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By Howard Schwartz--Gambler's Book Shop

The weeks before the college and pro football season begins are vital to the handicapper because once the season starts, there’s little time to absorb information, analyze it and apply it week by week. These weeks provide a way to get ahead, to prepare to keep records, look at the schedule, isolate angles and understand the impact of injuries. For instance, how good is the backup quarterback should the starter be hurt?

Two new titles at Gambler’s Book Shop may make the job easier.

They are Marc Lawrence’s Black Book: A Guide to Picking College and Pro Football Winners (108 pages, 8x11 plastic spiralbound, $29.95) and the 2007 Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook edited by Chris Dortch (384 pages, 8x11 paperbound, $21.95).

The 8th edition of Lawrence’s Black Book is “angle heaven.” Covering both pros and colleges, the book is for the short-cut-seeking bettor who revels in situations, perhaps where a team is 0-11 or 11-0 in a variety of situations, and hopes history repeats. (Did you know the Atlanta Falcons are 0-11 against the spread off a straight up home win? Or that the Philadelphia Eagles are 9-0 against the spread after playing the New York Giants?)

Granted there is no reason or rationale for these events—maybe it’s just a statistical quirk—yet it’s there and a lot of people live and die by those numbers.

This is a book to be used in weekly football contests or for the handicapper who doesn’t really want to do a lot of work—keeping it at a “fun level.” It can be used in concert with other handicapping factors as well.

You’ll see angles weekly; how they performed in summary as favorite, underdog at home and away; after a straight up win or loss.

The college section is similar.

Ohio State is 9-0 against the spread after playing Penn State and Wisconsin is 8-0 against the spread as an underdog off back to back against the spread losses.

Some teams start off well then fade; others always manage to win the home opener. Maybe it’s in preparation, alumni expectations or great recruiting. Go figure.

You can locate each pro and college team’s internet site; find out who’s in their first year of coaching and be able to keep records in this book.

As a bonus, Lawrence offers 10 new handicapping theory angles to ponder.

The Blue Ribbon College Football Yearbook has no spreads, no angles, no gambling-related material. Designed for coaches, players, sportscasters, writers, scouts, it’s pure facts on players, teams, conferences.

This 7th edition (the publishers also produce the very popular Blue Ribbon College Basketball Yearbook), tells you who’s on the coaching staff and what school they came from; how many offensive and defensive starters are returning and a look at the coach and his program.

The compilers, headed by Chris Dortch and his thorough staff, have compiled much more than you’ll find in most football magazines. Here they’ve culled material from a variety of courses—off-season interviews and articles at the very least.

You get a look at each position—strengths and weaknesses--and have a chance to note, underline, keep track of emerging stars; potential Heisman nominees and key questions related to rebuilding, recruiting or toughness of schedule.

Overall, a vital reference course to be read way before the season gets going. It’ll help identify “sleepers” who have improved and may get off to a surprise start and over-rated teams which did little to help themselves in the off-season and who may flop big once conference play begins.

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. 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 has moved to a new location: 1550 E. Tropicana #4, Las Vegas NV 89119.