complete pre-season schedule and record-keeper is included (Aug. 6 is the first game””Oakland vs. Philadelphia at Canton, OH.)

There’s a fine four page essay on betting totals in Lawrence’s magazine also.

Packed with data, ideas, past histories, Lawrence’s magazine becomes excellent value for the price””but get it now to do your homework before the season begins.

These books and more are available at the Gambler’s Book Shop in Las Vegas. The store’s web site is www.gamblersbook.com; the toll free number is 1-800-522-1777.