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Best of Howard Schwartz

Marc Lawrence, Phil Steele mags hot to trot for 2007

12 July 2007

Let's get down to it. Football IS king, and we can't wait for the games to begin. With that in mind, what should you be reading to prepare for the '07 pro and college season? Well, the two "hotties" have arrived: Marc Lawrence's Playbook's Football Handicapper's Yearbook (247 pages, magazine format, $9.95) and Phil Steele's College Football Preview (328 pages, magazine format, $8.95).

Lawrence, based in Sunrise, Fl., packs thousands of betting angles into his publication -- for colleges and pros -- including a wonderful pre-season package of data, which includes schedules, coaching factors and records for the past five years. The actual spreads aren't listed, but Lawrence does show if a team covered and if the game went over or under the total. You can also see, in summary form, how teams performed since 1983 as favorites or dog. Example: Carolina is 16-9 against the spread as a dog since '83 including 5-1 as a home dog in pre-season.

The Hall of Fame game Aug. 5 at Canton, Oh., pits the Saints against the Steelers should you ask.

Lawrence shows you how teams performed as fav or dog, home and away and against divisional teams, by the month; how often they went over or under for the last three or five years or just last year; how they did in opening games and final games; how they performed after a week's rest; coaching's record against the spread in a variety of situations.

A new feature is a chart showing how teams performed before and after facing a particular team; and Lawrence follows with Monday night angles; performances after a win or loss; how quarterbacks did since 2001 home, away, etc.

There is room to keep records for the pros, with schedules; 10 years of spread and totals history and Lawrence's popular categories of the good, bad and ugly. Also, in case you missed it, key box score statistics from all regular season games in '06 and which teams play on grass or turf.

The college section, from Air Force to Wyoming also offers 10 years of spreads (no totals); schedule and room to keep records, with good, bad and ugly angles; last year's key box score numbers; type of surface the home team plays on number or returning starters and lettermen including if starting quarterback is also back.

As a bonus, there are some illuminating essays to fine tune handicapping skills -- including one which discusses money management and getting low juice when you can; another examines the impact on snow and extreme temperatures; a small fantasy league preview; a valuable four-page analysis on betting pro Totals and the best teams in "various ranges" and a few bonus systems to top off this very rich birthday cake of goodies.

Phil Steele, who year-round analyzes records, synthesizes and updates college football data as few on this planet can, has his College Football Preview on the shelves of Gambler's Book Shop also.

Steele's focus is on 119 of the top college teams., offering schedules, room to keep records, betting angles (this year he shows you how they performed straight up only -- not against the line, but does show five years of results and spreads).

It's Steele's analysis and ratings which make this magazine superior to any other for the colleges. Looking at, for example, LSU, he examines the situation for quarterbacks, running backs, receivers, offensive and defensive line, linebackers and defensive backs, special teams and coaches, then offers his forecast for the team in 2007.

His projected offensive and defensive starting lineups (with team jersey numbers and key statistics tied to each) offer a valuable checklist to refer to when a key player is injured or unable to play for some reason.

You can see the type of playing surface the team will be on at home or away; number of returning starters or lettermen (including if the QB is back); how the team was ranked (if it was ranked) is each game played in '06; key box score statistics from each game played.

Steele covers the major conferences including Mountain West; MAC; Conference USA; Sun Belt. He predicts and rates the potential All-Americans and top players at every position; examines the toughest conferences; most improved teams; predicts the "surprise" teams; projects the top 40 teams; analyzes the Independents and even offers a look at the top freshmen.

Who recruited best for the past five years? USC has been number one since 2002 he says. In a special section titled Lettermen Returning/Lost System he emphasizes why knowing who's got who back can be a vital handicapping factor and in another section underscores the yards per point factor and the impact of close wins and losses.

Steele places great emphasis on power ratings, offering ideas and charts to underscore its value. He also documents how his magazine has ranked first for the past eight years in prediction accuracy.

Intrerested in the impact of coaching changes? It's here, followed by articles on overall team experience and its impact on winning, plus an extremely valuable look at the impact of turnovers compared to team performance. Ever wonder which plays the toughest schedule? Last year it was Stanford -- in 2007 it's a repeat. Memphis plays the weakest schedule if you're asking.

There's a nice section too on who might win the Heisman Trophy and why -- and it might be a guideline to anyone following a team's ability to put point on the board and impress voters.

Overall, Steele gets a 9.9 on a scale of 10 for this valuable, wonderful college football reference guide. I wonder how many coaches, scouts and press box people will have this one in their reference file? Don't leave home without it.

Any item reviewed here is available from Gambler's Book Shop (Gambler's Book Club). The store's web site is . You may order there using MasterCard, VISA or Discover (no CODs please) or by phoning the store any day except Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Pacific time at 1-800-522-1777. Orders usually shipped the next working day. The store, now in its 40th year, is located a mile from downtown Las Vegas, a block west of Maryland Parkway, just off Charleston Boulevard at South 11th Street. You may view the store's complete array of books, videos and software via the Web site or request a hard copy of the catalog be mailed free and first class. The store's address is 630 S. 11th St., Las Vegas, NV 89101.

Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites:
Howard Schwartz
Howard Schwartz, the "librarian for gamblers," was the marketing director for Gambler's Book Club in Las Vegas, a position he held from 1979 to 2010, when he retired. Author of hundreds of articles on gambling, his weekly book reviews appear in numerous publications throughout the gaming industry.

Howard Schwartz Websites: