Betting Stuff: The Pac-12 enters the fray, an SEC East elimination game and futures teeming with value
Betting Stuff is a regular sports gambling column here at Saturday Down South with a focus on college football wagering (though don’t be surprised to see some non-college football insights from time to time). This week, we’re excited to mention that FanDuel is offering new users 25-1 odds on the Tennessee vs. Arkansas game. If you bet $5, you can win $125. Pretty great! Click here to join FanDuel and get started.
If the presidential election taught us anything, it’s that betting markets are overflowing with reactionary gamblers. This explains how Trump peaked at -700 to win the presidency on Tuesday night and how Biden rebounded and settled in at -385 by Wednesday morning. Just take a look at this implied probability rollercoaster.
"At 10p ET, Trump's odds hit a high of 74.2%. By a little after 5a ET, Biden took the lead back and now has more than a 78% chance to win the Presidency according to the betting markets…"https://t.co/BOX12PNviN pic.twitter.com/9ajWYUGesy
— The Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) November 4, 2020
You know what drives tectonic shifts like that? Panic betting. And the demographic that engages in panic betting the most is new gamblers. Long after the presidential election is settled, the emergence of new money in betting markets will persist. Each state that legalizes and implements sports betting ushers in a new wave of bettors who don’t know which way is up. And that’s great news for sharps and informed gamblers.
We see this every year in terms of sportsbook handles, with the public paying a premium (inflated spreads & juice) to bet the Yankees, Lakers, Crimson Tide and others. I’ve been ringing the bell as loudly as I can for the last 2 1/2 months in terms of college football’s most noticeable trend: home underdogs. Home ‘dogs are 51-44-2 (53.7%) against the spread and are on pace to hit a 30% straight-up win percentage, which would break the record set during the 1984 season (28.8% upset rate). The point being, favorites are underperforming across the board, but the public, by and large, can’t stop betting the favorites.
Last week, I highlighted a pair of home ‘dogs to tail (GT, TTU) and split those. I’m back in the saddle this week with 4 home ‘dogs to consider. Indiana, Kansas State, Colorado and Arkansas are all catching points on their home fields and enter with a collective ATS record of 11-2.
Indiana, now 2-0 SU and 2-0 ATS, is facing Michigan in Bloomington. Through 2 games, we have a feel for both programs. Both are averaging 36.5 points per game, but Indiana is noticeably more disruptive on defense. The Hoosiers are 22nd nationally in defensive havoc rating, while Michigan is lagging behind at 68th overall. This has translated to Indiana’s turnover margin, which is fantastic (+2 Margin T) PG, 2nd). The fact that I get the better team at home and the points makes this a no-brainer.
Kansas State, a program always in the running for the least-public team of the year, is a squad that generally has a few points baked into the spread in its favor. That trend continues this year and has contributed to its 4-2 start ATS. Yes, the Wildcats are down their starting quarterback, but Oklahoma State is coming off a deflating home loss to Texas and has already laid an egg once this season as a double-digit favorite. I’ll side with Chris Klieman, K-State’s head coach, who has helped his Wildcats embrace the underdog persona to the tune of a 9-4 record ATS since his arrival in Manhattan.
The Colorado-UCLA spread is giving Chip Kelly too much credit. Since arriving in Westwood, Kelly is 1-4 ATS as a favorite. The Bruins are favored on the road for the first time since the coaching change in 2018, which shouldn’t be instilling confidence in Bruin-backers. The 4 other Power 5 conferences saw underdogs impress in the early going, so I’ll stick with that trend and grab the Buffaloes+6.5 as they face a rebuilding UCLA defense.
And finally Arkansas, the Belle of the Gambling Ball this season. The Hogs are 5-0 ATS, and have thrown scares into Georgia and Auburn. Tennessee, meanwhile, has been in a tailspin since the 2nd quarter of its contest against UGA. Why on earth are the Vols favored in Fayetteville? It appears that the analytics crowd believes that UT will be able to move the ball through the air and finally convert on third downs. My eyes tell me otherwise, so I’ll take an opportunistic Razorback defense on the moneyline.
Last Week: 4-3 (57.1%, +.7 Units)
Overall: 32-22-1 (59.3%, +9.55 Units)
My top play for Week 10
Nebraska at Northwestern-4 (55.5)
My projections for this game call for the Cornhuskers and Wildcats to play this one in the mid-40s, which is why I have this total circled. Last season, Northwestern survived a slew of critical injuries on defense while still fielding a top-25 unit. Now back to full strength, NW put a suddenly dynamic Maryland offense in a vice grip to start the season, and followed that up with a 2nd-half shutout of Iowa. Aside from Ohio State, Northwestern’s defense has the highest ceiling in the Big Ten.
Making this under even more enticing is the Nebraska offense. The Cornhuskers’ offensive promise has yet to materialize under Scott Frost. The Huskers have exceeded 28 points just once in their last 9 games, and last year’s tilt with Northwestern ended in a 13-10 win for Frost and company. That 23-point lowlight featured all of Nebraska’s best offensive skill talent, so you can’t really talk around the fact that Pat Fitzgerald has Frost’s number.
The only threat of this game sailing past 8 touchdowns is if Northwestern suddenly catches fire on offense, which I find to be highly unlikely. The Wildcats shredded a horrific Maryland defense 2 weeks ago, but Nebraska is far better suited to slow the NW attack. Nebraska was a middle of the road defense last year and given their coaching continuity and returning production, I foresee them landing in the mid-50s in total defense. Don’t let their performance against Ohio State fool you, they have the capacity to limit big plays and Northwestern is still very much a work in progress on offense.
I like to pick my spots on Northwestern unders, but since Fitzgerald took the reins in 2006, the Wildcats have been the 3rd-safest under bet in all of college football (101-71-2, 58.7%). Given the rest of NW’s schedule, this may be the highest total that hits the board the rest of the way, so I’m ready to pounce.
Pick: Under 55.5
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Speaking of unders, the Gators and Bulldogs’ annual clash in Jacksonville has gone under 44 points 6 times in the last decade. For this reason, and their collective play on the field thus far, I penciled in this rivalry at 49.5 for the total. To my delight, it opened at 52.5 and has held steady.
What we know about these teams is that Florida has been able to score seemingly at will, albeit against a handful of suspect defenses, while Georgia has been content reverting to its ball-control ways and riding its dominant defense. The Bulldogs have already held 3 conference opponents to 10 points or less, and the game flow from Georgia’s win over Kentucky is an indicator that Kirby Smart is ready to place a governor on the passing attack.
Despite the fact that Alabama dismantled UGA in the second half of their showdown two weeks ago, I believe that the Georgia defense is the safest bet in the conference. Not only are they statistically dominant, but they have an offense that pairs well with their defensive philosophy. Dating to 2005, the team that wins the line of scrimmage and ultimately the rushing battle has won outright 14 consecutive times in this series. Zamir White is fresh off of a 26-carry, 136-yard day against Kentucky. That performance gives me confidence that Smart is ready to hand him, and to a lesser extent James Cook, the ball early and often on Saturday in Duval County. Pepper in Florida run defense (133 ypg, 41st) and you don’t have to use much creativity to picture a 24-20 Georgia victory on a windy and soggy day in Jacksonville.
Even though the Pac-12 is just now joining the party, we’re more than halfway through the college football season. By virtue of the sample size, some trends have been validated while others have been proven to be flukes. Squarely in the validation camp is my NCAA ’14 simulation series which now sits at 11-6 (64.7%) on the season. Each week, updated rosters are uploaded to my ancient PS3 and I simulate every FBS matchup on the board. I then match my top 10 plays of the weekend with the simulation results that are most similar.
Here are the top 3 plays of Week 10.
One of the reasons that USC’s Clay Helton catches so much heat is that the Trojans are often saddled with unrealistic expectations. That often leads to inflated lines and perceived underperformance. Since he took over full-time as USC’s head coach, the Trojans are 17-20-1 ATS as a favorite. I had this game pegged as a 7-point spread, so to see it tick over the key number of 10 was a welcomed sight. In the sim, ASU’s Jayden Daniels played mistake-free for 60-minutes and actually helped the Sun Devils grab a 4th-quarter lead. USC’s Kedon Slovis won the day, however, with a 4th-quarter game-winning drive. USC took it 31-27.
The University of Massachusetts shouldn’t have a football team. They’re that bad. They just got blanked 41-0 by Georgia Southern, during a game in which they generated 191 total yards. Marshall can beat them by as many points as they want, which is why their last performance is so important. Marshall struggled against FAU, and will look to get right in this spot. Grant Wells racked up 377 total yards and 6 total touchdowns during the simulation, pasting the Minutemen 63-6.
Two great defensive minds locked horns on the virtual gridiron in Berkeley, California. The end result was a field goal bonanza as the Huskies and Golden Bears combined to attempt 9 field goals between them. In the end, Cal connected on all 5 of its attempts and stole a victory from their northern rivals. Cal 19, Washington 16.
National title futures
I let people know this week that for some reason the futures market has remained stagnant.
So the Oklahoma State loss *should* have radically changed the CFB Futures market but for some reason the odds stayed the same. I just grabbed Cincy+BYU at 80:1 and Oregon+USC at 100:1. Those are double to triple what they should be given the current landscape.
— Michael Calabrese (@EastBreese) November 2, 2020
You can grab BYU, Cincinnati, USC and Oregon all at 100:1 over at DraftKings right now. The likelihood of an undefeated BYU or Cincy grabbing the 4th and final CFP slot is now a distinct possibility. The same can be said for an undefeated Pac-12 champion now that it’s a certainty that the Big 12 cannot produce an undefeated champion. That should have knocked all 4 of those teams to 50:1 or worse. Instead, they’re holding steady in the 80:1 to 100:1 range.
This is the season to be holding as many futures tickets with long odds as possible for both the national championship and Heisman trophy, because COVID has the potential to eliminate players and teams from the field at will.
I would also shop around for Heisman futures. I was able to nab Travis Etienne at 100:1 earlier this week, but he appears to have fallen into the 28:1 to 50:1 range at most books. Folks in PA and NJ can still score him at 100:1 over at FanDuel.
Last nugget for this week’s Betting Stuff: Ranked underdogs are 2-15-1 ATS this season, and an equally horrific 2-16 SU. Liberty s catching 14.5-point as a ranked road underdog this weekend in Blacksburg against Virginia Tech. They are the (flips through notes) largest ranked underdog since 1996.